Five Books for Skeptics and Seekers

recommendedbooksDo you ever feel like you have to have all the answers for your skeptical friends? Here’s the problem: it is way, way easier to ask a hard question than to give a good answer. In the space of five minutes someone can ask twenty incredibly difficult questions: how can we know anything at all? Maybe the Bible was altered by a group of powerful religious leaders – prove me wrong! How do you know Jesus is God? What about the violence in the Old Testament? How do you reconcile faith and science? What is your opinion on evolution? Doesn’t the Bible contradict itself? And on and on it can go…

I think you get the idea. To solve this problem, this website has a number of resources. For instance, we’ve collected some practical suggestions in case answering these questions feels overwhelming, shared principles for ethical evangelism, and talked about how to answer your friends’ questions.

Today I want to share another incredibly practical solution to this challenge: read a good book with your friend.

Here’s how it works:

Part 1: Get into a great conversation with your friend about ultimate issues.

Part 2: Realize you don’t have answers to all of their questions.

Part 3: Humbly admit this to your friend.

Part 4: Ask your friend if their interest in religious questions is sincere.

Part 5: Invite them to read one of the following books with you.

Here’s why it works:

The beauty of this approach is that it does three things at once: the book provides the answers to your friend’s questions, it takes the burden off of you to know all the answers, and the process strengthens your own understanding of the answers.

Here’s the other benefit: if you decide in advance which chapter you will read together, you have the time to prepare! To do so, you can use our custom apologetics search, check out our free reasons for the existence of God, and read books that go into greater depth on specific topics. Or you can ask the Christian Apologetics Alliance about any questions you have and get personalized answers.

It is super important that you don’t over-promise and under-deliver. Reading one book together may not bring your friend to faith in Christ. But it does give you an opportunity to build the friendship, talk about important questions, and learn some interesting things together.

As you pray for them, maybe they will come along to church with you, participate in a service project, or otherwise get more involved in communities where they can meet Jesus for themselves. So I recommend that you keep the tone somewhat casual and informal.

Be encouraged. Book clubs and study groups are a normal part of life. This is a very approachable, normal way to sincerely help your friend work through their genuine questions and doubts without having a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies.

If possible, I encourage you to read these books yourself before recommending that a friend read it with you. This hugely increases your credibility and will give you confidence that you’re suggesting the most appropriate book for your friend.

The Five Best Books To Read with a Skeptic:

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

thecaseforchristleestrobelI place this book first on my list because it is an absolute page-turner. Maybe that is because it is written by the former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune? In any case, this Gold Medallion award-winning book is an excellent choice because it gives you wide exposure to many excellent scholars and interesting, relevant questions.

The format is simple: Lee Strobel interviews world-class scholars like Dr. Craig Blomberg and Dr. Ben Witherington and asks them hard questions about the reliability of the Bible, the identity of Jesus, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and more. Their answers are intriguing, persuasive, and helpful.

The downside? By maximizing readability, and choosing the interview format, the book is not always as rigorous as it needs to be. There are holes in the arguments, as presented, and assertions that lack supporting evidence. That isn’t to say that these are bad arguments, just that they need further defense. So if you want or need something really rigorous, this isn’t your book. But if you want an outstanding introduction to the issues and exposure to a wide range of scholars, you cannot do better than The Case for Christ.

Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace

coldcasechristianityjwarnerwallaceReleased in January of 2013, this book received 50+ “Five Star” reviews in just two months. That’s almost one “Five Star” review a day! Why do people love this book so much?

Personally, I have really enjoyed this book because it is fresh. Great detective stories, unique insights, and new arguments for the truth of Christianity. I mean, have you ever heard of Forensic Statement Analysis? Or seen this technique applied to the gospel accounts?

The author, J. Warner Wallace, spent decades researching “cold case” murders as a detective for L.A. County. When he turned his skeptical investigative skills to the Christian faith as an adult, he was surprised to find himself becoming a Christian!

Like The Case for Christ, this book is written at an introductory level. Again, that means there are some unsupported statements that require further defense. For instance, in a chapter on the resurrection, Wallace asks us to trust him that there are some ‘minimal facts’ surrounding the resurrection of Jesus that reflect the scholarly consensus. If your experience is anything like mine, you will probably need to explain to your friend why “everyone” accepts these facts!

