apologetics, Apologetics of Christ, arguments for God, Ethics, Science, theology, Thinking

On the Shoulders of Giants: Rediscovering the lost defenses of Christianity

There is something missing from our arsenal as Christian apologists. I came upon this truth about a year and a half ago, but have only begun to realize how much we have been missing. Let me begin with an illustration:

It was a short, scenic drive down Interstate-94 to meet with Dr. Timothy McGrew, a professor of philosophy at Western Michigan University. At the time I was living in Ann Arbor, and I had only conversed with Tim on Facebook. He told me, with ill-concealed glee, about a folder on his computer that was filled with PDF scans of copyright-free (public domain) books by forgotten Christian apologists and theologians. The arguments in them, he told me, were not often used by modern apologists and could but increase my knowledge.

We met at a restaurant along the highway and talked for about an hour and a half while Tim uploaded files on my computer. Tim described to me a number of the items in this collection, but what struck me was how many arguments he referenced which are simply forgotten in current apologetics discussions. For example, he described the argument from “undesigned coincidences,” which basically goes through the Bible and shows how interrelated texts confirm each other’s historical veracity. I was shocked that I had not run into such a profound argument for the Christian faith. I was tremendously excited to find out that there were many such treasures waiting to be discovered.

Despite our continued interactions, I only very slowly began to read through this fantastic set of resources with which Tim had provided me. Once I got my Kindle, however, I began to tear through them. I have discovered so many delightful discussions, wonderful arguments, thought-provoking works that I could hardly begin to list them here. But I will try at least provide a few avenues for study.

I want you, and yes, especially you–the spirited apologist who has your Kalam argument memorized, your Leibnizian argument polished, and the like–to consider this fact: there are scores more arguments for the veracity of Christianity just waiting to be accessed. These arguments have little-to-no discussion in the apologetic blogosphere, they very rarely appear in modern books (if ever), and many of them are quite strong. What is your reaction to that knowledge?

I suspect it is a salivating, whetting of the appetite; it is a yearning desire to learn more. Fear not! These books, and the arguments within them, are, as I said, at your fingertips. The following is my brief, annotated list of fantastic free resources to help you, my fellow Christian apologists, broaden your knowledge.

Repositories of Resources

Library of Historical Apologetics (Currently DOWN)- Here is where I got started, with Tim McGrew’s phenomenal collection of works. In particular, the “annotated bibliography” will set you up with some fine works. The site features a “spotlight” on the main page for various fantastic reads. Browse and download at will. Also check out their Facebook page.

Open Library- Open Library has a number of the books listed at the Library of Historical Apologetics available in a more Kindle-friendly format, if that’s your reading method of choice. I highly recommend using it to send books to your Kindle for free (when you select wi-fi delivery). See below for some specifics.

Getting Started

Yes, it can be daunting once you realize the voluminous nature of the study ahead of you. So I’ve made it easy by providing links to a few books–again, for free–to get you started, along with some comments. Oh, and I’ll be running a series shortly which outlines and examines several of these arguments.

Forgotten Arguments for Christianity: Undesigned Coincidences- The argument stated- I outline one of the many forgotten arguments for the truth of Christianity.

The Four Gospels from a Lawyer’s Standpoint- Edmund Bennett. Short and sweet, this book presents an argument I find extremely compelling: undesigned coincidences. Essentially, what Bennett argues is that the authors of the Gospels, writing individual histories, incidentally confirmed each other’s histories. I can’t recommend this highly enough. [To download, click the [G] or [A]; or if you want it for kindle, click here and on the right select “send to Kindle.”

A View of the Evidences of Christianity- by William Paley. It would be hard to describe the impact this book will have on your apologetic. Paley is simply masterful. In his first section alone he tears apart Humean arguments against miracles. This book is of extreme import for anyone interested in apologetics. Again, Kindle users.

Undesigned Coincidences- by J.J. Blunt. Once you’ve read Bennett, this book takes you through the entire Bible pointing out more historical arguments of great import throughout. I find this argument stunningly powerful, and I think as apologists we must incorporate it. Kindle [warning-lots of typos in this one due to the transition from PDF to Kindle. If you find a better version for Kindle, let me know].

Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte- I’ll let Tim McGrew describe it: ” In this delightful spoof, published while Napoleon was still alive, Whately turns Hume’s skeptical doubts regarding miracles against reports of the career of Napoleon—with devastating results.” One can’t help but think of those who deny the historical Jesus today and how one might apply this to Abraham Lincoln, JFK, or (as I have), the Titanic. Kindle users.

