Five Books Essential to the New Apologist
To a world with a lot in question, Jesus is the answer, and he’s the rational one.
Current events may seem to make the intellectual pursuit of God seem irrelevant; an innocuous solution to a pressing problem, but a strong foundation for faith in God is needed in crisis. Ideally, preparations should be made in “peace time”, but these days, we must build our strongholds in the midst of the storm.
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably familiar with apologetics. When I speak of apologetics I’m speaking of the system of arguments and reasoning that makes a case for the truth of Christianity.
Apologetics is important to the Christian walk since we are instructed to give a defense for our belief in Christ.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” — I Peter 3:15 KJV (emphasis added)
The Greek word for “answer” in that passage is apologia, by the way. It means “defense”, as in a court of law. As Christians we should defend our belief that Christ is the salvation for mankind, and his Word makes the most sense of the world we live in.
Please view this “listicle” as your armory. It’s intended to be a foundation for study so you will be equipped to defend yourself. You shouldn’t stop with these titles, but you should start with them, and in this order since each is selected to build on the other.
1. The Holy Bible
This is the foundation for all Christian thought, and to have a deep understanding of it will make the plunge into the world of apologetics all the more understandable. The core of Christianity is the Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), so I suggest that is where you start. Then circling back around to the Old Testament, specifically Genesis and Exodus, will help provide context to the imagery of law and sacrifice that’s throughout the Gospels and the Epistles. Since you are on your way to studying apologetics, I highly suggest getting The Apologetics Study Bible. Not only does it contain the Christian Standard translation, but a treasure trove of articles, explanations, definitions, and guides to understand the Word, it’s context, and what it means to understand what you believe.
2. The God Who Is There — Francis A. Schaeffer
Though he considered himself an evangelist rather than an apologist, the work in this book is often cited in works dealing with the apologetic for the Christian faith. I’ve probably read all of his works, but this one is the most beneficial for the budding apologist as it gives a survey of turning points in history, culture, philosophy, and Christian thought. Moreover, it weaves them together with ease and communicates the effects with passion. Despite being published sometime in the ’60s, it has aged very well, and is still relevant for the sincere Christian today.
3. Stealing From God — Frank Turek
A popular level work showing, through logic and anecdote, how those who wish to attack Christianity, actually need it to make their case. With the help of the acronym CRIMES, Turek breaks down how atheists must borrow from a theistic worldview to make sense of causality, reason, information and intentionality, morality, evil, and science. All this is relayed in a colorful way through use of anecdotes to illustrate the salient points and solid research to back it up. It’s a succinct introduction for a laymen into how apologetics can be thought about and applied.
4. On Guard — William Lane Craig
This guide for the believer is a crash course in the major arguments, and their evidence, for the defense of the faith, plus the testimony of the author to inspire your faith and encourage your learning along the way. It includes response trees and outlines of the arguments discussed, definitions of new terms, and prompts for group discussion. Note there is a version for unbelievers who seek an intellectual answer to “Why believe?” entitled On Guard For Students. While On Guard is clearly written for believers, On Guard for Students is a revision directed to unbelievers, and though I personally cannot vouch for it since I haven’t read it yet, I’m confident in Dr. Craig’s reputation of solid published work.
5. Tactics — Greg Koukl
Now that you’ve been armed with this knowledge, what do you do with it? This book describes practical ways of talking about the Christian faith with unbelievers. With anecdotes and simple methodology, Koukl demystifies evangelism through harnessing thoughtful strategy to, at worst, get the unbeliever to think about what he believes, and, at best, win him to Christ.
I’ve spent many years engaging with material in this subsection of theology, and I’ve found it could be daunting to someone just starting out. I think these five resources will equip the new apologist for a fantastic journey of discovery when it comes to uncovering the rational underpinnings of the Christian faith. Not only that, but it provides an anchor of rationality for an unmoored irrational world.