Summary: The method of apologetics is intrinsically linked to the work of apologetics.
I like Dallas Willard. He has been very helpful if not always directly, certainly through the mentoring of a variety of other authors and teachers that I have been directly impacted by.
Dallas Willard passed away just over two years ago. This book was underway prior to his passing as a joint project between Willard and his daughter. She organized it based on a series of lectures that he gave in 1990 and supplemented in areas that he thought needed further development using other lectures and writings. In spite of that, this feels like a cohesive book.
Willard is trying to remind the apologist that the method (and life of the apologist) is important to the work of apologetics. In 1990, I think that was probably a much more needed message than today. We always need to be reminded of that, but I do not think that many apologists today would not agree with that basic summary.
Even so, the parts that I most resonated with was that basic reminder. (Although I kept thinking that Unapologetic did a better job communicating the point and at least parts of Vanishing Grace did a better job reminding the reader of the importance of grace toward the non-Christian. )
Willard helped to shape the spiritual formation movement, a reminder to the evangelical church that the goal of the Christian life is not the moment of salvation, but to become like Christ. I do think that occasionally some take this too far and it moves into a legalism. But Willard can only be accused of that if you take bits and pieces and ignore the main thrust of his teaching.
Apologetics, for Willard, who was primarily a philosophy professor, is not about an argument trying to prove the existence of God or the rational nature of Christianity. He believed in God and thought Christianity was rational. But he believed that the non-Christian needs to learn from the life of the Christian not form the Christian’s arguments for Christianity. The arguments for Christianity are not for the non-christian, but to help other Christians grow.
I am strongly in favor of this idea of apologetics. Willard charts the idea and then spends a couple of chapters dealing with some of the issues that commonly come up, the problem of evil, free will, etc. These middle sections were not that engaging for me, I almost gave up on the book during them because personally, when apologetics moves toward this point, I tend to start arguing the other side in my head.
However, there were points during those sections that I did find helpful and allowed me to think through some alternative ideas about how to think about Christianity.
The end of the book came back around and again talked about how evangelism should work and how not to screw up apologetics and push people away from Christ.
This was not one of the books I would say is essential. But if you are interest in apologetics and have read other Willard books, this may be a helpful book.