01 June 2007

Open mike: apologetics questions

by Dan Phillips

As I've said in the past, I'm a bit of a modified van Tilian. I've long noted that many apologists write about apologetics theoretically, but few seem to do it in a way others can use. Fewer still produced anything that you can simply give an unbeliever. (I tried to make a stab in that direction with this essay.)

I've also observed that van Tilians / presuppositionists in particular can be absolutely devastating in dismantling their opponents' position, but do not seem as strong in establishing their own so as to leave the opponent "without excuse" for not adopting it. (I doubt I've ever seen a finer demolition job than Douglas Wilson's multi-part dialogue with Christopher Hitchens, which starts here.)

Having said all that, here are my questions to you:
  1. What would you recommend as a text on apologetics, and why?
  2. Can you recommend a text on apologetics specifically for use by teenagers? (Explain your choice.)
  3. What book would you put directly in the hands of an unbeliever to make the case for Christ, and why?
Have at it.

Dan Phillips's signature

52 comments:

Tom Chantry said...

To your question #2: Pratt's Every Thought Captive was written for precisely that purpose. It is Vantilian, but comprehensible. I can still remember studying through it in Christian school at the age of 13. In the hands of a good teacher (mine was a former and future missionary to the Middle East) it can communicate to utes who think they will win the world with their brilliance that no matter how right your arguments, sin corrupts the mind. Evangelism is consequetly more than winning.

That leads to a thought that you have prompted more than once with your thoughtful evaluation of Vantilianism. I wonder, is the purpose of apologetics the same as the purpose of evangelism? Many view apologetics as the form of evangelism most useful among the educated elite, but I wonder about that. Is the purpose of "defending the faith" not more focused on quieting the doubts raised among God's people? If so, we need to both reevaluate our apologetics according to that standard. we also need to move beyond apologetics with unbelievers and find our opportunity to procaim gospel truth in a more standard fashion.

Perhaps your observation about the weakness of Vantilians is really a realization that some of them spend too much time on apologetics and not enough on proclamation. For what it's worth, Van Til himself was not such a man. His greatest love was not apologetics, but preaching. He could be asked to speak at a seminary commencement and would preach the gospel, hoping that some of the students would have unconverted family members present. If some of his followers have only imbibed his philosophic distinctives and not his evangelistic fervor, it may be that they haven't understood the man so well as they have his books.

Ikonographer said...

Dan,
Let me reccommend "The Passion of Jesus Christ" by John Piper as a great book to give to an unbeliever. It is short, the chapters are brief, and the substance is entirely Christological. In presenting the gospel Piper ranges from the top shelf theology to the appeal for repentance. I've given several copies away.

Paul said...

Dan,

There is no question that Pratt's "Every Thought Captive" is exactly what you are looking for. I was going to write about it, but that has already been done above. I will say that I have used this as a resource with my youth group, and from my experience it is the best thing available. Pratt wrote the book as a practical tool for students trying to share their faith with others. Check it out,

Benjamin Nitu said...

There is a good reason why apologists refuse to write about "a way to do it" apologetic method.
The reason is quite simple: it all depends on the person that you try to present the gospel to. There is no quick formula for apologetics.

You are right, however, in your assessment: we're too good at demolishing other points of view and not that good at building our world view. Just because other philosophies have failed it's not a good reason on its own to accept Christianity. Just because it works doesn't make it true. It is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one.

So, to answer your questions:
1) Test for apologetics: go with the gospel of John. Ask the person to make a 21 days experiment: read 1 chapter a day and ask them to pray a simple prayer before they read: "God if you exist, please reveal yourself to me"
2) Jesus Among Other Gods (Youth Edition) by Ravi Zacharias
http://shop3.gospelcom.net/epages/rzim.storefront/46600d1a01977a61271f45579e7b0651/Product/View/YBK9

It is unbelievable how Bible illiterate we are as Christians. But, can you imagine how Bible illiterate the unchristian world is? God's word is still powerful.

God's promise is also true today:
"You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 29:13,14)

jsb said...

A great primary text, long out of print (I found mine at a used bookstore) is Wilbur Smith's "Therefore, Stand." Tremendous.

