The following is a list of recommended reading for those who want to develop a deeper understanding of Christian Apologetics. A student doing research in the field of Christian Apologetics will find this timesaving resource invaluable as relevant details and specific subjects are included in each title. This annotated bibliography was prepared by Eric Oldenburg, a good friend of Apologetics.com, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Melbourne School of Theology. Purchases made directly through the affiliate links on this page help support the mission of Apologetis.com. We appreciate your support.
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- Apologetics - History
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- Faith and Reason
- Faith and Science
- Historical Jesus
- New Testament
- Old Testament
- Problem of Evil
N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: New York: Harper Collins Publishers Inc., 2008).
The majority of this book deals with the theological questions and implications of our resurrection life and thus is not apologetic in essence. However, woven throughout is a robust explanation and defense of the resurrection of Jesus, which gives the work significant apologetic value. Wright’s novel view of hell is intriguing but highly questionable. His precise explanations of the disembodied state, Heaven and the resurrected state, however, will bring many evangelicals back to a Biblical understanding of what awaits them after physical death. With a robust picture of Biblical eschatology (minus his anti-millennial and anti-rapture ridicule), Christians who read this book will be much better prepared to talk about the future when that issue comes up, as it so often does in apologetic conversations.
N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: New York: Harper Collins Publishers Inc., 2006).
As the proverbial expression goes, sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Wright has written one of the most compelling and winsome introductions to Christianity to date and, thanks to his efforts, Christians have a proactive resource to place in the hands of unbelievers and skeptics who need to hear the case for Christianity. Wright starts by pointing out some of those universally recognized realities that speak to something beyond the physical, material world, namely, justice, spirituality, relationships and beauty. He then gives the essence of Christianity’s message, i.e., that God, beginning with His revelation to and through Israel, climaxing in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, carrying on in the Spirit’s work in the Church and consummating in Christ’s return, is rescuing and renewing His creation. To conclude the book, Wright lays out what it means for believers to live in fallen world as renewed creatures whose task it is to practice and proclaim the restorative plan that God has for this world. Every reader should come away either inspired and empowered to live our their faith, if a believer, or longing to connect with the amazing God described in the book, if not yet a believer in Him.
N.T. Wright, Scripture & the Authority of God: How To Read the Bible Today (New York: New York: Harper Collins Publishers Inc., 2011).
This is not your standard go-to book for defending the historical reliability of the Old or New Testament manuscripts or the historicity of Biblical chronology and events. Rather, Wright gives us his attempt at how we, as readers of Scripture, are to understand not only our place in God’s narrative, but the Bible itself as a progressing narrative of God’s renewal and recreation of the world. In this way, it is more of a hermeneutics text than an apologetics text. Yet Wright’s style and his overarching goal lend themselves both easily and winsomely to the evangelical apologetic cause. Both in his historical overview of the challenges to the Bible throughout history, and equally in his description of how the Church has tried to faithfully read the Bible, one gets the idea that the Bible has been misused more than it has been used correctly. Wright’s proposal moves us away from these misuses — allegorization, legalization, liberalization, relativization, etc. — and towards an authentic, relevant, serious and actionable reading of Scripture. Even if the reader doesn’t buy some of his applications, all apologists should take to heart Wright’s contribution to our goal of discussing the Bible in the public square.
Heath White, Postmodernism 101: A First Course for the Curious Christian (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2006).
With greater accuracy, more eloquent prose, better principles of evaluation and much more cultural relevance than is found in Millard Erickson’s The Postmodern World, Heath White offers an introduction to postmodernism from which any Christian can learn and benefit. Not everything in the book will be acceptable to all Evangelicals however, the major thrust and tone of the book should be. White charts a possible path for postmodernism’s future and a concrete path for Christian involvement with our culture of postmodernity toward which we all ought to strive. The reader will find clear explanations of the roots of postmodernism, a sample of Evangelical mischaracterizations of postmodernism along with ample and apt warnings against the dangers posed by postmodernism as they are manifested in many different spheres of life and thought. With a careful eye, any Christian can avoid White’s minor missteps and develop a healthy attitude toward postmodernism thanks to this unique and powerful little book.
Philosophical Dialogues on the Christian Faith: Discussions on the Arguments, Evidence, and Truth of Christianity
Steve West, Philosophical Dialogues on the Christian Faith: Discussions on the Arguments, Evidence, and Truth of Christianity (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2007).
Set in conversational format between two philosophical seekers, this short work presents some of the major arguments for the truth of Christianity in an extremely readable and approachable manner. For the most part, the conversations come across as genuine, even though there are times when the conversational believability gives way to philosophical clarity. This is an excellent introductory text for someone new to either apologetics or philosophy; the discussions on the cosmological argument and the problem of evil are especially valuable. The major strength of the book lies in West’s ability to present the material clearly and convincingly in the initial chapters without revealing his presuppositional perspective. The major weaknesses of the book lie in the over-simplified caricature of evolution and in the singularly-focused presentation of presuppostionalism in the discussion of epistemology. In spite of these weaknesses, this is a book for anyone new to the world of apologetics and philosophy.
John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009).
Dr. Walton has done a great service to Biblical scholarship and Christian apologetics in this in-depth study of the worldview of the Ancient Near East (ANE) and how the creation account in Genesis 1 addresses that worldview. The reader will come away with a very rich understanding of how ancient peoples thought about creation and about the purpose of creation. It is Walton’s main assertion that Genesis 1 does not address the material creation of the universe but the divine act of giving function to the universe. Thus, to look at Genesis 1 in order to determine how God materially created the world is to ask questions that the Text does not intend to answer. Even those who disagree with Walton on this particular hermeneutical question should find his research solid, his argumentation compelling and his conclusions helpful in clarifying what it is that we have in Genesis 1. There is much to disagree with regarding Walton’s view of the interrelation of science and theology (he seems to espouse an independence theory) but, again, his insights stand even though his applications are certainly questionable to those who don’t share his views at the philosophical level.
Anthony C. Thiselton, Doubt, Faith & Certainty (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2017).
Thiselton, with his characteristic display of both exegetical and philosophical rigor, takes the reader through the existential complexities of doubt, the deep nuances of biblical faith, and, ultimately, to the certainty available to us in and through the Holy Spirit. Doubt is a part of this fallen world and it expresses itself in our everyday lives. At the same time, there is an implied belief that underlies doubt, which also implies that doubt can be faced and even overcome. Thiselton next does a deep dive into how biblical authors use the word faith, concluding that Scripture gives us much more than the tripartite division of confession, belief and trust. It is those things but it is much more, and none of faith’s meanings oppose or downplay the role of reason in the life of the believer. The most robust exploration of the books wades in the deep waters of certainty. The clearest takeaway is the difference between psychological and epistemic certainty; the difficulties of obtaining the latter do not discredit the former. And once we take into account the future directed hope of creational restoration that is promised by the ever-faithful Creator God, we have a certain ground that stands against whatever doubts and skepticisms this world presents to us. The glaring disappointment of this book is the absence of a unifying conclusion. One can hope that a future edition will offer such a service to future readers.
Gerd Theissen, The Shadow of the Galilean: The Quest of the Historical Jesus in Narrative Form, Updated Edition, Translated by John Bowden (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007).
This brief novel, first written in 1986, has had tremendous impact in the world of New Testament scholarship. Theissen takes a large portion of what we know historically of 1st century Israel and weaves it into the story of a fictional character, Andreas, who experiences the socio-political tensions surrounding Jesus’ death. Even though the main character is fictional, many of those with whom he comes into contact are not, and the events he experiences are often based on historical realities. Any allusion to something with historical merit is endnoted. As a result of The Shadow, the reader will come away with a fresh take on the world of the New Testament and a confidence in much of what the Gospels present to us. It is for this reason that this non-apologetic work is included in this bibliography and highly recommended.
John R.W. Stott, Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972).
It may seem that here in the 21st Century we no longer have to argue for the development of our minds in our service to the Lord. We all know that we must use our minds, right? Isn’t the real question how best to organize our thoughts and which ideas we should fill our minds with? To the extent that these assessments are true, may the Lord be praised. But where it’s not, and where there are Christians driven by ritualism, activism, or experientialism untethered by a biblically informed, theologically shaped and philosophically sharp intellect, Stott’s book serves as a needed corrective. Filled with ample Scriptural support and pointed relevant application, this 50-year-old essay is a serious call to a robust concept of the mind from a scholar who exemplified its exhortations throughout his life.
James W. Sire, Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994).
The nature of belief and the complex methodology of discerning and evaluating our beliefs are not simple subjects, however Dr. Sire has presented them in a way that anyone can understand. His book not only introduces these issues but also presents the reader with the challenge to investigate their beliefs in order to make sure they are believing things for the best possible reasons. After this initial explanation and challenge he makes an apologetic case for the Christianity primarily based on the person of Jesus Christ. Unlike other apologetic texts, he does not deal with scientific or philosophical or evidences for the existence of God but sticks to this Christocentric apologetic. The one exception is his exceptional chapter on the problem of evil. Sire closes his book with an uncommon but quite welcome invitation to the reader to investigate Christianity rather than presenting a simplified, out of context Gospel presentation. The statistical research behind Sire’s arguments in the first half of the book, being based solely on interaction with American college students, is the one cultural limitation of the book. That he recognizes this fact and presents his case without total dependence on the research alleviates the problem somewhat.
James W. Sire, Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004).
In this extended conceptual reflection, Sire unpacks just why he moved from a purely intellectual approach in evaluating worldviews to recognizing the much more existential and lived nature of worldviews. Without negating the intellectual aspect, Sire deepens his own understanding of worldview and guides his readers in how to think anew about the concept. All of this is done with a view toward engaging others winsomely and respectfully. Most people will not be able to articulate their worldview in intellectual, philosophical categories; to engage them on that level may not result in a significant conversation and might even turn them away from the very consideration of worldviews altogether. Sire shows the importance of coming at worldviews from a “way of life” approach, which surely includes the rationale for our various heart commitments, but which also gives appropriate weight to those driving commitments themselves. Later editions of The Universe Next Door, to which this book is a companion, have been revised in light of Sire’s new approach to worldview. Anyone desiring to read Universe should read Naming the Elephant first.
Michael C. Sherrard, Relational Apologetics: Defending the Christian Faith with Holiness, Respect & Truth (Brooks, GA: Hill Harow Books, 2012).
In many respects, Sherrard has made a much-needed contribution to the evangelical apologetic endeavor. Especially in the first chapters of the book where he focuses on the spiritual/moral character and relational qualities that an apologist should exemplify, the reader is challenged to be the kind of winsome, engaging, respectful believer that we all aspire to be. Unfortunately, however, riddled throughout the book are numerous examples when Sherrard betrays the very characteristics he calls his readers to demonstrate. In many cases, he writes as though the default for an apologist is to be inattentive, rude, overly-agenda-concerned, and prideful; his tone is one of ridicule toward the very people he is trying to reach. It takes significant concentration to ignore these hypocrisies, but it is worth the effort because what he promotes is so foundational to a person-centered apologetic. Toward the end of the book, where some of the standard apologetic questions are addressed, the reader may find himself frustrated with the all-too-cursory treatment of the issues. It would have been better to leave this section out of the book completely, especially since almost every idea and argument raised is either a paraphrase or a restatement of something said by much more eloquent, cogent and authoritative apologists elsewhere. The book ends with a very good topical resource list, which points the reader to the sources of the arguments that Sherrard uses in his work. This book is highly recommended for the critical reader who can weed out the many negative nuances and all such readers are encouraged to apply the principles and morals espoused.
No Final Conflict, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, vol. 2, A Christian View of the Bible as Truth
Francis A. Schaeffer, No Final Conflict, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, vol. 2, A Christian View of the Bible as Truth, 2nd Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1982) 117-148.
This brief work is as helpful as it is prophetic. Written in 1975, this article ¬sets out to explain the damage done to an evangelical view of Scripture as inerrant and infallible by placing a dichotomy between what Scripture teaches about faith and religion and what it teaches about science and history. Schaeffer blames an existential methodology and liberal theology for such a dichotomy. We would not use such terms today but the dichotomy is more universal than it was when the article was penned. The most instructive of the book is the chapter entitled, “The Freedom and Limitation in Cosmogony as Set by the Bible.” Here we have Schaeffer’s view of possible ways to integrate the teachings of Scripture and the findings of science and two beliefs that must not be compromised. What is so helpful and prophetic about these ideas is that they are precisely the ideas that have advanced evangelical views on origins issues in the subsequent years via old earth and intelligent design creationism. Schaeffer holds to the conservative version of the “no final conflict” view. Rather than proposing no conflict because the Bible does not touch on science, he holds that there will be no final conflict between science and religion because it is the same God behind both sets of truth. The God of special revelation and the God of general revelation is one and the same. Thus, the teachings in these two books of revelation are true, corresponding and coherent.
