The best book on apologetics is the Bible itself. Nearly every time I hear about someone objecting to a Bible verse, a close inspection of the verse often demonstrates that the person either misunderstood the text or had never read it. Once, I read a letter to the editor of our local newspaper claiming that it was inconsistent for Christians to object to homosexuality on the grounds that the Old Testament condemned the behavior. The Old Testament also condemns wearing clothes of mixed fabric and eating shellfish, the writer went on to say. So, the reasoning went, it is arbitrary to pick out one command and ignore the others. If we’re going to object to homosexuality, we’d better leave shrimp alone too. But a little cursory knowledge of the Bible comes in handy when facing such arguments. I wrote back and pointed out that some commands in the OT were ceremonial and others were moral, and one of the ways you know the difference is that the NT repeats the moral. The NT doesn’t repeat the ceremonial laws, because the ceremonial laws were symbolic of important principles and not meant to be eternal (see Colossians 2:16-17). The NT repeats the ban on homosexuality in Romans and 1 Corinthians. So Moses agrees with Paul, and it isn’t arbitrary to recognize the God-ordained obsolescence of the ceremonial law.

On another occasion, someone I knew claimed that most Christians were hypocrites because they believed in the death penalty and were not against warfare per se. His reasoning was that the Bible says “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” so all Christians should be pacifist. He was either trying to critique Christianity or point out the unworkability of the Bible’s ethical standards. I kindly pointed out that the Hebrew word for “Kill” in that passage means “murder.” I hadn’t taken Hebrew at that time, but I knew how to use a Concordance, and I was aware of that little fact, which happened to torpedo the guy’s argument. A little Bible knowledge can go a long way.

You can clear up matters for people too. Just read the Bible and notice what it says. The best place to start is the New Testament epistles. Read them and don’t stop studying them until you understand them and can talk informatively and with ease about each one. No kidding! What else should we expect when we live in a world full of objectors and when God tells us “Always be ready to answer anyone who asks you.” Real readiness, solid training, is what our times demand. Make it a long term goal to know, really know, God’s Word.

Are there other books that can help us? Absolutely.

Always Ready by Greg Bahnsen is a good primer on presuppositional apologetics, a very important school of thought that seeks to do apologetics without capitulating to unbelieving assumptions, such as the assumption that the human mind is the final arbiter of what is true and false. Presuppositional books tend to be more philosophical, but they raise important issues, and Bahnsen is the best place to start.

When Skeptics Ask by Norman Geisler is a compendium of categories (Questions about God, Christ, the Bible, Miracles, etc.) with answers. It’s quite helpful and bit better than many give it credit for.

Objections Answered (alternately titled Reason to Believe) by R.C. Sproul is a good short book; each chapter deals with a particular question such as “What About the Poor Native Who Never Heard of Christ?” “If There is a God, Why Is There So Much Evil in the World?” and “When You’re Dead You’re Dead! There Is No More!” Though Sproul’s chapters range from mediocre to excellent, the book is a good place to start for someone who is totally new to apologetics.

C. S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity is a classic and should be read by every Christian. It is fun, imaginative, readable, and informative. Stick with it, and your mind will be expanded. Lewis is good for beginners and veteran apologists.

Josh McDowell’s book Evidence that Demands a Verdict is a compendium of evidences for Christianity, and whether or not you agree with McDowell’s philosophy of apologetics, there’s stuff in it that is useful.

D. A. Carson’s The Gagging of God is excellent, as is almost anything the man has written. This is a big book and pretty hefty intellectually.

Many of these books I’ve listed are older, but the thing about apologetics is that the same old objections get trotted out every few years as though no one had ever thought of them before, so the older books remain useful. A newer book you ought to grab too is The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchins.  Grab these few books, read them, take notes, let them lead you to Bible passages, use some of their points in conversation, and you’ll be well on your way to being someone who can “Be Always Ready.” It’ll take time, but few worthwhile things are done in a moment. People spend lots of time learning Spanish or getting their bodies into good shape. Godly Christians ought to give lots of time to obeying the clear command to “be always ready.”

Next time: Why you should trust the Bible as the Word of God