If I had to choose one book to put in the hands of an unbeliever, it would still be "Mere Christianity." There is nothing like it for power and simplicity combined. I was at a conference last week where a Scottish minister told me he was a total skeptic, that a sailor in Edinburgh handed him the book, that he opened it with a jaundiced eye, was captured from the first page, and was weeping and crying out to God by the end.

DJP said...

I appreciate all you who've started this comment thread so contentfully. Thanks for taking the time.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

If you are looking for a good introductory Van Tillian text, I would go with Apologetics to the Glory of God by John Frame. Frame is always clear and lucid.

Tom Chantry said...

Frame is always clear and lucid.

OK, I'll be honest, I haven't read this book - maybe it's the most clear and lucid book on the subject
. But this absolute statement is too much to pass up. Frame is many things. Brilliant. Entertaining. Deeply reverent. Something of a Maverick. But "always clear and lucid?" We could only wish.

donsands said...

The three books of the Bible I like to encourage people to read are 1 John, & 1st & 2nd Peter.

The witness these two Apostles are for the risen Lord is very straight forward, and they were eye witnesses, and even handled and ate with the risen Lord.

For teenagers perhaps the book of Mark. It's short and and declares Jesus as the Christ, and focuses on His coming to minister.
"For the Son of Man came ... to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." 10:45

Not sure of a book. I have given a variety of books to unbelievers. From Joni Erickson's testimony, to John MacArthur's, the Gospel according to Jesus.

Piper would probably be excellent.

centuri0n said...

Answer as I see them, in your order:

1. I love to read apologetics books. I have never found one of them directly useful in talking to a real person about something which genuinely perplexes them. That's not to say I haven't been influenced by apologetics books -- I am sure I have. I just don't think paraphrasing van Til, Bahnsen or Schaeffer ever impressed anyone. I could be wrong about that -- I'm not married to that opinion.

My favorite apologetics book of all time is R.C. Sproul's Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. Some people would turn their nose up at such a book as apologetics at all, but you can't advocate for something if you don't understand it yourself. This book clears the cobwebs out -- and does a double service of placing the controversies between Catholic and Protestant views side by side in each essential truth to spell out that there is a difference here which cannot be brushed aside.

2. My experience is that teens don't have enough Bible training to get after apologetic topics. They are all AWANA'd up, full of verses and good intentions, but they can't see the forest for the trees.

About once a year our youth pastor asks me to play "Stump the Chump" with the teens, where they write down their questions about the Bible or the faith, and I take the stack and just go through them with just me and my Bible. The questions we get are, well, an education in and of themselves.

But they reveal a lack of Bible education which is a bizarre shame in a culture which has no less than 80 different translations of the Bible.

For unbelieving teens, I think the best apologetics book ever written -- the place where you can take them to the foundations of what they are struggling with and how to resolve those struggles -- is John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life, which is available on line for free.

This book is a great apologetic to unbelieving teens because it is about the practical outcome of finally looking up and seeing this God who is Lord of Lords and Creator of all things for the purpose of His Glory and living like that's true.

3. I wouldn't hand an unbeliever a book and expect that he'd read it in order to discover Christ. I'd expect him to throw any book I hand him away -- because that's exactly the same kind of action I took to "give him the Gospel". I didn't invest anything in giving him a book -- why should he invest anything beyond taking the book in his hand?

See: this is why I think tracts are themselves worthless -- a 15-cents piece of paper cannot convey to a materialist the inestimable value of Jesus Christ. Me giving up something -- like a vacation, or a day off from work, or an afternoon from my family, or lunch this week -- speaks more loudly to an unbeliever than my blog.

I prolly come at this question from a jaded perspective because I handle books every day, but I think there's a huge weight in the NT when Paul says, "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" [Col 1:24]. We can't just send money or books or whatever: it has to be more engaged than that.

However, I would read a book with an unbeliever -- challenge him to read a book you choose if you will first read a book he chooses. Tell him in advance that you're going to pick Don't Waste You Life, or Leithart's Against Christianity, or MacArthur's Hard to Believe -- and that if you'll engage his worldview, all you ask is the same in return.

Handing off a book won't change anyone's mind. Challenging them to consider what a decent book says against the foundational issues a non-believer will have against the Gospel will cover a lot of ground.

DJP said...

Great answer, Frank; thanks.

Rhology said...

Frank,

W/ a small baby in hand, I'm thinking about these things these days.

