Books for a doubting university student


(Jonas Theilen) #1

Hey everybody,

I am looking for some quality apologetic books for a close friend of mine. She is currently studying Latin and French here in Germany and is encountering a lot of opposition to the Christian faith from her professors.
Especially the Latin professors have a lot of knowledge of the ancient world, its literature and of the myths of the Romans and Greeks and oftentimes just portray the gospel and the stories of the Bible as just another set of myths and stories.
Just recently, a professor of hers said that the miracle of Jesus walking on water was likely just a story that was created to show that Jesus is greater than Caeser who failed to cross the Aegean Sea.
Another doubt my friend expressed recently is that she sees a lot of similarities between the creation story of Genesis and Ovid’s creation myth in the metamorpheses. Many of her Latin professors seem to be Catholics who have a belief in God, but do not think that the miracles in the gospels are to be understood literally.
Does anybody know good apologetic books for students that are well-versed in Roman and Greek literature and myths? The book should be available in German since my friend is not an avid English reader.

While the Latin professors sow doubts about the divine origins of the gospel, her French professors question the ethical claims of the Bible.
Here, my friend is confronted with the big issues of our time:
family and new family models (e.g. gay marriage), women and Feminism, abortion, How secular should a society be? How far should science be allowed to go? etc. If you know some good books about the pressing issues of our time, it would help a lot.

My friend has had doubts about Christianity (mainly emotional doubts but also intellectual ones) for two years now. Many answers she got from Christians in the past (me included) did not satisfy her. I think she is on a journey to a deeper faith and needs deeper and more sophisticated answers at the moment.

I’m glad that this forum exists and I’m looking forward to your answers!


(Taylor) #2


Although I don’t have any books for your friend, I will pray that Jesus meets her in her pain and doubt…and that He reveals who He is. I pray that she comes to know Him as Lord and although all of her questions may not be answered, His Spirit will fill her and she will know and believe what is true.


(SeanO) #3

@jonastheilen I will definitely be praying for your student in Germany - that the Lord Jesus would open her eyes to see His glory, grace and goodness in contrast to the emptiness of the world and give her wisdom to discern truth from error. This topic of myth is one that really frustrates me - there is the assumption that if there are similarities between pagan myths and Christianity, Christianity must have taken something from the myth - like a big game of telephone. But this assumption is fallacious. Simply because two things are similar does not mean one is derivative of the other - correlation does not mean causation.

In addition, it misses the entire point of Christianity - God became man. Jesus left footprints. No other religion can make that claim.

Here are some books and teachers I would recommend your student check out. Anything by Tim Keller or C. S. Lewis should help address the questions posed by modern culture and the issue of mythology. Lewis deals specifically with the issue of myth and Christianity quite powerfully.

Another approach you may consider is having her read the works of F. F. Bruce or N. T. Wright - who are brilliant Biblical scholars and point out the historicity of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

Regarding sexuality, Keller and Lewis both address it, but Sam Allberry tackles it very directly in his works.

I am not sure which of these works are available in German, but they are all very well known authors. So I suspect they are available in German if you know where to look.

The Lord Jesus bless and guide you to the right resources as you minister to your student.

Tim Keller

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis has an essay entitled “Myth Became Fact” in his book “God in the Dock” that I believe would be very applicable to the question of myth. I think that generally this book would be helpful. Mere Christianity is also a classic.

Another thing to consider is that the Christian’s experience is rooted in a historical figure who claimed to be God Himself. No other religion can claim that kind of historical connection with God Himself. I think C. S. Lewis’ statement from the following two videos about his conversion is a good summary of this one angle on the question.

He was a literary critic. And as such, he said, “I know myth when I see it, I know legend when I see it and I know an eye-witness account when I see it. I recognize metaphor when it’s there. All of this is in the Bible. All of it is inspired. But far from all of it is literal history.” Well Dyson and Tolkien pointed out that the only difference was we don’t know that Osiris walked the earth. But Jesus left footprints. People saw him and talked about it.

The Reliability of Scripture

F. F. Bruce has a classic that has helped college students for many years to trust in the reliability of God’s revealed Word.

N. T. Wright

Brilliant book defending the historicity and uniqueness of the resurrection.

Sam Allberry

Sam Allberry has good resources on the question of human sexuality.

(Anthony Costello ) #4


Sounds like you are a great friend. I used to study in Germany as well (7 years total, 4 at a University that was supposed to be “Catholic”). My earlier studies in Innsbruck, Austria and later Germany basically demolished my then Roman Catholic faith. I got inundated with liberal Catholic and Protestant views (by some really nice people, nonetheless). Thank God, several years later, He saved me from unbelief.

Unfortunately, probably like your friend, I had no knowledge of Apologetics or Christian Philosophy at that time. So, if she is going to survive the skepticism of Western Europe, she is going to need to read a lot of good books. Also, I’m sure she can find pockets of strong Christian communities in her area, but she will have to do some investigating.

Here are 5 books she really should read and that should give her immediate help in her navigation of these discussion with professors.

On traditional marriage, this book, which doesn’t even mention the bible or Christianity:

Part of a good defense on social and moral issues is going to be able to reason with folks like this without going directly to the Bible, since, as you can see, they consider the Bible to not be revelation, but simply a product of the culture of its day. So, drawing from some good Natural Law philosophers like Anderson, Girgis and George is helpful, especially on the ethical issues.

