Here at Orthosphere.org, several commenters who are sympathetic to Christianity but still unbelievers have asked “Why should I believe Christianity?” The discipline of Christian apologetics exists to answer this question.
The word “apologetics” is derived from the Greek word “apologia,” meaning “speaking in defense.” Christian apologetics is the discipline of giving reasons why Christianity is true, and responding to arguments against Christianity.
The “man in the street” may be surprised to find that there is much evidence for Christianity. Most non-Christians probably think of Christianity as just a tradition that its followers receive without thinking about its validity, but scientific, philosophical and historical evidence for Christianity exists in great abundance.
The field of Christian Apologetics is vast, because the reasons men disbelieve are legion. If you are sympathetic to Christianity but unable to believe, Christian apologetics can help you.
Becoming a Christian, to be sure, requires more than a belief in the tenets of Christianity. A Christian in the full sense is one who has repented of his sins and has faith in Jesus Christ, especially the faith that Christ’s death on the Cross has atoned for his sins.
To repent is not to stop all sinning. It is to turn one’s inner orientation away from the vanity of the world and toward God. And faith in Christ is knowledge of God, assent to this knowledge, and, most importantly, trust in God.
Christian apologetics, then, will not (directly) help you to repent or to have faith in Christ. Only God’s Spirit can do that, usually through the external means of you hearing God’s Word, that is, the words of the Bible. But God can also use apologetics to help you clear away intellectual and emotional impediments to faith, so that you can receive the message of Christ rather than rejecting it.
It is possible for any non-Christian, even the most hardened atheist, to become a Christian in a sudden flash of insight. But for most people the process of conversion is gradual, as false beliefs are slowly replaced with true ones. It is here that Christian apologetics is especially helpful.
Apologetics is also valuable for those who already believe. Even those who know and trust Christ are sometimes assailed by doubt. And Christians are called to bear witnesses to Jesus Christ so that others may come to faith also. The discipline of Christian apologetics is a great help for those beset with doubt and for those who wish to make a better case for their faith.
It is the intention of this post only to give a brief introduction to the vast field of Christian apologetics. It is primarily intended to give an answer to those who ask where they can find solid arguments for Christianity.
Below are some especially noteworthy resources for Christian apologetics, generally arranged by topic. After a summary of each topic comes a list of books and other resources on that topic. If a book’s title contains an embedded link, it is to a page giving further information about the book. If that page is at amazon.com, it is not for the purpose of facilitating your purchase there, but rather because Amazon had the most informative page we could find.
We have attempted to provide resources both basic and advanced, both popular-level and sophisticated, but without flooding the reader with too many choices.
[Since the principal author of this page is Protestant, most of the works listed below have Protestant authors. They are the works with which he is most familiar. But this page is a work in progress, so more works originating from Catholicism or Orthodoxy will undoubtedly be posted soon. We will generally exclude works which have as one of their major functions arguing for one of the specific Christian traditions, for the focus here is on “mere” Christianity. But a serious Christian work will, of necessity, sometimes argue for things that are specifically Protestant, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.]
After the topic list is a list of good Christian apologetics websites and broadcasts.
For the person whose doubts are not sharply formed, a good place to start is with a book that gives an overview of the arguments for Christianity.
What’s so Great About Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza. Despite not arguing for any specifically Christian doctrines (such as the Trinity or the Atonement), this book does a good job of presenting what might be called the general case for Christianity and refuting the most basic arguments against Christianity.
Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions By Kenneth Samples. A solid, popular-level presentation.
The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel. Another good popular-level work, written by an ex-atheist and journalist.
The Existence of God
Although most people do not doubt the existence of some sort of god, the question of the existence of the God of the Bible is of prime importance for establishing Christianity. There are two basic approaches to proving God:
Presuppositionalism, in which we presuppose the God of the Bible and then show that all other systems of thought are inferior. As a formal proof of God, this is often called the “Transcendental Argument for God.” This approach is based on the recognition that the ultimate truths must be presupposed, not proved. For if they are not presupposed, they will have to be proved, and any proof will require other truths that are consequently more ultimate than the “ultimate” truths we are proving. All thought requires presuppositions that are not proved formally. Presuppositionalism also acknowledges that if God exists, and the Bible is God speaking to us, then no human authority can stand in judgment over God and His Word. One strength of this approach is that it starts with a strong position of belief and does not pretend to a neutrality that is impossible in any case. Another strength is that it necessarily takes a comprehensive approach to apologetics and the proof of God, and failure to see the big picture is often an inpediment to faith. One weakness of presuppositionalism is that it requires a great deal of intellectual sophistication; philosophically unsophisticated people generally find it baffling. Also, as most presuppositionalists would agree, since man is not omniscient he could be mistaken, and consequently he needs evidence before he can believe. Some evidence is necessary.
