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Questions on God and Gender, Eternal Life, and the Resurrection

Dr. Craig fields questions from Australia, Iran, and the U.S.

KEVIN HARRIS: Bill, are you ready for some questions? Because we have them. Let’s look at some questions from all over the world. We will start here at random with Joel in the USA. He says,

Hi, Dr. Craig. I recently listened to your podcast about whether or not your Christology is orthodox, and I greatly enjoyed it. I think the view makes a lot of sense, and I am troubled by how many people have considered it heretical when it is clearly historically orthodox. I did have a question about it though. Most theologians believe God is genderless, but if that is true doesn’t that mean a genderless spirit was inhabiting a male body in the incarnation? That seems potentially problematic from an ontological perspective as humans are, of course, male or female. What are your thoughts on the matter?

DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: I am inclined to think that because the Genesis narrative says that God made man in his image –male and female he created them– that men and women alike are created in God’s image and that, therefore, God includes in himself the properties that go to make up masculinity and femininity. Therefore, it is not that Jesus would be genderless. He would be a man – he would have a male body – and included in the divinity are the properties that go to make up masculinity that would be represented in him.

KEVIN HARRIS: A question from Will in Australia.

In your article, What Was Herod Thinking?,  you say it is blindingly obvious that Herod didn’t mean to say that Jesus was literally a revivified John because Jesus and John were contemporaries. Is it so obvious? Couldn’t one suppose that Herod wasn’t very well informed in this matter?

DR. CRAIG: Since he’s got more than one question, let’s take them one at a time. It is obvious because John and Jesus were about the same age, and Herod certainly knew that Jesus was a person who was having a ministry in Judea at this time and that John the Baptist was doing the same thing. It is not as though one man was from one generation and the other man from a later generation after the first had died. They were about the same age and therefore clearly contemporaries.

KEVIN HARRIS:

Secondly, you make a clear distinction between revivification and resurrection. That is fair. However, couldn’t Jesus’ disciples have believed he was revivified initially and the claim have been heightened later, sort of like arguments made about the people’s view of Jesus becoming more exalted over time?

DR. CRAIG: I think this is implausible.If Jesus were simply revivified in the way that Lazarus was (a return to the earthly mortal life but would die again) then his resurrection from the dead would not have the theological import that the earliest Christians attributed to it. There is no evidence that early Christians considered Jesus to be anything less than raised to glory, immortality, eternal life, and thereby was vindicated in his messianic claims. So the earliest sources we have which are in Paul would, I think, say that right from the beginning the disciples were proclaiming that Jesus was raised from the dead in the proper Jewish sense of that word.

KEVIN HARRIS:

Lastly, and I am sorry you may have addressed this elsewhere but, how is the reliability of the disciples’ timidity prior to the resurrection appearances established historically? Yes, it is fair to assume that they would have been timid, maybe terrified, but if the Synoptics were written from a shared source and John was aware of them at the time of writing his Gospel, couldn’t a skeptic suggest that this was all part of an early Christian apologetic established only by one independent source? Or does this defame the apostles too much to be a fabrication?

Could the Gospel writers have wanted to defame the apostles?

DR. CRAIG: I would say that this is not only independently attested by multiple witnesses, such as John and the Synoptics as well as multiple sources within the Gospels themselves, but the criterion of embarrassment (which is what he refers to in defaming the apostles) would be a very powerful reason for thinking that in fact the disciples upon Jesus’ crucifixion were afraid and cowering. There wouldn’t be any reason for the Gospels to invent stories like the apostasy of Peter or the women disciples being courageous and observing the crucifixion and the burial and the empty tomb and the disciples cowering in fear unless this were in fact the case. I think there is a sort of, as he says, verisimilitude to these narratives as well. This is exactly what one would expect in such a case in which one’s leader has been arrested and brutally executed. You would fear for your life as well.

KEVIN HARRIS: This is a question from Chris in the USA.

Dr. Craig, I have a question that has been vexing me for some time. It has to do with the eschaton and the nature of everlasting time. [The eschaton being the end times, end things. Jumping down to the third paragraph, he says. . .] Here is my vexation. As a Bible-believing Christian I do believe that I will have an embodied, finite existence in the eschaton. I do believe it will be an everlasting experience, world without end. However, I cannot fathom how my finite mind could possibly process an unending succession of moments. Given an infinite future, would not all probabilities be realized and all potentials become actual? Wouldn’t I master every instrument in the symphony orchestra? Wouldn’t I play chess better than Deep Blue? Wouldn’t I memorize every word of every book? Wouldn’t I converse with every redeemed being an infinite number of days? Wouldn’t we all? After 10 billion billion successive moments, wouldn’t all residents of heaven become drearily identical? Dr. Craig, can you help me escape this vexation?

DR. CRAIG: I agree with Chris that we will have finite human minds in the new heavens and the new Earth, but we need to understand the difference between a potential infinite and an actual infinite. Our lives in the eschaton will be potentially infinite in that they will go on and on and on forever. But they will always be finite. There will always be a finite number of experiences or memories or facts that one will know even though the limit of those is infinite. So one will never arrive at an actual infinity of experiences or knowledge. It will be an unending quest for greater and greater knowledge and more and more experiences. I would agree with him that no finite good could ever suffice to satisfy such an infinite longing. That is why we should think of the eschaton primarily as coming to know God more and more deeply because God as infinite and truly inexhaustible and therefore can never be completely plumbed by any finite being.Given the infinite good that God is, I think that the eschaton will be an exhilarating and thrilling experience as our experience and minds grow and grow without limit in our knowledge of God.

KEVIN HARRIS: I will tell you what else will help him is, by the same token, if all these possibilities and potentialities are realized then the possibility and the potentiality of him figuring out how to handle it will also be realized.

DR. CRAIG: He also doesn’t take an account of the fact that maybe you would forget certain things. If it is true that the finite mind can only hold so much, well then you simply forget things that are far in the past just as we forget now.

KEVIN HARRIS: From Iran it says,

Hello, Dr. Craig. Peace and greetings. I watched one of your debates with Yusuf Ismail regarding the identity of Jesus – Is Jesus Man or Both Man and God? In that debate you provide a model for proving the hypostatic union based on the movie Avatar. The question that I have is if we accept that God and man are two contradictory notions – man is limited in the full sense and God is unlimited in the full sense; for example, God is omnipotent whereas man is not – then using that analogy would become fallacious because Jack Sully in the movie has two natures but they are not contradictory. He is limited in both his natures and therefore it could not be a good model for proving Jesus to be fully God and fully man. First, how can you logically make these two natures on logical grounds possible? Thanks, Ali from Iran.

DR. CRAIG: I appreciate the question. It is important to understand that I am not appealing to this movie to prove that Jesus is truly God and truly man. It is meant simply to be an illustration of a person who has two different natures. I think it is a very effective illustration. If you have seen the movieAvatar you can see that this character has a human nature and then he has a Navi nature. Ali objects to the analogy by saying that these two natures that Jack Sully has are not contradictory. But I would say the same thing of divinity and humanity – these are not contradictory. It would be contradictory to say that Jesus is merely a man and that he is also God, but it is in no way contradictory to say that he has both a divine nature and a human nature. He is omnipotent in his divine nature but he is limited in strength and power in his human nature. He is omniscient in his divine nature but he is limited cognitively in his human nature. There just isn’t any inconsistency between those. The divine nature exceeds the powers and capacities of the human nature, but there is no contradiction between one person exemplifying both of these natures.

KEVIN HARRIS: Final question today.

Hello Dr. Craig, thank you for your so needed work. I am having a little trouble with your hypothesis for the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ. If Christ was fully God and fully man then you suggest that somewhere in the unconscious/subconscious part of the mind of the man Jesus that the God or divinity aspect of Christ was present according to some insights you suggest come from some discipline related to deep psychology. But if the man Jesus had a less than human unconscious/subconscious aspect in his human nature then it seems to follow that Jesus wasn’t fully human since all humans share an equally fully human conscious and subconscious mind. If something in the human subconscious mind of Jesus was not human in nature but divine then Jesus was not fully human since all humans have both a fully human conscious and subconscious mind. Maybe I misunderstood something in one of the premises of your argument. But if I’m making a strawman then it is an unintentional one. Again, thank you for your work and your response. Felix in Puerto Rico

DR. CRAIG: I appreciate Felix’s question. I think it is important to understand that the orthodox doctrine of Christ is not that Christ is fully God and fully man but rather that he is truly God and truly man. To say fully God and fully man makes it sound like he is 100% God and he is 100% man which is a contradiction in terms. Rather, it is that he has all of the essential properties that make up divinity, and he has the essential properties that make up humanity. I think that when the second person of the Trinity brings to the body of Christ – the biological body of Christ – a rational person, that completes the human nature of Christ because what it is to be a person is already included in the divine nature. So the divine nature by its union with the human body makes a complete human nature. It brings a rational soul to this human body so that you have here a body-soul composite which is a human being. Now, he is not merely human, as I said a moment ago, because he is also divine. But he is truly human. So that is why we should reject this language of “fully God and fully man.” That is ambiguous. That would suggest that Jesus had to be merely human, and that is not the orthodox view. Jesus is truly human but he is not merely human. He has the essential properties that make up humanity (being a rational soul and body) but he has additional properties that we don’t possess in virtue of which he is divine.

(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Various voices in the Christian church are denigrating the meaning of Christ’s blood atonement

KEVIN HARRIS: Right up your alley, Dr. Craig. You have been spending time on the atonement, not only on video (and people can join you in your study via video on the atonement) but also two books on the atonement that you’re working on. So this article about the Southern Baptist refuting efforts to soften the atonement should really be of interest to you right now.Refusing to Soften the Atonement

DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: It really was. I was greatly heartened by the Southern Baptist vote at their annual meeting to affirm the doctrine of penal substitution because I am convinced that this is the biblical doctrine of the atonement of Christ. The article is certainly correct in saying that this is one of the most hated doctrines in Christianity today. Here in Atlanta there is an Episcopal church that was previously called The Church of the Atonement, and they were declining in their attendance, as is true in general for Episcopalian churches. They hired a consultant to help them determine what they needed to do in order to attract more parishioners, and he recommended (believe it or not) changing the name of the church! He said that calling it the Church of the Atonement is repulsive to people. It connotes blood sacrifice. So they changed the name of the church as a result. I have no idea yet whether or not that has increased attendance. I doubt that it will have much effect in the long run, but it is a vivid illustration of the opposition that the traditional doctrine of the atonement does face today.

KEVIN HARRIS: The article begins – this is from Bob Allen from Baptist News:

Christ died on the cross as a substitute for sinners, satisfying the wrath of a holy God, according to a Southern Baptist Convention resolution adopted June 13, 2017.

So the satisfaction of God’s wrath, which atonement view would that fall under?

DR. CRAIG: That element of the atonement would be affirmed by a couple different theories of the atonement. That is not what makes this statement, I think, so significant. For example, St. Anselm enunciated a theory of the atonement that is typically called the satisfaction theory of the atonement. But what Anselm meant by satisfaction was compensation. God had been offended by sin. We had failed to give to God the honor that is due to him, and therefore we owe God a sort of infinite compensation which we cannot pay. On Anselm’s view, God became incarnate in the person of Christ to give his life as an offering to God – a compensatory gift to God on our behalf to pay for the dishonor that we had rendered to God. Anselm believed that if compensation was not made to God for our sin then God’s only alternative was punishment. So either compensation or punishment was the result of sin.

Now what the Protestant Reformers affirmed was that in fact there was punishment for sin, but instead of punishing us for our sins God became incarnate in the person of Christ. On the cross he bore the punishment for sin that we deserved thereby freeing us from our liability to punishment and affording us a divine pardon and forgiveness and new life in Christ.

So satisfaction of divine justice would be affirmed both by Anselm which tends to be the Catholic theory of the atonement (which is really a matter of compensation) or you could say what satisfies God’s judgment is substitutionary punishment. And what the Southern Baptist has affirmed is substitutionary punishment.

KEVIN HARRIS:

. . . messengers to the 2017 SBC annual meeting passed a resolution affirming “the truthfulness, efficacy and beauty of the biblical doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement as the burning core of the Gospel message and the only hope of a fallen race.”

. . . the resolution says the denial of penal substitutionary atonement “constitutes false teaching that leads the flock away” and “leaves the world without a sin-cleansing savior.”

DR. CRAIG: Right. Now I think that this is correct.Let’s unpack this a little bit. The keywords there are “penal substitutionary atonement.” The word “atonement” is used in the Old Testament of the sacrifices that were offered in the tabernacle and then later in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem for the impurities and the sins of the people. These sacrifices made atonement in the sense that they would cleanse of impurity and they would also cleanse of sin on the part of the people. So the sacrifices served the purpose of what theologians called “expiation,” which means the removal or the expunging of sin and impurity. They also served the purpose of what theologians call “propitiation.” That is, they satisfy God’s justice and thereby nullify his wrath upon sin. By expiating our sin, these sacrifices propitiate God and remove his wrath so that we no longer stand under his wrath. So the word “atonement” involves this expiatory and propitiatory offering to God on behalf of human sinners that will remove their guilt and condemnation and result in appeasing God’s just wrath upon them.

This is said to be substitutionary atonement. What does that mean? That means that someone else does it for us. It is vicarious suffering that Christ undergoes. This is already implicit in these Old Testament sacrifices. All of the animals sacrifices in the tabernacle and the temple were accompanied by a very important hand-laying ceremony. The person who brought a goat or an animal to be sacrificed was required first to lay his hand upon the head of the animal before he slaughtered it. He actually killed the sacrificial animal himself. But before he did so he laid his hand on the head of the animal. The Hebrew expression here is quite emphatic. It means to press your hand into the animal’s head, and then you would slay the animal. And this act of hand-laying I think is symbolic of the worshiper’s identification with the animal and thereby the animal’s death represents symbolically the worshiper’s death. The consequence of sin is death, and the animal dies in the place of worshiper. The offerer identifies himself symbolically with the animal, and then the animal is slain and its blood dispersed upon the altar or other aspects of the tabernacle paraphernalia. So already in these Old Testament sacrifices there is this element of substitution of an animal for the worshiper.

