Engineers love having good reference books handy, and I’m no exception. Pages tabbed, formulas highlighted, important caveats and conditions underlined – tools ready to solve the problems of the day. My Christian reference library is no different. A good steel design book may help me design a building, but it won’t help me design a life.
If your curiosity has been piqued by some of my footnote references over the years, you might be curious what’s on my bookshelf. Below is a list of books that I have read and found useful for different reasons, and that are grouped together into general categories. Some may be surprising, but I try to give a brief explanation of why I thought their presence on the bookcase was warranted. I’ll add to this list as I find more good references. If you want more detailed reviews, you can follow my reviews on goodreads. One word of advice regarding purchases on the Kindle: ease of navigation makes or breaks an electronic book version. Things like active table of contents and inline footnotes are well worth the added cost.
“Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels” by J. Warner Wallace, 2013.
Jim brings investigative skills and a great legal perspective to the subject at hand, addressing issues like what constitutes reasonable evidence and burden of proof, what “enough” evidence is, how you investigate an occurrence long after the fact, and if it’s reasonable to believe that the apostles were eyewitnesses and that their testimony hasn’t been corrupted over the last 1,900 years. Extensive endnotes, list of additional reading material, and additional authors/resources.
“God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe”, by J. Warner Wallace, 2015.
Jim brings his unique perspective back in his 2nd book, this time looking at the universe as a crime scene. Can naturalism explain the universe from “inside the room” or is there a suspect “outside the room” who’s responsible for everything we see? An original premise, gripping lead-in stories from his cold-case archives to illustrate each chapter’s theme, and extensive notes, quotes, and resource lists for additional research (for nerds like me) make it another excellent “tool for your callout bag”, as Jim would say.
“I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist”, by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler, 2004.
Excellent general resource for comparing different worldviews and their consequences. Starts with the basic question of “What is truth?” and builds from there. Very evidential, with few assumptions made.
“Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case”, by Frank Turek, 2014.
A good condensed, concentrated version of “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist”with some new material.
“Godforsaken: Bad Things Happen. Is There a God Who Cares? Yes. Here’s Proof.”, by Dinesh D’Souza, 2012.
It’s not often a subtitle could be its own multi-sentence paragraph, but the rest of the book is still a good response to the objection to God called the problem of evil.
“The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ”, by Lee Strobel, 2009.
Lee’s great for giving a good intro to a whole bunch of other resources. Not sure where to start? Read any of his books, and you’ll find lots of interviews and quotes from a wide variety of authors and experts that will direct your further research.
“Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God”, by Paul Copan, 2011.
I can’t quite agree with everything in there, but I think Paul makes one of the better efforts at defending the possible rationale for God’s actions as recorded in the Old Testament.
“Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics”, by Norman Geisler, 2000.
I grew up enjoying just thumbing through encyclopedias learning new things about whatever caught my eye. For me, a book like this is dangerously time-consuming.
“The Big Book of Bible Difficulties”, by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, 1992.
It may not address every question I’ve had about confusing Bible verses, but it does hit on a lot of them. Some explanations can be a little flippant, but it’s definitely a good place to start researching answers.
“Hard Questions, Real Answers”, by William Lane Craig, 2003.
WLC takes 8 subjects (doubt, unanswered prayer, failure, suffering & evil, abortion, homosexuality, and the exclusivity of Christ), and devotes about 10-40 pages on each. In a world of sound bites, some questions just don’t have 30 second answers. These are good, honest looks at each issue. His addressing of the subject of failure has been unique among all the books I have so far.
“Tactics”, by Greg Koukl, 2009.
Well-grounded reasons for your beliefs are good for you, but they won’t help others much if you can’t articulate your solid arguments and help others see the flaws in their views in a constructive way. Tactics focuses on how to be a good ambassador for Christ, but it also makes for a good self-diagnostic to check the consistency of your own reasons. Much of the “tactics” could be described simply as “applied logic”.
“Reasonable Faith”, by William Lane Craig, 1984.
WLC is amazing in his ability to run the gamut of debate. He takes on everything from current scientific theories of the origins of the universe to philosophical debates on the nature of time to historical arguments for and against the deity of Jesus. I would say he is probably the C.S. Lewis of this generation, and this is his most famous work as he thoroughly shows the reasonableness of Christianity.
“Christian Apologetics”, by Doug Groothuis, 2011.
