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That’s Pathetic

Have you ever given a pathetic Apologetics speech?

I hope so. Because a pathetic speech is the second kind of Apologetics that would make Aristotle proud.

Our word pathetic comes from the Greek pathos, meaning “suffering.” You can understand the connection—deep, typically negative emotion.

Today we often use the word “pathetic” to describe whiny children and the like. But the original meaning is most apparent in sentences like, “The lost puppy looked so pathetic I just had to bring him home.”

Recall from the post on ethos that Aristotle put forward three modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. This post focuses on pathos, which Aristotle described as “putting the audience into a certain frame of mind.”

Here is his full comment in Rhetoric:

Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. Our judgements when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile. It is towards producing these effects, as we maintain, that present-day writers on rhetoric direct the whole of their efforts.

Ethos pertains to a person’s character and credibility. Thus, it primarily concerns the speaker. In contrast, pathos deals with the emotions of the hearers.

Before we go any further, I want to dispel one common myth. (In the past I even believed it myself.) It’s the myth that all show of emotion is necessarily emotional manipulation. During my years of speech and debate, I prided myself on not resorting to emotional appeals. Since I am a very analytical individual, my desire was to justify my case based on the facts.

When I graduated and began judging, I carried this presupposition along with me. I looked with disfavor on speeches or debate cases (especially debate cases) that relied on emotion.

Thankfully, my perspective has matured slightly since then. I’ve leaned to distinguish emotional manipulation from genuine pathos. See, if what you are speaking about is important, then you should be emotional! Your lack of passion would give the judges permission to ignore you.

As Aristotle points out, “Our judgements when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile.” You know those days when everything is going wrong? Well, how do you react to just about anyone on those days? You bite their head off! Even if they had wonderful news, you judged them not worthy of any niceties.

In contrast, what about sunshiney days when all is wonderful? You are surely much more welcoming. Similarly, you want your judges to feel sunshiney. You want them to be positively disposed toward you and your speech.

This is true even when your speech is profoundly sad—and I have certainly heard my share of sad speeches over the years. In those cases, the speech’s emotional effect can still be welcome. I think it may be a form of catharsis: the release of strong emotions that ends in a feeling of relief. Responding with sadness to a pitiful story is right and good.

So how can you better include pathos in your speeches? Here are a few tips.

Leave “speech mode” behind.

Many inexperienced students go into “speech mode” upon entering a competition room. Their demeanor, movement, speech patterns, and tone change. Then they finish, walk outside, and are totally different with their friends.


Speech and debate is preparation for real life. You should strive to be yourself and act naturally as much as possible.

The solution here is to practice, practice, practice. Especially limited preparation speeches like Apologetics and Impromptu. Those categories like none other force you to adroitly address a topic off-the-cuff. The true you will be revealed.

Speak on topics you care about.

As much as you can, speak on topics you care about. This is easy when you get to pick your own topic. It’s a bit harder in Apologetics, where the topic choices are limited.

But keep in mind: All of the topics are about Ultimate Reality! This is God we’re talking about.

Shouldn’t we be a teeny bit excited?

I’ve explained this in detail in my article You Have to Care, so I won’t rehash matters here. You can check out that article for more.

Speak as a whole person.

You speak with your mouth, sure. But your entire person should be involved. Consider posture (which deserves a post of its own): What does it mean when a friend leans in toward you during conversation? That he or she is interested. What if they lean back out? Well, maybe they’re relaxing—or maybe they lost interest.

Same with Apologetics speeches. Your posture communicates nonverbally. Are you really getting into your topic? The tension in your body and force of your gestures should say so.

Gestures also deserve a post of their own. Accumulate a diverse library of gestures. Practice them until they become natural, then summon them at will. Don’t be like 12-year-old Caleb, who was told many times that his hands seemed to be bouncing basketballs. (Yes, me Caleb.)


Those are a few tips to start you off. Keep on studying and practicing Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion. Speak powerfully, enjoy Apologetics, and be pathetic!



Don’t Be a Snob

Don’t be a snob. Particularly a chronological snob.

Why not? What is a chronological snob? Why is being one bad?

Allow me to explain.

Chronological snobbery is a fallacy of reasoning which argues that whatever is new is best. By this logic, the old is inherently inferior—simply because it is old.

C.S. Lewis coined the term when a friend pointed out that Lewis’s assertion (as an atheist) that “religion is outdated” was flawed. Religion may be old, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

In an introduction he wrote to the book On the Incarnation by the fourth-century church father Athanasius, Lewis argued for why we need the old books and not just the new ones:

We all…need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books…. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth-century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it…. None of us can fully escapte this blindness…. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.

