Learning Apologetics

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by TheocraticMonarchist, Dec 26, 2008.

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  1. TheocraticMonarchist

    TheocraticMonarchist Puritan Board Junior

    Hello all!

    It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that I need to become very involved in apologetics. As my reformed convictions grow and tear me away from Pentecostalism I’m finding the need to defend what I believe.

    How should I go about learning apologetics?

    Does anyone know of a comprehensive resource that will aid me in learning apologetic arguments? For example, it would state the orthodox doctrine, lay out the Biblical reasoning behind it, inform you of the arguments against it and show you how they conflict with Scripture?

    Any help would be appreciated! I'm fairly new to apologetics :duh:
  2. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Wait, do you want apologetics defending Reformed Christianity against other versions of Christianity, or against non-Christianity?
  3. PresbyDane

    PresbyDane Puritanboard Doctor

    Well i do not know about defending reformed theology, but defending christianity against non-believers Ravi Zacharias has been of great help to me, even though you cannot just blindly trust everything he says, but then again it is only the fewest people where you can do that anyway.
  4. Rocketeer

    Rocketeer Puritan Board Freshman

    Particularly helpful to me, and very readable, is C.S. Lewis' work, in particular Mere Christianity, where he proves, in an informal manner, that there must be a God, and that that God is triune, etc. etc.. These are mainly simple philosophical arguments which only prove the basics and make the Bible acceptable; but as soon as you have arrived at that station, you can make use of a theologian for proving the particularly Reformed dogmas.

    As for theologians, the deader, the better, but I assume you know have heard of the great Reformers. [hint]Calvin[/hint]
  5. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    The ideal would be to take a course. However, failing that, you can do as I did and embark on a course of reading. Some of the most important works that I've read:

    Always Ready, Greg Bahnsen
    Every Thought Captive, Richard Pratt (very basic, good place to start)
    The Defense of the Faith, Cornelius VanTil (more advanced)
    The Battle Belongs to the Lord, Scott Oliphint
  6. cbryant

    cbryant Puritan Board Freshman


    Here are two that were required reading in introduction to apologetics class

    Amazon.com: Reasons of the Heart: Recovering Christian Persuasion: William Edgar: Books


    Amazon.com: Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction: John M. Frame: Books

    Also, listening to Frame's Apologetics course from Reformed Theological Seminary on iTunesU would be helpful

    Open iTunes -> iTunesU -> College and University -> Reformed Theological Seminary -> Theology courses -> Apologetics.

    If you're new to apologetics I would wait to dig into Van Til (Christian Apologetics and The Defense of the Faith) until after you've read Edgar and Frame.

    Another book I've found helpful though not a presuppositionalist is

    Amazon.com: Hard Questions, Real Answers: William Lane Craig: Books
  7. christianyouth

    christianyouth Puritan Board Senior

    bethinking.org - Engage with Culture is a good website. They have a lot of resources on defending the Christian faith against arguments posed by secularists. One of the good features of this site is the way the lectures are classified into beginner, intermediate, and advanced. That way as someone who is knew you can start off with the beginner lectures and then slowly progress to the advanced.
  8. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    Also check out Gordon Clark's MP3' and articles as well as books at the Trinity Foundation website here.
  9. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    Seconded. If nothing else, Clark is a very concise and entertaining read.
  10. davidsuggs

    davidsuggs Puritan Board Freshman

    This site has all you could ever wish for and more on the topic.
  11. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    The resources listed here are great, but from what you've said, I would strongly caution against studying apologetics at this time. This is based on the fact that you said you are distancing yourself from Pentecostalism. Inherent to Pentecostals is a lack of systematic study. I urge you to start with knowing your Bible, in context; and learning systematics. Even then, I'd urge a comprehensive study of the Bible first.

    Consider this carefully. Learning to "defend the faith" without first understanding it well can lead to great pride in one's ability to argue. Even if one understands Scripture well, being skilled at apologetics can be disastrous as one becomes confident in their ability, rather than God's Word. Know the Word first. That is your best apologetic anyway. And it transforms you more readily into the image of Christ, which is another great apologetic. You are to be able to give a reason for the hope that is within you - a great apologetic. In other words, please stay away from the advanced apologetics until you've grounded yourself in what the Bible says and who Christ is. Read your Bible. Read it systematically. Skim it. Outline it. Read it chronologically. Read it topically. Read it until nobody can tell you "the Bible doesn't say that," when it does, or that "the Bible says this," when it doesn't. Many excellent Bible Survey resources are available as well.