Evidentialism, in which we give evidence for God. This evidence can be philosophical, empirical, scientific, historical, even subjective. By “evidence” we mean anything that validly points to something else; in this case, to God. (Atheists like to define “evidence” in such a way that evidence for God is automatically disqualified, but in this they are dishonest.) The strength of this approach is that man, not being omniscient, needs evidence. The weakness of Evidentialism is that the hearer’s presuppositions may make him unable to acknowledge the valid evidence placed before him. Some reference to presuppositions is necessary.
Each of these two broad schools of thought is divided into other schools, each believing their approach to be the best—or, in some cases, the only valid—method of arguing for God. Some schools (the Thomist approach favored by Catholics or the presuppositional approach favored by many Calvinists, for example) require a great deal of sophistication. Others are understandable, at least in outline, by the man in the street. While every approach is basically valid, the best general advice is this: Any line of reasoning or school of thought that helps you know that the God of the Bible exists is good. Find the approach that works best for you, but know that the other approaches are also valid.
Arguments for the existence of God are generally contained within works that are wider in scope, typically works arguing for the truth of Christianity in general. This is to be expected: salvation requires not just any old god, but the Living God of the Bible. The following references will therefore necessarily overlap somewhat with other categories listed below and, conversely, some books listed in other categories will contain arguments for God.
Trilogy (The God Who Is There, Escape from Reason, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent.) by Francis A. Schaeffer. Schaeffer saw himself as a pastor rather than an apologist, yet he was arguably second only to C.S. Lewis among the Twentieth Century’s most important Christian apologists. His specialty was showing how Christianity responds to man’s actual needs. Available from Google Books here.
Apologetics to the Glory of God by John Frame. “[Frame’s] goal in this book is to provide the framework into which all other arguments or lines of reasoning will fit, and he does so masterfully.” [From the review at Apologetics 315.]
Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith By Greg Bahnsen. “Most readers will likely be drawn mainly to Bahnsen’s exposition of a presuppositional approach to apologetics (section one). However, section two provides a rich resource of practical answers to the most common attacks on Christianity.” [From the review at Apologetics 315.]
Natural Theology by William Paley. Contains his famous “watchmaker” argument for God. “Natural theology is the practice of inferring the existence of God from the design and beauty found in nature.” [from Apologetics 315]
Christian Apologetics by Norman L. Geisler. Focuses on proving God, the validity of the Bible and the truth of the traditional description of Jesus Christ. One strength is that it builds an adequate test for truth before turning to the evidence.
Scaling the Secular City by J. P. Moreland. Written by a Christian who is also a professional philosopher, Scaling provides an excellent and challenging introduction to some of the high-level philosophical issues in the defense of the faith.
Theology is the intellectual discipline of understanding and organizing our knowledge of things pertaining to God and it is therefore not, strictly speaking, a branch of apologetics. But theology can be a stumbling block to faith, as when the individual finds that he cannot believe in a key doctrine such as the Trinity of God or the Incarnation of God the Son in Jesus of Nazareth.
On the Incarnation of the Word of God by Athanasius of Alexandria (ca 297—373 AD). Written by one of the early Church Fathers, Incarnation is still one of the best defenses of basic, “mere” Christianity. Full text available here.
The Forgotten Trinity by James R. White. A thorough introduction to that most difficult of theological concepts, the Trinity of God.
Jesus Christ, Especially His Resurrection
It is a truism that Christianity stands or falls on the validity of the biblical account of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not simply a prophet or lawgiver, He is God the Son incarnated who lived a sinless life and suffered a death that atones for our sins, if we have true faith in Him.
