The number of books on Christian apologetics seems to multiply monthly, and since I teach on apologetics at Covenant Seminary I am often asked for recommendations on authors and volumes that might help orient readers new to the field. While there is really no “one size fits all” list that I can offer, the following short list has proven helpful to some. The list focuses on what can fairly be described as introductions to various aspects of the apologetic enterprise, and these ten volumes have been chosen for their general accessibility, coverage, and tone. I will be glad if this “top ten” moves readers toward understanding what the discipline of apologetics entails, as well as toward practicing a winsome yet effective apologetic.
William Edgar, Reasons of the Heart: Recovering Christian Persuasion (P&R, 2003) — Edgar is a long-time professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, Pennsylvania, but no ivory-tower theorist. He 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.” I could not agree more, and this is an excellent introduction to apologetics.
Dick Keyes, Chameleon Christianity: Moving Beyond Safety and Conformity (Baker & IVP 1999; repr. Wipf & Stock, 2003; Destinee, 2014) — For some of readers, Dick Keyes may be the greatest apologist they’ve never heard of. For others, Keyes is that long-time L’Abri worker whose calling and context has meant practicing the “defense of the faith” every day. This volume is simultaneously a call to participate in 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.
Francis A. Schaeffer, The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy: The Three Essential Books in One Volume (Crossway, 1990) — With both of the authors just mentioned so heavily influenced by Francis Schaeffer, and with Schaeffer playing a significant role in the renaissance of evangelical Christian apologetics, it would be remiss of me not to highlight this signature contribution, which includes The God Who is There, Escape From Reason, and He is There and He is Not Silent. Although not as easy to read as Edgar and Keyes, this volume will nonetheless handsomely reward a charitable reading. Although addressed to a prior generation, the scope of Schaeffer’s interests and his winsome tone remain remarkable and urgently needed.
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (originally published 1952; repr. HarperOne, 2015; and various other editions) — For English speaking audiences, Lewis is very likely the first apologist we are able to name. After his conversion, and then over the course of his life, Lewis published a variety of works, scholarly and popular. In terms of apologetics, this particular volume has proven a perennial favorite. In its first instance (as radio talks and as pamphlets serially released during the dark days of World War II) and through the 70+ years this volume has remained in print, it has been the book to which those seeking a non-sectarian and persuasive explanation of Christianity’s core tenets have turned more than any other.
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Dutton, 2008) — If there is a contemporary heir to Lewis’s Mere Christianity, then this volume might just be that claimant. Authored by well-known New York pastor and preacher Tim Keller, the book adroitly articulates biblically informed answers to common questions asked by skeptics and others. Here, 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 beyond his own tribe, in the language of the culture, and to bring to the surface the questions under the question.
James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics (IVP, 2011) — In terms of accessible introductions to apologetics, this compact volume has become one of my preferred titles. 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 actually doing apologetics well. For a well-rounded introduction to apologetics, read Edgar and then follow up with Beilby.
John G. Stackhouse Jr., Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today (Oxford, 2002) — This volume by a Canadian scholar and writer is another introduction that deserves time and attention. Perhaps more “intermediate” than “beginner,” this volume nonetheless 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 from which to benefit in this reconfiguring of apologetics away from trumpery and naïve certainty, and toward greater plausibility and respect.
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. Born of 40+ years of firsthand apologetic engagement, this is an impressive summation of the authors practical wisdom and an important work of remediation.
Joshua Chatraw and Mark Allen, Apologetics at the Cross: An Introduction for Christian Witness (Zondervan Academic, 2018) — This relatively new publication is increasingly acknowledged as one of the very best introductions to apologetics. Modelling an informed commitment to an integrated apologetic approach, awareness of the contemporary context, and a steady concern for tonality, Chatraw and Allen have authored an exemplary text that I cannot imagine anyone reading yet failing to profit from. This is currently the best single volume for introducing students (senior high school/college level) to apologetics.
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. Indeed, there is hardly a situation into which Barrs has not been asked to speak or a question he has not been asked to address. 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 Barrs lays down for our consideration and the principles of communication he promotes are properly basic to any defense of the faith we are likely to go about offering.