On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision
  • On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision
  • On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision

On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision

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by William Lane Craig
     
 

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Renowned scholar William Lane Craig offers a readable, rich training manual for defending the Christian faith.

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Overview

Renowned scholar William Lane Craig offers a readable, rich training manual for defending the Christian faith.

Editorial Reviews

Lee Strobel

“In these pages, you’ll learn the most compelling arguments in favor of Christianity. Not only that, but you’ll also find out how to respond to the most popular objections to those arguments. You’ll discover that On Guard is solidly factual, winsomely personal, consistently practical, and ultimately convincing in its presentation of the case for Christianity.”
Mark Mittelberg

“There is probably no greater defender of the Christian faith alive today than William Lane Craig. On Guard is Craig’s introduction to the wealth of information, logic, and evidence that powerfully point to the truth of our Christian beliefs. Read it to deepen your own faith and to embolden your confidence in sharing that faith with others.”
Jim Thomas

On Guard is an excellent summation of how the Christian faith makes sense of the real world in which we all live. ‘Speaking the truth in love,’ once again William Lane Craig proves we don’t have to be abrasive to be persuasive.”
Ravi Zacharias

“William Lane Craig is arguably one of the finest Christian philosophers of our time. His knowledge and skill have placed him on platforms on every continent, engaging the most notable skeptics in dialogue and debate.”
J. P. Moreland

“It is hard to overstate the impact that William Lane Craig has had for the cause of Christ. He is simply the finest Christian apologist of the last half century, and his academic work justifies ranking him among the top 1 percent of practicing philosophers in the Western world. Besides that, he is a winsome ambassador for Christ, an exceptional debater, and a man with the heart of an evangelist. I know him well and can say that he lives a life of integrity and lives out what he believes. I do not know of a single thinker who has done more to raise the bar of Christian scholarship in our generation than Craig. He is one of a kind and I thank God for his life and work.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781434701886
Publisher:
David C Cook
Publication date:
03/01/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
71
File size:
11 MB
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ON GUARD

Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision


By WILLIAM LANE CRAIG

David C. Cook

Copyright © 2010 William Lane Craig
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4347-0188-6



CHAPTER 1

WHAT IS APOLOGETICS?

Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15 RSV)


I teach a Sunday school class called "Defenders" to about one hundred people, from high schoolers to senior adults, at our home church in Atlanta. We talk about what the Bible teaches (Christian doctrine) and about how to defend it (Christian apologetics). Sometimes people who aren't in our class don't understand what we do. One fine Southern lady, upon hearing that I teach Christian apologetics, remarked indignantly, "I'll never apologize for my faith!"


Apologetics Means a Defense

The reason for her misunderstanding is obvious: "Apologetics" sounds like "apologize." But apologetics is not the art of telling somebody you're sorry that you're a Christian! Rather apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which means a defense, as in a court of law. Christian apologetics involves making a case for the truth of the Christian faith.


Apologetics

Apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which means a defense, as in a court of law. Christian apologetics involves making a case for the truth of the Christian faith.


The Bible actually commands us to have such a case ready to give to any unbeliever who wants to know why we believe what we do. Just as the contestants in a fencing match have learned both to parry each attack as well as to go on the offensive themselves, so we must always be "on guard." First Peter 3:15 says, "Always be prepared to make a defense [apologia] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (author's translation).


TALK ABOUT IT

Why are gentleness and respect essential when we talk with non-Christians about what we believe? Have you ever seen a Christian do this without gentleness and respect? What happened?


Notice the attitude we're supposed to have when giving our defense: We should be gentle and respectful. Apologetics is also not the art of making somebody else sorry that you're a Christian! We can present a defense of the Christian faith without becoming defensive. We can present arguments for Christianity without becoming argumentative.

When I talk in this book about arguments for the Christian faith, it's vital to understand that I don't mean quarreling. We should never quarrel with a nonbeliever about our faith. That only makes people mad and drives them away. As I'll explain later in this chapter, an argument in the philosophical sense is not a fight or a heated exchange; it's just a series of statements leading to a conclusion. That's all.

Ironically, if you have good arguments in support of your faith, you're less apt to become quarrelsome or upset. I find that the better my arguments, the less argumentative I am. The better my defense, the less defensive I am. If you have good reasons for what you believe and know the answers to the unbeliever's questions or objections, there's just no reason to get hot under the collar. Instead, you'll find yourself calm and confident when you're under attack, because you know you have the answers.


TALK ABOUT IT

How do you typically feel when someone challenges or makes fun of your Christian beliefs?


I frequently debate on university campuses on topics like "Does God Exist?" or "Christianity vs. Atheism." Sometimes students in the audience get up during the Q&A period and attack me personally or go into an abusive rant. I find that my reaction to these students is not anger, but rather simply feeling sorry for them because they're so mixed up. If you have good reasons for what you believe, then instead of anger you'll feel a genuine compassion for the unbeliever, who is often so misled. Good apologetics involves "speaking the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15).