Now the New Testament tells us that the blood of bulls and goats can never really take away sin. This was just a provisional arrangement that God had made for the sins of the people until Christ should come. The place that you find substitutionary atonement most clearly taught is in Isaiah 53. In Isaiah 53 we confront this enigmatic person called the Servant of the Lord who is God’s righteous servant. He is described as high and exalted; lifted up. These are words which the Hebrew Bible only uses of God himself, and yet they are used of this righteous Servant of the Lord. This Servant of the Lord is then punished or suffers in the place of the people. It says, He was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our infirmities, on him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his stripes we are healed. The New Testament authors over and over again identify Jesus as the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. In fact Jesus himself thought of himself in terms of the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 and quotes Isaiah 53 in application to himself. So you have a clear teaching of substitutionary atonement on Christ’s part.

In the final and third aspect of this is that it is penal. That is to say it has to do with punishment. I don’t think we want to say in the case of these Old Testament sacrifices that the animal was punished in the place of the worshiper. You don’t punish an animal. It is a brute. It couldn’t understand what was being done to it. It is not being punished. Rather the animal suffers the fate which would have been the worshiper’s punishment had it been inflicted upon the worshiper instead. So the animal bears the suffering which would have been the just desert of the offerer of the sacrifice had it been inflicted on the offerer. When you get to Isaiah 53 there you are no longer dealing with an animal substitute but with a person who bears the suffering of the people. In this case I think you do have him being punished for the sins of Israel. It says, Upon him was the punishment that made us whole. In the New Testament, over and over again Christ is affirmed to be that Servant of Isaiah 53. It says, He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, reflecting the language of Isaiah 53.

What we want to say minimally is that Christ suffered the fate which would have been our punishment for sin had it been inflicted upon us instead. Instead Christ himself bore that fate. And I would want to even go so far as to say that Christ was punished in our place.

That’s the doctrine of penal substitution. I think that the Southern Baptist convention was absolutely right in saying that this belongs at the very center of the Gospel. It is the means of our redemption.

KEVIN HARRIS: This resolution was drawn, it seems, due to contemporary voices, they say, attempting to soften the image of an angry God in order to appeal to modern sensibilities.

DR. CRAIG: That’s absolutely right. And here I want to alert our listeners to the way in which traditional Reformation atonement theories are caricatured and misrepresented. Contemporary authors who are unsympathetic with penal substitution will represent it as the view that there is an angry, bloodthirsty God who is bent on punishing sinners but that somehow Jesus of Nazareth gets in the way and bears the wrath of this angry God thereby changing his attitude from one of anger and wrath to one of love and grace. And that is a gross caricature not only of New Testament teaching but of traditional atonement theories. N. T. Wright, for example, characterizes these traditional atonement theories as saying that God so hated the world that he killed his only son. That is obviously not what Anselm and the Reformers were saying. From start to finish these theories recognize that the atonement is motivated by God’s love. It is out of God’s overwhelming love and grace expressed toward sinners that he gives in the person of Christ this substitutionary atonement on our behalf thereby satisfying the demands of his own justice. It’s not that Christ’s atonement somehow switches God’s attitude from one of anger and wrath to one of love and compassion. From start to finish the atonement is motivated by God’s love and compassion, and he himself bears the punishment for sin that his own justice had demanded thereby freeing us. So it is really important to understand these theories accurately lest we be misled by the misrepresentations of its critics.

KEVIN HARRIS: They give two examples of contemporary voices that are trying to soften the atonement or soften this image. One would be William Paul Young, author of the best-selling novel The Shack. It is now a movie. Boy, Bill, we’ve been talking about The Shack for a long time. People have criticized that. Listen to what he says:

. . . if God originated the cross “then we worship a cosmic abuser, who in Divine Wisdom created a means to torture human beings in the most painful and abhorrent manner.”

DR. CRAIG: I think you can see how silly that is as a characterization of the traditional atonement theories I’ve just described. God is not a cosmic abuser; he is a cosmic savior who goes to the extent of taking on human flesh and paying the penalty for sin that his own justice had demanded in order to rescue sinners who are lost and without him going into everlasting perdition. So this is just a gross mischaracterization. Even worse is this statement by Young that is quoted in this article. He says:

“Frankly, it is often this very cruel and monstrous god that the atheist refuses to acknowledge or grant credibility in any sense,” Young continued. “And rightly so. Better no god at all, than this one.”

Here he seems to say it’s better to be an atheist then to believe in God. But it is this caricature of God that he rejects, not the God of these traditional atonement theories.

KEVIN HARRIS: The second contemporary voice that they talk about is Christian musician Michael Gungor. Now, Bill, I have met some contemporary musicians who are very sophisticated in their theology. Michael Gungor is not one of them. He tweeted back in February:

“I would love to hear more artists who sing to God and fewer who include a Father murdering a son in that endeavor.”

DR. CRAIG: It’s just ridiculous the way in which these theories are caricatured.

KEVIN HARRIS: He says, “If you can’t think of anything to sing to God other than gratitude for taking your shame away through bloodshed, stop singing and look around,” Gungor said in a follow-up tweet.

I don’t know where our modern sensibilities are. We don’t need to cave into modern sensibilities and soften hardcore biblical truth.

DR. CRAIG: The thing the Southern Baptists realized is that this is a beautiful teaching. They affirm the truthfulness, the efficacy, and the beauty of the biblical doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. This is a doctrine that is not about a cruel and monstrous deity but rather about a loving heavenly Father who so yearns for his erring children that he goes to the extent of taking on human flesh, joining them in their historical situation, and there allowing them to abuse him and kill him in the most horrendous fashion thereby satisfying the demands of God’s justice so that they can be pardoned, cleansed, and forgiven. It is a beautiful doctrine of self-giving love for the sake of others.

KEVIN HARRIS: On the last page here I was looking at this quote by Billy Graham. In 1957 he said, “Some might say that blood is somewhat revolting, but blood given is a blessing.” This was in a 1957 sermon explaining Christ’s vicarious death in the place of sinners. So here is this attempt, I guess you would have to be a sociologist to comment on this but they keep talking about our modern sensibilities. What are we squeamish about the atonement to the point that we have to mangle it and soften it? I wonder if we are that schizophrenic because movies and cinema are more violent than they’ve ever been. The number one show on TV is The Walking Dead. There has never been a more violent, grisly, gruesome production.

DR. CRAIG: So often in film or literature we admire characters who are willing to give their lives to save others, who will sacrifice their lives to save innocent people.And they will do it for their friends or their colleagues, but the Christian doctrine of the atonement is that Christ voluntarily gave his life to save people who were his enemies and who hated him and were in rebellion against him. This is all the more beautiful a doctrine that we ought to affirm. I wonder if Billy Graham when he said this “blood given is a blessing” was thinking of when they have a blood drive and you give your blood at the Red Cross or something for the sake of others. Christ gave his blood, but he gave his life! He didn’t just make a donation! He gave his life for our sake and our salvation. So it is a doctrine that is, I think, a beautiful doctrine that does elicit proper praise of God for his self-giving sacrifice.

(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Dr. Craig comments on a growing Theistic Evolutionist movement.

The New Theistic Evolutionists

KEVIN HARRIS:  Today we’re going to get into theistic evolution. Some of the latest stuff that’s going on in that area. It is always a good reminder to go to ReasonableFaith.org and check out everything that’s going on there. We sure do appreciate your support – your prayer support and your financial support as we continue this work. Even if you are not a Christian but you appreciate the information, the conversations that we try to bring to you, be sure and let us know. Just go to ReasonableFaith.org and contact us there. Thank you very much for your support.

Dr. Craig and I were in the studio a few days ago talking about theistic evolution:

Bill, they are being called the new theistic evolutionists – “BioLogos is a non-profit foundation formed by Francis Collins in 2007 to promote the view that an evolutionary scientific position is fully correct and compatible with Christianity.”

The New Theistic EvolutionistsDR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG:You are talking about with regard to biological complexity and evolution. This is a very specific area of science.

KEVIN HARRIS: Have you looked much into Francis Collins and his work with the Human Genome Project.

DR. CRAIG:No, I haven’t frankly, personally, because this isn’t an area of specialization for me. While I have an interest in it as a lay person, it’s not something that I’ve looked into in detail.

KEVIN HARRIS: One thing I’ll just say from the outset here because I can just hear people’s wheels turning immediately – BioLogos takes no position on Adam and Eve, the historicity of Adam and Eve. They leave that a completely open question as to how God did that. BioLogos is becoming quite influential. The Templeton Foundation gave them 8.7 million dollars. That’s “enough to bring campus ministry leaders to all-expenses-paid conferences in Manhattan, expanding BioLogo’s influence.” The key difference between BioLogos and the intelligent design movement is that “design cannot, in principal, be scientifically detected in nature, or that design could be . . . but isn’t.” A key difference there but BioLogos believes that the evolutionary consensus should not be questioned and maintains non-experts should defer to the consensus. That seems to be kind of the bottom line.

DR. CRAIG:I think this article by Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute really shows how very close the advocates of intelligent design and the folks at BioLogos are. Where they differ is on this issue that you mentioned – whether or not design can be scientifically detected in the natural world, specifically in the bio-world. The emphasis is on the word “scientifically.” Here is a statement on page 5 of the article from BioLogos.

We are skeptical about the ability of biological science to prove the existence of an Intelligent Designer . . . while ID advocates are confident.

What Luskin emphasizes is that while intelligent design theorists treat design as a scientific hypothesis, not a theological doctrine, they would say that a failure scientifically to detect design doesn’t mean that God was somehow theologically absent. They would say natural explanations don’t remove God. The question really is a question about the limits of science. The BioLogos people will agree that the world is designed by God, but they would say that on the basis of a theological conviction. They would say that this design is not scientifically detectable. One of the reasons for this is because the BioLogos folks tend to be committed to methodological naturalism. This is explained on page 6 of the article:

Methodological naturalism (MN)—the view that we must pretend the supernatural doesn’t exist when practicing science—is another disagreement. BTEs [Those who hold to theistic evolution] generally believe that MN is vital for science, especially within origins research.

And ID theorists would not. So that is a critical assumption. If you do believe that methodological naturalism is vital for doing science then of course you will say that it is impossible to scientifically detect design in the natural world. But that wouldn’t preclude a philosopher like me from inferring that design is the best explanation of the biological complexity in the world. It just wouldn’t be a conclusion that a scientist could draw because he operates under this methodological constraint that I, as a philosopher, don’t operate under. I think you can see here that the line gets very thin between those who would say that there could be an argument for design that would be a metaphysical argument or a philosophical argument rather than being a part of a scientific theory in the way that the ID folks want to say.

KEVIN HARRIS: They say,

They fear that when Christians challenge the consensus, this produces “anti-science attitudes” that “hinder evangelism.” BioLogos defends the consensus, despite recent scientific discoveries affecting theories regarding the origin of life, neo-Darwinian evolution, common ancestry, and junk DNA, which contradict the consensus.

What do you think about that?

DR. CRAIG:I guess I do think that it is good to have mavericks who will challenge the consensus. There are some interesting examples in the article of where this has taken place. The old consensus that biological complexity is the result of natural selection operating upon random mutations is now being seriously questioned. The old consensus is eroding. Moreover, he rightly points out that in some areas such as origins of life there is no consensus! So it is not as though one can submit to the scientific consensus there because there just is none. It remains up for grabs. So I do think that one should be an independent thinker and ready to challenge the consensus where the evidence leads otherwise. I suspect that the BioLogos people would agree with that, though he is able to show that there are quite a number of statements where their representatives have said that we need to go with the scientific consensus. But if that scientific consensus would begin to change, surely they would have the good sense to recognize that scientific advance is possible and that even scientific revolutions can take place.

KEVIN HARRIS: Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute (an ID theorist organization) in his article says, “This might prevent some Christians from becoming atheists, but it gives atheists essentially no intellectual reasons to become Christians.”

DR. CRAIG:That is an odd concern. That is an apologetic or evangelistic concern, isn’t it? It seems to assume that the only arguments for God’s existence are scientific arguments or arguments that appeal to biological design. That is simply not true. As you know there is a wide range of arguments of natural theology for the existence of God and not just arguments based upon biological complexity. I would also say, though, that I did appreciate the point he made in the article that when he surveyed BioLogos blogs he found that less than 2% of them were devoted to offering a critique of the New Atheism whereas more than 34% were devoted to promoting scientific evidence in favor of evolution, 40% promoted pro-evolutionary theological or historical views. I think that is telling. I think that would worry the BioLogos people themselves if they were aware of that – that their literature is primarily focused on convincing Christians to embrace the theory of evolution rather than on being directed toward secularists and convincing them of the compatibility of theistic faith with modern science. They do need to, I think, have an outlook that reaches out more.

KEVIN HARRIS: If you are going to claim to be a Christian, even evangelical, organization which they tend to be then evangelism would be a concern rather than just all the in-house fights. I think that Casey Luskin sums up what he thinks at the bottom of the first page. He just says, I think a lot of this is due to cultural pressure and BioLogos tends to be caving into that rather than all this new discovery or the way science is going or recent discoveries and things like that. They are embarrassed by an anti-scientific attitude, or at least a reputation, even if it is warranted or unwarranted, for being anti-science Christianity. And God-of-the-gaps – they are afraid of that. They are afraid of those two things. Therefore they are saying let’s just go with the consensus. It can all be done.

