One of the several ways to engage people with the good news of Jesus Christ is through evidential apologetics. In many cases now, the morality of the Bible is so offensive to people they have little initial concern over the historicity of Scripture. However, both within and without the church there are cases where cogent, rational demonstrations of the credibility of Christianity are necessary.
History, Law and Christianity, by John Warwick Montgomery has recently been republished by the 1517 Legacy project, which aims at presenting a Christian apologetic to the world. Montgomery’s book was originally published in 1964, having begun its existence as a series of lectures in response to attacks on the Christian faith. The first five chapters discuss the plausibility of historical evidences of the truthfulness of Christianity. The final chapter provides a “legal defense” of Christianity, as it might occur in a court of law. This edition also includes the original lecture to which Montgomery was responding, as well as an affirmation of the quality of the argument by a non-Christian historian.
Much like Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ, and Josh McDowell’s classic, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Montgomery’s volume points out some of the common challenges to the truthfulness of the biblical accounts regarding Christ. Montgomery shows that, while we cannot have Cartesian certainty of Christ’s resurrection and his deity based on evidence alone, there is such a strong logical coherence to the accounts of Christ’s life that opponents of biblical Christianity are wrong to dismiss the accounts in Scripture as readily as they often do.
Apologetic volumes like these are helpful within the church, because they can shore up existing faith. With a constant barrage of accusations and denials thrown at Christianity from the world, reading a careful, logical defense of the reliability of Scripture can be nourishing to the soul.
In some cases, a book like this can be helpful for people who have not yet come to faith but are asking realistic, honest questions about the integrity of Christianity. Montgomery’s careful argumentation may be the help someone needs to come to grips with the transformative power of the gospel.
One of the benefits of this book is its size. The actual argumentation of the volume is a mere 76 pages. It took me a couple of hours to read it fairly carefully. Many apologetics books, in attempting to be perfectly thorough, become weighty tomes which are unlikely to be picked up by the casual inquirer.
Another strength of History, Law and Christianity is the precision with which Montgomery argues. His carefully argued points are shaped as only the lawyer can do (one of Montgomery’s earned degrees is a J.D.). The book, then, is up to the logical scrutiny of a rational skeptic.
The weakness of the book is that it may be answering questions that most people aren’t asking in our day and age. This book will be a solid entry into a debate with someone with a modern epistemology, which is rigorously rational (often excessively so). It may not be as effective in convincing the post-modern skeptic, who is willing to accept truths but not Truth. As such, this is a tool that will be most effective when provided to the proper audience.
All in all, this is a well written book. It has withstood the last half-century well. It is a book I am glad to have on my shelf and will gladly recommend to others.