A Christian Manifesto, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, vol. 5, A Christian View of the West
Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, vol. 5, A Christian View of the West, 2nd Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1982) 413-501.
Schaeffer’s challenge to Christians to stand against the secularism of our age rings loudly and clearly in this work. And in spite of the fact that this manifesto was written in 1981, it is as powerful a challenge today as it was when it was first penned. Schaffer gives a clear definition of civil disobedience then draws clear lines between it and anarchy. When it comes to the sanctity of life questions, a major theme of the manifesto, it is clear that we, as Christians, must act, and if our actions against the atrocities of abortion and euthanasia are deemed civil disobedience, so be it. The manifesto also calls Americans back to the Founding Fathers’ understanding of the relationship between Church and state. The modern, secular interpretation, which holds that religion should be segregated to the private practice of individuals and thus have no role in politics, is not at all in line with the original intent of the Fathers. Rather, they wanted a form of government that did not oppress and control religion but that was fully informed by the best religious, political thought of the day. Finally, the manifesto is one of the earliest challenges to worldview thinking. The Church often focuses on specific, internal issues rather than on the fact that the Christian worldview has been slowly and systematically replaced by a materialistic, atheistic secularism. If Christians want to continue to live out and express their faith, we must work at all levels of society and culture to prove that the Christian worldview is the foundation for the freedoms and privileges that our nation now experiences. If and when the Judeo-Christian foundation of our nation is eradicated, so will be its fruits.
Philip Graham Ryken, Christian Worldview: A Student’s Guide, Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2013).
Most books on worldview take one of the following approaches: 1. Center around a particular worldview definition and then unpack that definition for clarity and application 2. Introduce a method and then apply that method to the plethora of worldviews on the market 3. Explore how worldviews work in real life and assess credibility based on lived results. Ryken’s brief text takes a different approach. After a helpful introductory chapter on what a worldview is, followed by a chapter explaining that God is the center of the Christian worldview, he takes the reader through the 4-fold narrative of creation, fall, redemption and consummation. Each section provides classic Christian answers to classic worldview questions, but both questions and answers are reframed according to the structure of the biblical story. Those averse to a Reformed-Calvinistic theology will be unsatisfied by a number of Ryken’s claims. His faithfulness to Scripture and his ingenuity in addressing certain worldview issues, along with his philosophy-shaped-by-the-Bible novel methodology make the book a welcome addition to worldview studies.
Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God, Revised Edition (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1995).
In this outstanding presentation of cosmological evidences for the existence of God, Hugh Ross displays not only his scientific aptitude, but also His commitment to Evangelical Christianity. After assessing the current results of cosmological research that point to a big bang, he reveals the lack of adequate explanations for it from the scientific community. He then proceeds to explain why the best possible explanation is special creation by an intelligent Designer while noting that the scientific community is drastically opposed to such a notion. The later portions of the book lay out in full form what Ross often contributes in summary form in collaborative apologetic works namely, specific and detailed evidences that our planet and universe were designed specifically with us in mind, further pointing to a divine Designer. He closes the book with an appeal to respond to such amazing evidence with a belief in the Christian God. The book suffers from excessive repetition and Ross does not adequately bridge the gap between Designer and the Christian God. However, these weaknesses do not detract from the books contribution to the Intelligent Design movement.
Katherin A. Rogers, Perfect Being Theology, Reason & Religion (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000).
Perfect being theology is a crucial component to the Christian philosophical endeavor. While the idea that God’s perfection demands that we understand His attributes in particular ways predates him, it was Anselm of Canterbury who was the first to systematically develop it into a distinct branch of philosophical theology. Even those philosophers and theologians who reject the ontological argument which Anselm developed and upon which perfect being theology is based still engage in the dialog as they discuss the nature of God and time, God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence, as well as His necessity, simplicity and immutability. Rogers takes the reader through each of these issues, as well as several others, and expounds the traditional position on each one. She is simultaneously comprehensive, bringing up most of the major questions on each particular question, as well as introductory, keeping the book to a manageable and introductory page length. The greatest drawback of the book is Rogers’ insistence that any conclusion that veers from what she understands as the correct one is excluded as an option for “true” perfect being theology. Surely there is room for multiple interpretations in a project as philosophical and theoretical as this.
William Raeper & Linda Smith, A Beginner’s Guide To Ideas: Religion and Philosophy Past and Present (Oxford: Lion Publishing, 1991).
This rudimentary text in philosophy is valuable for introducing a younger audience to the history and disciplines of philosophy. Major philosophical disciplines are presented hand in hand with major philosophers who made an impact in those disciplines, giving a broad perspective in both fields. The chapters are very short and digestible without ignoring major issues in the discussion. Almost every chapter contains a timeline so that the reader can place the discussed philosopher in his historical context. The book contains an excessive amount of pictures and images. These may be a good draw for younger readers but it doesn’t assist in the development of the mind in a way that prepares one for deeper philosophical reading, which, needless to say, is not rife with such superfluities. Another drawback is that, in attempting to be timely and relevant, many late-twentieth-century cultural references are made. Now that we are in the early twenty-first century, the book is culturally dated. Nonetheless, this beginner’s guide is an excellent, non-threatening, theism-friendly introduction to a subject that is often considered intimidating and unapproachable.
Richard L. Pratt, Jr., Every Thought Captive: A Study Manual for the Defense of Christian Truth (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1979).
While a very readable and approachable apologetics text, Pratt’s work contains a number of inconsistencies, weak theological arguments and questionable interpretations of Scripture, along with excessively insulting and derogatory language directed at and describing unbelievers. The presence of such blatant and glaring errors hurts not only his credibility and the credibility of the presuppositional school of apologetics, which he represents, but the apologetic project as a whole. Admittedly, the book is written for high school students, requiring the absence of some of the philosophical and theoretical language one is accustomed to reading in apologetics literature, however, his simplistic and formulaic model for engaging the unbeliever is abrasive, disrespectful, and far from being winsome, not to mention out of touch with the reality of what an unbeliever, or a proponent of another apologetic school, might actually believe. Some of the specific comments made in chapter 8 on the attitudes an apologist must exhibit are well-stated and necessary to heed, unfortunately, his lack of consistency in exemplifying these attitudes in the remainder of his work compromises his message. Other presentations of apologetics in general, and presuppositionalism in particular, should be read in place of this text.
John Polkinghorne, Science and Theology: An Introduction (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998).
Acknowledging the recent surplus of publications that address specific questions in science and religion and the dearth of anything that might serve as a textbook in the field, Polkinghorne sets out to provide such a work. His academic and literary career has prepared him for such a task and he does not disappoint. He ably addresses both the common and uncommon issues that surround science and religion discussions, while keeping things brief enough to not lose the intended goal of a cursory survey. He is at his best when he sets forth his “critical realist” methodology, when he applies it to various areas of inquiry and when he critiques overly naturalistic and reductionistic proposals. He is weakest when he completely dismisses any view that does not coincide with an old earth or assume the factuality of the basic evolutionary process. Polkinghorne makes complex science accessible to the beginner and is honest regarding those areas where more research is needed. He defines his approach as one of consonance and defines it thusly, “Science and theology retain their due autonomies in their acknowledged domains, but the statements they make must be capable of appropriate reconciliation with each other in overlap regions” (p. 22). For such a model fully applied, look no further. (See Collins’ Science and Faith for a “critical realist” methodology that is creationistic.)
Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995).
The reality of sin, being tied as it is to the doctrine and problem of evil, must be dealt with in a well-rounded apologetic. Plantinga, in this beautifully written and painfully poignant book, does just that. He exposes sin as a parasite or corruption of the good and argues that neither sin nor evil can exist without good being present in one sense or another. The book is primarily a doctrinal work, however, Plantinga’s use of present day examples and modern research brings each theological point to life. The most apologetic aspect of the book consists in the author’s ability to balance the addictive, deterministic aspects of sin and man’s definite responsibility for his own sin. This work will be more useful as a cultural tool than as an apologetic handbook, but that does not diminish the need for apologists to be familiar with its message and arguments. The greatest drawback of the book was the brevity of the epilogue, which, while powerful, could be more conclusive in nature and much more exhortative.
John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, Foreword by Mark Noll (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010).
Far from a duplication or mere reiteration of J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God With All Your Mind, Piper’s book is a full compliment to Moreland’s work. Where Moreland makes a practical and spiritual case for a disciplined life of the mind, Piper makes a clear Biblical and theological case for the very same thing. Piper walks the reader, in the compelling expositional fashion for which he is famous, through a good number of Biblical texts, revealing their demand on every believer to think deeply about every aspect of life and to view everything as belonging to Christ. Throughout the work, Piper equally challenges both the academic who is tempted to lean too heavily on his intellect, as well as the fideist who is tempted to neglect the life of the mind. The Biblical way is a complete trust in Jesus that results in using the mind to glorify Him. As a person is intellectually satisfied in God, so is God glorified by the mind of that person.
Kenneth A. Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1989).
The two main strikes against this book are it’s absurdly ridiculous title and it’s outdated references to media forms that are two decades old. The subtitle brings enough clarity that a person can understand the aim of the book in spite of the poor title. And one can overcome the references to cassette decks and forgotten TV shows by imagining iPods and contemporary shows in their place. With that slight shift Myers becomes as relevant today as he was when he wrote the book. He explains the drastic differences between high culture and pop culture, between receiving art and using art, why it is that pop culture is almost totally incapable of the former and how the latter hinders personal growth and development, fostering the decay of society. Myers paints a vivid picture of how we got where we are, how Churches can guard against being taken captive by pop culture forms and what Christians can do to be reasonable and relevant to a world dominated by the simple and immediate. While there is room for disagreement with Myers on the application of his principles, those principles are Biblically grounded, incorporated into a fully-orbed Christian worldview; just the kind needed to develop an effective and winsome cultural apologetic.
Paul K. Moser, Dwayne H. Mulder & J.D. Trout, The Theory of Knowledge: A Thematic Introduction (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998).
Moser, Dwayne and Trout have provided the contemporary philosophical world with a readable yet academically rigorous introduction to epistemology in this brief but powerful work. As the subtitle connotes, all of the various aspects of the standard definition of knowledge—defined as justified, true belief—are unpacked thematically, with clarity and often, with extremely helpful examples. A number of epistemological alternatives to the standard definition are presented and critiqued, e.g., relativism and the correspondence theory, along with a critique of radical epistemological skepticism. A key chapter addresses the sources of knowledge, i.e., the various means by which we come to know things. All of the chapters set the stage for the presentation of the authors’ own novel epistemological theory, which they have called, “broad explanationism.” This theory is an epistemological modification of “inference to the best explanation,” and states that we have knowledge when we believe something, when that thing is true and when it is able to best explain all other corresponding factors under discussion. The major weakness of the book is that one of the authors writes is a significantly different (more difficult) style than the other two, the result being that a number of chapters are more difficult to digest. The strengths of this book far outweigh this minor weakness, however, and believers will be better equipped to face unbelieving epistemological challenges more boldly and knowledgably thanks to it.
Paul K. Moser, The Evidence for God: Religious Knowledge Reexamined (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2010).
With philosophical rigor wedded to sufficiently serious Biblical reference, Moser delivers a novel model for how to best understand God’s revelation to mankind. After launching the book with a detailed parable that movingly describes the dire existential position we are in as humans in relation to our knowledge of and relationship to God, he sharply critiques skepticism, naturalism, natural theology and fideism by illustrating how they all fail to adequately expose us to the kind of knowledge we need if we are going to come to know God, a morally perfect being worthy of worship. Moser then spells out how God, intentionally and without coercion, makes Himself appropriately available to those who would volitionally commit to Him in a personal, cooperative, heart-transforming relationship of self-giving love. In this light, religious epistemology shifts from a focus on intellectual comprehension of a God concept, which is inadequate for moral transformation, to what Moser terms, kardiotheology, i.e., knowing God in such a personal way that motivational heart change results. The evidential pay off is that people transformed by God in the ways so described become proof of God’s existence as they live out the self-giving love that that He offers to mankind. The book contains some philosophical theological conclusions that will not sit well with all evangelicals. Nevertheless, Moser has made a great contribution that can help believers bridge the gap between the transcendent God often on offer in philosophy and the personal God of the Bible.
Tom Morris, Philosophy for Dummies (Indianapolis, IN: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 1999).
If one were to read only one book on philosophy, this should be it. Tom Morris has provided a thorough introduction to the subject from a theistic position that is readable and engaging without dodging any of the difficult issues that are so ubiquitous in philosophy. And because the book is part of the hugely popular “For Dummies” series, it will be read by many who would otherwise avoid or be ignorant of the other high quality Christian philosophy contributions put out by Evangelical publishing houses. Not only does Morris address the major issues, such as metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, anthropology and philosophy of religion; he also takes on issues that others often fail to address, such as life after death and the meaning of life. A major strength of the book are the opening chapters, which address the nature of philosophy and the importance of the philosophical endeavor. Because of his experience, expertise and popularity, Morris is able to cogently make the case that we all are engaged in philosophy, every day, and so it behooves us to do so intentionally, with passion and precision. Our lives will be more satisfactory for the having done so. While some readers will take exception with certain positions that Morris takes, they cannot criticize him for not taking most other positions into account; Morris is very inclusive and generous on that score. The book would be more valuable if Morris would have included a major section on logic, which, in the current edition is reduced to a breakout box on one page. (Of course, the book exemplifies rigorous logic throughout). Nonetheless, the publishers did the Western world a huge service philosophically (and did Christianity a huge service apologetically) by inviting Morris to write this book.
