by John Ellis
About a year ago, my friend Joffre the Giant recorded a YouTube video in which he gives his five favorite books on apologetics. For some reason, I missed the video when it was first posted. This morning, however, I had the joy and privilege to finally watch it. Per usual with his videos/posts, it was thought-provoking, edifying, and entertaining; I highly encourage you to watch it (it’s at the bottom of this page). I also encourage you to follow Joffre the Giant on YouTube or at his blog. Even while disagreeing with him, I find much value and edification in his thoughts (except for when he mocks Baptists).
While watching the video, I was inspired to create my own list. For one thing, fresh on the heels of having helped teach my church’s Apologetics Series, the topic is still loudly bouncing around my brain. For another thing, the books Joffre includes are from an aesthetic point of view. This allows me to create a list different from his that is also not in “competition,” so to speak, with his list. For my list, I will not be considering apologetic books that approach the topic from an aesthetic pov. If you don’t know or are unsure what is meant by “aesthetic point of view,” watch the video. Joffre is better equipped to define what he means than I am, anyway. Plus, why waste words when I can point readers to the primary source, so to speak?
I have read and love four of the five books on Joffre’s list. In fact, and I have to think about it some more, if I wasn’t specifically crafting a list of books that fall under “truth” apologetics, to borrow Joffre’s term, one or two of the four that I’ve read might supplant books that I’ve included. The only book on his list that I haven’t read is the “cooking” book, but it is now on my Amazon wish list. Hopefully, after reading my list and watching Joffre’s video, you, too, will discover some books to add to your Amazon wish list.
- Engaging With Atheists by David Robertson
This short book from the Good Book Company is edifying and practical. Many times, and speaking as an ex-atheist, the ways in which Christians talk to atheists is unfortunately patronizing or simply straight-up insulting. I can’t count the number of times that Believers would begin their conversations with me by smugly informing me that there is no such thing as an atheist. Adding an anecdote about a foxhole only made it worse.
For many Christians, sharing the gospel with an atheist is a daunting task. How do you talk about the good news of Jesus crucified and resurrected to someone who doesn’t even believe in God? In his book, David Robertson helpfully breaks down what atheists believe, how to engage them on a personal level, and how to share the gospel with an atheist. Even if you don’t know any atheists, Engaging Atheists will encourage to obey the Great Commission while providing you some helpful tools to share the gospel with everyone, not just atheists.
- Theism and Humanism by Arthur J. Balfour
Ok. At the onset, I want to point out that Theism and Humanism is a dense book that requires highly-focused reading. For the reader that accepts the intellectual challenge offered by Arthur Balfour’s book, however, the rewards are immense. In fact, Theism and Humanism is a book that will give up new treasures over multiple readings. If that doesn’t entice you to read Theism and Humanism, maybe knowing that C.S. Lewis listed the book as one of the books that influenced him the most will do the trick.
In the face of the continued onslaught of an increasingly secular humanism built on the lies of Positivism and the new god of individualism crafted out of fool’s gold by the Enlightenment, Balfour strode to the lectern and delivered impactful body blows to the fools who say in their heart that there is no God. In his words, “My desire has been to show that all we think best in human culture, whether associated with beauty, goodness, or knowledge, requires God for its support, that Humanism without Theism loses more than half its value.”
- The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright
Joffre includes The Resurrection of the Son of God in his honorable mentions. Which is perfectly fine, except I have a minor quibble with the stretching of his definition of aesthetic pov in order to include N.T. Wright’s book. Regardless, he and I agree that N.T. Wright has written a valuable contribution within the literature of apologetics.
The Apostle Paul confessed that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14).” With The Resurrection of the Son of God, N.T. Wright provides a comprehensive apologetic for, well, the resurrection of the Son of God. While primarily a historical and theological/philosophical defense of Jesus’ resurrection, the book is also a rich and beautiful piece of literature that answers the question, “What actually happened at Easter?”
- Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics by R.C. Sproul
Among Presuppositionalists, those who are tagged (self-tagged or otherwise) as Evidentialists often get a bad and unfair rap. Considering that the Evidentialist umbrella is quite large, there are times when the criticisms are more than apt, even if those criticisms are still uncharitable. When speaking of R.C. Sproul, however, the criticisms ring hollow and often include at least a tinge of envy.
When teaching the section on Evidentialism during our church’s Apologetics Sunday School series, I leaned heavily on Defending Your Faith, unapologetically so. In fact, I hyped this book so much that my pastor/mentor has begun teasing me for being his resident Evidentialist. If the tag means that my apologetic understanding and approach mirrors that of R.C. Sproul’s in even a tiny way, I humbly accept the compliment.
Defending Your Faith is an excellent primer to an robustly evangelical and reformed perspective on Classical Apologetics (think Aquinas, namely). Probably deserving of a longer explanation than I’m prepared to provide at the moment, one of the things that irks me about Van Til are his unfair and myopic rejections of Aquinas and the “Five Ways.” In his book, Dr. Sproul uses the Bible to provide a ground-level explanation and defense of things like the law of causality, the law of non-contradiction, and even intelligent design as apologetic tools for Christians seeking to evangelize the lost.
- Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Beliefs by John Frame
Not long into teaching our church’s Apologetic Series, I confided to my co-teacher that I hadn’t realized how much John Frame’s seminal book on Apologetics had shaped my own apologetics. In fact, while rereading the book, I was simultaneously mortified and delighted to discover that much of my “own” lessons were basically unwitting plagiarisms of Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Beliefs.
Originally titled, Apologetics to the Glory of God, Frame’s well-known book balances sound argumentation with a heart to see sinners given new life through repenting of their sins and placing their faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Almost encyclopedic in its cope, Apologetics feels much shorter than it actually is, and its accessibility masks the fact that John Frame is asking the reader to engage some fairly complex concepts. For Christians who are interested in apologetics (hint – all Christians should be interested in apologetics), Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Beliefs is an invaluable resource.
 Ignore the “mocking Baptists” part. I included it for Joffre’s benefit only.
 In the YouTube comment section, in answer to a commenter that asked about “apologetic books that focus more on truth (logic) rather than beauty,” Joffre stated, “I have to be frank, I’ve never delved super-deep into “truth” apologetics per se, I’ve never found them super-compelling or interesting.”
 The new edition is mostly unchanged from the original. Some of the original’s footnotes have been included in the main body of the text, and some shifting of the order was deemed necessary.