DR. CRAIG:I think undoubtedly cultural pressure would be felt by informed Christians today which might make BioLogos an attractive option for them, but I don’t think that the commitment of BioLogos to evolutionary theory is simply due to cultural pressure. I think they would say that this is where the evidence points and that they’re following the evidence where it leads. That will be a question to be discussed between groups like BioLogos and Reasons to Believe and Answers in Genesis and others that are involved in debates of his sort. Discovery Institute, of course.

KEVIN HARRIS: Let’s just take a look at some of the things that BioLogos believes. Collins really spelled a lot of this out in his book The Language of God. The listener can look at that book and see. By the way, Francis Collins is no longer the head of BioLogos. There has been a leadership transition. But he says that part of the reason that theistic evolution is so little appreciated is that it has a terrible name. So he embarked to find an acceptable term and proposed to rename theistic evolution as “bios through logos” or BioLogos. What would that be? That would be life through the word.

DR. CRAIG:Right. The new name for theistic evolution is “evolutionary creationism.”

KEVIN HARRIS: Wow!

DR. CRAIG:Which I find a very interesting term.

KEVIN HARRIS: Talk about a loaded term!

DR. CRAIG:They are wanting to cast their view as a view of creationism. It is a kind of creationism because they believe that God has created life on this planet, but they would say it’s evolutionary creationism – God did this through biological evolution. It’s really the same thing, I believe, as theistic evolution but it’s perhaps a more congenial name. As Collins said the other one was an off-putting name and “evolutionary creationism” is a more attractive way of packaging it.

KEVIN HARRIS: ID theorists – intelligent design theorists – and BioLogos theistic evolutionists both agree that Christianity and science are compatible.

Christianity has contributed positively to the development of modern science. Both would also agree that science (rightly understood) contributes positively to society, that scientific research is an important and dignified calling, and that Christians should consider new scientific discoveries, no matter who makes them.

I think all of that is important, but I tell you, most of the Christian church, at least seems like in the West, are really getting this. They are saying, yeah, we embrace science.

DR. CRAIG:I don’t see anti-scientific attitudes to be prevalent in the church. The disagreement between these ID or intelligent design theorists and the folks of BioLogos is really very, very subtle, and it has to do with whether or not the inference to a designer is an inference that can be scientifically made. Can the scientist qua scientist infer justifiably that biological complexity is due to some sort of guiding intelligence. Notice that the ID people are quite willing to admit that this may be non-miraculous, that it may be evolutionary in the sense that there is common descent from prior lifeforms, that biologically complex lifeforms have evolved from simpler ones. The degree of agreement between them is very extensive. It all gets down to this issue of whether this is a scientific inference or not, and that will largely depend upon your attitude toward methodological naturalism which is not a metaphysical difference between them. It’s a methodology. It’s just which methodology do you want to adopt.

KEVIN HARRIS: How does this relate to your teaching? You’ve taught us so much. And that is scientific discoveries can provide philosophical inferences and that’s what we look at.

DR. CRAIG:It does relate to what I’ve argued specifically with regard to the fine-tuning of the universe or the origin of the universe. What I’ve argued is that science can provide evidence for a religiously neutral premise in a philosophical argument for a theologically significant conclusion. That avoids a god-of-the-gap problem. It avoids the problem of methodological naturalism. What it is simply saying is you can give scientific evidence for premises that are neutral theologically but in the context of a philosophical argument can lead to a conclusion that is pregnant with theological significance. So, for example, when you take the fine-tuning argument, one of the premises is that the fine-tuning is not due to physical necessity or to chance. The arguments that people give against physical necessity have nothing to do with God. They indict that hypothesis on purely scientific grounds. Similarly, those who think that the fine-tuning is not plausibly explained by chance don’t do so on theological grounds. They provide theologically neutral arguments against explaining fine-tuning by chance, and in particular through the multiverse hypothesis. So the question would be I suppose: could you frame arguments of that sort for intelligent design in biology without saying I am offering an alternative scientific hypothesis? I am simply using the scientific evidence to support premises in some sort of philosophical argument for an intelligent designer.I’ve not tried to do that. This isn’t my area. But it is not clear to me why not. I don’t think that the inference to an intelligent designer needs to be scientific in order to be respectable, justified, and warranted. It is a matter of indifference to me whether you call it a scientific inference or a philosophical inference. The question would be: is such an inference justified in light of the evidence?

KEVIN HARRIS: If I could make this observation, it would be so good to do what you say to do, and that is (I’m paraphrasing here): You know what? We’re free as followers of Christ to relax and follow the evidence where it leads. The landscape is so inflamed right now that it is hard to do that. If you were to go to college and you said, You know, I’m going to study science (and you are a Christian). Your science professor more than likely is going to be in a very inflamed state because of how political everything is right now and because of the work of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis and all the young Earth creationists and all this stuff is very inflamed.

DR. CRAIG:I think that the reason that the debate in biology has become so poisoned as opposed to the debate in physics for example over fine-tuning or the origin of the universe is because of the battles over teaching creationism in the public schools. It has become politicized in biology where proponents of creationism tried to make room for creationism to be taught as an alternative in public school science classes. The court has repudiated that over and over again and pushed creationism out of the public schools. That I think has resulted in the inflamed and emotional state of the conversation in the realm of biology today that thankfully isn’t characteristic of the debate in physics that I’m more involved in.

KEVIN HARRIS: Francis Collins writes here on page 5 toward the bottom:

“science’s domain is to explore nature. God’s domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science.” Under Collins’s view, God’s “domain” is seemingly fenced off from “nature,” which belongs to “science.”

DR. CRAIG:I don’t feel comfortable with that statement by Collins either. I can understand why he would say that we cannot explore the spiritual domain using the tools of science. That would in a sense be an expression of methodological naturalism. But to say that God’s domain is somehow in the spiritual world is contrary to the Christian view that God’s lordship is also over creation. God isn’t hermetically sealed off in some sort of a spiritual heaven. His lordship does include the physical natural world as well.

KEVIN HARRIS: I thought the same thing because Paul says that God’s handiwork can be clearly seen and Psalm 19 says that the heavens declare the glory of God and it gives forth knowledge and speech.

DR. CRAIG:Right. The question would be: is that a scientific inference or not? The ID people would say it is, and the BioLogos people would say no this is not a scientific inference. So the difference between them can be very subtle.

KEVIN HARRIS: But wouldn’t that be one of the reasons that you would not want to fence God off from nature?

DR. CRAIG:I would say it is more like the Christian doctrine of creation that would lead me not to fence God off. God is lord over the universe that he has made, he is providentially active in it, he has chosen its laws of nature and set them, and everything is under the providential, sovereign direction of God. BioLogos people and ID theorists would both agree with that, I think. I think Collins’ statement is mischosen myself.

KEVIN HARRIS: In the middle of page 6 it says,

BioLogos calls the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” in studying nature no more than “a hint of the presence of the Creator” since “a logical demonstration” of God’s existence “is not available.”

Does that conflict with your view on mathematics?

DR. CRAIG:Let me just look at the footnote. This is a reference to an article by Ted Davis – “Belief in God in an Age of Science.” I’m not sure the degree to which Ted Davis speaks for BioLogos. I suspected he doesn’t. He may be a member of BioLogos but I would say Ted Davis assesses the argument in that way. The question there would be whether or not the argument from the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics is a powerful argument for God’s existence or just sort of a suggestion that God exists. I think it’s fairly powerful myself. I think it’s very difficult to find any sort of explanation for the applicability of mathematics to the physical world apart from theism. So I’m inclined to think of this as a fairly strong argument for God’s existence. But I don’t think of it as a scientific argument, I guess. I think of it as a philosophical or metaphysical argument.

KEVIN HARRIS: We can spend a lot of time on how to handle the consensus, and this article does. We don’t have time to look at all of it here.

DR. CRAIG:Let me say one thing about that. In preparing for my debate with the evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala, I read a number of things that he had written. I thought it was very helpful when he pointed out that the word “evolution” has a broad range of meanings, and depending on how you define it will determine whether or not there is a consensus today concerning it. If by “evolution” you mean simply the theory of common ancestry; that is to say that existing lifeforms have evolved from earlier lifeforms then he says, yes, there’s a consensus on that – present-day lifeforms evolved from earlier lifeforms. Indeed I think even many creationists would believe in that. That doesn’t mean that there is a single common ancestor for all lifeforms. Maybe there was multiple origins of life and these different forms evolved from there. But Ayala would say that’s where the consensus exists concerning evolution – complex lifeforms have evolved from earlier less complex lifeforms. The second definition of evolution is that this evolutionary process is to be explained in terms of random genetic mutations and natural selection. He says this on the other hand is much more controversial, and there is no consensus about that. In fact, as Luskin mentions, in 2008 Ayala participated in a conference in Austria in which these mechanisms were sharply challenged and they basically said the old neo-Darwinian synthesis is dead. These explanatory mechanisms are inadequate to explain the state of biological complexity that we observe. So there isn’t a consensus on that point. The third definition of evolution Ayala mentioned is the reconstruction of the tree of life that we’ve all seen in textbooks with its various branches leading finally to homo sapienson one of the twigs on one of the branches. Ayala says there it is just completely in chaos. No one has any confidence about how to reconstruct the evolutionary tree of life. So when Luskin talks about challenging the consensus, what you will notice is that it is mainly about challenging evolution in the sense 2 or sense 3 – the explanatory mechanisms and the evolutionary tree. As Ayala has already admitted, yeah, there is no consensus on those things. But there is consensus about the thesis of common ancestry. ID theorists typically don’t dispute evolution in that sense. They are not creationists. ID theorists don’t commit themselves to believing that God created biological lifeforms out of nothing, but may well have used earlier lifeforms to evolve or develop to lifeforms we see today. So the question isn’t evolution in sense 1 or challenging that consensus. The question would be whether or not evolution in that sense warrants an inference to an intelligent designer and whether this is an inference that a scientist as a scientist can draw.

KEVIN HARRIS: As we conclude, what do you think? Is this a good strategy? Is the BioLogos strategy good?

DR. CRAIG:I think it is good that they’re on the scene. I think it’s good to have a big umbrella and have young earthers and progressive creationists and theistic evolutionists. If they want to call themselves evolutionary creationists, sure. That’s all right. I think it is good to have a diversity of perspectives. I guess what bothers me is when these organizations take a doctrinaire position that excludes people like myself who are genuinely inquiring and haven’t yet come to a firm conclusion – hasn’t made up his mind. When I heard Deborah Haarsma, who is the current president of BioLogos, speak at the Evangelical Theological and Philosophical Society a couple of years ago, I was troubled by the fact that there is no room in BioLogos for a person like, say, Fuz Rana who works at Reasons to Believe who hasn’t bought into the neo-Darwinian paradigm, who is still open to other explanations. There wouldn’t be room for someone like me who is still inquiring and hasn’t come to a firm conclusion. I think that is a shame. I would like to see these organizations more open, more of a big tent or big umbrella that would welcome people of differing perspectives because they all do recognize that a commitment to biblical Christianity permits a diversity of perspectives. So why shouldn’t their organizations reflect that diversity?

(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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What Jesus Can Teach Today’s Muslims

A Muslim writes in the the New York Times that the Islam world needs to listen to Jesus!

KEVIN HARRIS: Bill, there is an article in The New York Times from a Muslim called “What Jesus Can Teach Today’s Muslims.”  Without even looking at this article, I bet you probably have a lot of thoughts just from your studies in Islam on what Jesus can teach today’s Muslims. Let’s get those comments from you, but also look at what this Muslim himself is saying. Mustafa Akyol says,

What is the trouble with Islam? Why are there so many angry Muslims in the world who loathe the West? Why do self-declared Islamic states impose harsh laws that oppress minorities, women and “apostates”? Why are there terrorists who kill in the name of Allah?

DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: The thing that immediately struck me about these questions is that the answers are not the same in every case. It seems to me that there are quite different answers to these various questions.

KEVIN HARRIS:He says,

Many in the West have been asking these kinds of questions for decades. . . . The Islamic civilization, once the world’s most enlightened, has lately been going through an acute crisis with severe consequences.

In your study of Islam, is that true? Was it once the most enlightened?

What Jesus Can Teach Today's MuslimsDR. CRAIG: That is hard to say. Certainly medieval Islamic culture was highly advanced scientifically and artistically. But the Christian and Jewish minorities within those lands were still discriminated against. They were referred to as the dhimmi. They were second-class citizens who weren’t granted full rights. So the idea that this was some sort of a tolerant society such as we would espouse in the West today is a myth. Also, I don’t know whether it would be fair to say that this was more enlightened than, for example, Chinese civilization or medieval Europe. It is hard to say. But in any case certainly it was a great civilization.

KEVIN HARRIS: Yeah, when you look at the kalam argument, how developed that was. Then you’ve taken it since. The article continues:

One of the prominent minds of the past century, the British historian Arnold Toynbee, also pondered the crisis of Islam, in a largely forgotten 1948 essay, “Islam, the West, and the Future.” The Islamic world has been in a crisis since the 19th century, Toynbee wrote, because it was outperformed, defeated and even besieged by Western powers. Islam, a religion that has always been proud of its earthly success, was now “facing the West with her back to the wall,” causing stress, anger and turmoil among Muslims.

DR. CRAIG: Although I haven’t read this essay by Toynbee, it seems to me that this is a very perceptive analysis. What we need to appreciate about Islam is that when the Muslim looks out at the extent of Islam around the world today he does not feel proud of this. He sees a failure. Islam is supposed to take over the entire world and bring all nations into submission to the teachings of Islam and of the Qur’an, and it has failed to do so. Instead, as Toynbee says, the Western powers have defeated the forces of Islam, the great Ottoman Empire, which persisted with the Caliphate in Istanbul for some eight to nine centuries, collapsed by the end of the First World War. The Islamic countries of the Middle East were dominated by British and European powers. So it is very true, I think, that the contemporary Islamic world suffers from a deep inferiority complex, from a sense of failure. It has not succeeded in the way that they anticipated or promised that it would. This, I think as Toynbee rightly saw, results in stress and anger and turmoil.