(C. S. Lewis, cited from The Quotable Lewis, ed. Jerry Root and Wayne Martindale [Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1989], 509)

For the past three months in seminary, I have been studing the first 1500 years of church history. Names like Papias, Polycarp, Eusebius, and Gregory—formerly meaningless—now have significance to me. Moreover, I have been repeatedly impressed at just how clearly and powerfully many of the church fathers expressed their theology.

To give some examples in honor of Reformation Day (on which Halloween happens to fall), here are three quotes on justification by faith alone from very early in church history:

A man is justified by faith. The works of the law can make no contribution to this.

Origen (third-century bishop of Alexandria)

Wages cannot be considered as a gift, because they are due to work, but God has given free grace to all men by the justification of faith.

Hilary of Poiters (fourth-century French bishop), commentary on Matthew 20:7

So even the act of faith is not self-initiated. It is, he says, “the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8c).

John Chrysostom (fourth-century bishop of Constantinople), homily on Ephesians 2:8


As Apologetics speakers, we often like to quote Packer and Piper and MacArthur and Chandler and Sproul and Strobel and McDowell. But we forget about Athanasius and Chrysostom and Augustine, and Luther and Calvin for that matter!

Our speeches would be richer if we drew upon the deep well of church history.

The good news is that the church fathers did not copyright their works! (Because copyright didn’t exist back in the second century.) So you can find them all for free online.

Better yet, Google “the church fathers on _______.” That will get you quotes from the first few centuries.

Or check out collections of quotes from church history like this.

Don’t be a snob—relish the wonderful history we have as Christians!

I’ll leave you with a quote from a modern guy speaking of a not-quite-so-modern guy:

[C.S. Lewis] has made me wary of chronological snobbery.  That is, he has shown me that “newness” is no virtue and “oldness” is no fault. Truth and beauty and goodness are not determined by when they exist. Nothing is inferior for being old, and nothing is valuable for being modern. This has freed me from the tyranny of novelty.

John Piper, The Pastor as Scholar, 34–35

Apologetics to Make Aristotle Proud

Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself.

Thus spake Aristotle in his Rhetoric. He presented to his readers the means they could use to persuade others through the verbal word. In so doing, he laid the foundation for centuries of rhetorical instruction, continuing to this very day.

As part of my swing from abstract philosophy-of-Apologetics articles back to concrete practice-of-Apologetics articlse, I felt it would be fitting to spend some time on Aristotle’s “Modes of Persuasion.” Apologetics may not be the same category as a Persuasive speech; however, persuasion is intimately involved with it. When you say, “The omnipresence of God should be a comfort to the believer,” you wish to persuade your judges to hold the same point of view. Likewise with “Atheism is wrong” or “Paul and James do not contradict each other on justification.” All these are statements which could be doubted, and which you wish to establish. How may you succeed? By means of the modes of persuasion.

A second motivation for writing this article is the widespread need for speeches that are pleasant to hear. Apologetics speeches should not be full of vibrant theological content, and yet be delivered poorly. We must have both.

I couldn’t help myself. 🙂

So in this post and the next we’ll look at the modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. While these Greek words do not appear in the English translation of Aristotle, our understanding of them is largely based on his work.


Ethos is most commonly thought of as the credibiliy of the speaker. However, “character” is actually a better understanding of the term. The Greek ethos formed the root of another Greek word meaning “moral,” and is the origin of our word ethics. So ethos has to do with your character, two parts of which are credibility and authority.

Give that understanding, here are the words of Aristotle:

Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided.

This kind of persuasion, like the others, should be achieved by what the speaker says, not by what people think of his character before he begins to speak.

It is not true, as some writers assume in their treatises on rhetoric, that the personal goodness revealed by the speaker contributes nothing to his power of persuasion; on the contrary, his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses. 

Aristole, Rhetoric

I broke the above quote into paragraphs to help with comprehension. Let’s walk through it and see what we can learn.

“Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided.”

Persuasion is inextricably tied to you. Your speech may be passionate and well-reasoned, but without character and credibility all is lost.

Imagine an alleged criminal on trial for theft. If he weepingly pleads to be released and claims he did not commit the crime, will you believe his words? Maybe. But his alleged lack of character makes you doubt.

