Thursday, October 13, 2011

An Apologetics Question

As many of you know, I teach theology at a Catholic high school. Last year I received approval to teach an apologetics class to our graduating seniors. I am happy to say that I have had a great response for the class and will be teaching two section of Catholic Apologetics this coming Spring. So, I just wanted to throw out a question to you: What apologetics materials do you like and which ones do you think would be good for a class of high school seniors? We will be discussing topics such as the meaning and history of Catholic apologetics, the existence of God, and the standard hot button issues that divide Catholics and Protestants.


Leland said...

One of the best books I have seen that would likley be good for high school students given that it is comprehensive in nature, yet relatively brief in its discussion, is "Unabridged Christianity" by Fr. Mario Romero.

I think it is a great book that really provides a counterpoint for the most common misconceptions that other denominations have regarding Catholicism.

Brandon Vogt said...

I would go with almost any of Dr. Peter Kreeft's books. They provide a great introduction to apoloogetics to late-high school, early-college-aged students.

And most them are hilarious and engaging, too, which will keep your kids interested.

Timothy said...


Absolutely! His book on Christian Apologetics is a classic and am sure to use that, along with some of his talks, in the class.

BTW: I need to get a copy of your new book. I have it on my Amazon wish list, so I think it is about time to place an order for it. Looks fantastic.

Brandon Vogt said...

I agree on both counts!

Len. said...

One of the series I found most helpful and comprehensive is the "Radio Replies" books (also published in booklet form as the "Quizzes to a Street Preacher" series) from Tan Books.
Another booklet from Tan you may want to consider purchasing in bulk to give your students is "The Penny Catechism".

Dwight said...

John Martignoni has some great talks on MP3 (free to download) at

They were instrumental in bringing me home to the Catholic Church, along with Frank Sheed (his Theology for Beginners is a wonderful intro to Catholic theology for students of all ages), Peter Kreeft, Scott Hahn, and Steve Ray.

Diakonos said...

While the aove mentioned books are all good, as a teacher myself I also look for a text that will have some questions for the kids to answer, to recap the lesson. I believe the "Catholicism and Reason" book has this

Anonymous said...

I teach at a Catholic High School in New York City and we have a Christian Apologetics course. The student text is, "Because God is Real" by Peter Kreeft. It is the absolute best!

Anonymous said...

What is the purpose of the course. Do you want students to be able to defend Christianity against atheism or other religions like Islam? Do you want them to be able to defend the existence of God? Or do you want them to be able to defend the tenants of Catholicism like the Eucharist, infant baptism, Mary, etc.? If it is the first two then some of the things mentioned already do that. If you want the third then the best in my opinion is the Beginning Apologetics series by Jim Burnham.


Timothy said...


Actually, the Beginning Apologetics book 1 is serving as a textbook for the class. I hope to supplement it with articles and other materials. The first part of the course will focus on what Apologetics is, then we will look at the current debate about the existence of God, then conclude with an examination of the main hot button issues between Catholics and Protestants.

Chrysostom said...

CS Lewis.

Peter Kreeft.

Edward Feser.

William Lane Craig, especially "Reasonable Faith", but it's not Catholic (although I truly can't speak highly enough of the book as a short summation of pretty much every argument ever put forth on the theist side).

Etienne Gilson.

Alvin Plantinga (especially the "Warrant" series - although this might be too high of a level).

Frank Sheed's "Theology for Beginners" and "Theology and Sanity".

You should throw in at least one book of strong, good, well-reasoned atheist objections as well, such as Antony Flew's (the convert to Deism, coincidentally) "God and Philosophy" (not to be confused with Gilson's book of the same name), so the students will know what they will deal with when speaking to an informed atheist.

I'm not too sure about ultra-specifically Catholic apologetics, but I've heard good things about "57 Misconceptions about the Catholic Faith" and similar books, and GK Chesterton: and, of course, the Catechism.

Of course, some of those are far more academic than others, and some far more philosophical - I recommend a good remedial course to ground the students in a proper philosophical realist world-view in order to get them on their own turf and their own intellectual heritage, instead of staying on the all-pervasive mechanistic philosophy ("modern" philosophy) pioneered by Descartes, which concedes the grounds to atheism before a single argument has been fired.

Abandoning Aristotle's four causes leads to 1) Paley's argument, 2) New atheism/conceptualism/anti-realism, 3) a necessary and sufficient cause for the breakdown of morality (and inquiry itself) and the Natural Law theory, as evidenced in modern culture, and their attempted replacement with social contract theory (Hobbesian), Kantian, or preference Utilitarian (ala Peter Singer) ethics, and eventually, 4) full-on (eliminative) materialism, ("the mind doesn't exist at all") which undermines itself, et cetera (or dualism, which is just a mutant, bastard form of realism re-phrased by those who deny the final cause/teleology: Descartes followed his logic through to it's natural conclusion - oh, there's that damned final cause again!).

The mechanistic philosophy is so pervasive that it's imbibed by all of us without even realising it - that's why a good part of the course should be not specifically in apologetics, but trying to undo some of the damage caused by the false post-Cartesian/Humeanist/Lockean misconceptions (as are implicit even in theories such as qualia) with healthy doses of Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas.

Don't underestimate the students, and don't let the lowest common denominator principle come in to effect, so that the apologetics content is equal to Josh McDowell's "The Evidence Demanding a Verdict" because some can't handle more.

Chrysostom said...

Oh, and, I can't believe I didn't mention it, the best book of natural theology I've ever come across (and that's saying something) also by William Lane Craig:

The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.

That book is the be-all, end-all of natural theology, but it's $200. I think they have a paperback version for $50 coming out in December.

Len. said...

I found this site that has excerpts from "Radio Replies".

Len. said...

Pardon me for posting again, but I just found a site that has the entire series online:

Paolo said...

I would suggest including at least one study of the life of a saint, such as John Paul the Great.

The holiness of the saints speaks volumes!!!

jogomu said...

John Henry Cardinal Newman.

I think two short texts that should be considered by any apologetics class are:

(1) Letter to Dr Pusey, on the authenticity of the Second Eve doctrine vis-a-vis Our Lady
(2) "Faith and Private Judgment" from Discourses to Mixed Congregations, on the authenticity of Magisterial authority

Of course Newman has many other fine works that could also be considered.

Juan Diaz said...

I would suggest Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating. This book goes blow by blow defending the many objections of fundamentalist Christians to the Catholic church.