Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Kreeft & Tacelli. THE best book for seekers?


I have previously suggested Peter Kreeft's annotated edition of Pascal's Pensees (Christianity for Modern Pagans) as the best book for modern, intellectual Christian seekers - but now I am inclined to change that recommenation to Handbook of Christian Apologetics: hundreds of answers to crucial questions by Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli.

Whatever the choice, it is clear to me that Peter Kreeft is a treasure - Christians have been very lucky to have him.

Kreeft is by so great a margin the best (wisest, clearest, most enjoyable) of living Christian apologists and explainers (of whom I am aware) that it is very hard to identify the second best.

Given the state of things, we really don't deserve anybody this good - still, there he is.

Be thankful we do not get what we deserve.




josh said...

Thank you!

Fake Herzog said...


I just finished Timothy Keller's The Reason for God and thought it was very good (although pretty basic if you are already familiar with some apologetic arguments). But Keller is a clear prose stylist and is obviously very much influenced by C.S. Lewis.

Campion said...


[I am no longer capable of cogent arguments. I hope you will accept my missive in the spirit in which it is intended.]

I am an unbeliever, not an atheist, and unlike the so-called “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, et al) it has been a very long time since I have felt or expressed any hostility toward Christianity of any kind. I call myself an unbeliever rather than an atheist partly because of the hostility toward Christianity that is now associated with that position, as well as what I see as its misguided attitude of rational superiority toward believers which I don’t find very convincing.

I took up your challenge to look into Peter Kreeft (Dutch, therefore pronounced “Krayft”?) I had never heard of him before. The arguments I have heard before. I have to say it was his autobiographical writings that impressed me most, particularly his account of the near-death of his daughter. This is truly the worst test that can come to any of us and to read his honest story of how his faith assisted him in that dark hour was moving.

I, too, face a difficult future, though not as terrible as that faced by Mr. Kreeft. I have a degenerative neurological disorder that may, usually does, result in years in a wheelchair, a drooling lump of flesh who can’t control his own bowels but which does not have the good grace to kill its victims. As well, due in part to our modern ways and my own admitted proclivities, I shall most likely wind up alone. What is interesting to me is how one responds, feels, if I may use such a vague term, about one’s fate.

Some Christians, perhaps not you, would predict I would sink into total despair, as I have been defeated in the material world (I am also financially ruined). I am no stranger to despair but no: I have accepted my fate, even embraced it, as I knew from my early twenties that there are no limits on what can happen to you in the world. The question I believe Christians must address is “what does this mean?”

It is commonplace for Christians to argue that Stoicism and Buddhism both acknowledge a higher power though that power is not identical with the Christian god. True enough but the practices they teach stand one in good stead regardless of whether or not there is a deity suffering with you. The Christian believes that there is a higher meaning to suffering and death. I do not, or at least not in the way Christians do, if I understand their thinking, and I am unclear as to why this higher meaning should provide any relief in any particular case. I am certain many Christians weep bitter tears about their fate – or the fate of their children.

So the question, which may be a bit anti-climactic, is “what if there are simply those who endure and those who cannot?” What if it is not faith but some other factor that is in play here? I would never presume to judge those who cannot endure their fate, I am only too aware of how terrible life can be, but is it faith that is the determining factor? And if my fate was still more terrible than it is and I could not endure it, what real difference would that make? It would be a defeat for me as a man, perhaps. What would you say to a Christian who could not endure his fate? What is the value, even within Christianity, of enduring rather than collapsing?

It is not that I “reject” Christianity so much as I genuinely cannot understand your frame of reference.


John Purdy

Bruce Charlton said...

@John Purdy - well, I would not suggest that Christians are braver or better able to endure suffering than, say, ancient pagans (perhaps the Germanic and Norse sagas describe most purely courageous people I know of) or than some other religions.

Christians are - however - braver than modern hedonic secular materialists, because moderns are not brave at all.

Ultimately, the only reason to be a Christian is because it is true - because it describes reality.

Christianity is fairly complex thus cannot (I think) be proven in one shot by a single argument. but it can be built-up from nothing by a sequence of purely rational arguments - the early metaphysical arguments prove a 'God' with certain properties; then the historical revelations can make very plausible the specifics of Christianity.

And of course, anyone rational would *want* Christianity to be true, since it 'offers' so much more than any other religion.

Plus, after a person becomes a Christian he will sometimes find further 'proofs' given in his personal life.