12.29.2014

Book Review: Urban Apologetics

"Urban Apologetics": the title of this book greatly intrigued me when I heard of it since I am a member of a local church whose building is located in an urban environment and is also beginning to take greater strides to bring the gospel to the urban environment in which our building is located. This book, by Christopher W. Brooks, campus dean at Moody Theological Seminary and senior pastor of Evangel Ministries church in Detroit, serves as a good primer for people seeking to sharpen their thinking and living as they bring the gospel to those who live in an urban environment.

The first two topics Brooks addresses, the relevance of the gospel to the modern city and the two sided-coin of evangelism and apologetics, lay the foundation of Brooks' later chapters which address specific hot-topic issues relevant to America's urban communities.  Brooks' stated goal of this book is to "bring about a greater connection between urban Christians and those who do the work of apologetics and theology" (p. 15). I believe this book serves as a good introductory primer for prospective urban apologists.

The effective urban apologist must be "embodied", pointing to the need for boots on the ground, living in the midst of cities. Social programs attempting to repair the unique destruction sin wreaks in inner-cities or touch and go evangelism blitzes with no remaining presence are both lacking. The effective urban apologist must live out what he preaches in the midst of the city he is heralding the gospel to.

Brooks mentions several other important points in his opening chapters - the rise of "apatheism" and the continuing decline of cultural Christianity in cities, the need to address unique issues urban people face, and the importance of coupling good deeds with gospel proclamation. Brooks strikes the balance well between good deeds and proclamation when he says, "that although love is the primary ethic of the church, winning people to Christ is and always will be the primary mission of the church" (p. 36). To miss the biblical mission of the church would destine an apologetics book to failure, thankfully Brooks retains a proper understanding of the church's mission when considering apologetics and evangelism. Brooks also properly defines the purpose of apologetics as evangelism (p. 40). I personally enjoyed the emphasis Brooks gave to empowering individuals to effectively engage the people in their circles of relationship versus an event-driven kind of evangelism. It will take every man, woman, and child of Christ' church to reach every urban man, woman, and child who have not yet encountered the gospel of Jesus.

The bulk of Brooks' book lies in chapters addressing issues especially pertinent to urban environments: abortion, sexuality, family, religious pluralism, and social justice. In the short space of this book, Brooks gives a proper understanding of the challenges at hand with each respective topic and issues some introductory arguments to deconstruct misunderstandings of and challenges to the respective biblical view on each topic. These chapters should prove helpful to the urban apologist. Brooks, an African-American pastor in Detroit, writes with the insight only gained by living in and ministering to such urban environments over many years.

As with any book review, I need to address the points of disagreement or contention. While I had no strong disagreements with the arguments Brooks presents here, I particularly was curious of his foundational approach to apologetics. One may suspect that the author comes from a more evidentialist apologetic approach based on certain statements he makes. For example when Brooks is addressing the negative consequences of homosexuality, he seems to assign a measure of authority to scientific social research on homosexuality alongside Scripture. I would give Brooks the benefit of the doubt here that he likely does not hold scientific research to the authority level of Scripture even though I would like some more clarity on his approach to addressing secular arguments and the use and authority of Scripture in such arguments.

Overall, I would recommend this book as a helpful primer to Christians seeking to more effectively engage their urban neighbors as they seek to present the gospel to every man, woman, and child.

Note: I received this book for free from Kregel Publishers in exchange for an unbiased review. Please see the author's page here.