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://VIU.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. Ask for one course at a time if that’s all you do. 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. Or take it by extension from VIU.VES.edu or SES.edu. You may be able to purchase and download MP3 versions of my lectures from a logic course I taught by visiting http://NGIM.org. 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 thomistic philosopher like Joseph Owens, 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 VIU.VES.edu, namely, metaphysics, the history of philosophy, and epistemology. VIU.VES.edu uses my two volumes on the history of philosophy in their courses. You can find the same books here:
- A History of Western Philosophy, Vol. I: Ancient and Medieval
- A History of Western Philosophy, Volume II: Modern and Postmodern: From Descartes to Derrida
- My lectures on the history of philosophy should also be available soon in .mp3 format at either at http://ngim.org.
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. The e-book of Twelve Points that Shows Christianity is True is available at bastionbooks.com, amazon.com, and ngim.org. At Veritas Evangelical Seminary (http://ves.edu) the “Introduction to Apologetics” course focuses on the twelve points. We should have the MP3s that go with the 12 Points course available on http://NGIM.org soon. 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 Religion, and 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 and/or Amazon.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 Veritas Evangelical Seminary use my systematic theology as the primary text. Their “Prolegomena and Bibliology” course covers these preconditions.
Since defending the faith often means defending it from corrosive philosophies, I highly recommend reading 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. Similarly, read Explaining Biblical Inerrancy to help keep you from drifting.
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.”
Thomism is the antidote to modern philosophy and post-modern philosophy. 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 Owens, James Collins, and Etienne Gilson. I’ll add Jacques Maritain, Alasdair, MacIntyre, and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange to that list. It is important to understand that Thomism in the 20th century split into two basic camps–the existentialist Thomists (which has nothing to do with the existentialism of Kierkegaard) and the transcendental Thomists (which attempts to integrate phenomenology with Thomism). I recommend the former and not the latter. Broadly speaking today there are seven different schools of “Neo-Thomistic” thought. In no certain order, they are: (1) Neo-Scholastic Thomism, (2) Cracow Circle Thomism, (3) Existential Thomism, (4) River Forest Thomism or Aristotelian Thomism, (5) Transcendental Thomism, (6) Lublin Thomism or Phenomenological Thomism, and (7) Analytical Thomism. I recommend the writings of the Existential Thomists first and the Neo-Scholastic Thomists second. I recommend avoiding the writings of the Transcendental and Phenomenological varieties of Neo-Thomist thinkers as they have too much compromise with Heidegger and Kant.
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 Owens. 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.
Mortimer Adler’s books, especially Six Great Ideas.