This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
Hi Dr. Craig!
I consider myself to be a Christian layman, as I am not formally trained in philosophy (I am a computer science major). However, I have been reading content on your website for about three months now and have read Reasonable Faith, On Guard, Contending With Christianity's Critics, Is God a Moral Monster, and I am currently working through Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.
I have perused the forums here and there is so much deep, philosophical discussion on all your arguments (and it takes me a while to process all of it) on such a breadth of topics that it is easy to get overwhelmed (the A and B theories of time, complicated metaphysics, and other assorted topics). I want to go as deep as I can into these arguments and to be armed past the basic content in On Guard and Reasonable Faith, but I also do not feel called to a full-time apologetics ministry (like yourself or Moreland).
Here are my questions, then, which I feel every Christian layman interested in apologetics must ask themselves.
1) As a Christian layman, how deep should I go in apologetic literature? That is, do I stop at the material in Reasonable Faith? Or must I eventually graduate to reading the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology?
2) Should I directly interact with atheistic literature to familiarize myself with the opposing arguments? Should I be thoroughly reading the works of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett just as I read your works?
3) Is there anything else you suggest that I, a college student, do with regards to learning apologetics?
Thank you so much for your tireless work and wholehearted dedication for the Kingdom Dr. Craig! You are an inspiration and role-model to me.
Dr. William Lane Craig’s Response
Hi, Christian! I’m really impressed with all you’ve read! When is enough enough? Specifically,
1) As a Christian layman, how deep should I go in apologetic literature? I’d say that you’ve already read enough apologetics to be well-equipped to meet the challenges that will confront the average layman. But I’d issue a word of caution: it’s not enough to have read all this material. You need to have mastered it, so that you can share it accurately and spontaneously from memory. If called upon, can you share the arguments you read about in On Guardand answer the usual objections to them? Or do you know merely that there’s a chapter in that book about, say, Leibniz’s cosmological argument—whose premises I can’t remember—having something to do with a necessary being. . . .
Honestly, I think that if you’ve mastered the arguments in On Guard, having memorized their premises and knowing the outline of the case, as well as the objections and responses, then you don’t need anything more to talk effectively with 95% of the people you meet. A couple years ago, I spoke on the argument from fine-tuning at the University of British Columbia, one of Canada’s top universities and a bastion of secularism. I used the relevant chapter from On Guard as my talk and then took questions from the large student crowd. The objections were exactly those predicted in the chapter. When we came to the end, the thought struck me forcefully, a layman who had read that chapter and mastered its material could have done what I just did! You don’t have to be a philosopher with a Ph.D. to give a good argument and answer people’s objections to it. Just make the material in On Guard really your own, and you are going to be equipped for most challenges.
Now as a disciple of Christ, you obviously never stop learning. But there are lots of other areas to learn about besides apologetics. How about church history? New Testament Greek? I’d strongly encourage you to go through our Defenders series in Christian doctrine.
2) Should I directly interact with atheistic literature to familiarize myself with the opposing arguments? I don’t see why. You should leave that task to people who are professionally trained in the relevant fields, lest you get in over your head. When I read Dawkins’ The God Delusion it occurred to me that the book was so wide-ranging that the typical layman would just feel overwhelmed, since responding to its broadsides would require training in philosophy, biology, physics, Old Testament studies, New Testament studies, sociology, and so forth. His philosophical faux pas in his chapter on arguments for God’s existence are obvious to a professional philosopher, but to someone not trained in that field his objections probably look formidable.
3) Is there anything else you suggest that I, a college student, do with regards to learning apologetics? Taking a course in logic would doubtless be beneficial. You might also be alert to apologetics conferences in your area. Attending one of these conferences with hundreds of other people can be very exciting and is great for networking. Join a Reasonable Faith chapter or some other apologetics group, if there is one, in your area. Finally, be active in sharing your faith with unbelievers and then analyze the conversations afterwards. Nothing will so hone your skills as this kind of interaction!
This post and other resources are available on Dr. William Lane Craig's website: www.reasonablefaith.org