Apologetics Creativity Centre

Dr. Gordon E. Carkner

Ph.D. Philosophical Theology 

BC Mountain Splendour

Apologetics is a highly effective and necessary resource for today’s thoughtful Christian engaged in real dialogue with those outside the Christian community. It is an essential tool for helping us to love our neighbor, cope with plurality and difference of views, and also helps us build confidence in the robustness of our faith. We are in the midst of what Charles Taylor calls the Nova Effect: we see around us the pursuit of multiple spiritual pathways. We don’t have less religion, but more religion than ever before in this so-called ‘secular age’. Never before has religious and philosophical discernment been so critical. People need answers and resources, as evidenced by the success of Discovering Christianity and Alpha Courses and Tim Keller’s popular book The Reason for God. Seekers are looking for thoughtful responses that can take their tough questions seriously, combined with a compassion and mercy that empathizes with their struggle, pain and despair. Otherwise, they easily get caught up in the default cultural drift to skepticism and scientific atheism/materialism (sometimes called rationalism), or the deconstruction, malaise and nihilism of cultural studies. Below I want to foreground some of the best available material and most effective approaches to open dialogue. Our ministries and our personal dialogue can be well resourced, so that we are not flying by the seat of our pants. Our apologetics claim is that the use of sweet reason can be part of the infrastructure of Christian discipleship, not a luxury for the few. Paul Gould says that it a tool to re-enchant the world and spark the imagination about God, meaning, hope and purpose.

Intellectual Credibility + Personal Relevance + Demonstrable Moral Integrity = Serious Plausibility and Curiosity in the Mind of the Seeker

Os Guinness’ new book on the combination of evangelism and apologetics called Fool’s Talk: recovering the art of Christian persuasion. This resonates.

Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion. (Crossway, 2019). A fine contemporary engagement in apologetics with real integrity by a bright young woman. Deals with some of the current gender and identity issues.

Tom Holland’s scintillating history read called: Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World. Basic Books, 2019. If you would like to refresh your church history in an articulate, exciting way, award-winning author Tom Holland is your man. He brings characters like Origen and Basil the Great to life in our imagination.

Free Will & God’s Sovereignty

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uq88TUahFcg Tim Keller on God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility.

Dr. Gordon Carkner’s Apologetics Resource Index

New Recommendation Fall 2022: Paul M. Gould, Cultural Apologetics: Renewing the Christian Voice, Conscience, and Imagination in a Disenchanted World. 2018

Toward Stronger Discipleship, Dialogue Skill Growth and Stable Commitment to Christ

 Apologetics is a highly effective and necessary resource for today’s students, Christian leaders and church community members. There are some very effective, proven approaches and resources available. We want to put you in touch with the cutting edge in this field. These resources are relevant for both the early and late modernity. We must be multi-lingual in our approach depending on the area of study or the individual questioner. Students and friends need answers, plus fresh ways of articulating what they believe and why, as well as tools to challenge the hegemony of Philosophical Naturalism or materialism. They need resources that can help them reason well and engage the hard questions; it often is a matter of spiritual life and death. Apologetics can be a real game changer in the life of someone 16 to 30 years of age.

Can We Make Peace Between Faith & Reason?

The bibliography below is an attempt to show that there exists a strong resource base in speakers, books, websites and articles on a host of topics and issues. It will be continually updated with new releases and discoveries. In section 13. Faith & Culture, there is an important list of books to engage Western culture, to keep your life or your ministry on the creative curve. We do not want students, pastors or community members to get caught in the cultural rip tide of skepticism and scientific materialism, or the malaise/nihilism within the humanities. Religion is making a come back and these resources can help us negotiate the future.

Gord has consulted with apologists internationally to bring to the surface some of the best available material and speakers so that our ministries, our dialogue can be robustly empowered. Our campus and church communities need to be challenged to rethink the stereotypes of naïve or blind irrational faith. Quality and creativity are top priorities in what is offered below, vital to build strength into people’s minds and hearts, to offer encouragement in the midst of doubt, and courage to speak for God in today’s society.

Faith is not wishful thinking, nor is it the opposite of evidence. It is definitely not anti-science. It is a reasonable trust: faith seeks understanding and in turn increased understanding strengthens faith. We live by faith all the time in every realm of life: we trust chairs, houses and cars, lawyers, doctors, friends, spouses, business partners. Of course, we are properly skeptical of a drunk driver’s offer of a ride home–that would be bad faith. We must first believe certain facts and insights–that something is true or sound or grounded, not based on hype, lies, propaganda or obfuscation. But then, we must also believe in something or someone–when we get married or take a job in a certain company. We make a commitment and take on appropriate risk. We cannot know everything about the person or institution, but there must be warrant for our trust. At the end of the day, Christian faith in God is a friend to good reason, reflection, examination of theology and culture, documents and stories. It is aimed at attaining wisdom, coherence, certainty and discernment about key life issues. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn once wrote: “One ounce of truth can outweigh the whole world.” It helped him survive the Gulag prison camp.

We don’t want to give up on, or reject, the great claims of the ancient, enduring Christian faith tradition based on stereotypes, half-truths or myths. In some sense, we are all on a spiritual journey of some sort. There are lots of so-called barriers to faith these days in our culture, and in individuals due to selfishness and pride, repression of certain ideals, or refusal to investigate certain lines of thought. We have found in our dialogue with students that some of the toughest questions provide the best platforms for discussion and dialogue, so we should not fear them. We do not have to be shy to ask our hard questions about a ‘secular’ outlook either. Love works out to be the most important apologetic for the Christian, so we should be sure to cultivate love for our dialogue partners/seekers. The goal of apologetics is: Speak the truth in love, answer the tough questions and move people towards God (I Corinthians 15:58). These discussions often move from brainy/intellectual issues to heart issues as trust builds.

It is encouraging to see believers grow in confidence and discover creativity in their witness as they begin to read and think through good questions and realize that Christian faith is compatible with good reason and non-hostile discussion  or dialogue. This resource directory is oriented to promote energy, hope and a non-defensive stance on the part of Christians. It provides intellectual and spiritual leverage. Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God which we studied a couple years ago in GCU is a great example of the spirit of thoughtful dialogue we value. It is the basis of a Christianity 101 course taught at SFU each semester.

Regent Bookstore on the UBC campus has an excellent selection of this kind of book and even a special section labeled Apologetics. See also their Philosophy, Literature, Social Science and Science selections.

Debate on the Trinity with Nabeel Qureshi and Dr. Shabir Ally https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWpqqqZn7Kg

Cover of
Cover of A Mind for God

1. Methodology & Perspective

Carkner, Gordon, The Great Escape from Nihilism: rediscovering our passion in late modernity.

Hart, David Bentley, The Experience of God: being, consciousness and bliss. Yale, 2013

Newman, John Henry, The Idea of the University.

Sommerville, C. John, The Decline of the Secular University.

Newbigin, Lesslie, The Gospel in a Pluaristic Society. Eerdmans, 1989.

