Book Review: The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines
This decaying world has been awash in a sea of postmodernism since the early years of the 20th century. It became the reigning worldview in the ’60s. And the sea has been ever mounting to greater depths as the decades have passed. One approach used to coax unbelievers toward acceptance of the Christian worldview is traditional apologetics. In The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines, Dr. J. Matthew Pinson, the president of Welch College, and Leroy Forlines a long-time professor of theology and current Professor Emeritus of Welch College show why this apologetic approach is inadequate to face those lost in postmodern milieu.
Both of these men have already written and/or edited a vast number of books that have had a decided influence on Christian thought.
A Brief Look at The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines
Pinson Introduction: The Forlinsean Apologetic
Pinson opens things up with an introduction to Forlines and the subject matter. For 37 pages, it analyzes Forlines’s interesting take on traditional apologetics and his own brand of it.
It was during his university years that in a conversation concerning one of Pinson’s apologetic papers Forlines revealed to Pinson that he had never really been convinced by any of the traditional apologetic approaches. He told Pinson that he had come to the conclusion they were woefully inefficient to draw people to the point of being open to special revelation.
Throughout the remainder of his introduction, Pinson thoroughly analyzes Forlines’s apologetic as expressed in various works, particularly The Quest for Truth.
In essence, the conviction of both Pinson and Forlines is that the only truly effective apologetic approach, so far as approaching today’s non-believer, is one that looks at their postmodern metanarrative or any other worldview and reveals the Christian worldview to be the only one that sufficiently answers the inescapable questions of life.
Forlines’s The Quest for Truth Excerpts
The remainder of The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines is composed of selected sections from The Quest for Truth that directly expand upon Forlines’s apologetic approach: excerpts from the introduction, chapter two, chapter three, chapter four, chapter eight, chapter eighteen and the entirety of chapter seven.
Forlines states that the inescapable questions of life concern things like God, the origin of the universe, the origin of man, right and wrong, life and death, and the meaning of life. Through General Revelation God has given all people a basic knowledge of Himself and morality at birth, but depravity has obscured that Upper Story knowledge almost completely. The past two centuries have seen the dominance of two anti-Christian worldviews: Modernism and then Postmodernism. Postmodernism, the current king, is much with us all around.
In this Postmodern society of ours, anyone can choose any “truth” he or she wishes. Forlines considers this very troubling; he is convinced that if we do not return to a moral consensus, like so many societies before us, our civilization will perish.
But he says there is yet hope:
I believe there are answers. I believe there is hope. I do not have a dream-world. I do not subscribe to oversimplified answers. We live in a world of harsh reality. There is no guarantee that a person can help partaking of some of the harsh reality. But it is possible to find answers that will give purpose and meaning to life. There is help for the journey.Forlines, 61
Forlines rejects the traditional Apologetic approaches—cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological—as tools to bring the lost toward acceptance of Christ. Instead, he offers his worldview inspection as the best and most convincing apologetic approach.
Forlines is clear that 100% of the time this should lead straight to the Bible. He says to reject the Bible is to shut off special revelation completely. And as the ambassadors of Christ, we are to mimic Jesus Himself and lovingly guide the lost along the road that leads to sure redemption. We must approach the errant worldviews among us, and engage the lost with genuine truth, wisdom, and compassion in the name of God.
The Introduction was too long
Let me hasten to clarify that I don’t mean any of Pinson’s words should have been omitted. What I do mean is that it might have been better if it was divided, perhaps with the first three or four pages serving as the introduction and his excellent analysis of the Forlinsean apologetic coming directly after The Quest for Truth excerpts.
Too many conclusions
What I mean by this is that too often Forlines made remarks that seemed to have an air of a book conclusion about them. While these remarks were always very good and smacked of a personal passion for the subject, they also served as a kind of anticlimactic set-up. Almost all of the chapter selections here are riddled with these.
Too many repetitions
Repetition of subjects in non-fiction books and educational settings can be a very good tool. You summarize the subject, then keep on going over it, expanding more and more each time. However, I think in any kind of written work there can be too much repetition, and Forlines does this a little too often here, sometimes almost word for word.
The introduction alone is worth the purchase
Pinson’s introductory remarks (with helpful feedback from Bruce Little, Matthew Bracey, and Kevin Hester) is tightly written and extremely well researched, considered, and worded.
Pinson supports everything he says with a mountain of historical, scholarly, and scriptural evidence. It all amounts to a brilliant analysis of the overall Forlinsean apologetic stance.
Forlines’s writing is extremely learned, wise, and methodical, but at the same time very comfortable, easily understood, and clearly very personal.
He explains how he started writing in this way: Late in the book, Forlines says that until the 1950s it was his belief that all theological writings required complete objectivity if they were to arrive at an honest truth. However, he began to slowly rethink this stance with the realization that we as Christian really can’t and shouldn’t act neutral about it when we are honestly investigating the truth of the Word. He says that conviction is why transparent passion and first-person writing has characterized his projects since the ‘70s (133-134).
Thoughts upon thoughts, ideas upon ideas, truths upon truths.
Books such as this with its deep springs of profound truths beg for multiple readings. It is easy to read through once or even twice and think, “Ah! I decidedly disagree with them here and here.” When in reality there are so many thoughts and ideas and truths presented here that it might be easy to miss something and think there is a gap there, when, really, there is no gap, there is no logical flaw.
For instance, I think I disagree with Forlines’ and Pinson’s disdain of traditional apologetics as an effective means to bring the unsaved to the point of salvation. While I don’t think it’s the best evangelistic tool or even that it is always necessary in every situation, I think it can be helpful in the process.
But I might be misunderstanding the subject, I, therefore, will be rereading this to gain a fuller understanding. It is far too easy for us to jump to conclusions before we fully understand a complex book or situation.
I have other disagreements, but they are very few and minor. The thoughts and ideas and truths here are great and they are profound.
Final Analysis of The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines
The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines is a very worthy addition to the personal bibliography of both of these men. While I do have more confidence than Pinson and Forlines in traditional apologetics to help reach the lost, I have more so in his worldview testing approach.
To his credit, Forlines does say the current postmodern anti-worldview situation is hugely complex. I would say it is much more complex than one 173-page book can fully encapsulate. I do not think this book can serve as a specific “how-to” for every possible encounter and scenario. Such possibilities are virtually endless.
However, I do think that what Pinson and Forlines have laid out here is a great general guide for facing these situations. In the end, I join with their call to meet the needs of the lost in the postmodern malaise with objective truth, nuanced wisdom, and compassionate love.
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2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines”
Fantastic review! I am looking forward to reading this book.
Thanks, Ben, for tackling such a deep and complex subject, and shedding much light on it. You did a good work here.