C.S. Lewis: A Life, by Alister McGrath – Book Review

9781414339351_p0_v2_s260x420For as long as I can remember I the world of Narnia has captivated me. I have read the story of the Pevensie children and those that came after them literally hundreds of times throughout my childhood and into my adult years. I was the girl who consistently checked the back of her closet (I didn’t have a wardrobe) with the hope that I would meet Aslan or enjoy afternoon tea with Mr. Tumnus. I would offer up a brief prayer to God, reasoning that if he could do anything he could send me to Narnia, and then plunge behind my clothes. Sadly, I never got through, but I never gave up trying either.

As I grew older I discovered that the author of the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis, wrote many other books, both fiction and non-fiction. Lewis was already my friend through Narnia, and I grew to appreciate him on a deeper level as I read his other works, such as: Mere Christianity, The Space Trilogy, An Experiment in Criticism (less popular, but one of my favorites), God in the Dock, and Miracles. Lewis quickly became my literary hero. He communicated in ways that resonated with my intellect and my imagination.

It came as no surprise that when Alister McGrath – one of my apologetic heroes – chose to write a biography on C.S. Lewis entitled C.S. Lewis: A Life, I waited eagerly for its publication and then for my copy to come in the mail (thanks Amazon). Having studied under McGrath in Oxford – Lewis’s long-term and my short-term home – made my excitement all the more palpable. Into my hands in Wisconsin came a book about one of my favorite people, written by one of my favorite people, located predominantly in my favorite city. Continue reading

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How Should I Respond to Religious Pluralism?

religious pluralismReligious Pluralism has become common in our daily lives. Not only do we live in a religiously diverse nation, one that claims to uphold each individual’s right of choose their faith, we also live in a culture that has adopted the belief that all religions are fundamentally the same.  I’m daily confronted with the reality that many people believe all religions are true, teach the same thing, and lead to the same place.

Yet any serious student of religions will quickly be able to see that religious pluralism as a belief system is contradictory and cannot sustain itself. Religions that make contrary truth claims on everything from the nature of God, the material world, morality, humanity, and eternity cannot be fundamentally the same; it’s impossible. Also, to claim that all religions are equal in their beliefs is to misunderstand and misrepresent the rich variety of religious observance.

Still, the belief that “all roads lead to Rome” is prevalent and for the Christian poses a unique challenge. How do we communicate what we believe, and why we believe it, in a way that remains true to the message of the Bible and at the same time respects the diverse worldviews that surround us? As I have thought through this question, I believe there are four principles that can help Christians explain their faith graciously in a culture that promotes the worldview of Religious Pluralism. These principles form the acronym DARE Continue reading

“Churches for Apologetics” Petition

Recently I wrote a blog post on the rise of the Nones, those who claim no religious affiliation, in American society. The number of youth and young adults who question the truth of Christianity is growing. Interestingly, as more young adults under the age of 30 claim no religious affiliation, their hunger for a life of meaning and significance has not diminished. What do they stand for? Many don’t know, and some are apathetic, not caring to find the answer. But for every person who is apathetic about what they believe and why, there are just as many who are searching for the answers to life’s hardest questions.

As a Christian, this leads me to ask fundamental questions. What do I do with this information? How should I respond personally, and how should local churches respond? How do we provide a questioning generation with the answers they need? How do we demonstrate that the good news of Jesus Christ answers our deepest emotional, intellectual, and practical needs,  giving our soul something to stand for? Continue reading

Kids without God: Atheist Website for Children

The American Humanist Association has launched a new website for children and teens called “Kids without God,” which is getting a large amount of attention in both theistic and atheistic circles. Being a Theist myself, I was curious to see what this website was like. The children’s section is full of bright primary colors, an upbeat message that kids can be good without God, videos of the great “scientist” Bill Nye (the Science Guy), and fun science experiments kids can do at home.