Letters to Doubting Thomas: a case for the existence of God. ~ C. Stephen Layman

McGrath, Alister, Intellectuals Don’t Need God? Zondervan

Swiinburne, Richard, His Trilogy

  • The Coherence of Theism, 1977
  • The Existence of God, 1979 (new edition 2004).
  • Faith and Reason, 1981 (new edition 2005).

Sire, James, The Universe Next Door: a basic worldview catelogue. IVP, 2004.

Volf, Miraslov, Flourishing: why we need religion in a globalized world? (Yale 2015)

The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: surveying the evidence for the truth of Christianity (eds. Ed Hinson and Ergun Carter, 2008)

Stackhouse, John G., Jr.  Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Clark, David K. Dialogical Apologetics: A Person-Centered Approach to

Christian Defense.  Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993.

Marsden, George, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship. OUP, 1998.

Edgar, William.  Reasons of the Heart: Recovering Christian Persuasion. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996.

Craig, William Lane, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Crossway Books.

Chapman, C., Eerdmans Handbook: The Case for Christianity. Eerdmans, 1981.

Hart, David Bentley,  Atheist Delusions: the Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies.

Adler, M. J. Intellect: Mind Over Matter. Collier, 1990.

Keller, Tim. Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism. Dutton, 2008.

Marsden, George, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship; The Soul of the American University.

Newman, John Henry, The Idea of the University.

Plantinga, Alvin, Warranted Christian Belief.

Zaccharias, R. Can Man Live Without God?

White, J.E., A Mind for God. Ivp, 2006.

William Lane Craig & Chad Meister. God is Great: God is Good: why believing in God is reasonable and responsible. IVP (Scholarly responses to the New Atheists)

Bush, L. Russ.  Classical Readings in Christian Apologetics: A.D. 100-1800.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Academie, 1983.

The Apologetics Study Bible

Campbell-Jack, W.C., McGrath, G.J., Evans, C. Stephen. Eds. The New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics

Evans, C. Stephen.  Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion.  Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2002.

Kreeft, P.  & Tacelli, R.K., Handbook of Christian Apologetics. IVP

Noll, Mark, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Eerdmans, 1994.

Miller, James, Hardwired: Finding the God You already Know.

Loconte, Joseph. The Searchers: a quest for faith in the valley of doubt. Thomas nelson, 2012

Six Pillars for a Growing Edge in Apologetic Dialogue

Another way to put this is the rules of engagement. I assume that you desire to give a calm and reasoned answer for the vision of promise, hope, faith and love within you, the narrative vision that engages you, that motivates you and makes sense of your world (I Peter 3:15). I assume that you are keener than average and willing to do some fresh work, reading and thinking. You sense the need for the Christian voice and you are willing to step up to the plate, to become part of the answer. You want to know the effective tools that are available to equip your personal witness.

1. Worldview Discernment: mapping the pluralistic landscape of the various spiritual journeys we are likely to encounter in today’s society. Posture: refuse to be overwhelmed by difference and diversity of convictions. Our current condition is called the Nova Effect by Charles Taylor.

2. Investigative Journalism: employing fruitful human questions to make deeper connections and find points of spiritual contact. Posture: that of a detective or reporter with a curious mind and a sensitive heart.

3. Establish Common Ground, a Platform for Dialogue: finding the best in people as a point of non-defensive and non-offensive conversational entry. What are the assumptions we can make from our common aspirations, our human creaturehood and our will to the common good, or key markers of human flourishing? What are our common longings and aspirations? Without a level playing field, you will not have great discussion and dialogue.

4. Reckoning with Cultural Barriers to Faith: understanding and mobilizing idolatries, roadblocks, closed world systems, atheism, loss of transcendence as leverage in conversation. Every posture is vulnerable under critical scrutiny, whether the hegemony is scientific materialism, nihilistic skepticism, or a dogmatic fundamentalist religious perspective. This involves mapping the modern and postmodern perception worlds (social imaginaries) that people inhabit. There are also moral ideologies that prevent people from hearing what you are saying. One’s moral and intellectual bent are more interconnected than many people realize. Dialogue invites people to enter an open field or round table of discussion, rather than fighting like a trapped fox who has been cornered. We can waste a lot of time if we are not in touch with these barriers. They are worth working on.

5. Communicative Potential of the Poetic/Prophetic Imagination: especially in the aesthetic oriented Postmodern/Late Modern Condition. Here we explore the language of epiphany, agape love and transcendence. Scientific rationality does not work here; Modernism has been called into question. Hermeneutics is more the game (Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic). C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein and the other Inklings were geniuses at this trade. Malcolm Guite is a fresh poet among others. Jens Zimmermann’s new book, Hermeneutics: a very short introduction, is very helpful. Certain literary forms can act subversively to get past a seeker’s defences (Joseph Laconte, The Searchers; Paul M. Gould, Cultural Apologetics, has some brilliant insights).

According to writer Flannery O’Connor, this world is a Christ-haunted landscape. God has left his fingerprints all over creation, from the expanse of the cosmos to the depths and contours of the human heart. Aslan is on the move among us. It is our task to pay attention, examine the evidence, pick up the trail and show others how to discern the clues. This spectacular universe, where our very building blocks come out of the death of a star, and the complex nature of humans speaks volumes. It intimates the possibility of a further knowledge of God and builds in longing for explanation (creatio et anthropos). I pray that we together can help restore people’s sense of wonder and hunger for discovery, expand the horizon of their imagination. Where does the evidence lead us? What are the possibilities of this all-important investigation? Strategically, we want to discuss ways and means to improve access, correct the misconceptions, confront the stereotypes, and to heighten people’s curiosity and awareness of God’s art, his deep vested interest in each human being and his tremendous offer of costly grace. We are in partnership with God in this game.

6. Biblical Narrative and the Jesus Story: always a fresh opportunity to commend Jesus in context of issues, aspirations and questions of one’s interlocutor. This pillar celebrates a robust Jesus story and kingdom teaching for today’s complex world. How indeed is Jesus the Yes and Amen to our fundamental human questions and our existential concerns? Be articulate, creative, intriguing, relevant, provocative, opening gates to insight and discovery. The video series Gospel of John has a fresh approach to depicting Jesus. We all must become creative storytellers; the Gospels give plenty of examples of various styles of capturing a person’s imagination.

1b. Debates about Theism

Alberta’s Dr. Randall Rauser & John Loftus debating  God or Godless?  http://randalrauser.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/God-or-Godless-Loftus-v.-Rauser-Calgary.mp3

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYWEYuhiWzE  David Bentley Hart on Christianity & its Fashionable Enemies

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2. Gender Issues

Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion. (Crossway, 2019). A fine contemporary engagement in apologetics with real integrity by a bright young woman. Deals with some of the current gender and identity issues.

Cochran, Pamela D. H. Evangelical Feminism: A History. New York and London: New York University Press, 2005.

Grenz, Stanley J., with Denise Muir Kjesbo. Women in the Church:  A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995.

Hancock, Maxine, ed. Christian Perspectives on Gender, Sexuality, and Community. Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2003.