Or consider a respected molecular biologist who presents a lecture on Saturn’s rings. Even if all his facts are lined up, you will find yourself wondering: “Is he really the right person to be presenting? Why not an astronomer? I’m really not sure I can trust him on this subject.”

In Apologetics, you must demonstrate to the judges that you are a speaker of high moral character who is eminently qualified to give a speech on this topic.

“This kind of persuasion, like the others, should be achieved by what the speaker says, not by what people think of his character before he begins to speak.”

Other Greek rhetoricians argued that the audience’s impression of your character before you begin to speak is a part of ethos. However, Aristotle preferred to limit ethos to the spoken word, since logos (logic) and pathos (passion) were likewise limited.

So your demonstration of character cannot be accomplished by wearing a nice suit, smiling upon entering the room, or having a natural stage presence. These contribute to the overall impression you make, but do not demonstrate ethos.

“It is not true, as some writers assume in their treatises on rhetoric, that the personal goodness revealed by the speaker contributes nothing to his power of persuasion; on the contrary, his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.”

Aristotle obviously thinks much of ethos. “Almost…the most effective means of persuasion” is a high word of commendation indeed!

In Apologetics, you must manifest personal character and credibility. How? Here are a few practical suggestions:

  • Reference yourself tastefully. You are not the subject of the Apologetics speech, so don’t talk about yourself too much. But you can tastefully use personal examples to demonstrate your character. Maybe you have a friend of another religion at school or work, and you can discuss your friendship during a speech concerning that religion.Don’t assume these have to be self-promoting, either: perhaps the best illustrations are self-deprecating. Talk about sibling rivalry in a speech on love, or your fear of evangelizing in a speech on the gospel. Show the full spectrum of your character. Rapport will be established.
  • Share your studies. As you studied this topic, what stuck out to you? Share those points with the judges, explicitly. The simple words “As I was studying this…” convey a sense of authority and preparedness. Emphasize personally impactful points, and let the judges know you really did put time into preparation.
  • Speak confidently. Experts are not phased by difficult topics. They take them in stride, almost casually. You should strive to be perceived as an expert. (Assuming, of course, that you are an expert—which after hours and hours of study, you probably are!) Ethos is conveyed not only by what you say, but also by how you say it.
  • Use appropriate vocabulary. Every area of study has its own vocabulary. Scientists speak of microbes and molecules, automotive mechanics of carburetors and pistons, Spanish teachers of the subjunctive and the imperfect. Use the vocabulary of Apologetics. Know the basic terms of theology, and be able to employ them proficiently.I recall once hearing an Apologetics speech on the topic of omniscience. The only problem was that the student spoke on omnipresence instead, but kept calling it “omniscience.” You may guess what sort of ranking I gave. This is an extreme example, but hopefully you get the point: command of vocabulary matters.In addition to the jargon of the specific field, you should demonstrate proficiency in basic English. For instance, learn synonyms for the most common English words. In this article I have needed to express the concept of saying something many times. But have I used the word “say” every time? No! You would be very bored if I had. My prose would seem monotonous. Instead I employ words like share, speak, communicate, convey, deliver, present…and employ. You can do the same. Start in your Word processer by right-clicking and selection the “synonyms” option, or go to

Ethos is crucial to any Apologetics speech. Implement these recommendations, follow Aristotle’s advice, and enjoy revealing your true character and credibility to the judges.

How to Arrange Your Apol Box

[Author’s note: Pray my brother Jeremy doesn’t see this photo I took of him about five years ago.]

He who lives in the clouds must eventually fall to the ground.
– A wise man

Okay, I made that quote up. I’ll leave the evaluation of my self-description to you.

Here’s the meaning: the last few posts have been rather abstract. We’ve been up in the clouds of Apologetics theory—valuable, but not immediately actionable.

Now we’re bringing it back to the ground. Let’s be eminently practical. Once you have written all of your cards, how should you put them into your box?

Maybe you’ve never thought of this before. Perhaps you think there’s only one way to do it. But three different approaches are possible, which we’ll introduce and evaluate in turn.

Approach 1. Listed

The simplest way is to add cards to your box in the same order as the official topic list.


  • Easy to set up
  • Predictable
  • Understandable order


  • Hard to remember topic order

Approach 2. Alphabetical

You could also organize your cards alphabetically, by the first significant word of the topic. So “If the Bible was written by men, how could it also be written by God?” would precede “Jesus clearly demonstrated His belief in the authority of Scriptures. Defend this statement with evidence.”