Overall, the tone is gracious, the content is excellent, and the conclusions are convincing. Cold-Case Christianity is a terrific book.

The Reason for God by Tim Keller

thereasonforgodtimkellerDr. Tim Keller has spent most of his life pastoring Redeemer Presbyterian, an evangelical church in the heart of New York City. In other words, he has extensive experience answering really difficult questions from believers and skeptics alike. Newsweek calls him the “C.S. Lewis for the 21st century” and this New York Times bestseller is decent evidence for their claim.

The Reason for God has two parts. Part One clears away seven major objections to Christianity (the exclusivity of the faith, the problem of suffering, science has disproved religion, etc.). Part Two establishes a positive case for Christian belief, from various ‘clues for God’ to philosophical arguments for theism.

Keller writes with a pastoral tone. That is, as Ravi Zacharias would say, he addresses not just the question but the questioner. His questions are provocative and intriguing. His answers are well-reasoned.

Overall, The Reason for God is a great choice. Some may find it harder to read, but many others will appreciate the intellectual rigor.

God is Great, God is Good, ed. William Lane Craig and Chad Meister

godisgreatgodisgoodwilliamlanecraigchadmeisterThis work is a collection of essays from some eminent Christian philosophers. I regularly read this book with students at Harvard and Boston College Law School (as I do with all of the other books listed here).

Some of my favorite chapters are J.P. Moreland’s “The Image of God and the Failure of Scientific Atheism,” Michael Murray’s “Evolutionary Explanations of Religion,” and “How Could God Create Hell?” by Jerry Walls. The essays are first-rate, on many important topics, from a diverse group of scholars, each contributing from their particular specialty.

The book is well-organized into four parts, but it still feels a little disjointed at times. Though I think the book lacks an overall, coherent narrative from chapter one to chapter fourteen, it doesn’t take that much work to fit the pieces together for yourself. That’s a strength and a weakness of the book: a wide range of diverse perspectives for the reasonableness of the Christian faith. One of the really valuable features of the book is the appendix, which is an interview with Antony Flew. Flew was the premier atheist of his day, yet he nevertheless became a deist late in life. It is an enormously encouraging story.

Bottom line: if you’re looking for an academic approach to Christianity, I recommend you start with God is Great, God is Good.

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona

thecasefortheresurrectionofjesusgaryhabermasmichaelliconaThe other books on this list are more comprehensive in their approach to Christianity. For most people, that is a good way to go. There are objections that need to be resolved, many questions that need sorting out, and lots to establish if a positive case is to be made. Fair enough.

But here’s another way of looking at it: if Jesus really did bodily rise from the dead, then Christianity is true! To do a fair investigation, all you and your friend need is an agnostic, open-minded approach towards miracles, and a willingness to do some serious historical research.

The problem? This book is unfortunately written to Christians. A seeking friend might find this off-putting, but most people can overlook this unnecessary limitation on the book’s audience.

More importantly, Habermas and Licona have assembled an enormous amount of historical data into a clearly organized, coherent case for the resurrection of Jesus. Along the way, you will learn how to summarize their case into a conversational approach that you can repeat whenever the topic comes up. (In my experience, the resurrection tends to come up a lot more often now that I’m prepared for the discussion!)

If your friend loves history, wants to do a focused investigation on the resurrection, or already has an interest in studying the life of Jesus, this is the best book to pick.

Summary

There are lots of other considerations, depending upon your context. Perhaps you are in a book club and get to recommend a book once a year? Why not pick The Case for Christ or Cold-Case Christianity? Are you a college or graduate student? Try out The Reason for God or God is Great, God is Good. Want to zero in on the most important question? Go straight for The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.

Whatever book you and your friend(s) agree on, continue to pray for them, include them in your church community, and make sure they understand the gospel. By God’s grace, and the work of the Holy Spirit, I pray these books will facilitate you learning more answers, your friend knowing Jesus, and the kingdom of God advancing around the world!

(Want more suggestions? We have carefully selected some recommended books).