Pierce, Ronald W. and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, eds. Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Stackhouse, John G., Jr. “Women in Public Ministry: Five Models in Twentieth-Century North American Evangelicalism.” Chap. in Evangelical Landscapes: Facing Critical Issues of the Day. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002.

Storkey, Elaine. Origins of Difference: The Gender Debate Revisited. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Tucker, Ruth A. and Walter Liefeld. Daughters of the Church: Women and Ministry from New Testament Times to the Present. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.

Van Leeuwen, Mary Stewart. Gender & Grace: Love, Work  & Parenting in a Changing World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990.

Van Leeuwen, Mary Stewart, ed. After Eden: Facing the Challenge of Gender Reconciliation. Grand Rapids, MI / Carlisle: Eerdmans / Paternoster Press, 1993.

Stackhouse, John G. Jr. Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender Baker Academic, 2005.

Charry, Ellen T., article in Cambridge Companion to Feminism, ed. Susan Frank Parsons. CUP, 2002.

Creegan, N.H., & Christine D. Pohl, Living on the Boundaries: evangelical women, feminism and the theological academy. IVP, 2005.

Tools of the Apologetics Trade that have Proven Impact

  1. Apologetics gets to the heart and soul of a person through the mind
    Our metaphor is brush clearing in the jungle to provide a runway for planes to land. It helps clear the fog in people’s minds, to help them see the ‘invisible God’ in Jesus Christ. Priority of one before the other is less certain today. We may start with the heart (or a brilliant moving story) to get someone’s attention and then deal with intellectual barriers later. We want to be compelling. There are many entry points in the late modern world. Don’t get stuck on an approach which keeps running into walls. Use your poetic imagination (Malcolm Guide) through your blog or YouTube site, a song or a painting; the transcendence and beauty of God, his presence is sometimes best encountered through art or in music or performance (George Steiner, Real Presences; David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite). We need a many-splendored approach to spark the imagination. Perhaps it will be that T.S. Elliot poem or a novel that will connect or subvert a hardened position when other things fail.
  2. Effective apologetics is grounded in knowledge of the audience
    Ask lots of questions to discover their story. What are their hopes and fears, dreams and aspirations, even the ideologies or idolatries of your dialogue partner? You need more than a good grasp of Scripture. Let them tell you who they are and what feeds their passion. You will learn hoe to cultivate sociological, cultural and psychological intelligence. The metaphor in this category is Investigative Journalism. It helps to make notes and remember details from one conversation to the next. Your mind will work on the issues and questions they raise and you will come back with fresh insights or things to read. Your personal growth is a big part of the project. Learn to ask questions like Jesus or Tim Keller. Become unpredictable, winsome and fun. Resist putting people into boxes or compartments, but rather hear them out. What kind of spiritual journey are they on right now? Too much ministry proceeds without proper investigation. Keep a journal of what you are learning; write a blog about your discoveries and insights when breakthroughs happen. Talk to other friends who are actively sharing their faith and swap ideas.
  3. Good and wise apologetics operates from a posture of humility but not shyness. It is committed to a robust engagement with reality. Neither arrogance nor triumphalism will lead to impact. Extreme patience, gentleness and respect opens the heart (I Peter 3:15,16; II Corinthians 5:20; I Corinthians 13; Romans 12:1-3). Take responsibility for the well-being of your friend and she will feel your genuine concern, leading to openness and teachability. Love, grace and patience is the proper spiritual medium, the agar, for good dialogue. Agape love is your most powerful leverage; it has moved and changed the world. Confrontation, coercion, condescension and disrespect will get you alienated and written up on Twitter. Host your friends at the table of investigation of these important questions.
  4. Alister McGrath from his helpful book Intellectuals Don’t Need God? “Apologetics creates an intellectual and imaginative climate favorable to faith; it does not itself create faith.”
  • by trying to persuade people that Christianity is plausible and makes sense of human experience; it fits or resonates with them. It has purchase or cash out value.
  • by trying to create a climate of trust in which God can be seen as worthy of faith and commitment.
  • by leading people to the door of faith, providing the enthusiasm and the elements of intrigue; the individual must open the door and take a step into belief and into a relationship to God through Jesus Christ; they have to risk something to experience God. Not everything can be known in advance. They must go from belief ‘that’ to belief ‘in’ or personal, existential commitment.
  • by building a bridge to faith, by seeking common ground between Christian thought and that of the individual we want to convince, for example “Ah yes, fellow Athenians, you would seem to be quite religious and I am intrigued by this “unknown god” that is represented here among your artifacts.” Acts 17 (Greeks) vs Acts 13 (Jews). What are the artifacts, the passion in your friend’s life that can build a bridge to faith? Is it in the realm of science, or sports, art or outdoor activity, politics or business? There are a multitude of bridges and onramps. God can help you find the right one.

Our GFCF lectures @ UBC ubcgfcf.com create the space for really productive dialogue through the reflections of top Christian scholars and scientists. Another great resources to spark dialogue is video or online talks such as Faraday Film Series “Test of Faith” or John Dickson’s “Life of Jesus” or NT Wright on “Evil” or “The Resurrection of Jesus”.

Take the lead in asking probing questions and sparking fresh, mind-expanding dialogue, feeding an adventure of the mind and heart.

3. Science & Natural Theology 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRT4U15WURJuxdnej_ZBRdw CSCA YouTube Channel

Dennis Alexander, Faraday Institute, Cambridge

Polkinghorne, Sir John, One World: The Interaction of Science & Theology. Princeton. (physicist/theologian—leading light)

Polkinghorne, Sir John, Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science: Religion, Science and Providence.

Plantinga, Alvin. Where the Conflict Really Lies: science, religion and naturalism. OUP, 2012.

Gingerich, Owen, God’s Universe.

http://johnlennox.org/  Oxford Mathematician/Philosopher Dr John Lennox

Collins, Francis, The Language of God. Free Press.

Sir Karl R. Popper & John C. Eccles, The Self and its Brain. Routledge.

Pascal, Blaise.  Pensees.  Trans. A. J. Krailsheimer.  Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1966.

Capell & Cook eds., Not Just Science: Questions Where Christian Faith and Natural Science Intersect. Zondervan

Jaki, Stanley, The Road to Science and the Ways to God. Chicago (Gifford

Lectures on history of science)

Russell, Colin, Crosscurrents: Interactions Between Science & Faith. Eerdmans

Danielson, Dennis ed., The Book of the Cosmos. Perceus.

Plantinga, Alvin, Where the Conflict Really Lies.

Lewis, C.S., Miracles. Macmillan

Waltke, Bruce, “Gift of the Cosmos”(article on Genesis 1:1-2:4) Chapter 8 in   An Old Testament Theology, Zondervan, 2007.

Alexander, Denis, Rebuilding the Matrix: Science & Faith in the 21st Century. Zondervan (director of Faraday Institute in Cambridge, UK)

Burke, ed., Creation & Evolution: 7 Prominent Christians Debate. IVP UK.

Livingstone, D. N., Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter Between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought.

Owens, V.S., Godspy: Faith, Perception, and the New Physics.

