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Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics / Edition 3

Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics / Edition 3

by William Lane Craig


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Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics / Edition 3

This updated edition by one of the world's leading apologists presents a systematic, positive case for Christianity that reflects the latest work in the contemporary hard sciences and humanities. Brilliant and accessible.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433501159
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 06/01/2008
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 179,141
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

William Lane Craig (PhD, University of Birmingham, England; DTheol, University of Munich) is research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California, and at Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas. He has authored or edited over thirty books and is the founder of, a web-based apologetics ministry.

Read an Excerpt


How Do I Know Christianity Is True?

Before we attempt to build a case for Christianity, we must come to grips with some very fundamental questions about the nature and relationship of faith and reason. Exactly how do we know Christianity to be true? Is it simply by a leap of faith or on the authority of the Word of God, both unrelated to reason? Does religious experience assure us of the truth of the Christian faith, so that no further justification is needed? Or is an evidential foundation for faith necessary, without which faith would be unjustified and irrational? We can better answer these questions if we briefly survey some of the most important representative thinkers of the past.

Historical Background


In our historical survey, let's look first at Augustine (354–430) and Thomas Aquinas (1224–1274). Their approaches were determinative for the Middle Ages.


Augustine's attitude toward faith and reason is very difficult to interpret, especially because his views apparently evolved over the years. Sometimes we get the impression that he was a strict authoritarian; that is to say, he held that the ground for faith was sheer, unquestionable, divine authority. This authority might be expressed in either the Scriptures or in the church. Thus, Augustine confessed, "I should not believe the Gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church." The authority of Scripture he held in even higher esteem than that of the church. Because the Scriptures are inspired by God, they are completely free from error and are therefore to be believed absolutely. Such a view of authority would seem to imply that reason has no role to play in the justification of belief, and sometimes Augustine gives that impression. He asserts that one must first believe before he can know. He was fond of quoting Isaiah 7:9 in the Septuagint version: "Unless you believe you shall not understand." The fundamental principle of the Augustinian tradition throughout the Middle Ages was fides quaerens intel-lectum: faith seeking understanding.

But certain statements of Augustine's make it clear that he was not an unqualified authoritarian. He maintained that authority and reason cooperate in bringing a person to faith. Authority demands belief and prepares man for reason, and reason in turn leads to understanding and knowledge. But at the same time, reason is not entirely absent from authority, for one has to consider whom to believe, and the highest authority belongs to clearly known truth; that is to say, the truth, when it is clearly known, has the highest claim to authority because it demands our assent. According to Augustine, it is our duty to consider what men or what books we ought to believe in order to worship God rightly. Gerhard Strauss, in his book on Augustine's doctrine of Scripture, explains that although for Augustine Scripture is absolutely authoritative and inerrant in itself, it does not carry credibility in itself — that is, people will not automatically accept its authority upon hearing it. Therefore, there must be certain signs (indicia) of credibility that make its authority evident. On the basis of these signs, we can believe that the Scripture is the authoritative Word of God and submit to its authority. The principal signs adduced by Augustine on behalf of the authority of Scripture are miracle and prophecy. Though many religions boast of revelations showing the way of salvation, only the Scriptures have the support of miracle and prophecy, which prove it to be the true authority.

Thus, Augustine's authoritarianism would seem to be drastically qualified. Perhaps Augustine's apparent inconsistency is best explained by the medieval understanding of authority. In the early church, authority (auctoritas) included not just theological truths but the whole tradition of past knowledge. The relationship between authority and reason was not the same as that between faith and reason. Rather it was the relationship between all past knowledge and present-day understanding. Knowledge of the past was simply accepted on the basis of authority. This seems to have been Augustine's attitude. He distinguishes between what is seen to be true and what is believed to be true. We see that something is true by either physical perception or rational demonstration. We believe that something is true on the basis of the testimony of others. Hence, with regard to miracle and prophecy, Augustine says that the trustworthiness of reports of either past or future events must be believed, not known by the intelligence. Elsewhere he declares that one should believe in God because belief in him is taught in the books of men who have left their testimony in writing that they lived with the Son of God and saw things that could not have happened if there were no God. Then he concludes that one must believe before he can know. Since for Augustine the historical evidence for miracle and prophecy lay in the past, it was in the realm of authority, not reason. Today, on the other hand, we would say that such a procedure would be an attempt to provide a rational foundation for authority via historical apologetics.

