Here are a few tips to getting started with an Apologetics Library. Be advised that you will have to cover quite a bit of ground since the subject deals with a minimum of four great categories: Theology, History, Philosophy and Science. NOTE: This post will be updated on a regular basis as I continue to add resources I have found helpful.
Here are my thoughts:
It is essential that you have a good understanding of the theology of the Old and New Testaments. There are differing interpretations of some key theological issues. Understand your position and defend it.
These resources are important.
1. A reliable modern language Bible translation. Hint: Shy away from the King James version. Atheists often like to quote from it. Modern translations are vastly improved both in faithfulness to the manuscript tradition and readability. I prefer the New International Version and the New Living Translation, but any major translation published since 1950 should do just fine. If you really want to go deeper, get a Theology degree. Otherwise, be careful about quoting what “the Greek says” about a certain passage. Remember, atheists do not believe the Bible anyway – but for you it is a basis for your worldview, so be clear about what you believe it teaches.
The best single-set NT commentary is without a doubt the New International Commentary on the New Testament (edited by Gordon Fee). F. F. Bruce authors some of the volumes, along with Gordon Fee and other excellent evangelical scholars.
History is key to apologetics. This is one area where everyone should have access to the same sources, but often differ on the interpretation of an event. Be able to cite original sources for your claim. (Get serious with your Loeb Classical Library series) Certain controveries come up again and again. During the Middle Ages did the Catholic Church squelch science because it was afraid of losing authority? Did the Church torture Galileo? Did Constantine convene a meeting of church officials in order to establish the divinity of Jesus as a core church doctrine? Were the “secret gospels” (Gospel of Thomas, etc.) deliberately repressed in order to establish a more mainstream Christianity? Know the historical facts and sources to bolster your conclusion.
The great ideas about God, the origin of Universe, Morality and Free will/Determinism have been discussed throughout the ages – all before the rise of Christianity. Know the key personalities, their views and how ideas changed throughout time. There are some great histories of philosophy, but nothing can take the place of reading the source documents for “getting it.” With that in mind, a few recommendations:
History of Philosophy
F.C. Copleston’s multi-volume A History of Philosophy is a classic. You will often find individual volumes in bookstores – buy one when you find it. The complete set is hard to come by and usually expensive. Another good history is Bertrand Russell’s one volume A History of Western Philosophy.
If you haven’t read William Paley’s 1802 opus Natural Theology then you are missing out on a widely influential, but not widely read, masterpiece. If Paley lived today he could have easily been the author of another new and controversial book, one that is shaking up some intellectual trees, Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell (Harper One, 2009). Both are available on Amazon.
Know the general trend of scientific ideas from ancient times until now. Make yourself aware of the great scientists, their primary contribution and how it impacts the Christian-atheist dialogue. This is an area where conclusions often change and in which equally gifted scientists differ in their ideas. You don’t have to be a world-class physicist in order to talk intelligently about the issues, just be sure that you really do understand their position, and not just a caricature of it. It is easy to build up strawmen and destroy them – Christians and atheists are equally guilty.