(This is a guest review by Doug Kutilek which also appears in his online paper “As I See It”)
In this small but excellent book, we have the substance of 5 lectures delivered by the late acclaimed Pauline scholar F. F. Bruce in 1958 at Calvin College. The theme of these lectures is the Apostolic “defense” or “apologetic” of the Gospel when it was confronted with various objections and hostile belief systems. Bruce traces the method of the Apostles, especially but not exclusively Paul. When the Gospel message encountered objections from traditional Judaism, the chief appeal was to the testimony of fulfilled prophecy and miracles. When paganism was encountered, often appeal was made to Divine providence and the testimony of nature and history. When Roman political authority was the adversary, the falsity of charges of anarchy and rebellion against Jesus and the apostles were appealed to, and the fact that Christianity makes for a better and law-abiding citizenry. And when various pseudo-“Christianities” were faced, appeal was made to the true facts of the Gospel. Among these false “Christianities” were Judaizing legalism (which sought to pervert the message of salvation away from “sola gratia” to a combination of faith and conformity to Jewish traditions); Gnosticism (which presumed that matter was evil), in its ascetic form which severely deprived the body, its antinomian kind which cast off all moral and carnal restraint; and docetism, which denied the reality of Jesus’ humanity, birth and death. The Apostles did not hesitate to proclaim the absolute truthfulness of the Gospel and its absolute finality as God’s revelation of Himself to man.
The analysis of Paul’s message in Athens (Acts 17:22-31) is especially good (pp. 37-47) and was by itself worth the reading of the whole book just to discover this excellent presentation. The only comparable treatment I know of is that by A. T. Robertson, “Paul in the Center of Greek Culture,” chapter XII in Paul the Interpreter of Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976 reprint), pp. 141-155.
This is a most excellent brief book, and worth seeking out.