To put it succinctly: No Jesus, no Christianity. And if Jesus is redefined, we get different Christianities, containing Jesuses who cannot save us. (Since salvation requires faith, and faith requires knowledge, and since one cannot know a falsehood, faith in a false Jesus cannot save.) For example, the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In the last couple of centuries, enemies of Christianity (many of whom operate within the church) successfully established the idea that we cannot know anything about Jesus of Nazareth unless our knowledge has been validated by the methods of skeptical, secular scholarship. The result, naturally, is a picture of Jesus as an enigma who varies with the latest academic fads.
But this is foolishness. We can know that the Biblical accounts are accurate, and that Jesus is as described therein. There is overwhelmingly more ancient manuscript evidence for Jesus, the Apostles and the Bible than for any other persons or works of antiquity: If scholars do not doubt that we have essentially correct views of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, they will, if they have integrity, have to admit that we have a thousand times more evidence for Jesus of Nazareth and His religion.
As for the Resurrection of Christ, only the general assumption that resurrections are impossible could nullify the plentiful evidence. Once you acknowledge the existence of God, resurrections become possible, and you can examine the evidence with an open mind.
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. A former atheist and journalist questions the experts about the reliability of the Bible, the historicity (i.e., reality) of the Resurrection, and the general reliability of the biblical portrayal of Jesus. An excellent popular-level introduction to the topics it covers.
The Historical Jesus by Gary Habermas. “What sets this book apart for this reviewer is its straightforward approach. Habermas does not try to read between the lines, redefine, or reinterpret history. He just plainly presents evidence after evidence that all attest to the historicity of the life of Jesus. …. The plain facts make a powerful argument for the New Testament as the most reliable historical record of the life of Jesus Christ.” [From the review at Apologetics 315.]
Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus Michael J. Wilkins and J. P. Moreland, general editors. Ten Christian scholars present evidence for the reliability of the traditional picture of Jesus.
The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. Taking a “minimalist” approach, the authors focus on five undisputed facts about Jesus and show how these constitute solid evidence for the Resurrection.
The Resurrection of the Son of God by N. T. Wright. Wright is liberal on some issues, but this is the most thorough work vindicating the Resurrection.
The Reliability of the Bible
Enemies of Christianity have also successfully established the belief that we cannot know who wrote the various books of the Bible, or what their original manuscripts said, or whether what they said is correct. One specific example of this is the belief, held by virtually all enemies of Christianity, that Paul and the other Apostles changed the religion taught by Jesus.
Again, this is foolishness. Scholars have, for the New Testament, approximately one thousand times more ancient manuscripts than for the average book of antiquity, and there are thousands of manuscripts of the writings of the early Church Fathers that collectively contain almost the entire New Testament as quotations.
Furthermore, the vast majority of the differences among the various manuscripts (the “textual variants”) are utterly trivial: changed spellings, single words obviously skipped, etc. And none of the variants challenge Christian doctrine. Scholars who do not have a vested interest in denying it acknowledge that we know what the original manuscripts taught, even if there is some doubt about the exact wording in a few places.
And the belief that the Apostles were innovators can be dispelled by a careful reading of the Gospels. Although, for example, the gospels never record Jesus saying [quote] I am God [unquote], they record Him making statements that mean exactly that.
Dr. Timothy McGrew (husband of Lydia McGrew) on the validity of the Gospels (Audio and PowerPoint slides from Youtube.)
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg. “If only one book could be recommended as a thorough overview of the historical reliability of the gospels, Blomberg’s would be it. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels has a large scope, it covers a wide variety of objections and apparent contradictions, and is an excellent history lesson on textual criticism.” [From the review at Apologetics 315.]
The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? By F. F. Bruce. A relatively brief, non-scholarly yet solid introduction to the basic arguments for the reliability of the Bible.
General Introduction to the Bible by Norman L. Geisler and William Nix. A thorough discussion of all aspects of the writing, preservation and translation of the Old and New Testaments. Not primarily a work of apologetics, this book nevertheless builds a strong case for the reliability of the entire Bible.
The Truth and Goodness of Christianity
The existence of the God of the Bible, the validity of the biblical portrait of Jesus, and the reliability of the Bible are summarized in one saying: Christianity is true. So how can we prove it?
