This was recommended to me by a friend and I found it to be excellent. The book generally got better as I turned the pages. At first Stackhouse had a habit of saying things about pluralism, postmodernism and consumerism that I already knew but when I reached the second and third parts of the book where he speaks of conversion and communicating apologetically, I was hooked. I found myself whispering “yes” out loud in those parts of the book as he clearly articulated many points that I’ve thought in my reflections on the proper use of apologetics in evangelism as well as the nature of conversion. Reading this book was like emerging from forty days in the proverbial desert of conservative evangelical thought on this aspect of Christianity.
This book clearly refuted the evangelistic methods of Ray Comfort in my mind. (If you don’t know who Ray Comfort is consider yourself fortunate.) Ray separates evangelism and apologetics in his mind, embracing a crude caricature of the former while completely discounting the latter. In reality, apologetics and evangelism go together because one has to put on the evangelist’s hat to communicate the good news of the gospel and use apologetics when one is challenged about the veracity or goodness of that news. Apologetics, meaning the art of defending the faith and advancing the faith intellectually to others, needs to be conducted with humility always in mind, since God incarnated himself here on Earth in humility. Also, the current challenges of postmodernism and pluralism to the Christian message can’t be dealt with if we are puffed up with pride. The apostle Paul had this principle in mind when he spoke to the Corinthians not in “lofty words” but in “fear and trembling.” Intellectual honesty was also stressed in this book. When engaging our non-Christian peers we must remember that the whole of Christianity does not depend just on our efforts or our words. We shouldn’t try to bring people to a “crisis point” where they either choose to accept or reject Christianity. Instead we must remember that most will not change their whole worldview just because someone presents a good argument. Engaging the evangelism and apologetics is a team effort and we are only called to play a part. In actuality, real change in that unbeliever’s life can only come through the providence of the Holy Spirit.
This book has successfully inspired me to actually engage with my neighbors on these matters. I think that was the main strength of the book. One doesn’t have to have all the answers, but can focus on nudging others towards the faith without being overly pushy. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. We are just clay vessels called to be co-workers of Christ in this venture. I heartily recommend this book for anyone who is struggling with how one ought to go about engaging in apologetic discussions with non-believers. I also think this applies to believers as well who need encouragement and care to proceed along the path of sanctification in the faith.