Douglas Groothuis’ Christian Apologetics: A Review

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Who is Douglas Groothuis?

According to various autobiographical web pages, Doug Groothuis is an “evangelical, protestant, near-Anglican”[1] Christian and a “constructive curmudgeon”[2]  On these informal web pages, Groothuis writes with regularity and at some length, with a fire in his bones[3], about Christianity. He is well-qualified to do so. “Groothuis joined the faculty (of Denver Seminary) in 1993 and is professor of philosophy. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, Evangelical Philosophical Society, and Society of Christian Philosophers…Groothuis received a Ph.D. and a B.S. from the University of Oregon, and an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin–Madison…He has written for scholarly journals such as Religious Studies, Sophia, Research in Philosophy and Technology, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Philosophia Christi, Trinity Journal, and Asbury Theological Journal as well as for numerous popular magazines”[4]  He has written 11 books, of which Christian Apologetics is the latest.

The Book’s Purpose

Doug Groothuis is “convinced that a solid and compelling case can be made that what matters most for everyone in this life and beyond is one’s orientation to Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnation of God.”[5]  In, Christian Apologetics, Groothuis makes this case. He goes about making this case by making a biblical case for apologetics, defending the Christian faith against false charges, advocating for objective truth and the need to seek it passionately, exploring the arguments of natural theology, exploring arguments for the uniqueness of Christian theism (and for the deficiency of counterfeit faiths), and making the case for the historical reliability of the Bible. Having built this apologetic foundation, Groothuis explores the claims and identity of Jesus Christ.  Finally, Groothuis explores the challenges of religious pluralism, the resurgence of Islam, and the problem of evil.

Part One: Apologetic Preliminaries

Groothuis begins Christian Apologetics in a very economic way, by discussing hope.  In doing so, Groothuis incentivizes the reader because the reader is a likely a person who hopes.  Makind, as a whole, is a hopeful race, but what does that hope amount to if it is not grounded in something true? Groothuis states, “In the end, hope without truth is pointless. Illusions and delusions, no matter how comforting or grandiose, are the enemies of those who strive for integrity in their knowing and being.”[6]  Upon reading this, the reader is incentived to explore that hope and the truth in which it is grounded with Groothuis, especially since he makes a biblical case for doing so.  Groothuis goes on to describe the Christian worldview; what it is and what it is not.  He dismantles the common misconceptions that Christianity is anti-intellectual, anti-science, racist, sexist, homophobic, imperialistic, ecologically apathetic, and eternally boring in the afterlife.  Groothuis ends Part One by defining and defending objective truth from a Christian worldview.  Groothuis states, “The case for Christianity stands or falls on the arguments presented on its behalf and the arguments presented against pertinent worldview rivals.”[7]

Part Two: The Case for Christian Theism

In Part Two of Christian Apologetics, Groothuis presents the arguments upon which the claims of Christianity stand are fall.  This is where the book clearly becomes “a compressive case for biblical faith.”  Groothuis opens Part Two by making a strong case for theism. After giving a short explanation of what the arguments of natural theology are and how the human mind interacts with them, Groothuis presents the ontological argument, the cosmological argument, the design (fine-tuning) argument, the moral argument, the argument from religious experience, and the anthropological argument. He intersperses commentary about Darwinism and Intelligent Design in-between these arguments.  While not presenting an in-depth refutation of naturalistic evolution, Groothuis makes it clear that the model isn’t viable, especially in light of the arguments of natural theology.  The arguments of natural theology, however, are not explicitly Christian.  Thus, Groothuis includes in Part Two a robust exploration of the person of Jesus.  There is a chapter, written by Craig L. Bloomberg, about the historical Jesus.  Groothuis follows this chapter up with an exploration of the messianic and divine claims made by Jesus.  After so doing, Groothuis defends the doctrine of the incarnation against theoretical and philosophical objections.  Finally, Groothuis defends the reality of the resurrection.   He addresses common objections to the resurrection, showing them to be flimsy, specious, or plainly naturalistic over and against the evidence presented in support of the resurrection.  He closes Part Two by stating, “The alternative naturalistic theories of the resurrection fail to account for commonly agreed-on facts relating to Jesus and the early church. This unparalleled divine intervention in history is the Rock on which the church stands.”[8]