Weighing in at 752 pages, Groothuis covers a lot of ground and makes for a good general-purpose apologetics reference. Particular areas I’ve found useful were his coverage of Pascal’s “anthropological argument” and an appendix entry on the topic of Hell.
On Guard, by William Lane Craig, 2010.
This could really go under Apologetics/Casemaking above because of Craig’s superb rock-solid cases for Theism and Christianity, in particular, but I’m listing him here for a couple of reasons. First, WLC is a philosopher, so his defenses often do have a more philosophical flavor to them. Second, he is mercilessly well-reasoned in his debates. Read his books and watch his debates to see logic applied expertly.
“Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking”, by Dennis Q. McInerny, 2005.
I can’t emphasize enough the need for a good comprehension of logic. This is a good quick intro to logical reasoning and recognizing and avoiding logical fallacies.
“Socratic Logic”, by Peter Kreeft, 2010.
For when you want to beat Spock in a debate, get Kreeft. This is an actual textbook on classical logic, but worth going “back to school” to get these skills under your belt.
“The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion”, by Peter Kreeft, 1983.
“What happens when a doctor, a philosopher, and a psychologist…” sounds like the start of a joke, but in this case it’s an imaginative telling of what might happen when those 3 meet the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates and debate the subject of abortion. In this series of 3 dialogues, Socrates strips off the emotional rhetoric from this charged issue and shows the logical simplicity of the real debate. It’s what I would call witty logic and truthful humor.
“Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview”, by J.P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, 2003.
A bit of an intimidating tome at 650 pages, but a good reference.
“The Ontological Argument: from St. Anselm to Contemporary Philosophers”, edited by Alvin Plantinga, 1965, and “God, Freedon, and Evil”, by Alvin Plantinga, 1974.
I’m grouping these two together because the 2nd is really a sequel to the 1st. I read these while preparing for a 2017 presentation on what I call the “most hated argument for God’s existence”. In 1965, Plantinga edited a compilation of essays for and against the ontological argument for the existence of God, with his essay closing out the book and advocating that the argument fails. But the 2nd book represents an about face for him on further reflection. His reformulation of the argument in terms of possible worlds is challenging and insightful, and a serious contribution to the discussion.
Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensées Edited, Outlined & Explained”, by Peter Kreeft, 1993.
Kreeft does a wonderful job of making Pascal’s unfinished scraps for an apologetics magnum opus accessible for modern readers. Pascal essentially left a pile of quilting squares behind when he died, and Kreeft stitches them together into a coherent quilt. His added comments on the significance of each item are very astute and useful in their own right. This is one volume I keep coming back to time and again.
“Without Excuse”, by Dr. Werner Gitt, 2011.
A rather intriguing look at developing a robust theory of information, it also examines how the origin of information and its immaterial nature affect materialistic worldviews.
“Signature in the Cell: DNA & the Evidence for Intelligent Design”, by Dr. Stephen Myer, 2009.
Technical content, but still easily readable historical review of origin-of-life theories over the years and a summary of the amazing complexity found in every cell in our bodies.
“Intelligent Design Uncensored”: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to the Controversy”, by William Dembski and Jonathan Witt, 2010.
As the name implies, it’s a fun, basic primer on ID, and a short read, but still good for anyone wanting an intro from one of its main proponents.
“Know the Creeds And Councils”, by Justin S. Holcomb, 2014.
Great little book for Christians wanting to learn the history of the doctrine the church embraces. Objective, with study questions at the end of each chapter. Lots of endnotes for digging deeper.
“Know the Heretics”, by Justin S. Holcomb, 2014.
Part of the “Know” series, this covers some of the same ground as “Creeds & Councils”, since the various church councils were often convened to formulate creeds in order to put down “for the record” what we believe as Christians, specifically because of false teaching that had arisen. This book looks at those false teachers, what made their teaching contrary to Scripture (hence, heretical), what the orthodox response was, and what relevance it has for us hundreds of years later. You might be surprised how new ideas are often the same garbage in shiny new packaging….
“Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization”, by Alvin J Schmidt, 2001.
A great compilation of all the many ways Christianity has benefited humankind, and a good response to those who have fallen for the rant that “religion poisons everything”.
“The Fate of the Apostles”, by Sean McDowell, 2015.
One of the pricier references I’ve purchased, but so far a good scholarly treatment of what we know of how each of the apostles died, and what level of confidence we can have in those traditions.
