Author Dallas Willard is one of evangelicalism’s most influential voices over the last quarter-century. Though he died nearly two years ago, a significant amount of his material is still being released. One such posthumously published book is The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus, a compilation of presentations and writings on apologetics brought together by Willard’s daughter, Becky Willard Heatley. “Apologetics is serious work to help people—Christians and non-Christians—resolve issues of doubt,” Willard contends.
In The Allure of Gentleness he seeks to do this serious work and teach others how to do apologetics in the manner of Jesus. The book is helpful, unique, and sometimes theologically provocative; it is an important addition to the conversation of how we ought to contend for the faith in an increasingly doubt-filled world.
Overview of the Landscape
The Allure of Gentleness is divided into seven chapters. Chapter 1 begins with definitions of knowledge and truth, and the need for discipleship in apologetics; chapter 2 deals with doubt and the fundamental need for Christian apologetics to be more than a defense of right ideas; chapters 3 and 4 consider faith, reason, hell, a biblical approach to apologetics, and Willard’s rationale for a Creator; chapter 5 is his take on the God of the Bible and a case for the veracity of the Scriptures; chapter 6 covers his answers to the problem of pain and evil; and chapter 7 asserts the need for a personal, active relationship with God if our apologetic endeavors are to be effective.
Overall, Willard covers what anyone must if he is to effectively address the topic of apologetics. Occasionally, he takes unhelpful theological detours.
There is much to love about this book. One of Willard’s most helpful reminders is his assertion that serious thinking is necessary if we are to engage in effective apologetics. For many, both inside and outside the church, there is ea fear that thinking might knock down the walls of faith. Willard writes, “This reminds me of the definition of faith by Archie Bunker, a character on the 1970s TV show All in the Family: ‘It’s what you wouldn’t believe for all the world if it wasn’t in the Bible.’” Willard believes this type of shallow faith is destructive for rigorous Christianity. For him, serious thinking is the way forward:
You have the ability to reason—the ability to think—just like you have the ability to open this book and read it. Please forgive me, but we need to be unmistakably clear that apologetic work uses reason. We submit our reason to God to help people understand things that will increase and enlarge their faith.
Drawing from John Stott and Martin Lloyd-Jones, Willard artfully shows how reason and logic can help us see the truthfulness and reality of our Christian faith. Always the professor, Willard offers helpful examples of logic and deductive reasoning and demonstrates why Christianity is based on knowledge and not mere belief.