Truth in the Flesh by John Hartung is an introductory work on apologetics that covers a surprisingly wide breadth of topics. The work is divided into two parts: meeting objections to the faith and making a case for the Christian faith.
Hartung begins with an analysis of plausibility structures and “blank stares” (7ff). Throughout the work, Hartung works to make high level ideas accessible at the level where a lay person can come to an understanding, and the notion of a “blank stare” is just one example of how he does this. He notes that Christian claims are often met with a “blank stare.” Such incredulity is often based on one’s own presumption of “prestige” and “social gate-keeping.” To break through this kind of barrier, Hartung suggests pressing on by questioning the listener on why they seem incredulous, which will open the path to discussing plausibility. He notes that one must keep in mind the notion that worldviews are at odds here, not just opposing views on individual topics.
Hartung’s discussion of the problem of evil is multi-leveled and interesting. He addresses the notion of evil as a privation, something that is a lack of something rather than a thing-in-itself. Hartung then analyzes how evil could possibly be viewed as a challenge to the existence of God. He offers Christ as a solution to suffering. God who suffers with us cures our suffering.
Hartung then turns to two purported challenges to Christianity: science and faith and religious pluralism. Regarding the former, Hartung addresses a number of issues, including supposed incompatibility of faith and science, the “god of the gaps” objection, the possibility of making an inference to God, and more. Regarding the latter, he considers the possibility of testing truth claims of religion, relativism, religious experience, and a few other topics. Ultimately, he concludes that neither of these supposed challenges undermines Christian faith.
Hartung’s case for the Christian faith is built upon a cumulative case version of argument. He builds bottom up from God to Christ to Christian theism. One of the several highlights from the second part of Truth in the Flesh is the discussion of philosophical modernity. He traces modern thought from Plato on down through Locke and Hume and touches the important points of the development of their ideas. He continues to interact with these and other thinkers throughout the work.
Hartung’s arguments for the existence of God are concise and will give lay readers an introduction to a number of prominent philosophical arguments. He also offers a chapter in which he breaks apart the naturalistic worldview, arguing that it cannot account for meaning. Finally, the arguments for Christian theism specifically are added to the mix and the possibility of miracles, reliability of the New Testament, and the Incarnation are all defended.
Truth in the Flesh is an extraodinary work in a number of ways. Its breadth is impressive. Hartung manages to discuss extremely complex issues in such a way that those looking to learn about apologetics can understand, while those who have read thoroughly on the topic will get new insight and a great review. In particular, Hartung’s focus on some of the thinkers of modernity helps to make the work stand apart from the pack. I recommend Truth in the Flesh primarily as an introductory text for apologetics, but also as a great reference for those who are experienced in the field.
John Hartung, Truth in the Flesh (Chipley, FL: Theocentric Publishing Group, 2012).
Disclosure: I received a copy of the book for review from the publisher. I was not asked to endorse it, nor was I in any way influenced in my opinion by the publisher. My thanks to the publisher for the book.
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