"Mere Apologetics" by Alister E. McGrath

Alister E. McGrath.  Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith. Baker Books, 2012. 208 pgs. 

What does it mean to help others find faith? What is evangelism? Apologetics? And how do we take part in these activities effectively? Throughout history there have been many great defenders of the faith but now, in the face of modern challenges, McGrath argues for a more flexible and deeper approach. Hence this book. Mere Apologeitcs, as an introductory level text, seeks to answer some of the basic questions of apologeitcs, such as those listed above, while getting down to the level of methodology in terms of how we defend our faith. Other topics include: the theological basis for apologetics, pointers to faith, and gateways of apologetics. 

As an introduction to apologetics Mere Apologetics is one of the best I have read. McGrath does indeed lay out a flexible approach to defending the faith while fitting a stunning amount of useful information into a small book. On top of that, McGrath makes sure to do what every introductory text should do: point the reader on. Each chapter concludes with a list of books for further reading, and these books are very well selected. 

Conclusion: 5 Stars. Recommended. Unless you already know all this stuff, perhaps because you have read all of McGrath's recommended additional reading, you can't go wrong here. 

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group".


2012.02.10 Worth Visiting

Sitting All Day is Bad - good to know

Paying Customers for Good Reviews - Unsurprising, but sad nonetheless. 

What's Wrong With the Teenage Mind? - makes a lot of sense. 

"World Wide Webs" - Will it really come to this? 

"Consent of the Networked" - more things you should know, and think about, as you use the internet. 

Ted Video: Hedonistic Sustainability - This almost makes me want to move to Denmark. At the very least, we need thinking like this in Vancouver. 

Nature, Nurture, and Liberal Values - Dense but well worth reading; article on the impact of evolutionary psychology and neuroscience on morality and cultural norms. Has Science vs. Religion become Science vs. Liberal values? 

"Between the Lines" - Bet you never knew parking was so interesting, or complicated. 


"Medically Abetted Mass Feticide"

I don't know what the world would look like with approximately 10-20% more men than women but, according to Nicholas Eberstadt, some of us may find out. With such charming phrases as that in the title of this post, Eberstadt points to alarming trends in birth ratios in some of the most populated countries in the world. The bottom line is that strong gender discrimination, enacted through 'sex selective feticide' (aborting female babies), is beginning to shift world population trends and what will result from this long term and unplanned social experiment is almost completely unknown.

There seems to be a recurring theme here. On "2012.01.30 Worth Visiting" I posted a link to a disturbing article about abortion in America. On "2012.01.22 Worth Visiting" I mentioned a documentary about the three most dangerous words in the world: "It's a girl." Eberstadt's article adds statistical weight to this trend, and he notes that abnormal birth ratios are showing up all over the world, always in favor of boys. 

There are two issues here: abortion and the devaluing of girls. For now, the only way medicine can help parents determine the gender of their child is by allowing them to kill children of the unwanted gender. In the future it may be that we can make such choices in a much easier fashion. However, the very limitation of medical means speaks to the strength of this preference. That we are willing to kill our daughters rather than raise them is a much different choice than if we, hypothetically, were able to choose the gender of all of our children. Of course, those in favor of abortion will not see it this way, since we are not killing a daughter but a fetus, a being who, as yet, is not human (despite ultrasound imaging...).

I won't pretend I don't have a religious bone to pick in this discussion. Before we get there, however, it should be obvious that as a long term plan the skewing of birth ratios to such a degree as is unsustainable. As men become grossly numerically dominant I can imagine any number of scenarios playing out. Perhaps the shortage of women will cause them to be prized, causing a serious shift in cultures which have hither to placed a much higher value on male children. This could naturally reverse the abortive preferences of parents and either rebalance birth ratios or send us into a series of pendulum swings between gender preference. Of course, changing cultures is no easy thing to do and many other factors come into play in the meantime. As women become more prized this can lead to good consequences of treating them well but it could also lead to the negative consequence of treating them as commodities. Given the overt commodification of sexuality, especially female sexuality, already present in our world... Then again, strong desire for fewer and fewer woman on the part of grown men may make it even more dangerous to have a daughter, thus strengthening the trend. A downward spiral? A pendulum swing? Who knows.

Regardless of the morality of abortion, culturally driven sex selective feticide is wrong. Though I am unaware of medical professionals offering any kind of official statements, some have responded. In getting the first ultrasounds for both of our children here in the lower mainland the nurse was not allowed to tell us the gender of our child. I asked why, and in both cases was informed that too many parents make abortion decisions based on gender and so the decision has been made that nurses withhold that information. Despite this being only a minor barrier (private ultrasounds are available for a relatively low price) it does make a statement.

Speaking more personally now, abortion is also wrong. We are, in fact, killing our children. I write this as a Christian, not as someone trying to assert moral absolutes which I expect everyone to see and follow. But as a Christian, I think we need to be reminded that the 'abortion issue' has not gone away. We should not seek, as a response, to change laws (though I do applaud Stephen Woodworth's current attempt to force Canadian legislature to examine the one question in this debate Canadian systems have steadfastly refused to look at: when does a fetus become a human being?) but rather to change the hearts of those in our fellowships.

South Korea may be a beacon of hope in this regard. Eberstadt points out that they are, so far, the only country to have recovered from abnormally high male to female birth ratios. He also points out that while the picture is complicated, and other factors were involved, it was largely faith based communities which moved civil society to value daughters.

Ultimately, my hope is in the Lord. Over the years I have discussed moral issues with many people, from environmentalism to abortion, and I always reach the same conclusion. Real change must come from within, and the one who will effect that in us is the Holy Spirit. 


January Reflections

"I'm late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I'm late!"

Top 3 Posts of January:

1. Heaven and Hell - noting to say. 

2. We're Sinking - My thoughts on Josh McDowell's truth campaign. 

3. Revisionist Tendencies: Chesterton, Calvinism, and Piper - Piper's blog upset me, so I posted my thoughts. 

1/12th into 2012 already and may good times be had by all. 

Back at the start of January, I decided I would do three things. I said I would stop taking so many bad books to review and instead read some of the doctors of the church. I said I would put up more of the material I put together for church. And I said I would randomly put up link posts. 

1.5 down, 1.5 to go. I have indeed stopped accepting bad books to review. Since making that commitment, I have only accepted one book review offer (forthcoming). However, I have had quite a few other books pile up in the last year besides the doctors of the church, and have been attending to some of those before embarking on my quest. For church material, I simply haven't done a lot yet in the new year; it's still coming. 

All in all, I have to say the changes I have made so far have been positive. I hope for much more. How's your year looking?