Can Christianity be proven to be a superior philosophy/worldview based on the behavior and ethics of its followers? Depending on who you ask, the answer to this question will vary. Many skeptics like to claim that Christianity poisons millions of lives and society as a whole. They seek to point to things like the crusades and the inquisition to prove that Christianity isn’t worth following.
Of course, they are not as likely to follow the same reasoning when faced with moral Christians who save lives, or atheists who kill millions of people on a whim (Mao Zedong, Lenin, Stalin, North Korean Kim Dynasty, etc.). Mark Coppenger masterfully puts forward in Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians that Christianity’s impact on the world, especially in regards to ethical and moral foundations, lends to its superiority and even validity.
In Moral Apologetics, Coppenger defends the use of what he refers to as “cultural apologetics.” In essence, Coppenger submits that when we review a myriad of philosophies, their origins, their subscribers, and their implications, we see that Christianity naturally sets itself apart. In the author’s words, “If Christians claim that God is infinite in power and knowledge and that his commands are wise and good, then obedience should result in wonderful things, which should reflect well on tenets of the faith” (4). Further, “True ideas, do not, in the end, have negative social impact; they bring light and life to society.”
Following this reasoning, Moral Apologetics works well as a reference book shedding light on different philosophies, examining its subscribers, and inspecting its fruit. Coppenger goes as far to review apologists, contrasting the methods and individuals that further the cause of Christ with those that diminish it. Moral Apologetics is a crash-course on the cultural impact of philosophies with the intent to show the superiority of the true Christian ethic. In its essence, Moral Apologetics is a manifesto in support of the old saying, “ideas have consequences.” However, Coppenger takes it a step further. Not only does he remind us that “ideas have consequences” but he adds, “and here’s the abundant proof.”
Apologetics books can unfortunately often be jargon-filled paperweights. Coppenger does a fine job of walking the line, in his words, of “academic and popular writing.” The result is a book that is well-researched, culturally relevant, and thought-provoking.
Overall, this book is a great addition to any Christian’s apologetics library. As the author admits, it is not a knockout punch to skepticism, but it is a helpful arrow in the quiver of defending the faith.
Why I Liked It
Having formerly been an atheist, I’ve been a consumer of apologetics resources since my conversion. In fact, if it wasn’t for apologists, their works, and those willing to answer the tough questions of skepticism, I don’t know if I’d be in Christ. Yet, in all of my searching and reading, Coppenger’s book stands out for me. It really was the first time that I understood how the concept of “cultural apologetics” helps differentiate the Christian faith. Over the recent years, skeptics have convinced Christendom that the superior ethical system found in Christianity is a myth, or at least not worth citing as prima facie evidence for the Divine. However, Coppenger reminds us that this is simply not true.
As he points out, this cultural apologetics line of reasoning is as ancient as the faith and was popularly cited by the likes of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. The Scriptures themselves support the idea that God’s moral code, when lived out by His followers, will work as a witness to His presence and ultimately result in His glory (Mt. 5:16, 1 Pet. 2:12). The importance and purpose of this book are best summed up by the author in the following way: “…Christians should be grateful for their ethical heritage and more inclined to cite it in their defense of the faith” (6).
Overall, I highly recommend Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians to be added to any believer’s library. I received my review copy through B&H Academic’s Blog. Moral Apologetics can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christian Book Distributors.