I’ve always dismissed this as a poor option. But considering it now, I realize that it may be the absolute easiest way to find your cards quickly. No memorization is required, apart from your ABC’s. As soon as you see the topic, you know where it is.

This is significant because the single largest time-waster during Apologetics prep is finding cards. It can take up to 20 seconds a card, perhaps more if it’s not where you remembered. And I always looked at my cards for all three topics before deciding which one to speak on, which elongated the total time. Alphabetizing removes all uncertainty as to card location.


  • Easiest way to find cards quickly
  • Predictable and understandable order


  • Not a thematic approach

Approach 3. Thematic

This is my preferred approach. You arrange the cards by theme, instead of alphabetically or by topic order. You can thematically order your entire box with no regard to the five categories; alterantively, you can create themes only within the official categories.

Note that you have to create this organizational structure (as yours truly did). Or purchase it from someone who has already created it (like yours truly now enables you to do). Either way, you’re doing the work of forming and/or committing the categories to memory.

The primary benefit of this approach is that it enables you to see how diverse topics relate to one another. Within any category, a Meaning/Significance (also known as Define/Defend) question may closely connect to a General Question and a Statement Analysis. Neither of the previous two organizational systems reveals this. But when you reorganize topically, you put “like with like.”

While competing in Apologetics, I found this approach personally beneficial. I remember one round where I drew three topics, went to my box, and prompty discovered that I lacked cards for all three. *gasp* What was I to do?

Thankfully, my card was arranged thematically. Right next to an empty spot—where my “atonement” card was not—sat my “lamb of God” card. So I thought to myself, “Hmm. Lambs were used in the Old Testament as sacrifices of atonement, right? And Jesus as the Lamb of God fulfills those types and makes atonement for us, right? Maybe I can speak on atonement through the lens of the Lamb of God!” So I did. And scored quite well, in fact—all due to thematic organization.


  • Reveals connection between topics
  • Can save your hide in-round


  • Hard to create
  • Requires memorization to locate cards in-round


There you go! The three approaches to organizing your Apologetics box. As you gear up for tournament, may your efforts to arrange your box bear much fruit in saved time and diminshed stress.

What is Expository Apologetics?

Have you ever heard of expository preaching?

Some denominations and theological persuasions speak of it more than others.

Here’s a quick definition from Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church:

“Expositional preaching is preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached.”

Sounds fairly simple, right?

Unfortunately it is rather uncommon in the church at large today.

Many pastors do not preach expositionally. That is, the main point of their sermon does not come from the passage of Scripture they are ostensibly addressing.

Instead, the point is one they want to make, with the Scriptural text merely present as a backdrop.

Sometimes this is blatant, and any discerning hearer can tell that the speaker is not presenting the Word.

Other times it is more subtle. What if a traveling preacher gave the same message on love in two different locations, one based on John 3:16 and the other on Romans 5:8? Both passages mention love. If you preach the same sermon on love, isn’t that expositional?

Perhaps not. Notice the difference in those passages—John 3:16 says that God loved the world and Romans 5:8 says that God loves us (believers). The lover may be the same, but the recipient is different.

The message of these passages is not identical. The impact?  A preacher who delivers the same sermon from both texts is not actually preaching expositionally. He is not explaining the text.

[Note: The John 3:16 vs. Romans 5:8 illustration is not original to me, but I forget where I heard it. Some famous preacher.]

Why do I say all this?

Well, this past week I sat for 16 hours listening to Dr. Steve Lawson. Those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while know that I am—was—a resident of Little Rock, Arkansas. But no longer.

Now I’m in sunny California! Soon I’ll begin graduate school at The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles, pursuing my Master of Divinity degree.

This past week was orientation week, including a 4-day 4-hour-per-day intensive course on (you guessed it) expository preaching.

This is an overflow of that class, as I’m working through how what I learned applies to Apologetics.

So how on earth does it apply?

Here’s the thing. The preacher has no inherent authority. Just because your pastor says something from the pulpit on Sunday morning doesn’t mean you have to believe it.

That sounds near-heretical…but it’s true.

The preacher’s authority derives from the Bible.

If what the preacher says comes from the Bible, you must hear and obey.

If what the preacher says comes from somewhere else, you can do whatever you want with it.

The Biblical text is authoritative. Because the Bible is God’s Word, and God is authoritative.

Do you want Apologetics judges to take you seriously?

Do you want an air of gravity to accompany your speaking?

Do you want to proclaim not merely “thus saith me” but “thus saith the LORD”?