Part Three: Objections to Christian Theism

How does one answer the various objections to Christian theism which remain after the arguments of natural theology and for Jesus’ Lordship have been made?  In Part Three of Christian Apologetics, Groothuis identifies some of these various objections and presents answers to them.  The first objections Groothuis addresses are those of religious pluralism. In the case of pluralism, it’s not that pluralists don’t believe the claims of Christianity; it’s that pluralists don’t believe the claims of Christianity enough.  For example, American pollsters recently found that “57 percent of evangelical Christians believed that ‘Many religions can lead to eternal life,’ while 70 percent of the general public held this belief.’”[9]  It seems to be the case that even some so-called evangelical Christians don’t accept the implications of the biblical text.  Groothuis, building off of his earlier apologetic for objective truth claims, demonstrates the contradictory claims of the various world religions and the philosophical absurdity of holding to religious pluralism. He then deals apologetically with the specific challenges of the “the fastest growing religion in existence,”[10] Islam.  Muslims and Christians share many beliefs; however, they ultimately do not worship the same God.  Groothuis demonstrates this by providing a short exposition of Islamic doctrine and history.  In comparison to Christianity, Groothuis shows that “Islam cannot bear the burden of proof in contradicting the Bible’s claims about God, Christ and salvation.”[11]  Lastly, Groothuis addresses the Problem of Evil, indentifying objections to Christian theism based upon the existence of evil and demonstrating that these objections ultimately fall short.  More specifically, Groothuis shows that worldviews outside of Christianity are utterly incapable of facing a world filled with evil.

An Evaluation

Christian Apologetics is exactly what it is advertised to be: a comprehensive case for biblical faith.  However, it’s something more than that.  It not only covers vast territories of Christian thought, it educates the reader about other major world religions.  The book’s teachings about Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam are invaluable to the American apologist living in a western society that is being invaded with pluralism, New Age thought, and Islamic aggression. To be a good apologist, one must be a good theologian and a good philosopher.  Groothuis proves himself to be both.  Christian Apologetics is a great addition to the library of any person interested in making a defense for the hope within him.[12]  This is so because the book inspires the reader as well as it educates him.  In closing the book, Groothuis states, “Christians need a confident, courageous, contagious, compelling conviction that Christianity is the flaming truth the world needs to hear, that it can withstand rational testing and that the God of truth sponsors our humble apologetic efforts. Christians also need tenacity in the face of the spiritual warfare that always accompanies Christian outreach…We need to put on the full armor of God and go into the battle for hearts and minds…because everything is at stake.”[13]  Everything is at stake and Christian Apologetics prepares the reader to be a better great commission Christian.

 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Denver Seminary. Denver Seminary. http://www.denverseminary.edu/about-us/president-faculty-staff-board/faculty/dr-douglas-r-groothuis/ (accessed February 6, 2014).

Facebook. Douglas Groothuis. https://www.facebook.com/DouglasRichardGroothuis/about (accessed February 6, 2014).

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, USA, 2011.

—. The Constructive Curmudgeon. http://www.theconstructivecurmudgeon.blogspot.com/ (accessed February 6, 2014).


[2] Groothuis, Douglas. The Constructive Curmudgeon. http://www.theconstructivecurmudgeon.blogspot.com/ (accessed February 6, 2014).

[3] Here, I paraphrase a comment he made during a lecture in New Orleans in January 2014.  In this comment, he alluded to Ezekiel 3:14.

[5] Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, Kindle Locations 121-122)

[6] Ibid, Kindle Locations 74-75

[7] Ibid, Kindle Locations 1770-1771

[8] Ibid, Kindle Locations 6102-6103

[9] Ibid, Kindle Locations 6108-6109

[10] Ibid, Kindle Locations 6484-6485

[11] Ibid, Kindle Locations 6635

[12] 1 Peter 3:15

[13] Ibid, Kindle Locations 7058-7060

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