For all you people who want proof, one way or another, that God exists and that the Bible is true and accurate, I know how that feels. During the penultimate term of my degree I doubted my faith, and during that time of doubting I read a lot of the books listed below, and I read others since. I can’t claim that these books alone will give you faith, but I hope they will be useful to you in your journey, wherever you happen to be.
Books for enquirers about Christianity:
Lewis, C. S.
Even if you haven’t read this classic, you might have heard of it. C. S. Lewis, author of the famous Narnia series, wrote in a very different British culture than today’s: one in which reason was considered a companion rather than an enemy to faith, and in which it was considered an honour to be called a Christian. C. S. Lewis was an Oxbridge English professor, but had no formal theological training. He wrote as a layman for the everyman, and is enjoyed today by Christians and non-Christians alike. This introduction to Christianity is less about exploring the Biblical evidence for Christian doctrines than about providing grounds for considering those doctrines viable from a more secular, philosophical perspective. C .S. Lewis’ style is accessible and engaging, whilst for the well-read, his Classical and literary influences are thinly veiled enough to be appreciable.
This book is great for people who aren’t satisfied with history being just a random series of events, and who believe it ought to have a meaning, but aren’t sure what it is. Vaughan Roberts presents the bearing that Jesus’ death and resurrection has on the meaning of life in the 21st Century world, and how that fits into the rest of history and gives it purpose and meaning. As always, he writes in a ‘no-nonsense’ style which brings Christianity and the reality of the present day into an uncompromisingly sharp focus.
The title is slightly misleading. This is a book that goes beyond ‘mere’ Christianity and into a fleshed-out delineation of specific Christian doctrines according to John Stott with explanations that are more internal to Christianity. According to the Telegraph’s obituary for Stott in 2011, John Stott was “one of the most influential Anglican clergymen of the 20th centuty; indeed, in 2005 Time magazine declared him to be one of the 100 most influential people in the world” and his book is suitably representative of what churches generally teach. If you want to read a textbook account of the Christian faith as it is known today, you could do far worse than read this.
Apologetics books for skeptics and strugglers:
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels
Blomberg comprehensively examines the historical reliability of the gospels from an academic perspective. It is a meaty volume that attempts to iron out questions that have arisen from serious studies of the gospel – and those who have read and engaged with the New Testament themselves will get more out of it than those with a background of Dan Brown, light Reddit usage and/or a smattering of high school Religious Studies (although if this is you then that’s not a problem; there are books below that are well-suited to people who fall into these categories). This book covers modern and traditional approaches to examining the gospels, as well as theological hot topics: questions about the gospels, the Jesus tradition outside the gospels, and questions on historical method. It covers other things too, such as the miracles and the resurrection. This is, to all intents and purposes, an academic book. It is recommended in the bibliography of Piper, John Fifty Reasons Jesus Came to Die, and I found it in my university library under ‘Theology’.
Cooper, Barry and Williams, Paul
If You Could Ask God One Question
A slim, manageable book providing Christian answers to questions like “How can a loving God send anyone to hell?”, “Why does God allow suffering?” and questions about sexual ethics. It gives short, concise answers about what most Bible-believing Christians think about these issues and why, and it is not intellectually heavy in any sense.
Dickson, Dr John
The Christ Files
This tiny-but-comprehensive book is not much longer than anything you’d find in the ‘A Very Short Introduction’ series, and is a personal favourite of mine. It’s written by a historian to explain to non-academics how historians know what they know about the real Jesus of Nazareth. The author states that he is writing as a Christian, but keeps his style secular and objective and is transparent about his aims. A personal highlight for me was the way he dispels the myths propagated by The Da Vinci Code with actual research; he also provides an extensive bibliography of scholarship on the historical Jesus. His book is available in DVD format, and to my delight I found excerpts of this on YouTube.
