BOOK REVIEW: The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics

POPApoEncyc

The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Ed Hinson and Ergun Caner (Eds.). Harvest house, 2008.

The purpose of The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (TPEA) is to place in the reader’s “hands a tool that will enable you to both defend your faith and answer the major objections to Christianity” (p. 11). To that end the editors provide 180 articles written by over 60 contributors concerning the Christian faith and issues related to it.

The writers range from authoritative scholars to academic students (mitigating the editors’ claim that the contributors are “experts in their field” and that “each author is an evangelical scholar” – p.11). Many of the contributors will be recognized from popular apologetics books and conferences. The contributors come primarily from Baptist seminaries as well as Southern Evangelical Seminary, so a primarily evangelical perspective can be expected.

TPEA covers topics from Abortion to Zoroastrianism, and includes articles on world religions and cults, Christian doctrine and heresies, as well as ethical and philosophical issues. Some important apologetics personalities garner their own articles. The basic classical apologetic approach is revealed in the article selection which will be appreciated by those with such leanings. The average article is 2-3 standard double-column pages long.  This has the advantage of quick reference, but caution should be exercised in thinking that more than the surface of most of these issues can be scratched (e.g., three page entries on Evolution or The Problem of Evil). Of course this is a necessary component of such a work, and the editors managed to devote more space to certain topics by breaking them up into several articles. The topic of Apologetics, for example, gets 40 pages under various sub-topics, and 23 pages are devoted to Jesus Christ.

Considering the necessitated brevity and the intended readership, most of the articles range from high-to-excellent quality, with few that were disappointingly shallow in their treatments. Occasionally one will find sources cited that are non-authoritative, derivative, or non-contemporary, and it is not unusual for the writers to simply cite one another, or themselves, in the bibliographies. The legitimacy of this practice also reflects the range of scholarship among the contributors, and it can be helpful in leading the reader to the next level up in scholarship. Objective errors were rare (and I was assured by some of the writers that these were introduced during editing).

These latter considerations are neither surprising nor condemning for a popular-level text. Overall, TPEA is a good introduction to the topic of apologetics from the perspective of several evangelical writers. It is geared toward the beginning reader, so those familiar with popular apologetic writings will find little novelty here. For those unfamiliar with the discipline, or its many subtopics, TPEA is a helpful and useful initial resource. To that end, a second edition would profit from an author index, a full bibliography, and a Scripture index.

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