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Book Review – Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith
by Dave Jenkins
Apologetics has quickly become one of my favorite areas of study. Whether it is thinking through issues on a worldview level or contending for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, apologetics has much to offer the people of God. Since apologetics has resurfaced as “the hottest trend” in evangelicalism, it’s important to note why this discipline is important. With an increasingly hostile culture that preaches a message directly opposed to biblical Christianity, Christians need to be armed now more than ever with the knowledge of what they believe and how that knowledge impacts their lives. Many know a great deal about theology but yet don’t know how their theology should impact their life. Thus, the renewed focus on apologetics should be celebrated in the Church. Biblical apologetics is Scripture driven, Christ-centered, Gospel-centric, and Holy Spirit empowered. It is for this reason I am excited to tell you about the new book by Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics Principles and Practice in Defend of our Faith.
As I read this book, I quickly came to the conclusion that Dr. Oliphint, a man who I’ve learned a lot from when it comes to Apologetics, was arguing for a model of apologetics rooted in solid biblical exegesis and application. What stood out to me most is “Covenantal Apologetics”, Oliphant’s revised term for Presuppositional Apologetics, isn’t anything new but rather something founded upon the historic doctrines of the faith, something very biblical and glorifying to God. Those who have taken issue with Presuppositional Apologetics as a system should take note of the biblical and theological arguments Dr. Oliphint presents. Though his work is fresh in approach, it is firmly rooted in the long tradition of Reformed theology.
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Oliphant begins his book with an exploration of what apologetics is about. He author states, “Christian apologetics is the application of truth to unbelief” (29). He also clearly outlines from the beginning what the overarching goal of apologetics is noting “We will not seek to knock down every argument, or even every main argument against Christianity” (29). Oliphant’s clear objective from the very outset will help the reader understand his comments as well as his overall goal thus eliminating any confusion as to the purpose of the discussion. He clearly provides the root of his argument commenting “The point for the Christian and the point to stand on in a covenantal apologetic is that Christ’s lordship – which includes not only that he now reigns but also that he has spoken and that all owe him allegiance – is true for anyone and everyone. Christ is Lord even over his enemies and ours. And part of what this means is that the authority of Scripture, which is the verbal expression of Christ’s lordship, is authoritative even over those who reject it” (37). This outstanding statement is followed with a fundamental element of any apologetical argument, namely “The Bible is authoritative not because we accept it as such, but because it is the word of the risen Lord” (37).
Chapter two focuses on the importance of the lordship of Christ and its central place in the covenantal approach to apologetics. This important point has often been overlooked in the many books on apologetics I’ve read that spend considerable time talking about how to defend the faith without ever fully defining the faith we should defend. I appreciate the fact that Dr. Oliphint doesn’t assume but instead is very explicit in this chapter about the importance of the Lordship of Christ over all of life…