For a Christian apologist, the website is like a candy store. There are so many fallacies, inconsistencies, and holes that could be poked through it that it’s hard to know where to start or stop. Others have taken time to point out some of these fallacies, which I will link to at the end of this post. For now, there are three general observations I’d like to make. Continue reading

Recommended Reading: Mere Apologetics by Alister McGrath

There are many books worth reading on apologetics. It is often overwhelming and often hard to know where to start.  Having recently finished Alister McGrath’s[1] latest book, Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith, I would suggest that this book is a good place to begin.

Apologetics 101

Have you ever wondered, “What is apologetics and what does it have to do with me?” Have you struggled with how to answer the hard questions surrounding your Christian faith? Or are you skeptical of Christianity, asking the hard questions yourself? In Mere Apologetics, McGrath sets out to begin answering these questions. Structured as an introduction to Christian apologetics, the book rests on the Great Commission’s call to “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19-20). McGrath recognizes that with Jesus’ command come many questions and challenges.

How can Christians explain their faith in terms that make sense to people outside the church? How can we counter misunderstandings or misrepresentations of the Christian faith? How can we communicate the truth, attractiveness, and joy of the Christian gospel to our culture?[2]

These are the issues McGrath addresses, showing the vital role apologetics play in sharing the reasons for the hope Christians have in Jesus Christ.

Outline of the Book

McGrath’s book flows in logical sequence, making it easy to follow and understand. Chapter one looks at the question, “What is apologetics?” providing a working definition of apologetics, its themes, limitations, and relationship to evangelism. Chapter 2 moves to the history of apologetics in contemporary culture, specifically related to Modernity and Postmodernity. In chapter 3 McGrath discusses the theological basis of apologetics, giving a biblical understanding of God, humanity, and the art of communication. With this foundation laid, Chapter 4 shows why it is important to know your audience, avoiding a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all apologetic mindset.  In chapters 5 and 6 McGrath looks at the reasonableness of the Christian faith and shares various “clues” that point to faith and invite apologetic engagement (including Creation, Morality, Beauty, and Relationality). Chapter 7 looks at how these clues help present the gospel in a many ways; including explanation, argument, stories, and images. Finally, chapter 8 looks at two major questions about faith (Why does God allow suffering, God as a crutch), and chapter 9 concludes with words of wisdom on developing a personal apologetic style.

Why Read Mere Apologetics

The power of this book is that it keeps the joy and privilege of introducing people to Jesus Christ as its heart and soul. Apologetics is more than simply defending Christianity against objections. It communicates “the excitement and wonder of the Christian faith” and translates “the core ideas of the Christian faith into language that makes sense” to those outside the faith.[3] McGrath strongly emphasizes the relational and imaginative side of apologetics, which is refreshing in a world that largely sees this discipline as coldly academic and boring. McGrath shows that the opposite is true. Apologetics breaths life and color into the already breathtaking beauty of the Christian gospel.

Apologetics is not about inventing the rationality, imaginative power, or moral depths of the Christian faith. It is about pointing them out, and allowing people to see them clearly and appreciate them for what they are.[4]

Whether you are a Christian, seeker, or skeptic, this book will help you to see the rationality and beauty of the Christian gospel. There are reasons to hope and believe.


[1] McGrath is president of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, and professor of theology, ministry, and education at King’s College, London. A former atheist, he is now widely known for his written work, including responses to the New Atheism, as well as debating New Atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. His respect in the academic world is significant in light of his deep commitment to Jesus Christ and bold, yet respectful, defense of the Christian message.

[2] Mere Apologetics, p. 14

[3] Ibid, p. 21

[4] Ibid, p. 47

Four Letter Words: Hope

“It is well we should become aware of what we are doing when we speak, of the ancient, fragile, and (well used) immensely potent instruments that words are.”[1]

So says C.S. Lewis in his less known, yet brilliant, work Studies in Words. This statement has captured my attention and imagination these past days.  I have this mental image of people spitting out words like bullets with no particular care about what they are saying or who they hit. Words, whether spoken or written, have the potential to wound like bullets or refresh like water on the parched soil of our souls.

