A collection of books and courses to get you well on your way in developing and practicing a biblical apologetic. (Also see: How to use the Apologetics Track)
Is this all necessary, for every Christian? No. For the average believer, this length and depth of study is not required. I am in no way implying there are “levels” of Christians. Every Christian is required to be an apologist. Every believer therefore needs to undergo some preparation to ensure that they are always ready to give an answer to anyone. But, not every believer is going to make apologetics their living, or be debating apologists of other religions, or teaching apologetics at a seminary, or specially serve the church in apologetics. There’s no office of apologist. Yet, all believers are responsible, and some believers have been designed by God to have more aptitude for it. Not everyone is a Greg Bahnsen or James White, but some are. Pastors, I think, should give extra attention to it than the layperson, since ministers are specially reminded of it in Titus 1:9.
The bottom line is, all believers are responsible before the Lord Jesus to always be ready to answer anyone, and ministers especially are responsible. And since Jesus commanded that discipleship includes teaching everything, then all of us must be able to teach apologetics to others (though again, we won’t all be professors of apologetics).
If your first thought is, “Oh my… there’s so many resources,” then take my word when I say there could have been more. Much more. I have practiced restraint, in fact, and tried to narrow it down, and limit redundancy between the resources. There will be repetition, but that serves as reinforcement. But many books and resources have not made the cut simply because whatever they cover is dealt with by what has made the list.
I hope that the fruits of my study may benefit you. A primary reason why I read so much is so that others won’t have to. It takes a lot of time, and we don’t all have that kind of time. There is so much out there today, as never before, and it can be so overwhelming that some bother to even attempt to begin study. Or, we despair that we won’t know which resources are reliable, and which are not. If for nothing more, having all these links in one place should save a lot of work as far as looking for presuppositional material, which does not get as much publicity as other apologetic approaches.
That’s why I present, for your edification, this apologetics learning track. Don’t know where to begin? Here’s a proposal. And it is more than just a start.
Now, it is necessary that you build your apologetic from a sound theology. Theology determines apologetic methodology. If you need help getting started with that, read:
Your Bible! Internalize as much of it as you can. Dedicate time to reading for scope, and also dedicate time to read in detail. For help in your Bible reading, read Let the Reader Understand.
Most essentially for theology:
The Westminster Standards: The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), The Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC), and The Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC). Available FREE in PDF and Kindle here.
The Forgotten Trinity by James White. Trinitarianism is what we are defending, so we had better know it.
Pilgrim Theology by Michael Horton. An easy-to-read systematic.
Lectures on Calvinism by Abraham Kuyper (FREE). This will show that sound theology is actually a worldview.
Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin (for a shorter reading, go for the 1541 edition published by Banner of Truth)
I would recommend nailing all, but not necessarily the Institutes, before diving into apologetics.
Now, on to apologetics.
The Apologetics Track
Perhaps it would be helpful to lay it out in stages. I know that for some, seeing a huge, unbroken list of books and classes is overwhelming (while others see a candy shop). So, I’ll break the track into sections, explaining what each will provide.
Stage One — Foundations
The point of stage one is to ingrain the biblical foundation. It may seem repetitive, but repetition is good. We need reminding. If we didn’t, then we would only need to read the Bible one time. But we don’t. There’s a thing called sin, and sin is the spoiler of understanding. Hence, we need the Gospel repeated weekly. We need to hear the teaching of God’s Word over and over and over again. As Spurgeon said, pound it into our heads. So, when learning apologetics, we need to be reminded constantly what the Bible says, until it becomes second nature.
Pushing the Antithesis: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen, edited by Gary DeMar
Simply the best and most concise introduction to apologetics that I have found. The arrangement of the book is very helpful as well, making a great teaching tool. It has the best practical applications after each chapter.
Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, by Greg Bahnsen
The perfect pairing with Pushing the Antithesis. The positive presentation of the apologetic is excellent, strewn throughout with Scripture. However, the second part of the book is worth the price. Bahnsen evaluates others who have also been labeled as “presuppositionalists.” The most helpful critique is of Francis Schaeffer, which is spot on.
