Friday, September 07, 2007
Book Review: Pushing the Antithesis
Knowing of my interest in apologetics, a good friend of mine gave me a copy of Pushing the Antithesis: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen as a graduation present. I greatly appreciate his gift, and ever since have been looking forward to reading this book.

As one who appreciates Bahnsen's insight in defending the Christian faith, I welcome this work's intent. A college-age handbook on presuppositional apologetics with attention to application, it is a unique and needed treatment for young Christians bombarded with challenges to their faith.

Unfortunately, I finished the book disappointed. First, it claims to be a distillation of a series of presentations by Bahnsen to high school and college age students. By this, I expected the book to be essentially a textual version of these lectures. After all, the book never mentions an editor or indicates a different author. Nevertheless, I cannot see how the bulk of this material came from Bahnsen's lectures. It regularly includes excerpts from Bahnsen's books (Always Ready, Van Til's Apologetic, etc.), something I doubt he would have done in his speaking engagements. Additionally, many quotes are from contemporary sources that were published after Bahnsen's untimely death in 1995. I really had no idea throughout the book whether I was actually reading Bahnsen or another (unnamed) writer.

Second, the book was overly reliant on the internet for its sources. Not only does this lead to a short shelf life, but it indicates a lack of substantial scholarship. Should one really turn to the online version of Encarta for outlining the scientific method (p. 119)? Wikipedia is even used several times as a source, a basic no-no for serious research and writing. A college student would never get away with something like this!

Third, its practical usefulness is limited. The book spends a lot of its time showing how one can refute atheism. While it effectively demonstrates the shortcomings of naturalism and materialism, our shifting culture forces us to interact with other kinds of challenges. How does one use the transcendental argument with a Muslim? With New Age spirituality? With cultists? A reliable handbook for Christian students must treat such issues much more thoroughly to be helpful.

I do not mean to say that Pushing the Antithesis has no value. It is a decent introduction to presuppositional apologetics. Nevertheless, with the problems given above, if I wanted somebody to learn more about Greg Bahnsen's apologetic methodology, I'd probably just suggest that he reads Always Ready.

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posted at 10:30 PM  
Comments (3)


3 Comments:
At 10:05 PM, Blogger tc said...

I have a set of DVDs where Dr. Greg is addressing the issue of apologetics in the marketplace.

I recommend his work higly.

 
At 9:35 PM, Blogger Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

John—

What exactly do you see the problem being with quoting something like Wikipedia for a definition? I agree it's a little strange for a book you can buy off the shelf, but there is nothing intrinsically unreliable about Wikipedia or Encarta; especially if they are simply used to establish a definition—so citing them doesn't seem to suggest anything to me except that the author was appealing to easily accessible sources. What would you suggest instead?

Regards,
Dominic Bnonn Tennant

 
At 10:18 PM, Blogger John said...

Dominic,

Actually, Wikipedia can be unreliable. Its advantage is also its limitation--opening up entries to all ensures the accuracy of none. Not using it for scholarly research is well-known, check out this interesting article: "Wikipedia Founder Discourages Academic Use of His Creation."

Which brings me back to my point: one should not rely too heavily on the internet for more formal research. A writer should use the accepted and respected sources in a field. In general, the internet does not have the necessary safeguards in place to insure reliable information.

 

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