Meltdown: Making sense of a culture in crisis
This little book is marketed as an introductory guide for humanities students about how the major postmodern theories tally with the Bible (or don’t), and when to be wary of them. Really, however, the more you look at the world around you, the more you see elements of the theories in the media, press, advertising, humanitarian campaigns, debates and general speech – and so as such, it is very aptly subtitled ‘Making sense of a culture in crisis’. As my degree at Manchester brought me into contact with Feminist Theory, narrative deconstructionism and other things that sound much scarier than they actually are, this book was a bit of a life-saver. Honeysett takes you through an easily-digestible summary of a handful postmodern theories and explains their problems and sticking points when viewed from an evangelical perspective. He includes bibliographic references for you to look up the major works of the proponents of the theories, and and he has a ‘further reading’ bibliography at the end that cites more formal evangelical criticism of the theories. Meltdown is really a ‘FYI’ book, it could belong to the ‘A Short Introduction’ series if it wanted to, and as such is not really dissertation-quotable. However, many of the items on his further reading section have had a reception of some kind by the academic community and are more likely to get you taken seriously.
Keller, Dr Tim
The Reason for God
This is a much more philosophical argument for how God can and must exist. It goes beyond the simple matter of what Christians think and why, and engages with the intellectual atheism vs theism debate. For this reason bits of it are dense, but it is an eye-opener. Structured and methodical, the first half of the book knocks down ‘hard atheist’ arguments, and the second half advocates Christianity.
I have found a number of talks by Tim Keller on YouTube that could be valuable also.
Lennox, Dr. John
This one breaks the mould of that classic stream of books seeking to present objections to scientific arguments against God. Perhaps the best gauge of this book is the fact that it actually received some positive reviews from other scientific researchers. John Lennox is a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University and Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, within Oxford University. His aim is not simply to bust arguments, but to present a broader case for science making more sense in a worldview that includes God, rather than in one that doesn’t. Besides explaining how prejudices against theism in the discipline have shaped the way scientific findings are packaged and interpreted, he uses work from scientists in relevant fields, and not all of them Christian, to discuss the main scientific fronts on which the ‘God debate’ battle has been fought and why the science does not equate, for him, to the non-existence of God. Like John Dickson, his style is very secular, and he writes with the express aim of not just quoting his opposition on one of their ‘bad’ days so as to ‘catch them out’, but trying to make the way he quotes them represent the position they hold on a ‘good’ day.
Lewis, C. S.
Suprised by Joy
This is C. S. Lewis’ own memoir, in which he talks about the process by which he acquired his faith, starting from childhood experiences, and how this was influenced by beauty he observed in the arts and nature. C.S. Lewis’ writing has a remarkable honesty about it. He ultimately leaves you with an artefact of human experience to which you can relate.
McDowell, Josh and Sean
More Than a Carpenter
My expectations for this little book were far exceeded. For such a slim volume, this is teeming with ancient historical insights, facts, and details of trials and experiments that are pertinent to the question of why Jesus of Nazareth was far more than just a carpenter. It tackles a selection of objections to Christ’s divinity in turn. It is not designed to be comprehensive and remains ‘popular’ rather than ‘academic’ in style, but it is memorable and very impressive for what it is. It has been published multiple times and in different forms, but if all you want is a basic copy of the book, get the latest (2011) edition.
Middleton, J. Richard and Walsh, Brian J.
Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be: Biblical faith in a postmodern age
This book was a huge encouragement to me while I was doubting. My only regret is not having read it before the final year of my degree. Not only does it pin down the definition of modernity and postmodernity in a way that the average man on the street could understand; it also informs the reader of how and why the Bible can still be trusted in the wake of them. The downside of this book is that it’s a bit big. Plus, I found it had done all it needed to do for me by the time I was halfway through it. If you’re basically okay on what modernity and postmodernity are and want a slimmer, more ‘practical’ guide to the various postmodern theories that are out there, stick with the Honeysett I’ve listed above.
Who Moved the Stone?
