This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
Dr. Craig, thank you for your ministry. It has changed me for the best! I took your advise and I'm attempting to teach a Defenders class. I bought your On Guard box set and I start in March! My church is a small country church in rural Asheville, NC.
So I need advise as to how I can teach the hard material (i.e. the scientific sections like the Cosmological arguments etc.) So, my question is how can I present the material in a way that won't be too overwhelming?
I am teaching your on-guard book and i love it but most of my students are saying they don't understand all the complicated terms and arguments because they can't see how it will be useful in everyday conversations. they say the arguments are ok for debates with professors but how are they supposed to use this in day to day interactions. please help me with a good explanation as all i could say was it takes time and study to understand and get comfortable with all these new ideas. thank you
Dr. William Lane Craig's Response
I’m delighted, Stephen and Lionel, to hear that you are using On Guard to train fellow Christians in the defense of the faith! It’s my heart’s desire that the Lord would use this book to build up and equip the Church.
First to your question, Stephen. I enthusiastically commend to you our series of animated Zangmeister videos, which now cover the material in On Guard, save for the final chapter (which is currently in the works). Here they are:
Is There Meaning to Life? (chap. 2)
Leibniz’s Contingency Argument (chap. 3)
Kalam Cosmological Argument (chap. 4)
Fine-Tuning of the Universe (chap. 5)
Moral Argument (chap. 6)
Suffering and Evil Part 1 (chap. 7)
Suffering and Evil Part 2 (chap. 7)
Who Did Jesus Think He Was? (chap. 8)
Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 1 (chap. 9)
Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 2 (chap. 9)
These videos summarize the content of each chapter in On Guard in an entertaining and even captivating way that virtually any junior high school student can understand and enjoy.
So before people try to read the relevant chapter, show the video first. The first week of your class you might tell people to come prepared to talk about chapter 1 “What Is Apologetics?” Leave plenty of time near the end of the class to show the video over next week’s chapter. Then the following week show the video again at the beginning of the class before discussing the chapter together. Again, near the end of class show the video for the following week’s class, etc. By watching the videos in advance, people can really be primed to tackle the reading.
Lionel, I’d like you to share with your group the advice given to us by my theology professor Clark Pinnock. He said, “We should know our subject profoundly and share it simply.” What incredible wisdom is embodied in this advice! If your people will master the arguments in On Guard, I can guarantee from years of experience that they will be able to defend their faith against 95% of the objections they encounter. For most people we meet, we won’t need these arguments. But for some people we will. This is especially true for the younger generation in high school and college. Review with your group what I say in chapter 1 about how we are in danger of losing our youth if we stick our heads in the sand and pretend these questions don’t exist. If anything will motivate your people to do the hard work of mastering these arguments, it will be the prospect of seeing their kids walk away from the faith because no one could answer their questions. So we want to be ready to answer the objections of professors (and teachers!), even if we are rarely called upon to do so.
So how can we share these arguments simply in everyday conversations? Easy: just memorize a list of the arguments! If someone asks you why you believe in God or says there’s no evidence for God, just tick off a list of the arguments: “God makes sense of why anything at all exists; God makes sense of the beginning of the universe; God makes sense of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life; and God makes sense of objective moral values and duties in the world.” I’m telling you, for many, if not most, people you meet, that’s enough! Just being able to list the arguments puts you beyond most Christians that the unbeliever has ever met!
Now if the unbeliever asks you to explain further, share with him the premises of the arguments you have memorized, e.g.,
1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3.Therefore God exists.
The real question here to put to your people, Lionel, is, “Do you love the lost enough to put some effort into memorizing a few three-step arguments?”
If the unbeliever wants to go deeper, then go with him! Look at the argument maps in On Guard at the end of each chapter. They show you how to answer the typical objections. You might use these argument maps, Lionel, to do some role playing with your group in responding to these challenges.
Alternatively, they can whip out their mobile device and show one of the Zangmeister videos mentioned above. Then talk about what you’ve seen.
It’s up to you, Lionel and Stephen, to explain to your people the unfamiliar terms and arguments. You’re their teachers. That’s what you’re there for. But give them as well the above suggestions for sharing this material simply in everyday conversations.
This Q&A and other resources are available on Dr. William Lane Craig's website.