Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Review of A Reasonable Response

I respect greatly the work that Dr. Craig does in providing a defense of the Christian worldview, so when I learned that his new book, A Reasonable Response, was coming out, I jumped at the chance to read it and to provide a review of it.

A quick scan of the table of contents reveals a fairly comprehensive list of topics. There are six parts dealing with the following topics:
·         Questions on Knowing and Believing What is Real
·         Questions about God
·         Questions about Origins and the Meaning of Life
·         Questions about the Afterlife and Evil
·         Questions about Jesus Christ and Being His Disciple
·         Questions about Issues of Christian Practice

Craig and Gorra clearly have in mind a target audience who are Christians concerned about dealing with atheists and skeptics. They are speaking into contemporary Western culture that is dominated by philosophical materialism and skepticism. While appropriate for any reader, the audience best suited for A Reasonable Response includes those in a university environment, those in contact with university students, or those interested in broader philosophical debates relative to the Christian faith. It is this type of environment where more weighty intellectual challenges tend to arise about which a Christian defender would want a “reasonable” response to challenges.

The range of questions and topics in A Reasonable Response will be interesting and of value to any Christian. The responses written by Craig, however, are largely written for an above-average reading level. This is a benefit for the reader because it is like taking our brain to the gym for a little workout when we read. Craig unapologetically expects his readers to think (imagine that!) while engaging with the material presented. The authors will be like personal cognitive trainers to stretch you to become stronger intellectually. Having said this, however, I do not think this book is out of reach. Any reader will be able to absorb the ideas from the vast array of topics presented.

The format of the book is such that you do not have to read it sequentially from beginning to end. Because the authors compiled it in a Question-Answer format, you can simply jump to a topic that interests you. This format makes the book very handy, and even though the print version contains 432 pages (this review is based on the Kindle version), you don’t feel overwhelmed.

In his introduction Gorra declares that one of their goals for this book was to provide succinct answers to tough questions, enough to “chew on.” They want us doing apologetics, not just studying and endlessly discussing it and never letting them escape out into the wider world where people need Christ. Craig and Gorra desire that this book act as a go-to manual to look up questions and issues as they arise in conversation. In fact, as an example of the usefulness of this book, recently I was discussing with a co-worker the reasons that I hold for the existence of God using the Kalam Cosmological argument – one of Craig’s signature arguments. I didn’t think that I did such an effective job of explaining why the First Cause of the universe had to be personal, as opposed to an impersonal force. When I got home I looked in A Reasonable Response  to see if it dealt with this issue. Lo, and behold!  I spotted an entry entitled, “Must the Cause of the Universe Be Personal?” I have been since studying this chapter so that next time the issue comes up, I will own it!

You will be introduced to a fascinating concept advocated by Dr. Craig called molinism. This review is not the place to introduce it –  I’ll let Craig and Gorra do that. Suffice it to say that they will present you with a view of how God can sovereignly control the universe while at the same time giving his creatures libertarian free will. While I don’t hold to this view, molinism is a fruitful philosophical and theological concept that is definitely worth thinking about!

In conclusion, you will find this book to be a versatile and beneficial addition to your library shelves. With its wide range of topics aimed at an educated audience, there are very few common challenges for which you will be unprepared after having studied its pages. Craig and Gorra have done a service for the Church to give us a sword and a shield for taking our Christian convictions out into the world to make a difference for Christ.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.