Review of Steven Cowan’s Five Views on Apologetics


I was grateful to have read Cowan’s work, being that there are so many views on Apologetics, it was very interesting to have them all together, and have them all interact with each other in the same book.  But, I will say I was somewhat disappointed with the fact that it seemed some of those he chose to represent certain positions were not necessarily in line with that position as it had been traditionally represented in the past.  But given the nature of the work, it seemed like the contributors were looking for as much “dirt” as possible on each other, so maybe accusations that someone did not line up with “tradition” should not bother me. 

As far as my own interaction with the individual contributors I did not feel totally comfortable with any of their positions.  But I will interact here with some of the main ideas.  William Lane Craig (a classical apologist) made an important distinction between “knowing” and “showing” (p. 28), in that showing that Christianity is true is much different than knowing it to be true.  And I agree with him to a degree, but then he went off saying, “a person does not need supplementary arguments or evidence in order to know and to know with confidence that he is in fact experiencing the Spirit of God” (p. 29).  As if the witness of the Holy Spirit in a believer is irrational or something, Craig goes on to relate the story of someone being wrongly accused in court who cannot refute the evidence against them as being like a Christian.  But I would counter that the witness of the Holy Spirit is not some “non-reality” but rather is so real that it surpasses any other argument or evidence.  If I am sitting in a chair, even if someone argues with me that I am not sitting in a chair they will not convince me, because I know I am sitting in a chair!  Though I might not be able to explain it in some philosophical lingo, I can just reply, “Look, I’m sitting in a chair!”  There is nothing irrational about it.

John Frame’s section was refreshing, in that he desired to go to Scripture to find out how one should “do” apologetics.  But being that Apologetics these days is really a philosophical field, he really does not seem to belong in this book, for he is operating on a different playing field than the rest.  Everyone else puts man’s reason as the base, whereas Frame puts God’s Word first, a rule that the world does not accept.  But I agree more with Frame than anyone else in the book.  His point about unbelievers and their knowledge left some holes open for criticism (as both Clark and Feinberg exploit p. 214), but I think Richard Baxter (a pastor no less), said it better in his Reformed Pastor, “the most holy men are the most excellent students of God’s words, and none but the holy can rightly study them or know them” (p. 26).

But in the end, I think most modern apologists leave one question unanswered, as Habermas asked, “Which theism is true, and do we have a being to be worshipped?” (p. 300).  I do not think anyone in this volume answered that question, nor do I think they can if they continue down the route of man’s reason alone.  All men are liars, and therefore no mere man can be trusted.  True truth must find its source outside of mankind.  If we are to know if there is a God, He must reveal Himself, and He has.  As Jesus said, “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true.  There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true” (John 5:31-32).


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