Thursday, February 02, 2012

10 Reference Books for the Apologist

There are books that you read once, learn from, and never read again. There are books that you read once, they change your life, and you count them as your favorites. Then there are books that are worthy to sit on your shelf close by, because you use them regularly for reference tools. What? You have no reference books? Here are a few idea for suggested reference books for your apologetics library:

1. Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion
Any time you encounter a term or idea you are not familiar with, pick up this handy little reference. Yes, it does fit in your pocket. It's also useful simply to read from beginning to end if you are new to the subject of apologetics or philosophy of religion.

2. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics
This is a massive tome by Norman L. Geisler which is quite comprehensive in its scope. If there's an issue that has been encountered in apologetics, then it is probably going to be outlined pretty thoroughly here. Very useful for getting an overview of a topic, a key thinker, or an argument.

3. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Christianity
There's no better all-in-one apologetics textbook than this recent work by Douglas Groothuis. Useful for chapter-by-chapter study, quick reference, as well as for creating teaching outlines and exploring the cumulative case for Christianity. Get this book; read; repeat.

4. The Apologetics Study Bible
This study Bible includes detailed notes from an apologetic perspective. Run into a scriptural issue that you need input on? Check it out in the Apologetics Study Bible. It also includes historical vignettes of major apologetic personalities, short articles on various apologetic arguments, and input from a wide array of scholars on pertinent contemporary issues in apologetics. Worth having as a Bible, if not just for reference.

5. Holman Quicksource Guide to Christian Apologetics
This unique illustrated guidebook is a visually helpful overview and outline of the major issues in Christian apologetics. This is also a great book for the beginner to get his/her hands on in order to get a good bird's-eye-view of the apologetic landscape, so to speak. This can also be very useful as a tool for preparing apologetics talks, as it covers a broad amount of key content and includes many good examples.

6. New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics
This is a large book, similar to the Baker Encyclopedia mentioned above. However, the main difference is this one has a large variety of scholarly contributions. Part one is a series of essays on apologetic topics, followed by part two -- a dictionary of apologetic issues, historical figures, and concepts. A great reference tool.

7. Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms
Again, another handy dictionary for the apologist - this one focusing on theological terms. About the same size as the Pocket Dictionary listed above, but much denser, this little book is also useful for reference as well as reading all the way through to discover all those terms you've never heard or understood before. Get both and use them.

8. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties
This is a dense book packed with answers, angles, and analysis of all the major Bible "difficulties." What it gives you is a good, scholarly treatment of scriptural passages that may not be easy to reconcile without a bit of study and further understanding. This is a good reference book to have on hand if you encounter these sorts of objections regularly.

9. Faith Has Its Reasons
One of the best books covering the various schools of thought in apologetics. This must-read book by Ken Boa and Rob Bowman clearly unpacks the various apologetic methods, showing their logic, strengths, and possible weaknesses. For the apologetics student, this would serve as a good companion to the Groothuis textbook mentioned above.

10. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview
Anyone who has read this book has surely been changed by it. Not only is Craig and Moreland's phenomenal philosophy textbook is a must-read, it's also a very useful reference. Worth going back to and stacks up nicely next to the other heavy reference books!

What books are on your shelf that continue to be a regular reference to you as an apologist? What do you think is missing from this list?


Hazmat said...

Just wondered why you ignored all of the apologetics books by creationists. Since I don't see much on here regarding them, this adds to my belief that you don't like them for some reason.

Brian said...

What do you mean by books by creationists?

Austin Gravley said...

Good list. In addition to a few of those, I have "The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict" and "Kingdom of the Occult"

I used the Apologetics Study Bible for several years, and while it is a great bible, the ESV Study Bible is a much better resource, IMO.

Brian said...

Yes! Kingdom of the Cults" (or the Occult one) would be great additions to the list. I also concur on the "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" -- in fact, it is here with my other reference books.

Anonymous said...

I really like "To Everyone An Answer," edited by J. Beckwith. I find it to be very readable and also very relevant to the topics it lays out.

Neil Shenvi said...

What about a text on Systematic Theology? I use Grudem's ST as a reference all the time. It's also remarkably readable given that it's completely comprehensive and 1200 pages long.

dgfisch said...

I love a recent book by that new up-and-comer Sean McDowell (Josh's boy!), Apologetics for a New Generation. He edited this volume, which includes great material from young new apologists as Dan Kimball, Brett Kunkle,and Craig J. Hazem, while interviewing old hands as Lee Strobel, J.P. Moreland, and Mike Licona. Oh yes, even papa Josh has an article included. It covers many areas of apologetic concerns such as conversational tone, its need in youth ministry, and dealing with specific groups within the culture as homosexuals and women in a kind compassionate way.

Anonymous said...

What is the best reference for systematic theology from an orthodox evangelic, yet Arminian perspective? Apparently the Grudem book is Calvinist. Are there any equivalents from an Arminian/Molinist perspective?