Thomas V. Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate, 1986, Reprint (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2001).
In spite of the fact that three decades have passed since its initial publication, thus rendering a number of the addressed challenges and challengers less than timely, Morris has provided readers with a timeless philosophical defense of the orthodox Christian doctrine of the incarnation. This book more than repays the time invested to thoroughly work through its claims with training in logical analysis to the end of propounding Christianity’s central claim, i.e., that God the Son took on human nature in order to redeem humanity in the Person of Jesus Christ. Morris’ stated aim is not to propose a full-fledged doctrine of the incarnation. Rather, he successfully dissects and refutes multiple claims that the idea of the second Person of the Trinity assuming a human nature is somehow incoherent or impossible. Jesus Christ is fully human, but He is not merely human. And herein lies the key to seeing both the logic and the beauty of the incarnation. Jesus fully instantiates the properties essential for human nature but that in no way exhausts the set of His personal properties. As God, He also instantiates the properties essential for deity. Further, while ultimately rejecting a kenotic Christology, Morris presents solid arguments for it and for his own view, the two-minds view, in order to show that there are coherent ways to explain how it is that one person can have two natures without necessitating a premature appeal to mystery or absurdity. Defense of Christological orthodoxy in the academy today is possible in large due to Morris’ outstanding contribution.
J.P. Moreland & John Mark Reynolds, eds., Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999).
If one is looking for a detailed discussion about either the scientific or the Biblical evidence for the major views on origins, this is not the book to read. However, if one desires to read an in-depth dialogue between these views about their philosophical and theological foundations, each of which are diametrically opposed to atheistic naturalism, there is not a better discussion. Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds promote young earth creationism, fully aware of the evidence that seems to contradict their view and the poor history of the view in terms of its exclusivism and improper methodology. They spend most of their time proving that young earth creationism has a place at the table, is intellectually exciting and that the traditional/literal understanding of the Biblical text should not be abandoned without much more evidence and consideration. In arguably the best presentation of the book, Robert C. Newman promotes a well-developed old earth creationism, showing that this view is the most balanced between accepting the authority of Scripture and the findings of science. Howard J. Van Till promotes what he calls the fully-gifted creation view (titled “theistic evolution” by the editors) and argues that the “scientific fact” of evolution is fully compatible with a God who would gift His creation with everything necessary for self-organization and transformation. The scholarly interaction of the book is tremendously enhanced through the responses of Walter L. Bradley, John Jefferson Davis, J.P. Moreland, Vern S. Poythress, Richard H. Bube and Phillip E. Johnson, each of who give critiques of the presentations from their own view concerning origins. With the exception of the theistic evolutionists in the volume, who write disparagingly about ID, this book provides great support for the rationality and reasonableness of the intelligent design movement.
J.P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1997).
In order to practice apologetics clearly, correctly and convincingly, one must have an adequately developed mind. That is why J.P. Moreland’s book, while primarily addressing spiritual formation, is foundational for an apologist to master. Moreland offers a challenge to Christians to be what God intends them to be, “If we are going to be wise, spiritual people prepared to meet the crises of our age, we must be a studying, learning community that values the life of the mind” (p. 39). Even though only one chapter specifically addresses apologetics, every chapter advances the idea that Christianity is rational and that we should use our minds as much as we use our other God-given faculties in living out our faith. Doing apologetics well requires a disciplined mind; this book provides a method for acquiring such a mind.
J.P. Moreland & Klaus Issler, In Search of a Confident Faith: Overcoming Barriers to Trusting in God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2008).
Contemporary culture overwhelmingly holds to the idea that faith is either believing in something for which there is no evidence or believing in something in spite of the evidence against it. This definition is then attributed to theism and serves as another in a string of reasons why critics and skeptics ridicule religious believers, in general, and Christianity, in particular. Moreland and Issler do an impressive job at both dismantling modernity’s mistaken definition and building a reasonable and biblical picture of what faith really is. In short, faith is trusting in that which you have reason to believe is true. Not only does this working definition apply broadly in all academic fields and aspects of life—everyone has faith on this particular construal and that aligns both with our intuition and our experience—but it also allows for faith to serve as a component in our epistemological framework. After the authors build the case for a robust notion of faith in the first half of the book they spend the second half giving practical advice with voluminous examples of how to grow in faith. While the world will not likely embrace their attempt to exchange the word “faith” for “God confidence,” any who read Moreland and Issler will be ready to explain what faith is to those who have a mistaken notion of it and increase their own faith in God, its Author.
J.P. Moreland, The God Question: An Invitation to a Life of Meaning (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers: 2009).
It would not be outrageous to guess that if a first-rate Christian philosopher—one who has spent two-thirds of his life propounding the deepest aspects of Christianity in professional and academic settings—attempted to present the basics of those aspects to an audience unfamiliar with them, that confusion and misunderstanding would result. Not so with Moreland’s, The God Question. Moreland speaks primarily and directly to the skeptic of Christianity and, secondarily, those believers who have not been introduced to some of the basic issues in Christian philosophy and spirituality. What he’s said in thousands of pages of technical work in the past on arguments for the existence of God, the historical reliability of the New Testament and how to live a life of genuine spirituality and happiness, he says here in just 200 pages of conversational prose. And not only is he able to communicate these complex issues clearly, he does so winsomely, with passionate conviction and genuine concern for those who do not yet know God. This is a book to give to anyone who is interested in the rationality, coherence and meaning of a vibrant life as a disciple of Jesus but who isn’t yet able to plunge into the intellectual deep end of the Christian faith. Reading this book will move that person toward those deep waters, armed with many of the devices necessary for staying afloat as they get there.
J.P. Moreland & Tim Muehlhoff, The God Conversation: Using Stories and Illustrations to Explain Your Faith, Foreword by Lee Strobel (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2007).
This short book contains a wealth of apologetic resources for those engaged in active apologetics. Some reviews refer to it as an introductory apologetics text but that misses the mark. The book assumes a working knowledge of the major apologetic issues, giving only very brief treatments of the traditional arguments. The bulk of the book focuses on apologetic conversation pieces to help the believer talk with those who may not follow nor understand the relevance of the formal arguments. Film episodes, news stories, historical and literary figures and many other everyday examples are provided to help a person connect the apologetic truths of the Christian faith to real life. Every apologist should have this book on their shelf and refer to it as often as they encounter those who have questions about the faith. Moreland and Muehlhoff are to be commended for this practical addition to the Evangelical apologetic project.
J.P. Moreland & Kai Nielsen, Does God Exist? The Debate Between Theists and Atheists (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993).
If a reader desires a definitive answer to the question of this book, they should look elsewhere. However, if the reader is looking for excellent examples and in-depth explanations of various forms of theistic and atheistic arguments for and against God’s existence, this book more than adequately succeeds. In the formal debate portion of the book, which includes discussion about God’s existence as well as a discussion on theistic and atheistic morality, Moreland and Nielsen seem to talk past one another. Moreland argues evidentially while Nielsen argues linguistically. Moreland does not satisfactorily respond to Neilsen’s argument while Nielsen basically refuses to enter into Moreland’s argument at all. But that is not all there is to the book. Anthony Flew and Keith Parsons provide alternative atheistic presentations while William Lane Craig and Dallas Willard do the same for theism. Craig, likeminded in apologetic methodology to Moreland, does not fail to bring strong critiques against Moreland’s presentation while Dallas Willard provides a uniquely different and powerful argument for God’s existence. Peter Kreeft’s introduction and conclusion are very well done. It would have been helpful, however, to read an atheistic perspective on the, “what now?” question answered by Kreeft in his conclusion.
J.P. Moreland ed., The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer, Foreword by Philip E. Johnson (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994).
While this book is one of the earliest works of the Intelligent Design movement, it remains one of the most important. Moreland and ten other highly qualified scientists, philosophers and theologians band together to show the logical circularity and unscientific nature of philosophical and methodological naturalism, the evidential and statistical bankruptcy of natural selection and evolutionary theory as well as the coherence and reasonableness of intelligent design or special creationism. The book is divided into two parts, the first dealing with the philosophical aspects of naturalism and intelligent design, the second looking at specific proofs against evolution and naturalism, and for design, from various branches of science. A great strength of the book is the use of contemporary research of and abundant quotations from scientists who believe naturalistic evolutionary theory. This is especially powerful when pointing out the widespread belief (among naturalists) that most of the evidence for the origin of the universe and life in general point to and intelligent designer. A unique contribution, generally uncommon to the argument against evolution and for intelligent design, is the chapter on human language capacity. Not only do humans display linguistic abilities exceedingly beyond that of any other living being, also our capacity is beyond that which can be accounted for by any naturalistic theory.
History and Christianity: A Vigorous, Convincing Presentation of the Evidence for a Historical Jesus
John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity: A Vigorous, Convincing Presentation of the Evidence for a Historical Jesus (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1965).
While somewhat dated, Montgomery’s book serves as a helpful and accessible introduction to the historical Jesus question. He addresses many of the problems that are still raised by secular historical research today. His exaggerated writing style keeps the reading interesting but given that he often gives less than complete answers and explanations, a person must turn to Bruce or Habermas for fuller evidence and more scholarly presentation. The transcription of a 1965 panel discussion including Montgomery, Carl F.H. Henry and others reveals that many of the questions debated today about the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith are not new.
Terry Miethe & Gary R. Habermas, Why Believe? God Exists! Rethinking the Case for God and Christianity (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 1993).
The flaws in this book are slightly outweighed by its contributions to apologetic thought. The flaws include the fact that it is now somewhat dated. Books that deal with scientific specificities often become so and there is no exception here. Also, Terry Miethe has an often difficult-to-follow writing style that makes his half of the book somewhat laborious to read. While offering great reminders to Christians not compromise our message with an inconsistent life or through a poor debating presence in the book’s appendices, Miethe makes a number of inappropriately disparaging comments toward atheists and evolutionary naturalists. Another flaw of the book is its overly confining structure that results in excessive, unnecessary repetition, that in turn leaves less space for a better development of the treated issues. Habermas’ portion of the book is a much better read with a more respectful tone. His proposed solution to the problem of evil and evidence for the resurrection of Christ are good introductions to both issues. The book as a whole is an adequate introductory overview of a number of apologetic issues, although there are much better resources available. The book has an extensive, while dated, bibliography that can lead the reader to many more resources on the topics discussed in the book.
Chad V. Meister, Building Belief: Constructing Faith from the Ground Up (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006).
Amidst a sea of introductory apologetic texts, Meitser’s stands out in a number of ways. First of all, he develops a cumulative case system according to a pyramid paradigm that is both easy to remember and logically consistent. One moves from the lower, broader levels of the pyramid, like the existence of truth, the worldview concept and the basis for theism to the particularly Christian levels of the pyramid like scriptural revelation and the resurrection. The peak of the pyramid is the Gospel. And here is the second area where Meister’s book stands out. In many of the apologetic texts that end with a Gospel presentation, the approach is usually some take on the 4 Spiritual Laws that will often include the testimony of the author’s path to Jesus. While those are valuable, Meister’s concluding chapter is preferable. He gives a basic theology of the Kingdom of God concluding with an invitation to Kingdom living. He helps the reader to understand the nature of what it means to step out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of light, emphasizing equally the individual and corporate aspects of Christianity. It’s unique and compelling. The last valuable component of Meister’s text is the depth of discussion in each argument. His book is short and so there aren’t a lot of arguments discussed but for those that are included Meister states the argument, thoroughly develops the rebuttal and then gives adequate space to the counter argument. The reader comes away quite informed on those arguments that are included. Building Belief is a highly recommended text for all apologists. It will introduce the novice to the discipline and will sharpen the skills of the veteran.
Scot McKnight, Who Was Jesus? Understanding His Identity in Light of Historical Scholarship (Norcross, GA: Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, 2002).
McKnight’s unique approach to understanding who Jesus was understood to be in His day reaffirms anew what orthodox Christianity teaches about Him and supplies us with a fresh method for defending that view in light of modern critical thought. He begins by surveying what various modern critical scholars have to say about Jesus, revealing that there is a lack of consensus among them. He then proceeds to look at the New Testament to see how Jesus was understood by the crowds, by His opponents and by His followers. These three later perspectives (all derived from the Gospels) show much more unity and coherence than the modern critical approaches and support the claims of the remainder of the New Testament and the teachings of the Church. McKnight is too fond of his own sense of humor but that can be forgiven in light of his contributions to Jesus scholarship. The one major weakness of the book is the absence of any distinct defense of the historical reliability of the Gospels upon which he bases all of his argument. He makes some comments which addressing these issues but a short defense would help to round out the work. Nonetheless, the book is a welcome addition to Jesus studies and apologetics alike.
