First, Jamin Hubner has released the Second Edition of his The Portable Presuppositionalist.
Second, Clifford B. McManis has published Biblical Apologetics: Advancing and Defending the Gospel of Christ. Several people have let me know about this book prior to its release, so I excitedly read everything I could in its online preview. I have some initial concerns with respect to the rhetoric and tone of the work.
McManis makes rather large implicit promises about putting a different spin on apologetics, but the portion of the book that I read contains very little, if anything, “new.” Of course McManis would not want to say that his goal is to bring anything new to apologetics (‘if it’s new it’s probably not true!’) but rather to bring the discipline back into the realm of exegetical theology where it belongs. That is well and good, but no different from what covenantal/presuppositional apologists have been saying from the beginning. One finds, for example, the typical proclamation that our apologetics should be biblical followed by the long list of traditional apologists who are not. There is the dismissal of natural theological argument. There is the same sort of dismissal of evidentialism. But one can find all of these features in virtually any covenantal/presuppositional apologetic work. My complaint here is not that McManis does not bring anything new to the table. If he is a good apologist then he will not. He will, instead, develop and sharpen a biblical apologetic that is already in place. My complaint is, rather, that the implication of much of what he says is that there is something particularly new or insightful in his claims. As far as the beginning of the book is concerned, there is not. I will not comment on the use of “biblical apologetics” to describe the McManis method except to say that the label is probably less helpful than it is worth. The main reason for seeing the label this way is that its use goes beyond the descriptive to the categorical, and that in distinction from the Van Tilian variety of apologetics.
My main concern, however, is the anti-philosophical and perhaps even anti-intellectual bent to much of what McManis states in the beginning of his book. It is not that I disagree with McManis and others who might say that would-be autonomous, academic, “elitist,” philosophical gibberish far too often masquerades as apologetics; I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment. However, the knee-jerk reaction from especially the Reformed camp that McManis appears to exemplify is to throw the discipline of philosophy as a whole under the bus. There are significant problems with this approach to philosophy (see here – https://choosinghats.org/2011/06/a-serious-problem-with-introduction-to-covenantal-apologetics and here – https://choosinghats.org/2012/01/theology-versus-philosophy). The disciplines of theology, especially “systematic” theology, and philosophy, are not always so very different from one another. There are many ways in which theology depends upon philosophy. For example, I have not found an exegete yet who could approach the text of Scripture and do his job without a philosophy of language. Moreover, I have not found an exegete yet who could make a case for the importance of exegesis without using a philosophical argument. When “biblical” and “exegetical” are conflated all sorts of problems follow. Mind you, McManis, and others, are completely right in seeing a massive gap in exegetical apologetic material even within the presuppositionalist camp. They are wrong insofar as they believe exegesis precludes the need for incorporating other disciplines into apologetics, and wrong insofar as they believe that those other disciplines are somehow less Christian. These disciplines are not “less Christian” if they are properly used in accordance with Scripture. That is where the work McManis provides will be especially helpful to the task of apologetics, for if he has been successful in his book then he has provided the exegetical foundation upon which other apologists – whether more philosophically inclined, scientifically inclined, etc. – must build their apologetic in the future.
Take my comments above with a very large grain of salt. I have not read the entirety of the work in question. (I can hear the stern rebukes even now, but what I have written is based off of what I have read thus far, and I see nothing wrong with that, provided the relevant qualifications are given about the book potentially addressing my concerns later on.) My concerns are only initial concerns. McManis devotes what looks like an entire chapter to philosophy in his chapter titled, “Philosophy: The Love of Big Words,” and, I hope, will provide a much-needed definition of philosophy there (Amusingly McManis uses the word “hamartiological” in the title of the preceding chapter). So enough of the uninformed negativity…
As an introductory work in apologetics this book looks promising. McManis comes from the Master’s circle where presuppositional apologetics have, to my knowledge, been taught for some time, though I do not know how explicitly or whether that label was used. I am especially thankful for the gifted-ness of those I have known from Master’s and affiliated groups, their uncompromising commitment to the authority of the Word of God, their expert exegetical work, and their passion for applying the truth of God’s Word through sound expository preaching, biblical (dare I say “nouthetic”?) counseling, and evangelism. My expectation is that McManis will not disappoint, but will deliver upon his promises for an exegetically grounded apologetic in this work, and I very much look forward to reading it. (Unfortunately the preview of the book, by the way, ends right where the exegesis begins!) It is obvious that he has put a massive amount of work into this book and it is a welcome addition to the apologetic material written from the presuppositional stance even where the book diverges from that stance; provided the reason for parting ways is faithfulness to the text of Scripture!
Have I been unfair to McManis in providing these initial concerns without reading the rest of his work? Yes, if they were all I planned to offer, or if I did not emphasize as I have that these are only initial concerns based on a very, very short preview of this massive volume. But they are not all I plan to offer, nor have I neglected to inform you that I still have a long way to go before I am in any position to provide an educated final opinion about this promising new book.
I trust that you will order the two books above right now if you have not already!