3 New Important Apologetic Books (And All By Women) on Science, the Body & New Testament


I don’t do many book reviews, so think of this more as book recommendations.

Recently, three books were release (two in 2018, one in 2017), which I have found extremely helpful for defending the Christian worldview. One focuses on science, one focuses on the big cultural issues of the day (like sexuality, abortion, etc.), and one focuses on the New Testament.

None of the books are needlessly dense, but filled with useful information without beating the main points to death. They are assessable, easy to follow, and enjoyable to read. In other words, they’re informative and scholarly in a good way; they bring it down to the street-level without sacrificing content, and the authors know how to write to a general audience and write something worth reading.

These three books also all happen to be written by women. I didn’t purposely choose these books so I could blog about books by Christian women, but I picked these three books because I find them helpful apologetic tools. (“Apologetics” = To defend.) It’s a pleasant surprise that my three favorite books of 2017-2018 are all by women authors; it’s good to see women contributing to the field of Christian apologetics.


Nancy Pearcey

I’m try not to be hyperbolic in recommending books, but Love Thy Body may be the most important book written in, at least, the past fifteen years.

Pearcey, called “America’s preeminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual” by The Economist, is a master at clearly laying out how someone’s personal philosophy  – whether they realize it or not – effects how they think about the big questions of life. What’s so impressive about this book is that she shows how one big idea effects all the hot-button “culture war” issues of our day concerning human life, sexuality, and even family.

The big idea she addresses is this: whether the body is “separate from the authentic self.” In other words, is there is a divorce between the “person” and the body? According to some modern thinking, the “person” is the true self, where the body is an “expendable biological organism.”

Pearcey lays out why this idea that the “person” and body are detached from each other is not a biblically sound idea, nor a logically defensible position, nor beneficial to society or the individual. In fact, this popular “modern” notion has much more in common with the ancient paganism Christianity replaced in the West. Though Christians believe in an immaterial soul that can live on apart from the body, the biblical understanding is that God created us as whole beings – as embodied souls.

Pearcey walks us through how this unbiblical, post-modern (but also ancient) idea that the body is inconsequential effects how we think about all the big issues of our day: homosexuality, gender, the casual sex “hook up” culture, abortion, euthanasia, and even parenthood and the family.


Lydia McGrew

Lydia McGrew (along with her husband, Tim McGrew, who are both published philosophers) have reintroduced a forgotten argument for the reliability of the New Testament in podcast interviews, blog articles, and now a book. Originally used by William Paley in the 1790s and John James Blunt in the mid-1800s, the strategy has been labeled Undesigned Coincidences, a term coined by Blunt. Granted, “Undesigned Coincidences” doesn’t sound all that exciting, but it’s quite fascinating.

The argument is based on the idea that when we have multiple accounts of a true event by eyewitnesses, some accounts may contain details that others do not, yet those additional details will compliment the information in the accounts where the details are missing. To give an example, say, a witness to a murder describes the killer as having a French accent. Another witness may not mention the accent but describe the man wearing a brand of clothing unique to France.

Such a “coincidence” strongly suggests that the accounts are given by eyewitnesses and reliable. After explaining what undesigned coincidences are, McGrew’s book is pretty straight forward: She gives example after example of how we find these complimentary details between the four Gospels and between Paul’s letters and the Book of Acts.

(I wrote three blog articles about Undesigned Coincidences based on podcast interviews with Tim McGrew: Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3. If you find them interesting, reading Lydia’s book is the place to go to learn more.)


 Melissa Cain Travis

The goal of Travis’ book is quite easy to sum up: Despite the popular mantra of skeptics, science has not disproven God, nor is science and Christianity at odds.

Travis, professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University, takes us for a walk through scientific history to show that the Christian worldview gave birth to modern science. The founders of science were men who believed in God and saw their work not only as a way of growing in knowledge of God but also a way of worshipping God. Moreover, with each new scientific discovery, many viewed these as more – not less – evidence that the universe was created by a rational, thinking mind.

Travis backs up this “Maker Thesis” by looking at the evidence we find in cosmology, DNA, physics, mathematics, and the human mind. She even covers how our world is just right for our logical human minds to study, comprehend, and benefit from it and how this – just like life in the cosmos – doesn’t appear to be just a happy accident (giving whole new insight into God saying in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”)

Visit my other website: Confidence in Christ.

Confidence in Christ v2

Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: It Don’t Sound Sexy, But Oh Man It Is

*How can minor details in the Gospels show the reliability of the Bible? Can reading all 4 accounts of the feeding of the 5,000 teach us about the reliability of the Gospels?*


Sexy Apologetics?

When I first learned of Undesigned Coincidences (also called Incidental Allusions), I was pleasantly surprised and fascinated, and I wondered why this type of apologetic (defense of the Christian faith) is not more popular. I think the answer is plain:

“Undesigned Coincidences”

“Incidental Allusions”


These aren’t exactly “sexy,” head-turning words and phrases.

Further, one must have an extremely strong familiarity with the contents of the Bible to recognize these undesigned coincidences, and unbelievers, who may have no familiarity with the Bible, are unlikely to see the significance.