Thomas H. McCall, An Invitation to Analytic Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015).
This book is an absolute must read for every theologian, philosopher and apologist. McCall offers a strong challenge to use the rigorous tools of analytic philosophy in order to achieve as much clarity as possible on the pressing theological questions of our day. Certain strands of philosophical theology tend to ignore and even ridicule the deliverances of revelation. A good many systematic and/or biblical theologians are hesitant to utilize philosophy or are adamant that philosophical reasoning has no place in the theological enterprise. These are both extremes to be avoided. For the sake of our own right understanding of God and with the goal of making that understanding comprehensible to the world, we need to engage in analytic theology. After lucidly explicating analytic theology and its ends, McCall digs deep into a number of current controversies and shows how an analytic theological approach can chart a course toward resolution. Thus, the reader is not simply introduced to the abstract principles of analytic theology, she can see those principles put into practice.
Ronald B. Mayers, Balanced Apologetics: Using Evidences and Presuppositions in Defense of the Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984).
For the apologist without the time to invest in Boa and Bowman’s extensive Faith Has Its Reasons, this book will serve as a shorter, more accessible introduction to an integrative, person-centered apologetic approach. However, even for those committed to a particular apologetic methodology, this book contains studies absent from most works and should be in the possession of any serious student of apologetics. The chapters on New Testament and early Church apologetics are phenomenal, second only to Dulles’ A History of Apologetics. Mayers’ survey of apologists from previous centuries, who were the forerunners of today’s various methodologies, while not as detailed as the discussions in Boa and Bowman or Dulles, is well done and helpful in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each apologist. The final chapter of the book is an excellent presentation of how both evidences and presuppositions can be used in concert, even if it does not deal with all of the problems or answer all of the questions that arise when presuppositionalism and evidentialism collide. The book contains a very helpful glossary of theological and philosophical terms that pertain to apologetic discussions. Mayers is not the best writer, nor is his work without its deficiencies, however, he has provided us with a first-rate study that touches on several issues often ignored in apologetics today.
John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Battle for the Beginning: The Bible on Creation and the Fall of Man (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2001).
Being primarily a collection of sermons, this book does not deal with many of the issues in the creation/evolution or young earth/old earth controversies. However, for a collection of sermons, MacArthur does effectively address the threat that naturalistic evolutionary theory poses to a Christian understanding of human origins. The introduction and the first two chapters are the most apologetic of the book while the remaining serve as a standard, young earth exposition of Genesis 1 through 3. MacArthur makes some indiscriminately preposterous claims about theistic and atheistic evolutionists and fails to adequately address the full ramifications that the fall may have had on nature and its processes. This book would need to be read along with several others if someone wanted to properly understand the human origins dilemma.
Timothy J. Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008).
This is the kind of apologetics text that you can give to the inquiring unbeliever, skeptic or atheist who is finally ready to listen to what Christianity has to say in answer to the challenges raised against Her. Keller does a masterful job of making first-rate, academic material both enticing and comprehensible. The first half of the book answers the major questions facing Christianity for which every believer should have an answer. The second half of the book addresses the central theological claims of Christianity that the world often claims are either ridiculous (the Trinity), unbelievable (the resurrection), atrocious (the atonement) or too good to be true (forgiveness). The Reason for God is a perfect balance between what Beilby calls, “defending and commending the faith.” There is also a video study that accompanies the book but it s merely a supplement to an outstanding work in the field of apologetics.
Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001).
F.F. Bruce’s excellent book on the reliability of the New Testament documents demanded a companion volume on the reliability of the Old Testament documents. After almost 60 years since the completion of the former, Dr. Kaiser rose to the challenge of penning the latter. His book not only addresses OT reliability but also its relevance. He applies his hermeneutical mastery to the OT text and provides the reader with a primer on how to apply the OT to our contemporary situation. Unfortunately, it is this latter third of the book that is the strongest. The first two-thirds of the book, which address the issue of reliability, do not measure up to the brilliance of Bruce’s offering. In fact, it doesn’t measure up to the brilliance of Kaiser’s other works either. The writing is poor, there is abundant redundancy and multiple editorial mistakes exist. The material and research needed to prove the OT reliable is available in the book, and what is provided is strong, but it is presented quite poorly and often quite confusingly. Only because of the lack of introductory level resources on OT reliability is this book recommended.
Andreas J. Köstenberger, ed., Whatever Happened to Truth? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005).
This book is a theological/philosophical shot in the arm for anyone bogged down by the postmodern morass that affects much of Western culture today. Because each of the chapters in the book were originally delivered as standalone lectures at the 2004 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society and then published as articles in that Society’s journal in 2005, this book lacks a cohesion that you would expect in a work whose contributors were writing primarily for that purpose. But that is the only major deficiency. Köstenberger provides an extremely technical yet gripping study of Jesus’ appearance before Pilate, when the latter asks, “What is truth?” of the one Person Who actually is truth. Mohler, while less academic than the other contributors, points out the negative impact that the postmodern redefinition/rejection of truth is having at many different levels of our culture. Moreland presents a clear and strong defense of the correspondence theory of truth, which is undermined/denied by postmodern epistemology. Vanhoozer proves the fundamental importance of a correspondence view of truth while, at the same time, challenging us to realize that Scriptural truth is more than correspondence; it is personal, author-intended, genre-embedded and -nuanced truth that requires action if it is truly to be known. Each chapter is just the tip of the iceberg in their respective specializations but, as such, it can help the budding apologist or veteran who has set the issue aside for a time to orient themselves to the challenge of and response to the postmodern attack on truth as objective, knowable and actionable.
Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant? A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism and Christianity
Preston Jones, ed., Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant? A Professor and a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism and Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2006).
In this dialogue between historian, Preston Jones, and Bad Religion lead singer and Ph.D. in zoology, Greg Graffin, the reader will find the raw and real interaction of apologetics, rather than the prepared and formal stuff of academic debates. This has its positives and negatives. Negatively, since neither Preston nor Graffin have formal training in theology, philosophy or religion in general, many of the spoken and unspoken ground rules for this type of discussion are completely ignored. This means that questions raised are not addressed and fallacies committed are not confronted. It is clear that Graffin has no training in philosophy or theology, yet he speaks authoritatively of their shortcomings, failing to realize that most of what he says has no basis in the science, of which he is an expert, but is founded upon a philosophy of science which stands behind everything he says. Needless to say, his philosophy of science — a strong scientism claiming that the empirical method is the only way to have genuine knowledge — does not stand up to rational scrutiny and has been effectively criticized by J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig and others. Jones, also due to his lack of theological/apologetic training, misses key opportunities to address Graffin’s questions and criticisms of Christianity of which someone familiar to such a discussion would take advantage. Positively, however, because they are expert academics in their fields and very intelligent men in general, Jones and Graffin carry on a very stimulating conversation, it is engaging and interesting on every level. It is amazing that Graffin and Jones were able to carry out such a dialogue for so long via email and that such a haphazard style of communication lends itself to such a good book. In the end both faiths, Christianity and naturalism, are given a fair hearing in a way that will enlighten the reader to new insights regarding how apologetics works (and sometimes doesn’t work) in today’s world.
Phillip E. Johnson, Denis O. Lamoureux, et al., Darwinism Defeated? The Johnson-
Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins, Foreword by J.I. Packer (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1999).
It is essential in a debate to consider both sides of an issue. In this work we have the critical and effective response of a theistic evolutionist to Phillip Johnson’s antievolutionism presented in his Defeating Darwinism. Following the exchange between Lamoureux and Johnson are articles by both theistic evolutionists and intelligent design creationists that clarify both positions and constructively advance the debate. Regarding the exchange between Johnson and Lamoureux, the latter is the clear victor as Johnson completely fails to respond to Lamoureux’s rebuttal of his scientific claims and to the scientific evidence put forward by Lamoureux in favor of evolution. However, Johnson has always presented himself as the sharp edge of the ID wedge and trusts that other ID creationists will take up the task of developing science from an ID perspective after the thick shell of atheistic, naturalistic evolutionism around science has been penetrated. This book sustains Johnson’s claim as several of the book’s ID authors (Stephen C. Meyer, Michael J. Behe and Rikki E. Watts) answer the science presented by the book’s evolutionists. As the ID movement admits, it has a lot of work to do and the challenges posed by the evolutionary perspective are cogently presented by the likes of Lamoureux, Howard J. Van Till, Keith B. Miller and Michael W. Caldwell. These authors provide incontrovertible evidence that theistic evolutionism is not necessarily the wholesale acceptance of atheistic, naturalistic science. Rather, a Christian can believe in evolution and have a robust faith in a powerful and active God. The exchange presented in this book is lively and productive, revealing strengths and weaknesses in both positions and should prove to deepen the perspective of all in the debate. For those with a rudimentary understanding of the creation/evolution controversy and who have read Johnson’s Defeating Darwinism, this book is highly recommended.
Phillip E. Johnson, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997).
Aimed at a broader audience than his other works, Johnson here puts forward the basic core of his criticism of evolutionism with accessibility and clarity. Anyone not familiar with the basic debate between the intelligent design movement and evolutionary naturalism would do well to start with Defeating Darwinism. Johnson elucidates the negative cultural impact of evolutionary naturalism, especially since the Scopes trial of 1925 and its exaggerated media reproductions of the 50s and 60s. Extremely poignant are Johnson’s challenges to teachers and students to engage the controversy with critical thinking and intellectual rigor. The weakest aspect of the book is the chapter 5, “Intelligent Design.” Unlike the rest of the book, Johnson here dedicates several pages to the distinction between information and matter and to irreducible complexity when it would have been much more helpful and in keeping with the purpose of the book to state the core of ID and its main goals. In spite of this one departure, Defeating Darwinism is a crucial component to Johnson’s “wedge” strategy (fleshed out in chapter 6) and an essential piece of the ID puzzle.
Christopher Hitchens & Douglas Wilson, Is Christianity Good for the World? A Debate, Foreword by Jonah Goldberg (Moscow, ID: Canonpress, 2008).
As a key, if not the major player in the New Atheism movement, Christopher Hitchens and his influential ideas deserve to be engaged at many levels and in many formats. Fortunately, Hitchens is quite eager to participate in any and every format in order to promote the negative answer to the question posed in this book. Douglas Wilson argues the positive answer to the question, although neither of them stick to the point very consistently throughout the debate. Part of the problem is that Hitchens’ broader agenda is to vilify religion in general, the major point of his bestseller, god is not Great. Most of the claims he makes to Wilson are restatements of what he’s already said there. The other problem is that Wilson—a presuppositionalist—spends most of his time trying to show the absurdity of Hitchens’ positive statements about truth and morality, given atheism. But these problems show only that the book is poorly titled, not that the dialogue isn’t engaging and provocative (as anything involving Hitchens will be). Wilson carries the day, it seems, because Hitchens isn’t able to adequately answer Wilson’s questions, he merely dismisses them as unnecessary for establishing the basis of truth and morality. Wilson matches Hitchens’ sharp and sometimes biting literary style, not considering it inappropriate to be offensive to someone as offensive as Hitchens. This particular volley will not be the turning point in the broader match between theism and atheism, but it is worthy of consideration as a unique, accessible and witty exchange.
Craig J. Hazen, Five Sacred Crossings: A Novel Approach To a Reasonable Faith (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2008).
There are few modern fictional stories with apologetic intent and import that are nothing more than supplementary additions to books that focus on apologetics proper and use propositional means of communication. Dr. Hazen’s book stands out among those few. He creates a believable world with believable characters in believable circumstances and allows the story to deliver Christian truth naturally as that story unfolds. The result is a sense of certainty that the unbelieving characters in the story are much closer to understanding and accepting Jesus Christ as the “transcendent Deliverer” than they were before having met Dr. Jernigan, the story’s main character. The book should help any apologist to value narrative in the defense of the faith. It should help believing non-apologists to see how beautiful, coherent and relevant their faith is. And it should help unbelievers to consider, or reconsider, Christianity as the one true story that can make sense of this world we live in.
William Hasker, Metaphysics: Constructing a World View (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983).
This brief primer is a good introduction to the major issues in metaphysics and lays out a clear methodology for engaging metaphysical questions. What the book does not do, however, is give a succinct description of metaphysics. While the opening chapter explains the need for Christians to use philosophy to understand and communicate the essence of their faith, and does so in compelling fashion, the words would have been better spent clarifying the basics of the discipline. This would have brought unity to the chapters that follow, each of which deals with a major area of metaphysical inquiry. In spite of this drawback, Hasker gives lucid explanations and helpful examples of the major metaphysical options in each area of inquiry, critiquing those he finds unfounded or inadequate and applauding those he considers viable. Reader beware: While Hasker is clearly a Christian theist and argues convincingly for the metaphysical foundations for the Christian faith, he comes to certain metaphysical conclusions that many Evangelicals might find unacceptable.