Is Apologetics Biblical?

Some people think that apologetics is unbiblical. They say that you should just preach the gospel and let the Holy Spirit do His work! But I think that the example of Jesus and the apostles affirms the value of apologetics. Jesus appealed to miracles and to fulfilled prophecy to prove that His claims were true (Luke 24:25–27; John 14:11). What about the apostles? In dealing with other Jews, they used fulfilled prophecy, Jesus' miracles, and especially Jesus' resurrection to prove that He was the Messiah. Take, for example, Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost recorded in the second chapter of Acts. In verse 22, he appeals to Jesus' miracles. In verses 25–31 he appeals to fulfilled prophecy. In verse 32 he appeals to Christ's resurrection. By means of these arguments the apostles sought to show their fellow Jews that Christianity is true.


TALK ABOUT IT

What kinds of arguments does Paul use in Acts 17:22–31 to persuade non-Jews that the gospel is true? How are his arguments like and unlike those Peter uses when talking to Jews in Acts 2:14–29? What do you learn about the place of apologetics in evangelism?


In dealing with non-Jews, the apostles sought to show the existence of God through His handiwork in nature (Acts 14:17). In Romans 1, Paul says that from nature alone all men can know that God exists (Rom. 1:20). Paul also appealed to eyewitness testimony of Jesus' resurrection to show further that Christianity is true (1 Cor. 15:3–8).

So it's clear that both Jesus and the apostles were not afraid to give evidence for the truth of what they proclaimed. This doesn't mean they didn't trust the Holy Spirit to bring people to God. Rather they trusted the Holy Spirit to use their arguments and evidence to bring people to God.


Why Is Apologetics Important?

It's vitally important that Christians today be trained in apologetics. Why? Let me give three reasons.

1. Shaping culture. We've all heard of the so-called culture war going on in American society. Some people may not like this militaristic metaphor, but the truth is that a tremendous struggle for the soul of America is raging right now. This struggle is not just political. It has a religious or spiritual dimension as well. Secularists are bent on eliminating religion from the public square. The so-called New Atheists, represented by people like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, are even more aggressive. They want to exterminate religious belief entirely.

American society has already become post-Christian. Belief in a sort of generic God is still the norm, but belief in Jesus Christ is now politically incorrect. How many films coming out of Hollywood portray Christians in a positive way? How many times do we instead find Christians portrayed as shallow, bigoted, villainous hypocrites? What is the public perception of Bible-believing Christians in our culture today?

The above cartoon poignantly depicts the perception of Christians by the cultural elite in American society today: goofy curiosities to be gawked at by normal people. But notice, they're also dangerous. They mustn't be allowed positions of influence in society. Maybe that's why they even need to be penned up.

Why are these considerations of culture important? Why can't we Christians just be faithful followers of Christ and ignore what is going on in the culture at large? Why not just preach the gospel to a dark and dying world?

The answer is, because the gospel is never heard in isolation. It is always heard against the backdrop of the culture in which you've been born and raised. A person who has been raised in a culture that is sympathetic to the Christian faith will be open to the gospel in a way that a person brought up in a secular culture will not. For a person who is thoroughly secularized, you may as well tell him to believe in fairies or leprechauns as in Jesus Christ! That's how absurd the message of Christ will seem to him.

To see the influence of culture on your own thinking, imagine what you would think if a Hindu devotee of the Hare Krishna movement, with his shaved head and saffron robe, approached you at the airport or shopping mall, offering you a flower and inviting you to become a follower of Krishna. Such an invitation would likely strike you as bizarre, freakish, maybe even a bit funny. But think how differently someone in Delhi, India, would react if he were approached by such a person! Having been raised in a Hindu culture, he might take such an invitation very seriously.


Secularism

Secularism is a worldview that allows no room for the supernatural: no miracles, no divine revelation, no God.


If America's slide into secularism continues, then what awaits us tomorrow is already evident today in Europe. Western Europe has become so secularized that it's hard for the gospel even to get a fair hearing. As a result, missionaries must labor for years to win even a handful of converts. Having lived for thirteen years in Europe in four different countries, I can testify personally to how hard it is for people to respond to the message of Christ. Speaking on university campuses around Europe, I found that the students' reaction was often bewilderment. Christianity is supposed to be for old women and children, they would think. So what's this man with two earned doctorates from European universities doing here defending the truth of the Christian faith with arguments we can't answer?

Once, when I was speaking at a university in Sweden, a student asked me during the Q&A following my talk, "What are you doing here?" Puzzled, I said, "Well, I've been invited by the Religious Studies Department to give this lecture." "That's not what I mean," he insisted. "Don't you understand how unusual this is? I want to know what motivates you personally to come and do this." I suspect he had never seen a Christian philosopher before—in fact, a prominent Swedish philosopher told me that there are no Christian philosophers at any university in Sweden. The student's question gave me the chance to share the story of how I came to Christ.

