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.