Systematic theologies will all import some bias from the author as they do their best to interpret God’s Word in a neutral way while grouping Biblical concepts into what they perceive as orderly and instructive systems. This format is good for taking a wide range of scriptural support and giving a “big picture” view of that topic across the Bible. You’ll never find one that you agree with completely unless you write your own, so just plan on getting several and giving each a fair shot. Exposure to several different perspectives on some concepts is good, even if you still don’t agree that interpretation is best afterward.
“Systematic Theology in One Volume”, by Norman Geisler, 2011.
“Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine”, by Wayne Grudem, 2000.
This has been my favorite so far. I’ve found Grudem to be very balanced in his treatment of different topics. I like that he ends each chapter with a related hymn, for the study of God should inevitably lead to worship. He also gives cross-references to where that chapter’s topic is addressed by other systematic theologians in different Protestant and even Catholic traditions.
“Systematic Theology”, by Charles Hodge, 1871.
Pretty much anything by Charles Spurgeon.
He wasn’t called the Prince of Preachers for nothing.
“Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin”, by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., 1995.
This was a very insightful look at sin, in all its sneaky deception, its complete corruption, its all-consuming appetite, its final destructiveness. A sobering look at the plainly obvious effects of sin around us, Plantinga then holds the mirror up for the reader to see the same dark places in our own hearts. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we’re all sinners.
The Bible, by God, conceived in eternity past, written in human language more recently.
Theology is the “Study of God”, so what better source than His own revelation? NASB and ESV are probably my favorite modern translations.
“The Case for Life”, by Scott Klusendorf, 2009.
Scott makes an excellent case for why abortion should be opposed. I would say that this should be required reading for all Christians, but really, his main premise isn’t based on Christianity (although it certainly agrees with Christian teaching) – it’s based on science. So maybe I should say required reading for everyone? As Scott says, the entire issue comes down to answering the single question “What is the unborn?” Then he lays out the solid case for why the unborn are distinct human persons, and shows the flaws in all attempts to argue the contrary.
Biographies and testimonies take theoretical knowledge and make it personal and show its application in “real life”.
“Not God’s Type: A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith”, by Holly Ordway, 2010.
Ordway does a great job telling how and why she chose to follow Christ, and what role her fencing instructor had in that journey.
Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It”, by Jennifer Fulwiller, 2014.
Another fascinating (and very humorous) story of how God pursues us lovingly yet persistently.
“Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith”, by Peter Hitchens, 2010.
A very poignant story of how Peter Hitchens, brother of famous atheist Christopher Hitchens, left atheism after serving as a journalist in Russia and seeing the result of atheism on a national scale. Loving those with opposing views really hits close to home when it’s your own brother.
“The God Delusion”, by Richard Dawkins, 2006.
Yes, I’m currently suffering through Dawkins. It’s good to know what the opposition is saying, and to get it straight from them rather than secondhand. It’s also reassuring to find out for oneself that these “giants” have feet of clay.
“Letter to a Christian Nation”, by Sam Harris, 2008.
A quick read with little to offer other than confirmation that many atheists don’t reject God intellectually – they flat-out hate Him and anyone that follows Him. Probably the least intellectual (professionally published) writing from an atheist that I’ve read.
“Basic Greek in 30 Minutes a Day”, by James Found, 1983.
I never thought I would even try learning Greek, but this really does provide a surprisingly good intro to that rather daunting task, and yields results very quickly. So much of English uses Greek roots that you will be far more knowledgeable in English from having learned some Greek. This is a very introductory text focusing on primarily Biblical Greek.
“Implications Abound: A Collection of Curiously Christian Comics”, by Adam Ford, 2015.
Why am I putting a book collection of web comics on here? Don’t let the format throw you; Ford does a really good job of explaining Christian concepts with a compassion and grace, while still holding firm to the truth, that I can’t help but admire. He also manages to sneak some surprisingly deep theology into current issue debates. Hat tip to you, my brother! (www.adam4d.com)
“Thy Kingdom Comics: Curiously Christian Drawings & Writings About Jesus, Tolerance, Abortion, Atheism, Homosexuality, Theology, & Lots of Other Stuff”, by Adam Ford, 2015.
Adam Ford shines again in this 2nd volume of comics as he fearlessly takes on some of the most controversial issues out there with winsome and graceful truth. Probably the wordiest comics in existence, but some of the best explanations of Christianity in a remarkably accessible format. And isn’t that what apologetics is all about?