David G. Hagopian, ed., The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation, Foreword by Norman L. Geisler (Mission Viejo, CA: Crux Press, 2001).
Unfortunately, this 300-page book would need to be edited down to about 100 pages in order to find correspondence between the its contents and the expressed focus of the debate. None of the authors can keep from addressing the other hot topic creation issues while trying to discuss the creation days of Genesis. Fortunately, those 100 pages that actually do address the Genesis creation days contain superb debate between the 24-hour view, the day-age view and the framework view. Again, unfortunately, in spite of the expressed desire of both the editor and the author of the foreword, the authors often engage in less than honorable debate tactics throughout the course of the book, disparaging each other in ways that taint inter-Christian dialogue. The evidence of unity of the body of Christ is sorely lacking in this exchange and the powerful message of creation is clouded as the authors lambaste one another page after page. But again, fortunately, in spite of the ad hominems, straw men and begged questions, the authors of the book display their scholarly prowess and dedication to the authority of Scripture that leaves the reader in awe of the richness of God’s creative activity. J. Ligon Duncan III and David W. Hall (the 24-hour view), Hugh Ross and Gleason L. Archer (the day-age view) and Lee Irons with Meredith Kline (the framework view) are all to be commended for their exegetical, theological, Church historical and scientific research as the search to properly understand the Genesis narrative continues.
Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, 2nd Edition (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996).
As one of the leading Evangelical Jesus scholars, it is fitting that Dr. Habermas’ book is considered one of the best available in the field of Jesus studies. The first portion of the book is an excellent survey, with evaluations, of current opposing viewpoints to the traditional understanding. Habermas then considers the pre-New Testament and nonBiblical evidence for the life of Christ. Being an evidential apologist, Habermas often develops his arguments according to minimal facts i.e., the facts that the majority of scholars will grant as proven or authentic. This work is no different and, using this argument, he identifies 129 definite historical facts about Jesus that agree with and confirm the Gospel as presented in the New Testament. Also included is an excellent essay on historiography, which should be read before beginning the book, and an apologetic outline for defending progressively the trustworthiness of the New Testament, the historicity of Jesus and the New Testament’s miracle claims namely, the resurrection of Jesus.
Gary R. Habermas, Antony G. N. Flew & Terry L. Miethe, Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? The Resurrection Debate (Eugene, OR; Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1987).
In this lively debate, Habermas ably defends the New Testament assertion that Jesus rose from the dead and made appearances to His followers after His resurrection. Flew’s negative arguments center on two issues: 1. For an extraordinary event you must have extraordinary evidence, which the resurrection of Jesus does not and 2. Paul’s vision of Jesus was not an objective, external experience that supports a physical resurrection of Jesus. Habermas, often and with clarity, sets forth the evidence for the resurrection that does exist, namely the creed found in I Co. 15, and challenges Flew to explain these facts. He also clarifies why Paul’s language about his own Jesus experience does imply a physical resurrection. Flew spends much of his time reiterating his two claims rather than responding to Habermas’ arguments and thus, in the estimation of the judges, looses the debate. But this doesn’t mean that Flew’s questions are not worthy of contemplation. They do need to be addressed and, throughout the course of the book (both the formal debate, the follow-up discussion and in the responses by Pannenberg and Packer) are successfully addressed. Surely Flew, or another critic, could have mounted a better case against the resurrection if he had been more prepared. Regardless, Habermas has an incredibly powerful argument that supports faith in the One Who was raised from the dead 2000 years ago.
Norman L. Geisler & Paul K. Hoffman eds., Why I am a Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001).
16 individual chapters written by 14 different scholars, all addressing main tenets of the Christian faith, this book is a wonderful addition to the Church’s current apologetic endeavor. For a beginning apologetics student, a believer attempting to deepen their faith or for a non-believer investigating Christianity, Why I am a Christian offers an excellent overview epistemology, theism, supernaturalism, Bibliology, and Christology. Most authors have presented their material in greatly expanded forms elsewhere, meaning that each chapter is a concise summary of an issue over which they have considerable authority. An unique aspect of the book are the chapters by John S. Feinberg, J.P. Moreland and Ravi Zacharias which discuss more personal reasons for and examples of their faith in Christ. The weakness of the book is the very out of place and simplistic Gospel presentation in the afterword by Josh McDowell. God works in mysterious, miraculous and myriads of ways – it is my prayer that He will use this great book in spite of its conclusion. Regardless, this book is a recommended addition to any apologetic collection.
Norman L. Geisler & Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990).
When Skeptics Ask is not an advanced apologetics text but it is doubtful that you can progress properly in the field without considering it. The writing style leaves much to be desired and there are a number of unsubstantiated claims that should have been left out of their arguments however, it is still a recommended reference book for anyone with more than a passing interest in apologetics. Particularly helpful are the many charts, and diagrams used to illustrate various arguments and points. The book is unique for an introductory text in that it deals with archaeology and the afterlife – two areas that are often overlooked. While clearly not among the best resources available, this book does make a significant contribution to the rediscovery of apologetics in our age.
Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions about the Christian Faith (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House,
In one of the most comprehensive and cohesive apologetics texts available, Geisler and Bocchino have provided the Church with an excellent tool in the defense of the faith. From a modified, cumulative case methodology, the authors present the self-evident truths or first principles in each discipline, show why Christianity is the only worldview in proper accordance with that first principle and then build the case for Christianity upon the discovered and revealed truths. In the opening chapters, the authors substantiate logic as a universal principle and the necessity of correspondence theory of truth. With these as a foundation, the worldview question is discussed and the work becomes a clear apologetic for Christianity. Science, law and the problem of evil are all presented as unquestionably pointing to the existence of God. The two chapters on the historicity of the New Testament and the Deity of Christ, while filled with good material, lack the excellent literary style and readability of the rest of the book. Most of the material seems to be extracted from Geisler’s work on these subjects elsewhere. Turning to Bruce’s, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? is an advisable alternative at this point in the book. Having established Christ as God, the authors then look to Him in the area of ethics and morals and ultimately, the destiny of the believer and unbeliever. The book concludes with an application of the principles set forth in the book to the questions of abortion, euthanasia and eugenics. Although the book carries a cultural limitation due to its lengthy discussions of U.S. governmental and legal realities, the book can and should still find relevant application outside of the U.S. setting.
Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999).
Being the single, most comprehensive apologetic resource available, no personal or professional library should be without this work. Geisler’s many years of experience in theological, philosophical and apologetic research provide him with the authority to author an encyclopedia such as this; something that would usually be the result of the work of dozens, if not hundreds of scholars. An introductory article, if not an extended discussion of almost every major subject or important person in the history of Christian apologetics can be found here, with a depth and fairness that is not betrayed by his being committed to a classical apologetic methodology. As with all encyclopedias in the Baker Reference Library series, each article has a list of sources that can be sought for further investigation. Apart from the unavoidable negative consequences of having a single author write an entire encyclopedic work, which are few in this case, the only missing component is a detailed subject index. There is an article index but this is of little help when the reader is looking for a term or person that is not named in the title of an article. But as it stands, thanks to Dr. Geisler, every member of the body of Christ into whose language this work has been or will be translated has available to them a unparalleled tool to assist their defense of the faith in the 21st century.
Gregory E. Ganssle, Thinking About God: First Steps in Philosophy (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004).
For the philosophically uninitiated, there is no better starting point than Thinking About God. From Ganssle’s engaging and personal style, to the brevity of each chapter, to his ability to simplify complex material, this book is the ideal popular introductory text in philosophy. Even those with the shortest of attention spans should be able to read this book and do exactly as the author intends, i.e., learn how to think well. “I write this book because … I would like to help some people think better about things that they already think about a little bit anyway.” (p. 14) Throughout this engaging read, Ganssle introduces many basic components of philosophical thinking and logical argumentation, all while arguing cogently for the highly probable existence of God. This “philosophy in practice” is why it will engage even the nonstudent. But this positive aspect alludes to its negative counterpart — the book is not conducive for use in an introductory philosophy class at any level higher than high school due to the lack of systematization regarding the philosophical principles. Nonetheless, Ganssle has succeeded in writing a first rate philosophy text that anyone can and everyone should read. May this book advance the late 20th/early 21st century philosophical revolution.
Gregory E. Ganssle, Our Deepest Desires: How the Christian Story Fulfills Human Aspirations (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017).
By the author’s own admission, this book is not a rigorous philosophical argument for the superiority of the Christian worldview over against atheism. Rather, clearly and concisely, Ganssle paints a reasonable picture of humanity’s core concerns: relationships with other persons, moral goodness, objective beauty and freedom founded on truth. After presenting a compelling case for each of these values, he then shows how Christianity makes the best sense of them, and how a life lived Christianly allows a person to experience them to the fullest. What is lacking in analytic depth is abundantly supplied in a personal and winsome style that leaves the reader encouraged that life is worth living and that living life aligned with the Christian story meets humanity’s intellectual, emotional, relational and spiritual needs.
Bryan A. Follis, Truth & Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006).
This book is neither a historical nor an intellectual biography of the life of Francis Schaeffer. Rather, the book traces specifically those thoughts of Schaeffer that are apologetic in nature and it gives only the relevant historical facts that shed light on his defense of the Christian faith. Schaeffer practiced, in spite of the author’s claim to the contrary, a person-centered apologetic, i.e., he dealt with each person individually, addressing their particular concerns and questions about Christianity. While some would categorize Schaeffer’s method as presuppositional, most presuppositionalists reject Schaeffer for recognizing a point of contact with unbelievers, which presuppositionalism disallows. But it is this very point of contact and his intent to find it that opened the door for Schaeffer to present Christianity to an unbeliever and show them how Jesus is the answer to the tension that living in a fallen world creates. The book would have greatly benefited from closer editing; several thoughts were repeated many times in ways that didn’t contribute to the flow of the book. But this problem is far outweighed by the contribution the book makes to a person-centered, integrative apologetic methodology. Francis Schaeffer is an apologist to be emulated, both for the rigor of his intellect and his passion in caring for lost souls.
Anthony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese, There is No God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (New York, NY: Harper One, 2007).
This book will forever stand as an example of how evidence reasonably considered can change the mind of one who is open to the truth. For most of his life, Anthony Flew argued against the existence of God through his philosophical books and articles. He debated, in public and in print, a number of theists on the very question of God’s existence. But after 50 years of answering the question negatively, he reversed his position and is now a devout theist. The classical cosmological and teleological arguments, revived by late 20th and 21st century scientific discoveries concerning the origin of the universe and its fine-tuning, caused Flew to abandon atheism and embrace the existence of an intelligent Designer. His explanation of this conversion is accessible but rationally compelling, putting to death claims that the “poor old man” has lost his mind. An opening chapter and an appendix by Roy Abraham Varghese, who strongly influenced Flew in the process of conversion, corroborate Flew’s story and debunk the New Atheism school’s common claims that the evidence under consideration is better explained naturalistically. Finally, showing that he is not ignorant of the fact that he still remains outside of the Christian camp, Flew invites N.T. Wright to pen an appendix on the case for the resurrection of Jesus, which Flew considers to be the most compelling argument available. Maybe his willingness to follow the evidence will lead this former atheist to embrace the Christian God after all. The story of this book makes that possibility infinitely more probable.
C. Stephen Evans, Why Christian Faith Still Makes Sense: A Response to Contemporary Challenges (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015).
In this very readable and engaging text, Evans gives a brief introduction to the main criticisms of the New Atheists against religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular. After painting a broad picture, he then moves through a number of the classic natural theology arguments for the existence of a God or gods, showing that there is evidence for theistic claims. Evans is very careful to state that the cosmological, teleological and moral arguments do not clearly reveal the Christian God, but that is no problem because doing so is not their task. Rather, these classical arguments are simply propositional formulations of what Evans calls “natural signs” that point to transcendence. From this acknowledgment of the transcendent, Evans gives concrete criteria for evaluating any proposed revelations from a God or gods. In this section the reader finds Evans’ most novel proposal, i.e., his presentation of Kierkegaard’s paradox argument. Given our pride and our selfishness, surely characteristics that would hinder our ability to comprehend the revelation of a Perfect Being, any such revelation should strike us as paradoxical, which is just what the Christian teaching of God’s incarnation in Jesus does. Yet upon further reflection and an openness to God as revealed in Jesus, we see that the incarnation is not at all absurd, rather, it is exactly what we humans need. Evans presents several other basic defenses of, for instance, miracles and historical reliability, to support the Christian Scriptures as the true revelation from God. The main weakness of this book is that it ends rather abruptly, seemingly mid-thought and thus without either a full resolution to the book’s central idea or an invitation to the reader to consider Christian faith more seriously.