Yet, by simply and clearly walking someone through some of these unintended collaborations of Gospel details, perhaps we can raise some eyebrows.


So, What is an Undesigned Coincidence?

In our final post of a past GFTM series “The Joy & Angst of Four Gospels” on positive evidence for the reliability of the Gospels, we touched upon Undesigned Coincidences.

Here is what we wrote:

“In a number of interviews on radio shows and podcasts, Dr. Timothy McGrew has been spreading the word about a forgotten apologetic called Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels (based on the 1851 book of the same name by J.J. Blunt), and he has written a series of articles for the Christian Apologetics Alliance.

As we have discussed, when two or more authors write about a historic event there will be similarities and differences. Where the major events will be the same, minor details may be included or left out.

An “undesigned coincidence” is when one account provides details, but another account written about the same incident gives more insight into those details or gives other details that compliment them. We see “undesigned coincidences” when we have two or more independently investigated accounts of the same event. We find undesigned coincidences throughout the Gospels.

 Looking at an example will help clarify:

In Mark 14:55-59, Jesus is accused in front of the Sanhedrin of saying he will destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.

Also, in Mark 15:27-30, as Jesus is on the cross, people mock him and accuse him of saying a similar statement about destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days. This is also reported in Matthew 27:38-40.

But where in Mark or Matthew does Jesus say this? Nowhere — A read through both Mark and Matthew provides no evidence that Jesus ever said such a thing. Yet, when we read the Gospel of John, we find that Jesus did make this claim!

In John 2:18-22, John reports,

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

It’s highly unlikely that such complimentary minor details would be deliberately falsified, and the assurance that they’re based on authentic events is extremely high.”

In other words, when a true event is retold by multiple people, they may include minor details without an explanation of those details and others telling the same story may unintentionally fill in those missing details. Such non-deliberate cohesion smacks of authenticity.

What follows are some other examples of Undesigned Coincidences borrowed from a variety of sources.


Feeding the 5,000 & Green Grass in the Desert

The famous account of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is the only miracle of Jesus recorded in every one of the four Gospels. But the Gospel of Mark gives us a seemingly strange detail: green grass. The detail appears in Mark 6:39, but I’ll include more for the sake of context:

38 And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. (Mark 6:38-41)

Wait a minute: Green grass? Isn’t this taking place in the Middle East – in the desert? Isn’t the desert mostly brown?

But, another Gospel, John gives us more insight with different minor details about the same event:

1 After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. (John 6:1-4)

So, John (not Mark) tells us the feeding of the 5,000 took place during the Passover, and this detail explains the green grass! How? The Passover is the growing season around the Sea of Galilee; this is a short time period where the grass would be green!


Feeding the 5,000 & Philip

We find another Undesigned Coincidence in the feeding of the 5,000 accounts concerning Jesus’ little-known disciple Philip. Let’s pick up where we left off in John’s Gospel:

4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” (John 6:4-7)

Anyone who reads through the 4 Gospels comes to know the names of Jesus’ most notable disciples like Peter and John and even less-prominent disciples like James and Thomas (and, of course, the infamous one, Judas). But Philip? Who remembers anything about Philip? So, why did Jesus turn to Philip and not someone else?

We get a clue in another part of John:

44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. (John 1:44)

But it’s not in the Gospel of John, but in the Gospel of Luke in his account of the feeding of the 5,000 where we receive the final piece of the puzzle:

10 When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. 11 But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing.

12 Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.” 13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.” 14 (For there were about five thousand men.) And He said to His disciples, “Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each.” 15 They did so, and had them all sit down. (Luke 9:10-15)

So, Jesus and his disciples were in Bethsaida for the feeding of the 5,000! Jesus asked Philip about the buying of bread because Philip was from Bethsaida. Philip was a local, so of course Jesus would ask him about finding food in the area.

Take note in the Luke account above: Luke does NOT tell us that Jesus asked Philip specifically about buying bread. Only John gives us that minor detail.


Feeding the 5,000 & Needing a Break

When we turn to Mark’s account of the feeding of the 5,000, we get another detail not recorded in the other Gospels:

30 The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32 They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.

33 The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. 35 When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and it is already quite late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:30-36)

Here we’re told by Mark that Jesus and the disciples retreated to a secluded place to catch some rest because they were extremely busy because so many people were “coming and going.” So, why were so many people coming and going?

We find the answer not in Mark, but by going back to a detail we looked at earlier in John:

Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. (John 6:4)

During the Passover, the Jews would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate at the Temple. With so many people traveling along the roadways, Jesus and his disciples couldn’t find a break in the opportunities to teach and minister. Their only option was to retreat to a place away from everyone (and the people followed them anyway)!

Maybe Undesigned Coincidences — or apologetics in general — will never be “sexy” enough to turn heads, but hopefully they’ll raise some eyebrows.

NEXT: More Sexy Undesigned Coincidences – Internal & external…


Other GFTM series:

The Joy & Angst of Four Gospels

Christians & Marijuana

Judge Not?

The Walking Dead & the Christian Worldview