Gingerich, Owen, “Let There Be Light” article on natural theology by America’s top Christian physicist.

What’s the game? I am suggesting a fusion between cultural research, apologetics and evangelism as a point of leverage for Christian communications and impact, similar to Paul M. Gould’s book Cultural Apologetics. We need to bring the scientific, sociological, philosophical and biblical together to empower us in speaking for God in today’s culture. I see apologetics as a tool for finessing our evangelism, and a means to remove the violence, triumphalism and narcissism in some forms of evangelism. I call this a confident, dialogical, pro-active stance; we need to take the leadership in raising the right questions, and setting the agenda for meaningful moral, religious and inter-religious discussions. This includes picking up on the discussions and questions that come up every day in every sector of family life, school, work and media. This is the air you breathe and it is riddled with opportunity. We need the confidence to lead, to pioneer engaging discussion. It encourages us to employ our full intelligence, love, creativity and rhetorical skill, employing our fullest imagination to make the good news understandable and commendable to today’s seekers. We want to help create space for God in the lives of people and to help turn their love and passion towards their creator-redeemer. Let the games begin. Let’s put evangelistic awkwardness and childish ways behind us.

We all have some skill in this area, and yet we all need to cultivate a personal growing edge and acquire further training, to become aware of the tremendous resources available. It is my conviction that as a church in the early twenty-first century we have to devote much more work to this area, to put more time, money and focus or become increasingly more irrelevant. Cultural Research is necessary as part of our leadership health and fitness. God is hoping that you will be part of the next generation of Christian apologists, offering creative and effective life-giving communication. Don’t sell yourself short if you have the vision for itYou could become an unstoppable force, an observer-listener-communicator who follows in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, Justin Martyr and Alister McGrath speaking to the Greek and Canadian philosophers, artists and poets. Build a think-tank of friends to work with you through the challenging landscape. Our God deserves the best representation possible. Make a goal to improve your knowledge and skill over the next three years.

Grounds for Warrant/Trust in Christian Faith

Apologetics involves a rich conversation, drawing on a variety of resources, ideas and insights, moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar, pointing in the right direction, issuing your own tough questions and challenges. You and your dialogue partner represent two different interpretive horizons of thought. Apologetics does not offer absolute coercive certainty (final proof). Remember that absolute certainty is not available in history, science, or even knowledge of a close friend. We cannot prove the incarnation from a hike up Grouse Mountain, but the grandeur of the majestic mountains in Yoho National Park can get our attention, stimulate a sense of our smallness, a sense of wonder and start a conversation about the grandeur of God as one might find in a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem. Sometimes we need to help our friend slow down, reflect and pay attention to their contingency and their bigger context. Does the universe have to answer to him or must he answer to the universe?

Philosopher C. Stephen Evans @ Baylor University on what apologetics can and cannot do regarding proof“Good evidence will not be the abslolute proof that many ask for, but it ought to be sufficient to satisfy a reasonable, open-minded person. This evidence is multi-faceted and we should not lean too hard on one argument. But above all, Christian faith is not guilty until proven innocent.”

Coercive proof is not available, but imaginative, lively demonstrable evidence is available in abundance; thoughtful arguments abound, and we should learn to explore and master them. You can grow your skill over time, build your toolkit and become more savvy. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you in the midst of the dialogue in order to develop a good learning curve as you caste the seeds of faith.

Ten Myths about Christianity by Michael Green & Gordon Carkner

Theology of Creation

Capon, R. F.,  “The Third Peacock” in The Romance of the Word. Eerdmans

Gunton, C., The Triune Creator: a historical and systematic study. Eerdmans (English theologian)

Walsh & Middleton, The Transforming Vision. IVP

Bouma-Prediger, S., For the Beauty of the Earth: a Christian vision of creation care.. Baker Academic, 2010.

Scholarly Responses to New Atheism and Other Misconceptions of Science
Iain Provan, Seriously Dangerous Religion: what the Old Testament really says and why it matters. (Baylor 2014)
Hart, David Bentley, The Experience of God: being, consciousness and bliss. Yale, 2013

Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: science, religion and naturalism.

Thomas Nagel, Mind & Cosmos. (questions whether reductionistic explanations are adequate)

Alister McGrath, A Fine-Tuned Universe.

——————–, The Dawkins Delusion

David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: the Christian Revolution and its fashionable enemies.


David Bentley Hart 

John C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? Lion.

——————, Gunning for God: why the new atheists are missing the target.

John Lennox debates Richard Dawkins at Oxford’s Museum of Natural History:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0UIbd0eLxw

Craig & Meister (eds.), God is Great; God is Good: why believing in God is reasonable and responsible: https://ubcgcu.org/2013/09/06/gcu-book-study/

Peter Hitchens, Rage Against God: how atheism led me to faith.

Denis Alexander, Evolution or Creation?

Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making sense of the Old Testament God.

Limits of Science

Medawar, P., The Limits of Science.

http://m.weeklystandard.com/articles/heretic_707692.html?nopager=1 Limits of Materialism (Vilification of Thomas Nagel)

Schumacher, E.F. A Guide for the Perplexed. Abacus. (challenge to reductionism)

Carkner, G., Under Investigation: Scientism (short unpublished paper on reductionism)

McGrath, A. & J., The Dawkins Delusion? IVP 2007.

Lennox, John. God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? Lion

Jeeves & Berry,  Science, Life, and Christian Belief. Apollos Books.

Ward, Keith, Pascal’s Fire:  Scientific Faith and Religious Understanding.


Harper, Charles Jr. ed., Spiritual Information: 100 Perspectives on Science and Religion. Templeton Foundation Press.

Spencer, N. & White, R. Christianity, Climate Change, and

Sustainable Living.  SPCK, 2007.

4. Scripture Authority and Authenticity

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http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/10/miraculous-witness   Craig Keener Miracles: the Credibility of the N.T. Accounts. 2 volume set.

series Life of Jesus by John Dickson, Centre for Public Christianity, Sydney, Australia.

Barnett, Paul.  Is the New Testament Reliable? 2nd ed.  Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 2005.

Bock, Darrell, L.  The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities.  Nashville: Nelson Books, 2006.

Iain Provan, Seriously Dangerous Religion: what the Old Testament really says and why it matters. (Baylor, 2013)

Bruce, F.F., New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.

Blomberg, Craig, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.  Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1987.

Blomberg, Craig.  The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel.  Downers Grove: Intervarsity press, 2002.

Bock, Darrel, Can I Trust the Bible? Defending the Bible’s Reliability.

Atlanta: RZIM Critical Concerns Series, 2001.