With regard to abortion, here I would recommend Scott Klusendorf’s book:

Concerning Science and Religion, J.P. Moreland has a new book out. I haven’t read it yet, but having had Dr. Moreland for class, everything he writes is gold. Also, this is a man who was recently named one of the top 50 living philosophers by Best Schools:

Now, as to just a strong defense of Christianity from both Natural Theology and the Evidence for the Resurrection, I would suggest William Lane Craig’s book, _Reasonable Faith. Craig, like his colleague J.P. Moreland, was also named one of the top 50 living philosophers in the world by Best Schools.

Moreover, Craig was in Austria and Germany just two years ago and held a series of debates and Q&A events against German skeptics. Here is one of those videos:

And finally, since these are Germans, you are going to want her to read something on Biblical Theology, since it is in the realm of Higher Biblical Criticism that Germans have dismissed the Bible as mere myth, legend, etc. After all, it was Germans who invented the discipline of HBC!

So, most of her professors are probably steeped in the traditions of liberal biblical scholars like Rudolph Bultmann and his predecessors in the History of Religions School (which originated in Tuebingen). To counteract these, by and large, outdated views of the Scriptures, I would also draw from N.T. Wright’s work, which @SeanO already mentioned.

For a quicker and easier read with regard to the whole idea of Jesus being a compilation of Greco-Roman gods and mythological figures, however, she might check out this book:

Actually, let me add one more thing to the list, since she may also run into some Evolutionists who think that Darwinism just defeats Christianity. Here is the website of Dr. Gunter Bechly who is a Paleontologist, former curator of the museum of natural history in Stuttgart, recent convert to historical Catholicism, and an Intelligent Design Advocate and Senior Fellow with the Discovery Institute.

I hope this helps.

In Christ,

(Catlin) #5

The Story Of Reality by Greg Koukl is apparently a pretty good book that covers almost everything. I just bought it for a friend but haven’t read it yet. Would be worth looking into because of the large scope of topics it covers.

(Jonas Theilen) #6

Hey everybody!

Thanks alot for your quick and informative replies. I will definitely be buying some of the books. What I did not mention at first is that this close friend of mine is actually my closest friend and my wife. When I wrote the post, I didn’t tell her about it so I kept her anonymous. However, when I mentioned it, she told me that she sees absolutely no problem with mentioning her directly. I’m sorry for any confusion this has caused.

@Tschenone Thank you so much for your prayer. They are appreciated!

@SeanO Thank you also for your prayers. Thanks also for the book recommendations!
I already have Tim Keller’s books. I will buy “God in the Dock” and I’m excited to read the part about myths in there. Do you know whether he wrote any books that are exclusively devoted to myths and Christianity? I will have a look at the books that are available in German and get some of them.

@anthony.costello It is great to hear from you and it is nice to hear from somebody who has also studied in Germany. I studied English and History in Hannover and even before I started I knew that I did not want to study Theology there because of the liberal view the academia takes of the Bible. The professors of English and History weren’t Christians mostly, but I feel that they were not so rough on our faith as my wife’s lecturers are. A good thing she has going for her is that we have a really healthy church to go to.
I will buy the book on marriage by Sherif Girgis et. al. Do you know if it is available in German and if yes, its German title? I didn’t find a German title for it. The same goes for Craig’s book “Reasonable Faith” and “Reinventing Jesus”. Is there a German translation for it?

@JesusIsEverythingOrNothing Thank you for the suggestion. I think that the book is a bit too broad for my wife at the moment, but we might come back to it later on.

Thanks again for all the help guys!

(SeanO) #7

@jonastheilen Sure thing - I do not believe Lewis has a book entirely devoted to the relationship between Christianity and mythology, but it is a theme that is woven into his life and work. May the Lord bless you guys with wisdom and knowledge of Him as you study.

N. T. Wright’s book does a good job of showing how Christianity was not a natural byproduct of the belief systems that were around in 1st century Palestine. This documentary on youtube is by N. T. Wright and is a good watch - I’ve tried to find the official version but have not succeeded. Very helpful historical perspective on the resurrection.

(Mona Botros) #8

This is a collection of books for CS Lewis

(Patrick Henderson) #9

Thank you so much Anthony! I’m giddy about getting these books for myself, now have a Christmas list for the next 2 years!!

(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #10

@jonastheilen I think you should check out J.warner wallace’s website called Cold-Case Christianity because he has done a lot of research on the topic of myths and christianity.

(Greg Tarbutton) #11

Jonas, What your friend is hearing is quiet common in the halls of universities all over the western world unfortunately . I am familiar with N.T. Wright’s The resurrection of the son of God and highly recommend it also as already referred to anything by Tim Keller is excellent . I also would consider a book written by a gentleman who is not a Christian. He is jewish and challenges those in academia who have one set of rules or standards they apply to their disciplines and another for anything supernatural especially God. The name of the book is The Devil’s Delusion by Dr. David Berlinski. The book takes to task the assumed world view of those in the academy who have a predisposed view of religion without a fair examination . I would also recommend the youtube video where Dr.John Lennox debates Dr. Richard Dawkins . I would start with The God delusion debate and follow it up with the Has Science buried God debate. Dr. Lennox has a clear approach that is both humorous and well reasoned . Another youtube video is Michael Ramsden Is belief in Jesus rational . Another book is Who Made God and Answers To Over 100 other Tough Questions of Faith by Dr. Zacharias and Dr. Norman Geisler . The last book is Dr. Frank Turek’s Stealing from God ( why atheist need God to make their case. ) These are books and video’s I have recommended to students and the feed back was good .