Practical Apologetics

The Defense of the Faith

“What I am saying is true and reasonable.” With these words, the Apostle Paul presented the case for Christ to King Agrippa some two thousand years ago. Today, Christians are also called upon to make the case for Christ before a skeptical world – at the university, in the workplace, even among family and friends.

In PHI 191: Practical Apologetics, a course being offered at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Summer 2019, students will strengthen their ability to engage in apologetics – the defense of the Faith. Topics include: apologetics and evangelism, the reliability of the Scriptures, evidence and miracles, the existence of God, faith and reason, and scientific apologetics.

The intensive, one-week course is ideal for teachers, evangelists, administrators, students, and motivated lay-people who wish to be better equipped with grace and knowledge to win souls for Christ. The course can be taken for one undergraduate or graduate credit. On-campus housing is available.

The required textbook for the course is Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh and Sean McDowell. The (tentative) course syllabus and scanned pdf files of some of the readings for the course can be found behind the following links.

  • Summer 2019 course syllabus. Note: the reading assignments have been revised as of June 5. The readings related to scientific apologetics are available in pdf form below, as well as some of the study questions which are designed to guide your reading of the texts.
  • Here are the lecture notes provided by Rev. Berg for his initial lecture.
  • Berg, Rev. Michael. Postmodernism and the Theology of the Cross.
  • Here is an outline of Dr. Kuehn's introductory lecture on scientific apologetics.
  • Here are some notes on creation apologetics.
  • Riskin, Jessica. The Restless Clock. Chicago And London, The University of Chicago Press, 2018, pp. 1-10. In this introductory chapter, titled "Huxley's Joke, or the Problem of Agency in Nature and Science", historian of science Jessica Riskin identifies a problem at the root of modern science. Here are some study questions.
  • Riskin, Jessica. The Restless Clock. Chicago And London, The University of Chicago Press, 2018, pp. 44-76. In the chapter entitled "Descartes Among the Machines", Riskin explains the theological implications of Descartes' view of the human being. Study questions.
  • Pascal, B., Scientific treatises, in Pascal, Great Books of the Western World, vol. 33, edited by R. M. Hutchins, Encyclopedia Britannica, Chicago, 1952. In his Preface to the Treatise on the Vacuum, Pascal discusses the relationship between physics and other areas of knowledge.
  • Stanley, Matthew. Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon. Chicago And London, The University of Chicago Press, 2015, pp. 1-9. In this introductory chapter, Stanley, a historian of science, discusses the rise of atheistic science during the victorian era. Study questions.
  • Stanley, Matthew. Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon. Chicago And London, The University of Chicago Press, 2015, pp. 242-263. In this final chapter, Stanley describes "How the naturalists won" over against the conception of science advocated for by theists such as James Clerk Maxwell. Study questions.
  • Donahue, William H. Selections from Kepler's Astronomia Nova. 1635. Green Lion Press, 2004, pp. 1-28. Feel free to skip over pages 3-17, in which Kepler presents technical arguments in support of Copernicus' heliocentric theory. Beginning on page 18, Kepler describes how he approaches the relationship between holy scripture and scientific theory. Here are some study questions.
  • Schumacher, E F. A Guide for the Perplexed. Harper Perennial, 1977, pp. 1-14. In Chapter 1, "On Philosophical Maps", Schumacher begins to articulate how contemporary science differs from traditional science; he is a critic of scientific materialism. Study questions.
  • Schumacher, E F. A Guide for the Perplexed. Harper Perennial, 1977, pp. 15-25. In Chapter 2, "Levels of Being", Schumacher describes the classical distinction between mineral, vegetable, animal, and man, and why this is important. Study questions.
  • Gould, Stephen Jay. Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. Random House, 2002, pp. 3-10, 49-67. A famous biologist argues that science and religion constitute what he calls "Non-overlapping Magisteria" (NOMA). That is: science alone deals with nature and religion alone deals with ethics and meaning. Study questions.
  • Craig, William L. The Cosmological Argument From Plato to Leibniz, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001, ix-xi. The preface to Craig's book gives an overview of a classical argument for the existence of god. Study questions.
  • Craig, William L. The Cosmological Argument From Plato to Leibniz, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001, pp. 48-126. In chapter 3, Craig lays out the arguments of arabic philosophers and theologians. This is somewhat long and detailed; you should read up until page 61, unless perhaps you'd like to tackle some of the detailed arguments of Al-Kindi, al-Farai, Avicenna, Ghazali, and Averroes. A knowledge of arabic thinkers provides an opportunity for presenting the Faith to Muslims. Study guide.
  • Lewis, Clive Staples. Miracles, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1978. In chapter 3 of this book, Lewis argues that naturalism is self-refuting. Study questions.
  • Dembski, William. No Free Lunch. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2007, pp. 1-44. Dembski is one of the leaders of the so-called intelligent design movement; in this book he argues that design, chance, and necessity are legitimate forms of scientific explanation. In the first chapter, titled "The Third Mode of Explanation", Dembski argues for the validity of making a design inference. Read up to page 14 to get a good overview. Study questions.
  • McGrath Alister E. “Lecture 3: the Mystery of the Constants of Nature.” The 2009 Gifford Lectures, January 28, 2009, 1–18. Study questions.
  • Dembski, William A, and Michael Ruse. Debating Design, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 342-370. In his essay titled "Irreducible Complexity", Michael Behe argues that certain instances of biological complexity—in this case the bacteria flagellum—provide evidence for intelligent design. Study questions.
  • Dembski, William A, and Michael Ruse. Debating Design, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 81-97. Kenneth Miller's essay titled "The Flagellum Unspun" is very critical of Michael Behe's notion of irreducible complexity. Study questions.

