Reasonable Faith Christian Truth and Apologetics by William Lane Craig.
The first chapter starts off with a discussion of the relationship between faith and reason. It provides a historical background from the medieval, enlightenment and contemporary time periods highlighting the thinking of several prominent figures from each period. The author then comes back to the central question: How do I know that Christianity is true? He then creates a distinction between knowing Christianity is true and showing Christianity is true. The way “we know Christianity to be true is by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit.” (pg 43) “The apostle John also makes quite clear that it is the Holy Spirit within us who gives believers conviction of the truth of Christianity.” (pg 44) (1 John 2:20, 27) The roles of argument and evidence are the roles of a servant. Argument and evidence are used to support the conclusion that Christianity is true. When showing that Christianity is true, the roles are somewhat reversed. “The task of showing that Christianity is true involves the presentation of sound and persuasive arguments for Christian truth claims.” (pg 52) This is done with deductive and inductive arguments. It should be kept in mind that these arguments only amount to “probability rather than certainty.” (pg 55) “The role of the Holy Spirit is to use our arguments to convince the unbeliever of the truth of Christianity.” (pg 56) However, since the unbeliever may be resisting the Holy Spirit they may remain unconvinced even by the most convincing arguments.
The second chapter dealt with “the human predicament” or the “significance of human life in a post-theistic universe.” (pg 65) It started off with a historical background that looked at what different Christian thinkers have said about the human predicament. In the assessment section it discussed the absurdity of life without God and immortality. He showed that there is no ultimate meaning, no ultimate value and no ultimate purpose without God and immortality. He uses several different arguments to demonstrate that the atheistic worldview is insufficient. Without immortality “the human race will eventually cease to exist, it makes no ultimate difference whether it ever did exist.” (pg 73) In a universe without God “good and evil do not exist…there is no hope; there is no purpose.” (pg 75-76) “Biblical Christianity therefore provides the two conditions necessary for a meaningful, valuable, and purposeful life for man: God and immortality.” (pg 86)
The third and fourth chapters are about the existence of God. It starts off with an historical background discussing several different approaches that Christian thinkers have used to demonstrate the existence of God. In the assessment section the author reviews several different arguments that he finds convincing. He also goes in depth into each argument and the counter-arguments usually given against them. The following are the arguments used: Leibnizian Cosmological Argument, Kalam Cosmological Argument, Teleological Argument, Moral Argument, Ontological Argument. Some of these arguments required an in-depth discussion of philosophy and scientific theories. These two chapters were the hardest to understand. The premises and conclusions of the arguments are not difficult. The difficulty comes when arguing for each premise and countering every argument against the premises and conclusions. The author did point out that if the person you are talking to accepts the premises of the argument you did not need to defend each premise but you should be prepared to defend each premise.
The fifth chapter dealt with the Problem of Historical Knowledge. It started off with an historical review of different approaches and theories about history. This leads to a discussion of current methods and theories of the study of history particularly relativism and post modernism. “Contemporary historical relativism thus comprises two challenges to any claim to know the past as it actually happened: (1) non-realism, or constructionism, the view that all we know are historical reconstructions of the past, rather than the past itself, and (2) non-objectivism, or subjectivism, the view that no historical reconstruction can legitimately claim to be superior to alternative reconstructions.” (pg 217) The assessment section consists of in-depth discussion and critique of these two positions. The author makes convincing arguments that historical evidence can be known and historical explanations can be compared and weighed to determine which explanation best corresponds with the evidence. “Therefore, we can conclude that neither the supposed problem of lack of direct access to the past nor the supposed problem of lack of neutrality can prevent us from learning something from history. And if Christianity’s claims to be a religion rooted in history are true, then history may lead us to a knowledge of God himself.” (pg 240)
The sixth chapter covers the Problem of Miracles. The historical background section covered several Deistic thinkers and objections to miracles. In the assessment section the author takes the time to counter each of these Deistic thinkers and their objections. Basically the author argues that it is possible for God to act in the world and that we can objectively look at the evidence and come to the conclusion that God is the best explanation for the act.
The seventh chapter was about The Self-Understanding of Jesus. The chapter sought to answer the question what can we know about Jesus. The historical section covered the Life of Jesus Movement and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. The assessment section discussed problems with the different quests for the historical Jesus. It then used a set of factors that can be used to determine if some statement is authentic: “(1) Historical congruence, (2) Independent, early attestation, (3) Embarrassment, (4) Dissimilarity, (5) Semitisms, (6) Coherence.” (pg 298) Based on these factors the author then looked at the things Jesus said about himself and some of the things he did that give understanding to whom he thought he was. “[Jesus] is a man who thought of himself as the promised Messiah, God’s only Son, the Danielic Son of Man to whom all dominion and authority would be given, who claimed to act and speak with divine authority, who held himself to be a worker of miracles, and who believed that people’s eternal destiny hinged on whether or not they believed in him.” (pg 326)
The eigth chapter was about The Resurrection of Jesus. The historical background section discussed the traditional apologetic argument for the resurrection, the advance of biblical criticism and the tide of subjectivism. In the assessment section the author lays out what he thinks a sound argument for the resurrection would be. “Any historical argument for Jesus’ resurrection will have two steps…(1) to establish the facts which will serve as historical evidence and (2) to argue that the hypothesis of Jesus’ resurrection is the best or most probable explanation of those facts.” (pg 350) The author then rests his argument on “three great, independently established facts: the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith. If these three facts can be established and no plausible natural explanation can account for them as well as the resurrection hypothesis, then one is justified in inferring Jesus’ resurrection as the most plausible explanation of the data.” (pg 360-361) The rest of the chapter consists of establishing these three facts and comparing the resurrection hypothesis to competing hypotheses.
This book was very good but also very difficult and challenging. In the preface the author states that the book is written on a seminary level and this holds true. I found some of the philosophical arguments difficult to follow. I thought some of the cosmological arguments were difficult when came to explaining and understanding the competing cosmological theories to The Standard Model (Big Bang). After this section the book went into areas I found easier to grasp. I thought the final two chapters were done very well and were very convincing. The author has a companion web site to this book.