Some recommendations for basic apologetics materials

Some recommendations for basic apologetics materials May 12, 2015

A reader writes:

I wanted to drop you a note to tell you that, while you and I disagree vigorously about capital punishment, I appreciate very much your apologetic writings.

For instance, I’m sending this one to a friend that I’m particularly frustrated by, since I seem unable to articulate a “meta” argument, instead getting caught in the weeds of a hundred different doctrinal tiffs.

I’ve been looking for a good, general purpose apologetic that is non-polemical, concise, but aimed at an Evangelical such as my friend, of the “rock band” come-as-you-are contemporary variety, who nonetheless is serious about her faith and has a fairly standard traditional, Ravi Zacharias Evangelical upbringing, including anti-Catholic biases.

Anyway, I thought you might appreciate kudos, even if from a notorious dissenter and heretic as myself. 😉

God bless, and please pray for me.

My general recommendation, for a starting place, (and not because I wrote it, but because the issue is foundational to all other conversations) is my By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition. Until you’ve settled Sacred Tradition and opened the door to listening to the fullness of the Tradition and not just the bits you like, it’s hard to proceed with other conversations.

After that, there’s all kinds of stuff to read, depending on how you need to scratch where your friend itches. If they just want an overview, Peter Kreeft’s Fundamentals of the Faith is good. Scott Hahn is great for a Catholic intro to reading the Bible with the mind of the Church, as well as for doing speculative theology in an orthodox and creative way (the two are not mutually exclusive).  Steve Ray has done good work on the papacy. For Mary issues, I recommend my own Mary, Mother of the Son. If they are puzzled by the way in which the Church uses the various senses of Scripture, I would also toss in my Making Senses Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible as the First Christians Did.

That’s probably sufficient for now. But there’s boatloads more where that came from and many if not all of the typical questions can be addressed by referring them to the copious amount of material at places like Catholic Answers.

If you or your friend have any more questions, please feel free to write me! God bless your work in the Vineyard through our Lord Jesus Christ!

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  • BHG

    Catholicism and Fundamentalism is also good for context.

  • Tweck

    Great post! And I really like the article your reader cites – it’s very concise and lays things out very well. It’ll definitely help me in my occasional doctrinal conversations with my more fundamentalist friend.

    Funny that he/she mentions Ravi Zacharias – I listen to him often – he’s a great, educated apologist, particularly in the realms of morality and the existence of God, and I haven’t gotten any anti-Catholic vibes from him. He seems careful not to go there in general.

    • Tweck

      (If he did, I’d stop listening to him obviously, lol)

  • Joseph Nelson

    Seriously? Not one book recommendation from Patrick Madrid?

    • chezami

      Patrick’s work is great. I highly recommend it. Not trying to leave him or anybody else in the cold. Just tossing out a few ideas.

  • iamlucky13

    For a concise resource to avoid being overwhelmed with a lot of reading (although the longer resources are arguably better in the long run), and especially to use as a quick reference on specific topics, I like Beginning Apologetics, by Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham. They have a whole series of Apologetics booklets, but the first one covers most of the commonly discussed differences between Catholics and Protestant Christians, with lots of Bible references and quotes from historical figures to demonstrate the many Catholic beliefs that were genuinely held by all Christians prior to the reformation.

    However, do not give it to your friend. The intended audience is Catholics, and a Protestant reading it will likely find it adversarial in tone. Use it as a study guide for yourself.

    For a much deeper book that lays a strong foundation for Catholic Teaching, I really like Theology for Beginners, by F.J. Sheed. It is not, however, a casual read.

  • Anfistophanes

    Peter Kreeft’s “Handbook of Christian Apologetics” is also pretty good, crafted with an obviously Catholic slant.

    I found Edward Sri’s “A Biblical Walk Through the Mass” very helpful, too.

    Fr. Barron has some great resources for answering specific issues between Catholics and Protestants (such as Papal Infallibility). He also has a really outstanding speech at the Napa Institution’s 2012 gathering where he breaks down Martin Luther’s contribution to the modern Enlightenment mind-set and its destructive implications for society and the human psyche. It’s fascinating. Here’s the link if anyone’s interested (he begins discussing Luther at 24:10):

  • Lawrence King

    Mark’s By What Authority is the most concise and clear argument against the Protestant Idea that I have ever seen. I honestly don’t see how any intellectual could read this book and remain a Protestant. However, I would suggest that before giving a Protestant this book, you should first give them Alan Schreck’s Catholic and Christian. Mark’s book points out the gaping holes in Luther’s boat, but it’s dangerous for a Protestant to learn of these unless they have begun to realize that Peter has a fairly nice boat. Otherwise they may just jump overboard.