LittleGoose said...

@ Anonymous

I'm not trying to be a rude Calvinist when I say this, forgive me if I sound like it, but I'm not sure anything from an orthodox, evangelical, molinistic perspective exists. I am open for correction though.

pds said...


Molinism is an orthodox position held by evangelical Christians like William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga and Kenneth Keathley. And probably half the commenters of this blog!


Thomas Oden is a excellent systematic theologian and he writes from a Arminian perspective. I recommend his book Classic Christianity, but be warned, it is not an introduction to theology. For a Molinistic perspective I recommend books on that topic as there don't appear to be any Arminian Systematics that cover it in detail - if you can find one then let me know! Perhaps William Lane Craig's book would be a good place to start or 'Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach' by Kenneth Keathley.


Anonymous said...


You don't sound rude at all! Though considering that evangelicals are still mostly not Calvinist, or at the very least now find themselves at parity between Calvinists and Arminians/Molinists, it's surprising that there is no comparable theology text for those who don't hold a Reformed View.

Neil Shenvi said...

@Anonymous, the nice thing about Grudem's book is that he interacts extensively with positions all over the theological spectrum, especially on controversial issues. For instance, after each chapter, he lists the references to systematic theologies from each of the broad theological positions.

Here are the modern Arminian (Welseyan/Methodist) Systematic Theologies he lists:

Purkiser, W.T. Exploring our Christian Faith
Carter, C.W. A Contemporary Wesleyan Theology
Cottrell, J. What the Bible Says About God the Redeemer
Oden, T. The Living God

I think Millard Erikson's Christian Theology or Lewis and Demarset's Integrative Theology may also be pertinent. Grudem lists them as Baptists ST's and they may come from a less thorough-going Calvinistic perspective than Grudem. Still, I love Grudem and highly recommend it.

chris van allsburg said...

Arminian Systematic Theology: Thomas C. Oden.

Anonymous said...

This is an apologetics website, so why would Brian include any texts on Systematic Theology?

I'm surprised that Kreeft's Handbook of Christian Apologetics didn't make the list.

Sam Dallas said...

He's not a Molinist but he's definitely not a true Calvinist (although he would deny being an Arminian) - Geisler's 4-volume Systematic Theology text is a good alternative to Grudem. I've read Grudem's text in full and his Calvinism was driving me nuts and tainting several of the chapters.

Brian said...

Ah! How could I have forgotten Kreeft and Tacelli's Handbook of Christian Apologetics?! It certainly should have been number 10 instead of Philosophical Foundations. Sorry I missed that one -- it's actually a different size than the others and happens to be on another shelf.

Anonymous said...

Anybody have any thoughts or know anything about "Christian Theology" by H. Orton Wiley? It is a free Kindle download in three volumes.

Randy Everist said...

@hazmat-- Geisler is a creationist, so I am confused here. Perhaps you mean young earth creationists. Are there any general apologetics/philosophical books by young earth creationists? I've found that YEC books tend to be about science, biblical interpretation and evolution. Valuable and interesting, to be sure, but not general apologetics work.

@LittleGoose, with respect to Molinist systematic theology, check out Kirk MacGregor. He is a Baptist who has written a systematic theology from a Molinist-Anabaptist perspective, and he surely qualifies as orthodox.

Unknown said...

I have The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics by Ed Hidson and Ergun Caner. Although I think that Baker Encyclopedia is better, it has been an excellent resource.

LittleGoose said...

I'm grateful that my words were not taken offensively. Unfortunately it can be tricky trying to be doctrinal and not offensive. I'm going to try to explain my comment in the same friendly manner.

I didn't mean to communicate that evangelicals are mostly Calvinists. My train of thought was that the terms "orthodox", "evangelical", and "molinistic" are strangely used together. For instance, "orthodox" means - traditional or most common belief over a long period of time. I imagine that my apologetics hero William Lane Craig would say that he holds to the "unorthodox" view of molinism. Secondly, evangelical is a subset in "protestantism" which is itself set against the Roman Catholic Church. Molinism historically has it's tradition in the Roman Catholic Church. This is not to say that therefore the view is incorrect, it is simply to say that it is not "evangelical". Many evangelicals believe in "Federal Vision", but "Federal Vision" is not an evangelical view. Lastly I want to reaffirm that this just seemed to be a strange use of terms. Molinism may or may not be correct, but an orthodox, evangelical, molinistic perspective seems odd to me if not non-existent. I'm closing my eyes as I type this because I'm afraid that someone will be upset at me lol.

Open to correction of course.

Quintessential said...

I haven't found The Apologetics Study Bible to be very helpful. You can find much better articles online. I'm not saying that the articles are not good, they are sort of like soundbites to wet the appetite.

The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, on the other hand, is an essential for both students and front line apologists.

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