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Is Reasonable Faith too Advanced for Churches?

June 21, 2021


A scholar thinks Dr. Craig's most popular book is too advanced for the average churchgoer.  Dr. Craig offers suggestions.

KEVIN HARRIS: Welcome, as always, to the podcast Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. I’m Kevin Harris in studio with Dr. Craig. Dr. Randal Rauser is a systematic and analytic theologian. He has been involved in apologetics ministry and teaching for many years. You can read more about him. Check out his professorship, his writing, and postcast at He recently talked about your book, Reasonable Faith, Bill, and talked about why he doesn’t recommend it as a curriculum for churches. As always Randal brings up some interesting issues. Let’s listen to a few clips from his video on this. Here is Dr. Rauser.

DR. RAUSER: I was approached by a pastor recently who was looking at starting a Christian apologetics course for his church. And he said to me that he wanted to use the text Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig. Now, this text has been around in various iterations since the 1980s. I believe, as I recall, that it's based upon Craig's book Christian Apologetics from the 80s. In terms of the form, Reasonable Faith, as you can see here, has at least three editions. I have used it myself in apologetics classrooms for 15 years or so. So it is a very solid textbook. I did, however, advise him that I didn't think this was actually the best book to use in a Christian apologetics context for lay Christians. Not because it's highfalutin (that it's too technical) but I think that for the most part Reasonable Faith is addressing the kinds of issues that are not obstacles for the average person and that it doesn't address the kinds of issues that are obstacles for the average person and that, frankly, books like Reasonable Faith show what the Christian conservative Protestant apologetic culture (or subculture) is interested in but less in terms of awareness as to what the wider issues in the broader culture are.

KEVIN HARRIS: That's the first clip. He's used your text in his own teaching but doesn't think that it's for the layperson.

DR. CRAIG: And he's absolutely correct! I would have advised Randal's friend exactly the same way. Do not use this to introduce apologetics to laypeople in the church. As Randal said, this in its original edition was entitled Apologetics: An Introduction. It was my lectures in my apologetics course at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. These lectures have since been revised now into the third edition. So this is a textbook for graduate students in seminary. This is not a book to give to laypeople. So he's absolutely right about that – it would not be appropriate. I think it would be better to use something like Lee Strobel's book Case for Christ which laypeople seem to really enjoy, or my other book On Guard which is specifically for laypeople. Now, Randal's reservation though about Reasonable Faith in this context was not that it's too technical for laypeople to read, though I think it is. Rather he says it addresses the wrong questions. It doesn't really scratch the itch that laypeople are feeling. I suspect that's probably true as well. The questions laypeople have will be about things like transgender issues or homosexuality or pain and suffering (why do good people experience bad things?) and the common questions that the ordinary man in the street asks. But I frankly don't think that just scratching where people itch is the best way of really equipping people to give a defense for the hope that is in them. I think that fundamentally in our increasingly secular society it is absolutely essential that people be able to give reasons for why they believe there is a God. I think that arguments for the existence of God are foundational and indispensable even if that's not the itch that people are feeling (maybe they already believe in God and so they don't need any proof). But if we are to be salt and light in our culture and not be overwhelmed by it, it is critical that we be able to defend our belief in the existence of God. And then, secondly, I think we've got to be able to defend why we believe that Jesus Christ is God's unique self-revelation and the way to God. Therefore we need to be able to give some sort of argument for why we believe Christian theism is true rather than Muslim theism or Jewish theism or some sort of deism. And my work there has focused upon Jesus’ resurrection as the key to an apologetic for a Christian form of theism. And that has certainly resonated with laypeople. I have just been thrilled with how laypeople have picked up on the historical apologetic for the resurrection of Jesus as a key to Jesus’ self-identity. So my concern in training people in apologetics is not to be relevant, not to be current, not to scratch the itch that people are feeling. Rather, I want to equip them to have a solid case for the central truth claims of the Christian faith, and then, as well, good answers to the most important objections to the Christian faith that they will encounter. And that will involve the sort of issues that are dealt with in Reasonable Faith.

KEVIN HARRIS: We've talked about it before, and I know that there is a balance, but it's the old “cookies on the top shelf” argument kind of a thing. You've got to appeal to the average person, and they're more worried about balancing their checkbook than they are the kalam and things like that. But at the same time it's a patronizing thing, and it's saying “it's OK to be dumb.” You know, “We got to dumb it down.” It's the old “dumb it down” thing. You’ve said that people are a lot more intelligent than we give them credit for.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, these businessmen who talk about the 200-day moving average and stock prices and things like that are not stupid. They can understand this material if you explain it well to them. The electrifying effect upon laypeople who do tackle this material and master it is just remarkable. They become so excited about their faith and so eager to share their faith with others so that being trained in the way I've described is a great incentive to evangelism and fulfilling the Great Commission.

KEVIN HARRIS: Let's hear some more from Dr. Rauser.