C. Stephen Evans, Philosophy of Religion: Thinking About Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1982).
With most philosophy of religion texts weighing in at 350+ pages, Evans is to be commended for his brevity while, at the same time, covering most of the standard issues in the field. This book is unabashedly theistic and, at times, overtly directed toward justifying the Christian worldview over against either rival theisms or naturalistic worldviews. Thus, the book will not likely serve a role in any broader, secular philosophy of religion dialogs. What Evans does superbly is to bring the Evangelical reader fully into the discussions that go on in philosophy of religion field, providing clear explanations and answers to many of the key questions. The major strengths of Evans’ approach are: 1. His qualified-yet-distinctive purpose for theistic arguments and 2. His articulate and winsome explanation of the relationship between faith and reason. The second edition of this book was released in 2009 with R. Zachary Manis as the coauthor. The length of the book increased from 184 to 244 pages, updating certain sections and adding new ones in order to cover the key issues that have surfaced over the 30 years since the original was released.
Mike Erre, The Jesus of Suburbia: Have We Tamed the Son of God to Fit Our Lifestyles? (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2006).
In this simple (but not simplistic) call to true discipleship to the true Jesus, Mike Erre touches on a number of apologetic issues in creative and unconventional ways. He makes a very convincing case that the modern, popular, Western version of Jesus does not match up with the Scriptural Jesus and that the Church errs when it presents this version to the world. Another challenging theme throughout the book is that evangelical Christianity often equates faith with knowledge about God rather than with a deep trust and living relationship with God. Similarly, Erre makes it clear that faith is as much about the demonstration of love and compassion as it is intellectual assent to theological truth. Erre has excellent insights into how the Church ought to engage culture and, finally, that the Church ought to be prepared to answer not just intellectual questions, which people are posing less and less, but also moral questions, which people are asking more and more. “My contention is that modern apologetic approaches are not answering these [moral] questions effectively. In a society where any claims of universality, rationality and objectivity are suspect from the outset, the Christian must first persuade its audience that Christianity has something important to say and should be heard; only then should we suggest that it might be true.” (p. 179)
Millard J. Erickson, Truth or Consequences: The Promise and Perils of Postmodernism (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001).
In his most comprehensive work on postmodernism, Erickson describes, evaluates and proposes a method for addressing the postmodern situation that is at once extremely helpful and quite frustrating. The strength of the book is its ability to cover the history and worldview of postmodernism and to assess it in light of a Biblical and Evangelical understanding of truth. Many of the chapters of the book serve as excellent articles on the particular subject addressed. The great weakness of the book is in Erickson’s approach in evaluating postmodernism. He will often contradict himself by negatively critiquing postmodernism for something in one place while commending it for the same thing in another place. Much more harmful is his attributing responsibility to postmodernism for positive characteristics which do not rightly belong to it. The ability to recognize that everyone holds presuppositions is, no matter how neglected in our culture or any other, not an invention of postmodernism. And the Bible has a much more solid and healthy, albeit not as systematic, proposal for community than does postmodernism. Attributing these things to postmodernism gives credit where it is not due. Also, Erickson seems too willing to accommodate to the postmodernist for the sake of gaining their respect than I believe is necessary or helpful. Regardless of its many weaknesses, anyone interested in a thorough study of postmodernism will want to read this book. Those desiring a better Evangelical assessment of postmodernism should read Truth Decay by Douglas Groothuis.
Millard J. Erickson, Postmodernizing the Faith: Evangelical Responses to the Challenge of Postmodernism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998).
In this book, the best of his postmodernism trilogy, Erickson describes and evaluates 6 approaches to postmodernism. While I am unsatisfied with Erickson’s dividing of history into premodernism, modernism and postmodernism, and while I believe that his conclusions about postmodernism are dangerous, I commend him for his very fair and detailed presentation of each of the 6 views. He does such a good job in presenting each view that when one comes to the evaluation it is easy to see the differences between them and, in my case, to disagree with his evaluation based on the understanding gained from his presentation. The book ends with a very interesting concluding chapter entitled, “Postmodern Apologetics.” It is necessary to read the whole book before being able to fully comprehend this final chapter, however, it is a helpful tool for deciding how best to approach the postmodernist. This book is intended for someone with a basic understanding of the postmodern dilemma but again, represents Erickson’s best work on this topic.
Millard J. Erickson, The Postmodern World: Discerning the Times and the Spirit of Our Age (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2002).
This is the most introductory and popular of Erickson’s postmodernism trilogy. Unfortunately, it is the worst in many ways. He does an excellent job in summarizing the main tenets of his much more advanced work, Truth or Consequences, but in the course of trying to popularize the book he overstates his case at times and in trying to relate to the popular culture, reveals his inability to properly evaluate it. As in his other books, he recognizes many of the dangers and inconsistencies in postmodernism and proposes a compelling Biblical and Evangelical view of truth. However, he also concedes too much to the postmodernist and weakens his argument as a result. This book is recommended with extreme caution.
Avery Dulles, A History of Apologetics (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1999).
One of the few books of its kind, Dulles’ History of Apologetics is required reading both for a proper understanding of Church history and for insight into the development of apologetics as a discipline. More than anything else, this book reveals the evangelistic heart of the universal Church to defend herself against religious and intellectual attack and to answer the questions asked Her by the world. Of course, some forms of apologetics were more successful than others and some have better stood the test of time, but the overall picture that Dulles gives is a Church facing the challenges of Her enemy in every age. Being a Roman Catholic, Dulles fairly presents and evaluates both Catholic and Protestant apologetics but he is not so fair in his evaluation of conservative Biblical scholarship, himself being a proponent of higher critical methodology. The book was originally written in 1971 and therefore does not evaluate the recent explosion in apologetics and many of the founders of today’s evangelical apologetic methodologies are relegated to footnotes. Dulles’ evaluation of C.S. Lewis in this book is shallow and weak but one can find an excellent article by Dulles reviewing Lewis’ apologetics in the June/July 2005 issue of First Things journal, #154. This book proves with clarity that the apologist ought to be equipped and prepared to meet the unbeliever on any ground when defending the Christian worldview to the glory of our great God. [A revised edition of the book was published in 2005 by Ingatius press. While still containing the editorial mistakes of the earlier edition an additional chapter was included that covers apologetics from the middle of the 20th century to the first years of the 21st. Unlike most surveys of contemporary apologetics, Dulles’ provides information and evaluation of apologists from throughout Christendom and compares and contrasts particularly Catholic and Protestant methodologies. The additional chapter increases the value of the book exponentially.]
Ryan Dobson, Be Intolerant: Because Some Things Are Just Stupid, with Jefferson Scott (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2003).
Because this book is intended for a young audience, some of its idiosyncrasies are bearable. Yet even in light of this specialized focus, Dobson’s approach ultimately proves to be more of a hindrance than a help in the apologetic cause. The most positive thing that can be said is that the book takes a clear stand against moral relativism and exposes some of its weaknesses, inconsistencies and contradictions. But instead of helping young people take a bold step into the necessarily philosophical issues surrounding relativism, the book settles for surface-level issues and avoids the complex discussions that this theme prompts. Dobson regularly encourages Christians to be lovingly intolerant. He does an adequate job explaining how to do this, avoiding the contradiction that immediately arises when thinking about it. Unfortunately, the book at many points fails to follow its own advice, describing unbelievers or even believers in ways that do not appear to be loving at all. Rather than recommend this book to a young believer, J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God With All Your Mind would be of greater benefit. If Moreland proves too intellectual, it is preferable to help that young person think through and understand it rather than giving them Be Intolerant instead.
Garrett J. DeWeese & J.P. Moreland, Philosophy Made Slightly Less Difficult: A Beginner’s Guide to Life’s Big Questions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press,
While the title of this book may seem to indicate that only the philosophical novice should read it, nothing could be further from the truth. DeWeese and Moreland have presented the Evangelical Church with an intellectual challenge that She must take up and overcome as we move further into the 21st century. In 6 brief chapters, the authors address major philosophical issues in the disciplines of logic, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, anthropology and the philosophy of science. And the final chapter lays out their philosophical challenge to the Church. The challenge is simply this: Become philosophically conversant about your faith and make a deep Christian impact on the culture around you or let your testimony fall on deaf ears and continue to be marginalized by culture and society. Although the book is tailored for readers with little philosophical background and addresses them in a readable, engaging manner, even the academic can benefit from the wisdom and insight that the authors bring to the philosophical questions that we all face every day. DeWeese and Moreland have not only issued a challenge, they have provided resources to meet the challenge in a winsome, effective wholly Christian manner.
William A. Dembski & James M. Kushiner, eds., Signs of Intelligence: Understanding Intelligent Design (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2001).
For the newcomer to Intelligent Design studies, this should be your first text. All but the introductory chapter by Dembski were previously published as articles in the July/August issue of Touchstone journal, which proved to be so popular that the publishers converted it into book format. The result was the best popular introduction to ID available. Many of the contributors have published similar material elsewhere, but in such complex, specified language that it is beyond the comprehension level of the average reader. This book, by and large, avoids such specification and presents the same concepts and ideas in a simpler, more easily understandable form – all with the goal of promoting Intelligent Design to a culture and context that either presuppositionally or methodologically excludes it as an explanatory option. The most unique contributions are: Dembski’s chapter on what Intelligent Design is not, Richards’ chapter on the apologetic value of Intelligent Design and Gordon’s chapter on ID’s status as science. Readers already familiar with ID studies are referred to Creation Hypothesis, but even the advanced apologist will benefit from familiarizing themselves with the arguments of Signs of Intelligence.
Stephen T. Davis, Rational Faith: A Philosopher’s Defense of Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016).
Because there are so many different criticisms of Christianity, and because there are so many different responses to those criticisms, especially when you take into consideration the individual philosophical and theological distinctions between believing intellectuals, another college-level introduction to apologetic issues is not necessarily redundant, as it might seem at first blush. Davis’ offering in Rational Faith is a superb example of such a text. He strikes a near-perfect balance of contextually grounding his experience at The Claremont Colleges with a deep familiarity with philosophical theological trends while addressing a significant number of apologetic questions in a relatively short space. Davis argues uniquely for most of the claims he makes in his various chapters, i.e., he doesn’t make the same arguments that can be found in one of the many other intro texts. And he doesn’t only argue uniquely for a standard slate of issues, he brings up a number of often-unaddressed issues, as well, e.g., whether or not cognitive science can explain religion. A proposed improvement would be to rewrite the chapter on arguments for the existence of God. In every other chapter, the issues are dealt with at an appropriate introductory level. In chapter 2, Davis digs into the complexities of a particular version of the cosmological argument that seems somewhat out of place. I think it would have been better to spend 3-4 pages each overviewing 3-4 arguments rather than addressing one argument over the course of 13 pages, leaving the others untouched. But given the broad appeal and winsome fairness of his approach, Davis’ work should have wide impact in spite of the narrow scope of this one chapter.
Stephen T. Davis, God, Reason and Theistic Proofs, Reason & Religion (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997).
Stephen Davis has mastered the art of achieving brevity (the book is just over 200 pages) without sacrificing thoroughness or academic rigor. He systematically works through the major arguments for the existence of God so that the reader concludes with a feeling that he is quite familiar with the terrain of natural theology and philosophy of religion. Interspersed between the chapters that address concrete arguments are those that cover necessary but informally related issues like religious realism and foundationalism. In my opinion, the most valuable chapters of the book are the first and the last wherein Davis spells out just what the purpose of theistic proofs is and what we can reasonably expect them to accomplish. Misunderstandings in these areas abound and Davis’ clear thinking can help both Christian apologists and atheistic philosophers navigate the major theistic arguments appropriately. Although his discussion of the moral argument is sound, Davis mentions that it was not much discussed at the time of the book’s publication. Things have drastically changed in the past two decades. An update of that chapter is most needed. Otherwise, this book serves as an excellent introduction and serious treatment of the philosophical arguments for the existence of God.
William Lane Craig, What Does God Know? Reconciling Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Norcross, GA: Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, 2002).
Editorial oversights notwithstanding, this booklet offers arguably the clearest and most concise presentation of the middle knowledge/Molinist position available. Due to the depth required of such a topic, the book contains advanced philosophical terminology. However, due to the popular nature of the RZIM Critical Questions Series, of which this book is a part, Craig explains such terminology with clarity and provides ample examples to assist the beginning reader. The book emphasizes refuting the challenge of Open Theism, which is greatly needed in our day and age. Unfortunately, it therefore gives minimal space in refuting the challenge of determinism/fatalism, which has been and will likely continue to be the more perennial challenge. With the support of sound Biblical and theological orthodoxy and the application of logical and philosophical rigor, Craig has provided us with an extremely valuable tool to further our understanding of the difficult but fundamental realities of God’s foreknowledge and man’s freedom.
William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, Foreword by Lee Strobel (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010).
