Without a Doubt: Answering the Twenty Toughest Faith Questions
Kenneth Samples, Without a Doubt: Answering the Twenty Toughest Faith Questions. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004. 286 pages with index.
Kenneth Samples, veteran apologist and countercult writer now working with Reasons to Believe, has given us a clearly written, well-documented, and deeply helpful book on why anyone should believe the Christian worldview to be true, rational, and significant. Books on this topic—Christian apologetics—are fairly plentiful, but few of them are as theologically and philosophy astute as this volume. Unlike many introductory to intermediate level books on this topic, Samples articulates a consistently Reformed approach to Christianity (which comports with my own theology), even offering a concise but astute chapter on the value of creeds to apologetics. I know of no other apologetics book with such a chapter. However, Samples' work is not narrowly Calvinistic in an off-putting way. Christians from many traditions will benefit from his wise labors.
The book is organized around twenty questions broken into three sections: (1) Thinking Through Questions about Faith in God (2) Thinking Through Questions about Faith in Jesus Christ (3) Thinking Through Objections to Christian Faith. He provides references for further reading in every chapter along with detailed endnotes. The two chapters on the relationship of Christianity to other religions are superb and highly pertinent, since this is one of the major issues facing Christians today. (Even so, many texts on apologetics sadly ignore this issue.) The chart (page 176) comparing the leaders of world religions concerning their status and mission puts Jesus' unmatched claims and credentials into significant perspective (although the Baha'i Faith was strangely omitted.) Samples' chapter on Blaise Pascal offers a short biography of this misunderstood genius, outlines his basic apologetic approach, and explains and defends Pascal's famous (and usually misunderstood) wager argument. This was much appreciated by this Pascalian. Samples covers most of the pertinent topics of apologetics, with a few minor exceptions.
Samples says his apologetic method is "eclectic" and that he has drawn from all the major systems. He simply asks us to discover it as he answers questions. That is allowable, but one wishes for a short statement on his basic strategy for apologetic argumentation. He often refers to Christianity or some aspect of Christianity being the best account of the facts at hand so he sometimes uses "the inference to the best explanation" pattern of reasoning, as in his chapters on the deity of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. Although Samples' chapter on Christianity and science nicely covers the Christian basis of modern science and the problems with scientism, he says nothing directly about the evidential and logical problems with Darwinism or how one might reconcile Genesis and the deliverances of science. However he makes some astute comments about the implausibility of philosophical naturalism, the bankrupt philosophy that artificially props up Darwinism. Nevertheless, some reference to the growing and increasingly cogent literature from the Intelligent Design movement should have been included.
But these are relatively minor complaints. Without a Doubt is one of the best one-volume introductions to apologetics published in recent years. One hopes it becomes a textbook in colleges, seminaries, and churches around the country and the globe. I am using it as a supplemental text for "Defending Christian Faith" at Denver Seminary.