    After you've done a comprehensive study of the Bible as a whole, then I would concentrate on Systematics. You should know your Bible well first because there are many references in systematics and you must be able to tie the thoughts together, and recognize error. If you don't know Scripture well then you will easily be lead astray into errant doctrines. Know God's Word.

    Ephesians 4:13-16
    till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.​

    Then pursue systematics because that will help you learn how to better understand God's Word and work through the various doctrines. You will understand how to study God's Word better by reading men who have a deep understanding of Scripture and have a great knowledge of how to work through various challenges associated with the doctrines of God. You will be enriched and become more like your Savior as you pursue Him first. Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology is a good one. Of course, you can't go wrong with Calvin's Institutes, but its arrangement isn't as easy to follow as some of the more contemporary sources. Others here would offer other sources that are good as well.

    After these, I would encourage apologetics. However, I would again caution you not to learn apologetics alone. The study of apologetics is too easily perceived as a means to win an argument. Many who get involved in it are more interested in discrediting their opponents than truly exalting Christ. Study apologetics, then study evangelism. Develop a heart for the lost so that your ability to understand the undercurrents of their arguments is tempered by your greater desire to see them know Christ. Develop a love for God's people. Let your ability to defend your faith be tempered by the greatest commandment of all, to love; God, your brother in Christ and those who stand condemned.

    The goal is to leave the sweet aroma of Christ, that God's Word would either convict or condemn. But if you are trying to win or devastate your opponent, you'll leave a wake of resentment toward you and alienate men while dragging the name of Jesus through the cesspit of your own pride. Simply plant and water in earnest love, trusting in God to provide the increase.

    1 Timothy 4:12-16
    Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.​

    2 Timothy 2:14-15
    Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.​

    2 Timothy 2:22-26
    Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.​
  12. Greg

    Greg Puritan Board Sophomore

    I agree with what Joe wrote. Root yourself in the faith and know Scripture in its context. You need to know what and why you believe what you believe in order to effectively defend it. Though by no means indepth theological studies, a few basic books that I would recommend given from what you wrote in your original post:

    What is Reformed Theology by R.C. Sproul

    Putting Amazing Back into Grace by Mike Horton


    Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul


    The Final Word by O. Palmer Robertson

    I hope this is helpful.
  13. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I couldn't agree more. That was my first thought in reading the OP.

    I think the natural inclination for some after they've learned a little is to try and get others to see the obvious errors of other systems. There is obviously a lot of "low hanging fruit" that is easy to refute about Pentecostalism but there is a tendency with novices to always be looking for "silver bullet" arguments to convince others. They just don't exist. You'll always run into someone smarter even if you convince a few with some arguments.

    I think an ability to defend the faith occurs more organically for most as they become more and more familiar with the Scriptures. Read the Scriptures regularly and start studying theology in a comprehensive manner and don't become imbalanced and focus on one area. You'll find yourself in a much better place in 10-15 years and mature enough at that point to be teaching/defending the Christian faith.
  14. Devin

    Devin Puritan Board Sophomore

    I couldn't agree with Joe and Rich more. Your first focus should be on learning your own faith inside and out. If you don't know your own faith, your debaters will have you defending beliefs you might not even hold.
  15. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    I concur with above and here are 3 really good resources:

    reformed.org - a blend of Reformed doctrine and presuppositional apologetics

    monergism.com - mostly Reformed doctrine, some apologetics

    carm.org - mostly the Christian faith vs other worldviews, religions, cults
  16. TheocraticMonarchist

    TheocraticMonarchist Puritan Board Junior

    Hello everyone,

    Thanks for all the advice and suggested resources! I am/will be taking notes.

    I’ve actually read Sproul’s Knowing Scripture. I immediately saw the error in the Pentecostal hermeneutic, and had to tweak my theology ;-).

    -----Added 12/26/2008 at 07:59:05 EST-----

    Thanks for the thoughtful post! I’ll take you advice :). I’ve taken a N.T. Survey course ( passing with an A) and have the resources to do a more in-depth study of the N.T. If time and finances permit I’d like to take an O.T. Survey course soon. I plan on reading through the Bible chronologically this year, as well as Calvin’s institutes. I’ve got the schedules for both.

    As far as systematic theologies go… I have Grudem, Hodge, and Bavinck. How should I best use these???

    How will I know when I should shift my main focus from comprehensive bible study, to systematics, and then to apologetics and evangelism?

    I’ve watched/listened to several reformed apologists defend their faith on the internet. They use and properly apply gazillions of bible verses, are able to contextually defend the use of each one, and point out their opponents error in the way they interpret the text.