Always Ready by Greg Bahnsen
This one makes for quick reading. The appendix about Paul’s apologetic in Athens is brilliant, and clears up several common misconceptions about that engagement.
Basic Training for Defending the Faith, taught by Greg Bahnsen
Taught to high schoolers heading into college. So you can handle it. Or, you will realize how far our standards have fallen. I know I did.
Defending the Christian Worldview Against All Opposition, taught by Greg Bahnsen
Hands down the best series of lectures on apologetics.
One reason I appreciate Kruger so much is that his specialty is the New Testament canon. Knowing the current state of apologetics, you would expect someone with all that knowledge of manuscripts, history of transmission, etc. to be an evidentialist (since it’s so common). But he’s not. So he approaches the canon (as well as other issues) from a presuppositional perspective. His treatment of the problem of evil is brilliant, though simple.
Biblical Logic: In Theory & Practice, by Joel McDurmon
Logic is a necessity. Understanding logic from the Christian perspective is a necessity. This book is very approachable, with very good contemporary examples of fallacies. We need to be equipped to detect errors in reasoning always, and especially in apologetics. Conversation with an unbelieving perspective can be simplified when one has been trained to detect simple fallacies. Also, it’s best the Christian not commit those same fallacies, and thereby discredit his claims for Christianity.
Stage Two — Engagement
This is divided into two, overlapping parts. Apologetics is not merely arguments and answering every question. The “open hand” (persuasoria) is the positive side of apologetics. The “closed fist” (dissuasoria) is the negative side of apologetics. I agree with Os Guinness that the one we most need to recover is the “open hand.” So I’ve placed those helps before the others, so that character gets developed early.
The Open Hand – Persuasoria
Apologetics is not less than intellectual and philosophical, but it is also more. As you will soon here from Bill Edgar, abstract philosophy is not where people live and move and have there being. They live in a psychological and sociological context. Education, occupation, upbringing, etc. Hence, there is a cultural element in apologetics, if we are in fact to reach people as they are.
Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl
Even though Koukl’s apologetic methodology is completely different, I haven’t found as valuable a resource as this for learning how to have a conversation. There’s just nothing like it. Within a presuppositional framework, this will help you think and talk better about anything, including apologetics. A friend of mine has called this book “logic for dummies” (logically, it follows Biblical Logic). Adopt these tactics, make them second nature. I personally read this ever year. It is that good.
Inerrancy and Worldview: Answering Modern Challenges to the Bible by Vern Poythress
This is my “handout book” to people who have difficulties with the Bible. Vern Poythress has provided this book for FREE in PDF format (linked above). See my short review and recommendation.
We can begin to answer many of our difficulties in a number of areas if we make ourselves aware of the assumptions that we tend to bring along when we study the Bible. (pg. 16)
Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion by Os Guinness
Os Guinness provides a much neglected component of apologetics. The tendency in all apologetic disciplines, I think, is to forget the sociological and cultural environment that people actually live in, so we forget about plausibility.
The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
A stellar example of how to dialogue with the postmodern person, in their language (and not Christian code language).
Creativity is a characteristic of persuasoria, and this includes irony and humor. Doug Wilson uses both according to biblical example. His setting out of biblical norms for writing and speech is a helpful corrective to the “neutral” way of dialogue promoted today (which silences truth). The world doesn’t set the norms for discourse, the Bible does.
L’Abri (New Expanded Edition) by Edith Schaeffer
An example of the compassionate and hospitable manner in which apologetics should take place. We must never forget that every human being we encounter is also made in the image of God, and therefore we must listen, respect their honest questions, and give honest answers.
Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman by John Meuther
Apologetics is not isolated, and must not be practiced or even studied in isolation. Meuther is right to observe that when it comes to Van Til, we only look at his apologetic, and totally neglect the rest of him. But the rest was connected, indeed, resulted in his apologetic. And as James White has communicated, apologetics cannot be divorced from the church. Cornelius Van Til was the embodiment of that principle. Van Til lived an absolutely amazing life. This is my favorite biography.