Craig claims that On Guard is his attempt at an introductory-level apologetics text. This is the one area where the book fails to attain its intended goal. It seems that Craig is simply not able to put all of his apologetic cookies on the bottom shelf. This failure however, does not take away from the value of the book or its usefulness in the apologetic endeavor. With solid argumentation, poignant personal interludes and extremely helpful logical charts, On Guard serves as yet another tool for training the believer in apologetics and providing answers to questions raised by unbelievers. There are discussion questions throughout the book that can serve either as conversation starters or as invitations to dig deeper on the issues under discussion. Of added value are the study guide and the DVD series that can be used in any number of study groups dedicated to apologetics. In fact, the DVD serves as a good introduction to apologetics, while the book deals with each issue in more depth. Of particular importance are the chapters on evil, the resurrection of Jesus and Christian particularism/exclusivism. Craig has added another solid brick in the apologetic fortress that surrounds the Christian faith.
Steven B. Cowan ed., Five Views on Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000).
It is my opinion that any person with an interest in apologetics ought to study this book carefully. Most apologetic books say very little about apologetic methodology and simply propose their apologetic argument. Five Views on Apologetics deals almost solely with methodology with each approach argued by top representatives of each apologetic school. Responses to each method by the other contributors and the closing arguments by each allow for detailed interaction (both criticism and praise), which helps the reader in evaluating the various methods. The greatest weakness of the book was Kelly James Clark’s constant use of ad hominem arguments. They are excessive enough to bring discredit on the school he represents. Some readers might finish the book confused and/or frustrated that there is no clearly superior apologetic method. However, upon further reflection, this reality proves that there is a need for an integrative apologetic method i.e., one that treats every person as an individual and offers apologetic argument and evidence that speak to their specific concerns regarding Christianity.
Winfried Corduan, No Doubt About It: The Case for Christianity (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997).
In probably the best introductory level work on apologetics, Winfried Corduan offers a complete proposal of how to defend Christianity. He is clearly in the cumulative case school and the whole book works together as an exercise in that form of apologetics. Many books are collections of distinct articles on various apologetic topics. Corduan deals with most of these foundational topics but each topic builds off the last and is necessary for the next. His style is engaging, although a little too culturally limited to the West. Although he ultimately rejects the approach, his presentation and consideration of the middle knowledge perspective on divine foreknowledge is heartening to read (see Copan for positive evaluation of said perspective). The vignettes that open and close each chapter, while at times excessive, provided application to each chapter and the closing questions are helpful in thinking through the issues brought up by each chapter. This is the textbook of choice for an introductory course in apologetics.
Paul Copan ed., Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?: A Debate Between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998).
What could have been simply a marginally helpful transcription of a debate is, in this book, transformed into a vital addition to the apologetic discussion currently taking place. The interaction of 4 other scholars: Robert J. Miller and Marcus Borg of the Jesus Seminar perspective and Craig L. Blomberg and Ben Witherington III of the Evangelical perspective, provides challenging insight into aspects of the debate that would have been left aside without their involvement. Robert J. Miller’s criticism of the apologetic project in general is an article that all apologists ought to be not only aware of, but also able to adequately respond to. The opportunity for Crossan and Craig to write concluding reflections after the debate and responses of scholars gave the book a sense of completion that one never finds when attending a live debate. Craig Blomberg and William Lane Craig prove that they deserve consideration as among today’s best Evangelical scholars. This book is not one to be neglected as secondary or leisurely apologetic reading rather, it’s discussion of the heart of Christianity and foundational issues in apologetics make it a necessary component to an adequate apologetics library.
Paul Copan, “True for You, But Not for Me”: Defeating the Slogans that Leave Christians Speechless (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1998).
Paul Copan, in this seemingly brief and popular-level apologetic work, accomplishes something quite amazing. He writes concise chapters, each of which addresses a criticism of Christianity, which are neither trite nor cursory. Each is well argued, well researched and well footnoted. There is a common general response to relativism but Copan is able to adjust it to specifically refute each criticism without being too repetitive. It’s limiting factor is that the book addresses Western criticisms only. Especially welcome is the positive evaluation and use of the middle knowledge perspective on divine foreknowledge (see Corduan for negative evaluation of said perspective). This book is superior to Beckwith and Koukl’s.
C. John Collins, Science and Faith: Friends or Foes? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003).
J.P. Moreland said it well in his review of this phenomenal contribution to the science-religion debate, “There is something here for just about everyone.” Collins covers all bases in this amazingly accessible yet intellectually rigorous text. He sets the stage with a powerful and much-needed section on philosophical issues in the science-religion debate wherein he advances his “critical realist” approach to the issues in both disciplines. He then addresses major questions in the debate from a theological perspective, making his case for an old earth creationism, criticizing, without dismissing, other forms of creationism. Collins then returns to these and other issues, addressing the scientific data as we currently understand it. He closes with a charge to all Christians for a unified front against naturalism, as well as active engagement in the sciences by believers committed to God’s truth in God’s world. Collins is an engaging writer who is even-handed, even while making clear his personal positions. He interacts with many of the major players from all sides of the science-religion debate. As an unexpected bonus, the end notes are filled with much more than simply the source material behind his research. Creationism and the ID movement have made a significant advance thanks to Collins’ efforts. (See Polkinghorne’s Science and Theology for a “critical realist” methodology that is evolutionistic.)
David K. Clark, Dialogical Apologetics: A Person-Centered Approach to Christian Defense (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993).
The large majority of apologetic texts address evidence for the Christian faith and/or challenges to the Christian faith. A smaller, but growing number address apologetic methodology. Clark’s work is among the very few texts that deal with the interpersonal aspects of apologetics and the proper communicative techniques that we should use when dealing with evidence, responding to challenges and applying our methodology. And he deals with these issues with a scope and wisdom that many apologists lack. How we interact and communicate with people when we defend the faith is more foundational than our methodology and more important than our handle on the evidence. Therefore, it is important that any apologist turn their attention to this area. Clark’s book is definitive in this regard. Mediating and integrative perspectives on the relationship between faith and reason, advances in epistemology, the application of logic and the cultural component of apologetics all provide the apologetic world with a new way to look at how we should do what we do, not methodologically, but dialogically speaking. It is a huge hindrance to the growth and development of apologetics that this book is out of print. Regardless, an apologist who has not heeded what Clark here so lucidly proposes, is ignoring a vital aspect of the work to which he is called.
D.A. Carson, The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979).
While the debate over which translation of the Bible more accurately communicates God’s Word to the world is an internal issue for the Church, Carson, in this brief and accessible work, deals with issues in New Testament textual criticism that will greatly equip the contemporary apologist in his task. 30 years ago, the KJV debate was much hotter than it is now. Today, however, former Evangelicals turned agnostic or atheist, e.g., Bart Ehrman, use textual criticism to argue for the falsity of Christianity. Carson’s clear presentation of the discipline go most of the way toward a comprehensive refutation of Ehrman’s claims. Knowing the complex and nuanced history of how the New Testament came to be provides the believer with confidence that most modern translations reflect the original text with sufficient accuracy, as well as assists the apologist in defending the trustworthiness of the sole Scripture upon which our faith is based.
D.A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006).
While Carson makes clear that he is writing from the standpoint of a believer to other believers and is not, therefore, attempting an apologetic answer to the problem of evil and suffering, there is much that is apologetically valuable in this work. Part of what it means to defend the faith is to be able to give a reasonable presentation of the coherence of Christian theism, including the Biblical perspective on the problem of evil. This is where Carson’s work excels. In attempting to provide believers with Biblically consistent and theologically sound principles and structures of thought, which he does with characteristic brilliance, he is simultaneously equipping the believer to give a well-rounded presentation of the Biblical picture of God’s sovereignty in light of evil and suffering. The work cannot be faulted for failing to deal with the myriad of philosophical details bound up with the problem of evil, for that is not its intent. One should look to Feinberg’s, The Many Faces of Evil for such discussion. But for a theological, spiritual and pastoral venture into this question that avoids none of the difficulties and draws the reader into the depth and mystery of the God Who is sovereign over evil and suffering, one need look no further.
Richard F. Carlson, ed. Science & Christianity: Four Views (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000).
This excellent work should broaden the science and religion debate and work to unify Christians in the struggle against the metaphysically naturalist view of science prevalent in Western culture. Rather than focusing solely on the creation-evolution debate, this book takes a step back to ask the more foundational question of how science and faith interact. Each contributor has a unique proposal for how we should relate (or not relate) our science and our theology. All authors share a fundamental Christian commitment and many of them share similar views on some aspects of science. Nonetheless, each contribution is clearly distinct from the others and serves as a viable option for Christians striving to answer this question for themselves. That each author spends a significant portion of their presentation on the creation/evolution debate in a way that distracts from the fundamental question is the greatest weakness of the book. The response portions of the book were essential but it would have been enormously beneficial if each author was allowed a final response. Science and religion courses should demand this book as a text.
W.C. Campbell-Jack and Gavin McGrath, eds., New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics, C. Steven Evans, consulting ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006).
Overcoming the deficiencies of Geisler’s Baker Encyclopedia of Apologetics by soliciting contributions from over 200 Christian authors, the New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics (NDCA) is an absolute necessity for any institutional or personal apologetic library. While some of Geiser’s entries are more in depth and he treats a number of apologists and apologetic issues that the NDCA does not, the NDA should prove to have greater impact for a number of reasons. First of all, the articles in the NDCA are written by experts. As outstanding a theologian/philosopher/apologist as Geisler is, he is not an expert on some of the matters he addresses in his encyclopedia. Secondly, the NDCA treats a broader range of apologetic issues than does Geisler. While this fact accounts for some of the unfortunate omissions in the NDCA, e.g. no entry for “Aristides”, there are entries like “Urbanization” and “Globalization” as well as “Television” and “Cyberspace,” subject areas not typically discussed in apologetics. A final reason that the NDCA is superior to Geisler’s encyclopedia consists in the 6 introductory, foundational articles that open the dictionary. These articles address key issues that all apologists think about but rarely address. The NDA is not without flaws. A number of the entries warrant much more discussion than is included and some talk about the periphery and controversial, ignoring the core of the matter. In the end, however, the NDCA should, and rightly so, replace Geisler as the standard apologetic reference tool. An apologist with both of these resources at their disposal will be well prepared to face unbelief in our day.
F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? 6th Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and Downers Grove, IL:
InterVarsity Press, 1981).
Clearly the best and widest read introduction to the historical reliability of the New Testament, Bruce’s first book remains fundamental to a well-developed apologetic library 60 years after it was written. Almost all of the arguments currently used to defend the traditional authorship, dating and authenticity of the New Testament are found here, often stated better by Bruce than any who have come after him. The author is quick to point out that historical reliability is not the telos of investigation but that the confirmation of the Person and work of Jesus Christ, which rests upon such investigation and can lead to a restored relationship to God through Him, is. Particularly helpful are Bruce’s surveys of deeper apologetic issues. His discussion of the synoptic problem and his approach to the nature and defense of the Gospel miracles are excellent for both the budding and the master apologist. For more advanced study on historical reliability see Habermas, The Historical Jesus and Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels and The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel.
F.F Bruce, The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and Leicester, England:
InterVarsity Press, 1977).
Most authors, if they address the New Testament material relevant to apologetics at all, cover that material in a 10 to 20-page chapter within a larger work that has a broader purpose. Bruce gives us a thorough study of this NT material that does much more than any of these survey chapters could ever do. He doesn’t do restricted investigations on popular apologetic verses or gather verses to substantiate a particular view or methodology. Rather, Bruce looks at the overall context of the NT books that have an apologetic thrust and explains just how the NT authors went about meeting the challenges that faced the Church in the first century. This approach produces results that are otherwise overlooked. For example, Bruce deals with Paul’s address on Mars Hill in Acts 17, but he also places that address within the overall setting of Luke’s apologetic in Luke-Acts. Thus, we learn not just how Paul dealt with sophisticated paganism, but also how Luke intended such an address to influence his intended Roman audience. Revelations of this nature abound in Bruce’s work and it should be studied by any apologist with a desire to better understand the practice and purpose of NT apologetics.
Robert M. Bowman, Jr. & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, Foreword by Darrell L. Bock (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2007).
While technically a theology text more than an apologetic text, Putting Jesus in His Place is an indispensible resource for demonstrating that the New Testament unequivocally proclaims the deity of Jesus of Nazareth. Building from a well-developed mnemonic device. i.e. HANDS—Jesus shares the Honor, Attributes, Names, Deeds and Seat of God—the authors give ample evidence that the authorial intent of the New Testament was to present Jesus Christ as a Divine Person, a Member of the Godhead. There are more than 70 pages of endnotes that give greater detail and countless references for the reader who wants to study the specific issues in more thoroughly. Bowman and Komoszewski engage current critical and cultic thought and provide a fully Evangelical and orthodox answer to a myriad of erroneous propositions. For the skeptic or critic of the idea that the New Testament presents Jesus as the One True God, this book is the answer. For the Christian who already believes that Jesus is the One True God, this book will further deepen that belief.
