I’m not a very pessimistic person. Perhaps that is why Apostate by Kevin Swanson was hard to swallow. Nevertheless, his recent book is a valuable work that takes into account the general history of apostate philosophers and theologians in the past several hundred years. Swanson begins his survey with Aquinas, travels through history observing the lives and thoughts of men such as John Locke, Rene Descartes, Karl Marx (several others too) in his first section, he then overviews four literary “apostates,” and concludes with an overview of the repercussions in present day culture. Due to my current schedule, I tried to read through as fast as I could, so this may not be the most helpful analysis available, and would consider this review more of a “first impressions” response.
The first thing I need to state is that Kevin Swanson is not afraid to be counter-cultural and thoroughly biblical. He’s often labeled a “right-wing” conservative Christian, and depending on the media context, even an “extremist.” His organization, Generations With Vision, offers a wide array of resources for homeschooling, history, biblical studies, etc. What I’ve noticed with “Generations With Vision” is that its content is actually pretty good. I worked at a very conservative Christian bookstore for a little while and a lot of times the resources distributed by conservative, “fundamentalist” Christians (I’m not using the word “fundamentalist” in a demeaning way), were not even able to engage with secular thinkers. Swanson, on the other hand, clearly has taken great measures to carefully analyze the men he criticizes in his book and, I think, presented a fair representation. Yes, the secularist will absolutely hate this book and probably start a name-calling game online (most likely the word “bigot” will spring up), but can they really argue against Swanson’s criticisms? I would think that, in most cases, the answer would be “no.”
A second thing I think needs mentioning is that in all fairness to Swanson, despite the negative tone of most of the book, I don’t think it’s entirely possible to write a book on history’s “apostates” from a conservative point of view, and do it with a positive tone. After all, apostasy is ugly. There are examples upon examples in Scripture that urge God’s people to guard biblical truth. And the reality of the situation is that the men listed in Apostate have, in some part, contributed to the rise of secular humanism and the decline of biblical Christianity.
A third point I’d like to make is that I didn’t always find myself as harshly critical on every “apostate.” As I was reading the descriptions of each person’s biographical life, his philosophical impact, his views of God or man, etc., there wasn’t praise for some of the positive (even if very little) things that these men have contributed to world history. I believe in the doctrine of “common grace” and that despite the heresies and anti-biblical ideas these men have propagated, God has given them brilliant minds. Despite the plethora of error and distortion present in their writings, there are perhaps needles of truth in the haystacks of error. Then again, what was Swanson supposed to write about in Apostate? The errors and anti-biblical suppositions. Nevertheless, I believe there are things of value among philosophers in history, but that we just need to be careful.
Overall, I think Swanson’s book is rather intriguing, very straightforward, well-written, a little sharp, but certainly a recommendable read. Christians ought to know about history, and I think Apostate is a worthy contribution. On a “star” rating, this would earn a 4 out of 5, I believe. Hopefully, I will get the chance to read it a couple of more times and soak up even more insights.
I received this book for free from Generations With Vision through Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.