The New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics is a reference work for scholars and laypersons published by InterVarsity Press. The work seeks to serve as a resource as Christians enter the marketplace and present their faith to non-believers. The work also presents a comprehensive treatment of contemporary issues that relate to apologetics in the twenty-first century. The topics covered in the dictionary are arranged in such a way as to encourage the reader to make connections between the topics, not seeing them in isolation, but as parts of one whole discipline devoted to the defense and explanation of the faith. This is done as a reflection of the biblical worldview the editors and authors embrace—“seeing all of reality and existence through biblical revelation, the chief focus of which is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ” (vii).
The dictionary is introduced by six introductory articles on apologetics, pertaining to 1) apologetics in the 21st century, 2) various approaches to apologetics, 3) legitimacy of apologetics, 4) viability of apologetics, 5) relationship between apologetics and theology, and 6) apologetics outside of the West. Each of these articles presents some important contemporary issues, laying them out and giving clear explanation. These introductory articles are helpful in keeping the current state of apologetics in view, as well as understanding the reasons why the articles themselves were included in the dictionary.
The greatest strength of the dictionary is the range of topics covered by the contributors, which is quite wide. Alongside the article on the Dead Sea Scrolls is an article on depression; next to the article on Bonaventure is a treatment of boredom; cyberspace can be found among the articles, as can piercing. The article after piercing is entitled, “Plato.” So, a brief perusal of the dictionary shows that the contributors have certainly commented on a wide range of topics, with the goal of comprehensive treatment of topics relating to apologetics at the start of the new century.
Many of the articles betray the particular biases of the authors. For example, the article entitled “Determinism, Chance and Freedom” written by John Frame, is written from his reformed perspective. His treatment of libertarian freedom is there, but he spends a great deal of time refuting the idea, and concluding with the statement, “these considerations lead to the conclusion that the Bible teaches theistic determinism. . .” (220). Such statements do not seem consistent with the goal of the work, which is not to provide direct answers to the issues involved, but to present the issues as objectively as possible and to show them as part of a unified response to the unbelieving world.
This dictionary will, however, undoubtedly prove to be an invaluable resource. The contributors to the dictionary are many, and they have sought to identify as many issues that relate to the defense of the faith as possible. Recognizing that mundane issues that are accepted in everyday life by most people can have profound theological meaning and limitless potential in bringing the lost to faith, while at the same time treating issues one would expect to find in a book like this, the contributors have offered a resource that is truly unique. The twenty-first century most certainly offers challenges that cannot be met in the old ways, i.e. with the assumption that everyone has the same general presuppositions about religion. The work represents a strong effort on the part of Christian scholars to offer a balanced and informed approach to providing a resource to help the body of Christ defend the faith.
Campbell-Jack, W. C., Gavin J. McGrath, C. Stephen Evans, and Steve Carter. New Dictionaryof Christian Apologetics. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006.