Darrell L. Bock, The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities, Foreword by Edwin Yamauchi (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2006).
With the “New School” becoming the public authority on Jesus and the early history of Christianity — as evidenced by the influence of the Jesus Seminar, the ubiquity of Bart Ehrmann and the fact that these two are the sources to whom the popular media turns for the last word on all things Jesus — it was imperative that a solid Evangelical scholar take up the challenge of defending the traditional/orthodox view in light of the Nag Hammadi discoveries, the so-called Gnostic Gospels. Darrell Bock has provided us with just such a defense. Working intricately with the alternative gospels themselves, Bock reveals that there is not one distinct 2nd/3rd century view that posed or poses a threat to the traditional view. Rather, some of the texts contain beliefs that are very similar to the traditional view, others hold a middle ground between orthodoxy and Gnosticism and, of course, some are fully Gnostic. By comparing what these Nag Hammadi texts teach with the New Testament on core doctrinal issues, Bock shows that orthodoxy was early, universal and unified while Gnosticism was late, localized and disjointed. Bock wisely points out the gain in historical knowledge that comes from learning about the early deviations from the orthodox position, but not without making it clear that the New School’s theory that orthodoxy was one alternative among many that ultimately suppressed all of its competition, is historically incredible.
Darrell L. Bock, Cultural Intelligence: Living for God in a Diverse, Pluralistic World (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020).
In this short book, Darrell Bock is able to provide both the biblical foundations for a robust cultural engagement and call the Church to a new way of presenting the Word of God to Western, secular society. Regarding the biblical foundations, Bock works through six key New Testament texts, concluding that our approach to those outside the faith should simultaneously and winesomely issue the challenge of Jesus while also providing the hope of Jesus. Stated multiple times and in multiple ways throughout the book, “people are not the enemy. They are the goal.” (p. 126) Cultural Intelligence throughout exemplifies this relationality principle. Regarding the new approach to teaching Scripture, Bock contrasts the-Bible-to-life teaching and life-to-the-Bible teaching. The-Bible-to-Life teaching is what we find in most Evangelical Churches today where the Bible is taught expositionally. Bible teachers allow the authoritative Word of God to dictate the content and structure of what is taught and then find ways to make that teaching apply to our lives. Bock’s claim is that while this teaching method is sufficient for some, it neither engages those who do not already assume the Bible’s authority nor those whose questions aren’t answered straightforwardly by a single text of Scripture. Thus, life-to-the-Bible teaching is needed, i.e., teaching that takes the deep life questions people have as the starting point and then showing how the teaching of Scripture—taken as a whole rather than teaching from an individual text—answers those questions. Much more needs to be said about how to exhibit cultural intelligence, but this book is a good first step.
Kenneth D. Boa & Robert M. Bowman, Jr., Faith Has Its Reasons: An Integrative Approach to Defending Christianity (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001).
Without a doubt, Boa and Bowman have offered the apologetic community and the Church the most comprehensive, honest, contemporary survey of apologetic methodologies. The book begins with two chapters on introductory issues including the Biblical basis for apologetics and a brief historical survey of Christian apologetics that should prove helpful to every believer. From there the book examines the four general apologetic approaches (classical, evidential, reformed and fideist) in four chapters each. The four chapters on each approach deal with main apologists of the approach, 6 metapologetic issues, 6 apologetic issues and then the authors’ evaluation of the approach. While many methodological surveys fail to fairly represent a particular view due to either lack of adequate space or clear bias, Faith Has Its Reasons uses almost 400 pages in presenting the 4 views and always ends each presentation by offering an equal number of strengths and weaknesses. As the subtitle suggests, the final chapters of the book are dedicated to proposing an approach that integrates the strengths of each of the others. While Boa and Bowman do a superb job in their presentation – offering a person-centered model that answers apologetic inquiries according to the argument or approach that best meets the need of each person – the book’s major drawback consists in the brevity of this particular portion of the book. Much more could have been done in this area however, given the humility of the authors and their insistence that their way is not the best way, indeed, that there is no best way, the brevity is understandable. The book also contains a survey of other works that survey apologetic methodologies as well as an extensive bibliography. No serious apologist should be without this book and it should serve as the main text for university and seminary level apologetics courses.
Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel: Issues and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001).
With a majority of historical Jesus scholarship unified in the presupposition that John’s Gospel is not historically reliable, Blomberg sets out to prove just the opposite. Founded on a tremendous amount of research and interaction with seemingly every view in Johannine studies, he reveals that, in fact, John was the author of the Gospel that bears his name and that It is as historically reliable as the Synoptics. After considering the standard introductory issues with the conclusion that there is good reason to believe that the Gospel is historically reliable and having established criteria for authenticity that are reasonable and free of the a priori skepticism found in most studies of John, the book proceeds as a commentary focusing primarily on matters that involve historical reliability. In the end, Blomberg concludes, “one may affirm with considerable confidence that John’s Gospel is true – not merely theologically … but also historically” (p. 294). That said, historical Jesus scholarship and evangelical apologetic interaction with it must be more faithful to include John’s Gospel in current discourse.
Michael F. Bird & James G. Crossley, How Did Christianity Begin? A Believer and Non-believer Examine the Evidence (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008).
Not following the standard format usually found in debate books, this apologetic gem is necessary read for any apologist at an intermediate level or higher. Bird, an Evangelical, and Crossley, a secularist, are historians and the debate is over the historical explanation for how and why Christianity developed. Rather than focus on a few central pieces of data, as most debaters of this topic tend to do, the authors move from the dating of the Synoptic Gospels to the reliability of the Gospel of John to the resurrection to the religious milieu of the first century to the significant sociological factors of the time to the relationship of Jesus and Paul to the Law, all at a deeper-than-normal level and with a different-than-usual approach. As often happens, the authors at times talk past one another. But, for the most part, Bird and Crossely go head to head, offering alternative explanations for the birth and rise of Christianity, starkly revealing the incompatibility between the theistic and secularist interpretations of history. Bird is completely open to the supernatural and presents the data — sometimes compellingly and sometimes not so compellingly — as evidencing God’s intervention in history through the Person and work of Jesus Christ and the Church that bears His name. Crossley will not accept any such events and goes to great lengths to show how often-interpreted supernatural events are not much more than run-of-the-mill occurrences in the ancient world. For him, it was the perfect alignment of cultural, religious and sociological factors that allowed a mere man to be recast as God and it was the perfect balance of theological believability and political manipulation that allowed orthodox Christianity to push forward Its version of history. New Testament scholars Scot McKnight and Maurice Casey offer Evangelical and secularist critiques, respectively, of Crossley and Bird, also respectively, which bring in other perspectives to the table and liven the discussion. The book’s major flaw is the omission of closing, summary statements by each author. Nonetheless, the debate is as compelling as it is complex and should stand as a stimulating challenge to both Evangelical and secularist worldviews and should result in future debates of a similar nature.
James Beilby & David K. Clark, Why Bother with Truth? Arriving at Knowledge in a Skeptical Society (Norcross, GA: Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, 2000).
Beilby and Clark have done a masterful job at summarizing the core issues in the current epistemological debate. Modern and postmodern skepticism, which negates that we can have genuine knowledge of religious reality, ultimately has no legitimate ground to stand on because of its inadequate application of various truth tests. The authors unveil these weaknesses and then propose an evenhanded, sensible approach to attaining knowledge. Truth is something we can know and, no matter how difficult it may be to grasp religious truth, because it is the most important truth out there, we would be foolish to reject it a priori, as does the modern mind, or resort to a default agnosticism, as does the postmodern mind. “Beginning the journey to find genuine knowledge of God is the most reasonable thing to do with our lives” (p. 56).
James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011).
Any mildly serious student of apologetics must read this book. The author has filled a whole that has long been gaping in introductory apologetic literature. Here, Beilby brings together meta-apologetic issues, a brief history of apologetics and an overview of various apologetic methodologies, all from a person-centered/integrative approach that this bibliographer strongly advocates. After reading this text, even the novice apologist will not only have the proper intellectual categories for how to think about the discipline but will also have a strong sense of how best to “defend and commend the truthfulness of Christian belief” (p. 20). There is not a better contemporary text available for exposing oneself to so many foundational apologetic issues in such a concise and comprehensible form. The book closes with a well-categorized bibliography that would keep even the most avid reader busy for at least a decade were he/she to try to read completely through it. Thinking About Christian Apologetics is the best text for making us do just that.
Francis J. Beckwith & Gregory Koukl, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998).
This book serves as a very brief, popular-level but helpful refutation of the current forms of relativism in Western culture. Beckwith and Koukl offer many definitions and descriptions that clarify just what is claimed by relativists as well as how to respond to relativist arguments. Beckwith’s background and expertise in law allow him to speak authoritatively on the legal issues, homosexual marriage and abortion while Koukl’s experience with apologetics via radio allow him to share actual relativist worldviews that have been presented to him on-air. While not scholarly enough for academic purposes, the book will prove helpful in mobilizing the Church to defend Itself against a secular culture opposed to It’s very existence
Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland, eds., To Everyone an Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004).
This collection of essays in honor of Normal L. Geisler serves as one of the most comprehensive and, at the same time, thematically diversified apologetics texts available. 20 chapters, each authored by a respected Evangelical scholar focus on a specific apologetic issue facing the Church today. Some of the topics are rarely addressed in standard works, some are approached from perspectives heretofore unseen in popular apologetics, while others are concise presentations by experts in their fields of material which they have discussed at length elsewhere. The one drawback of the work is that a small number of the articles are written at a high-intermediate or low-advanced academic level and will be inaccessible to the beginning apologist, to whom the book is supposedly directed. In any case, all articles are well written and share a passion for a winsome, truthful defense of Christianity that seeks to remove obstacles between the unbeliever and the God of the universe. No serious apologetic library can be without this volume.
Francis J. Beckwith, Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company, 2000).
In this short work, Beckwith deals with the main issues surrounding abortion in a way that will familiarize a reader new to the issue or stimulate a veteran pro-life advocate. There is a consistent theme throughout the work: the turning point of the abortion debate is whether or not the unborn is a human person. If the answer is affirmative, almost every argument in favor of abortion fails in light of the fact that abortion is the killing of an innocent life that ought to be protected. Those arguments not affected by this question fail on other, philosophical or legal grounds. Beckwith draws heavily from actual pro-abortionists to explain their view and then rebuts them systematically. While too short to be overly academic, Beckwith, in both the endnotes and an appendix, points the reader to medical, political, philosophical and theological resources for further study. This is a key work in the abortion debate and should be in the hands of anyone committed to the right to life of the unborn.
Richard Bauckham, Jesus: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
While the aim of Bauckham’s book for Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series is not primarily apologetic, his concise and compelling argumentation for the historicity of the New Testament Gospels will serve the Christian apologetic endeavor quite nicely. And given that the book is part of a series intended for a broad readership, the case for Gospel reliability will be made to many that wouldn’t otherwise read a conservative evangelical book on the topic. Upon this strong foundation Bauckham also winsomely discusses Jewish backgrounds and their Messianic expectations, the Greco-Roman political, cultural and religious milieu and the uniqueness with which Jesus stands out against this 1st century backdrop. For either the believer or unbeliever who is in need of an introductory text about the central figure of Christianity, they couldn’t do much better than this book.
Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith, Edited by Robert R. Booth (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 1996).
While this book stands as a premier presentation of presuppositionalist apologetics, it is not without its hindrances. Because Bahnsen died at an early age, the book was never completed e.g., his chapter on miracles ends mid argument. Also, the book, while excellently edited by Robert Booth, is not cohesive and its various chapters do not always complement one another. But these technical hindrances do not compare to the flaws in Bahnsen’s actual presuppositionalism. First of all, his text contains Scripture references that are not relevant to the issue at hand and includes contextually inappropriate interpretations designed to support his methodology. The final chapter is an exposition of Acts 17 and is quite hermeneutically unsound at times. Next, while Bahnsen continually refers to the need for gentleness, respect and humility in our apologetic, when actually describing the unbeliever, he constantly disparages and ridicules said unbeliever; such gentleness, respect and humility is nowhere to be found. Third, and similarly, Bahnsen shows no knowledge of the fact that there are any non-Christian worldviews other than naturalistic scientism rather, we are led to believe that all unbelief is of the same kind and should be treated with the same apologetic approach. The middle section of the book, which addresses various apologetic challenges to Christianity, is quite helpful. The chapter on the possibility of religious language is among the best available. Unfortunately, and herein lies the forth and final critique, these chapters contradict many of the presuppositional apologetic principles and foundations set forth in the rest of the book. It is likely that some of these problems would be absent were Bahnsen able to complete the work before his untimely death, but many of them would remain and this courageous and able apologist would have represented himself, his apologetic school and his faith in a less than desirable manner.