William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith: A Review

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Who is William Lane Craig?

According to his organization’s website, “William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology…Craig pursued his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College (B.A. 1971) and graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984). He has authored or edited over thirty books… as well as over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology.”[1]  This is a matter-of-fact description that does not fully speak to Craig’s reputation in the Christian Apologetics community.  Sam Harris, one of the famed “Four Horseman of the New Atheism,” referred to Craig as “the one Christian Apologist who seems to have to put the fear of God into my fellow atheists.”[2]  Steve Kennedy, a Christian minister licensed by the First Baptist Church of Woodstock and the teacher of that church’s apologetics Sunday school class took Harris’s hyperbole to the next level, referring to Craig as the “Jedi Master”[3] of Christian Apologetics.

The Goals of Apologetics and Reasonable Faith

Apologetics, in the view of Craig, is a vehicle for shaping culture, strengthening believers, and evangelizing unbelievers.  This is the viewpoint from which he teaches and the viewpoint from which he writes. “Reasonable Faith is intended primarily to serve as a textbook for seminary level courses on Christian apologetics.”[4]  From Craig’s apologetic viewpoint, the book focuses on five loci (or common places) of systematic theology: Faith, Man, God, Creation, and Christ.  The book is written in five parts, each on dedicated to one of these loci. Craig uses philosophy, history, and science, interspersed with his own personal experience, to explore these loci in the hopes that his book will “help equip a new generation of intelligent, articulate Christians who are filled with the Spirit and burdened to see the Great Commission fulfilled.”[5]

Part 1: Faith

Part 1 of Reasonable Faith explores the relationship of faith and reason, attempting to answer the question, “Exactly how do we know Christianity to be true?”[6] Craig attempts to shed light on the answer by exploring the thinking of some of history’s most “important representative thinkers”[7] including Augustine, Aquinas, Locke, Henry Dodwell, Barth, Bultmann, Pannenberg, and Alvin Plantinga.   Craig ultimately advocates the position of Dodwell and Plantinga that one can know Christianity is true by the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit.  This kind of knowledge is what Plantinga would classify as a “properly basic” belief: “Man has an innate, natural capacity to apprehend God’s existence”[8] Though a properly basic belief gives rational grounding to know Christianity is true, it does not give such a grounding to show Christianity to be true.  Showing Christianity is done by “presenting good arguments for its central tenets.”[9]  (Understanding that the Holy Spirit plays a role in helping non-Christians come to Christ through those arguments.)

Part 2: Man

In Part 2 of Reasonable Faith Craig explores what the human predicament would look like in a world without God.  He explores what could be called the existential apologetics of the Christian thinkers Pascal, Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard, and Schaeffer.  The thinking of such men informs the opinion that, without God, mankind ultimately leads a hopeless, if not meaningless, existence.  “If God does not exist, then both man and the universe are inevitably doomed to death. Man, like all biological organisms, must die. With no hope of immortality, man’s life leads only to the grave. His life is but a spark in the infinite blackness, a spark that appears, flickers, and dies forever. Compared to the infinite stretch of time, the span of man’s life is but an infinitesimal moment; and yet this is all the life he will ever know.”[10]  Without God, there is no ultimate (moral) value or purpose in the life of man. 

Part 3 God

In Part 3 of Reasonable Faith Craig explores several logical arguments for the existence of God.  He addresses ontological, teleological, and moral arguments for God’s existence (exploring the thoughts of theistically minded philosophers such as Aristotle, Aquinas, and Leibniz).  However, he gives the most extensive treatment to the Kalaam Cosmological Argument.  It is Craig’s treatment of the Kalaam that makes Part III, by far, the weightiest part of the book.  The Kalaam depends on two premises: (1) The Universe Began to Exist and (2) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.  The conclusion drawn from the two premises is that the universe has a cause.  This cause must be eternal, timeless, immaterial, and powerful enough to bring material reality into existence. Such a being can only be described as God.  Craig uses The Big Bang Theory and the Second Law of Thermodynamics to support his first premise.  In addition to these scientific theories, Craig uses mathematical theories and philosophical principles (most notably utilizing the Hilbert’s Hotel thought experiment) to demonstrate that it is logically impossible for the universe to be eternal.  Not only does he strongly support the premises of the Kalaam, he anticipates objections to the argument and its conclusion and refutes them in-depth.  His anticipating and addressing objections and his use of scientific theory is not limited to the exposition of the Kalaam.  He does the same in his exposition of the other theistic arguments included in Part 3.  It should be noted that even though it does not receive as much treatment as the Kalaam (which is Craig’s trademark argument, about which he wrote an entire book),[11] “the moral argument is” in Craig’s experience, “the most effective argument for the existence of God.”[12]