Historical Evidence or Verification: This is often the entry level for many Christians in apologetics. Who was Jesus? What does the text say he claimed for his identity? How can we believe in his resurrection? What is the soundness and strength of scriptural documents? What archaeological support do we have for the biblical narrative? See Rodney Stark, One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism. He is a major contributor in research on Christianity’s social impact. See also David Bentley Hart Atheist Delusions: the Christian revolution and its fashionable enemies). Try out the new Christianity on Trial: a lawyer examines the Christian faith by W. Mark Lanier (IVP). Australian history scholar John Dickson has an accessible DVD series called The Life of Jesus that covers this beautifully. N.T. Wright has a substantial DVD on the Resurrection. This arena is more empirical and a critical resource to respond to Muslims, where skepticism of Christian documents is very strong (Gordon Nickel, The Gentle Answer to the Muslim Accusation of Biblical Falsification; Andy Bannister, An Oral-Formulaic Study of the Qur’an). Christianity makes the claim of being a historical religion.

5. Jesus: Life, Death & Resurrection 

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DVD by Tom Wright on the Resurrection

Why Jesus? Rediscovering his truth in an age of mass marketed spirituality. ~ Ravi Zacharias

Wright, N.T.  The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. Intervarsity Press, 1999. (Wright is top scholar on Jesus and the New Testament)

Wright, N.T., The New Testament and the People of God.

Dunn, James D.G.  The Evidence for Jesus.  Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986

Yancey, Philip. The Jesus I Never Knew.

Copan, Paul ed.  Will the Real Jesus please stand up: A Debate between

William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan.  Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,


Habermas, Gary and Antony Flewdebate.  Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?  Ed. by

Terry L. Miethe.  San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987.

Swinburne, Richard, The Resurrection of God Incarnate.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003.

Two part video on Gospel of John (powerfully acted and close to the text)

6. Christianity & Other Religions & Ideologies

Philosophical Credibility Tests: These include criteria of coherence, consistency, unity, comprehensiveness, law of non-contradiction (more important in the early modern outlook or those oriented to analytical philosophy). How good or cogent is the Christian worldview? How much of reality can it explain or how does it fit the facts of our existence? Is it compatible or does it conflict with science? How can we kindly point out the gaps, inconsistencies or reductionism in other views? Natural theology uses the wonders of nature to point to a creative mind, a cosmic artist (e.g. Robert J. Spitzer, New Proofs for the Existence of God: contributions of contemporary physics and philosophy). Critical realism is a key term here: a theory must be adjusted by new data (Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos; Alister McGrath, A Fine-tuned Universe; Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies; Charles Taylor, A Secular Age; James Sire, The Universe Next Door; C. Stephan Layman, Letters to a Doubting Thomas: a case for the Existence of God). It encourages an open and critical mind. It is necessary for the bright students, philosophers, scientists, lawyers, thinkers, etc. A course in logic helps here if you have the opportunity to include it into your education. William Lane Craig and Ravi Zacharias are two of the most popular apologists who use philosophy. David Bentley Hart has a brilliant critique of materialistic naturalism or scientism in The Experience of God. I first discovered one could make philosophy work for me at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School under Norman Geisler.

Taylor, Charles, A Secular Age. Harvard University Press, 2007

Anderson, Sir Norman. Christianity and World Religions: The Challenge of Pluralism [original title:  Christianity and Comparative Religions]. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984 [1970].

Neil, Stephen, Christian Faith & Other Faiths. IVP

Baker, David W., ed. Biblical Faith and Other Religions:  An Evangelical Assessment. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004.

Chesterton, G. K. The Everlasting Man. Reprint ed. New York: Image, 1955 [1925].

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl4NgIg_ht8IZCRIhho4nxA Charles Taylor & the Myth of the Secular

Edwards, James R. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 2005.

Gardner, Howard. Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds. New York: Harvard Business School Press, 2004.

Griffiths, Paul J. An Apology for Apologetics: A Study in the Logic of Interreligious Dialogue. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991.

Griffiths, Paul J. Christianity through Non-Christian Eyes. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998.

Karkkainen, Veli-Matti. An Introduction to the Theology of Religions: Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Perspectives. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003.

Ludwig, Theodore. The Sacred Paths:  Understanding the Religions of the World. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

McDermott, Gerald R. Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions?  Jesus, Revelation & Religious Traditions. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

Pinnock, Clark H. A Wideness in God’s Mercy: The Finality of Jesus Christ in a World of Religions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.

Sanders, John, ed. What About Those Who Have Never Heard?  Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995.

Sanneh, Lamin. Whose Religion Is Christianity? The Gospel Beyond the West. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003.

Stackhouse, John G., Jr., ed. No Other Gods before Me? Evangelicals Encounter the World’s Religions. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Tiessen, Terrance L. Who Can Be Saved? Reassessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004.

7. History

Historical Evidence or Verification: This is often the entry level for many Christians in apologetics. Who was Jesus? What does the text say he claimed for his identity? How can we believe in his resurrection? What is the soundness and strength of scriptural documents? What archaeological support do we have for the biblical narrative? See Rodney Stark, One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism. He is a major contributor in research on Christianity’s social impact. See also David Bentley Hart Atheist Delusions: the Christian revolution and its fashionable enemies). Try out the new Christianity on Trial: a lawyer examines the Christian faith by W. Mark Lanier (IVP). Australian history scholar John Dickson has an accessible DVD series called The Life of Jesus that covers this beautifully. N.T. Wright has a substantial DVD on the Resurrection. This arena is more empirical and a critical resource to respond to Muslims, where skepticism of Christian documents is very strong (Gordon Nickel, The Gentle Answer to the Muslim Accusation of Biblical Falsification; Andy Bannister, An Oral-Formulaic Study of the Qur’an). Christianity makes the claim of being a historical religion.

See also on the positive impact of Christianity on Western Culture: Tom Holland, Dominion.

Evans, C. Stephen. The Historical Christ and the Jesus of Faith: The Incarnational Narrative as History. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.

McIntire, C. T. and Ronald A. Wells, eds. History and Historical Understanding. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984.

Marsden, George & Frank Roberts, ed. A Christian View of History? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975.

Marsden, George, The Soul of the University.

Gregory, Brad, The Unintended Reformation: how a religious revolution secularized society.

Bebbington, David. Patterns in History: A Christian Perspective on Historical Thought. Reprint Ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990 [1979].

Wells, Ronald A., ed. History and the Christian Historian. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998.

8.Epistemology: making sense, evidences, coherence, comprehensiveness, sources, method of analysis, what constitutes good argument or warrant.

Stackhouse, John R. Jr.,  Need to Know: vocation as the heart of Christian epistemology. (2014)

Schumacher, E.F. A Guide for the Perplexed. Abacus

Mavrodes, George, Belief in God.

Sire, James, The Universe Next Door: a worldview catalogue. IVP.

Swinburne, Richard, The Coherence of Theism. Oxford University Press

Wolfe, D.L.  Epistemology: The Justification of Belief. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1982

Plantinga, Alvin & Nicholas Wolterstorff, ed. Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Reason within the Bounds of Religion. 2nd ed., Grand Rapids, MI. Eerdmans, 1984 [1976].

Moreland, J.P. and William Lane Craig.  Philosophical Foundations for a

Christian Worldview.  Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

Wood, W. Jay, Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous (Contours of Christian Philosophy), IVP.

Beckwith, F.G. & Koukl, G., Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air.