Apologetics 101 taught by William Edgar, and read Christian Apologetics (2nd edition, edited by William Edgar) by Cornelius Van Til. Edgar’s little book Reasons of the Heart is also a textbook for the class.
Bill Edgar ties it all together in this class. He takes the intellectual rigor and biblical faithfulness of Van Til, the persuasive emphasis and sociological insights of Os Guinness, the compassionate and personal approach of Francis Schaeffer, and his own experience at L’Abri, and delivers it all as one. This is my favorite seminary course on apologetics. Christian Apologetics by Van Til is one of his assigned texts for the class, and an easy introduction to Van Til’s apologetic from the man himself.
The Closed Fist – Dissuasoria
Now, why is this section larger than the first, and in fact the largest chunk of the learning track? First, apologetic offense just gets more attention. And, there’s so many forms of unbelief. By God’s grace, we have unprecedented access to examples of faithful engagement with them. So instead of reinventing the wheel, we learn from those who have engaged before us.
Christian Theistic Evidences (2nd edition, edited by K. Scott Oliphint) by Cornelius Van Til
By now you’re able to get more Van Til, and this new edition includes explanatory notes by K. Scott Oliphint. This book is a thorough critique of the traditional apologetic approach. Van Til weighs, measures, and finds it wanting. Here you will see clearly that what distinguishes “evidential” apologetics from presuppositional apologetics is not that one uses evidence and the other does not. Look at that title: Evidences. Evidence and facts are only such within a philosophy of fact, which is what Van Til presents here. This book will put out of your mind forever the straw-man criticism that there’s no place for evidences in presuppositional apologetics. Actually, this was originally the syllabus for Van Til’s “Christian Evidences” class at Westminster Seminary. Oliphint quotes Machen saying to Van Til: “I wish I could take your course on Evidences. I need it and am sure it will benefit the Seminary.”
Five Views on Apologetics edited by Steven B. Cowan
These first four resources are each an apologetic for an apologetic approach, and critique of other approaches. Why the critiquing of other approaches to Christian apologetics? As Os Guinness said, “The apologist’s brief covers false teaching and false behavior wherever it is found, whether inside the church or outside in the wider culture” (Fool’s Talk, pg. 212). Wherever it is found. Unfortunately, there is much error inside the church when it comes to apologetic methodology. There is much undermining of the faith being defended by the very philosophy of defense. The very authority and teaching of Scripture, that is often the object of defense, is easily contradicted by the apologetic methodology. Therefore, it’s helpful to look at presuppositionalism compared to other apologetic approaches.
How To Answer The Fool: A Presuppositional Defense of the Faith (film of Sye Ten Bruggencate). Watch online.
Movie time! Look at this as a refreshing reward from all the reading so far. Taking presuppositional apologetics to the campus, Sye Ten deftly reduces arguments to absurdity. A fun watch. Grab a snack and enjoy the show.
Yes, the great debate.
Worldview Apologetics taught by James Anderson
Helpful in teaching some basics about other worldviews. Did you know Mormonism is a materialistic worldview? I didn’t.
Classes, all FREE, taught by Timothy Tennent. This will give you material. So that we do not spout false testimony about our neighbor, we always need to be familiar with what others believe. Learn the world religions, and because of your apologetic foundations, you’ll be able to detect points of tension and begin to develop ways to approach each one. You’ll be prepared should you encounter any adherents.
Tennent’s classes are absolutely indispensable. To this day I fall back on what I learned in them.
A truly original apologetic book. It will help you narrow down and identify what people believe. Well paired with his class.
Though not presuppositional (following Schaeffer), no one quite handles worldviews like Nancy Pearcey, and I know few others who are so easy and enjoyable to read. She makes seeing the weakness of false worldviews easy.
An excellent presuppositional approach to Scripture. We had better understand our ultimate authority. The dialogues are especially helpful.
