Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book Review: On Guard by William Lane Craig

On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision by William Lane Craig is an introductory-level text from one of the leading apologists today. Written with the layman in mind, Craig has geared his most powerful arguments found in Reasonable Faith into a more approachable, readable book. It is not only easily accessible for the layman, but the book itself contains illustrations, sidebars, argument maps, and summaries that make understanding and retaining the material an easier task. This review will provide an overview of the content and an assessment of the book’s usefulness for its intended audience.

For those familiar with Craig’s signature book Reasonable Faith, some of the main topics and arrangement are very similar. Craig begins in chapter one by defining apologetics and describing its importance. Chapter two opens the question of What Difference Does it Make if God Exists?, in which he explores the absurdity of life without God. In chapter three, Why Does Anything At All Exist?, Craig presents the first argument for God’s existence, the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument. Between chapters three and four is an interlude – A Philosopher’s Journey of Faith – in which Craig shares his personal testimony and charts the path his studies took. The interlude resumes and concludes later between chapters seven and eight. This is a welcome personal touch and compliments the book nicely.

Chapter four, Why Did the Universe Begin?, lays out the Kalam Cosmological argument with philosophical and scientific support for its premises. Argument maps follow this chapter (and others) and provide a pro/con arguments and responses for the main points and premises of the argument. Chapter five, Why is the Universe Fine-Tuned for Life?, presents the teleological argument for the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life. In addition to the main points of the argument, Craig provides a response to Dawkins’ popular objection to the argument.

In chapter six, Can We Be Good Without God?, Craig details the moral argument. By now, those familiar with Craig’s public debates realize that these are all of the arguments he uses in his usual cumulative case for God’s existence. The benefit for the reader, however, is that each one is described in simple terms. Sidebars define new words for the beginner, text insets offer brief historical vignettes of notable thinkers, and recommended discussion questions act as milestones beside the main text.

Chapter seven, What About Suffering?, moves from positive arguments to defensive arguments from atheism. Various versions of the objection of evil and suffering are addressed here. Chapter eight, Who Was Jesus?, shifts the emphasis to Christianity and the resurrection. Craig looks at the New Testament documents and the historical method, and then outlines Jesus’ explicit and implicit claims to divinity. Chapter nine, Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, is Craig’s case for the resurrection based on three virtually undisputed historical facts. Chapter eight and nine offer logical outlines at the end of each chapter, rather than argument maps. Chapter ten, Is Jesus the Only Way to God?, addresses the topic of Christian particularism – how can Christianity be the only way?

David C. Cook Publishers produced the book well; everything from the cover and paper stock to the layout and size seem to be just right. The book’s included questions provide a good starting point for personal and group study. In sum, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision is a great contribution as a layman’s apologetics textbook. When the study guide is published, this will be a tremendous resource for small groups. Highly recommended – excellent content, very accessible to the layman, and well-suited for small group use.


Anonymous said...

So which book is better if you can only read one?

Brian said...

I think for the majority of people, especially those who do not read apologetics books or the like, On Guard is going to be most accessible as a first read.

emmzee said...

Brian, traditionally (well, for the last two years, anyways) I've given my grade 11 Sunday school students each a copy of "Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics" by Doug Powell as a end of term present (ie when they graduate into grade 12 and I'm no longer their Sunday school teacher). When I saw On Guard I wondered if this might be a better book to give them. I went with the Holman book because of its content but also its design (full color photos etc) that I thought would appeal to even those in the class that had no particular interest in apologetics.

As much as I enjoy Craig's writing, this book seems to have a more limited scope than the Holman book. Do you have any opinion on which of these might be a better choice? Or another recommendation? Thanks! :)

Brian said...


I think the Holman QuickSource Guide is perfect for what you are doing with it. If I had the same choice I would choose it over this one for all the reasons you mentioned -- full color, photos, format, size, broad content, simple, etc.

The On Guard book is narrower in focus and takes Craig's stuff and makes it accessible. But the HQG is a great overview type book of lots of apologetics content.

mikeldelrosario said...

I just picked up On Guard and I'm excited to read it. I actually wanted to recommend it as a companion text to the apologetics class I taught for our church this year, but it wasn't available before our class began. Looks like I will put it on the list for next year, though. I'm a big fan of Reasonable Faith and I just picked up the most recent edition as well. I'm taking that thing camping with me this weekend and I am going to devour it! :-) Thanks for the review.

Brian said...


RF 3rd edition is great. Now working through it for the third time and keep getting lots from it. On Guard will by my choice for an upcoming group bookstudy. Let us know how yours goes!

Blessings to you.

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