What are the best apologetics books?
Don’t let the word “apologetics” scare you. What it means is to give a word back with the intent of persuading. It involves both clarification and explanation. You clarify what the Christian faith means and you explain why you believe it (and why others should, too). And since the biblical mandate for all believers is to make disciples, every Christian should participate in apologetics.
But where should you start?
One of the best ways to fuel the fire to share and defend your faith is by reading good books on Christian apologetics. And in order to help you find the best ones, I asked Mark Ryan — the director of the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary — to curate a list of books for you to consider.
A voracious reader and an Adjunct Professor of Religion and Culture at Covenant Seminary, Ryan stops by the site today to give you his list of the best apologetics books for newbies. This list is by no means exhaustive but is simply a list of the best apologetics books at an introductory level. In other words, this list is designed for beginners (like me). You can find the books below.
The Top 10 Best Apologetics Books
10. James Sire, Why Good Arguments Often Fail: Making a More Persuasive Case for Christ (IVP, 2006).
Why settle on this particular volume? Mostly because every beginning apologist stands to be helped by recognizing that even our best arguments will fail and because this particular Sire volume helpfully and very accessibly instructs the reader in ways to improve their apologetic efforts. Besides, who wouldn’t want the kind of hard-won help that this 50+ year defender of Christian faith here offers?
9. Jerram Barrs, The Heart of Evangelism (Crossway, 2001).
Although not an apologetic text per se, this volume deserves its place in this list for at least three reasons.
First, its author is one of today’s most practiced ‘on the ground’ apologists. There is hardly a situation Jerram has not been asked to speak into and barely a question he has not been asked to speak to. Second, as apologetics and evangelism are twin disciplines (distinct, yet closely related), so this careful study on New Testament evangelism is foundational to Christian apologetics. And third, both the principles that he lays down for our consideration and the principles of communication he promotes are alike basic to any defense of the faith we are likely to go about offering.
8. Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion (IVP, 2015).
Guinness, like Edgar, Keyes, and so many others, was greatly influenced by C. S. Lewis and by Francis Schaeffer. A prolific author and lecturer, Guinness manages in this volume to channel the cultural wit and wisdom of Lewis and Schaeffer and to craft an apologetic text that analyses Christian communication even as it tilts at so much apologetic folly. Emphasizing persuasion over proof and credibility over philosophy—although despising no useful discipline or tool—Guinness offers the reader biblical foundations, practical strategies, and an acute understanding of the anatomy of unbelief. An important volume born of 40+ years of firsthand apologetic engagement.
7. John G. Stackhouse, Jr, Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today (Oxford, 2002).
This volume by Canadian scholar and writer is another introduction that deserves time and attention. Perhaps more intermediate than ‘beginner’; nonetheless, this volume remains accessible even as it gives more attention to the cultural and ideological conditions in which we practice apologetics. Even if one imagines the author to overreach in places (as I do), there remains a great deal to like and to benefit from in this reconfiguring of apologetics way from trumpery, naïve certainty, and toward greater plausibility and respect.
6. James K Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It (IVP, 2011).
In terms of accessible introductions to apologetics, this compact volume has become one of my preferred. In approximately 200 pages, Beilby manages to clarify what apologetics is, to outline the history of Christian apologetics, to consider the variety of approaches to apologetics that predominate today, to consider a variety of objections to the discipline and practice of apologetics, as well as to counsel readers with regard to doing apologetics well.
5. Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Dutton, 2008).
If there is an heir to C.S.Lewis’, Mere Christianity, then this volume might just be the claimant. Authored by New York pastor, preacher, and architect of much urban church planting, Keller adroitly articulates biblically informed answers to common questions asked by skeptics and others. Once again, Keller offers the budding apologist a model for answering challenges to the Christian faith in a responsible and respectful way. Like both Lewis and Schaeffer before him, Keller has a tremendous ability to speak in the language of the culture and to surface the question under the question.
4. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (HarperOne, 2015; and various other additions).
For Bible-believing, English-speaking audiences, Lewis is probably the first apologist we are likely to think of. After his conversion and over the course of his life this ‘Oxford Don’ published scholarly works and popular works as well. This particular volume is a perennial favorite. In its first instance (as radio talks and as pamphlets serially released during the dark days of World War II) through the 70+ years this volume has remained in print, arguably no other comparable volume has been so consistently turned to for a non-sectarian and persuasive explanation of Christianity.
3. Francis A. Schaeffer, The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy: Three Essential Books in One Volume (Crossway, 1990).
With Schaeffer playing a significant role in the renaissance of evangelical Christian apologetics, so it would be remiss of me not to highlight this volume. Although not as easy to read as Edgar and Keyes, nonetheless, a charitable reading of this volume will be handsomely rewarded. The scope of Schaeffer’s interests and the winsome tone that he strikes remain remarkable and urgently needed.
2. Dick Keyes, Chameleon Christianity: Moving Beyond Safety and Conformity (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003).
Dick Keyes may well be the greatest apologist you have never heard of! A long-time worker with L’Abri Fellowship International, Dick is an apologist who practices the “defense of the faith” everyday. This volume is simultaneously a call to apologetics, an introduction to vital apologetic concerns, and itself an apologetic for evangelical Christians to put their own house in order even as they move beyond polarization and toward cultural engagement.
1. William Edgar, Reasons of the Heart: Recovering Christian Persuasion(P&R, 2003).
Edgar is a long-time professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, PA, but no ivory-tower theorist. Edgar is as much practitioner as he is scholar and as this slim volume makes plain, he is most gifted at placing his considerable learning in service of those taking their first apologetic steps. The late Charles Colson once spoke of Edgar as “one of evangelicalism’s most valued scholars and apologists,” and this is an excellent introduction to apologetics.
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