Schlossberg, H.,  Idols for Destruction.

various blog posts at ubcgcu.org

Thisleton, A., New Horizons in Hermeneutics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.

9. Use of Literature in Apologetics

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Craig, William Lane (use of Dostoyevski) in Apologetics: an Introduction.

Lewis, C.S., Narnia Chronicles and Space Trilogy; The Abolition of Man

http://www.cslewis.org Free Scholarly Talks on Lewis

Bowen, John, new book on Narnia, Dare Booklets on Tolkein, etc.

Eagleton, Terry, The Ideology of the Aesthetic.

Dostoyevski, Brothers Karamozov, Crime and Punishment and The Idiot.

Percy, Walker, Lost in the Cosmos.

Capon, Robert Farrar, Romancing the Word.

Lewis, C.S., God in the Dock.

T.S. Eliot’s poetry

Chapman, J.D., Faith in Words: a poet’s creed. (a Canadian bio-physicist’s poetic reflections). Durango, 2006.

Truth/Credibility/Plausibility/Desirability Tests

a. Religious experience, encounters with God or the divine–epiphany

b. Philosophical Credibility/Plausibility: coherence, consistency, cogency, unity, reasonability.

c. Historical Evidence or Eye Witness Account credibility: especially the biblical texts and cultural context.

d. Livability/Practicality/Contribution to Human Flourishing

e. Special Revelation–What has God said through the Prophets, Apostles, Wise Elders?

f. Love, Compassion and Community Impact of Christians: Do you practice it with integrity and humility?

10. Suffering, Evil, & Injustice

DVD by Tom Wright on the Problem of Evil.

Kreeft, P. Making Sense Out of Suffering. Servant Books, 1989.

Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain & A Grief Observed. Macmillan.

Lewis, C.S. The Great Divorce.

Girard, René. I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightning.

Geivett, Douglas, Evil and the Evidence for God: The Challenge of John Hick’s Theodicy.” Temple University Press, 1993.

Geisler, N. The Roots of Evil.

Howard-Snyder, Daniel ed., The Evidential Argument from Evil.

Peck, Scott, People of the Lie.

Stackhouse, John G. Jr. Can God Be Trusted? OUP.

Wolterstorff, N., Until Justice & Peace Embrace. Eerdmans, 1983.

11. Quest for Meaning, Identity, and Parameters of the Self

The Power of Listening: If you have one hour with someone, spend 45 minutes prayerfully, attentively asking probing questions. Seed the whole dialogue with love, curiosity and appreciation. The goal is to penetrate the cherished beliefs of your friend or dialogue partner with questions, not answers or presumptions, all the time assuming a state of seeking and exploration. It is not cool to appear too certain; you might scare her or him off. Offer some humor and self-critique to mix it up. Take a Sherlock Holmes posture or that of an investigative reporter, digging deeper to get the whole story. This will assist your connection and communication immensely. Successful blogger Seth Godin calls ours a connection economy; it’s all about building trust and openness, inspiring people, showing genuine interest. Below are some sample questions to kick-start a conversation.

1. What do you perceive as the driving aspirations of people today?

2. Do you think people are interested in the common good or are they only out for their own self-interest? What good are you passionate about?

3. Where do you see yourself moving philosophically at the moment? New convictions? Deconstruction of past beliefs? Disillusioned? Hopeful? Passionate? Cynical?

4. What gives your life hope, meaning, strength and direction at the moment? Where are you struggling?

5. What figure or author has most profoundly influenced or inspired you?

6. What do you think makes people cynical these days? Where does this current malaise come from? Where are things broken in our culture? How did we get to this level of greed and irresponsibility in the twenty-first century?

7. Do you think human flourishing comes from pursuit of individual freedom and self-fulfilment or the pursuit of some empathic contribution to another human being?

8. Are you more at home in the arts or the sciences?

9. Are there questions that science cannot ask?

10. Why do you think it is important to ask some of the Big Life Questions while you are young?


Taylor, Charles. Sources of the Self: the Making of the Modern Identity.

Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Harvard University Press.

Morris, Tomas V., Making Sense of It All.

Kreeft, Peter.  The Best Things in Life: A Twentieth-Century Socrates

Looks at Power, Pleasure, Truth, and the Good Life.  Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1984.

Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity.

Gay, Craig, The Way of the (Modern) World.

Kreeft, P. Heaven: the Heart’s Deepest Longing. Ignatius Press

Zacharias, R. Cries of the Heart.

Lewis, C.S., The Weight of Glory

Packer, J.I. & Thomas Howard, Christianity: the True Humanism.

Barrs, J. & Macauley, R.  Being Human: the nature of spiritual experience. IVP

Moltmann, Wolterstorff, & Charry, A Passion for God’s Reign: Theology, Christian Learning and the Christian Self.

Yancey, Philip. Reaching for the Invisible God 

An Important Discussion About Worldviews

Contextualizing a person’s convictions can really help focus your discussion. It is key that we incarnate the love of God. We begin from a platform of agape love: listen, show respect, try to understand, i.e. serve them patiently and responsibly. This does not mean that you cannot ask some important, or tough, questions; tough love can be quite effective. Here we are getting more specific on someone’s beliefs, outlook or ideology— their philosophical framework. The insights below have offered a major breakthrough insight for many students on campus and freed up their discussions. It is an aspect of hermeneutics.

Three Major Worldview Categories
matter alone exists; no God exists; the spiritual is superstition or myth, to be replaced by scientific knowledge.

Pantheism: spirit exists; all is God and God is all; Atman is Brahman (the individual soul longs to be united with the world soul); the material world is maya or illusion).

Theism: matter and spirit both exist; God is the transcendent creator, separate from the world; God communicates to the world and his goodness grounds human morality; there is a strong belief in the methods of science here as well; science is not opposed to religion within this view). Access to God varies among the three theistic religions. All have a text and a history.

Naturalism believes the least about the world; Christian theism believes in the most sophisticated, subtle or complex explanation. See James Sire, The Universe Next Door: a worldview catalogue; Arthur Holmes, Contours of a Christian Worldview; Walsh & Keesmaat, Colossians Remixed. A whole gamut of positions, from the most militant atheism to the most orthodox traditional theisms are represented and defended somewhere in our society. We often move in and out of various worldviews carried by different groups and institutions all the time. Learning worldview language is basic to apologetics, and a necessary skill in today’s pluralistic society.

Dr. Dan Osmond, University of Toronto, School of Medicine: “Whether we realize it or not, all university people have some sort of a view according to which they select, organize and interpret knowledge. Similarly, their behaviour is governed by a moral code [or style] of their choosing. Such views and codes differ widely in their validity and content as well as the quality of the behaviour that they engender.”

Charles Taylor, Professor Emeritus Philosophy McGill University (paraphrase): A worldview is a picture that holds us captive; it involves our overall take on human life and its cosmic surroundings. It is the background to our thinking, within whose terms it is carried on, but which is often largely unformulated, and to which we can frequently imagine no alternative. It includes aspects or features of the way experience and thought are shaped and cohere. It is something invisible, which people inhabit and it gives shape to what they experience, feel, opine, and see. It is like a set of philosophical glasses, or preunderstanding. Depending on which worldview has taken us captive, we can either see the transcendent as a threat, a dangerous temptation, a distraction, as an obstacle to our greatest good. Or we can read it as answering to our deepest craving, need, fulfillment of the good life.