The skepticism on European university campuses runs so deep that when I spoke on the existence of God at the University of Porto in Portugal, the students (as I learned later) actually telephoned the Higher Institute of Philosophy at the University of Louvain in Belgium, where I was affiliated, to see if I was an imposter! They thought I was a fake! I just didn't fit into their stereotype of a Christian.


TALK ABOUT IT

Have you ever encountered someone who dismissed Christianity as mere superstition? If so, when? How did you respond?


If the gospel is to be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women today, then it's vital that we as Christians try to shape American culture in such a way that Christian belief cannot be dismissed as mere superstition. This is where Christian apologetics comes in. If Christians could be trained to provide solid evidence for what they believe and good answers to unbelievers' questions and objections, then the perception of Christians would slowly change. Christians would be seen as thoughtful people to be taken seriously rather than as emotional fanatics or buffoons. The gospel would be a real alternative for people to embrace.

I'm not saying that people will become Christians because of the arguments and evidence. Rather I'm saying that the arguments and evidence will help to create a culture in which Christian belief is a reasonable thing. They create an environment in which people will be open to the gospel. So becoming trained in apologetics is one way, a vital way, of being salt and light in American culture today.

2. Strengthening believers. The benefits of apologetics in your personal Christian life are huge. Let me mention three.

First of all, knowing why you believe as well as what you believe will make you more confident in sharing your faith with others. I see this happen all the time on university campuses when I have a public debate with a non-Christian professor. My experience is that while these professors may be very knowledgeable in their area of specialization, they are almost clueless when it comes to the evidence for Christianity. The Christian position in these debates usually comes out so far ahead of the non-Christian position that unbelieving students often complain that the whole event was a setup, staged to make the non-Christian position look bad! The truth is that we try to get the best opponents, who are often picked by the atheist club on campus.

Christian students, by contrast, come away from these debates with their heads held high, proud to be Christians. One Canadian student remarked to me following a debate, "I can't wait to share my faith in Christ!" People who lack training in apologetics are often afraid to share their faith or speak out for Christ out of fear that someone might ask them a question. But if you know the answers, then you're not afraid to go into the lion's den—in fact, you'll enjoy it! Training in apologetics will help to make you a bold and fearless witness for Christ.


TALK ABOUT IT

Why do you think so many students abandon their faith during or just after high school? Who or what is to blame for this?


Second, apologetics can also help you to keep the faith in times of doubt and struggle. Emotions will carry you only so far, and then you're going to need something more substantial. When I speak in churches around the country, I often meet parents who say something like, "If only you'd been here two or three years ago! Our son (or daughter) had questions about the faith which no one could answer, and now he's far from the Lord." In fact, there seem to be more and more reports of Christians abandoning their faith. A Christian minister at Stanford University recently told me that 40 percent of Christian high school students in church youth groups will quit church involvement altogether after graduation. Forty percent! It's not just that they lose their faith in a hostile university environment. Rather, many have already abandoned faith while still in the youth group but continue to go through the motions until they're out from under their parents' authority.


Relativism

Relativism is the view that something is relative rather than absolute. That is to say, the thing in question (a truth, a moral value, a property) is the case only in relation to something else. For example, being rich is relative. Relative to most Americans, you're probably not rich. But relative to the people of the Sudan, you are fabulously rich! By contrast, it is not just relatively true that the Cubs did not win the 2009 World Series. It is absolutely true that they did not win. Many people today think that moral principles and religious beliefs are at best relative truths: true, as they say, for you, but not true for me.


I think the church is really failing these kids. Rather than provide them training in the defense of Christianity's truth, we focus on emotional worship experiences, felt needs, and entertainment. It's no wonder they become sitting ducks for that teacher or professor who rationally takes aim at their faith. In high school and college, students are intellectually assaulted with every manner of non-Christian philosophy conjoined with an overwhelming relativism and skepticism. We've got to train our kids for war. How dare we send them unarmed into an intellectual war zone? Parents must do more than take their children to church and read them Bible stories. Moms and dads need to be trained in apologetics themselves and so be able to explain to their children simply from an early age and then with increasing depth why we believe as we do. Honestly, I find it hard to understand how Christian couples in our day and age can risk bringing children into the world without being trained in apologetics as part of the art of parenting.

Of course, apologetics won't guarantee that you or your children will keep the faith. There are all kinds of moral and spiritual factors that come into play, too. Some of the most effective atheist Web sites feature ex-believers who were trained in apologetics and still abandoned the faith. But when you look closely at the arguments they give for abandoning Christianity, they are often confused or weak. I recently saw one Web site where the person provided a list of the books that had persuaded him that Christianity is bunk—followed by the remark that he hopes to read them someday! Ironically, some of these folks come to embrace positions that are more extreme and require more gullibility—such as that Jesus never existed—than the conservative views they once held.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from ON GUARD by WILLIAM LANE CRAIG. Copyright © 2010 William Lane Craig. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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