What are the types of questions you get in Stump the Chump? (I can keep then in the back of my mind so as to make sure my daughter understands them.)

centuri0n said...

Rhology:

I don't want to derail Dan's meta here. e-mail me and I'll send you a list.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Well, maybe Frame isn't "always" clear and lucid, but he was very helpful in explaining Van Till. That's all I was saying.

David said...

I hope it's acceptable to mention a Roman Catholic here, but G.K. Chesterton has some pretty good stuff in Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man.

Also...one of my own questions. Do you think that the reason there are so many teens with weak familiarity with the Bible, apologetics, etc. is because we explain away too much with faith? I know that in a lot of circles, that is precisely the excuse for not familiarizing oneself with more of the Bible, apologetics, etc.

"Oh, but you have to live by faith..."

centuri0n said...

David:

I think that 40 years of "youth ministry" has contributed greatly to a culture of utterly brainless evangelicals who can't tell the difference between Christ and Buddha. Those kinds of Christians will create kids who are just like themselves, or worse.

In a nutshell.

ADieL said...

A good book to give to unbelievers is "One heartbeat Away" by Mark Cahill. It is an easy read and touches on the existence of God, evolution, how do we know the Bible is the Word of God, who is Jesus, what is sin (walks the person through the Ten Commandments), the reasonabless and justice of hell, what the Bible says about heaven, the coming judgment, repentance and faith, taking up your cross, etc. Very good read. You can find it here:

http://www.markcahill.org/resource.html

As far as wether it is presuppositional or not, I dont think so. Still, check it out.

Kim said...

Frank:

What if a teenager asks for a book such as what Dan is describing? What if the teen doesn't know he lacks biblical training? And what if that teen doesn't want to sit and discuss; he just wants to mull it over in a solitary fashion?

Rick said...

Hey Dan,

The question assumes a text can be an apologetic. If the bible (the most reliable text of all time) has so many interpretations, how could there exist a text with a greater apologetic?

I think we get distracted pursuing an apologetic through textual means.

Smarter men than us have debated interpretations of scripture for years but no one debates Mother Teresa's life transformed by love.

Maybe that's 'the only' apologetic...a life transformed by love.

Thanks for hearing me out. :)

Rick

Tim Bertolet said...

I would recommend K. Scott Oliphint's "The Battle Belongs to the LORD: The Power of Scripture for Defending Our Faith." It is a great overview of apologetics particularly the relevant Biblical texts that shape how we do it. It is an easy read but it is thoroughly Van Tilian without all the tough language. It breaks down the practice of apologetics yet here is much to chew over and digest. It is an enjoyable book. It has discussion questions for personal or group study. I would recommend it for young and old in the faith, for layperson or seminarian. It makes you walk away with confidence saying: "yeah, I can do this, I can humbly stand up for the Lord, defend the faith and give a reason for my hope." This is great book especially for those that have little experience in philosophy and are intimidated when the unbeliever brings up philosophy and philosophical arguments. It also deals with persausion so that we can set forth a positive case.

farmboy said...

While it may not be a technical apologetics text, I would suggest James Sire's "The Universe Next Door" for helping someone develop an initial understanding of the worldview lay of the land.

Regarding the biblical illiteracy of the youth in our churches, my fear is that they are no more illiterate than the adults in our churches. Or, switching to another metric, how can we expect the students in our churches (both youth and adults) to have greater biblical literacy than their teachers? With the way that seminary curriculums have devalued the study of theology, biblical languages and such so that more time can be focused on allegedly more relevant topics like church growth strategies, how could the biblical literacy of the graduates of those seminaries be anything like it was in decades past?

Regarding the power of a life of love lived by Mother Teresa or any other individual, I'll go with the power of the Holy Spirit working through the careful, thoughtful, prayerful presentation of God's Word any day. To some extent, it depends on how one defines love: Is it loving to care for and meet a person's immediate, temporal needs while failing to meet that same person's eternal needs? Or even worse, what of the person who meets a person's immediate, temporal needs and offers a false solution to that same person's eternal needs?

Benjamin Nitu said...

Faith ... the most abused word in the dictionary.

Thanks to existentialism and modernism the word has been redefined to mean nothing more than a blind "leap" a "jump into the abyss".