One possibility would be to try to give independent proofs of all the various doctrines of Christianity such as the Trinity of God, the incarnation of God the Son in Jesus of Nazareth, original sin, and so on. Aside from the extreme length of such an attempt, we have the problem that many doctrines concerning God cannot be known to us through purely human effort. These truths can only be known if God reveals them to us and if we believe what He has said.
It is true that Christianity is consistent with what we know from extra-biblical sources of knowledge, and we can show that Christianity does not contradict valid knowledge. But it is best to prove Christianity by pointing to the one Man Who has the authority to validate the faith: Jesus Christ. If Jesus is Who the Bible says He is, then He has the authority to validate both the Old and New Testaments. The ultimate proof of Christianity is to believe what Jesus has said, through direct quotes in the Gospels, the words of His Apostles, and the words of the other prophets as recorded in Scripture.
Pensées by Blaise Pascal. Pascal intended to write a treatise in defense of Christianity; he died before completing the task, and the Pensées (literally “thoughts”) are his preliminary notes. “In addition to providing deep, probing insights into the nature of man and his need to seek God, Pascal also presents a case for the truth of Christianity through scripture, fulfilled prophecy, and the person of Jesus Christ. Filled with profound thought and perspective, Pascal’s Pensées is a treasure of a book that is sure to challenge and enrich.” [From the review at Apologetics 315.] Complete text available online here.
Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig. A comprehensive argument for Christianity, written by one of the best contemporary Christian apologists.
Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age by Father Seraphim (Eugene) Rose. A fundamental analysis of society’s descent into madness as a result of rejecting God. Available online here.
The Problem of Evil
It is said that because so much evil exists, God cannot exist, or at least that the god who does exist is not worthy of worship. We may call this the argument from evil, and many people find it to be “emotionally persuasive” in the sense that it makes the existence of God feel absurd. But although the existence of evil causes anguish, it is not a valid disproof of God.
That is, there are at least three “problems of evil:”
- The apologetic problem of evil: Evil as an alleged disproof of the God of the Bible.
- The theological problem of evil: Given that Christianity is true, how can we reconcile God’s goodness with the widespread existence of evil?
- The psychological problem of evil: How can we deal with the personal anguish caused by evil?
Problems two and three are legitimate, but not problem one.
The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis. “The Problem of Pain answers the universal question, ‘Why would an all-loving, all-knowing God allow people to experience pain and suffering?’ Master Christian apologist C.S. Lewis asserts that pain is a problem because our finite, human minds selfishly believe that pain-free lives would prove that God loves us. In truth, by asking for this, we want God to love us less, not more than he does.” [From the review at amazon.com.]
A great deal of sophistry attempts to disprove the possibility of miracles. Since Christianity is based on miracles (most importantly: the Exodus from Egypt, the Incarnation of God in a man, and the Resurrection), a specific response to this challenge is needed. The basic answer is that if God exists, miracles are certainly possible.
In Defense of Miracles by R. Douglas Geivett and Gary Habermas. “Rumors of deception have surrounded claims of Jesus’ resurrection ever since the soldiers appointed to guard his tomb made their report to the Jewish authorities. But no one has led the philosophic charge against miracles quite as influentially as David Hume with his 1748 essay ‘Of Miracles.’ …In response, Douglas Geivett and Gary Habermas have assembled a distinguished team of scholars to rebut the objections and set forth the positive case for God’s action in history…” [From the review at amazon.com.]
Miracles by C. S. Lewis. From the back cover: “ ‘The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares the way for this, or results from this.’ This is the key statement of Miracles, in which C. S. Lewis shows that a Christian must not only accept but rejoice in miracles as a testimony of the unique personal involvement of God in his creation. Using his characteristic lucidity and wit to develop his argument, Lewis challenges the rationalists, agnostics, and deists on their own grounds and makes out an impressive case for the irrationality of their assumptions.”
Science “versus” Christianity
It is popularly believed that science, especially Darwinian evolutionary theory, has disproved God. Of course it has done no such thing, but the challenge from organized atheistic science must be met on its own terms. Christianity is also rendered more credible if it can respond effectively to a variety of challenges.
