Humble Confidence: A Model for Interfaith Apologetics, By Benno van den Toren and Kang-San Tan
Humble Confidence
  • Length: 296 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: December 20, 2022
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 5294
  • ISBN: 9780830852949

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Christianity Today Award of Merit

Today's cosmopolitan, multicultural, and multifaith environments call for new approaches to apologetics. The world still needs the good news of Jesus Christ, but to relate the transcultural gospel to diverse and ever-changing contexts, we must free Christian apologetics from dominant Western habits of mind ill-suited to interreligious dialogue. We must listen and speak with both humility and confidence.

Benno van den Toren and Kang-San Tan provide a global, intercultural introduction to Christian apologetics. They present a model of apologetics as crosscultural dialogue and accountable witness, then explore how it plays out in relation to specific contexts and the major world religions—including primal religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, secularism, and late-modern spiritualities. Building on recent developments in apologetics and missiology, as well as their experience teaching internationally in Europe, Asia, and Africa, Van den Toren and Tan offer an approach that is conversational, patient, holistic, and embodied.

Filled with examples from Scripture and real-world experiences, Humble Confidence gives readers a travel guide to help find the most effective avenues for true dialogue in their own settings.

"Can we stand firm as trustworthy witnesses for the hope of the gospel while honoring the vast diversity of cultures and religions that shape people? Benno van den Toren and Kang-San Tan emphatically respond with a yes, if we first explore how culture has shaped our core theological beliefs and assumptions about what it means to engage in Christian apologetics. Drawing on their rich epistemological, intercultural, and interreligious knowledge and experience, Van den Toren and Tan guide us to greater awareness of God, self, and others that, true to the title, equips us with humble confidence to participate persuasively in an apologetic dialogue with people from any and every background."

Mark R. Teasdale, E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

"In this refreshingly original approach to an issue of burning relevance to our world today, the authors present a convincing alternative to existing models of engagement that takes seriously the religious experiences and traditions of people of other faiths even while holding firmly to the essential truth claims of the Christian faith. Ambitious and courageous in its breadth of treatment, Humble Confidence is a worthwhile read for any serious Christ-follower—not just the specialist!"

Ivan Satyavrata, pastor emeritus of The Assembly of God Church in Kolkata, India

"This is a fine and sensitive study of the dynamics of engaging in faithful Christian witness to different religious traditions—and the complex tasks and demands in each new situation. It is written with deep learning and wide experience. It is an eloquent and much-needed apology for the importance of humble apologetics."

Gavin D'Costa, emeritus professor of Catholic theology, University of Bristol, and visiting professor in interreligious dialogue at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome

"Can apologetics play a positive role in Christian witness today in our cosmopolitan, multireligious, and multicultural societies? In this thoughtful and nuanced discussion, Benno van den Toren and Kang-San Tan persuasively argue that, properly understood, interfaith apologetics actually is indispensable in Christian witness in highly diverse contexts. They provide a relevant and wise guide for all concerned with effective ministry in our globalizing and fragmenting world."

Harold Netland, professor of philosophy of religion and intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Remarkable, deep, stimulating, convincing, and compelling reading. This timely, transformative book helps the reader to discover the richness, the effectiveness, and the need for Christian apologetics as holistic, conversational, crosscultural, and contextual dialogue. It informs, educates, and guides humble witnesses of Jesus Christ to be confident as they effectively embrace and practice a Christian apologetics that is healthy and builds trust with people and communities living and rooted in diverse traditions, multireligious contexts, and a multicultural and secularized world."

Daniel Bourdanné, former general secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students

"A book like this is long overdue. As a way of giving account of the hope within us, apologetics ought to be closely related to missiology, but it is rarely included. Here it is made relevant again. Both apologetics and mission are changed in the dialogue: apologetics becomes contextual and mission becomes apologetic. The arguments are lucid and substantial. The illuminating case studies show what apologetics contributes to Christian witness in various religious contexts."

Paul E. Pierson, professor of world Christianity at Fuller Theological Seminary

"Humble Confidence occupies a perfect middle space, balancing patient listening with honest speaking, intellectual acumen with relational health, modern insights with postmodern themes, and as the title says, personal humility with reasoned confidence. A dialogical and embodied model for apologetics is all the more relevant today, since global Christianity encounters not only Western secularism but multiple non-Western religions and cultures as well. Tan and Van den Toren hit just the right notes for faithful apologetic dialogue in our time."

David Clark, professor of theology at Bethel Seminary

"A book like this is long overdue. As a way of giving account of the hope within us, apologetics ought to be closely related to missiology, but it is rarely included. Here it is made relevant again. Both apologetics and mission are changed in the dialogue: apologetics becomes contextual and mission becomes apologetic. The arguments are lucid and substantial, and the illuminating case studies show what apologetics contributes to Christian witness in various religious contexts."

Kirsteen Kim, Paul E. Pierson Professor of World Christianity at Fuller Theological Seminary

"In such times as today, when vehement assertions tend to dominate cultural and political landscapes and are often undergirded by rigid interpretations of religions, Humble Confidence comes as a gentle voice of wisdom, inspiring empathy—a distinct mark of the good news in Christ. Drawing on scholarship while remaining accessible and engaging, the authors contribute to the academic debate of interreligious dialogue, taking seriously the profound influence of culture. As academics and practitioners, having lived and taught in multicultural contexts and working in multiple global languages, the authors bring theoretical depth balanced by their lived experience and witness of interreligious conversions. Humble Confidence is an inspiring book, filled with illuminating insights into cultural encounters, and it bridges the disparate spectrums of interreligious dialogue. Evangelicals committed to witnessing Christ and respecting the contextuality of cultures will find the book a treasure."

Atola Longkumer, book review editor for Mission Studies

Read an Excerpt


Introduction: Contextual Apologetics as Holistic Dialogue and Accountable Witness

Part 1: Reimagining Interfaith Apologetics
1. Apologetic Dialogue in a Multicultural World
2. Embodied Apologetics
3. The Cultural Embeddedness of Belief
4. God's Presence and Truth in the World of Religions
5. Apologetics as Accountable Witness to Christ
6. Possibilities for Critical Interreligious Dialogue
7. Reaching the Reasons of the Heart

Part 2: Contextual Apologetic Witness to Particular Audiences
8. Inculturation in Dialogue with Primal Religions
9. Subversive Fulfillment of the Hindu Quest
10. Buddhism Confronts Reality
11. Islam and the Integrity of the Christian Faith
12. Unmasking Secular Idols
13. Inner Tensions in Late-Modern Spiritualities

Conclusion: Looking Back and Forward
Study Questions and Further Reading
General Index
Scripture Index


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Benno Vanden Toren

Benno van den Toren (PhD, Theological University in Kampen) is professor of intercultural theology at the Protestant Theological University in Groningen, the Netherlands. He has taught in French-speaking Africa and at Wycliffe Hall at Oxford University, and his books include Christian Apologetics as Cross-Cultural Dialogue and Reasons for My Hope: Responding to Non-Christian Friends.

Kang-San Tan

Kang-San Tan (PhD, Aberdeen University) is general director of BMS World Mission. He is also chair of the Commission on Mission and provides leadership for the Global Baptist Mission Network of the Baptist World Alliance, and he has previously served as head of mission studies at Redcliffe College and executive director of AsiaCMS.