Any authority you have in Apologetics—any compelling gravitas—can only come from the Bible.

That’s why the primary source in Apologetics, before C.S. Lewis quotes and cosmological arguments, is Bible verses.

Let’s bring this down to practicals. If expository preaching has authority because it exposits (explains) the Biblical text, then an expository Apologetics speech will have authority because it explains the Biblical text too.

How would that work in a competition round?

I’m not entirely sure. My thoughts are still developing.

Let’s take the deity of Christ. That was one of my favorite topics when I competed—”Explain the meaning and significance of the deity of Christ.”

My go-to speech on that was a five-point presentation of various evidences for Jesus’ deity, drawn from different Bible verses. The acronym was HANDS:

  • Honor
  • Attributes
  • Name
  • Deeds
  • Seat

Jesus has the honor, attributes, name, deeds, and seat of God. Therefore he is God.

(Wow, I still remember it all these years later. I’m surprised. All credit for the acronym goes to my former youth pastor, George Lawson.)

Because I supported each point with one or more verses, the speech was potentially expositional.

But it’s all too easy not to exposit (explain) verses…we  simply cite them and move on.

What if you tried a different approach?

What if you took Colossians 1:15-20 as the core of your speech? You spent your time not covering bunches of points, but walking through this one text.

You explain each step in the apostle’s argument. You summarize his point. You convey his passion for and exaltation of Christ.

Would that be more powerful than a collection of verses?

I think it might be.

Maybe you should try it.

If you do, email me!

That’s all for now. Thanks for letting me spill all these random thoughts on you—hope they’ve been useful!

Stick to the Word.

[Image name “paul preaching” by Robert Tewart, Creative Commons 2.0 license.]

One Brilliant Tip for When You Detest Writing Apologetics Cards

I really want to have written an article today.

I just don’t want to write it.

You know how I feel? Even if you don’t blog, you have assuredly experienced the same thing:

  • You want to have cleaned your room, but you don’t want to clean it.
  • You want to have prepared dinner, but you don’t want to prepare it.
  • You want to have written an Apologetics card, but you don’t want to write it.

I’m reminded of a TED talk I once watched on procrastination. The speaker shared how he felt when he was first invited: “Wow! I always wanted to have done a TED talk! Like, I could tell people: ‘This one time, in the past, I did a TED talk, but it’s over now.'”

The problem for that procrastinator? He was on the front end of the TED talk, and actually had to write it.

I feel like that today. Recently I’ve missed a self-imposed publishing deadline or two. Writing a new article every two weeks is my goal and standard practice, but lately that has not been happening.

Partly that’s because I moved to Los Angeles. Yep, I’m out in beautiful Cali now! Later this month I start school at The Master’s Seminary, for my three-year Master of Divinity degree.

So life is busy and crazy and hectic with transition. But I’ve made time for lots of other things. So it’s not as though writing an article is impossible.

Rather, I have used the move as an excuse not to write.

Because writing is hard.

Let’s bring this around to Apologetics finally…

Writing Apologetics cards is hard.

It is! Even for someone like me, who wrote dozens of them and created an entire system for goodness’ sake.

And occasionally (or frequently) you sit down at your computer and really, really do not want to write a card.

But what happens if you don’t?

You don’t write a card the next week.

Or the next.

Or the one after that.

Before you know it, tournament season is here! And you have a grand total of 3 cards.

How can you avoid that awful fate?

With this one brilliant tip.

(I didn’t originally come up with this tip, so I can call it brilliant without being prideful.)

I first heard of it in a productivity article someplace. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld wanted to force himself to write new jokes every day. So what did he do?

He bought a calendar.

Not just any calendar—a huge wall calendar, with the entire year of days visible.

Every day he wrote jokes, he got to cross off the day with a gigantic red X.

If he missed a day? No red X.

Let’s pretend it is Day 8 for Jerry. The past 7 days he has written jokes consistently. He has a chain of 7 red X marks on the calendar.

Does he want that chain to end?

Absolutely not!

The desire to keep progressing trumps the desire to be lazy.

And that, my friends, is why I’m typing this post instead of reading or practicing Hebrew or browsing Facebook or searching for the best variety of coffee.

Because for the past 4 years, I have posted a new article every 2 weeks.

And I detest the thought of breaking that chain. I’ve broken it enough already these past few weeks. No more.

How do you apply this personally?

Determine how many cards you want to write each week. (Or each month, if you want to go slower than one card per week.)

Get a calendar.