This concept of words bringing a curse or a blessing has led me to contemplate the power of four letter words. But I’m not thinking of the four letter curse words that are most likely popping into your head at the moment. I’m not referring to the ones that are so flippantly spoken in everyday life, being the dominant vocabulary of movies, television, and music. I’m thinking of other four letter words which also have immense power to harm or heal. I’m thinking of words like hope, love, wait, and faith (I know that’s a 5 letter word, but it applies to this thought). These have become four letter words to me because while they are words meant to offer blessing, when used flippantly or at the wrong time they can feel like a curse. For example, for anyone who longs for marriage or parenthood, the often made comment of “Just wait on God’s timing,” while true, often rings hollow and does little to encourage in the midst of the wounds of longing. Or for the person going through deep suffering, to tell them to “not give up hope” or “You need more faith” may as well be like telling them to fly to the moon. It’s impossible.

This past week I’ve been immersed in conversations surrounding the four letter word Hope. We use it so haphazardly. We hope we make our flight on time. We hope traffic is light. We hope our favorite sports team beats their rival. And in the same breath we hope our loved one survives cancer. We hope we don’t lose our job in a struggling economy, or that we find a job. We hope our children grow up with strong character. We hope tomorrow is better than today. We hope we’re not wasting our life. We hope that whatever we are placing our faith in doesn’t fail us in the end.

So often we use the word hope and we mean nothing more than wishful thinking. It’s a word we use to communicate uncertainty and wish about the future. And when our hope shatters, we have no idea what to do or where to turn.

Into this concept of hope as wishful thinking, the Christian understanding of hope invades our hopelessness, shining brightly in what is often a very dark world. The Christian understanding of hope begins with an acknowledgement that the world is not the safe and good place we long for (which I think we can all agree on).  It does not ignore our pain. It confronts our pain at its very foundation of our own brokenness and inability to right what is wrong in our world and in us. It assures us that we can, with confident expectancy, look forward to the day when right-ness will replace all that is wrong and every tear wiped from the eyes of those who have looked to Jesus to mend what only He can fix.

Andy Bannister of RZIM Canada recently made this point so well. The Christian hope finds its stability in God’s reality and character. He is the only ground for, basis of, and object of true hope. Because its hope based upon the Person of God and knowing Him, the reasons for hope are as far from wishful thinking as one can get. [2] The uniqueness of this hope is that its founded on something outside of us and our world. All other worldviews look either within or without in the search for a better tomorrow. Only Christianity looks upward, acknowledging that there is nothing within us or in our world that can fix the darkness we live in.

As the Apostle Paul said, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Yet the message of Christian hope doesn’t end here, because “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Because of Christ, this four letter word of hope speaks a blessing and not a curse. We may use it carelessly, but the message of confident expectancy it communicates is anything but flippant.

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[1] C.S. Lewis, Studies in Words, Cambridge University Press, 1961,  p. 6.

[2] Notes from Andy Bannister’s talk, “Hope and Thinking,” at the RZIM Summer Institute, June 13, 2012. http://stayintheconversation.org/rzimcanada/

Is Christianity Arrogant?

Recently I was at a barbecue where I talked with a woman who had many questions about Christianity. Like many of us, there were things she did not understand or agree with. As we were talking, the topic of Christianity’s arrogance came up. How can Christians claim that their religion is the only true one? This seems like the height of presumption considering the many religions in existence. Who is the Christian to say that he or she is right and everyone else is wrong? As a follower of Jesus, this really got me thinking. I’m used to looking at and discussing if Christianity is reliable and worthy of acceptance, but I don’t often ask myself if Christianity is arrogant.

Do I believe Christianity is arrogant? The short answer is no. But to explain why I say this, we need to look at four distinctions.

