Book Review: Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practices in Defense of Our Faith By. Dr. K. Scott Olphint

Reviewed By: Dominic Silla


When I saw that I had to take Principles of Apologetics this semester and that this book was one of the required books on the list, I decided then and there to try to get a jumpstart on my schoolwork. As any good Seminarian knows, you start the semester two weeks behind and have to try to catch up from there![1] I have a unique privilege here in reading this particular book, as its writer is also my instructor for this class! This book was published in 2013 by Crossway Publishing and is roughly 262 pages in length. The author is Rev. Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology here at Westminster Theological Seminary. [2]

This is my second time going through this book, as the first time was a miserable failure, as I tried to juggle it with all my other middle of the semester work and could not give it the proper attention it deserved. Being able to have hours at a time to delve into the text this time around has been a privilege and I would recommend the same to you before jumping into it. Though admittedly, I tend to take a bit longer making my way through them.

The work itself is startlingly deep and yet quite applicable to the Christian life. Writing from a Reformed position, Dr. Oliphint gives a breathtaking view of an apologetic method that is both effective and is consistent with the revelation of God. The first apologetics professor at Westminster, Cornelius Van Til,  developed the method that came to be known as “Presuppositional apologetics.” This method is, simply put, “is naturally and centrally focused on the reality of God’s revelation in Christ, including, of course, the good news of the gospel.”[3] However, Dr. Oliphint makes a distinction early on, he dislikes the term “Presuppositional” and instead recommends the term “covenantal” as a more consistent, fitting and Biblical term. I am inclined to agree with him on this point.

Reading through this book, Dr. Oliphint is constantly looking back to the Scriptures in order to craft an apologetic method, giving to the reader apologetic principals, and putting into practice an apologetic that is thoroughly consistent with Biblical revelation. Key to this is Joshua’s encounter with the Commander in the army of the Lord (Joshua 5:13-15), Paul’s address on Mar’s Hill (Acts 17:22-31), and several other points within the text of Scripture. Though Dr. Oliphint admits several times, that his book is only a short foray and could not possibly cover all the Scripture that could be applied. To aide in this reality, Dr. Oliphint proposes the Ten Tenets at the start of the book. These ten tenets give a way to asses our apologetic method in a way so as to make sure that it is consistent with what we derive from Scripture. The book is worth the buy just to take a look at these ten short tenets, so the rest of the material, I can assure you, is certainly worth the time it takes to study through it.

In closing, I would say that this book, though incredibly helpful to the believer and helpful in crafting a foundation for a solid apologetic method, is deep and complex at times. My recommendation to anyone who reads this book would be that it is important to stay in Scripture. Keep your Bible close to you as you go through this book. It would also be helpful to have a dictionary handy as well! But all in all this book is a solid read in terms of helping one understand a covenantal apologetic and for pointing them toward additional resources that would be a help in this journey. Grab a copy and get started!!!

[1] This is a joke…


[3] Pg. 25, Covenantal Apologetics