Apologetic resources abound. No shortage of books that defend the validity of the Christian faith exists. Many of these resources often set Christianity alongside other belief systems and use the Bible to demonstrate the truthfulness and validity of Christianity. I have no problem with this. For I believe as Herschel Hobbs did when he wrote that the Bible is “truth without any mixture of error”. I am comfortable with using the Bible as the beginning of any apologetic discussion. However, there are many who are not willing and able to begin with the Bible itself as a starting point. Fewer apologetic resources begin the defense of the Christian message at somewhere other than the Bible. In his new book, “History, Law, and Christianity; How Does the Historic Evidence for the Christian Message Hold Up Against Cross-Examination”, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery approaches the defense of the Christian message from a strictly historical and legal perspective.
Montgomery’s book breaks into two major parts: Historical Evidence and Legal Evidence. In the first section, the author builds a case for the Christian message from a historian’s standpoint. He began by asking the question, “Are the New Testament documents historically trustworthy?” He answers by offering four tests. Test One, the Biographical Test, answers the question, “Can we arrive at a stable, reliable textual foundation for the claims of Jesus as set out in these records? Test Two, the Internal Evidence, deals with antiquity’s standard that the benefit of the doubt goes to the document itself unless under discussion the author disqualifies himself through fraud or contradiction. Test Three, External Evidence, answers the question, “Do other historical materials confirm or deny the internal testimony provided by the documents themselves?” Test Four, Form Criticism, which seeks to determine a literary work’s original form and the historical context of the literary tradition.
In the second section, Montgomery gives the reason for reasoning the Christian message from a legal perspective. He writes, “Here we shall use legal reasoning and the laws of evidence. The advantage of a jurisprudential approach lies in the difficulty of jettisoning it: legal standards of evidence develop as essential means of resolving the most intractable disputes in society. Thus one cannot very well throw out legal reasoning merely because its application to Christianity results in a verdict for the Christian faith”. Montgomery sets forth to answer the question, “What are the pertinent questions about faith?” He does so by asking and answering four key questions from the jurisprudential standpoint. Those questions are:
1. Are the historical records of Jesus solid enough to rely upon?
2. Is the testimony in these records concerning his life and ministry sufficiently reliable to know what he claimed about himself?
3. Do the accounts of his resurrection from the dead, offered as proof of his divine claims, in fact establish those claims?
4. If Jesus’ deity is established in the foregoing manner, does he place a divine stamp of approval on the Bible so as to render its pronouncements apodictically certain?
In the course of answering these legal questions, Montgomery puts the witnesses to Jesus’ ministry, death, burial, and the resurrected Christ “on trial” by utilizing the legal means of deeming a witness truthful and their testimony reliable. Montgomery writes, “In a court of law, admissible testimony is considered truthful unless impeached or otherwise rendered doubtful. The burden, then, is on those who would show that the New Testament testimony to Jesus is not worthy of belief.” It is here that Montgomery excels. He applies the criteria for credible testimony in the legal arena to the New Testament witnesses. He looks internal defects with the witnesses, external motives to falsify their testimony, internal defects in their testimony, and the external defects in their testimony. He then goes to share his conclusions that evidence for the Christian message in valid, reliable, and trustworthy. A tremendous work.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from CrossFocused Reviews as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”