KEVIN HARRIS: Toynbee says if you want to see a parallel in history, look at a much older religion:

. . . the plight of the Jews in the face of Roman domination in the first century B.C. The Jews, too, were a monotheistic people with a high opinion of themselves, but they were defeated, conquered and culturally challenged by a foreign empire. This ordeal, Toynbee explained, bred two extreme reactions: One was “Herodianism,” which meant collaborating with Rome and imitating its ways. The other was “Zealotism,” which meant militancy against Rome and a strict adherence to Jewish law.

Looks like a pretty good parallel, don’t you think?

DR. CRAIG: Well, it is sort of interesting. It is probably oversimplistic, but as the author points out you can point to parallels today in Muslims that would accommodate themselves to Western culture and values and thinking and imitate it. He gives the example of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern-day Turkey, who is deeply committed to the triumph of Western culture and value and society in Turkey and rebuilt modern Turkey after his image – an image which is now being deeply compromised by the increasingly conservative government in Turkey which seems to be betraying Ataturk’s vision of a secular society in a Muslim country. Then, on the other hand, he says you have those who would be like the Jewish Zealots who would be using violence in the defense of Islam. I would simply add that there is a strong difference here between Jewish Zealots and those who perpetrate jihad in the name of Allah. There is nothing in the Old Testament that would say Jews should carry out religious wars to propagate Judaism. War and violence was not a means of evangelization. Jews were never commanded to spread Judaism by the sword. Yet, in the Qur’an, you do have commands given to faithful Muslims to fight against both pagans and the people of the book (namely, Jews and [Christians]) in order to spread Islam and to bring other nations into submission to Islam. The reason that there are jihadis and those who would use violence to propagate Islam is because this is commanded in the Qur’an and they are fundamentalists who take these commands literally and are seeking to obey them faithfully.

KEVIN HARRIS: He says Muslim intellectuals and reformers have been looking for a third way for a long time – somewhere between the Herodians and the Zealots. Neither one of those is acceptable, so there needs to be a third way. Now he is starting to point to Jesus.

Jesus claimed to be the very savior — the Messiah — that his people awaited. But unlike other Messiah claimants of his time, he did not unleash an armed rebellion against Rome. He did not bow down to Rome, either. He put his attention to something else: reviving the faith and reforming the religion of his people. In particular, he called on his fellow Jews to focus on their religion’s moral principles, rather than obsessing with the minute details of religious law.

DR. CRAIG: And here is where I think he goes wrong. He interprets Jesus as a moral reformer – that the burden of Jesus’ ministry is to focus on these broad ethical principles rather than legal minutiae. That is not the burden of Jesus of Nazareth. The burden of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth was the proclamation of the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom in human history in his person. When he celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples he symbolically portrayed in the blood and the bread his death and inauguration of a new covenant between God and man in which he would bear the sin and the wrath of God that would make reconciliation with God possible. In any case, even if you think that the proclamation of Jesus as dying for our sins and bringing salvation and eternal life wasn’t the centerpiece of Jesus’ ministry, it was clearly the message of the apostles. And it was this message that changed the Roman Empire and eventually the Roman world so that within three centuries Christianity becomes the religion of the Roman Empire. It was the message that the apostles preached of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, the sin-bearer, and the one who reconciles us to God and redeems us. The problem there, you see, is that there isn’t anything comparable to that in Islam. There is no such person that can play that role. So this author can advocate that Muslims also adopt ethical reforms whereby they get rid of the legalities of Sharia Law in favor of broad ethical principles. That is fine, but that is not going to give you a person like Jesus which can bring about the change that he wrought in the world.

KEVIN HARRIS: He says,

Christians, of course, know this story well. Yet Muslims need to take notice, too. Because they are going through a crisis very similar to the one Jesus addressed: While being pressed by a foreign civilization, they are also troubled by their own fanatics who see the light only in imposing a rigid law, Shariah, and fighting for theocratic rule.

Just stopping right there, obviously Jesus did address the extremes – the legalism. There was a lot more to him than just moral reformation.

DR. CRAIG: Right.

KEVIN HARRIS:

Would it be a totally new idea for Muslims to learn from Jesus? To some extent, yes. While Muslims respect and love Jesus — and his immaculate mother, Mary — because the Quran wholeheartedly praises them, most have never thought about the historical mission of Jesus, the essence of his teaching and how it may relate to their own reality.

Wow. Do you think they are ignorant of Jesus?

DR. CRAIG: That is undoubtedly true of the average, nominal Muslim. But more to that, I think he is ignorant of Jesus and at least what the message of Jesus was that changed the world and that introduced this change into the Roman world that eventually changed the world. It wasn’t the sort of ethical reform that he contemplates for Islam. There just isn’t anything in Islam that occupies the position of Jesus that can produce this third creative way that he is looking for.

KEVIN HARRIS: At the end of the article he quotes a notable Islamic scholar – Muhammad Abduh, an Egyptian scholar who was impressed with Jesus. He says,

As a Muslim, he did not agree with the Christian theology about Jesus, but he still was moved by Jesus’s teachings, which were relevant to a problem Abduh observed in the Muslim world. It was the problem of “being frozen on the literal meaning of the law,” he wrote, and thus failing to “understanding the purpose of the law.”

What are we getting here? The letter of the law and the spirit of the law?

DR. CRAIG: Right. He wants to have an ethical reform within Islam which would give up the legalism of Sharia Law in favor of broad ethical humanistic principles. He thinks that this can bring about a revolution comparable to what Jesus brought about in the first century. My argument is that he has got it wrong about Jesus and what produced that revolution within the Roman Empire, and therefore in the absence of a person like Jesus there really isn’t any hope for this kind of creative alternative in Islam.

KEVIN HARRIS: He wraps it up by saying in the same way that Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” he says,

Can we Muslims also reason, “The Shariah is made for man, not man for the Shariah”? Or, like Jesus, can we also suggest that the Kingdom of God — also called “the Caliphate” — will be established not within any earthly polity, but within our hearts and minds? If Jesus is “a prophet of Islam,” as we Muslims often proudly say, then we should think on these questions. Because Jesus addressed the very problems that haunt us today and established a prophetic wisdom perfectly fit for our times.

DR. CRAIG: Well, the way they could do this would be to turn to Jesus!

KEVIN HARRIS: Really!

DR. CRAIG: They could turn to Jesus as their Savior and suggest that he has established the Kingdom of God, not as an earthly kingdom but within our hearts and minds, and that he is in fact the Savior of the world. He is more than a prophet. So, yes, the Muslim can abandon Islam and turn to Jesus!

KEVIN HARRIS: But you just can’t do that if you are a Muslim.

DR. CRAIG: No, you’d have to cease to be a Muslim.

KEVIN HARRIS: He is not quite willing to go there, is he?

DR. CRAIG: No. And that is because he has this diminished view of Jesus as just an ethical reformer.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK, Bill, I think that kind of sums it up. There might be a pragmatic or practical solution here in a third way of a more liberal Islam that says Sharia Law was made for man, not man for Sharia Law, but it does miss the point of who Jesus is and the claims of Christ.

DR. CRAIG: Right. Nor does it address the inferiority complex and anger that Toynbee spoke of that lies at the source of so much of the frustration and anger and bitterness that exists in the Islamic world today.

(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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An article in the New York Times discusses “fake news” and how it relates to Evangelical Christianity

Are We in a Post-Truth Society?

KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, there is a New York Times  article that has recently come out that has garnered a lot of response. From Molly Worthen. Dr. Worthen teaches at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She titles this article, “The Evangelical Roots of our Post-Truth Society.” She begins this:

The arrival of the “post-truth” political climate came as a shock to many Americans. But to the Christian writer Rachel Held Evans, charges of “fake news” are nothing new. “The deep distrust of the media, of scientific consensus — those were prevalent narratives growing up,” she told me.

First of all, this post-truth society – I’ve been hearing that that is now a phrase being coined because of all the “fake news” that is out there.Are We in a Post-Truth Society?

DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: Right. When I saw this headline, I thought she was talking about some sort of post-modernism according to which there is no objective truth about the world – that there is only truth for me or truth for you. But according to the opening paragraph that is not what she means. She is just talking about distrust of the media and those who are typically held in positions of authority to tell us the political news. As you know, people denounce fake news. They come to distrust what the media says. That seems to be what she means by a post-truth political climate. It seems to me to be a mislabeling. It is more just a kind of deep suspiciousness of authorities, particularly news media outlets.

KEVIN HARRIS: There are whole books being published on how to spot fake news and how to tell whether something is true or false on social media. I guess it is becoming a problem. You see something on your Facebook page and everybody passes it around and forwards to you and so on, and you wonder if it is true. Sometimes it is not. Well, you just have – what? There is no easy answer to this. You have to do the hard work of digging into it and seeing if it is true.

DR. CRAIG:Yes, it seems to me that’s right.

KEVIN HARRIS:

Although Ms. Evans, 35, no longer calls herself an evangelical, she attended Bryan College, an evangelical school in Dayton, Tenn. She was taught to distrust information coming from the scientific or media elite because these sources did not hold a “biblical worldview.”

“It was presented as a cohesive worldview that you could maintain if you studied the Bible,” she told me. “Part of that was that climate change isn’t real, that evolution is a myth made up by scientists who hate God, and capitalism is God’s ideal for society.”

You see where she is going here – there is already been such a distrust of media elite and scientific elite among millions of evangelicals that – what? – that it could foster a post-truth type society?

DR. CRAIG:She doesn’t say that, though that is what the headline suggests. I think that would be way out of proportion with the size of the evangelical subculture to think that dissatisfaction with the media and fake news is the result of the evangelical subculture’s suspicion of the current scientific Darwinian paradigm in biology and things of that sort. But I think she is right in observing a phenomenon that within the evangelical subculture there is, I think, a deep suspicion and distrust of the sort of standard paradigm or scientific worldview that is conveyed to us.

KEVIN HARRIS: She says that this has provoked deep conflict among evangelicals themselves.

Conservative evangelicals are not the only ones who think that an authority trusted by the other side is probably lying. But they believe that their own authority — the inerrant Bible — is both supernatural and scientifically sound, and this conviction gives that natural human aversion to unwelcome facts a special power on the right. This religious tradition of fact denial long predates the rise of the culture wars, social media or President Trump, but it has provoked deep conflict among evangelicals themselves.

That innocuous phrase — “biblical worldview” or “Christian worldview” — is everywhere in the evangelical world. The radio show founded by Chuck Colson, “BreakPoint,” helps listeners “get informed and equipped to live out the Christian worldview.” Focus on the Family devotes a webpage to the implications of a worldview “based on the infallible Word of God.”

O.K. The phrase (a “biblical or Christian worldview”) whether it is true or not doesn’t seem to be the issue. It is not what is the true worldview.

DR. CRAIG:Except that she says it leads to fact denial which already begs the question that the biblical worldview is false and that the worldview against which it arranges itself is true. There is a kind of undercurrent throughout this whole article that these Christians are deluded. I even wonder whether she believes in worldview thinking at all. She seems to think of this almost as a kind of sinister phrase, but to think in terms of worldview is just to think of having a kind of philosophy of life, if you will – a world and life view. It would be to have a position on whether God exists, on the nature of human beings, do we have a soul? Are we just material entities? Is there life after death? Are there objective moral values and duties or is everything relative to one’s evolutionary and social conditioning? There are just all sorts of big questions in life that would go to make up a worldview. It seems to me that the encouragement of worldview thinking on the part of these various Christian ministries is a very positive thing. It is asking people not to live fragmented lives in which their faith is irrelevant to other parts of what they believe, but to have an overarching philosophy of life that will include the deliverances of the sciences, of literature, of history, psychology, the Bible, and all these other facets of knowledge. The idea of worldview thinking, I think, is very positive and indeed unavoidable. Those who emphasize the importance of worldview will often insist that those who claim not to have a worldview in fact really do but it will be a worldview of which they are unaware, one which they have just absorbed uncritically while studying, for example, at the university. These are the persons that are most in danger of being misled by their worldview in the way they interpret the facts.

KEVIN HARRIS: It is really pretty unavoidable isn’t it? Whether to have a worldview or to say, I don’t have a worldview. I’m a free-thinker . . . Isn’t this what the German theologians meant by Weltanschauung?

DR. CRAIG:Right! Yeah, when I was in college, that was the word that they used to encourage this type of synoptic thinking – to have aWeltanschauung, a way of looking at the world. A world and life view. As a Christian philosopher, it seems to me that this is what Socrates talked about when he said the unexamined life is not worth living. You ask the big questions in life and try to develop a framework or interpretation of reality that makes the best sense of the evidence.

KEVIN HARRIS: She has kind of given away her hand here by saying, There are facts and then there is the biblical worldview that can inoculate you from the facts.

DR. CRAIG:Yes, I think she is.

KEVIN HARRIS:It sets up a shield against mainstream science, politics, and all things secular and this bubble called a Christian worldview will keep the facts from you and you will live in it. Would you say a lot of question-begging going on here in a sense?