Distinction #1: Arrogance vs. Conviction

I live in a culture that acknowledges the individual’s right to decide which religion they will follow, if any. We strongly oppose anyone imposing their religious beliefs upon us and telling us what to believe or not believe. Because of this, I think we’ve often mistaken conviction for arrogance. The Merriman-Webster Dictionary defines Arrogance as:

“An attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.”

While there are sadly many Christians who act this way when they communicate what they believe, the Christian faith is not based upon presumptuous claims or assumptions. Rather, it’s based upon the conviction that Christianity is true. What do I mean by conviction? Again, Merriman-Webster’s definition is helpful:

“A strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced.”

The heart of conviction is not arrogance but humility. When you’re persuaded that someone or something has the right answers, you want to live and act in a way that is consistent with your belief. For example, growing up we had a wood stove in our house. My parents warned me many times during the winter months that if I touched the stove while it was in use I would burn myself. They were not making a presumptuous claim by telling me this. Rather, they were communicating their strong belief for my protection, a belief I quickly became convinced of when I disregarded their message and burnt my hand. In a similar way, Christianity rests upon the strong belief that the message of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Bible is true. It is this conviction about the Christian message, not arrogance, which motivates the Christian’s beliefs.

Distinction #2: The Messenger vs. the Message

While Christianity rests upon conviction and not arrogance, it is sadly true that Christians can, and many do, communicate their message in an arrogant way. This is where it is important to distinguish between the messenger and the message.   Just because I communicate something in an arrogant way does not mean I am wrong. Similarly, communicating in a humble way does not make me right. We need to carefully check the message’s reliability for itself. Is the message of Christianity consistent in what it affirms rationally, emotionally, and existentially? It’s also helpful to see that the Bible itself commands that the message of Christ be communicated with humility. Arrogance is not an option. 1 Peter 3:15 says,

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (emphasis mine)

Here we see conviction wed to gentleness and respect. Not even a hint of arrogance should surface.

Distinction #3: Truth Claim vs. Opinion

At this point you might be thinking, “OK, I get that someone can come across in a way that is contrary to what they’re trying to communicate. But I still think the message of Christianity is arrogant when it says it’s the only true religion.” To this response I think it’s important to distinguish between a truth claim and an opinion. If Christianity and the other world religions are merely a matter of personal preference and opinion, than yes, Christianity’s claim to exclusivity is arrogant. BUT, if the message of Christianity is true then it is not arrogant, because something that is true cannot be presumptuous. If Christianity is true its claims are no more arrogant than saying that 2+2=4.

Distinction #4: Truth Claim vs. Truth Claim

This brings me to my last distinction in evaluating this question of Christianity’s demeanor, that of truth claims vs. truth claims. Christianity is not the only religion that makes exclusive claims. In fact, every major religion claims exclusivity. For example, Christianity believes Jesus is both fully God and Human, while Islam believes Jesus was a prophet but not God. Judaism believes the promised Messiah has not yet come, while Christianity believes the promised Messiah has come. Atheism believes there is no God – Christianity believes there is a God. Many more examples could be given to show that all belief systems are exclusive. They cannot all be correct. Even the belief that there is no one true religion is a truth claim that is exclusive.  To say there are many ways is to deny that there is only one way, which is exclusive. So on this basis; if Christianity is arrogant, it is not alone in its presumptuous claims. All belief systems make statements that they believe are true, containing beliefs that are exclusive.

Bringing it All Together

After looking at these four distinctions, I believe Christianity itself is not arrogant. Rather, it is the belief that the message of Jesus Christ as told in the Bible is reliable and worthy of acknowledgment and trust. Though this belief has often been communicated in an arrogant way, it in and of itself is not arrogant. Like every religion, it rests upon truth claims that need evaluation. One then has the choice to either accept or reject the message.


Is Faith a Crutch? You Better Believe It!