And splash a big red X across every week you succeed.


(Read more on Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity method here.)

Evidence Unseen: Well-Argued Apologetics Articles

I had my wisdom teeth out on Wednesday, and I’m not really in the mood for writing an entire article.

So I’m going to cheat.

I’m going to point you to another website with some amazing articles.

And hopefully you won’t be too mad at me.

Evidence Unseen is a website I recently stumbled across. The first article I read was, “Is Hell Divine Overkill?“, which impressively covered many common objections to the doctrine of hell (including ones I’ve wondered about myself). From there I scanned several other articles. Consistently, I was struck by the tight logic and reasoned discourse that characterized each post.

Many of the Apologetics articles on Evidence Unseen relate directly to an NCFCA/Stoa topic. Others can be applied. Overall, I believe this is a valuable resource to add to your Apologetics arsenal.

However, I would encourage you to exercise caution with other sections of the website. I disagree with several of the views presented in the Theology articles section (which is separate from the Apologetics articles section). Now, these differences of perspective are all on secondary issues, so I feel I can still recommend the Apologetics section for its usefulness. Yet I do believe some of the Theology articles are misleading.

With that disclaimer, stick to the Apologetics section, and you should learn a lot from Evidence Unseen!

A Vision of Glory

“It is a sight of the glory of God that changes us (2 Corinthians 3:18). Our entrance into Christianity, also called justification, comes by a vision of glory. Our progress in Christianity, also called sanctification, comes by a vision of glory.

And so, what else would our final perfection in Christianity, also called glorification, come by, except a vision of glory?”

Matt Papa, Look and Live, p.212

This article is a quick commentary on that quote. I finished reading Look and Live just yesterday. It was spiritually helpful, devotionally excellent, and superbly practical. Soon I plan to buy my own copy (the one I read was borrowed from a friend, which means I can’t write in it. And I like to write in books).

The excerpt above established a connection in my mind, one that really should have been there long ago.

See, I know 2 Corinthians 3:18 by heart. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. And this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (ESV, from memory.)

So sanctification comes from seeing glory. Got it.

Heading backward, I know that we enter the Christian life by seeing glory too: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV)

That’s regeneration. Our blind hearts see glorious light, and we know (relationally) a God we were ignorant of before.

Moving forward, I know 1 John 3:2. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (ESV).

So our glorification is by seeing glory.


The entire Christian life, from beginning to end, consists of beholding the glory of God and being transformed by it.

This has massive implications for your morning devotional times. Why do you read your Bible?

But I’m not going into those. (Grab a copy of Look and Live to get them.)

This has massive implications for Apologetics.

First off, you could give a fantastic speech on half a dozen topics with just these verses:

  • In what ways has God revealed Himself to man? [Touch on general revelation, then major on special revelation and the glory we see in it. Tie in Psalm 19.]
  • Analyze and respond to the statement, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” A. W. Tozer [Yep. Because the entire Christian life is about seeing God truly, which requires right thinking.]
  • Analyze and respond to the statement, “God is merely an impersonal force in the universe. He is untouchable and unapproachable.” Anonymous [God has made himself known—he reveals his glory. It’s the essence of the entire Christian life.]
  • Define and defend the uniqueness of Scripture. [It’s the only book that reveals God’s glory to us. Psalm 19 again.]
  • Analyze and respond to the following statement, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” Isaac Asimov [Actually, when people “properly read” the Bible with the aid of the Holy Spirit, they see God’s glory and are changed into his image one degree at a time. So yeah, atheists, please read the Bible. I can’t promise you that God won’t convert you. 🙂 ]
  • Explain the meaning and significance of the image of God. [We started out in the Garden perfectly in his image; the image was shattered by the Fall but still remains; we are being made into that same image again, and will fully be one day.]

Okay, I’m stopping there. And I didn’t even get to the topics about sanctification!

I seem to be posting a lot about books these days. I guess it’s just on my mind. Much of my spiritual growth comes from reading good books by godly Christian men.

And by “godly Christian men” I don’t mean whoever you find on the shelf at the local Christian bookstore. Most of those books are milk at best, heresy at worst. I’m talking about the guys who bring real meat.

Guess I need one more post, a list of really good authors.

Maybe I’ll do that soon.

Until then…

Buy Look and Live.

And/or go read what the Bible says about glory.

Then use it in Apologetics and shine.

18 Books You Need To Write Amazing Apologetics Cards (Number 2 Is my Favorite)

There are a lot of strange websites out there.