The original word comes from Latin fides ... which means to trust.

This is crucial to understand in apologetics. I think Schaeffer makes this distinction throughout his work ... he gets more detailed about it in the appendix of one of his book.

So if faith is to trust, how do you "increase" that trust? The same way you do it with people: know them better. And because God reveals himself, we can know Him and trust Him.

A thing to keep in mind is that different people might need different "reasons" to trust. Some might be satisfied with very little , other might want more. Regardless, if they are honest, God is ready to reveal Himself.

But to answer your question David, most of the messages in our churches are more "moralistic therapeutic messages" rather than the gospel. Most of the parents want good kids, not necessarily good faithful Christians.

centuri0n said...

Kim:

I'm of two minds on that scenario -- because on the one hand, I think it's brilliant when kids want to read. Somehow, that's a kid who wins me over right away because such a one as that I once was.

But the flip side is this: I know what all my mulling and reading got me -- deep, modernistic skepticism and ultimately atheism. It was because my brain was hungry, and it didn't know what a balanced diet of intellectual food groups looked like. I read things because they were alike and referenced each other -- and that tends to place you intellectually inside a small circle.

If a kid is asking for this or that kind of literature, I think it's best to find a way to get him to read both sides of an argument, and to actively express his thoughts in a cogent way to other human beings. To me, this is one of the brilliant aspects of homeschool: when Mom and/or Dad is reading these books with a young person, that young person can receive the text through a filter of experience which he doesn't possess.

If you want marching orders, I say give a book only if you will read it with them.

Sewing said...

Dan:

Cent makes a good case. For much of my life, apologetics and most especially tracts were like messages from an alien planet: "Do people actually believe that stuff," I would wonder to myself.

That said, I did just get through a short, concise book on the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Michael Green's The Day Death Died. It's a shame that the book is apparently out of print (couldn't even find it on Christianbook.com), because it's a short apologetical work that is rigorously intellectual. Before I was saved, one big stumbling block for me was the wrong impression that conservative evangelical Christians are necessarily anti-science, anti-intellectual, credulous folks who wilfully believe in fairy tales. (Sadly, there are some conservative Christians who don't do anything to help correct the misimpression.) This book is the kind of book that totally blew away that kind of prejudice for me...it's in the same strain as stuff one might find online, like William Lane Craig's The Resurrection of Jesus, or the Simon Greenleaf's An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice. The latter two, however, I would not recommend to someone still struggling to come to faith in Christ, whereas Green's book is less intimidating and offers third-person testimonials of people whom Green has met in his life and their journeys to salvation.

As I mentioned the other day, I'm working through Edith Schaeffer's Christianity is Jewish right now, which gives a superb summation of God's redemptive plan for humankind, from Adam and Eve through to the New Jerusalem. It's readable for a lay audience, and indeed is basically an elaboration of the Gospel as she has narrated it to Jewish people she has known in her life—but it would be eminently suitable for a gentile readership as well. It does have apologetical elements, insofar as she demonstrates how fruitless and indeed misleading it is to attempt to filter God's Holy Writ through a relativistic prism.

Bryan said...

I second the recommendation of Oliphint's book. It's fantastic, and one of the few books that really spends the whole book looking at what scripture has to say about apologetics. It's the first book I recommend to anyone who wants to start studying apologetics because it's foundational.

Along the same lines Schaeffer's "Death in the City" is fantastic for providing a biblical analysis of what the world is like today.

If your looking for a book that provides arguments for the Christian faith I like both Frame's "Apologetics To The Glory of God" and also Nash's "Faith and Reason". Both books have strong and weak points, but both are easy to read and will provide a good defense of the Christian faith.

YnottonY said...

"What would you recommend as a text on apologetics, and why?"

Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman's book Faith Has Its Reasons : An Integrative Approach to Defending Christianity. Why? Because they will explain the various apologetical methodologies and point out the strengths and possible weaknesses of each in an objective fashion. At the end, they offer a humble integrative approach that makes alot of sense.

Unlike other texts that assume a particular apologetical method and run with it, the above book presents the alternative approaches so that the Christian can be discerning as they seek to navigate their way through the tricky area of epistemology.

Sewing said...

