What do you do when someone asks you a “hard question” about what you believe – or why you believe it? What about when you ask those questions yourself? Where do you turn? What books are helpful for new believers, skeptics, students, or analytical thinkers?
Fortunately, there are lots of terrific resources out there. (I did a deep review on one last week.) There are blogs, books, university degrees, speakers, and whole ministries dedicated to “apologetics.” (Definition: reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine)
Over the years, I have read a bunch of these books. I own several. Even though I’m not really a fan of “arguing” about the Christian faith, I do enjoy reading how other people address common, honest, difficult questions.
Today’s podcast is dedicated to my six favorites. You’ve probably heard of some of them. (After all, a few of them have been around for several decades.)
Main Topic: My 6 Favorite Books for Skeptics
[callout]I am putting together a resource with lots of different books on apologetics – ranging from “apologetics for kids” to “super scientific and technical.” Please shoot me an email – keith-at-keithferrin.com – or leave a comment with your favorite. I will email this resource out for FREE once it’s done. If you don’t get my emails and would like to, you can sign up here (and I’ll send you a free book today too).[/callout]
NOTE: These are listed from “easiest-to-read” to “most-academic.”
1. More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
This one is short. That, in and of itself, is pretty amazing seeing as how it comes from Josh McDowell, probably the most well-known and prolific apologists around. It’s almost more of a booklet than a book. Four inches by seven inches and 127 pages.
This book has been around a long time. It was originally written in 1977. Since then, the book has been translated into over a dozen languages and sold more than 15,000,000 copies. (Slightly more than my books. Wink)
More Than a Carpenter is great if you’ve got someone who needs an “intro” rather than a “deep dive.” McDowell focuses on the Bible and Jesus. Questions like: Can you trust the Bible? Is Jesus really the Messiah? What about the resurrection?
If someone has basic – but challenging – questions about Jesus and the Bible, give them this book. If they have hard scientific or philosophical question, scroll further down this list.
2. Basic Christianity by John Stott
This is also a pretty small book that’s been around for a long time. The first edition was more than 50 years ago. The way Stott walks through this book is a logical, rational journey toward making a decision for Christ.
One reason I like Basic Christianity is that Stott takes the reader on this journey without over-simplifying it, talking down to the reader, or sounding too “preachy.”
I just listened to this as an audiobook again a couple months ago (link to ChristianAudio.com – cheaper than Amazon). I like the logical, clear, conversational approach. He breaks the book down into four sections:
- Christ’s Person
- Man’s Need
- Christ’s Work
- Our Response
Simple. Clear. (I like it.)
3. The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
If you’ve been around the church very much in the last five years, you’ve probably heard of Strobel’s most popular book – The Case for Christ. It’s popular for good reason…it’s very well-done.
However, if I’m narrowing down my list to the “Top 6,” I’ve got to give The Case for FAITH the edge. I find that the questions I hear – and ask – are more often the philosophical ones: How could God allow evil? What about hell? Why does Jesus have to be the only way? What about the violence and oppression in church history?
These are the questions Strobel addresses in The Case for Faith.
Lee Strobel was an atheist, a graduate of Yale Law School, and the award-winning legal editor for the Chicago Tribune. After his wife became a Christian – much to his shock – he set out to investigate and disprove the claims a Christianity.
His books are very easy to read and captivating. Almost like they were written by a journalist! Oh yeah…they were.
4. The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
I did a full review of the Reason for God last week, so I won’t go into too much detail here. What I will say that Tim Keller has the ability to take very deep, theological, and philosophical concepts and talk about them in a way that makes you feel like you you’re not an idiot.
Tim Keller is very smart. But he’s not smart in a let-me-dumb-this-down-for-you way. He’s smart in an inviting, let’s-have-a-conversation way. And he’s used to dealing with skeptics. Admittedly, his church in Manhattan draws skeptics. A big part of that is that Keller is willing to honestly, respectfully – and thoroughly – have conversations about some of the topics that make most Christians squirm.
If any of you know Tim personally, tell him I’d love to buy him a cup of coffee next time he’s in Seattle. (Side Note: His podcast isn’t focused on apologetics. But it’s really good too. Here’s the link.)