I can remember many times researching a card. After clicking on a promising link, I would soon discover that the article and website were a bit…off.

It might not be heretical (although some were). Maybe it was just imbalanced.

But either way, I didn’t want to get my Apologetics research from there.

In those circumstances, it was always good to know that a solid book wouldn’t disappoint. World Wide Web got you down? Go grab a trusty book and get your research from that instead.

Of course, there are about a bazillion other reasons to use books while writing Apologetics cards. In fact, every single Apologist knows that good books are something they should use.

Key word being “should.”

See, oftentimes you don’t know where to start. What books will be most helpful? Which can you trust? Which will be profitable?

Recently a contact of mine who is a fantastic Apologist sent me an email. She asked if I had any book recommendations for an Apologetics camp she’ll be hosting this summer.

I said “of course!” and began to write. In the end, it became a near-complete guide to the essential books for Apologetics.

I think it’ll be helpful for you too. So here, with some editing, revising, and expanding, is the list of 18 books your need to write amazing Apologetics cards.


Category 1

  • The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
  • The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink


  • I have personally read Tozer’s book multiple times and profited greatly. Tozer is both intellectually helpful and devotionally worshipful. I’ve talked with people who find him hard to read, but I actually don’t. (Though I have a high reading level.) At any rate, his chapters are brief, so any reader could probably finish one in 10 minutes.
  • I have not read Pink’s book, though I think I listened to the audiobook once. It was good, but I appreciated Tozer more.
  • If you’re a Christian hip-hop fan, just listen to Shai Linne’s album The Attributes of God. 🙂  But seriously, it’s a great album.
  • Since Category 1 majors on attributes and minors on proofs of God’s existence, I wouldn’t spend too much time on proofs (cosmological, teleological, etc.).

Category 2

  • Why Believe the Bible? by John MacArthur (especially part 1 on inspiration & inerrancy)
  • The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
  • God-Breathed: The Undeniable Power and Reliability of Scripture by Josh McDowell (especially section 2 on reliability)
  • Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung
  • Why Trust the Bible? by Greg Gilbert


  • I’ve read The Case for Christ and found it very interesting. It’s a very readable book, with Strobel interviewing various experts. He’s sort of the devil’s advocate throughout, which makes for an engaging read.
  • I have skimmed MacArthur’s book, but not read it through. MacArthur is always precise and thoroughly biblical, so this would be a good ground-level introduction.
  • I haven’t read that McDowell book, but I ran across it on Amazon. Looks like a good recent resource.
  • Have not read DeYoung’s book, but my church’s Men’s Ministry just went through it with good reviews. This would be more of a general resource, from which to draw quotes and mindsets for particular topics.
  • I always find Greg Gilbert to be a clear, simple, and compelling author. I’ve read his What is the Gospel?, and have Why Trust the Bible? on my bookshelf to be read soon. His books are super short (near 100 pages), so it’d be a good introduction.

Category 3

  • This section is rather more difficult. The doctrine of man, otherwise known as “theological anthropology,” has been less written about than other doctrines. However, after trawling the World Wide Web, I was able to find some books for you.
  • The Human Being: A Theological Anthropology by Hans Schwartz
  • Theological Anthropology: A Guide for the Perplexed by Marc Cortez
  • The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction by Sinclair Ferguson


  • I have read none of these books personally. Schwartz covers a lot of ground, while Cortez goes more in-depth on a few issues.
  • Sinclair Ferguson’s book is included because Category 3 contains several questions on various elements of the ordo saludis—the order of salvation. For instance, regeneration, repentance, and sanctification fall into this category. Ferguson is a readable introduction to the order of salvation.
  • Honestly, you would probably be better off reading articles from and consulting a work of systematic theology. With the possible exception of Ferguson, consider these resources mainly if you’re wanting to go deeper.

Category 4

  • What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
  • The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler


  • Like I said above, Gilbert is a great author. He uses the God-Man-Christ-Response framework in this book. This would be good for grounding students in the basic gospel message.
  • Chandler’s book is a bit more in-depth. He goes through “The Gospel in the Air” (redemptive history, Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation) and “The Gospel on the Ground” (God-Man-Christ-Response). I listened to this on audiobook and enjoyed it very much.

Category 5

  • The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
  • Why is Jesus? by Greg Gilbert
  • More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell


  • I overviewed Strobel above, so I won’t say more here.
  • Again, Gilbert is good. This covers more theological categories than historical-reliability ones.
  • McDowell covers the historical reliability bases. I think I read this my first year in Apologetics.

