Posted by: Tim | May 22, 2009

Book Review: Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig

I am planning a preaching series on Christian Apologetics in the fall so I have started collecting several books on the subject, including Dr. William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith, 3rd Edition. Dr. Craig is a well known Christian apologist, having effectively defended the Christian faith for many years on university campuses across Canada and the United States (and no doubt around the world).

Let me say right away that Reasonable Faith is not light reading. It is 400+ pages filled with deep philosophical discussions about issues in Christian apologetics. That being said, Dr. Craig’s book is excellent and well worth the effort.

It  is divided into five parts with eight chapters: (with latin (I assume) in the titles, and my best guess translation in brackets since I don’t know latin but the words look familiar enough to guess)

Part One: De Fide (faith)

1. How do I know Christianity is True

Part Two: De Homine  (man)

2. The Absurdity of Life Without God

Part Three: De Deo  (God)

3. The Existence of God (I)

4. The Existence of God (II)

Part Four: De Creation (creation)

5. The Problem of Historical Knowledge

6. The Problem of Miracles

Part Five: De Christo  (Christ)

7. The Self-Understanding of Jesus

8. The Resurrection of Jesus

For each chapter (combined in chapters 3&4), Craig gives a history of the development of Christian apologetics for the topic being discussed. I found it very helpful to see the development of thought over time, and to know that Christians have been discussing and defending the faith for a very long time. It is also helpful to understand that some current apologetics issues are rooted in centuries-old debates that keep resurfacing.

For example, the issue of whether or not miracles can happen relates to Deism, the idea that God exists but is basically uninvolved in His creation.  In a Deist’s view of God, miracles are normally impossible. Today we often hear of Bible scholars who rule out large portions of the Bible as unhistorical. Their reason is because there is a miracle involved in the story, and that automatically disqualifies it as history, since miracles are impossible. Notice that there is no historical investigation done, it is just assumed that the story is untrue because they have already concluded that all miracles are impossible!  It is then helpful to know that this way of thinking is rooted in Deism from two hundred years ago, and that while there are few who would call themselves Deists, today, their thinking still lurks behind the scholarly work of many Biblical scholars.

After giving a historical overview, Craig gives the state of the debate today, and gives his best arguments in defense of the Christian faith. He interacts with different viewpoints, and explains why he believes his argument is correct. Sometimes it can get a little confusing, such as when he gets into discussions of multiple universes, string cosmology, theories of how time works, probability calculus, and reasons why infinity does not work in reality as it does as a mathematical abstraction (with the bizarre Hilbert’s Hotel of infinite capacity creating paradoxes when people check in and out in certain patterns…if you care to know what this has to do with the existence of God, see chapter 3). By the end of the book I think I was starting to grasp the probability calculus, and it is pretty cool in giving strong evidence for the resurrection using mathematics that were not available back when the famous philosopher David Hume declared miracles to be impossible.

But if you are now thinking, there is no way I want to read this book with confusing stuff like that, please don’t be dismayed, there are lots of other parts of the book that are much more understandable. For example, I jumped to the last chapter on the resurrection when I was about halfway through the book, in preparation for the Easter Message I preached at the Tab last month. It was extremely helpful and interesting, and I made much use of it in the message.

At the end of each chapter, Craig gives a ‘Practical Application’ section. I always enjoyed getting to this part, not only because it meant I was about to finish a long chapter, but because it was interesting to hear Dr. Craig’s less scholarly, more practical and more personal comments about the material he had just finished so meticulously presenting. He is very candid, admitting that some chapters have more practical value than others when dealing with everyday people. As a suggestion for improvement if there is ever a fourth edition, I would say that the Practical Application section was much too short and I would not have minded if it had been several pages longer in each chapter. I would also suggest reading Greg Koukl’s much shorter book, Tactics (my review is here), in combination with Reasonable Faith. Tactics gives very practical tools for how to use Christian apologetics information, such as the material contained in Reasonable Faith, in every day conversation, so that you don’t walk away from an evangelistic opportunity thinking of all the things you wished you had thought to say in the conversation.

One more note: I have a copy of the second edition of Reasonable Faith, and it contains a good chapter by Craig Blomberg, a respected evangelical scholar, about the reliablity of the New Testament. This chapter was omitted from the third edition, for reasons given by Craig in the preface (to keep the book’s length down, and to keep with his conviction that proving the historical reliability of the NT is not necessary to mount a strong apologetics case for the core truths of the NT (but note that Craig does have a high view of Scripture!!) ).

In addition to his book, Dr. Craig has put together a free website of the same name, that offers even more helpful Christian apologetics material – www.reasonablefaith.org . The other day I read a debate on the site between Dr. Craig and Dr. Bart Ehrman (click here for it), and it was interesting to see how Dr. Craig used the material presented in Reasonable Faith to counter the arguments of a leading skeptic in a live debate.

In summary, as I said a the beginning of this review, Reasonable Faith is a excellent book on Christian apologetics. I am happy to recommend it to you.

Recommended.

Craig, Dr. William Lane, Reasonable Faith Third Edition, Crossway, Wheaton, 2008, 415 pages.

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Responses

  1. You are aware that Mr William Lane Craig believes in “Molonism” and really does not like Calvinism?


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