Now the obvious question at this point is, Why accept the authority of the writers of the past, whether they be the classical writers or the authors of Scripture? Clearly, if Augustine is to avoid circular reasoning, he cannot say that we should accept the authority of the evangelists because of the authority of Scripture, for it is the evangelists' testimony to miracle and prophecy that is supposed to make evident the authority of Scripture. So Augustine must either come up with some reason to accept the evangelists' testimony as reliable or abandon this historically oriented approach. Since he lacked the historical method, the first alternative was not open to him. Therefore, he chose the second. He frankly admits that the books containing the story of Christ belong to an ancient history that anyone may refuse to believe. Therefore, he turns to the present miracle of the church as the basis for accepting the authority of Scripture. He saw the very existence of the mighty and universal church as an overwhelming sign that the Scriptures are true and divine.

Now notice that Augustine is not basing the authority of Scripture on the authority of the church, for he held the Scripture's authority to exceed even that of the church. Rather, his appeal is still to the sign of miracle, not indeed the Gospel miracles, which are irretrievably removed in the past, but the present and evident miracle of the church. In The City of God he states that even if the unbeliever rejects all biblical miracles, he is still left with one stupendous miracle, which is all one needs, namely, the fact of the whole world believing in Christianity without the benefit of the Gospel miracles. It's interesting that, by appealing to a present miracle as the sign of the authority of Scripture, Augustine seems to have implicitly denied authoritarianism, since this sign was not in the past, in the realm of authority where it could only be believed, but in the present, where it could be seen and known. Be that as it may, Augustine's emphases on biblical authority and signs of credibility were to set the tone for subsequent medieval theology.


Aquinas's Summa contra gentiles, written to combat Greco-Arabic philosophy, is the greatest apologetic work of the Middle Ages and so merits our attention. Thomas develops a framework for the relationship of faith and reason that includes the Augustinian signs of credibility. He begins by making a distinction within truths about God. On the one hand, there are truths that completely surpass the capability of human reason, for example, the doctrine of the Trinity. On the other hand, many truths lie within the grasp of human reason, such as the existence of God. In the first three volumes of the Summa contra gentiles, Thomas attempts to prove these truths of reason, including the existence and nature of God, the orders of creation, the nature and end of man, and so forth. But when he comes to the fourth volume, in which he handles subjects like the Trinity, the incarnation, the sacraments, and the last things, he suddenly changes his method of approach. He states that these things are to be proved by the authority of Holy Scripture, not by natural reason. Because these doctrines surpass reason, they are properly objects of faith.

Now at first blush this seems to suggest that for Aquinas these truths of faith are mysteries, somehow "above logic." But here we must be very careful. For as I read Aquinas, that's not how he defines his terms. Rather he seems to mean that truths of faith surpass reason in the sense that they are neither empirically evident nor demonstrable with absolute certainty. He makes no suggestion that truths of faith transcend Aristotelian logic. Rather there are just no empirical facts which make these truths evident or from which these truths may be inferred. For example, although the existence of God can be proved from his effects, there are no empirical facts from which the Trinity may be inferred. Or again, the eschatological resurrection of the dead cannot be proved, because there is no empirical evidence for this future event. Elsewhere Thomas makes it clear that truths of faith cannot be demonstrated by reason alone, either. He maintains that we Christians must use only arguments that prove their conclusions with absolute certainty; for if we use mere probability arguments, the insufficiency of those arguments will only serve to confirm the non-Christian in his unbelief.

Thus, the distinction Thomas makes between truths of reason and truths of faith is rather like Augustine's distinction between seeing and believing. Truths of reason may be "seen" — that is, either proved with rational certainty or accepted as empirically evident — whereas truths of faith must be believed, since they are neither empirically evident nor rationally provable. This does not mean that truths of faith are incomprehensible or "above logic."

