Five Books to Read by Church Fathers

One of the questions I get a lot about theological retrieval is where to start. Lots of people see the value of reading ancient texts but are unsure exactly where to dive in. So I thought it might be useful to identify five classic texts from the church fathers that (1) are significant, theologically and historically, (2) are relatively easy to read and understand, and (3) in some cases tend to get neglected. Any list like this is bound to be somewhat arbitrary and leave important works out, so take this all with a grain of salt. But these works…

Theological Retrieval for Apologetics

In my Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals I give a number of reasons why I think retrieving the theology of the historic church is valuable in our culture right now. One that I don’t discuss, but have been thinking more about lately, is its role in apologetics and cultural dialogue. People tend to think of theological retrieval as primarily an academic interest, but I think it is useful in a wide variety of practical contexts, including apologetics. Here are two great examples of retrieval “at work.” First, in his 2009 debate with Christopher Hitchens, which I have enjoyed watching many times,…

Some Favorite Quotes from Confronting Christianity

I know I’m a little late to this, but I just finished Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion (Crossway, 2019), which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s similar in both style and content to Tim Keller’s Making Sense of God, which is the last book I read in my current research project on apologetics. Confronting Christianity tackles a wide variety of issues, from classical objections like “how could a loving God allow so much suffering?” (chapter 11) to the most immediately pressing questions of contemporary Western culture like “doesn’t Christianity denigrate women?” (chapter 8) and “Isn’t…

Apologetics Should Speak to the Heart

I’d like to make apologetics my next major intellectual project. This is what I want to give my thoughts and spare reading to during my late 30’s. It’s been brewing in me for a while. Part of it is my innate love of philosophy, which I haven’t formally studied since college, and which feels refreshing and fun to go back to. The greater reason, though, is that it seems like we are at a fascinating cultural moment in which fresh work in apologetics is needed. I thought about this recently while reading my latest book in this personal project, Tim…

Gratitude Leads to Joy

Lately I’ve been practicing what I call intentional gratitude. I stop in the day, as often as I think to, and pause to recount things for which I am grateful. I’m always amazed at two things: how many things I have to be grateful for how easy it is to overlook them It’s like the old saying about seeing the glass as half-empty, or half-full. Our lives are always like that: both full and empty. There are things we have, and things we lack. Blessings and disappointments. And our default seems to be for the bad things, the disappointments, to…

Four Reasons Evangelicals Should Still Read Karl Barth

During my first year of seminary I discovered Karl Barth. He was grappling with theological challenges that were new to me, he was operating within a theological tradition that was largely foreign to me (names like Ritschl, von Harnack, etc. meant nothing to me at that time), and there was an aura about his approach to theology that felt reverent and profound. I became intensely interested. Many an afternoon of 2006 and 2007 was spent struggling through Romans and Church Dogmatics—and then onto the secondary literature, especially Bruce McCormack. With enough distance from that episode now to have some critical…

8 Ways to Find Sermon Illustrations

Every preacher knows the feeling of needing an illustration, but not having anything handy. Even if you have good systems for capturing and filing illustrations, you will inevitably have moments where nothing is in your notes, and you cannot think of anything spontaneously. I know some people are against illustrations, and certainly they can be abused. For instance, we can be tempted to rely on illustrations too much out of a desire to make our sermons more engaging or emotional. But I’m convinced that there is also a way to go about illustrating that is honoring the text of Scripture,…