Hey, what about Lee Strobel's The Case for Faith? I haven't read the book and hadn't heard of it before I stumbled on it just now (searching for info about Charles Templeton, perhaps one of the most famous ex-Christians), but apparently Strobel—himself an ex-atheist—breaks the book up into eight interviews with various folks on some of the key unbelievers' stumbling blocks: the existence of evil; whether all paths lead to God; etc.

YnottonY said...

Incidentally, the Boa and Bowman material can be found online for free:

Series Title: Faith Has Its Reasons

J. Ed Komoszewski said...

About a year ago I was sharing reasons to believe in Christ with a dear woman in her 70's (who, I'm delighted to report, just professed faith in Christ and joined our church this month!). She knew that I had just coauthored a book defending the authenticity of the New Testament and its claims about Jesus, and she wanted to read it. I told her that I thought it may not be the best starting point for her, since it was written for folks who had progressed beyond purely popular works. But she insisted, so I gave her a copy of the book. A week later she was asking if she could watch the DVD of the seminar instead!

I decided to give her some simpler, though no less intellectually responsible, texts. The best of those, in my opinion, was 20 Compelling Evidences That God Exists: Discover Why Believing in God Makes So Much Sense by Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman Jr. The book is sweeping, simple, and satisfying. Unfortunately, it has flown under the radar due to (as far as I can tell) lackluster marketing. But it's now available in paperback and makes a great "leave-behind" for those to whom you're witnessing.

LeeC said...

I too put my endorsment for Richard Pratts "Every Thought Captive"

I cannot reccomend it enough Dan. I just finished leading a study through it in fact.

LeeC said...

Oops, sorry for not being complete, but I'm a bit pressed right now.

Pratts book is in plain laymans language while being full of Scripture. He not only systematically tears down any reliance we may have on our own ability to reason, he also clearly shows our need to rely upon every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

He has some very good scenarios to put things in perspective, and it is all specifically geared towards high school people. Which I think makes it very suitable for adults who are not into fifty cent words and theological wrangling also.

I could say much more, but I gotta go.

Kim said...

Frank:

If you want marching orders, I say give a book only if you will read it with them.

That sounds like a reasonable set of marching orders.

You have the heart of a homeschool dad, Frank.

Mike-e said...

Unless I missed it, no one mentioned Bahnsen's "Always ready." So that's my pick :-)

For teens, I would say "The Lie: evolution" by Ken Ham. This isn't just a book about evolution. Its about worldviews and showing us how to challenge unbelievers' presuppositions. Probably the easiest to understand and most effective book I know of.

Gordan said...

Herman Schlossberg's "Idols for Destruction" is a great introduction to worldviews, and would complement a book like Schaefer's "How Shall We Then Live?" quite nicely.

Also, I second the nomination of Leithart's "Against Christianity," if you can avoid flaming-on over the title...which some apparently can't (John Robbins, for example.)

My own typical youth group questions:

Does God love the devil?

Can you go to heaven if you commit suicide?

Who would win in a fight between Moses and Jesus?

YnottonY said...

Dan,

If you get Pratt's book, be sure to avoid the nonsense on page 25. Pratt says:

"Although in Scripture God does stoop low and reveal Himself in terms of creaturely reason, logic, as we know it, is not above or equal to God, nor it is a part of God's being. Logic, even in its most refined and sophisticated forms, is within the sphere of creation and a quality of man as the image of God, not God Himself.

Because logic is a part of creation, it has limitations. To begin with, logic is a changing and developing system. In fact, there are several systems of logic which are at points in conflict with each other. There is even no definition of "contradiction" that is universally accepted. Besides this, even if all men could agree on one system of reasoning, human logic could not be used as the judge of truth and falsehood. Christianity is at points reasonable and logical but logic meets the end of its ability when it comes to matters like the incarnation of Christ, and the doctrine of the Trinity. Logic is not God and it should never be given the honor due to God alone. Truth is found at the judgment seat of God, not the court of logic."

Every Thought Captive (P&R, 1979), p. 25.

This is Pratt at his worst. Frame and Bahnsen (presuppositionalists) are right to view logic as an essential property of God. No one claims that logic is God (Pratt's straw man), but some view it as the eternal pattern of God's self-consistent thinking, i.e. it is not something created and only applicable to the created order. For more on this, see Ron Nash's The Word of God and the Mind of Man. Needless to say, men like Sproul and Gerstner (classical apologists) would also take issue with what Pratt is saying above.