New in Gord Carkner’s Writing ToolkitThe Great Escape from Nihilism: rediscovering our place in late modernity. This work in progress builds an apologetic from Nihilism to robust trinitarian Christian faith. It is focused on dialogue with interlocutors outside the Christian community. It is a challenge to the contemporary ideology of cynicism and despair.

Tests for a Good Worldview

  1. Coherence: justified by internal coherence and coherence with one’s other knowledge and beliefs.
  2. Empirical Openness: it is a conviction that maintains openness to new information rather than being based on a limited database (self-critical and open to questions from outside versus head-in-the-sand dogmatic). Critical Realism is a term used.
  3. Personal Relevance: must be livable and fruitful sociologically—promote the personal and common good.
  4. Explains other Worldviews: understands them and how they relate to one’s convictions rather than just being rejected out of hand as a system of thought without any truth-value. Other views are respected for the level of their truth value and not superficially written off or explained away. Each one has some insights into human nature or the world.

Important Note: The ability to think, dialogue and examine arguments and evidence within the context of worldview gives a tremendous edge, latitude and creativity to any discussion. It liberates and opens up the field of discussion rather than getting it trapped in a corner or dead end, or becoming reduced to a tug-of-war contest between your opinion and mine. By all means, one ought to apply emotional intelligence and good humour. Key books to assist you: E.F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed. (reductionism) James Sire, Why Believe Anything at All? (epistemology); Jens Zimmermann, Hermeneutics: a very short introduction.; the literature of Dostoyevski, such as The Brothers Karamozov as a point of entry to one’s worldview or a provocative movie such as Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (can we have ethics without God?); Walker Percy (Lost in the Cosmos); Viktor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning); or Charles Taylor, The Malaise of Modernity, is another intriguing transition author. Glenn Tinder The Political Meaning of Christianity: essay “Can we be good without God?” Find some worldview books or blogs that work for you and open up intriguing discussions about meaning. Everyone is trying to make sense of the world. Movies like The Life of Pi; and also Eat, Pray, Love offer insight into worldview exploration. New Age is a mixture of worldviews (eclectic pantheism and Western secularism).

12. The Postmodern/Late Modern Condition

Watkin, Chris, Biblical Critical Theory. Wabash University Australia.

Zimmermann, Jens, Incarnational Humanism: a philosophy of culture for the church in the world. IVP Academic. 2012.

Ward, Graham ed., The Postmodern God: a theological reader. Blackwell, 1997.

Anderson, W.T., The Future of the Self: Exploring the Post-Identity Society. Tarcher, 1997.

Walsh & Middleton, Truth is Stranger than it Used to Be. IVP

Walsh, B. & Keesmaat, S., Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire. IVP, 2004.

Downing, C.L., How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith: Questioning Truth in Language, Philosophy and Art. IVP. 2006.

Thiselton, A.C., Interpreting God and the Postmodern Self: on meaning, manipulation and promise. T. & T. Clark, 1995.

Carkner, Gordon, University of Wales PhD Dissertation: “A Critical Examination of the Constitution of the Moral Self in Michel Foucault in Dialogue with Charles Taylor” in the British Library.

Klassen, N. & Jens Zimmerman, The Passionate Intellect: incarnational humanism and the future of university education. IVP Academic,  2007.

Shrag, C.O., The Self After Postmodernity. Yale University Press, 1997.

Eagleton, Terry, The Illusions of Postmodernism. Blackwell, 1996.

Borgmann, A., Crossing the Postmodern Divide. University Books, 1993.

Cahoune, L. ed., From Modernism to Postmodernism: an Anthology. Blackwell, 1996.

Pertinent Questions to Probe a Personal Worldview

Sometimes it is helpful to let the big name philosophers and theologians help you with the heavy lifting, people like David Bentley Hart, Alister McGrath, Charles Taylor and Alvin Plantinga. Ask God for worldview wisdom and discernment. This is what we call meta-understanding. It can put a lot of details in context and cut through the confusion. Remember, we are all self-interpreting animals.

  1. Could you identify and define for me the framework of your present philosophical stance? Your favorite thinker? Where do you position or locate yourself in the current plural world of convictions? What resonates with you? What influences have shaped this?
  2. Questions regarding its coherence, unity or consistency as a view of reality. Does not work for the postmodern who celebrates contradictions, paradox and difference.
  3. Is your view open to the data of other people’s experience or do you have your mind made up? Closed or open stance? For example, agnostics are more open than atheists.
  4. Use the three major worldview frames above to probe more deeply into the details; get all the facts and insights you can.
  5. Look for the person’s interpretive paradigm, the intellectual grid through which they sift ideas and issues (philosophical glasses). E.g. Marxism, feminism, scientific materialism, environmentalism, nihilism, New Age, Yoga, or some form of liberation. This reveals what Charles Taylor calls their hypergood or dominant valueIt is vital for you to understand this core dominating and controlling good, in order to understand a person at a deeper level.
  6. Ask the questions of the livability and relevance of their view: the Pragmatic Life Test. How does it improve human life or solve human problems, promote more justice or hope, feed the poor, heal racial relations, help with global warming? Does it have power to promote the common good? How far can the assumptions be taken without promoting evil or destructive consequences?
  7. Are you happy with your present views or are you shopping around for something better? People have emotions around their cherished beliefs, so tread carefully. They also get bored sometimes when their worldview no longer answers their questions, or the data of their experience does not fit: e.g. birth of a baby.
  8. Intrigue or redirect to get conversation unstuck: Could you define the God you do not believe in? Were you brought up an atheist or did you arrive at that logically over time; are you convinced of the hope that atheism offers the world? Are they a naïve or reflective atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, etc.? Many people need to be encouraged to slow down and think about their life and its trajectory. The unexamined life is not necessarily healthy.

Key Posture: the pursuit of full knowledge, a more robust story or one might even explore the need for a whole new human narrative (Jeremy Rifkin) beyond individualism, greed, violence, and aggressive behavior. Why rule out the supernatural when it inspires so many billions of people to be peacemakers, healers, creatives, teachers, community builders? Naturalism often lacks explanatory power and is self- contradictory: David Bentley Hart The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss; Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos; Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies.

12. Faith & Culture Goldmine: Substantial Resources to Open the Mind and the Imagination (Good sources for those interested in engaging the Big Life Questions in Sermons and Research)

Who are we moderns/late moderns? Where have we come from? What is our context? Where are we headed? What can we hope for?

Featured Promotion: Seven brilliant podcasts from CBC Ideas Series produced by David Cayley called: ‘The Myth of the Secular’.  Riveting analysis of religion and the secular age, a reframing of how we late moderns see ourselves and our world. Interviews with some of the deepest thinkers and most insightful minds of our age.