Now because truths of faith can only be believed, does this imply that Thomas is in the end a fideist or an authoritarian? The answer seems clearly no. For like Augustine he proceeds to argue that God provides the signs of miracle and prophecy, which serve to confirm the truths of faith, though not demonstrating them directly. Because of these signs, Aquinas held that a man can see the truths of faith: "Then they are indeed seen by the one who believes; he would not believe unless he saw that they are worthy of belief on the basis of evident signs or something of this sort." Thomas calls these signs "confirmations," "arguments," and "proofs" for the truths of faith. This seems to make it clear that Aquinas believed there are good grounds for accepting the truths of faith as a whole. The proofs of miracle and prophecy are compelling, although they are indirect. Thus, for example, the doctrine of the Trinity is a truth of faith because it cannot be directly proved by any argument; nevertheless, it is indirectly proved insofar as the truths of faith taken together as a whole are shown to be credible by the divine signs.

Thomas's procedure, then, may be summarized in three steps: (1) Fulfilled prophecies and miracles make it credible that the Scriptures taken together as a whole are a revelation from God. (2) As a revelation from God, Scripture is absolutely authoritative. (3) Therefore, those doctrines taught by Scripture that are neither demonstrably provable nor empirically evident may be accepted by faith on the authority of Scripture. Thus, Aquinas can say that an opponent may be convinced of the truths of faith on the basis of the authority of Scripture as confirmed by God with miracles.

Again the question arises: How do we know that the purported miracles or fulfilled prophecies ever took place? The medieval thinkers, lacking the historical method, could not answer this question. They developed a philosophical framework in which the signs of credibility confirmed the truths of faith, but they had no way of proving the signs themselves. About the only argument was Augustine's indirect proof from the miracle of the church. Thus, Thomas declares,

Now such a wondrous conversion of the world to the Christian faith is a most indubitable proof that such signs did take place. ... For it would be the most wondrous sign of all if without any wondrous signs the world were persuaded by simple and lowly men to believe things so arduous, to accomplish things so difficult, and to hope for things so sublime.

A final word might be added. With Aquinas we see the reduction of faith to an epistemological category; that is to say, faith was no longer trust or commitment of the heart, but became a way of knowing, complementary to reason. Faith was essentially intellectual assent to doctrines not provable by reason — hence, Aquinas's view that a doctrine cannot be both known and believed: if you know it (by reason), then you cannot believe it (by faith). Thus, Aquinas diminished the view of faith as trust or commitment. This same intellectualist understanding of faith characterized the documents of the Council of Trent and of Vatican I but was adjusted in the documents of Vatican II.

The Enlightenment

The fact that the Enlightenment is also known as the Age of Reason gives us a good clue as to how thinkers of that period regarded the relationship between faith and reason. Nevertheless, there was not complete agreement on this issue, and the two figures we shall survey represent two fundamentally opposed viewpoints.


The thought of John Locke (1632–1704) was determinative for the eighteenth century. His Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) laid down the epistemological principles that were to shape religious thought during that age. Though he rejected the philosophical rationalism of Descartes, Locke was nevertheless an ardent theological rationalist. That is to say, he maintained that religious belief must have an evidential foundation and that where such a foundation is absent, religious belief is unwarranted. Locke himself attempted to provide such an evidential foundation.

Locke argued for the existence of God by means of a cosmological argument — indeed, he maintained that the existence of God is "the most obvious truth that reason discovers," having an evidence "equal to mathematical certainty." When one moves beyond such matters of demonstrable reason into matters of faith, Locke insisted that revealed truths cannot contradict reason. God can reveal to us both truths attainable by reason (though reason gives greater certainty of these than does revelation) as well as truths unattainable by reason. The revealed truths unattainable by reason cannot contradict reason, because we shall always be more certain of the truth of reason than we shall be of a purported revelation that contradicts reason. Therefore, no proposition contrary to reason can be accepted as divine revelation. Thus, although we know that a revelation from God must be true, it still lies within the scope of reason to determine if a supposed revelation really is from God and to determine its meaning.

More than that, revelation must not only be in harmony with reason but must itself be guaranteed by appropriate rational proofs that it is indeed divine. Otherwise, one degenerates into irresponsible enthusiasm: Revelation is natural reason enlarged by a new set of discoveries communicated by God immediately, which reason vouches the truth of by the testimony and proofs it gives that they come from God. So that he that takes away reason to make way for revelation, puts out the light of both; and does much the same as if he would persuade a man to put out his eyes, the better to receive the remote light of an invisible star by a telescope..