DR. CRAIG:It is question-begging insofar as she simply assumes the other worldview is correct. I noticed with interest on the last page of the article she says, “the worldview that has propelled mainstream Western intellectual life and made modern civilization possible is a kind of pragmatism.” She seems not to be saying that we should have no worldview but that we should have a worldview of pragmatism! That in itself needs to be critically examined and thought of. Pragmatism, classically, means that whatever works is true. So if it works then that makes it true. That is very scary when you think about it.Maybe national socialism might have worked very well in Germany, especially if they had won the war. But does that make it true? Does it make it acceptable? I tremble when I hear her saying, This is the worldview that has helped to make modern civilization possible – this sort of pragmatism. On the other hand, she goes on to describe it as an empirical outlook that revises its conclusion based on evidence. I don’t think that that is inimical to a biblical worldview. A biblical worldview should want to take account of what the deliverances of modern science are. When I read theologians, they will very typically say that in light of the deliverances of science one might need to change one’s interpretation of some biblical passage. They are quite open to revision in light of the evidence. But what they are skeptical about is unexamined assumptions. For example, the truth of naturalism that tends to undergird Darwinian theory. They will be skeptical of that, and they will want to demand good evidence in favor of it. I don’t see anything the matter with that.

KEVIN HARRIS: She says,

Ever since the scientific revolution, two compulsions have guided conservative Protestant intellectual life: the impulse to defend the Bible as a reliable scientific authority and the impulse to place the Bible beyond the claims of science entirely.

Do you see a conflict there?

DR. CRAIG:No, I don’t see any conflict. That is not to endorse these impulses, but I don’t see any conflict. She seems to be saying that within the evangelical subculture people wanted to treat the Bible as reliable on matters of science. The Bible is not just reliable when it speaks to matters of faith and theology and ethics, but whenever it touches on scientific matters it also is reliable. I think that is an assumption that has been widespread in the evangelical subculture. I think it is increasingly called into question today. I think a good many evangelicals today would say that the purpose of the Bible is not to serve as a scientific textbook and that it was written within the scientific understanding of the world as was the case when the authors wrote and that we shouldn’t turn to the Bible to find scientific information. But nevertheless, she is right. I think that this has been an assumption of the evangelical subculture. I think what she means by “the impulse to place the Bible beyond the claims of science” is you take the Bible to be authoritatively true and that it cannot be overthrown by scientific findings. You cannot falsify the Bible through scientific findings. What she doesn’t realize, though, is that evangelicals have shown a real openness to revise their interpretation of the Bible on the basis of scientific findings. They wouldn’t say the Bible has been falsified, but they might say,Well, it showed that my interpretation of the Bible was false, and I need to rethink what it really is teaching here. There can be openness to revision in light of scientific facts.

KEVIN HARRIS: I did notice that one of the respondents to The New York Times wrote that much of what she is talking about in evangelicalism is actually extinct – nobody holds to those.

DR. CRAIG:Oh, that is clearly false. Look at all the young Earth creationists.

KEVIN HARRIS: Which she brings up.

DR. CRAIG:Yeah, it seems to me that they very clearly hold the Bible to be a reliable scientific authority and that the Bible’s teachings about the creation of the world a few thousand years ago in six consecutive 24-hour days cannot be falsified by modern science. I don’t see where that person would come off saying that this view is extinct. This is very much alive today.

KEVIN HARRIS: She says,

The second impulse, the one that rejects scientists’ standing to challenge the Bible, evolved by the early 20th century into a school of thought called presuppositionalism.

DR. CRAIG:Yes.

KEVIN HARRIS: She says Cornelius Van Til . . . what, Bill? Most point to him as kind of like the main guy on presup?

DR. CRAIG:Yes, I think that would be fair to say.

KEVIN HARRIS: He said, “We really do not grant that you see any fact in any dimension of life truly,”

DR. CRAIG:That sentence is obviously taken out of context. We want to know what the context was. If we understand presuppositionalism, I think what Van Til would be saying there is that apart from Christian presuppositions we do not grant that you see any fact in life truly. It is only within the presuppositions of Christianity that facts can be truly and accurately seen. She would obviously disagree, I think, with Van Til.

KEVIN HARRIS: She goes to the Nazarene Church.

DR. CRAIG:Yeah, that is very interesting.

KEVIN HARRIS: She says that in their churches and in their universities there seems to be a kind of a conflict right now between mainstream . . . like the quote here, “how you can teach ‘Christian journalism’ any more than you can teach ‘Christian mathematics.’” There is not a Christian journalism any more than there is a Christian mathematics.

DR. CRAIG:This is sort of a repudiation of worldview thinking in a sense. I am more inclined to agree with Reformed thinkers that all knowledge needs to be seen within the context of a worldview and that being a Christian can make a difference even for mathematics. My work on God and abstract objects illustrates that so well, I think. How you view mathematical entities is going to depend upon your metaphysical worldview. For Christian journalism, it would seem to me obvious that your ethics on how you do journalism would be guided by whether or not you believe there are objective moral values and duties in carrying out your journalism. I am worried by what she reports. I have to say in my own experience I have been troubled by some of the things that I’ve heard said by professors in Nazarene colleges or universities. In my mind, I tend to associate the Church of the Nazarene with ultra-conservative – almost Mennonite – sort of subculture. No makeup. Very, very simple. But, honestly, when you look at what some of their professors are saying – and they quote some in this article – some of these folks have come to be detached, I think, from orthodox Christianity. This is, I think, one of the dangers of pietism and the holiness movement out of which the Church of the Nazarene springs – a downplaying of doctrinal accuracy and of the importance of doctrine in favor of considerations of lifestyle and experience. In Germany, pietism was followed by theological liberalism.

KEVIN HARRIS: Then she goes to the example of Answers in Genesis and one of the staff there who has a PhD in cell and developmental biology from Harvard, but goes on and uses this as an example of obviously saying that what Answers in Genesis teaches and believes is wrong and at odds but there is a protective bubble around them. They’ve learned to work by going to these secular institutions themselves.

DR. CRAIG:I found this part of the article to be bewildering, frankly. She is referring to Nathaniel Jeanson who is a research biologist with, as you say, a PhD in cell biology from Harvard. The man sounds eminently qualified, and yet he is a Creationist. She even gives an example in the article of where he revised his ideas about cancer based on the evidence. He gave up his old ideas. He said, “This is the way science works.” It caused him to revise his views. Then she says,

when his colleagues refuse to read his creationist papers and data sets, he takes their snub as proof that they can find no flaws in his research. “If people who devote their lives to it can’t point anything out, then I think I may be on to something,” he said.

I see nothing objectionable about that. If the man submits his creationist papers to colleagues and so forth and they can’t show him any errors in them, why shouldn’t he suspect that he may be on to something? She has such an attitude of condescension toward this man who sounds like a qualified cell biologist. I haven’t seen his papers, but why shouldn’t they be given an open-minded reading to see what he says?

KEVIN HARRIS: He says when his colleagues refuse to read – to even read – his papers and data sets that he takes that snub as, Well, that’s because you can’t answer.

DR. CRAIG:Let me just draw attention to one thing in the article that I found again odd. She says,

the worldview based on biblical inerrancy gets tangled up in the contradiction between its claims on universalist science and insistence on an exclusive faith.

What is the contradiction supposed to be? The contradiction is between “its claims on universalist science and insistence on an exclusive faith.” I don’t see the contradiction there. They think that on the basis of their biblical worldview they have the correct scientific view of the world, and they think that this is exclusively true and the views that disagree with this are wrong. That is what everybody thinks who holds to a particular view. Those who are Darwinian evolutionists think that non-Darwinian theories are false. Where is the contradiction? It is bewildering to me exactly what her point is.

KEVIN HARRIS: She said that we are all divided into tribes these days and you protect your tribes. Tribalism. I hear a lot of conservative talk show hosts talking about this – this problem of tribes. Wrong or right, I hang with my tribe, and your tribe insulates you from the truth or allegedly the truth.

DR. CRAIG:If that is her point, maybe this is her point – one ought to question one’s own assumptions and be ready to revise one’s worldview in light of countervailing evidence. I think that is fine. That is right. The same would be true for those who hold to a secular worldview – those who hold to a naturalistic worldview need to also be ready to examine their assumptions and presuppositions and revise when necessary based upon the evidence. I do think that there is objective evidence that can cause one to revise one’s worldview. I don’t buy into this sort of relativism that she says presuppositionalism is uncomfortably close to where your worldview is so all-determining that it insulates you against contrary evidence. It seems to me that that is simply false. Evidence can accumulate to such a degree that the anomalies in one’s worldview are so extreme that they can cause you to revise that worldview. That is true regardless of whether it is a theistic worldview or a secular worldview.

(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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The evaluation of a vigorous debate continues between a Classical and a Presuppositional apologist.

William Lane Craig analyzes a debate between classical and presuppositional apologetics by Eric Hernandez and Sye Ten Bruggencate

Welcome back to Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. Let’s get into part two of this debate between classical and presuppositional apologetics. Eric Hernandez and Sye Ten Bruggencate were invited to dialogue on this on a Houston-area radio show. Eric is a classical apologist who agrees more with Dr. Craig than he would Sye Ten Bruggencate’s approach that is characterized as a more presuppositional method.

By the way, we made a connection here. After we recorded this podcast, we discovered that Eric actually asked Dr. Craig a question – a couple of questions in fact – at an apologetics conference in Texas not long ago. Eric brought the house down when he asked Dr. Craig this classic question:

ERIC HERNANDEZ: In knowing how to engage with atheists and knowing how to point out logical fallacies, what is the appropriate way to argue with your spouse without having given into that temptation of pointing out logical fallacies or ad hominems but really trying to communicate? I’m asking for a friend, not for me.

KEVIN HARRIS: So there you go! The answer to that is the topic of another podcast, but let’s just say that Dr. Craig and the panel basically affirmed that in marital relationships, or any personal relationships, you will want to stay out of debate mode and make sure your spouse is heard. He or she often does not want you to fix it or come up with some brilliant solution; they just want you to listen. We would do well to be quiet sometimes and listen.

Let’s pick up where we left off last week. Sye Ten Bruggencate continues in this exchange:

SYE TEN BRUGGENCATE: If somebody sees evidences and says why Christianity can’t be true then it shows that they were always the judge of the evidence. And I say that’s problematic. But I think my main issue with the other types of apologetics is it reduces God to probability. It does not talk about the God that has certainly revealed himself in Scripture. I think it ultimately reduces or takes away from Jesus Christ’s glory and salvation because these are things that you need to do to try and bring people into the fold. What I’m trying to do is give them the truth, not so that they’ll repent. 2 Timothy 2:24 and 25 says that in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. So the people that I give truth to – it’s not so that they’ll repent. I gave truth to them in the hope that the Holy Spirit opens their eyes so that they have truth to be converted unto.

debate between classical and presuppositional apologeticsDR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: Let’s interrupt at this point. This is exactly the same thing the evidentialist would do. He would present evidence and arguments in the hope that the Holy Spirit would use them to open the heart of the unbeliever and lead him to repent. I think it is actually unloving and uncaring to withhold good evidence from an unbeliever and just command him to repent without giving him any good reason to, especially if those reasons exist. Why would you withhold them?

SYE TEN BRUGGENCATE: And I think that’s the big difference in the apologetics – a different view of God. It’s a different view of Jesus. That’s what I found when I was using evidence to try to convince people that God exists. I was actually not honoring the Lord that I adore. Thankfully with this methodology I think that anybody can do it. It’s just a matter of starting with the presupposition that he exists and that his Word is true.

KEVIN HARRIS: Here is the first response from Eric.

ERIC HERNANDEZ: . . . that thinks I wouldn’t talk to anybody unless he thought that something he said would be effective. So I think right there he’s assuming that they at least have the free will to listen to him when he’s talking about presupposition apologetics. So, yeah, I think even he presupposes that the atheist is capable of understanding his reasoning, his logic. Whenever we do present arguments or evidences we’re not putting God on trial. We’re putting the atheist and his claims on trial because whether or not they believe in God is completely irrelevant to whether or not God exists. So, yes, I think that when you present things to the atheist about God, as the verse says how can they believe if no one’s told them? How can they come to God if they haven’t even heard of God and no one preaches to them? So, yeah, I definitely think that the atheist could understand and step outside of his worldview and say, Okay let me think about what you just said and set my beliefs aside and consider or weigh out the pros and cons of what you just said. No one else can be the judge of the evidence for himself but him. I can’t believe in God for him. He has to do that himself.

DR. CRAIG: That’s a good response but it does leave out what I would have wanted to emphasize, namely that it is the Holy Spirit who is using the arguments and evidence you present as means to draw that person to himself. There is just no reason to think that the Holy Spirit confines his work to preaching and doesn’t use other means of working. While what Hernandez has said is entirely correct, it is incomplete. I think he needs to emphasize the way in which the Holy Spirit is the one who brings about conversion and repentance by using means.

KEVIN HARRIS: This is the moderator of this debate. He is a pastor in the Houston area who has this radio show. He presents this question:

MODERATOR: Let’s just say the kalam cosmological argument – which I think anybody getting into apologetics is going to run across pretty quickly; it’s pretty easy to understand and it basically gets you to the sense that there is a cause behind the universe and all that we see or anything that begins to exist. Would you say that it’s a kind of an affront to God to even offer something like that as proof that God exists to a non-believer?

SYE TEN BRUGGENCATE: I would say it would depend on the context. However, even William Lane Craig admits that it is not arguing for the God of Christianity. And my Bible tells me there’s no other gods. So if it’s not arguing for the God of Christianity it’s arguing for something that I don’t believe in.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, that’s, I think, really silly. Doesn’t he believe in the God of the Old Testament? And the kalamcosmological argument leads to a creator God of the universe. I think this is the God of Christianity, but that would require additional argument based upon Jesus, for example.

MODERATOR: Eric, I wanted to ask you then about this cumulative approach which someone like William Lane Craig, I think, would embody. Right? I mean, like you say, let’s say he’s arguing with an atheist. He’ll make five arguments for the case that God exists – the kalam, the argument for morality, the resurrection of Jesus. There’s usually another two in there that he uses frequently. Do you think the cumulative approach then is . . . I mean obviously you think you would say it’s a valid approach because you’re arguing for kind of a big-picture God and you’re going to whittle your way down to the God of the Bible.