Christian Smith, Souls in Transition: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. Oxford University Press, 2009 (top Notre Dame University sociologist analyses America’s 18-23 year old spirituality; award winning book)

Marilynne Robinson. Gilead (very highly recommended by Dr. Dennis Danielson English professor UBC)

David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: the Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies. Yale, 2009 (philosopher of culture and Church Fathers specialist gives an amazing, insightful apologetic for the relevance of Christianity to Western culture; this is a prophetic and challenging book).

Jens Zimmerman. Incarnational Humanism: a philosophy of culture for the church in the world. IVP Academic, 2012

______________Humanism & Religion: a call for the renewal of Western culture. Oxford University Press, 2012.

John Milbank. Theology & Social Theory: beyond secular reason. Blackwell, 1990.

Ian Hutchinson. Monopolizing Knowledge.

Rob Alloway’s award winning Babylon Post.

Jeremy Begbie. Resounding Truth. (major current articulate theologian of the Arts)

Leland Ryken. The Christian Imagination. (older classic on faith & the Arts).

Andy Crouch. Culture Making: recovering our creative calling.

Eugene Peterson. Practice Resurrection: a conversation on growing up in Christ.

Christian Smith. Souls in Transition: the religious and spiritual lives of emerging adults. OUP, 2009.

Jeremy Begbie. Voicing Creation’s Praise.

David Lyle Jeffrey & Gregory Maillet. Christianity & Literature: philosophical foundations and critical practice.

Brad S. Gregory. The Unintended Reformation: how a religious revolution secularized society.

Charles Taylor. A Secular Age.

James Davison Hunter. To Change the World: the irony, tragedy and possibility of Christianity in the late modern world.

Alasdair MacIntyre. Three Versions of Moral Inquiry; also After Virtue.

D. Stephen Long. The Goodness of God: theology, the church and the social order.

Crystal L. Downing. How Postmodernism (Serves) my Faith.

Craig Gay. The Way of the Modern World: or why it’s tempting to live as if God doesn’t exist.

Jens Zimmerman & Norman Klassen. The Passionate Intellect: incarnational humanism and the future of university education; plus Zimmerman’s new Humanism and Religion: A Call for the Renewal of Western Culture.

Niall Ferguson. Civilization: The West and the Rest.

Lesslie Newbigin. The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society.

Don M. Page. Servant Empowered Leadership: a hands-on guide to transforming you and your organization.

Quenton J. Schultze. Habits of the High Tech Heart: living virtuously in the information age.

Albert Borgmann, Power Failure: Christianity in the Culture of Technology.

Wendell Berry. Life is a Miracle: an essay against modern superstition.

Scott Cairns. The End of Suffering: finding purpose in pain.

Miraslov Volf. Exclusion & Embrace: a theological exploration of identity, otherness, and reconciliation.

Stephen Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith.

Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies.

Francis Collins, The Language of God: a scientist presents evidence for belief in God.

Steven Bouma-Prediger. For the Beauty of the Earth: a Christian vision of creation care.

H. Richard Niebuhr. Christ & Culture.

James Sire. The Universe Next Door: a worldview catalogue.

John Henry Newman. The Idea of a University.

13. Some Top Apologist Speakers

Alvin Plantinga

William Lane Craig phiosopher @ Talbot Seminary; Paul Chamberlain philosopher @ ACTS/TWU Langley, BC; Alister McGrath theologian/scientist in Oxford, UK;  Norman Geisler, Dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina; J.P. Moreland philosopher @ Talbot, Os Guinness @ The Trinity Forum in Northern Virginia, Kevin Van Hoozer @ TEDS in Deerfield, Illinois on Paul Ricoeur (good on postmodernity),  philosopher Paul M. Gould; C. Stephen Evans philosophy @ Baylor, John Stackhouse theologian in Atlantic Canada. Biola University in California is a major center of Christian philosophy and apologetics. Nicholas Wolterstorff (Yale) and Alvin Plantinga (Notre Dame) are the two greatest American philosophers. Charles Taylor at McGill is Canada’s greatest living philosopher, a world-class mind in social sciences and the self. IFES Apologists: Jurgen Speis in Germany (now Institut fur Glaube und Wissenschaft); Stefan Gustavsson former General Secretary in Sweden (now @ Credo Institute) s.g@mailbox.euromail.se; Spain: Dr. Pablo Martinez Vila (physician); Brazil: Dr. Altair de Souza Assis (physicist).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyQ5cFIoKts Sample Debate on Naturalism with Dr. Alvin Plantinga

13. Key Websites


Ravi Zacharias Ministries www.rzim.org/resources, Course in apologetics at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, UK (Dr. Andy Bannister, Canadian Director RZIM, Toronto)

Michael Ramsden RZIM Europe http://www.rzim.eu/biography-michael-ramsden

UCCF (IVCF) in UK www.bethinking.org/resources.php?ID=224

Faith & Philosophy Victoria, BC Canada: Dr. Rob Fitterer’s Blog: http://faithandreality.ca/

Christian Heritage Cambridge www.christianheritageuk.org.uk/  summer school in apologetics

Unbelievable: UK Thoughtful Christian Radio (e.g. debates between top scholars) http://www.premierradio.org.uk/shows/saturday/unbelievable.aspx

William Lane Craig  www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer

William Lane Craig’s scholarly articles: www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=scholarly_articles_main

C.S. Lewis Foundation: Stan Mattson www.cslewis.org/ Conferences in Oxbridge

Faraday Institute on Science & Religion: www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/

The Bibliography You Cannot Live Without: Resources on the Christian Worldview by Walsh, Middleton & Carkner: www3.sympatico.ca/ian.ritchie/BiblioWCLW.htm

Leadership University articles: www.leaderu.com

Mars Hill Audio Interviews with Great Christian Thinkers: www.marshillaudio.org

Apologetics 315: http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/02/book-review-where-conflict-really-lies.html

14. Apologetic Lecture Sampler

Veritas Forums @ Western and all across USA.

Pascal Lectures @ University of Waterloo, esp Chales Malik: “A Christian Critique of the University.”

Gifford Lectures in Edinburgh, Scotland

Grad & Faculty Christian Forum @ UBC, esp. Francis Collins “Are we more than our genes?”

Bampton Lectures in Natural Theology in UK

Cambridge University: the Faraday Institute

Various Debates with people such as Craig, Moreland, Geisler, Chamberlain, Redekop-Glass on Christianity & Marxism, Lennox & Dawkins on the God Delusion.

15. Series & Periodicals

First Things Journal

Journal of American Scientific Affiliation

Christians in Science (UK)

16. Schools of Apologetics

Oxford Christian Apologetics at Wycliffe College: http://www.rzim.org/study/advanced/oxford-center-for-christian-apologetics/

Biola Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics, Biola University http://www.biola.edu/academics/sas/apologetics/

ACTS Seminary Institute of Christian Apologetics, run by Dr. Paul Chamberlain http://acts.twu.ca/programs/institute-for-christian-apologetics.html

Dr. Gordon Carkner, Graduate Student & Faculty Ministries UBC,  Outreach Canada


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