Boyd’s Handbook of Practical Apologetics: Scientific Facts, Fulfilled Prophecies, and Archaeological Discoveries That Confirm the Bible. By Robert T. Boyd. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997. 251 pp. Paper. $13.99.
None of us comes to believe the Bible by learning everything there is to know and then seeing if the Bible fits the data. Inability, lack of time, and our fallen sinful natures make that impossible.
Nevertheless, information gathered about the natural world that appears to be true and which coincides with the revelation in Scripture can encourage believers and can influence unbelievers to consider the claims of the Bible.
In Handbook Robert Boyd offers empirical evidence from three disciplines—science, fulfilled prophecies, and archaeology—to support the believability of the Bible.
A pure presuppositionalist might think this is a waste of time. But many can testify to coming to faith in Scripture as God’s Word with the help of such an approach. Care must be taken, of course, not to subject the Bible to the latest scientific theories as though such theories are the final arbiters of truth.
Although Dr. Boyd might be somewhat guilty of elevating science in this way, it’s obviously done with a respect for Scripture and a desire to see others believe the Bible, too. In fact, on p. 51 he appears to guard against this with the statements, “Science has proved that the Bible is correct. Or better yet, the Bible has proved science correct.” Furthermore he doesn’t hesitate to differ with popular “scientific” theories when they don’t square with Scripture.
The section on science takes up nearly one-third of the book and is perhaps the part to be most criticized, mainly for lack of documentation, unsupported casual statements, and typos.
For example, oceanographer Matthew F. Maury is called “M. F. Murray” (p. 61).
And the statement, “A kind is a species and may be described as those which crossbreed with fertility,” is found on p. 84. I think it would be difficult to find an informed, modern day creation scientist who would equate the biblical kind with the modern concept of species. In fact, baramin(from the Hebrew for create and kind) is a term gaining acceptance among creationists to refer to the created kinds of Genesis; a term that distinguishes those that reproduce “after their kind” from other modern labels. (The interested reader might like to visit the Creation Research Society’s website at www.creationresearch.org for more on this and other creation topics.)
Awkward statements detract from the readability of this section. Also, the lack of documentation and footnotes often leaves the reader on his own for source information.
In spite of these shortcomings the author does present much useful information from the sciences upholding the reliability of Scripture. This reviewer appreciates that Dr. Boyd takes a YEC (Young Earth Creationist) position (pp. 69-72). This, of course, rules out both theistic and atheistic evolution (p. 32).
The section on fulfilled prophecy, at only 33 pages, is the shortest of the book’s three divisions, but is loaded with references to biblical prophecies and explanations of their fulfillment. There are a couple of useful lists. One, “Landmarks of 4,000 Years of Jewish History” (pp. 113-14), is a snapshot of pertinent dates in Israel ’s history from 2100 B.C. through A.D. 1993. The other list (pp. 125-27) references 48 prophecies that have their fulfillment in Christ. I liked this section and found it to be much easier reading than the one on science.
The farther along one goes in this book the better the writing style becomes. The section “Archaeology and the Bible” is laid out well, being divided into chapters which include “Tidbits” from the Old and New Testaments, “Basic Archaeological Information” and a short section on “The Intertestamental Period.” It also has 90 of the book’s 97 illus-trations. These black and white pictures include tablets of ancient writings, carvings, ruins, and various artifacts.
Did you know: That the plagues brought on Egypt under Moses were a slap in the face to Egyptian deities (p. 151)? That the woman in Luke 7:38 who washed Jesus’ feet may have done so with her tears she had saved in a bottle (p. 164)? That there were two Bethlehems (p. 186)?
Whether the author is detailing Christian life in the catacombs (p. 211), revealing gruesome facts about the heinous Roman emperor Nero (p. 209), or passionately telling of Paul’s trial and execution (p. 214), he seems to have a special feel for this area of apologetics. The reader is informed academically and sometimes “brought to the scene.”
Other helpful tools at the end of the book include an appendix with definitions, a chart of recent archaeological discoveries, a bibliography, and an index.
We need to be aware that there have been in the past, and there are presently, many creationists and defenders of the Bible as God’s Word who don’t hold to the Free Grace Gospel for eternal salvation. Seventh Day Adventists, Churches of Christ, various other Arminians, and Lordship Salvation advocates come to mind.
The author doesn’t deal directly with the Free Grace Gospel issue. And the statements he makes regarding salvation aren’t conclusive on where he stands. For example, on p. 129 in a section concerning a current state of affairs, he says, “Truths are flatly denied, error has been substituted in its place, and works are now predominant over faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.” On p. 193 under The Crucifixion of Christ we read, “In the darkness of sorrow and sin and death, the Christ of the cross will illuminate a repentant heart and give eternal life.”
Dr. Boyd’s academic credentials include degrees or “further study” from Washington Bible College
(B.A.), Antietam Biblical Seminary (M.Div and D.Min), Wheaton College , Baptist Bible Seminary, and the former Philadelphia College of Bible.
Handbook is a useful and engaging reference work and can serve as a springboard for further study. However, the reader needs to be aware that the section on science, at least, needs to be cleaned up. Parts of it are written without the tightness and accuracy necessary to defend against a determined skeptic.
Port Byron , IL