ERIC HERNANDEZ: Right.

MODERATOR: Okay. What would you say are the benefits of that? Sye would argue, or a presuppositionalist would argue, that you’re already sort of talking about a God other than the God of the Bible and you’re already ceding ground to the non-believer.

ERIC HERNANDEZ: Well, first of all I’d say that some arguments like the kalam is used to get at certain attributes of God. Let me put it to you like this. If you look biblically, the Bible didn’t start off with the list of every attribute of God. It didn’t say God is a Trinity, God’s this, God’s that. In fact there is progressive revelation in Scripture so I don’t see why I cannot start with an argument that doesn’t conclusively lead to the God of the Bible. If the Bible itself doesn’t start with giving you every single attribute that God has – in fact, you find in the Bible where God says, come let us reason. Now, is God putting himself on trial? No, of course not. He’s respecting us as beings that reflect his mind and has given us minds that reflect his image and he expects us to use those. So, no, not at all. We can give arguments and then get there. There’s even books of the Bible that don’t explicitly teach on God. Now because they don’t explicitly teach on God does that mean they’re not canon? Of course not. So we can give arguments that point to certain attributes of God because in just the way epistemology works (which is a study of knowledge) we have epistemic chains. I don’t start with one belief unless I believe other things first. So before I can even perhaps believe in a Trinitarian God, first I have to believe that there’s more to reality than matter and the naturalism approach. So, yeah, there’s steps. Maybe later on we can talk about how people come to beliefs because you can’t simply believe something by forcing yourself to believe it. You can’t just say, Okay I’m going to force myself to believe something. You have to expose yourself to evidence, to knowledge, and to facts which is exactly what faith is – it’s a confidence based on knowledge.

DR. CRAIG: I like Andy Steiger’s definition of what faith is. Faith is trusting in that which you have good reason to believe is true. Faith and knowledge are not opposed to each other, nor is faith opposed to argument and evidence.

KEVIN HARRIS: He makes a good point about Genesis 1 doesn’t spell out every attribute. That would do a lot of work for us.

DR. CRAIG: No, it doesn’t. It says in the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth. It doesn’t say anything about Jesus Christ obviously. It is not the Christian God in the full sense of that term. We later discover it is the Christian God, but I would say the same thing about the kalamcosmological argument. You later discover this is the Christian God.

KEVIN HARRIS: Here is more of the exchange.

MODERATOR: . . . but you’re assuming too much – I think that would be the common critique of presup. You are assuming first of all that God exists, and you’re assuming that the Bible is the Word of God. But aren’t those the very things that the unbeliever doesn’t assume? So it seems to me that the classical apologist then is going to say, Okay, I’m not going to assume anything at all. I’m going to assume there’s kind of a neutral playing field where we can both go because we both, for example, have reason and then I’m going to argue for this God. Why isn’t it the case – or is it the case – that presuppositionalists assume . . . you assume God exists, you assume the Bible is real . . . why isn’t that though assuming too much if you’re actually trying to engage with a real non-believer?

SYE TEN BRUGGENCATE: Romans 11:36 says, from Him, through Him, and to Him are all things. All things include logic. They include science. They include morality. All things are from God. If I approach an unbeliever and I try and argue with him about evidences then I’m granting him things that belong to God. I’m granting him logic. I’m granting him morality. I’m granting him knowledge. All these things cannot be justified without God. So I’m saying, Here – these belong to Jesus Christ but I’m going to give them to you. I won’t do that. I will not use the tools of Jesus Christ to allow the unbeliever to argue against the Lord that I adore. I say if you’re going to argue about evidences, I’m not going to grant you those things. I’ll be happy to talk about evidences with you, but first what I want you to do is I want you to justify apart from God. You see because the Bible says everyone knows for certain that God exists. I believe the Bible when it says that. If I go up to an unbeliever and I say, Do you believe in God? and they say, No, and I believe them then first of all I am denying what Scripture says and I’m calling God a liar.

KEVIN HARRIS: So we are back to the “everyone believes in God and I am just going to somehow beat it out of you.”

DR. CRAIG: I wonder whether this Ten Bruggencate really believes in presuppositional apologetics or whether he just believes in preaching. Everything he said so far to me just sounds like an abandonment of the apologetics project – that you just preach to the unbeliever.

KEVIN HARRIS: That’s what he does.

DR. CRAIG: You just declare this is the truth. That’s fine for preaching. But that is not apologetics. The minute you construe this as some sort of argument then you are arguing in a circle. You are just begging the question. You are saying God exists therefore God exists, which is not glorifying to God. That is just bad reasoning.

ERIC HERNANDEZ: Let’s looks biblically. You see that when Elijah was talking with the prophets of Baal, he didn’t give them presup apologetics. He said, You build an altar. I’ll build mine. And whoever God lights it on fire is the real God. So there is an evidence there being presented for the existence of which God is the real God. I’m not sure what he means by logic belongs to God and that we can’t use them, that we give them to the atheist. Again, God gave us a mind that reflects his and our mind should reflect him. So to even say that perhaps . . . maybe he can clarify later but . . . basically, for example, existence also belongs to God, but existence belongs to me, too. I own the property of existing. So just because God is the ontological grounds for something doesn’t in no way mean that I can’t use it especially if he’s the one that gave it to me. To even say that logic belongs to God was something that is a conclusion that was drawn from logic and reasoning. So, yeah, as far as using evidence or arguments to convert, well let’s pretend I was an atheist and I just heard everything Sye said and I said, That was a great argument. He is absolutely right. I am now going to become a Christian or change my view of apologetics based on Sye’s argument. Well if Sye said that we didn’t use evidence and arguments to persuade or convert then what happens when someone becomes persuaded or converted based on a presup argument? It would seem self-defeating there.

KEVIN HARRIS: That makes a good point. Here is my argument and evidence that we don’t need argument and evidence.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, it is very strange. I just find this sort of dialogue to be really bizarre and frankly unfruitful. I think Hernandez emphasized this. Ten Bruggencate seems to confuse having ontological derivation with somehow a guideline to apologetic method. Because everything derives from God (such as existence, logic, moral values) – because everything is ontologically derived from God – that this somehow dictates how you should reason with people. I don’t see any reason to think that that provides the guideline to apologetics method. Of course everything derives from God. That is not in dispute. But the question is: how do you effectively present a case for the truth of the Christian faith?

KEVIN HARRIS: There are a couple more segments here. You come back up, so let’s finish up the podcast with these two.

SYE TEN BRUGGENCATE: I would say they can’t be converted by my argumentation. If they’re converted it is because God has granted them repentance. Now as far as handing it over to the person . . .

DR. CRAIG: Let’s stop there. Again, this is the point that I was making earlier. To say that they are converted by his argumentation, what we want to say is that God can use the argumentation to convert the person. He consistently thinks of presenting argument and evidence as doing something that is either in competition with the Holy Spirit or is apart from the Holy Spirit. That is not at all what Hernandez is talking about. He is talking about giving arguments and evidence in the power of the Holy Spirit and trusting God to use those as means to convert or change the person’s mind.

SYE TEN BRUGGENCATE: I’m really happy when evidentialists bring up the story with Elijah and the prophets of Baal because they say, We’re going to show with evidence which God is God. So they make this altar. They cut up this bull. And the prophets of Baal are calling down fire and nothing’s happening and they end up cutting themselves and he says, Where’s your God? Is he on the toilet? That’s what he basically said. That’s a euphemism for “is he away?” or “is he busy?” And of course nothing happens. Then Elijah says, Douse this with water. And he douses it with water and calls on fire and it consumes the whole thing. They say, Wow! You’ve convinced me with evidences that your God is God. And Elijah says, I sure have. There’s our circumcision tent. I want you to line up single file. Now that you’re believers, we’re going to welcome you into the community. Welcome, aboard. Is that what Elijah did? No, he slaughtered them. Why? Because the evidence that was given was not to convince them that God exists; it was judgment for their unbelief. I say, look, if William Lane Craig wins a debate, that’s fine. He just has gotta kill his opponent.

DR. CRAIG: Oh. Gosh.

KEVIN HARRIS: Oh, Bill!

DR. CRAIG: I don’t even know how to respond to that. That is just . . .

SYE TEN BRUGGENCATE: . . . and a lot of presuppositionalists get it wrong. Instead of arguing six hours about the complexity of the eye, they’re arguing six hours about epistemology. Which is foolish. The Bible calls the unbeliever fools. And that is not in an intellectual sense. It’s in their willful ignorance of the God that they know exists. So instead of arguing evidence, like I say, we argue epistemology for six hours. How ridiculous is that? We have to honor Jesus Christ as Lord when we talk to them, and not give up the things that belong to Jesus Christ when we discuss his existence.

KEVIN HARRIS: I think, if I can gather from what you said, there is a difference here. Sye Ten Bruggencate is more interested in preaching and then whatever happens happens kind of a thing.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah.

KEVIN HARRIS: Like somehow something mystical is going to happen.

DR. CRAIG: And sometimes it does! God uses preaching. You read the book of Acts and look at the example of the apostles and Jesus himself, they weren’t at all afraid to present arguments and evidence for the truth of the message they proclaimed. They trusted the Holy Spirit to use that to bring people to him. They most certainly did not slay their converts when they converted! I just find these arguments that he is giving to be utterly unpersuasive.

KEVIN HARRIS: They get into certainty a little bit later in the debate. Sye Ten Bruggencate again brings you up. In response to Krauss, he said, Are you certain that God exists?, and you said, No. He said we should have absolute certainty. Eric Hernandez says, If you were to talk to Dr. Craig about that, he would explain to you what he means. Let’s leave him out of that and get back to the debate. But do you want to talk a little bit about certainty and when it comes to certainty doing apologetics like with Krauss on stage?

DR. CRAIG: Certainty, I think, is a will-o-the-wisp that is quite irrelevant to faith in Christ. It is not necessary in order to have faith in Christ. Jesus accepted the man who came to him and said, Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.Certainly rational arguments and evidence are not going to deliver certainty. What they will deliver will be a degree of probability so that the rational man will follow the evidence where it leads and believe in God. I see absolutely no reason to think that simply preaching the Gospel is going to lead to a greater degree of certainty than that. In fact, you and I know that the testimony of young people raised in Bible-preaching churches is often that they are ridden with doubts because though they’ve heard the Word of God preached they have doubts about it and they don’t know how to answer them and there is no one to answer their questions. So I don’t see any reason to think that the presuppositional approach delivers greater certainty or psychological confidence in the truth of the Gospel than the arguments and evidence do. In fact, on the contrary, I think sometimes it could actually lead to grave doubts about the truth of the Christian faith.

Where I think there would be greater certainty available would be through the witness of the Holy Spirit. Remember I said that the fundamental way that we know our faith to be true is not through argument and evidence, but through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. For someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit, walking in the Spirit, living a sinless life, in communion with God – he may have very high certainty that his Christian faith is true. But that will be based upon an experience of the Holy Spirit, not upon arguments and evidence for the truth of Christianity.

KEVIN HARRIS: One of the things that Sye Ten Bruggencate says – I’ve heard him say it a lot in this debate as well – that one of the problems of evidentialism and using any kind of a classical or evidential approach in apologetics is if evidence can persuade you to come to Christ then evidence can persuade you away from Christ. You are vulnerable if it is merely evidence.

DR. CRAIG:That might be true for the pure evidentialist. But, you see, if you accept this distinction that Hernandez has made between knowing your faith to be true and showing your faith to be true then that is not the case. Arguments and evidence are part of showing your faith to be true. If those arguments and evidence collapse, that just means you don’t have an effective way of showing someone that what you know to be true is true. When we talk about evidentialism in this context we are talking about an apologetic method. I am not an evidentialist if you are talking about religious epistemology. I agree with Alvin Plantinga that the fundamental way in which we know the great truths of the Gospel is through the immediate witness of the Holy Spirit. But arguments and evidence are useful for showing someone else that what we know to be true is true.

KEVIN HARRIS: So would you characterize your approach more as classical?

DR. CRAIG: That is what I have characterized it as. Steven Cowan edited a book a few years ago called Five Views on Apologetics, and he put me under what he called the classical model of apologetics. I accepted that so long as one understands it in terms of what I just said – that we are not dependent upon arguments and evidence for knowing Christianity to be true. But when we want to show someone that it is true then if you are to avoid begging the question and reasoning in a circle then you have to use good arguments and evidence that will appeal to commonly accepted truths that you and the unbeliever share.

(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Dr. Craig listens to excerpts from a debate between a Classical and a Presuppositional apologist.

KEVIN HARRIS: Always good to have you join us on Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. It is Kevin Harris. We’ve talked about doing a podcast on this topic today for a long time – classical or evidential apologetics versus presuppositional apologetics. Even if you are only mildly interested in the difference between the various apologetics methods, stay locked into this series because it is pretty interesting. Better than that, Dr. Craig’s reaction to these debate excerpts that we’ll play for you is pretty interesting, too.

Debate on Apologetic MethodologyRecently I have become acquainted with Eric Hernandez of EricHernandezMinistries.com and seen him do good work in philosophy and apologetics and debates, but he really had his work cut out for him in this debate dialogue with Sye Ten Bruggencate.  Many would consider Sye rather notorious in his interactions on YouTube and debates with atheists and so on in which he employs a highly developed system of presuppositional apologetics. If you don’t know what presuppositional apologetics are, that should become clearer as you listen to the next couple of podcasts. So stay close.

Eric embraces a more classical or evidential approach to apologetics. Sye Ten Bruggencate is pre-sup – “mega-pre-sup” as we say in the business [laughter]. This was a chance for the two of them to contrast the ideas. It was hosted by the pastor of First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Houston, Evan McClanahan, who has a radio show and a podcast called Sin Boldly. Now, I have to say a word about that. Why would a pastor call his show Sin Boldly? It comes from something that Martin Luther wrote in a letter, and many people are puzzled over what Luther meant by “sin boldly.” In a nutshell, most think he was saying that we should own our sinfulness and that we need to realize we cannot earn our salvation. That’s probably what he meant.

