Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Apologetics Reading Plan for Beginners

Are you new to apologetics? Perhaps you're wondering where you should begin your reading. Because there are so many apologetics books out there—many which may be heavy reading for those new to apologetics—it would be helpful to have a sort of "top 10" reading plan for apologetics beginners.

The ten books on the reading plan below are selected specifically for the beginner in apologetics. They are on the list because of their accessibility and their quality of content. The order is provided as a progressive reading plan for those just getting started. Working through this list should give the novice a good foundation before moving on to more advanced titles.

1. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
All of Lee Strobel's books are required reading for two reasons. First, they are good introductions to the subject and provide a good overview of the material from some of the best scholars in their fields. Second, the writing style is very accessible, taking you alongside a journalist in his investigation of the evidence for Christianity. In this particular title, Strobel focuses on the life and identity of Jesus.

2. The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
This book is just as readable as The Case for Christ, but this one delves into the evidence for the Creator. Another thing that makes this good reading for the beginner is this: whatever areas you find particularly interesting can be pursued further by reading the sources interviewed in the book.

3. The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
In The Case for Faith, Strobel moves from making a positive case for Christ and a Creator to defending Christianity from some common criticisms and objections. This one deals with the hard faith questions such as the problem of pain and suffering and issues of doubt. Again, all three of the Lee Strobel books are a great starting point for the beginner.

**Interlude: Watch the The Lee Strobel Film Collection
At this point, now you can take a break from your reading and actually watch a series of three DVDs that are about an hour each. These excellent documentaries follow the same content as the books, along with interviews with experts and specialists. This is a great refresher for what you have read and also makes for a great small group resource and a DVD to lend to a friend.

4. Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics by Doug Powell
Now it's time for something different. This odd-shaped and colorful book (with more graphics than words) will introduce you to the wide landscape of apologetics by outlining, diagramming, and illustrating all of the key arguments for the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, the beliefs of other world views, and common objections. This is very helpful in providing visual categories for the content you are taking in. If certain things you have read up till this point have been overly academic, then this book will give you a sort of pictorial overview. This is also useful as a "primer" on the key topics and helpful to establish a bird's eye view. Illustrations of the ideas are also great for sharing with others what you have learned.

5. Love Your God With All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland
Ok, so you have taken in some of the key content and ideas that Strobel presents in the "Case for" series. But what does intellectual engagement look like? What does it look like to "love God with all your mind"? In this book you'll be challenged to live a vibrant life of intellectual engagement with your faith. This is a classic book that every apologist should read, and that's why it finds itself firmly in the foundational books recommended here.

6. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl
Information without application results in stagnation when it comes to apologetics. That's why it's time for a good dose of Tactics, which will train you not only to use apologetic content in everyday life, but it will also train you to be a better, more critical thinker. This is another "must read" book, and mastering its contents early in your apologetic studies will put feet to your faith.

7. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Mike Licona & Gary Habermas
The resurrection of Jesus is central to Christianity. This book equips you to understand and defend the resurrection from an historical perspective. Not only does the book have useful diagrams, summaries, and an accessible style, but it also comes with a CD-ROM with interactive software for teaching you the material. This is an essential book for the apologist.

8. Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow
Now it's time to look at some of the most common objections that have come against Christianity since the rise of the new atheism. There's no better book at dealing with these in a concise yet dense way, while providing additional reading suggestions and introducing some of the key apologists that deal with these questions. If you really want to master this material, consider taking part in the Read Along project for this book.

9. I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist by Geisler & Turek
Geisler and Turek have authored a great apologetics book that also takes a step-by-step approach to showing that Christianity is true—and it's filled with lots of information. This gives the growing beginner a ton of good content, while strengthening the framework of a cumulative case for Christianity. This book will help to grow your overall general apologetic knowledge as well.

10. On Guard by William Lane Craig
Finally, it's time to dig deeper into some of the more philosophically rigorous arguments with William Lane Craig. On Guard is, in essence, a shorter, more concise and accessible distillation of his weightier apologetics book Reasonable Faith. On Guard has illustrations, argument maps, and sidebars which aim to make the material easier to grasp and engage with. This book will introduce the newer apologist to Craig's time-tested arguments for the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus. While it is still not light reading, this will serve the reader well before moving on to more advanced material. Highly recommended.

So what's next? If you've worked through this list, well done! You might want to dig a little deeper by going through the great apologetics textbook by Douglas Groothuis: Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. You can study this book in depth with the Read Along program here. After that, then delve into the topics that have interested you most in your reading. Do this by reading books by the experts that Lee Strobel interviewed or the apologists that have been referenced in Is God Just a Human Invention.

Final Note
As stated before, there are a lot of apologetics books out there. However, if you begin with these, you will have a pretty good foundational understanding of the landscape. From here you can (and should) do deeper study in areas of interest. While this is no definitive list (I'm sure those commenting will have their own suggestions), it should be a great place to get started.

27 comments :

Miguel Rodriguez Rivera said...

I would recommend also the pocket dictionary of apologetics and philosophy of religion and Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics or The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. These are reference books needed to clarify some terms.

inchristus said...