I read chapter 6 of Nash's book to put in audio form and it's available on Radio Apologia, or linked on my site here:

A Few Nash Readings

Jeff said...

Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith

http://www.amazon.com/Always-Ready-Directions-Defending-Faith/dp/0915815281/ref=cm_lmf_tit_2/104-9665589-2015119

Nicholas said...

1. Brian H. Edwards' Nothing But the Truth is a very solid text on systematic theology, canon and apologetics. It's really long, but a solid text which I say would function for an undergraduate introductory text to general apologetics.

3. I've heard good things about Mark Cahill's One Heartbeat Away (as was mentioned by adiel), though I myself haven't read it.

Sewing said...

The Book of Romans? =P

Definitely not something to ease your next-door neighbour into.

Please forgive me for this totally off-topic request, but if anyone prayed for my pastor last week, thank you and please pray for him again as he finishes his pair of sermons on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. He's a complementarian, Reformed expositor bearing full and honest witness to the Word of God in a city full of me-first hedonists, so he needs all the support he can get. (I might as well let the cat out of the bag. If any of you were in Vancouver for the Piper/Packer/Driscoll Refocus conference in mid-April, then you've heard him speak.)

Anyhow, he got the theological basics covered last weekend; this weekend, he's tackling head coverings.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Matt said...

When asked about "positive apologetics," Van Til said that he left that to his coleeges and predecessors (like Machen, Murray, Warfield, and Hodge) because they were doing it (and did it) far better than he could.

It seems that Van Til thought they were the positive to his negative. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to start with them in conjunction with Van Tilc as good texts on apologetics.

Will said...

I found Ultimate Questions by John Blanchard to be helpful. It is available as a 32-page booklet from various sources.

Steven Dresen said...

Here's my recommendations they're pretty well rounded books.
1. Faith Has It's Reasons which Ken Boa helped write, it's wonderful integrative book on apologetics.
2. I would recommend for teenagers Paul Copan's How do you Know your not wrong, it provides a good basis for dealing with common objections against Christianity.
3. For a nonChristian I'd recommend both Mere Christianity and Orthodoxy.

Just for the record I am a presuppositionalist, I've just seen the helpfulness of other works as well in approaching apologetics.

SolaMeanie said...

I don't quite know how to comment on this, other than to say I am in an apologetics ministry. We can all cite our heroes from Francis Schaeffer, to Walter Martin, to Van Til, to Boa, etc. We have presuppositional apologetics, who attack evidentialist apologetics, who attack presuppositional yada yada.

I personally find room for both evidential AND presuppositional apologetics. The Holy Spirit works through both. I don't think one has to be violently opposed to the other, and has to treat each other like the proverbial redheaded stepchild. The energy spent between the two camps spitting at each other could be better spent at Mars Hill. And I don't mean the Emergent Mars Hill either.

Patrick Chan said...

Can you recommend a text on apologetics specifically for use by teenagers? (Explain your choice.)

Some which come to mind:

General
* Without a Doubt by Ken Samples
* A Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig
* Apologetics to the Glory of God by John Frame

Historical
* The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce
* Reinventing Jesus by Ed Komoszwski, et al.
* Jesus and the Gospels by Craig Blomberg
* From Pentecost to Patmos by Craig Blomberg

Philosophical
* Reason for the Hope Within by Michael Murray (ed.)

Scientific
* Redeeming Science by Vern Poythress

Theological
* The Beginnings by Paul Helm
* The Callings by Paul Helm
* The Last Things by Paul Helm

Biblical theology
* The Servant King by Desmond Alexander

What book would you put directly in the hands of an unbeliever to make the case for Christ, and why?

Hm, that's really tough to say. I would think it'd primarily depend on the unbeliever. So it's best determined case by case.

Speaking generally, maybe a work of fiction like The Pilgrim's Progress, something more biographical like an Iain Murray book or The Confessions of St. Augustine, or perhaps even a Charles Spurgeon sermon might be more suitable than a book like, say, Mere Christianity.

