This bibliographic article was first at Squidoo and called My Christian Bookshelf: Apologetics (I). I removed it to my blog here and I hope you are informed by it!
Christian Apologetics Covers an Array of Topics
Apologetics is a term many more Christians know today since there’s been a publishing boom on the subject in recent years, and universities have added classes and degrees in it. I have a certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, where, if a student is interested, credits from the low-cost certificate can be applied to a master’s degree. But what is apologetics? It’s not apologizing for one’s faith, as it might sound. Our modern word “apologetics” comes from the Greek “apologia,” which means “defense,” “answer,” or “vindication.” Of course, apologetics covers many topics and responds to whatever new fad of popular criticism crops up. There are a variety of topics that some people specialize in, like apologetics relating to science-based criticisms, or philosophical criticisms, or even textual criticisms.
Regarding textual criticism, there is so much evidence to show that the Old and New Testaments are reliable and unaltered, that it’s a bit odd that this area of criticism continues. Yet, this may be because this subject seems to have the least amount of publications readily available, or perhaps many people just don’t care to understand it as much as other Bible-related issues. It is certainly necessary to understand, since various cults, and even Islam, baldly and falsely claim that the Bible is unreliable. This is to justify their own later writings and to gain followers.
Presented below are some of my general apologetics favorites or those I find very useful. I’ll write about more resources in another post. Be aware that there are many more good apologetics books that I not only don’t have time to read, but don’t have the money to buy them with, or have room in my home to keep them all! If you have any favorites, you’re welcome to talk about them in the comment section near the bottom of this post.
The Apologetics Study Bible. This Holman Christian Standard Bible version is the entire Bible interlaced with 142 short articles (most are 2/3 to 1 1/2 pages long), many “twisted scripture” notes, bullet notes (dictionary/glossary), and more. With its numerous easily read articles that cover a very wide variety of apologetics topics, the Apologetics Study Bible is a great resource for beginners. It’s not a bad way to compare views and nuances on the various topics, either, since some articles overlap, add to a subject, or provide different views by different authors. Unlike some resources, the articles in this Bible come from many different authors, and their bylines are given so that you can look them up further if something intrigues you. In addition, since this translation is a newer one, it wouldn’t hurt to have a copy of it to compare it with other translations.
Holman Quick Source Guide to Apologetics. This colorful book by Doug Powell is one of my favorites, thus its place at the top here. In fact, I need to get the newer edition since mine is actually falling apart! Powell is a creative, art-oriented person (besides being an apologist, he’s a graphic designer, recording artist, and more, and has appeared on Conan O’Brien’s Late Night show), and this book is overflowing with photos, graphics, charts, and color text. This isn’t to say that the material is overly light. It’s not, but it does provide a great deal of good information in a fairly concise way. The topics run from the various arguments regarding the existence of God, to which God exists, to the reliability of either testament, and so forth, and it includes a valuable discussion on how God could allow evil.
Hard Sayings of the Bible. This is the most used book in my apologetics library. It is a compilation of four previously published books by different authors. As with just about any large resource with multiple authors, you’ll probably find some things that you disagree with in here. I disagree with some things. For anyone who has read the Bible and talked with a variety of believers, they will know that there are some subjects that are controversial; indeed, there are some things that are simply mysteries–things we can’t comprehend in our present form. And a lot of people like to argue about them, as if they have solved the mystery. In any case, as the title suggests, Hard Sayings of the Bible tries to help readers understand passages or topics that many people find confusing, and it mostly succeeds. Having this book along with a variety of commentaries will really help you understand the context of God’s word.
The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Published by Harvest House, this book is pretty much described in its title. It’s an encyclopedia of apologetics that is “popular” due, I think, to the brevity of the entries and, perhaps, as an excuse to leave certain topics out. I’m not trying to criticize the book too much here, as it is included for its usefulness, but it is not all-inclusive as far as topics are concerned. For instance, many religions are covered, yet Scientology is left out (“socinianism” is there, however – any guess as to what that is?). As for the length of the entries, they really aren’t all that short; it’s not a dictionary. In addition to covering many religions and philosophical ideas, there are many entries in this book about apologetics itself, Jesus, and God. Topics are easy to look up quickly in the accessible format.
True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism. This book is now available in hard copy form instead of only Kindle, as I have it. This is a good thing for those who find that print documents not only help with retention, but are easier to mark with notes and are definitely easier to cite (since there are page numbers). Multiple contributors wrote about multiple subjects in True Reason, so the topics can be looked up and read about when interested or needed. I love the last chapters the most, 13 – 16, since those chapters interest me personally and they are topics not understood well by many people. One of these topics, from chapter 15, is about slavery in the Bible. There is a very big gap between biblical slavery and the worst examples of slavery found in the historic Southern U.S., or in many parts of the world today. However, from reading high sounding critics, you would completely think that biblical slavery was equivalent to the worst forms of slavery. Perhaps bible translators should sometimes choose different words for “slave” since it seems to have only one meaning anymore.
In any case, some “slaves” among the Jews were persons who today would be those who became too poor to pay their debtors. Someone would agree to pay their debt for six years (or fewer) of labor. After the time was over, the owner-employer sent them on their way, with funds and goods. This is more like indentured servitude and it was unique to Israel. This is due to God’s word; everywhere else, slaves were simply property, no matter the reason they had became slaves. Slaves in Israel were more like servants and were considered to be people, not property, and as such had the same protections against injury and murder as anyone else.
Slavery in the New Testament was not condoned, only made the best of in a time when the new, small Christian church had no power to change the entrenched Roman system. Author Glenn Sunshine gives us some context:
“. . . although a number of Pauline epistles and 1 Peter instruct slaves to be obedient to their masters, they also tell masters to treat their slaves with dignity and respect, in essence recognizing their humanity. This was a radical idea in the Roman world, more than we in the 21st century Western world can easily appreciate. Even more radical was Paul’s insistence on the spiritual and moral equality of all people when he says that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3:28). Paul tells people to remain in whatever condition they were in when they became Christians, with the exception that should an opportunity to become free arise, slaves should take advantage of it (1 Cor. 7:21).”
A Tiny Bit of CS Lewis on Will
“There are two kinds of people: Those who say to God ‘thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says ‘All right then, have it your way.'”
Mere Christianity. On the back cover of the HarperCollins edition shown of Mere Christianity (which is an edited version of radio talks the author did for the troops during WWII), there’s a simply fantastic evaluation of this book and its context in history. I point you to it. C.S. Lewis, the author of Mere Christianity, is considered to be the greatest apologist of the 20th century. He basically started it all for us who are now in the 21st century. Lewis himself had been an atheist who eventually accepted Christ in his life, through both intellectual reasoning and personal experience. If you’d like to read a thoughtful piece by someone who had been an atheist and then accepted Christ through Lewis’ works, you can check out Philip Vander Elst’s engagingly informative article at bethinking.org: “From Atheism to Christianity: a Personal Journey.”
The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism. Written by Timothy Keller of the well-liked Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, this book continues much of Lewis’ earlier work. It is a very readable and friendly look at the Christian understanding of such topics as suffering, forgiveness, sin, science, and God’s interaction with us.
The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. This book is of more interest than it perhaps generally would be because it is by the journalist brother of the late and popular anti-theist Christopher Hitchens. Peter Hitchens provides personal experiences and much history in explaining not only how he became a believer, but also how the new atheists ignore and/or twist history in their attempts to discredit belief in God and Christ. Besides being informative, it’s an interesting read, particularly if you want to know more about the relatively recent history of the United Kingdom.