The Bridge of History over the Gulf of Time- Thomas Cooper’s exhortation to apologetics and a general introduction to a number of arguments against Christianity. Check out this essay on Cooper.

A Dissertation on Miracles- by George Campbell. A devastating critique of Hume’s argument against miracles.

The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul- by James Smith [click the link in the article]. This work is an argument for the historical accuracy of Luke in Acts constructed by a sailor who also knew numerous languages and was intimately familiar with the documents with which he worked for this account.

There is now a fire within me that seeks after these forgotten or little-known arguments–a burning that is only quenched by finding more early writings–and I can’t help but hope that you, too, will be delighted to delve into these lost treasures. We can’t let the past escape us. One thing I always tell the apologetics class I teach is this: “If you have a doubt or a question about the Christian faith, I can guarantee you that someone smarter than me has already thought about it and written on it. Don’t go at it alone.” Christian brothers and sisters, don’t let this knowledge escape you. We must spread it to this generation and beyond.

Final Thoughts

My thanks to Tim McGrew for his guidance in this study. May we all strive for Christ as he has.

I leave you with something he told me about these historical apologetics books:

I know …

… a music theory professor who read Thomas Cooper’s _Bridge of History_ and phoned me up screaming violently for more …

… a seminary graduate who confessed that he had never been taught the evidences of Christianity that he was discovering in the old, forgotten works …

… a marathon runner and stay-at-home mom who fell in love with George Campbell’s _Dissertation on Miracles_ …

… a construction worker who was captivated by the argument from undesigned coincidences …

… a daycare worker who has educated himself by reading dozens of old works of apologetics …

… a civil service worker in Chicago who set out to refute the arguments in Thomas Chalmers’s _Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation_ and ended up becoming a Christian …

… the list goes on and on …

SDG.

——

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

28 thoughts on “On the Shoulders of Giants: Rediscovering the lost defenses of Christianity

  1. Deeply thank you. This is a treasure mine.

    In Christ,
    Prayson

    Posted by Prayson Daniel | June 18, 2012, 6:46 AM
  2. J.W. we all need to take time to read the so called “old-stuff”! The idea that “new” is better is a fallacy. The most fun is finding old writings of the “saints of the church” and read the nearly identical arguments and answers we are facing every day in blogs and conversations.

    Thank you for this post!

    Lisa

    Posted by Lisa Guinther | June 18, 2012, 4:54 PM
  3. Excellent post, J.W.! Thanks for listing some of the great works.

    Posted by Arthur | June 18, 2012, 6:21 PM
  4. JW,
    Fantastic post. I appreciate the resources. Now if I can ever find time to read anything except for scientific papers…

    Posted by Greg Reeves | June 18, 2012, 7:49 PM
  5. It’s funny, I have been doing an iTunes U course on Church history and was struck by the parallels we share with their world. Surprisingly not much has changed. I was also wondering how if their apologists had had different ideas than us, and then, BAM! I read this awesome post! Thanks JW! Just want to say that I really enjoy this blog too! Keep up the great work for the Kingdom!

    PL

    Posted by phillost | June 18, 2012, 9:36 PM
  6. I thoroughly appreciate the admonition to seek out some of the brilliance that has only escaped us because it needs to be looked for… and it does need to be looked for! I’ve listened to a bit of Dr. McGrew’s lectures on the Undesigned Coincidences idea. It was incredibly encouraging and thought-provoking. Thanks, Guys. :)

    Posted by Bethany R. | June 19, 2012, 1:32 AM
  7. Excellent posts. I’ve been discovering some of the older works by apologists too and they are precious! In particular I’ve been enjoying some of the theological/apologetic works by Old Princeton, though anything apologetic that’s old school fascinates me. There is a devotional implication I get from the steady stream of attention people now have on public domain books: I realize that we can never judge our ministry in our lifetime, and even our apologetics’ contribution. What might seem like a failure in terms of reaching the population now, might turn out to be something God uses later to impact people.

    Posted by SLIMJIM | June 19, 2012, 12:55 PM
    • Wow, I have not thought of it that way. I have often thought of something similar though: the notion that some authors like Jane Austen only gain recognition once they are gone shines a hope for work towards the future. Thanks for the insightful comment!

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 21, 2012, 3:31 AM
  8. Thank you so much.. I read “The Four Gospels from a Lawyer’s Standpoint- Edmund Bennett”. Wonderful..

    Posted by Tia | June 24, 2012, 10:46 AM
  9. None of those links work.

    Posted by Joe | October 26, 2014, 9:42 AM
  10. Reblogged this on James’ Ramblings and commented:
    reblogging for future reference.

    Posted by jamesbradfordpate | October 26, 2014, 12:26 PM

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