    I usually feel as though my faith has been strengthened after this, but I have also seen the dark side of apologetics (CARM’s Christian discussion boards), and have struggled with the effects of pride after ‘winning’ my first and only conflict over the doctrines of grace.

    My main goal for learning apologetics (I think) at this time is defensive. There are only 5 Calvinists in the county where I live. None of us have any theological training (yet ;-) ) and I want to effectively and inoffensively explain what we believe, and be able to answer any questions that might arise.

    I also have the sensitive task of explaining to my Wesleyan/Pentecostal/Dispensationalist friends and family why I’m no longer a Wesleyan/Pentecostal/Dispensationalist. I don’t want to merely leave them hurt or confused, I want to leave them challenged (in a good way) by the truth.

    Thanks again for the sound advice :).
  17. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

  18. Craig

    Craig Puritan Board Senior

    A lot of apologetical works rely on a biblical understanding of covenant theology (I'm speaking specifically of men like Bahnsen and Van Til...Van Til is very difficult to understand as it is).

    You will certainly find great benefit from monergism.com
    You can't go wrong with Sproul when it comes to Predestination.

    I recommend listening to sermons as much as you can and immerse yourself in the Word and those who ably exposit it. Arguments get old and often is simply a contest of one-upping others.

    If you are able, and haven't already, find a solidly biblical/Reformed church to *join*, not merely attend.
  19. Wannabee

    Wannabee Obi Wan Kenobi

    Here are some great resources to get you started.

    Mount Zion Bible Institute

    Simply start at the top and work your way down. You'll finish richer for the experience and education. If you have friends growing in this then work through them together. Take turns facilitating. Answer keys are there too. If you don't have someone to work with, do it yourself. I've done several of these myself.

    You can also go to Capitol Hill Baptist Church » Core Seminars and download resources. These, in addition to much of what's been shared already, would be very useful.

    Both of these sites have apologetics classes. The order of Capitol Hill's resources is alphabetical, so I'd simply list them from basic to more advanced as best as your able, and work through them, if you like their material. You might mix and match too. We use materials from both for our church and have been enriched through the study.

    As for when to start more in-depth study of apologetics: That's a tough call. Perhaps when you are not enamored with apologetics. Maybe when you desire to do it because your heart breaks for those lead astray. Your heart must be focused on Christ. Remember, knowing God's Word is the best apologetic on the planet. It will prepare you and protect you from any error or false teaching. It will make you an awesome weapon in the hands of God for the building up of His church. But merely being an apologetic, even an awesome debater, could simply make you a distraction...

    May God bless your efforts and captivate your heart.
  20. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    I would study the Scriptural passages that they make reference to. Use what you learned from Sproul's, Knowing Scripture, to study those Scriptural passages.

    -----Added 12/27/2008 at 12:42:42 EST-----

    You could shift your main focus to systematics when you learn how to study an entire book of the Bible and learn some principles of how to interpret Scripture. This will guard against taking verses out of context.

    Then, you could shift your main focus to apologetics and evangelism when you are familiar with the various doctrines of the Bible such as the creation of the world out of nothing, the Fall, deity and humanity of Christ, the virgin birth, resurrection of Christ, the Trinity, justification by faith alone, sanctification, second coming of Christ, and so on. You should know where in the Bible these doctrines are taught.
  21. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    Personally, I don't think there's a need to separate these. If you study some good presuppositional apologetics texts (as the ones I mentioned above), you'll be doing all those things. One of the beautiful things about presuppositional apologetics is that it is built on systematics and exegesis. You'll get the whole nine yards, especially if you use stuff by Bahnsen and Oliphint. I'd say dive right in.

    Reading VanTil was what made me enthusiastically and passionately Reformed, not only with apologetics, but also in theology.
  22. Neogillist

    Neogillist Puritan Board Freshman

    Your desire to learn some apologetics is a good idea, but I think you should make sure you've got some good grounding first in Reformed theology, starting perhaps with the Five Points of Calvinism. From there you will be able to defend your faith against Arminians. This is how I first started as a Calvinist. When I was doubting the doctrine of limited atonement, I read John Owen's death of death, when I read other material by Arminians other doubts started creeping in so I read John Gill's "Cause of God and Truth." From there I was starting to have sympathies for hyper-calvinism so I read Jonathan Edwards's "A Treatise on the Freedom of the Will." Then I became so convinced that the Bible and Reformed theology must both either stand or fall that I started reading on Biblical Inherancy and learning to defend Sola Scriptura against other views since I knew that only a blow to the Bible could cause me to change my views. It has indeed been very enriching, and my faith in Scripture has matured since. I have also been reading through Matthew Henry's commentary (I'm almost done vol. II) and it has been a great help in understanding the difficult passages of Scripture.
  23. steven-nemes

