Advice to Aspiring Apologists and Philosophers

Here are some of the recommendations Dr. Geisler has made over the last few years when various students requested his advice on becoming more effective Christian apologists and/or Christian philosophers.


 

Only one book, the Bible, I read to believe. All other books I only consider.

Either the Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.

I recommend earning a Master’s degree in either philosophy or apologetics from a solid Christian School.  I recommend Veritas Evangelical Seminary (http://VES.edu) and Southern Evangelical Seminary (http://SES.edu). I co-founded both and still teach at both.

I would take the courses in this order:  Apologetics, Cults, World Religions, Logic, Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, Modern and Contemporary Philosophy. Just apply for admission on the VES.edu web site.  Then ask for one course at a time.  Listen to the lectures, read the texts, write the papers, pass the exams.  When you finish, you will have a good handle on the core apologetics courses.  I guarantee you will be better prepared to do apologetics.

Take a course in logic at your University.  We teach one by extension at VES. You can also purchase MP3 versions of my lectures from a logic course I taught by visiting http://NGIM.org [they’re not there as of Feb. 2016 but they should be there soon]. You can get a twelve minute sample of that course here. Also read our companion book Come Let us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking.

After getting a foundation in logic, start reading books by Joseph Owen, James Collins, and Etienne Gilson.  I thought I had I discovered Joseph Owen’s An Elementary Christian Metaphysics is a good place to start. Then read Etienne Gilson’s Being and Some Philosophers.

The rest of what you need we teach at VES.edu, namely, metaphysics, the history of philosophy, and epistemology. VES.edu uses my two volumes on the history of philosophy in their courses. You can find the same books here:

Scroll down on http://normangeisler.com/about/ to see a list of all the 100+ books I’ve written. In particular, master the “twelve points that show Christianity is true” schema. At VES the “Introduction to Apologetics” course focuses on the twelve points. There is an inexpensive e-book on the twelve points here and there are lectures that go with it here. Our books I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Geisler and Turek) and Reasons for Belief (Geisler and Tunnicliffe) also are built on my twelve point framework. Also be sure to get Introduction to Philosophy, Christian Apologetics,  Philosophy of Religionand either The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics or The Big Book of Christian Apologetics. Also you can find many of my e-books at a very inexpensive price at http://bastionbooks.com.

Also master my chapters on the preconditions of doing theology. They’re found in the prolegomena of my Systematic Theology. If your approach to understanding the Bible is aberrant, your theology is going to become aberrant. That’s why it’s important to understand God as the metaphysical precondition, miracles as the supernatural precondition, revelation as a precondition, logic as the rational precondition, meaning and the semantical precondition, truth and the epistemological precondition, exclusivism and the oppositional precondition, language and the linguistic precondition, interpretation and the hermeneutical precondition, historiography and the historical precondition, and the methodological precondition. These preconditions are at the heart of the defense of the gospel and the biblical faith. They overlap with my twelve point apologetics schema. Many of the theology courses at VES use my systematic theology as the primary text. Their “Prolegomena and Bibliology” course covers these preconditions.

Read my booklet Beware of Philosophy. I wrote this as a warning to biblical scholars and delivered it to the Evangelical Theological Society when I was its president. It’s just as applicable to apologists and philosophers as it is to biblical scholars. [Note: you can get this book for free by using “beware” as the coupon code upon check-out.] Similarly, read the booklets Explaining Inerrancy by R. C. Sproul and Explaining Hermeneutics by me. We put both books together in Explaining Biblical Inerrancy. [Note: you can get this for free by using “Free-EBI” as a coupon code when checking out.] Explaining Inerrancy and Explaining Hermeneutics will help keep you in the historical, orthodox, evangelical camp and help prevent you from drifting into the neo-evangelical and neo-orthodox camps.

I also recommend that you read all of C.S. Lewis’s major apologetics books–Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, The Great Divorce, and God in the Dock.

Every great idea I ever had I later discovered had already been stated by Aquinas.

Read all the classics first: Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Hume, Kant in philosophy. Then study Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Calvin, Francis Turretin, C. Hodge, and C.S. Lewis. Then, if you have time, read the best secondary sources on these men.

The Bible says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your heart.”  You won’t be happy or fulfilled outside of God’s will.  And God’s will is for you to use your talents and abilities to live according to God’s Word in the context in which he has placed you.  But even God cannot steer a parked car.  You have to be moving before he can direct you.  Also, “In the multitude of counsel there is wisdom.”  Ask yourself: what do godly people who know you best (starting with your spouse) think you ought to do?  Spurgeon said, God’s call on your life consists of four things: 1) Do you have a strong desire to do it? 2)  Do you have the ability to do it?  3) Do you have success when you do it?  And 4) do other people recognize you have the ability to do it?

Remember that God has four answers to prayer: Yes, No, Wait, or “Here is something better.”

 

For Christian thinkers who start to appreciate Thomistic philosophy and want to go deeper into Thomism, I have additional recommendations. I already recommended the reading of books by Joseph Owen, James Collins, and Etienne Gilson.  I’ll add Jacques Maritain, Alasdair, MacIntyre, and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange to that list.

First, read my updated book on Aquinas. It was originally titled Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal. The updated and expanded revision is better and is titled Should Old Aquinas be Forgotten?

Second, I recommend Etienne Gilson the most because he is the most scholarly. Some find him easier to read than Joseph Owen. After reading Gilson’s Being and Some Philosophers, read his God and Philosophy. This is so brilliant because of making the connection between God and being.  God is being! This is the genius of Christian philosophy that the Greek philosophers did not have.

Third, read Jacques Maritain books. They’re very good and eloquent, but not as good as Gilson.
Fourth, read Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange’s books.
Fifth, read Joseph Owen’s An Elementary Christian Metaphysics and A History of Ancient Philosophy.
At some point you will want to read Aquinas’ own writings!
Get the translation by Maurer of Aquinas’s On Being and Essence.  It is the most
readable. Also read Aquinas’ Summa contra Gentiles. It is easier to master than the Summa Theologica.
Medieval Philosophy: A History Of Philosophy Hardcover – August 26, 2011
by Armand A. Maurer (Author), Etienne Gilson (Editor)
James Collins. Everything he wrote is good but especially consider his A History of Modern European Philosophy.
The Principle of Analogy in Protestant and Catholic Theology by Battista
Mondin

Mortimer Adler’s books, especially Six Great Ideas.