The basic response to the challenge is that the science which believes it has disproved God has only presupposed an absence of God. It assumes the results it thinks it has proved. Under the assumption of atheism, Darwinian evolution is more credible than the creation of life by an intelligent Designer. But of course, if the presupposition is false, then so is any conclusion based on it.
And science is not even qualified to investigate the question of whether or not God exists. It can supply some of the evidence, to be sure, but it cannot make the final call, because philosophical questions, especially questions of the ultimate nature of reality, are outside the proper domain of science.
Christianity and the Nature of Science: a Philosophical Investigation by J. P. Moreland. To quote from the linked review, “…persons interested in these important topics should not miss Moreland’s valuable contribution. No other Christian text is as current or has the relative depth as this text.”
The Bible, common sense, and the testimony of the historical record all show that there are false Christs, that is, false religions that claim to be Christianity. An important part of the task of apologetics, then, is to warn Christians about cults, that is, organized groups of heretics.
While a Mormon, for example, can be a good neighbor or even a supporter of the reactionary agenda of the Orthosphere, he cannot (unless he is unfaithful to Mormon teaching) be a Christian, for his creed requires him to deny important truths about Jesus Christ. Indeed, (small-o) orthodoxy has always excluded anti-Trinitarian groups such as the Mormons. We do not bear ill will toward the Mormon (or any other pseudo-Christian), but we must uphold the historic boundaries of Christianity.
[A Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness could be called a Christian according to a lower standard: “A member of a body that regards itself as Christian,” for example, or “A supporter of Christian civilization.” But by the historic standards of orthodox Christianity, these bodies are not Christian. If we want to steer an individual toward salvation, we must warn him to stay away from the cults.]
Why exactly is it sinful to deny, as Mormons and many others do, that Jesus is Jehovah? Because only God could incarnate himself in a man, or live a sinless life so that he could be a spotless sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world, or be big enough to take on himself all the sins of the human race. It is not theological nitpicking to reject false teaching if that teaching makes Jesus unable to be our Savior.
The best resource when dealing with non-Christian religions is a good knowledge of orthodox, Bible-based Christian teaching. But it is also useful to be familiar with the basic errors of the various non-Christian religions. Indeed, knowing why they are errors can build one’s faith in Christ.
Kingdom of the Cults by Dr.Walter Martin and Ravi Zacharias. Although not officially labeled as such, the linked version is the third, most up-to-date, edition. An encyclopedic compendium of the teachings of major non-Christian religions, along with demonstrations from Scripture of the errors of these beliefs.
Christian Apologetics Organizations
There are hundreds of such organizations; below are some that are particularly worthy:
Apologetics 315 The best Christian apologetics website; covers all aspects of Christianity and apologetics. Note especially, in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage, their list of “must-visit pages.”
Ligonier Ministries Primarily the teaching of Dr. R. C. Sproul; his broadcast Renewing Your Mind covers philosophical as well as theological and apologetic topics. Sophisticated Protestantism.
Stand to Reason Another excellent resource for general apologetics.
Apologetics Index A comprehensive database and hyperlinked glossary of information on all aspects of apologetics.
Theopedia Wikipedia for Christianity.
Reasons to Believe Showing that Christianity is compatible with mainstream science (i.e., taking the old-Earth position.) Founded by Dr. Hugh Ross, PhD in astrophysics and ordained Protestant pastor.
Christian Internet Broadcasts
Thru the Bible J. Vernon McGee. Five-year radio series reading and commenting on the entire Bible. A unique resource.
Renewing Your Mind R. C. Sproul. Sophisticated and devout Reformed Protestantism.
Fighting for the Faith Chris Rosebrough. Defending Protestant orthodoxy primarily by commenting on bad sermons and other manifestations of pseudo-Christian foolishness. Entertaining and edifying.
Truth for Life Alistair Begg. Solid Protestant biblical exegesis.
The White Horse Inn Michael Horton, Rod Rosenblatt, Kim Riddlebarger, Ken Jones. Panel discussion of Christian issues from a Confessional Protestant (Reformed and Lutheran) point of view.
Stand to Reason Greg Koukl. Defending classical Protestantism, “mere” Christianity and classical Christian values in an irenic format.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library Classic Christian books online. A must for scholars.