Religious enthusiasm was the form of religious expression most scorned by the intellectualist believers of the Age of Reason, and Locke would have nothing to do with it. Only if reason makes plausible that a purported revelation is genuine can that revelation be believed.

Hence, in his subsequent works The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695) and Discourse on Miracles (1690), Locke argued that fulfilled prophecy and palpable miracles furnish proof of Christ's divine mission. He set forth three criteria for discerning a genuine revelation. First, it must not be dishonoring to God or inconsistent with natural religion and the natural moral law. Second, it must not inform man of things indifferent, insignificant, or easily discovered by natural ability. Third, it must be confirmed by supernatural signs. For Locke, the chief of these signs was miracle. On the basis of Jesus' miracles, we are justified in regarding him as the Messiah and his revelation from God as true.


Excerpted from "Reasonable Faith"
by .
Copyright © 2008 William Lane Craig.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
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.

Table of Contents

Table of Figures,
Preface to the Third Edition,
Part One: De Fide,
1 How Do I Know Christianity Is True?,
Part Two: De Homine,
2 The Absurdity of Life without God,
Part Three: De Deo,
3 The Existence of God (1),
4 The Existence of God (2),
Part Four: De Creatione,
5 The Problem of Historical Knowledge,
6 The Problem of Miracles,
Part Five: De Christo,
7 The Self-Understanding of Jesus,
8 The Resurrection of Jesus,
Conclusion: The Ultimate Apologetic,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"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."
J. P. Moreland,Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Biola University; author,The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters

"In admirably clear prose, Professor Craig presents important philosophical and historical issues relevant to Christian beliefs. With extraordinary erudition, he sketches the arguments of major thinkers of both past centuries and recent times, and he presents his own reasons for concluding that traditional Christian doctrines about God and Jesus are credible. His replies to those skeptical of the existence of God, of historical knowledge, of the occurrence of miracles, and in particular of the resurrection of Jesus, take debates over those difficult topics an important stage further. Here is an admirable defense of basic Christian faith."
C. Behan McCullagh, Philosophy Program, La Trobe University

"Although my philosophical predilections often differ from Dr. Craig's (as they do from those of everyone else I know), I have found that he is very knowledgeable about science and current cosmological ideas. He provides interesting insights into their implications for our shared Christian beliefs."
Don Nelson Page, Professor of Physics, University of Alberta

"Bill Craig is one of my personal heroes! He is among today's finest defenders of Christianity. He offers a powerful mix of authentic faith, intellectual firepower, debating skill, and the gentleness and respect that the Bible requires."
Lee Strobel, author, The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith

"Especially regarding his breadth of scholarship, no contemporary Christian apologist surpasses Bill Craig. Some of Bill's wide range of interests are evident in this third edition of Reasonable Faith. To be introduced to crucial topics such as God's existence, creation, Scripture, and the historicity of Jesus, including his deity and resurrection, all under one cover, is an enormous treat. Not a single student of apologetics should miss this volume by a major scholar. Crossway Books deserves much credit for continuing its strong tradition of Christian textbooks."
Gary R. Habermas,Distinguished Research Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, Liberty University

"As a former student and now collaborator with him in writing and in ministry, I am one of the numerous beneficiaries indebted to William Craig and his stellar work in the philosophy of religion and Christian apologetics. He has been a model, a mentor, and an inspiration through his scholarship and his commitment to God's kingdom. His newly-updated Reasonable Faith continues to be the gold standard for apologetics texts: vital historical discussion of issues and arguments; rigorous reasoning and state-of-the art scholarship; and highly relevant, personal application-all permeated with an evident passion for the cause of Christ."
Paul Copan, Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University

"William Lane Craig is both an absolutely topnotch, world-class scholar and a man with a warm heart for apologetics and evangelism. This astute book combines both passions. It gives rigorous and well-documented arguments which are aimed at producing a rational faith that can be commended and defended before the watching and waiting world. Bravo (for the third time)!"
Douglas Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary; author, The Soul in Cyberspace