Indeed there are a lot more books. If I may, there is one more that should make the top 10, Sire's The Universe Next Door gives a tremendous framework for understanding worldview thinking. Another closely akin but with more depth is, of course, Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth.

ferlans said...

Pleased to say, I've read the first three and the last two.

Anonymous said...

I've read 9 of the ten. Sure there's others that can be added but where do you stop?

Chad said...

Hello Brian,

I was just asked by someone for a beginner's apologetic list and I had 7 of these on it! Nice to see we are on the same page...

Keep up the good work!

Godspeed,
Chad

jeremy said...

Ditto on The Universe Next Door in the top 10...and if you like Geisler, I would recommend The Baker Book of Christian Apologetics as a reference go-to and his under-the-radar book Unshakeable Foundations. He writes in an outline style which helps...as does Peter Kreeft's Handbook of Christian Apologetics as a reference. (I am a reference librarian...can't help myself here.) ++ What is anybody's opinion on Francis Schaeffer's Trilogy for beginners?

Nitoy Gonzales said...

read number 1-3 how about more than a carpenter?

JD said...

I love Alistar McGrath's, "Intellectuals Don't Need God" as he give not only a defense for Christianity, but shows how the need for apologetics intersects with every person's existential dilemma as well as many practical tips for engaging in apologetics publicly and with others.

godseeker said...

What about Josh Mcdowells Evidence that demands a verdict. Its perfect for the beginner especially in that it is a little older and shows the objections are the same today just recycled. I thought the best part about it was the thourough documenting and bibliographies for the chapters making it really easy to cross reference the original resources.

Anonymous said...

One of Strobel's documentaries is online at hulu. I cannot remember which one.

Thanks,
~ R.Rao

Anonymous said...

I read the first two Case of...books and order the rest. Looking forward to reading these goodies.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading J.P. Moreland's book, Love Your God With All Your Mind. It was great!

Anonymous said...

Not fans of Van Til then, huh?

Brian Auten said...

Van Til's probably not the most accessible for beginners, I would say.

Bible artist said...

Thanks for this list Brian!

Unknown said...

I always recommend The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity by Alex McFarland. Take our high school Seniors through it each year. Great list here-thanks for sharing it!

JohnP said...

I'd add The Bible to this list. If you're going to defend something, you should probably be familiar with what it is you are defending. Read it first, and continue re-reading it along with any of these others you choose to read.

Prove (or disprove) everything you read by it and it alone.

Anonymous said...

JohnP I believe you hit the nail on the head. I find myself lacking in the area of reading the Word as much as the latest Apologetic article or book. We must know our Bible in order to defend it! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

For JohnP and Anonymous: The list recommended here is for those who are already Christians and thus it is implied that you should be familiar with your Bible. I don't think for even one second that the people who put this list together did so ignoring the Bible as the primary reading of any christian.

Anonymous said...

If you don't have Mere Christianity on this list then you're way off the mark. It is fundamental to our understanding of what we as Christians believe.

Brian Auten said...

Mere Christianity is definitely recommended. And a must-read. But I'd still point people to these books as beginners, perhaps because they cover a broader scope of issues... with the goal of getting acquainted with the overall landscape.

That one's a classic, indeed. But for me it that doesn't make it a top ten for the beginner, though it sure wouldn't hurt.

chris said...

I would add a theology book like Know What You Believe by Paul Little. Often times people find Apologetics before they are clear on essential Christian doctrine.

Anonymous said...

AMEN! I'm generally more successfully persuasive than most apologists. I harshly study apologetics, but live and breathe the Holy Bible. Peoples soul responds more to eternal truths which answer the questions that made them go atheist to begin with than just answers to the hypocritical questions they come up with because of lack of answers to the questions they don't ask that are only answered by GOD's WORD. nonetheless apologetics helps a bit.

Anonymous said...

Brian what are your thoughts on William Lane Craig's "Defenders" class series, covering doctrines of Christianity and applying apologetics within it?

Brian Auten said...

WLC's Defenders Class is great.

Ralph Dave Westfall said...

Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace. Lee Strobel likes it too--he wrote the Foreword and helped the author with the book.

Lamar Boll said...

For Jeremy,

Having read Schaeffer's "Complete Works," I'd say his Trilogy, though excellent in its own way and for its intended purpose, would be quite heavy for the beginner. I'm a big believer in providing a proper context as a necessary framework for understanding before introducing more difficult concepts and material. Thus, I think Brian's list is good for the beginner, though I'd probably put the Trilogy in the top 15. It's great value, as I see it, is two-fold: one, it provides a good introduction to key turning points in the drift of Western intellectual history, thus supplying for the beginning student a badly-needed framework for understanding how and why our present cultural climate came about. This helps surface many of the background assumptions people in our society make and which we must take into account as saavy apologists; and two, Schaeffer is excellent at boiling down the basic questions and issues that lie back of detailed theories. Careful attention to how he conducts presuppositional analysis will help develop critical thinking skills any apologist needs to cultivate. (On another note: I also would put "The Universe Next Door" in the top ten for the reasons given.)

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