5. A Ready Defense by Josh McDowell
After writing over 120 books (not kidding) you could consider A Ready Defense to be a compilation of his best stuff all in one, 500-page volume.
One of the greatest things about A Ready Defense is how thorough it is without getting you too lost. Think of it as a text book written like a magazine article. Here are just a few of the topics McDowell covers:
- The Bible (reliability, how we got it, archaeological support, answering criticism, etc.)
- Jesus (historicity, messianic prophecies fulfilled, the resurrection, etc.)
- Other religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormonism, etc.)
And that’s just a taste. The Table of Contents alone is four pages! A Ready Defense is truly a go-to resource for me when it comes to answering tough questions.
6. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
I guess in the strict sense, Mere Christianity isn’t technically an “apologetics” book.
However, if you know someone who is asking a lot of questions, is open to a good discussion, and seems to be able to talk circles around almost any answer you come up with – give them this book!
C.S. Lewis is an incredibly deep thinker and an equally brilliant writer. He has a way of putting things that, quite simply, no one else comes close to. He is truly unique among writers.
Every time I read anything Lewis writes – novels included – I find myself inspired, challenged, comforted, encouraged, and reinvigorated in my love and devotion to Jesus.
Mere Christianity is all those things. What’s interesting – and what most people don’t realize – is that Mere Christianity wasn’t originally written as a book at all. The elements that now make up the book were originally delivered as radio messages. Later, they were published in three separate parts (The Case for Christianity, Christian Behaviour, and Beyond Personality). And finally, they were all compiled into one of the most famously known – and yet widely unread – books in the church.
While Lewis doesn’t address the quantity of questions in the other books on this list, his depth with each, and where he ends up, is in a different category altogether. The first half of the book is spent unraveling the meaning of life, human nature, and what Christians believe. The second half is really a deep exploration of how that plays out in the life of the true Christ-follower.
Mere Christianity is not light reading. But is is more than worth the effort.
Resource of the Week
The Resource of the Week is going to be created by all of us!
Yes, I need your help. I got so much email after last week’s post about your favorite books for addressing hard questions. I thought it would be cool to compile a list of everyone’s favorites, put them all together in a single resource (short eBook), and send it out to anyone who wants it.
Let me know your favorite “apologetics” or “tough questions” book by commenting below or emailing me. (keith – at – keithferrin.com)
I am NOT going to sell it. I’m going to compile your answers (from the comments here and your emails) and then email it to everyone on my mailing list. If you want one – and you’re not on the list – simply sign up here.
My son-in-law just passed away from a motorcycle accident. The question everyone is asking is why does a good guy that goes to work every day, a wonderful husband, son, and father have to die? Why did God take him home and not the scum bag down the street?”
Note: This question came in email and replied directly to her with a longer answer than i’m giving here.
There’s certainly no easy answer to this. Honestly, I have found that when most people are asking this question, there isn’t an answer that will be “good enough.” When people are grieving, they need someone to sit with them, and be present, not give pat answers.
God’s perspective is so big, trying to answer all the why questions is like my 5-year-old trying to fully understand all of the why questions around things I permit (and don’t permit) and why we make financial or vocational decisions. It is more important that she trusts Kari and me, than that she understands why.
I can’t remember where I heard this, but I have come back many times to something I heard years ago regarding faith in God’s wisdom and goodness:
Can I answer your question on a future episode?
I have several ways you can submit a question – or an idea for an episode topic:
- Call the dedicated Podcast Voicemail Line: (425) 522-3487
- Shoot me an email: podcast– at – keithferrin.com
- Record a voicemail – up to 90 seconds – at www.speakpipe.com/keithferrin.
- Send a message through my Facebook Page
- Send a message though my Contact Page
- Leave a comment here on this page.
Links (People, Info, and Resources) from Episode 28:
- More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
- Basic Christianity by John Stott
- The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
- The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller
- A Ready Defense by Josh McDowell
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- Direct link to this podcast on iTunes.
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Subscribing to Any Podcast on Any Device (with screen shots)
- Podcast Art – Pipe & Tabor (Vancouver, WA)
- Intro/Outro Music – Dan Carollo of CeltoGrass Music
[reminder]What is YOUR favorite book for skeptics (or anyone asking tough questions)?[/reminder]