Below are some readings that are useful and interesting. We hope to assemble a full bibliography of recommended readings for the apologist.

  • Tolkien, J.R.R. On Fairy-Stories. This is an example of literary apologetics.
  • Lewis, C S. The Discarded Image, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • Lewis, C S. The Abolition of Man, Scribner Paper Fiction, 1947.
  • Barrow, John and Tipler, Frank. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.
  • Libby, W F. Radiocarbon Dating. Nobel Lecture, December 12, 1960, 1960.
  • McGrew, Timothy, Marc Alspector-Kelly, and Fritz Allhoff. Philosophy of Science, John Wiley & Sons, 2009.
  • Dalrymple, Brent. The Age of the Earth. Stanford University Press, 1991. The is a standard book on how scientists interpret scientific data so as to arrive at a billion-year-old earth.
  • Montgomery, J W. The Suicide of Christian Theology, 1970, pp. 267-313. John Warwick Montgomery is one of the most renowned living apologists. In this selection, titled "The Theologian's Craft", he explains how science and theology are related to one another in their methodologies.
  • Melanchthon, Philipp, and Sachiko Kusukawa. Melanchthon: Orations on Philosophy and Education, Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 9-22. This selection, titled "On the Role of Schools", is a graduation speech delivered at the University of Wittenberg in 1543. It was written by Phillip Melanchthon, a classical scholar who was a close colleague and friend of Martin Luther.
  • Parton, Craig A. Religion on Trial, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2008.
  • Parton, Craig A. The Defense Never Rests, 2003.
  • Polkinghorne, J C. Quantum Physics and Theology, Yale University Press, 2007.
  • Riskin, Jessica. The Restless Clock. Chicago And London, The University of Chicago Press, 2018, pp. 335-374. In chapter 10, titled "History Matters", Riskin summarizes her historical analysis of the centuries-old debate of what it is that makes living things alive
  • Saint Athanasius. On the Incarnation, St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2011.
  • Schiaparelli, G V. Astronomy in the Old Testament, 1905.
  • Schrodinger, Erwin. What Is Life? Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • Edwards, William D, Wesley J Gabel, and Floyd E Hosmer. “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ.” Jama 255, no. 11 (March 21, 1986): 1455–63.
  • Wegener, A. The Origin of Continents and Oceans.(Translated From Fourth Revised Edition, 1929, by J. Biram.) 246 Pp, 1966. This is a classic on the theory of plate tectonics.
  • Wright, G. The Niagara Gorge as a Chronometer. Science, 1885.