Basic Resources for Apologetics: An Overview

If you’re looking for encyclopedic, facts-and-figures resources, there’s a ton of them on the market, and Josh McDowell’s material is still some of the best. A recent publication, Evidence for Christianity, combines and updates the evidential material from a number of previous works, and that’s the one I’d recommend, if you haven’t already got a few of McDowell’s works on the shelf.

Facts and figures are important, but in this post I want to address resources for how you use them. McDowell was never the best source for this — he’s more of the “make a bigger pile” school of thought. Until very recently, all the really good basic instruction on how to use the facts was on audio, but there wasn’t a book that did the job effectively and accessibly. Gary DeMar at American Vision has changed all that by transcribing and editing a series of talks Greg Bahnsen did for high school and college students back in the early nineties. The resulting book, Pushing the Antithesis: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen, is a gem. It’s accessible, relatively simple, and it has study questions at the end of each chapter. It’s also a little spendy, but it’s worth it. Bahnsen’s other basic book, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith, is cheaper, but it’s a set of course syllabi edited together by Robert Booth. It’s much denser, and because the material was designed to be accompanied by live instruction, it’s much harder to plow through without help. Thanks to Pushing the Antithesis, the necessary help is now available in print.

Of course, the necessary help has always been available in audio. Bahnsen was very conscientious about recording his addresses, and an incredible number of them are available from Covenant Media Foundation, including whole courses on apologetics, ethics, and the history of philosophy. His Seminary-Level Course in Apologetics, for example, is exactly what it sounds like (and is also available, cheaper, as an mp3 download (as are the rest of CMF’s offerings). I’ve listened to a lot of Bahnsen’s audio (on apologetics, I hasten to add — I make no warrants about his theology) and while it is unfailingly good, a great deal of it is redundant, since he’s speaking to many different audiences who’ve never heard his approach before. That said, in my own case the redundancy was exactly what I needed; I came to understand presuppositional apologetics by hearing it articulated for newbies over and over and over until I finally got it. (And I must thank my good friend George Walker III for lending me boxes — literally — of tapes and cds. I never could have afforded to buy all the stuff I’ve listened to.) One important disclaimer: you have to remember that portable recording technology was not all that good, back in the day, and Bahnsen seems to have been often recording himself on his own equipment. The audio quality is a little shaky in a lot of cases, and CMF hasn’t really done all that could be done to clean it up. But it’s audible, and the content is amazing, so one tolerates it.

I hope to give a more detailed review of specific audio sets in the future. In the meantime, however, I have to admit that Gary DeMar has once again leapt ahead of the pack with some of the clearest, most concise material available. Defending the Christian Worldview Against All Opposition – Series 1: Weapons of our Spiritual Warfare contains 12 audio cds and is one of the best overall introductions to apologetics that I’ve ever heard. There is at least one series that is better: Defending the Christian Worldview Against All Opposition – Series 2: Destroying All Speculations. These two sets were recorded from two different years of American Vision’s Life Preparation Conference for high school and college students, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. If you’re looking for a starting point (and you can afford to spend a little money), this is a good place.

Lastly, I really have to recommend that you hear this approach to apologetics in action. There is no better example of this (in a purely apologetic situation) than The Great Debate: Does God Exist? (cheaper mp3 here, and free transcript here.) a debate between Bahnsen and Gordon Stein hosted at the University of California-Irvine. It’s like watching someone steal candy from a particularly deserving baby, and it also does a good job of showcasing the differences between Bahnsen’s approach and the more standard apologetic tactics. If you pay no attention to the rest of the resources listed on this page, at least download the debate (it’s only four bucks) and listen to it. You’ll be glad you did.

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