*Justification by Faith – James White vs Mitch Pacwa (Roman Catholicism)
*The Sola Scriptura Debate – James White vs Mitch Pacwa 1999 (Roman Catholicism)
*Dr. James White Full Interview ‘NWO Bible Versions’ (King James Onlyism)
*The Roman Catholic Controversy by James White
*Mary—Another Redeemer? by James White
*James White versus Robert Wilkin debate (Anti-Lordship, no-repentance “gospel”)
“What is that doing here?” The refutation that MacArthur presents is Scriptural (he and the Master’s Seminary are presuppositional, anyway). To summarize, this book is a critique of false teaching and a defense of the biblical, orthodox doctrine of God the Holy Spirit. It just might seem odd to classify this book as “apologetic” because we are used to defending the deity of Christ, or the Trinity, not so much the 3rd Person. But he is God, and what we believe concerning him must be founded on the Word he inspired.
*A Definitive Look at Oneness Theology: In the Light of Biblical Trinitarianism, (4th Edition — Revised, Updated, and Expanded) by Edward Dalcour
Oneness theology is deadly heresy. To deny the Trinity is to deny God himself, who is Triune, one God in three distinct persons. To deny the Trinity is to deny the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son (co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit) incarnate, the only mediator between God and men. To lose the Trinity is to lose the plan of redemption revealed to us in Scripture. Oneness theology is a very present false teaching and every Christian must be prepared to engage it and refute it. This book is the place to go to help you do that. At the same time, you will be personally edified as you understand the Triune God’s self-revelation better. (Available in PDF)
*Trinity vs. Modalism Debate: James White vs. Roger Perkins (Oneness, Unitarian)
*The Same Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible’s Message About Homosexuality by James White and Jeff Niell
Few things are more relevant today. Learn how to deal with this issue in a way faithful to Christ’s Lordship.
*What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an by James White
*Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Francis Beckwith and Greg Koukl
They’re obviously not of the same apologetic methodology, but by now you’re grounded enough to see what’s lacking. However, all things are weapons in the presuppositionalist’s hands. To my knowledge, no one has written such a beautiful demolition of relativism, and it’s excellent. A delightful read.
Liberalism is still alive and well. That’s why this book is included, though not from a presuppositional perspective.
*Debate: Is the Bible True? (White vs Crossan) (The Jesus Seminar, Liberalism)
James White is explicitly presuppositional in this particular debate. He’s presuppositional in every debate, but doesn’t necessarily explain it every time. He states what he’s doing very clearly in this particular debate. A nice pairing with Machen’s work.
*All these with the asterisk can either be blended with Stage Three, or completed afterwards.
Stage Three — Reinforcement
“Reinforcement” is pretty self-explanatory. These resources will top off, refine, and clarify the foundations and engagement. The first three books continue to develop apologetics. Van Til’s Apologetic serves the useful purpose of systematizing Van Til’s thought. K. Scott Oliphint assigns that book for students to really “get” Van Til, in Westminster’s second required apologetics course.
The Schaeffer classes and the memoir paired with them will give a more comprehensive view of how apologetics can be done; a larger look at the human side of the apologetic enterprise.
The Defense of the Faith (4th edition, edited by K. Scott Oliphint) by Cornelius Van Til
This edition includes the complete text of the original, 1955 edition. Scott Oliphint’s footnotes help immensely.
Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics edited by K. Scott Oliphint and Lane G. Tipton
Offering more exegetical support to Van Til’s apologetic. Lane Tipton’s two essays are worth the price of the book.
The Apologetic Implications of Self-Deception by Greg Bahnsen, the last chapter (FREE)
You can read all of it if you want. It’s Bahnsen’s dissertation, so much of it is repetitive, recounting various views on self-deception through history. He offers many helpful scenarios. The last chapter is the summary, that gets down to it. Self-deception is crucial in our understanding of apologetics. The title is odd, because there’s in fact no apologetic implications drawn out.
Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis by Greg Bahnsen
I consider this work to be the capstone of apologetic study. It’s slow reading. Because you have to keep stopping to write down something great every 2 minutes.
Francis Schaeffer – The Early Years (iTunes U) and Francis Schaeffer – The Later Years (iTunes U) taught by Jerram Barrs, and read The Tapestry: The Life and Times of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, by Edith Schaeffer