 Part 4: Creation

In Part 4 of Reasonable Faith, Craig explores how creation[13] is understood through history. The act of creation is a historical event.  So are many other events recorded in the Bible, most notably the resurrection of Christ.  Thus, historical evidence can verify the truth of Christianity.  However, some schools of thought challenge the notion that the events of history are objectively knowable, which leads Craig to state, “This…brings us face-to-face with the problem of historical knowledge.”[14]  Biblical events are recorded history, but if historical events are not objectively knowable, as the outlook of historical relativism asserts, then the events of the biblical record can’t be objectively knowable.  To combat this notion, Craig feels that it is important for Christians understand the philosophy of history.  To aid in this apologetic endeavor, Craig offers a survey of historical methods from the medieval period to the current age, addressing two notable objections that historical relativists have to the notion that historical facts can be objectively known: lack of access to the past and a lack of neutrality on the part of historians. Craig ably argues that neither of these objections can “prevent us from learning something from history.”[15]

Part 5: Christ

Part 5 of Reasonable Faith explores the divinity and resurrection of Jesus.  While parts 1-4 of the book could be considered to make a case for general theism, Part 5 is thoroughly Christian.  Craig notes, “The Christian religion stands or falls with the person of Jesus Christ.”[16]  As he does in previous parts of the book, Craig provides a historical survey of the thought surrounding the subject being presented.  Craig addresses various scholastic views of Jesus that view Him as non-messianic, non-divine, an un-resurrected. Craig demonstrates from scripture that Jesus viewed himself to be both Messiah and divine.  Craig also argues from history that Jesus rose from the dead, citing the resurrection as the best explanation for the empty tomb, post-resurrection accounts of seeing Jesus, and the radical change of direction in the lives of the apostles.  As in other parts of the book, Craig anticipates objections to Christian arguments and soundly refutes them.

An Evaluation

            Reasonable Faith is intended as a textbook for formal study in Christian Apologetics.   It is technical and well-written so it certainly serves the purpose for which Craig wrote it.  However, leaving my evaluation there would be to understate the gravity of the book.  It’s the best apologetics book I’ve ever read; I think a good argument could be made that it’s the best such book ever written.  It’s thoroughly Christian, It’s thoroughly intelligent, and it’s thoroughly personal.  It doesn’t dodge doctrinal difficulties; it meets them head on from a biblical perspective.  There are some Christians, of course, who would take issue with Craig’s cosmology.  As an advocate for the Big Bang theory, he clearly does not believe in a young universe.  Craig doesn’t even bother to debate an old or young universe; he just assumes an old one.  However, he assumes an old one in defense of the biblical account, not as a criticism.  I think even people who disagree with Craig on the age of the Earth can appreciate Reasonable Faith and find it useful and edifying for the purposes of shaping culture, strengthening believers, and evangelizing unbelievers.  Craig writes intellectually but also practically, ending the book with profound advice to the reader: “…the ultimate apologetic is—your life.”[17]

 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. Crossway Books, 2008.

NDotEDU. The God Debate II: Harris vs. Craig. Video. YouTube, April 7, 2011.

Resonable Faith. William Lane Craig. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/william-lane-craig (accessed February 2, 2014).


[1] Resonable Faith. William Lane Craig. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/william-lane-craig (accessed February 2, 2014).

[2] NDotEDU. The God Debate II: Harris vs. Craig. Video. YouTube, April 7, 2011.

[3] Steve made this remark to me during Sunday school class.

[4] Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. 2008,  Kindle Locations 103-104

[5] Ibid, Kindle Locations 141-142

[6] Ibid, (Kindle Locations 385-386)

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid, Kindle Location 637

[9] Ibid, Kindle Location 1059

[10] Ibid, Kindle Locations 1358-1360

[11] The Name of the book is The Kalaam Cosmological Argument

[12] Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics., Kindle Locations 4315-4326

[13] Creation here should be understood to refer to the created order and not God’s specific act of creation.

[14] Ibid, Kindle Locations 4744-4745

[15] Ibid, Kindle Location 5501

[16] Ibid, Kindle Locations 6703-6704

[17] Ibid, Kindle Locations 9818-9819

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