Hindson, Ed & Ergun Caner (general eds.), The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (2008) [Harvest House]
In the introduction, Edward Hinson and Ergun Caner write, “We wanted to place in your hands a tool that will enable you to both defend you faith and answer the major objections to Christianity. More specifically, we wanted to provide a resource that is accessible to every Christian—a popular encyclopedia that avoids the technical jargon of specialists while cogently presenting a Christian response to skeptics and cynics” (11).
With more than 60 authors, many affiliated with Liberty University and Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia, and about 180 articles, this book is indeed a tool to help answer some of the major objections of Christianity. Though not exhaustive, it is a very helpful introduction to some of the names, teachings, movements, philosophies, and theologies antagonistic to the Christian faith. From abortion to Zoroastrianism, this book covers, in a very readable and understandable way, that which is beneficial for the Christian who seeks to further answer arguments of the naysayers.
Throughout the book, one will cannot help but notice its evangelical bent. Every now and then, for example, various articles contain the assumption that even nonChristians can make decisions and choices for Christ. Also, the erroneous teaching sometimes explained in this manner as, “once saved always saved” seems to be held.
In the article, “Sin,” Caner writes, for example, that the categories of venial and mortal sin within the Roman Catholic Church, “demands that a person can become a Christian and receive grace and forgiveness and then possibly lose that salvation again” (453).
Properly understood, in distinction from the teaching of the Church of Rome, these categories of venial and mortal sin can actually magnify the grace of God in Christ Jesus and give the Christian greater confidence of that unmerited grace and favor of God that the Christian seeks all the more to amend his/her sinful life. And, the Bible does in fact indicate that salvation can be lost (i.e. 2 Timothy 2:17-18; Hebrews 6:4-6).
In addition, the book’s evangelical flavor can be recognized by a number of the articles which deny baptismal regeneration and emphasize that “man must repent of his sins”, implying that salvation is somehow dependent on our repenting (255-256, italics mine).
Interestingly, in the article, “Reason and Faith,” Shawn Hayes concludes the article under the section, “The Place of Faith” with these words, “By faith we know some things are true because God said them. In the case of faith, our certainty does not rest on our reasons, but rather, on our faith in God” (412). However, faith does not rest on our faith (a near kin to fideism), but on the very Word of God in Christ (Romans 10:17).
The section, “Grace,” seems a bit overextended and straining, except for clarifying the evangelical understanding of grace, as Breidenbaugh describes grace as “one of God’s many communicable attributes” (254), and speaks of two kinds of grace: 1) common (general, universal) and 2) elective (special, saving, regenerating). Under the first kind of grace, he includes as headings physical provision, intelligence, society, and Christian events. Under the second kind, elective grace, he includes as headings prevenient grace, efficacious grace, irresistible grace, and sufficient grace (255-257). Not surprisingly, Breidenbaugh also includes “the divine sovereignty involved in salvation” (257).
Though I would recommend the book as at least an introduction to Christian apologetics and for many of the arguments contained therein, I would also encourage caution and discernment. There is certainly an “evangelical ring” to the articles and to some extent, an inconsistency due to the various authors. Generally, however, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics is a helpful resource to have in one’s library. The reasoning in the articles is, for the most part, sound and certainly understandable. Yet reasoning and argumentation alone are not the last word—God’s Word is. Knowing His Word, one will be quite prepared to proclaim the truth of the Christian religion.