    steven-nemes Puritan Board Sophomore

    When I first became interested in apologetics (prior to that I had kind of a weak stance on defending the faith; I though that my faith was at times indefensible or that the atheist response made more sense--thank God I am out of that) I started by listening to lectures of famous Christian philosophers and apologists, some of whom remain my very favorites: J.P. Moreland being one of my very favorites, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig. I also listened to MP3s of debates by Greg Bahnsen--which have done wonders for helping my unbelief. I find that his debate versus Gordon Stein is immensely helpful to my faith and my courage and belief, just as Apollos refuting the Jews publicly and powerfully was helpful to those who believed in Acts 18. I think apologetics and debates have much value and I point to that passage in scripture to support my claim; people are much more confident when they have a thorough intellectual understanding and grasp of their beliefs.

    Good websites with MP3 downloads:

    The Veritas Forum
    Trinity Foundation
    Apologetics 315: The Ultimate Apologetics MP3 Audio Page
    Audio on Apologetics (Updated 4/13/07) (some of the links here are broken; I recommend highly Michael Butler's lessons on presuppositionalism)

    There are lots of great beginner's books, and I have a few: Miracles, Problem of Pain, and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (though I would be wary of some of his theological positions), Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft is very helpful, Why Good Arguments Often Fail by James Sire does wonders also, and I hear his Universe Next Door is really good too. Francis Schaeffer's works Escape From Reason, The God Who Is There, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent are also great.

    I am still learning as far as apologetics is concerned, and my methodology has changed over time (I used to be a classical apologetics guy, then I drifted into presuppositionalism, and am now working on reformed epistemology mixed with presuppositionalism, though I personally would recommend you adjust your method depending on who you talk to; a transcendental argument might work against a scholar, but not against an average joe--a simplification of the cosmological argument would be just fine for him). I recommend that you read and PRACTICE, though probably not on the internet because you are not going to find very open and honest objectors, just rabid animals who will do anything to make a funny joke or mock you. I recommend you learn to think critically and quickly, analyzing each and every statement for unjustified assumptions, logical fallacies, etc.--it stinks to argue for a long time only to realize after the argument is over that the whole point thy were making was fallacious. I aso recommend that you study philosophy! I am hoping to do some 8 years or so (from bachelor's to PhD) of college in philosophy, because I want to be a professor, but I know it is immensely helpful in debate to know what kind of system a person is arguing from and how it deconstructs. I have argued against naturalists who said that Jesus could not have risen from the dead because it was against the laws of nature, and I was able to twist their arm a bit and get them to admit they don't know if there are any laws of nature, just that it appears this way--therefore Christ's resurrection is not impossible.

    I don't want to give the impression that I am an expert or knowledgeable; I'm not. I just am passionate about this and I love to hear that other people are also interested.
  24. CarsonLAllen

    CarsonLAllen Puritan Board Freshman

    Master the presuppositional method. I have done allot of street, and door to door evangelism, and I can tell you that this method tears down strong holds. In particular the transcendental argument.

    CARM Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry
  25. snap_dragon

    snap_dragon Puritan Board Freshman

    Stand to Reason

    I find Greg Kouckl to be a rather lucid writer of all things apologetic on the website str.org and through the excellent podcast "Stand to Reason" found via Itunes. He has short articles as well as longer resources depending on your time constraints...other contributors to STR also aid in the realm of things such as politics and bioethics...Go to str.org and do some searches. Kouckl is Reformed, defending it on air to grumpy callers who want to argue against him...and he has many such things to read/listen to. They have been helpful to me as I am new to the Reformed faith myself.

    "The Universe Next Door" by James Sire is a decent starting place to understand other worldviews such as existentialism, and so forth.

    "Christian Apologetics" by Norman Geisler was very helpful as were others in his series of books but also keep in mind he is Armenian.

    Listening to Greg Bahnsen debate Gordon Stein is helpful...
    Greg Bahnsen vs Gordon Stein Mp3 « The Domain for Truth

    I agree with others that apologetics for the sake of winning arguments is the wrong path and does drag the Gospel through the mud. What won me over to the Reformed view from the eastern zen walk was not all my philosophical friends shoving arguments at me but a warm loving friend who patiently answered my many many many questions. (It helped that he was and elder and was well-read in scripture)...And when he didn't have an answer, he was not too proud to say he didn't know...We either found scriptural answer together and sometimes chalked what was outside of our finite rational minds to the mystery of God.

    Best Wishes on this pursuit.
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