Let’s get to part one of this podcast. I was in the studio with Dr. Craig not long ago as we discussed this debate:

Bill, we don’t talk too much about the different apologetic methods on the podcast because we are just excited if anybody is interested in philosophy and apologetics at all and learns to use them and learns to defend the faith! But there are various methods that people employ, and occasionally they kind of clash as to which one is the best. There was a debate that I recently ran into between a young man who really is more of a Biola guy and is a real follower of yours and then a presuppositional apologist who is quite famous for his very vigorous interactions on YouTube and debates and in public where he uses strictly a presuppositional method. I thought we would listen to some clips from a debate that they had (they used you as kind of a model in order to make their points) and get you to interact with the two methods – which method you think is best – and maybe we can get a handle on what presuppositionalism is as it goes.

DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: All right.

KEVIN HARRIS: Here is Eric Hernandez first, who is an evidentialist. He lays out his case for evidentialism.

ERIC HERNANDEZ: First of all I do believe that it’s a method that’s used in the Bible. We see that Paul, whenever he’s talking with . . . well, he says I became all things to all men so when you see Paul addressing people dependent upon their beliefs he talks to them in regards to something they can relate to. He often quotes philosophers and poets. Sometimes I hear a pre-sup say that you should always verify things through Scripture but here Paul in many places doesn’t use Scripture. So Scripture itself doesn’t always use Scripture.

I want to point out a quick difference between knowing that Christianity is true and showing that Christianity is true. When I’m talking to someone we’re talking about a belief, not about how they feel about it or whether or not they want God to exist. We’re talking about the validity of a claim. So we want to show that Christianity is true. When we do this we’re basically giving arguments and reasons because, again, we’re dealing with someone’s truth claim, if you will. What we want to do is we want to give valid arguments and evidences. In 2 Corinthians, when someone brings up accusations or anything like that against the knowledge of God, we are to destroy them. The Bible says in Peter that we’re supposed to give a logical defense of what we believe, and of course the greatest commandment tells us to love God with all our minds which is our faculty and intellect of understanding. So when we’re engaging with unbelievers we’re called to address the questions that they have, and not all of these questions could be answered perhaps with using the Bible. Now that’s not to say that I don’t employ principles of the Bible. As I said on the last show, the beautiful thing about truth is that you don’t need to quote a verse verbatim or quote the chapter and reference in order to claim that something’s true. Truth existed before the Bible existed, so truth is essentially what we’re going after – does God exist? Is there a soul? What is consciousness? Is there life after death? Questions like that.

So when we address [or] talk to an unbeliever, even a Christian . . . classical apologetics is not just for engaging unbelievers. Sometimes people introduce me as a guy who debates atheists, and I kind of cringe at that because that’s not what I set out to do. First and foremost the greatest commandment tells us, like I said, to love God with your mind. When I approach any topic I want to glorify God in what I do. Whether I’m lifting up my hands to worship or I’m lifting up a book to read to grow in knowledge of God they are both affirmations of glorifying God and loving God. When we’re talking, again whether it’s an unbeliever (even a Christian – Sye and I are both Christians) we want to be accurate in what we’re saying. We want to glorify God. In the beginning was the Logos, so everything that God does is going to be logical, it’s going to be sound, it’s going to be valid. So I would say it follows then that if you have a belief that is illogical or invalid or not sound then it cannot be from God. All truth comes from God so if someone is being illogical they are not glorifying God.

We should be very careful in everything that we do including our apologetics. That takes rigorous thinking. That takes analytical philosophy. That takes theology. That takes Scripture. We take a holistic approach and say that we want to use every arsenal that we can to glorify God, to bring people to Christ, to do our best to be representatives of an infinite God. Though we are finite minds, we want to reflect his glory. We want to reflect his image. We want to do the best we can to the best of our abilities to continually grow, to continually help each other, as I said even with Christians. There’s a verse where you see someone says, Lord, I believe but help me in my unbelief. So we can grow in degrees of knowledge. We can be more confident or less confident in something. What I find useful about apologetics that there’s times where I have emotional doubt but I can always go back to what Scripture says or what I know to be true because I shouldn’t always go by my emotions. If something’s true, my emotions or how I feel about it becomes completely irrelevant to whether or not I know something to be true. If I know something to be true, even in times of doubt, in struggle, in similar areas I know that God is faithful, I know who he is (he’s the maximally greatest conceivable being that could possibly exist), and all these attributes that I’ve learned about God I can implement into my philosophy, my theology, and my Christian walk.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. So that is his case. That sounds like Biola!

DR. CRAIG:Yes, I resonated very much with what he said. The only thing I would have to add is, with regard to this distinction between knowing my faith to be true and showing it to be true, he discussed showing our faith to be true by the use of argument and evidence. This is the task of apologetics. He left behind knowing our faith to be true. I would simply want to add to that that the way in which we know our faith to be true is primarily through the witness of the Holy Spirit. We are not primarily dependent upon arguments and evidence for knowing Christianity to be true. Rather, God bears immediate witness to us by his own authority that our Christian faith is true. Arguments and evidence are like a second line of defense that will come alongside and say,Yes, indeed, it is true, and there are good reasons to believe this. But apart from that addendum, I think that everything he said was quite correct.

KEVIN HARRIS: As I’ve said on this podcast, I can really resonate with sometimes you are in such an emotional state that you have to fall back on what you know is true. When I lost my son in a motorcycle accident – when I lost Tanner – I was in an emotional state where I had to fall back on the truth of God’s Word and the truth of the claims of Christ because the feelings were not there.

DR. CRAIG:That is not something that would separate Hernandez from the presuppositionalist. Both sides would agree with that.

KEVIN HARRIS: I would hope. Here is Sye Ten Bruggencate . He lays out presuppositional apologetic method:

SYE TEN BRUGGENCATE: First of all, because it’s a Reformed theology (a Reformed apologetic), I can’t bring anyone into the fold! I want the listeners to know (and of course both of you to know) that I used to be an evidentialist. What I, by the grace of God, was shown is that I wasn’t even representing the God that I believe in. Somebody would say that they don’t believe in God, and I would present them with evidences and I would present them with arguments to try and convince them that God exists. Scripture says in Romans chapter 1 that everyone knows that God exists and are without excuse for basically the rejection of him. By the grace of God I was shown a presuppositional methodology which I think you know is just really starting with the truth of Scripture. Jesus said, I will give you words and wisdom that your adversaries will not be able to resist or contradict. And what I find is that too many people are so deep into the science and the mathematics of it to try and refute the unbeliever when the average person is supposed to be able to defend their faith. What I found is that if you defend your faith wrong you have to be brilliant. One of the things after watching, for instance, a William Lane Craig debate – the reaction that most Christians give is, I could never do that. He is so brilliant. They listen to one of my debates and said, Oh, I can do that. He’s an idiot. The thing is we’re all supposed to be able to defend our faith but as far as the presuppositional method goes I say this is how I try to explain the difference basically between presuppositionalism and evidentialism.

DR. CRAIG:Let’s interject at this point because he said a number of things that I think are really odd. Notice that he first associated Reformed theology with this presuppositional approach. Historically, that is not the case. The original Reformed theologians in France were strong defenders of apologetics. Indeed, they thought that the way in which the Holy Spirit would commend the truth to unbelievers was through the intellect. So early Reformed theologians like Philippe de Mornay, a French apologist, had a strong emphasis upon reason as the tool the Holy Spirit would use to bring people to himself. So when Ten Bruggencate says,I can’t bring anyone into the fold, every Christian, every Arminian or non-Reformed person, would agree with that. Of course you can’t. Conversion is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit. But the point is that the Holy Spirit uses means to bring people to himself – preaching is one of the means but so is argumentation and evidence. These are red herrings that really say nothing in favor of this presuppositional approach.

Neither does the fact that presuppositionalism doesn’t require you to be brilliant. This is really an odd reason to be a presuppositionalist – because you can be stupid and be a presuppositionalist. That is not to say that therefore this is the correct apologetic method to use. In these debates that I participated in, the goal is not to show one’s brilliance or erudition. It is to show that the objections brought by the unbeliever against the Christian faith are unsound and that there are good reasons to believe in the Christian faith. It doesn’t glorify God in the response to objections to just quote the Bible and say, Well, I don’t need to have an answer to your objections. There is no virtue in being ignorant. I don’t think that that is a legitimate commendation of the presuppositional approach either.

My theology professor, Clark Pinnock, gave us this advice. He said, We should know our subject profoundly and share it simply. Certainly our goal in sharing arguments and evidence is not to show our own brilliance. It is to commend the truth of the Gospel, and we do it as simply as we can. But when the unbeliever needs to go deeper then we are prepared. We’ve got the resources to go deeper as necessary.

KEVIN HARRIS: Can you comment on this contention I hear quite a lot that everyone believes in God according to Romans 1. Atheists will fight you tooth and nail on that.

DR. CRAIG:What Paul says there is that everyone knows that God exists but that they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. I believe that. I think that is what Scripture teaches. Interestingly enough, though, how does Paul say that they know that God exists? It is through the evidence that God has left in nature. How is this presuppositional? It is not on the basis of Scripture.

KEVIN HARRIS: If you want to fan the flames of their knowledge of God that somehow have been suppressed, you want to point them back to what God has shown.

DR. CRAIG:One might conclude that, mightn’t one? Think in the book of Acts when Paul and Barnabas arrive in Lystra. They do a miracle, and the people think that the pagan gods have come down to Earth. The priest of the temple of Zeus comes out and wants to offer sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul as gods. They say,No, no! We are humans like yourself. The God who made the heavens and the Earth has not left himself without witness, namely he is giving you fruitful seasons and times and so forth. So they thought that the evidence of the true God is what Paul says in Romans 1. He has revealed himself in nature. This provides evidence of who the true God really is.

KEVIN HARRIS: Jesus said, I will give you words and they will not be able to answer you. I’ve often wondered, when I look at that, scholarship generally says that he is talking to his immediate disciples there as to what they would go through. It might be a bit of an extrapolation to say that Jesus will give you the words against any enemy and you will confound them.

DR. CRAIG:He is certainly not talking about apologetic method. Aren’t these the words that Jesus gave in the context of what to do under persecution?

KEVIN HARRIS: Yes.

DR. CRAIG:When you are hauled before court or the council, don’t give any thought as to what you are going to say because the Holy Spirit will tell you what to say. He is talking about people who were dragged in front of Roman courts and told,Either you sacrifice incense to the Emperor or you will be killed or sacrificed to the gods or you will be tortuously executed. He said don’t worry in these kinds of situations; God will give you the strength to make a good confession.

KEVIN HARRIS: This gets better.

SYE TEN BRUGGENCATE: I say let’s take a piece of evidence, a fossil for instance. You put it between a Christian and a non-Christian. Now the Christian will look at that fossil and say, Wow! Noah’s Flood. Look, that’s clear indication for Noah’s Flood in this fossil. The unbeliever looks at that very same fossil and says millions of years. Exactly the same evidence. You’ve got PhDs on both sides. Exactly the same evidence, but they come to vastly different conclusions. Now, why is that the case? Is it because of the evidence? No, it’s not. It’s because the beliefs they take to the evidence, and they will interpret anything in that evidence according to the beliefs they take to the evidence. Christians do that. Unbelievers do that. If we see something that contradicts what the Bible tells us in evidence, we have a rescuing device. We say, Well, we don’t understand this but this must be the case because God says. If an unbeliever sees something that contradicts them like dinosaur bone soft tissue then they have a rescuing device for that – they say, I don’t know how that . . . . We have rescuing devices.

But the problem is that if you examine the evidences then you become judge of the evidence. That’s the one thing that I say to people. Where do you hear evidence most often out in the secular world or out in the world? You hear it in the court of law. So if somebody comes up to you and says, I don’t believe in God, first of all they’re blaspheming God because God says they do believe in him and we’re rejecting what God’s Word says. Most people would just ignore that and say, Well, let me give you some evidence. But evidence is given to the judge and to the jury to try and acquit the accused. That’s what the crown attorney – I’m in Canada so I guess it would be the prosecuting attorney – is trying to do. Or the defense attorney is trying to get his client off. So in this courtroom we are elevating the unbeliever into the judge’s chair. And who occupies the criminal’s box? The Lord of Glory. And we present evidences to the judge and jury to try and acquit God. Now the thing is, we can do that. God has given us wonderful evidence as far as existence, but here’s the problem. Even if you win that argument, the unbeliever is still the judge.

DR. CRAIG:I think we should interrupt at this point. I think that he is employing a prejudicial analogy here. There is no reason to think that we are talking about a criminal case in which God is the accused and the unbeliever is the judge to whom evidence is being given. Why not think of this in terms of another analogy? For example, the analogy where a person has a fatal disease and we have evidence of a cure that can help him to be cured of this fatal disease and in order to convince him to take the medicine we give him evidence of the clinical trials and medical studies that have been done that show that this is really an effective cure. We plead with him to then take the medicine and be cured. Why not use that analogy instead of this very prejudicial analogy of the criminal case?

To extend my analogy, the evidentialist would say, Here are some medical studies to convince you that the cure works. Whereas the presuppositionalist just says, It works. Take my word for it! I have authority that says this cure works, but I will give you no evidence whatsoever to try to convince you! Which is the more loving thing to do?