DR. RAUSER: In my experience, people tend to come . . . and now there are people who are just seriously engaged in that question and for the most part they are involved in the Christian apologetic subculture. So you have Christians and non-Christians and counter-apologists you can call them or atheistic apologists who are in their debates with one another in academic journals and also in a lay context online in forums, on Reddit, on Twitter, on Facebook, or what have you. But for the most part most people and certainly people in the church are not overly concerned about arguments for God's existence. As I said, people tend to come in one of two groups. Either they sort of accept, “yeah, there is a God” or, “I don't have any intrinsic objection to there being a God. I tend to think there's a higher power. There's something out there to connect with.” There are those people. And then there are people that are like the New Atheists or people that are part of the flying spaghetti monster age where they are just overtly caustic toward the idea of God. They don't argue against it, they just find it implausible and indeed silly. For these two different groups, arguments for God's existence for the most part miss the mark because the first group – this isn't at the height of their concern. They are already committed to some idea of God. And the second group, well, they're going to find for the most part that those arguments are equally implausible because they've already rejected as implausible the idea of God. It's like this. If you want to get your tire to get traction on the road and you have summer tires on, first of all you have to melt the ice and then you can get traction on the ground. But if you have summer tires on ice you are just going to spin. And if you try to present arguments for God's existence to people who find the idea of God to be ridiculous (they equate it to a flying spaghetti monster or to Thor or to some other dead god or some absurd construct like an invisible pink unicorn), well, your arguments aren't going to have traction until you melt the ice of implausibility.

DR. CRAIG: You know, I smile because here he is talking about how we're not going to gain traction, and the very existence of this worldwide ministry called Reasonable Faith which is touching millions of lives around the world is a living refutation of his view. The idea that Reasonable Faith doesn't have traction is just palpably false. On our website there's a little pull down tab called “Testimonials”[1] that I would really encourage Randal to read. In it we get letters from people every week talking about how they saw a YouTube debate or they read an article or something of that sort and it has either brought them to faith in Christ or it has brought them back to Christ after having walked away from the faith in high school or college. So Randal is wrong in thinking that there's just these two polar opposite groups: the convinced and the hostiles. There's a lot of people in between that are influenced by the New Atheists or that are filled with doubts about their faith, and Reasonable Faith bolsters the faith of Christians who already believe and electrifies them and energizes them and it challenges those who are skeptical to inquire further and to look into Christianity as a serious intellectual option. We have not only people who come to Christ or come to believe through the various facets of the ministry, but a lot of atheists that I've received communications from who say, “I'm an atheist, but I'm a big fan. I just love your material. It really makes me think and really challenges me.” I have great hope for these kinds of people because I think in time God can break through the shell and they will come to know him.

KEVIN HARRIS: One more thing. He talks about the apologetics subculture. Randal says this is a very distinctive, very specific, group. He's right. He's pulled into those. I  don't [think] there's anything wrong with a subculture. Subcultures exist on everything from sports to macramé. There's always going to be a subculture. But I'm impressed with how huge it is, and these guys are good friends. These guys and gals are good friends. They get in there and they interact. You have to know the basics in order to even present some of the arguments in the subculture there. I'm not sure what the complaint is.

DR. CRAIG: The critiques offered by fellow members of the subculture will be much more discerning and powerful than the critiques offered by atheists or secularists who haven't thought much about these subjects. But what I want to add is that this is not an introverted or insular subculture. This is a subculture on a mission which is reaching out using all sorts of media and means to proclaim and defend the Gospel and to stand for it in the public square and to bring people into the Kingdom. So, yes, there's a subculture, but it's not insular. It is extroverted and reaching out with the Gospel.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. A couple more comments here from Dr. Rauser.

DR. RAUSER: How do you think about a more adequate engagement of politics and Christianity? I think about someone like William Lane Craig in this respect. William Lane Craig has great arguments. Well, he has serious arguments, well-formed arguments for God's existence. I think he's an excellent apologist in many respects. And yet he has taken a view with respect to the alignment of Christianity with Republicanism and Donald Trump that I think for so many people just not only critically weakens but perhaps undermines his complete witness. We really need to think through carefully how to relate politics to Christianity.

DR. CRAIG: And he's also, I think, inaccurately characterizing me. I have never endorsed Donald Trump or Republicanism. I have tried to stay out of politics except when it concerns an issue of ethical importance. I am unabashedly pro-life, for example, and in favor of heterosexual marriage because I think those are biblical values and ethical issues that Christians need to stand for. But I stay out of politics and the sorts of things that Randal is talking about there. I don't even regard those things that he had on his list there as being relevant to my task. The first one I do deal with extensively: science and faith. I have made it my avocation to have a good scientific education so as to have a synoptic worldview that takes into account the very best of what modern science has to tell us and to integrate it with a biblical perspective. My forthcoming work on the historical Adam would be a paradigm example of this. This is certainly an issue that bothers laypeople – the old creation-evolution debate has never died down. So this is an issue in the science and faith section of his rubric that I have been very involved in addressing.

KEVIN HARRIS: We want to thank Dr. Randal Rouser for his work for many years, and his interaction with us. We hope to hear more from him. Just a quick reminder, you can support the work of Reasonable Faith with your financial gifts and keep this ministry expanding all over the world. Your prayers and support – you know they are appreciated. Go to and any gift will help us. Thank you. I’m Kevin Harris. Dr. Craig, we'll see you on the next podcast.[2]


[2] Total Running Time: 17:45 (Copyright © 2021 William Lane Craig)