My four-year-old niece has a little stuffed panda named Pammy. Pammy is her “best friend” and the two of them do everything together. Even though this little bear is falling apart and almost as old as I am (she was mine as a little girl), she is my niece’s favorite toy. When she is sad, Pammy is there. When she’s afraid, she hugs Pammy for comfort. She shares her laughter, jokes, and kisses with this little stuffed animal. The joy and comfort she has received are legitimate. Yet in reality, my niece’s faith in Pammy’s ability to comfort her is a misplaced faith. Pammy is a toy that cannot offer her any real help.

For many, faith in God is similar to my niece’s relationship with Pammy the Panda. You may gain perceived comfort from it, but it’s a fictional comfort divorced from reality. Just as Pammy can’t really protect my niece from her fears, God can’t protect us, help us, or guide us because He’s not real. He may make us feel better, but in reality nothing changes because He’s just a psychological toy. He’s a crutch people use when they don’t understand what’s going on around them and don’t know how to cope with life.

If you had come up to me a year ago and told me my Christian faith in God was a crutch, the apologetic wheels in my head would have begun turning and I would have started sharing with you all the reasons why my faith has legitimate grounds. I would have delved into the evidence for God’s existence and tried to show you that my faith in Him is not wishful thinking. I might have looked at Freud’s understanding of faith as wish-fulfillment and compared it with how C.S. Lewis would respond. Maybe I would have taken you to passages in the Bible that talk about faith’s foundation being built on evidence for God’s existence and loving character. I definitely would have sent you to articles by apologists smarter than I am who have answered this question so well.[1]

But that was a year ago. A lot can happen in a year, and in my case a lot has. In a year I’ve gone through a period of depression, which in all honesty, I’m not sure has fully gone away. I’ve experienced the discouragement of unemployment in a struggling economy. I watched one of my closest friends lose the fight against cancer. I’ve worked through the pain of broken relationships and the loss of trust.  I’ve watched my family suffer and experience injustice that leaves me at a loss for words (which is saying a lot because I’m a very wordy person). When I’ve thought I can’t handle another wave of suffering without shattering into a million pieces, another wave has come crashing down. I’ve questioned my worth, purpose, and God’s goodness. I’ve gotten angry at Him, and agonized over how a good God can allow the personal suffering and injustice I’m experiencing. This past year I’ve had to wrestle through my faith in God where the rubber meets the road.  My faith’s been tested as I’ve had to wrestle through what, or who, I base my faith upon.

So what about today? If you came to me today and told me my faith is a crutch, how would I respond? Well, I still hold to and believe everything I would’ve said a year ago. I still believe my faith rests upon reliable evidence and not wishful thinking. But my response would be quite different.

Is my faith a crutch? You better believe it! In fact, it’s more than that. It’s my life support.  It’s what keeps my heart beating and my lungs breathing. My faith is an acknowledgement that I am utterly broken and weak. I can’t do this thing called life in my strength. My faith is kind of like that mustard seed Jesus talked about. It’s small and has no strength. But my God is strong! I desperately need Him and I have no one else to cling to but Him. And maybe that’s not a bad thing. Clinging to Him and not the brokenness of this world and my life is a safe place to rest.

My soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”[2]

 

Unlike my niece who finds fictional comfort and friendship in Pammy the Panda, my comfort comes from choosing to trust that God’s steadfast love and faithfulness in the midst of life’s sorrows is real.  I gladly acknowledge that He is my crutch.


[1] I still recommend you read these articles: “Your relationship with God is just a Psychological Crutch,” http://www.rzim.eu/your-relationship-with-god-is-just-a-psychological-crutch  and “Is Christianity just a Crutch?” http://www.rzim.eu/is-christianity-just-a-crutch

How Does Apologetics Explain Matthew 10:19-20?

