I am often asked, “how did you get into apologetics?” For some believers, they’ll get interested in apologetics because of a crisis of faith. They’ll have intellectual hurdles that come up that they have to overcome. For me, I never was plagued with doubts. While I spent several years of my life as an atheist, I had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit. As I walked with God, the inner witness of the Holy Spirit was a real and regular experience.
After coming to faith, I felt burdened to share my faith. I would share my testimony with anyone who would give me the time of day and led several of my friends to Christ. (And even a handful of strangers.) I felt, for the most part, confident when it came to evangelism.
That all changed several years later when I met Ian and Chris.
Ian and Chris were co-worker friends of mine. They were both were more educated than I was, and both were very bright. One day, during our break time the conversation shifted to spiritual things. So I took the opportunity to try and share.
They shot me to shreds.
Ian was very scientifically-minded and thought modern science and the Bible were incompatible. Chris was an ex-Christian and the son of missionaries. He grew up in church and lived on the mission field overseas. He later renounced his faith in favor of Buddhism.
They raised a host of issues that I couldn’t answer. I felt helpless and felt that I had failed not only them but my own Savior. So I set out on a quest. I didn’t know much about Christian apologetics. I had read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis years ago, and that was about the extent of my knowledge.
So I started Googling away. My search led me to a host of great materials. I found dozens of debates. A legion of lectures. A plethora of podcasts. A bonanza of books. Free college courses through seminaries and colleges.
The Problem: Info Overload
There was only one problem: There was too much information. It felt daunting and overwhelming. I sensed a call to do more with apologetics but didn’t understand where to begin, or how to begin.
So I prayed and asked for help. And God answered by way of a philosophy professor. I had joined a group on Facebook called the Christian Apologetics Alliance. In the group, I shared my frustration with sensing a call in this area. I had neither the time or money to go back to college.
A guy by the name of Tim McGrew replied. If you don’t know, Dr. McGrew is a philosophy professor at Western Michigan University. He’s a walking encyclopedia when it comes to the argument from miracles and historical apologetics. He’s debated some atheistic heavyweights like Bart Ehrman (Misquoting Jesus, Jesus, Interrupted) and Peter Boghossian. (A Manual for Creating Atheists)
Tim graciously provided me with a bibliography to get started. This list of books helped me get the knowledge that I needed to get seriously get going.
Starting Where I was At
These sources provided me the ability to have something to say in the main areas of apologetics. Defensive apologetics as well as offensive apologetics. In other words, I could have something to say about the main objections to God’s existence or the Bible.
- Doesn’t science disprove Christianity?
- Aren’t miracles the worst explanation for anything?
- Why does an all-powerful and all-loving God allow horrible evils in the world?
- How could God send people to hell for a lack of information?
- Is Yahweh evil? After all, didn’t He command Israel to kill the Canaanites?
- Why are there contradictions and historical errors in the Bible?
Answering these questions is defensive apologetics.
I also learned how to make a positive case for God’s existence and the resurrection of Jesus. (Positive apologetics) Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15, the resurrection is the lynchpin of Christianity. Without it, nothing else matters. So making that case is indispensable.
Setting the Right Goals
The goal wasn’t to master everything. But I did have something to say to the main objections against the faith. Tim also encouraged me to master one argument for God’s existence to start out. Now, this did involve work and commitment. And it required that I stretch my mind and make my brain work.
But if eternal destinies are at stake, this was something I had to take seriously. Plus, as a father, I didn’t want to pass onto my children a brittle “don’t think, only believe” type of faith.
It still meant I still had to invest time and money. However, it didn’t lead thousands of dollars of college debt. Furthermore, it didn’t call for me spending hours burning the midnight oil studying. I only needed to spend an hour or so per day reading.
As a result, the increase of knowledge led to an increase in confidence. Instead of being intimidated by tough objections, I felt like I could handle them. My conversations in these areas became more “in control” rather than me getting flustered and defensive.
