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William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith

Reasonable FaithWilliam Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, third edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 416 pages, ISBN 9781433501159.

A third edition of what has become something a classic work in the field of Christian apologetics since its original (1984) and second (1994) versions is well worth the reading (or re-reading). The author insists it has only expansions of content and minor updates rather than any retractions of arguments that didn’t stand up to the test of time. In a word, it still packs quite an intellectual punch. And no wonder. It is the signature book of a very prolific scholar and writer. William Lane Craig is research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology (La Mirada, California) and founder of Reasonable Faith (www.reasonablefaith.org), a web-based apologetics ministry. He has been publically debating with detractors, including the infamous former (subsequently) atheist, Anthony Flew, and defending a Christian worldview against all comers for more than twenty years. He’s especially noted for his unique take on the cosmological argument for God’s existence and also for his philosophy of time and criticisms of the Jesus Seminar movement and postmodernism. He’s authored more than twenty books, about half of which are scholarly in nature with the other half aimed at a more popular audience.

Craig freely admits that Reasonable Faith represents his personal approach to Christian apologetics. Accordingly, he recommends other, supplemental, texts on the history and development of apologetics for readers desiring a well-rounded understanding. Craig understands apologetics (Greek, apologia) to be “that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith.” Accordingly, apologetics is primarily a theoretical discipline. However, this is not a concession that apologetics is of no practical benefit. Christian apologetics has a major role in shaping culture, strengthening believers, and evangelizing unbelievers. While he distinguishes between offensive or positive and defensive or negative types of apologetics, and affirms the validity of both, he explains that Reasonable Faith is more in the offensive or positive mode. That is, it seeks to present a positive case for Christian truth claims rather than to nullify objections to them.

It is refreshing in a book on apologetics that there is such an energetic emphasis on the effective agency of the Holy Spirit.

A question which guides Craig and his readers in Reasonable Faith is “How do I know Christianity is true?” Craig surveys major representative thinkers who have struggled with this thought, including Augustine, Aquinas, and, more recently, John Locke, Karl Barth, and contemporaries such as Wolfhart Pannenberg and Alvin Plantinga. Craig admits that the question becomes particularly acute when Christians are faced with those who are either atheists or adherents of another world religion. However, he distinguishes between “knowing” that Christianity is true and “showing” that Christianity is true. On one hand, in knowing that Christianity is true the Christian can give priority to the self-authenticating role of the Holy Spirit while rational arguments and evidence become secondary. This is of course an “in-house” approach that doesn’t apply to non-Christians. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit does work in unbelievers to prepare them for the truth of the gospel. In any case, for Craig the Spirit-filled Christian has a unique knowledge of Christian truth. He has some interesting discussion of why the religious experience of the Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist, which he doesn’t necessarily assume is simply spurious, that is, it may be authentic at some level, nevertheless doesn’t qualify as the witness of the Spirit to the truth of their scriptures. For him, someone who refuses to believe in Christ is deliberately rejecting the Holy Spirit.

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Category: In Depth, Pneuma Review, Summer 2012

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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