Yesterday I read a blog on the relationship between spiritual warfare and apologetics. These aren’t two areas we typically connect in our daily lives. I can hear someone asking skeptically, “What on earth does apologetics have to do with the spiritual warfare I’m facing?” If you’re wondering about the connection I suggest you read the blog by clicking here.

After posting the link to the blog on Twitter, I received this question in response, “How does Apologetics explain Matthew 10:19 -20?” It’s a good question that gets to the heart of the matter, dealing with a question many Christians have about the relationship between apologetics and reliance upon God in communicating the Gospel. Matthew 10:19-20 records a statement Jesus made to his disciples. He said,

“When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

What does Jesus mean here? Is He telling his disciples that to rely upon the Spirit means not to use apologetics? I don’t think so, but to understand what Jesus is saying we need to look at the context in which He made this statement. I believe it’s seen that he is not banning apologetics, but referring to something else entirely.

A Look at the Context of Matthew 10*

Matthew 10 records a time when Jesus gave His twelve disciples authority to do the same kind of miracles He was doing, commanding them to go throughout Israel preaching the message that “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  He then told them of the inevitable persecution that would come because they were bearing witness to His name.  They would face trials, be flogged, and dragged before governors and kings because of the message they proclaimed in word and deed. This would fill even the bravest of men with apprehension. If the thought of public speaking makes you nervous, how would you feel if your life was at stake? So Jesus assures them,

“When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

What does Matthew 10:19-20 mean?

Into this context it’s important to notice what Jesus actually commands. The command is to not be anxious. The issue is one of confidence and trust. It was a reminder to the disciples of where their authority and power came from, and a call to rely upon the Spirit to communicate effectively. When the inevitable persecution came they were not to fear because they’d been sent by Jesus and His Spirit would speak through them. Jesus was not telling His disciples to enter hard situations unprepared and to avoid giving the reasons for the message they proclaimed.  It was not a call to shun using apologetics.  Rather, the opposite could be argued. Jesus commanded his disciples to display wisdom and bear testimony about Him. Even the miracles they would do would be an apologetic for the message they proclaimed.

Matthew 10:19-20 in the Context of the New Testament

The immediate context of Matthew 10 does not have Jesus dismissing apologetics; rather, He reminded His disciples where to rest their confidence when the anxiety and fear of persecution threatened to undo them. This is a command His disciples took to heart. In Acts we see them facing the persecution Jesus promised with confidence because of the strength they received from the Holy Spirit. When they stood before religious and political leaders they boldly gave an apologetic for their belief that Jesus was the Son of God (see Acts 2, 4, 7, 17, 22). In Philippians, the Apostle Paul links his imprisonment to apologetics (1:7, 16). And in 1 Peter, as believers faced persecution for their faith in Jesus, they were to always be ready to share the reasons for their hope (3:14-15).

An Apologetic for Apologetics

The right place for apologetics within the Christian’s life and witness is one that is worthy of our consideration. As we heed the call of 1 Peter, we need to remember that as Jesus said, the work of persuasion ultimately rests upon the work of His Spirit. For further reading on the biblical basis for apologetics, I highly recommend you read the article Regarding Apologetics, an Apology.

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*While I believe the context of Matthew 10 is clear, exegesis is not something to treat lightly and I approach it tentatively.

“Apolo-what?” Misunderstandings about Apologetics

I love meeting new people, hearing where they come from and what they do. I get excited to learn about their passions, and in turn share with them about who I am and what gets me excited in life. I’ve started to notice a trend though. Usually when I share my passion for Christian apologetics I get a blank or quizzical stare. What exactly is Christian apologetics? Why is it important and why should anyone care? As I’ve interacted with these questions, and the people who are asking them, I’ve experienced that many people have assumptions about apologetics that need clarification.