“Bringing out of his treasure what is new and what is old”
So without further ado, I want to pass on the list of books that Tim gave me. The good news is that some of them are older works that you can read free online because they are public domain.
Don’t assume old means “out of date.” It’s tempting to fall into the chronological snobbery fallacy. But these older works have arguments that hold up today. When it came to reading older books, C.S. Lewis once advised:
“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”CS Lewis, Intro to On The Incaration by Athanasius
Lewis went on to say:
“Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet.
Here’s my experience: Lewis is right. I learned more about defending the argument from miracles from reading old books. I’d say the same for defending the Gospels. He also gave me some other supplemental books and references that I’ve linked here.
I’ve added a few more books to supplement the list that I found helpful.
B = Beginner
I = Intermediate
DR. Tim McGrew’s Reading List
Basic Reasoning Skills:
Defensive General Apologetics:
The Problem of Evil
- David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Section X (Free! Hume is presenting the skeptical view) (B)
- William Lane Craig, Hard Questions, Real Answers, chapters. 4 and 5 (I)
- C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (B)
- Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil? (My recommendation) (B)
The Challenge of SCience
- C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study, ch. 3 (B)
- John Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? (B)
- Arthur James Balfour, The Foundations of Belief (Free!) (I)
- Mitch Stokes, How to Be an Atheist: Why Many Skeptics Aren’t Skeptical Enough (My recommendation) (I)
The Incredibility of Miracles
- David Hume, “Of Miracles” (Free! Hume is presenting the skeptical view) (B)
- William Adams, An Essay in Answer to Mr. Hume’s Essay on Miracles (Free!) (B)
- George Campbell, A Dissertation on Miracles (Free!) (B)
- Habermas and Geivett, eds., In Defense of Miracles (B)
- John Douglas, The Criterion (Free!) (B)
- C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study (B)
- Craig Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (My recommendation) (I)
Positive General Apologetics:
(Note: I focused on the Moral Argument. Other arguments are featured in these recommendations. Again, for a complete recommendation list, go here.)
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (B)
- Craig and Copan, eds., Contending with Christianity’s Critics (B)
- William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (I)
- David Baggett and Marybeth Baggett, The Morals of the Story: Good News About a Good God (My recommendation) (I)
Positive Biblical Apologetics:
- C. S. Lewis, “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism” (Free!) (B)
- Edmund Bennett, The Four Gospels from a Lawyer’s Standpoint (Free!) (B)
- F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (B)
- William Paley, A View of the Evidences of Christianity (Free!) (B)
- John James Blunt, Undesigned Coincidences (Free!) (B)
- Samuel Tregelles, Historic Evidence of the New Testament (Free!) (B)
- Eddy and Boyd, The Jesus Legend (I)
- Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace, Reinventing Jesus (B)
- Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament (My recommendation) (I)
- Brant Pitre, The Case for Jesus (My recommendation) (B)
- Lydia McGrew, Hidden in Plain View (B)
- Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels? (My recommendation) (B)
Defensive Biblical Apologetics:
- Richard Watson, An Apology for the Bible (Free!) (B)
- Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? (B)
- Joseph Butler, The Analogy of Religion (Free!) (I)
- B. F. Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (Free!) (I)
- Köstenberger and Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy (I)
- Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (B)
- Geisler and Howe, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties (B)
- Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, 5 Volumes (B)
What IF I’m On A Serious Budget?
You could load up on all the freebies still and that would keep you reading for months. But if you had about $100 and just want to get started as easily as possible while covering all the main topics, I’d recommend:
- William Lane Craig, On Guard (A beginner’s version of Reasonable Faith)
- CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
- Brant Pitre, The Case for Jesus
- Lydia McGrew, Hidden in Plain View
- Greg Koukl, Tactics
- John Lennox, Has Science Buried God?
- Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?
- Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil?
Erik is the creative force behind the YouTube channel Testify, which is an educational channel built to help inspire people’s confidence in the text of the New Testament and the truth of the Christian faith.