Category 6

  • The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin


  • I actually haven’t read any books specifically about world religions. (Well, except for the study guide I read for the World Religions CLEP test. But that doesn’t really count.) Mainly I used online articles. But if you wanted to get a book, this would be the one. It’s the definitive work.

General Works

  • I really believe every Apologist needs to have a copy of Systematic Theology. But maybe not for an introductory Apol camp. If ST is too intimidating, R.C. Sproul has written one aimed explicitly at laypeople: Everyone’s a Theologian. I’ve listened to part of it on audiobook, and I’d recommend it. Some good systematic theology is useful simply because it covers just about every topic.
  • The Case for Christianity Answer Book (here) by Lee Strobel. I just ran across this on Amazon, and I think I would recommend it to any new Apologetics students. As I scanned the table of contents, I kept seeing questions that are in the official topic lists.

Online Resources

  • By far, the online resource I used the most was They have about a bazillion articles on just about everything you could want to know. I’ve always found them to be very biblically faithful.
  • One other place is They give away a free audiobook every month if you sign up for their email list, and it’s often really good. That’s where I got The Explicit Gospel, Everyone’s a Theologian, The Attributes of God, and more. Plus many people find listening easier than reading.

Here’s the pressed-for-time application. If you read just 3 books (or sections of books), I would recommend The Knowledge of the Holy, The Case for Christ, and What is the Gospel?, in that order. Then I would supplement with articles from for other categories.

Tolle lege. Take up and read!

Don’t Waste Your Not Breaking

You are not going to win Apologetics.

Sorry to break it to you, but that’s the truth. National championships are coming up soon, and you will not emerge the victor.

Now, I could be wrong. ONE of you might win. But every other one of you will not. And that’s why I’m writing this article.

Because not breaking is a part of Apologetics. A hard part. A devastating part. A realistic part. But a beneficial part.

So how can you deal with not breaking?

Remember three things.

1. Remember Dust

Dust is what covers the trophies on my shelf. I placed 5th in the nation in Apologetics one year. Second in the nation in Impromptu the next year. I was top LD debate speaker in my region two years running, with 2nd and 3rd places in LD to boot. I won Apologetics (and several other speech events) at multiple tournaments.

I have quite a load of medals and trophies: at least three dozen total.

And do you know what they do?

They sit on a shelf.

In my room.

Colleting dust.

Sure, I look at them occasionally. I remember the good times I had.

But would I be significantly happier if my 2nd place Impromptu trophy were 1st place? Or if I had been Apologetics champion for three years straight?

Probably not.

You may be less successful than me. You may be more successful.

But your trophies will collect dust one day too.

When you break, know your happiness now will be dusty soon.

When you don’t break, know your sadness now will be dusty soon.

Remember dust.

2. Remember Life

Why do we compete in Apologetics, anyway?

Because it’s fun.

Because our parents make us.

Because we want to win.

Because it prepares us for life.

I think the last is the most important reason. Speech and debate is great preparation for life.

Not just in skills. In character.

I learned to speak well. But just as significantly, I learned to suffer well.

Not breaking is disappointing. I remember the times I longed to break but did not.

You know what? You don’t break all the time in life, either.

When you don’t break, know that your response now shapes your response later. Your not breaking can be GOOD, if you learn from it.

Remember life.

3. Remember Eternity

I left this one for last because it is simultaneously the most important and the most overused. We’ve all heard it—“God cares most about how you competed, not whether you win.”

It’s true.

Sometimes the “super-spiritual” perspective is the super-helpful one too. Because it reflects reality.

Ten million years from now, will you care whether you broke at the last tournament?

Will you be sad that you didn’t reach your goals?

I think not.

You will either have much greater things to be sad about in hell…

Or all your sadness will be swallowed up in the cosmic ocean of heaven’s joy.

I pray the latter will be true for you.

When you don’t break, remember eternity.

Finally: Trust God.

That’s the life skill you need the most.

Not preparing a speech.

Not speaking off-the-cuff.

Not wearing a suit with confidence.

When your prepared speech falls flat, you stumble around off-the-cuff, and your power tie doesn’t make you feel powerful…

You need a God you can trust.

Okay, I’m done preaching. (I’m primarily preaching to myself.)

When you don’t break at this next tournament:

Remember dust.

Remember life.

Remember eternity.

And trust God.

As Piper would say:

“Don’t waste your not breaking.”