Christians must understand the world from a biblical perspective and apply that worldview in evangelism, defense of the faith, and strengthening the faith of those who already believe. In broad terms, this activity is called "apologetics," an essential component of taking on the mind of Christ but one sadly neglected all too often.
Karen Kovaka's The Art of Apologetics: An Introductory Study in Christian Thinking and Speaking guides high school students toward an understanding of the importance of apologetics, what apologetics is/are, and how to begin studying them and putting apologetic methdologies into practice.
How Does This Work?
This book consists of ten lessons to be used in conjunction withThe God Who Is There by Francis Schaeffer and Know Why You Believe by Paul Little. While it can be completed by one student at a time, the course is best used by a classroom or co-op, since much of the homework revolves around discussion and the ability to speak to an audience.
Each lesson begins with a homework assignment consisting of four parts: Read (assignments fromThe Art of Apologetics and the books by Schaeffer and Little), Reflect (questions for discussion), Research (questions require contemplation), and Respond (students work on a longer project like a personal testimony or apologetic speech, and answer questions).
Next is a letter on the lesson's topic written by a student which introduces the main idea and provides a personal perspective on their interaction with the content. Facing is a page with lists both objectives (goals for students to have in mind while they read and study) and a brief overview of the lesson.
The lessons are typically about 12 pages long. Students can simply read the lessons on their own, though ideally a teacher will present the information in a classroom format. A sample lesson outline and activities for each lesson provide instructor support in the appendix, along with guidelines for developing a personal testimony, help for answering research questions, and a list of further reading/bibliography featuring some of the best introductory apologetics books available.
Kovaka (a 17-year-old high school student when she wrote this) emphasizes the necessity to learn and understand philosophy in order to dialogue intelligently about faith and its enemies. She also presents a presuppositional-evidential hybrid in terms of methodology in which students think in terms of presuppositions but apply evidences for the faith where and when needed.
Because this comes in a series called Communicators Advantage Project, the emphasis is on communicating the ideas of the study of apologetics rather than on the content of apologetics. However, there is a lot of apologetic and philosophical content as well, since students won't understand application if they have none of the content in mind.
In addition to interacting with Christian materials, students will read and analyze Bertrand Russell's famous essay Why I Am Not a Christian at the end of the course. Along the way, they'll learn how to respond directly and honestly to many of the attacks on faith commonly encountered, thus preparing them for this deeper application of content and methodology.
Our Honest Opinion
Readers of Schaeffer, Greg Bahnsen, and C. S. Lewis will recognize their influence throughoutThe Art of Apologetics. Since these are some of the best Christian thinkers of the last 100 years, this is by no means a bad thing. What's more, Kovaka actually represents their ideas accurately, instead of simply passing on a popularized or misconstrued version.
This doesn't always work in her favor. For instance, she accepts Schaeffer's negative view of Soren Kierkegaard which it is not at all certain is the accurate interpretation, and uses this view to guide questions and lesson content. Still, she can't be accused of misunderstanding Schaeffer, Bahnsen, and the rest, and does an exceptional job of relating their work.
Of all the books in the Communicators Advantage Project, this is our favorite. It's rigorous without being impossible, faithful to the thought of some of Christianity's most able defenders, and a great way to introduce the key ideas of apologetic endeavor while training students to communicate those ideas. Highly recommended for high school students and adults alike.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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