I’ve only dipped into this one, but it’s been recommended to me by many sources, and as it’s been a bestseller for 75 years, it’s got to be good. Friends of mine have said that this book played a big role in intellectually convincing them that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was real. Frank Morison, like Lee Strobel (see below), was a skeptic who set out to rationally disprove Christianity, and whose rational enquiry actually led him to faith. The premise of this book is that if the historical Jesus really was supernaturally resurrected from the dead, then we have no excuse not to take his words seriously. The book examines the resurrection accounts of Jesus in the New Testament and demonstrates how, on further examination, it takes more faith to bin then off than it does to accept their validity.
Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die
This book is a freebie! You can download it free of charge in 8 different languages from http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/fifty-reasons-ebook-free-in-eight-languages . For people interested in the historical reliability of the Bible texts, check out the designated bibliography on page 123 just before the endnotes. The rest of the book explains 50 internal arguments based on the Bible texts for why Jesus actually had to die on the cross in the first place. The arguments themselves are very compact and all of them fit onto a single page spread of the book; each one listed in the contents table so that you can pick and choose.
You might want to check out the rest of John Piper’s resources on www.desiringgod.org. Under the resources section are many other free downloadable ebooks of his, as well as sermons, conferences and articles – many of which have found their way onto YouTube.
Battles Christians Face
Not an apologetics book, but I recommend it for the chapter on homosexuality for those who find the orthodox Biblical view of this irreconcilable with the concept of a just and loving God. What is unique about this chapter is that in the preface to the 4th edition, Roberts implicitly admitted that he writes about this issue as one whom it directly concerns. Be that as it may, I had recommended it in this way long before the 4th edition ever came out. It is not written primarily to address the polemic, but functions as a practical guide for Christians, and is as such a good insider view. What makes it useful is that Vaughan Roberts engages honestly with the cultural concerns of the 21st Century and addresses the key issues, rather than hiding behind abstractions.
Authentic Church: True Spirituality in a Culture of Counterfeits
People who are dissatisfied with God because of ‘celebrity pastors’, misguided views about sex and gender discrimination in the Church might just be placated by this book. Vaughan Roberts here addresses many matters of controversy in the modern day Church by placing the present reality alongside the teachings of the Bible. As always, he is very much in touch with the contemporary world. However, I do not entirely agree with the way in which the chapter on spiritual gifts is nuanced, as the nuance does coincide with the author’s own negative experience of charismatic Christianity.
Vaughan Roberts is the Rector of St Ebbe’s Church in Oxford, and his talks can be accessed on the church website: http://www.stebbes.org.uk/talks
The Case for Christ
This is one of the best books I can recommend to anyone who demands scientific proof that Jesus was the Son of God, was crucified, and was resurrected from the dead. It is a memoir-style investigation by Lee Strobel, former sceptic and legal editor for The Chicago Tribune, on the Jesus of the gospels. Strobel recounts his interviews with renowned academic specialists from universities such as Princeton and Cambridge, who answered his questions on the Biblical, historical, archeological, psychological, medical, and circumstantial evidence that Jesus proved he was God, died on the cross, and was resurrected from the dead. Like Frank Morison, author of Who Moved the Stone? Strobel found his scepticism challenged to the point whereby it required more faith to believe than disbelieve, and wrote this book as a Christian to other sceptics demanding evidence.
I haven’t read any of his books, but his radio talks are amazing. Like Tim Keller, he tackles radical atheism with hard philosophy, cultural knowledge and historical facts, and he pulls no punches. Check him out on YouTube.
Books I haven’t read but which I have heard are reputable and relevant to the science vs. Christianity debate:
God and Stephen Hawking: Whose design is it anyway?
When Tim Keller came to give a series of talks at Oxford Town Hall in spring 2012, this book was on sale alongside The Reason for God. Oxford Mathematician John Lennox outlines the flaws in Stephen Hawking’s claims that the laws of Physics render God superfluous, going into specific detail on his latest theories. I have been informed that it is quite technical, but nothing that followers of Stephen Hawking wouldn’t understand.
McGrath, Allister and Joanna Collicutt
The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist fundamentalism and the denial of the divine
A response to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion by an atheist-turned-Christian theologian with a background in Chemistry and Molecular Biophysics, and a psychologist.