"William Lane Craig is not only a world-class philosopher-widely recognized as such in the philosophical community-but he has been a leading defender of the Christian faith for over a quarter of a century. Reasonable Faith includes, in concise and accessible form, some of the best of the best of his thinking on vital areas of apologetics. Powerful, persuasive, and relevant, Craig demonstrates that central Christian beliefs, such as the existence of a personal, intelligent, and exceedingly powerful God, miracles, and Jesus' Messianic claims and resurrection, are reasonable to believe and based on solid evidence. You won't find a better book in support of the Christian faith."
Chad V. Meister, Professor of Philosophy and Theology, Bethel College; author, Evil: A Guide for the Perplexed

"For years I've recommended Reasonable Faith to my students as the best single-volume apologetic. And now it is even better! Craig's analysis of the latest scientific arguments and his response to the New Atheists makes it a must-have for those interested in thoroughly defending the cause of Christ."
Clay Jones, Assistant Professor of Christian Apologetics, Christian Apologetics Program, Biola University

"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. Reasonable Faith will provide only increased opportunity and impact as he makes his mark on our time with a timeless message."
Ravi Zacharias, Founder and President, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries; author, Jesus Among Other Gods

"The third edition of William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith is simply a masterpiece. It combines clarity and applicability without sacrificing depth. Each chapter has three major parts. First, the topic is introduced with an extensive discussion of the historical development of the arguments and objections to the arguments. Second, Bill leads the reader into the depths of the most contemporary discussion. He treats the leading versions of the arguments for Christianity as well as the best of the objections. He has taken great care to achieve a thoroughness that is rarely found in apologetics texts. Third, he explains, through many personal examples, how the arguments in the chapter can be appropriated in personal evangelism. Combining these three elements is enough to make this text unique. The depth and quality with which each step is accomplished makes it indispensible."
Gregory E. Ganssle, Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, Yale University, Rivendell Institute

"Craig's work is philosophically and theologically first rate, though accessible to the educated layman. All Christians-Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox-can gain so much from reading and mastering Craig's 3rd edition of Reasonable Faith."
Francis J. Beckwith, Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University; author,Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice

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Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is probably the best book on apologetics that I have ever read! Craig is the embodiment of modern scholarship. Reasonable Faith is a must for anyone looking for a good, solid representation of the Christian world view. The book will challenge the beginner as well as the veteran and I highly recommend it for anyone seeking a solid book on the subject.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am 92.6 percent of the way through the book. It, so far is awesome. It takes quite assiduous concentration to fully understand the concepts. Be ready to be challenged. He is definitely erudite.
A_Sloan More than 1 year ago
OK Our personal experience shapes how we view the external world, so how can you say someone is wrong because they don't feel the way you about life? While Craig's book purports to be a logical defense of faith, I found it incredibly preachy. I was particularly offended by his judgment that life is absurd without God, while sure I may find it relatively meaningless, it's far too subjective. This sort of aggressive language hinders his message, in my opinion, which is often very grounded in scientific understanding and academic understanding of the Bible. In my path to find reason for God, I have found better arguments by Wolterstorff in Reason within the Bounds of Religion (PBK) and in Eleonore Stump's collection of essays in Reasoned Faith.
JoshuaSonOfNun More than 1 year ago
Amazing book, great sequel to "On Guard" expect that it is more narrow in scope however requires more mind power to process. There were certain things I have struggled with that I have always thought about that he eloquently lays out and analyzes in ways that I never though especially in the De Fide and De Creatione section just as his analysis of Christian particularism in "On Guard." Overall the book is full of information and takes a while for it to fully sink in.
ShawnM More than 1 year ago
This is an excellently written book. It's refreshing to read this type of book, which is more intellectual and scholarly than say a book by pop feel-good wishy-washy one-book-a-month author Max Lucado, who easily insults my intelligence. Get this book, and then actually learn something!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been a Christian most of my life with questions of the "proof" of my beliefs beyond just the feel good presence of faith. This book has challenged my theology, given me a basis for being able to stand completely firm in my beliefs by providing foundational truths, and proof to the fact that my God exists and provides a pathway to heaven! Thank you William Lane Craig! for giving me the answers to the questions I have been longing for!
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CL1977 More than 1 year ago
The arguments advanced in this book have been refuted so many times by so many thinkers, that it is incomprehensible that anyone would still use them. Simply do a google search of "refuting william lane craig", you will then see how weak his arguments are. You will also save some money.