This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
Dear Dr. Craig,
I became a believer last year after one of your books helped remove an obstacle to my faith. I’ve studied the Bible on and off for roughly 10 years, but I now have a renewed sense of urgency and desire for diving deeper into scripture and theology. But I don’t know where to start with theology (apart from Defenders). I was raised in a non-religious family and have little background knowledge on the different denominations and theological schools of thought in Christendom.
The huge number of theology books available make it seem impossible to know what to choose. Do you have any suggestions for systematic theology texts (and anything else you might think helpful)?
Dear Dr. Craig,
Thank you for your exemplary work. I found you after watching an atheist YouTube after which I said to myself, "This doesn't seem correct, there must be someone who provides a balanced refutation." Well, I found your website, became intrigued and then I literally downloaded every podcast and listened to them while on vacation, in my car and even working out (although you're not quite as invigorating on a run as a Bruno Mars hit, but I digress). I've donated each of the past two years and I hope to someday launch an apologetics group in the Boston suburb where I live.
My question is reasonably simple, "What webcast would you recommend that I show to my mid-20 year old daughter that would encourage her to begin her own path to exploring apologetics?"
She is similar to many children these days. While she believes in God, she hasn't engaged in any churches post graduation and I'd like for her to have the intellectual knowledge to respond to and offset the secular world that we navigate every day. I have already purchased On Guard for Students and I will give that to her at the right time. However, I would like something with an even easier onramp to apologetics.
I found you more or less by randomly clicking on a Google link. I'd like to tilt the odds more in our favor. Therefore, but is there either, 1) a single best presentation or debate that you recommend for an "onramp" to apologetics or 2) could Reasonable Faith assemble a William Craig "Greatest Hits" video or audio compilation?
Thank you very much and keep up the great work.
Dr. Craig, thank you for all you do. It cannot be overstated how much your work has bolstered my faith in Jesus.
My question is regarding my own child. Recently, I noticed my 11 year old son peering over my shoulder as I was watching some of your videos online. Then when I was engaging some comments left by atheists he showed a keen interest in wanting to ask them some questions himself.
He wanted me to ask them why they wouldn't believe in God based on the fact that they would lose nothing if the existence of God were not true. I then explained to him that he was arguing Pascal's Wager. It was exciting to see an 11 year old mind venture into such waters.
And it gave me hope that perhaps this might be an area where he would be gifted.
I am certainly a novice when it comes to all the things you teach and the more I read and study the more I realize I am sorely lacking in my own education regarding these matters. And I don't want my son to have the same disadvantage.
Can you summarize an education plan for children who show an interest in these matters? I'm at a loss as to where to begin. I recently read that you started out by getting involved in your school's debate team. I plan to do the same with him if he has interest.
But after that I really don't know where to begin with the education part. He is home educated so we have a lot of flexibility in how we can approach this.
Thank you so much for any help and advice in this arena.
Dr. William Lane Craig’s Response
How odd to receive so many similar questions in one week! I appreciate your inquiries about resources for yourself and your loved ones.
To begin with your question, Adam, I cannot honestly recommend any systematic theology textbook. Rather you can do no better than to read the transcripts of the entire Defenders 2 series of lessons on Christian doctrine and apologetics. Having taught seminary myself, I can assure you that this series will give you a seminary level education in systematic theology on the full range of the theological curriculum. We treat different denominational and confessional perspectives such as Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, and so on. This series has the added advantage of integrating philosophy with theology as we grapple with deep questions about topics like the nature of God, the Trinity, the person of Christ, and so. So start with Defenders for a survey of the field of systematic theology, and then you’ll be prepared to delve more deeply into specific areas.
As for your question, Richard, you obviously know your daughter best and what would grab her interest, so you should preview my recommendations and pick what seems most suitable. I think that for an apathetic beginner, one can do no better than our wonderful Zangmeister animated videos. These have several advantages: they’re short; they’re visual; they’re entertaining; and they grab and hold your attention. For a beginner, I wouldn’t recommend you start off with the videos on the Leibnizian cosmological argument or the ontological argument, since these require a good deal of abstract thinking. I suggest starting with the video on the moral argument. This video has the additional advantage that it deals with an issue that is existentially pressing and inescapable: are moral values and duties objective and, if so, what’s their basis? If your daughter likes this video, show her next the one on the kalam cosmological argument cosmological argument. If she’s then interested in learning more, that’s the perfect opportunity to introduce her to On Guard (student edition).
A possible alternative would be for her to watch my talk “In Intellectual Neutral,” which challenges Christians to become intellectually engaged with their faith. Since you ask about debates, I’d suggest my debate with Christopher Hitchens, especially if she knows who he was. The drawback here is that a debate video may be just too long for someone with so little interest as your daughter. As for a collection of “greatest hits,” we do have a really fine 2 volume DVD collection of my best debates. Hope this helps!
Finally, Ken, while I don’t have an education plan for your budding philosopher, I do think that the study of elementary logic is indispensable for the training of a youngster. It will help him to formulate his own thoughts coherently and to spot fallacies in others’ thinking. So I’d urge you to take your son through our children’s book Learning Logic, a beautifully illustrated text for people his age. For training in apologetics we have an age-appropriate workbook The Defense Never Rests. Be sure to get the Teacher’s Guide as well, as this workbook is not self-explanatory but is intended as a teacher’s aide for training young minds in the defense of the Christian faith. Happy studying!