“Apologetics” at first seems to be about apologizing. It’s not. According to the AnsMe.com dictionary, here goes:
apologetics (noun) –
1. the branch of theology that is concerned with the defense of Christian doctrines
And yet, though I realize this is kind of a official definition. I feel that tends to give an overtly strong defensive impression.
The Message puts it this way in 1 Peter 3:15
15Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.
I like the “speaking up” bit – it’s firm and conversational. Too often, our silence sens a wrong message to people. Especially when we need to be ready to “tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.” This Biblical picture is better. I believe in the midst of such honest conversations we have nothing to fear and much to gain in deepening our faith and clarifying our thoughts. It’s a win-win!
So, here’s my top three:
1. Letters From a Skeptic by Gregory & Edward Boyd
This is one of those books I searched I and low and was disappointed until Glad Sounds brought in some. The authentic exchange between Greg and his then ultra-skeptical father, Edward, was what attracted me. It’s not just what was said but how it was said as well.
Greg comments in his preface about the letters:
“This correspondence is an illustration of how the intellectual and spiritual elements of an unbelievers’ resistance to the Gospel can go hand in hand, and how a person can address both of these elements simultaneously. It is an illustration of how practical and effective apologetics can be. It is an example of how God can use intellectual considerations to reach and change the heart of one whose mind and heart had previously been impervious to the light of the Gospel. And, finally, this correspondence is a testimony to the transforming power of persistent love and honest communication in sharing the Gospel.” (p. 10)
2. Finding Faith by Brian D. McLaren
Discovering McLaren has been a tremendous blessing! Finding this book in Kinokunya (KLCC) was a great surprise. I think SUFES has some now. Presenting “apologetics” in the form of “a Self-Discovery Guide for your spiritual quest” is a humble approach which I think is attractive. In fact, i think I found a deeper faith and new ways of thinking after working through this book a couple of times. There’s no need to park our brains in the fridge when it comes to matters of faith. McLaren’s holistic perspectives gave me a wider framework:
“Though a healthy faith is bigger than the intellect, the search for faith cannot bypass the intellect … the search for faith also involves noncognitive parts of us — emotions, longings, aspirations, dreams and hopes and fears, drives, desires, intuitions.” (p.13)
The purpose of the book gives a nice twist to “good apologetics”:
” … this book was written: to help you replace the faith you lost, invigorite the faith you have, and develop the faith you desire but never had before.” (p. 18)
3. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
I know this book is a classic. i just don’t know why I came to it so late compared to the others. Okay, I admit I bought it because first it was a classic (and how can a pastor not have one). Second, it was a RM30 hardcover book (a deal!). So, the motivations were not too noble. But this last week as I’m carefully working through Lewis’ thoughts with patience. I salute him again and again after every chapter. Now , I understand in reality why this is a classic. The analogies, illustrations, examples and metaphors he uses to combine his plain down-to-earth reasoning makes me “write-less” (similar to speechless). The following underlined samples has wet my appetite for imagery at its best.
“I hope no reader will suppose the “mere” Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to creeds of existing communions … It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms.” (p. xv)
“… there is no such things as good and bad impulses. Think once again of a piano. It has not got two kinds of notes on it, the ‘right’ notes and the ‘wrong’ ones. every single note is right at one time and wrong at another. The Moral Law is not any one instinct or set of instincts: it is something which makes a kind of tune (tune we call goodness or right conducts) by directing the instincts.” (p. 11)
“… what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of HIs reasoning powers and that is how we think: He purs a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming it. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.” (p.57)