Reforming Apologetics

Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith

From the perspectives of systematic and historical theology, Fesko seeks to recover a classical Reformed approach to defending the faith, with a special emphasis on the use of natural theology in apologetics.

 

J.V. Fesko, Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019. 250pp. Paperback.

Christians often polarize one another over their approaches to apologetics. While different apologetic schools compete for dominance in Reformed churches, contextual studies of classic Reformed thought on the subject are often missing from current conversations. John Fesko seeks to fill this gap by exploring and retrieving classic Reformed ideas and bringing them to bear on modern debates. His particular focus is on retrieving the “book of nature primarily for use in defending the faith” (4). He argues ultimately that we should use the book of nature in conjunction with the book of Scripture to follow the example of our Reformed fathers in the task of defending the faith. Even those who disagree with Fesko will have to reckon seriously with his careful and wide-reaching historical and biblical analysis.

Fesko develops his subject clearly and well. In eight chapters he takes readers through the light of nature, common notions, John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, the concept of Christian worldview, transcendental arguments, dualisms, and the book of nature as it comes to bear on apologetics. From the perspectives of systematic and historical theology, Fesko seeks to recover a classical Reformed approach to defending the faith, with a special emphasis on the use of natural theology in apologetics (xii). He devotes particular attention to the idealist background and historical context of the thought of Herman Dooyeweerd and Cornelius Van Til, offering both appreciation and critique along the way. One great strength of Fesko’s research is that while he appeals to specific authors to guide his narrative, he does not rely on them exclusively. He draws from a vast amount of contemporary authors to show clear trajectories, and diversity, among the theologians he cites. This makes his conclusions more solid and satisfying, especially with regard to the teaching of classic Reformed orthodoxy. Another useful, though likely controversial, aspect of this book is that the author not only places Reformed authors in context, but he evaluates Van Til and others in context as well. He shows ably why older Reformed authors accepted the idea of common notions in fallen people by virtue of the remnants of the image of God in them as well as why later post-Enlightenment authors rejected these ideas. Appropriately, he closes his book with an exhortation to humility and Christ-likeness in our apologetic endeavors (215-218).

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