How to Defend the Faith: A Presuppositional Approach, Riley Fraas. Thaddeus Publications, 2018. Softcover, 133 pages, $8.99 USD.
I first became interested in apologetics as a university student some 25 years ago. Back then, we didn’t have a lot of books written about the theory or practice of Reformed apologetics. I should qualify that: we didn’t have a lot of books by others besides Cornelius VanTil (who was a prolific writer in the field). Since then, we have seen a good number of volumes by other authors such as Greg Bahnsen, Scott Oliphint, and John Frame. However, most of these books lean more towards the theoretical. There’s still little in print showing how to put it into practice.
In this little guide, Riley Fraas does give a bare-bones summary of the ideas behind Reformed (or presuppositional) apologetics. However, readers interested in going deeper will have to go elsewhere. According to the author, “The intent is that this handbook will be a useful resource for the Christian layperson to have at his fingertips, to answer almost every kind of objection effectively: a segue to the gospel” (131). How to Defend the Faith demonstrates the principles of Reformed apologetics through a series of imagined dialogues based on the author’s real-life experiences.
Fraas spends most of his time on the objections of atheism. He teaches readers how to reply to the atheist who says, “I believe that the important thing is to be a good person and empathize with fellow human beings. As long as you do that, no god is needed” (46). Or the atheist who says, “Show me evidence for any god” (62). Most Christians will be tempted to immediately start laying out various evidences, allowing the atheist to be the judge of the evidence. Fraas shows a better way — but to find out that better way, you’ll have to read the book for yourself!
One of the helpful features of this book is the attention given to various false religions. Not much work has been done in showing how Reformed apologetics responds to the claims of Judaism or Islam, the so-called Abrahamic faiths. Fraas fills in that gap. He also addresses Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
When it comes to Islam, Fraas notes that one of Islam’s weak points is its theoretical affirmation that both the Old Testament and New Testament are valid, while at the same contradicting these writings. The classic example is Islam’s insistence that God has no son. Fraas argues that this internal inconsistency makes Islam rationally indefensible. He is correct on that, but more should be said. What he doesn’t say is that Muslims also claim that Jews and Christians have corrupted the writings of the Bible, and thus the current text of the OT and NT are unreliable. This is what any Christian will face if he challenges a Muslim on this internal inconsistency in Islam. In reply to that, Christians must challenge Muslims to prove their claim. Where is the proof that Jews and Christians have corrupted these writings so that they’re unreliable?
This is a handy little book, especially for those who have already had some basic exposure to Reformed apologetics and are convinced of its elemental premises. It gives the reader a good idea of how to biblically defend the faith and then also point our unbelieving conversation partners to the gospel. It’s not just an enjoyable read from front to back; it’ll also be a great reference to keep coming back to when engaged in giving a reason for the hope that is in us.