Four Misunderstandings about Apologetics

  1. Apologetics is saying “sorry” for being a Christian. It cannot be denied that great evil has occurred in the name of Christianity that Christians need to apologize for. Yet apologetics is not saying “I’m sorry” for believing in Jesus Christ or the Bible’s reliability.
  2. Apologetics is only about debating. Once when I explained to an individual my passion for apologetics I was immediately asked, “So you like to debate people?” He assumed that apologetics consisted of debating scientists or people of other faiths to prove that Christianity is right and they are wrong. While debates have their right and healthy place in apologetics, to equate the two unequivocally is to miss the apologetic mark.
  3. Apologetics is a waste of time. I have come across this opinion from both followers and non-followers of Jesus. The thought is that there are more important things to do with our time than to discuss if certain parts of the Bible are reliable, to discern if the major world religions are compatible or contradictory, or to contemplate the relationship between faith and reason. Yet the questions apologetics deal with regard life’s greatest issues of meaning, purpose, and future happiness or despair. These issues are hardly a waste of time and deserve serious thought.
  4. Apologetics is for “smart” people. This is perhaps the biggest misunderstanding I’ve come across. Many assume that apologetics is not for everyday life among ordinary people. It’s reserved for the universities, pastors, theologians, and philosophers whose job is to have deep conversations, write books, and act smart. This assumption forgets that your neighbor could be questioning the goodness of God, your child wondering where evil came from, and you’re questioning your value and purpose in the world. Far from being reserved for academic élite, apologetics is for everyone in every walk of life.

What is Apologetics?

Technically speaking, apologetics is giving a reasoned defense for a belief or an idea. When you tell your friend to avoid a certain restaurant, explaining that if they eat there they’ll get food poisoning, you’re giving a reasoned defense for your claim. Similarly, when a child attempts to reason with her parents why she wants to date a certain boy, she’s giving an apologetic for her belief. Christian apologetics is giving a defense based upon reason for the truthfulness and reliability of the Christian faith. Yet it is much more than this. Alister McGrath notes that Christian apologetics does not simply rely upon defending the Christian message from attack.  It communicates the beauty and relevance of Christianity to a world hungry for meaning and healing. And it translates the message of Christianity in language that makes sense to those who are listening. [1]

The Purpose of Apologetics

The purpose of Christian apologetics is not to win arguments or to disregard the beliefs of others. Rather, its purpose and goal is to introduce people to the beauty of Jesus Christ, the liberating life He offers through his death and resurrection, and the joy of a relationship with Him. Christian apologetics acknowledges that life is full of hard questions and difficult days. Yet in the midst of this there is a reason for assured hope. The reason is Jesus.

Learning More

If you wish to learn more about  the Christian message, it’s reliability, and the hope it offers, a wealth of excellent resources are available. The list is large, but here are a few personal recommendations to get you started.

  • Books
    • Mere Apologetics by Alister McGrath. This is one of the best books out there for an easy, biblical understanding of apologetics’ application, purpose, and how it answers life’s key questions.
    • Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias. This is an excellent book that demonstrates the uniqueness of the Christian message and claims of Jesus in a world that embraces pluralism.
    • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. No apologetic resource list is complete without Lewis. Read this book and you’ll understand why.
    • The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. This book looks at hard questions surrounding the New Testament accounts of the life of Jesus and demonstrates the historical reliability of the his life and claims.
    • Is Believing in God Irrational? By Amy Orr-Ewing. This book addresses key questions and objections about God, showing the trustworthiness of God and his claims. It’s a must read!
  • Websites
    • www.rzim.org and www.rzim.eu Both these Ravi Zacharias International Ministry sites contain excellent articles and resources surrounding the major apologetic questions and challenges of the day.
    • www.apologetics315.com An excellent site about all things apologetic. Whether you’re new to apologetics or a veteran, you’ll find helpful information here and will never get bored.
    • www.thepoachedegg.net A great resource “where Christian apologetics, history, philosophy, science, theology, and pop culture collide.”

[1] Alister McGrath, Mere Apologetics, chapter 1