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William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith

On another hand, showing Christianity is true gives more priority to rational argumentation and evidence while expecting the Holy Spirit to work in hidden ways as well. Craig is confident that there are good arguments that can demonstrate the intellectual credibility of Christian truth claims to an honest and open-hearted hearer. Yet, it is refreshing in a book on apologetics, carefully defined as “providing rational justification” for the Christian faith, that there is such an energetic emphasis on the effective agency of the Holy Spirit in that process. This is possible in part because at its root unbelief is not only an intellectual but also a spiritual problem. Accordingly, the most effective apologetic is one which trusts in the agency of God’s Spirit even while it builds on rational arguments.

Nonetheless, Reasonable Faith does indeed readily utilize weighty rational argumentation. Arranging the discussion in a classical format, Craig presents positive evidence regarding the Christian faith (De Fide), humanity (De Homine), God’s existence (De Deo), creation or the natural order (De Creatione), and Jesus Christ (De Christo). Then, in a quite pastoral tone, Craig concludes by suggesting that “The Ultimate Apologetic” involves faithfully living out one’s relationship with God and with others in holy love. He is sure that “who you are rather than what you say” has more impact on unbelievers. The ultimate apologetic is the Christian life well-lived.

Most of the usual topics are covered in Reasonable Faith. For example, in its discussion of creation it presents a logical view affirming the possibility and reality of miracles. Miracles are often one of the major objections of the skeptic. Craig argues convincingly that far from being baseless superstition to believe in miracles, it is actually gross arrogance, intellectually speaking, to deny them categorically. It’s surprising that Reasonable Faith doesn’t straightforwardly take on the topic of religious pluralism or the reality of world religions. However, it does here and there address these somewhat as they come up as a matter of course during the ongoing conversation. Accordingly, Craig sometimes briefly discusses the views of, for example, Jews on Jesus Christ and the “Jewish reclamation of Jesus”, especially of his ethics, and their objections to his resurrection. In fact, his kalām cosmological argument is drawn in large part from Islamic theologians, especially al-Ghāzalī, as he responds to Aristotelian challenges. Notably, Craig describes the cosmological argument positively in terms of its roots in ancient Greek thinkers, such as Plato and Aristotle, and its development by Islamic, Jewish, and Christian thinkers through the ages. However, he insists that the centrality and essentiality of the person of Jesus Christ is quite unique to Christianity and completely apart from the perspectives on Moses in Judaism, Buddha in Buddhism, or Mohammed in Islam. And Craig clearly rejoices when a former Muslim who had become something of an atheist converts to Christ after reading Christian apologetics on Jesus’ resurrection. One of the recurring ideas of Reasonable Faith is that apologetics is an aid to evangelism.

In something of a departure from C. S. Lewis’s well-known argument that the repeated occurrence of “a dying and rising god” in ancient pagan myths may have pointed ahead to the truth of the dying and rising again of the Son of God in an actual historical occurrence, Craig denies that ancient religions actually had such a mythical tradition and suggests the examples commonly used of their existence aren’t all that credible. Craig seems to be intent on demonstrating the utter uniqueness of Christ’s resurrection so as to underscore its greater likelihood of not being fabricated while Lewis and others have seen more of a promise-fulfillment/precedent-occurrence pattern as positive evidence of the rationality and validity of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. In any case, one of the better parts of the book is where Reasonable Faith turns the tables on scoffers and skeptics in exposing the weaknesses of their arguments against Jesus’ own self-understanding of his identity and their obviously biased objections to the reality of his resurrection.

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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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