BTW, one reason I say this is not because Mere Christianity is theologically unsound, per se, but rather because in my experience I've found Mere Christianity is almost too well-known among unbelievers these days, and they'll simply dismiss it out of hand. Or they'll come with a certain preconceived notion of who C.S. Lewis is and what he's like, which will then essentially color (negatively) their thoughts on the book. Of course, this could cut both ways and have positive effects, too. But, again, in my experience, it's made more negative impressions than positive ones on unbelievers. Still, I don't know, perhaps my experiences are in the vast minority.

For something more generic, Basic Christianity by John Stott, The Long Journey Home by Os Guinness, a popular John Piper or R.C. Sproul book, or possibly even Knowing God by J.I. Packer might be beneficial for the unbeliever (not to mention the believer).

And, of course, pray for them, because w/o God's grace, we're all undone. But I'm sure that goes without saying. :-)

Hayden said...

I see that "Tell the Truth" by Will Metzger was not mentioned. From what I remember, it is a good book to go through with someone who is new/questioning the faith.

Gummby said...

DJP: what do you see as the connection between apologetics and evangelism? How are they related?

Also, would you mind sharing (or pointing to it if you've already talked about it) what you've modified about your van Tilianism? Thanks.

Charles E. Whisnant said...

"Can you recommend a text on apologetics specifically for use by teenagers? (Explain your choice."

Let's see, thirty years as a youth pastor, and one who loves to read Christians books, I discovered teenagers do not like to read books. But what Christian teens would do, would be to read the Bible if giving a challenge.

Giving a book to a unbeliever about Christianity never occured to me. I have never seen (personally) a unbeliever become a believer by reading a Christian book.

I have personally loved reading many of the books mention here in this thread. And they are very good in the matter of salvation and Christianity. But have never given one to an unbeliever to read.

Charles

Paul said...

Have you read Roy Clouser's Knowing With The Heart? (Not his choice of title, but that's what it ended up!)

(Also, since someone mentioned logic, he gives a defence of the Amsterdam position on the transcendence of God & logic in The Myth of Religious Neutrality).

Doug E. said...

As far as a book on apologetic method, one of the books that has affected the way I do apologetics the most simply because of the way he does it throughout the book is...

1. James Sire's, The Universe Next Door.

For teaching youth I have taught the following book to two separate youth groups.

2. Josh McDowell's, More than a carpenter.

The reason I use it is because it is small enough that many of them will actually read it. It is more evidential in its approach, but it is a good starting point to get them thinking about the topic and then I teach them about presuppositions.

For a book to put into the hands of a non-believer it will have to depend on where they are coming from. If they are a naturalist, I like...

3. Ravi Zacharias' the real face of Atheism.

And even though I seem to be in more of a Van Tilian arena, here are two other books (carefully submitted):-) that have influenced my apologetic method and understanding.

1. Gordon Clark's, Religion, Reason and Revelation.

and 2. Ronald Nash's, Faith and Reason.

God Bless and thanks for producing such a great blog.

Doug

Paul said...

Oh, sorry, I should have said why. I don't have it to hand, so can't go into detail, but Clouser is a professional philosopher who is influenced by Dooyeweerd (as was van Til) and the book is short and written in the form of a dialogue.

JackW said...

1. What would you recommend as a text on apologetics, and why?

I don't think I would recommend a test on apologetics as much as I would just recommend certain authors like MacArthur, Schaeffer, Sproul, Piper ...

2. Can you recommend a text on apologetics specifically for use by teenagers? (Explain your choice.)

Depends on the teenager, but for me it was Francis Schaeffer. I understood maybe 10 percent of what I was reading, but I understood enough to know that it was important and that I didn't know much. It made me want to know more though. The person who gave it to me challenged me with material I thought was beyond me and that was just what I needed.

3. What book would you put directly in the hands of an unbeliever to make the case for Christ, and why?

The Word of God, the Word of God, and the Word of God. Nothing, nothing , nothing is able to change hearts like the Word of God. For me it was "Good News for Modern Man."

Sewing said...

For those who like me didn't know too much about "apologeticology," Phil Johnson's GraceLife sermon of April 15th (What You Need to Know About Answering Atheists) gives a good layperson's introduction to apologetics and to the difference between evidential and presuppositional apologetics. (Link)

P.S.: Thanks to any and all who prayed for my pastor this weekend.

DJP said...

Gummby—decided to answer your questions HERE.