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Textbook treatment of Christian apologetics
on December 28, 2015
This book is a textbook treatment on the subject of Christian apologetics. Seriously. It is used as a textbook on the subject. And it shows. Dr. Craig notes in his introduction that this has become his signature book, so that's another reason to pick this up if you're looking for a touchstone or standard in the field.
Dr. Craig approaches his subject with an extraordinarily far-ranging and far-reaching grasp of his materials. These are primarily Christian apologetics, theology, and philosophy, of course, but he also draws from his knowledge of history, cosmology, theology, ethics, logic, argumentation, and science. You'll be delighted as he writes eloquently about such historical and current thinkers as Thomas Aquinas, John Barrow, Karl Barth, Richard Dawkins, Gary Habermas, Alvin Plantinga, Plato--I'll stop there. The result is a monumental work that is not for the casual reader but for the serious student of Christian apologetics. Dr. Craig hits his topics head-on, without stopping to explain much, so you have to hang on for the ride sometimes. It will help to have your computer/laptop handy to look up names and terms and concepts; it will also help to have some background in any of the topics/authors I've already mentioned. I do, so that helped some. Still, I learned about a wide range of new authors and topics and terms, including kerygmatic, noetic structure, veridical, concertina-like, otiose, revivification--I'll stop there.
Be warned: Dr. Craig's approach to his topics is nearly overwhelming in its detail and breadth and depth. He literally seems to leave no stone unturned. The index is very thorough and the recommended readings list he provides at the end of every chapter are among the most exhaustive I have ever seen. This cuts both ways: it's enjoyable to a point and then a bit exhausting beyond that if you stay in the book too long. I found my best experience with this book was when I read a bit--say, a few pages or even a good chunk of a chapter--then set the book down for some days or even weeks to rest from it, then come back to it.
Overall, I had just two real nitpicks with the book. First, the chapter on knowing Christianity is true rests too much (for me) on the individual's subjective experience. In future editions, I'd trim that text to its minimum and re-think its presentation. Second, the lengthy section near the end on the resurrection of Jesus and laboriously going through McCullagh's seven criteria for justifying historical hypotheses. This was a real slog, and during reading it felt a bit like I was lost down the rabbit hole of argument and debate.
Set those aside, though, because I can't give this book less than 5 stars. Rarely do I use the word "monumental," but it applies here; what Dr. Craig has compiled in Reasonable Faith will likely serve theologians and philosophers (and interested laymen and students) for decades to come. This book is that good. J.P. Moreland calls Dr. Craig "the finest Christian apologist of the last half century" and also states that Craig is "among the top one percent of practicing philosophers in the Western world." After reading this book I don't doubt either claim.