SYE TEN BRUGGENCATE: . . . and you’re still a judge. I think that’s an issue. That’s why it says in 1 John 2 verse 9 (I think in 19) that those who left us were never among us. Because if you leave the Christian fold and you ask an unbeliever, Why did you leave Christianity? Well, This such and such evidence showed me that Christianity was not true. I say as a Christian if there’s some evidence that is counter to my Christianity – to my view – what do I do? I lean not on my own understanding and in all my ways I acknowledge him and he will make my paths straight. I rest on the authority of God’s Word.

DR. CRAIG:Let’s interrupt there.Again, remember the distinction Hernandez drew between knowing and showing our faith to be true. He is talking here now about what do you do when you confront some defeater of your Christian faith. Do you cease to be a Christian or do you say, No, I know this to be true and I’ll look for an answer? But it doesn’t mean that your Christian faith is thrown up for grabs. That is addressing knowing your faith to be true. But in terms of showing it to be true, unless you refute the objections and the evidence brought against it, then you have not successfully made a good case for the truth of what you know to be true.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK, we’ll pick it up right there next time in part two of Reasonable Faith With Dr. William Lane Craig.

(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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President Trump issued an executive order on religious liberty. But does it go far enough?

KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this much divisiveness in politics and around a presidential election. Donald Trump has been in office five or six months at the recording of this podcast.

DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: It really is incredibly divisive, isn’t it? Particularly alarming is the vitriol and the violence on the left. We normally associate the political left with tolerance and openness, and yet it has shown itself to be just as bigoted and closed-minded and even resorting, as I say, to violence and shutting down free speech in order to oppose Trump’s initiatives. It really is very alarming.

KEVIN HARRIS: One of the promises that Donald Trump made to his supporters was that he wanted to protect religious liberty and free speech. This executive order that he just enacted doesn’t quite get there according to Christianity Today and some other commentators. It says it gives place to a lot of things that conservatives and evangelicals in particular wanted to see happen in the country but did not cover all of them. Is that the impression you get?President Trump's Religious Liberty Order

DR. CRAIG: Yes. I think it is tremendously ironic that someone as narcissistic and materialistic and unspiritual as Donald Trump should emerge as a champion of religious liberty in this country. Yet he does seem to be taking steps in that direction. He is at least promising to address these issues of religious liberty. I do think that these are the most important issues that will be coming up before the Supreme Court in the coming years – issues concerning the degree to which one can be exempted from federal laws or regulations because of matters of religious conscience. This has become extremely important, for example, in federal mandates to provide health care that would include “women’s reproductive services,” aka abortion and contraception. Many Christian organizations as well as other religious organizations (this would affect Muslims as well) cannot in good conscience agree to provide these sorts of services and therefore want to be exempted on the basis of religious liberty considerations from these regulations. The claim is that to require them to violate their religious conscience would be an example of the state imposing religious beliefs upon them. It would violate the free exercise clause of the Constitution.

Another area where this comes up is the Supreme Court’s now redefining marriage so that marriage is no longer a heterosexual union but two men can marry each other or two women can marry each other. This might force Christian organizations to recognize such unions even though they would have religious objections to them. Or, in the case of LGBT persons, not to discriminate against them in hiring so that your church or your religious organization would have to hire a practicing homosexual even though that would violate the standards of conduct that your religious organization adheres to. These religious liberty issues are enormous and of great significance. These will be coming before the Court in coming years which is why Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Court is so important to preserve a constitutionalist perspective that Antonin Scalia could be counted on to articulate. The next appointments to the Supreme Court will be battles-royale because that would then begin to shift the balance on the Court whereas Gorsuch’s appointment didn’t really shift anything.

All of this is to say that this is an important issue and that Trump wants to, and claims to, be a champion of religious liberty for which Christians can be very grateful.

Unfortunately, this order that he issued really disappoints in that respect. It doesn’t say anything about providing exemptions for religious groups who are opposed, for example, to practicing homosexuals on their staff or to provisions of health care that would require employers to provide abortifacients for female employees. The only thing this does is to extend political speech protections for pastors and religious organizations so that they can talk about political issues, for example from the pulpit. Well, this is really kind of a non-issue. As I understand it, black churches have been doing this for years. They have political candidates come and speak from their pulpits. Pastors in black churches regularly address political issues and political candidates. The IRS doesn’t chase them down and try to hunt them down and remove their tax exemptions. So this order by Trump, though it is a step in the right direction, I don’t think really significantly impacts the concerns that evangelicals and Muslims as well would have.

KEVIN HARRIS: That is right. It is a non-issue for that reason – that only 14% of evangelical pastors and 9% of mainline pastors approve of any kind of pulpit endorsements. It is very small. Evangelicals themselves – only 29% – in fact most say “don’t do it.”

DR. CRAIG: Right, they are not interested in hearing politics preached from the pulpits.

KEVIN HARRIS: So this doesn’t do anything as far as that. Before we continue, let me just say in a way you have been put into this position to comment on this by our listeners. They want to hear what you have to say about it even though our emphasis is on your work, apologetics, philosophy, and we talk about science and theology and things. The apologetics bloggers – the philosophy and apologetics social media – is just lit up with social issues right now. It is just unavoidable. This is why we are commenting.

DR. CRAIG: I think the reason is that these issues are not merely social or political. If they were merely political I would avoid talking about them. But I see these as ethical issues which must be addressed by the church. Issues of religious liberty are important constitutional and ethical questions. We must not sit idly by while our constitutional rights to freedom of religion are eroded by a big brother government that would impose upon religious organizations and churches stances to which they object on religious grounds.

KEVIN HARRIS: The President said, “I am signing today an executive order to defend the freedom of religion and speech in America. The freedoms that we wanted. The freedoms that you fought for so long.” He said that at the Rose Garden ceremony. “The federal government will never ever penalize a person for their protected religious beliefs.”

DR. CRAIG: That is a very sweeping statement which is welcome. But unfortunately the executive order itself, as I understand it, didn’t specifically mention those sorts of issues but simply restricted itself to issues of free speech or political speech. This would be very relevant in Canada where the speech police are so oppressive that people can be prosecuted as uttering hate speech merely for enunciating the view that, for example, homosexual activity is immoral, which is what the Bible teaches. To engage in homosexual relationships, homosexual activity, is immoral just as adultery is immoral or premarital sexual activity is immoral. That is unacceptable in Canada because the politically correct speech police deem that to be hate speech.So these protections that are enunciated here are important in preventing us perhaps from sliding further in the direction that Canada has gone but they don’t address the really burning issues that I think the church faces and that will come before the courts in future years.

KEVIN HARRIS: Yes. And the indication was that the executive order would make allowances for religious conscience in regards to the LGBT issues. Yet that did not make it into this executive order. One wonders why. Why is that left out?

DR. CRAIG: I am not surprised by this because I remember seeing speeches given by Donald Trump when he was on the stump as a candidate. I got the very distinct impression that for him lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, transgender activity is not really immoral. He really doesn’t see anything wrong with it. He sees this as just a personal lifestyle choice and does not share the biblical perspective that this is something proscribed by God and therefore morally wrong. I have a feeling – and it is just a hunch – that he doesn’t have any ethical problems with this kind of behavior. So I am not really all that surprised to see that these protections are missing from this executive order.

KEVIN HARRIS: One of the reasons I think that this needed to be in there regarding LGBT was not to discriminate against our LGBT friends but because LGBT activists are pushing so hard radically into the very areas of ministries and churches in order to take advantage of the Supreme Court ruling.

DR. CRAIG: We’ve seen that, for example, on college campuses where local chapters of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship are being told by the universities that they must allow, for example, practicing homosexuals to serve as officers in the InterVarsity chapters even though this violates InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s standard of conduct. InterVarsity has taken a strong stand on its support for biblical ethics. It has taken tremendous heat and pressure because of this. This sort of concern can be very widely extended. I know a friend from Talbot where I work who had a wonderful cake-making business. She made the most gorgeous cakes. They were artistic creations, not just something to eat. She would do this for weddings and so forth. She has now closed that business because she could not in good conscience make wedding cakes for a homosexual wedding. Yet she knew that if her business continued inevitably, sooner or later, she would be called upon to do such a thing, she would decline, and she could be dragged into court because of it. So this Christian entrepreneur has in effect been put out of business precisely because of these sorts of rulings or the imposition of values that are contrary to her own religious conscience.

KEVIN HARRIS: Many are saying that this is a step in the right direction.

DR. CRAIG: Yes.

KEVIN HARRIS: But it falls short. More needs to be done. Another thing that has been pointed out is that anything done by executive order can be undone by executive order by a future president. Threats to religious freedom in American need to be addressed through legislative action that protects religious liberty for all Americans. There are some bills out there that are kind of heading in that direction. The Free Speech Fairness Act. We are going to have to come to that because free speech is under fire right now, especially on college campuses. We’ll do a future podcast on that about how free speech is being shut down violently by those who oppose you. Not by debate. Not by dialogue. Not by winning an argument or saying, Here is why we don’t agree. It is, You cannot speak. It is one of the scariest things on college campuses.

DR. CRAIG: I agree. It is shocking and deeply troubling. As you say though, at least this is a step in the right direction.It is a reversal of the policies under the previous administration. Let’s hope that Christians will continue to exert pressure on the executive so that we see additional steps to protect religious liberty.

(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Does Dr. Craig Have an Orthodox Christology?

Dr. Craig clears up rumors concerning his views on the doctrine of Christ.

KEVIN HARRIS: Does William Lane Craig have an orthodox Christology? Bill, since you are sitting right here in front of us, I guess we can ask you that. I got an article sent to me from Richard Bushey. He’s got a website called ThereforeGodExists.com where he defends you against rumors. He actually begins this article by saying,

Gossip is a feature of the world from which Christians are called to abstain. For we cannot spread rumors about people, attribute statements to them, and misrepresent them, especially without knowledge and behind their back. When we do that, we are guilty not only of our own sin, but of enticing others to do it as well . . .

Apparently someone was saying somewhere online that you embrace some form of Christology. Meaning what? The incarnation . . .

DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: Right, a doctrine of the person of Christ.

KEVIN HARRIS: Have you ever heard any of these rumors attributed to you?

DR. CRAIG: Not these specific rumors, but I did have some extensive discussions with colleagues in the Theology Department at Talbot School of Theology over this issue where some of them were concerned about my espousal of this what I called a Neo-Apollinarian Christological model. But as Bushey emphasizes in his blog, “William Lane Craig provides a possible Christological model.” The word “possible” is very important. As I wrote inPhilosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview where I lay out this model, what I am offering is merely a possibility. I said we cannot be dogmatic. No one knows how to explain the mystery of the incarnation, but what we can do is offer possible models that are philosophically coherent and biblical faithful. I claim that the model I offer is such a possibility. Well, when the dean at Talbot heard that, he said, This is no problem. You are not even espousing this view. You are just offering it as a possibility to defeat objections to Christian faith. Muslims and secularists in particular denounce the incarnation as an incoherence – it is logically incoherent to say that one person can be both human and divine. By offering this model I suggest that this is not at all logically incoherent, and moreover that this is a biblically faithful portrait of Jesus as well.

KEVIN HARRIS: We can consult so much of your work on this and in some of the podcasts as well, but give us a thumbnail of Neo-Apollinarianism.

DR. CRAIG: What I suggest is:

  1. We agree with the Council of Chalcedon that in Christ we have one person with two natures – human and divine.
  2. The soul of the human nature of Christ is the second person of the Trinity, theLogos. The human nature of Christ is composed of theLogos and a human body.
  3. The divine aspects of theLogosare largely concealed in Christ’s subconsciousness so that he had a waking conscious life that would be typical of any human being and that like the mass of an iceberg submerged beneath the surface so in his divine subconsciousness there lay the fullness of divinity. The waking consciousness was typically human.

Those are the three planks of the model.

KEVIN HARRIS: That is Neo-Apollinarianism but then there is just regular, run of the mill, Apollinarianism.

DR. CRAIG: Right. Apollinarius’ original view was that Christ didn’t have a complete human nature. He had a human body but he didn’t have a human soul. He didn’t have a human nature. As a result he wasn’t really truly human. That calls into question the reality of the incarnation and also the effectiveness of Christ’s death on our behalf since he did not share our nature.

What I argue in my Neo-Apollinarian proposal is that the Logos brought to the human body just those properties which would make it a complete human nature – things like rationality, self-consciousness, freedom of the will, and so forth. Christ already possessed those in his divine nature, and it is in virtue of those that we are created in the image of God. So when he brought those properties to the animal body – the human body – it completes it and makes it a human nature. Against Apollinarius, I want to say that Christ did have a complete human nature. He was truly God and truly man. Therefore his death on our behalf as our representative before God was efficacious.

KEVIN HARRIS: He goes on to say in the article that, contrary to what you will sometimes read in rumors, “William Lane Craig is combatting Nestorianism.” What is Richard telling us here about your view?

DR. CRAIG: What he is saying here is that if Christ had a merely human soul and merely human body in addition to the divine person then to me it is very difficult to understand why there wouldn’t be two persons in Christ – one human and one divine. Think about it. What goes to constitute a human person? It is a rational soul and a body. If you have a rational soul and a humanoid body, you have a human person. That is all it takes. So if you say that Christ had a merely human soul and a human body then why wasn’t there a human person, Jesus? Yet orthodoxy denies that. Orthodoxy says there is only one person in Christ (or who is Christ), and that person is divine. There is no human person, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is a divine person with two natures. I can’t make sense of that if we say that Christ had, in addition to his divine person, a merely human soul conjoined with a human body. That seems to me to be sufficient for another person in which case you have two Sons – one the divine Son and the other a human Son.

So I am constrained to avoid Nestorianism. Here I think Apollinarius has pointed the route that we could take, namely, you say that there is a common constituent which is shared by the human nature and the divine nature. That would be the person – the soul of the human nature is the person of the second person of the Trinity. By having this common constituent, there is overlap so to speak between the divine and the human natures.

KEVIN HARRIS: Which chapter of the Bible do you think most sheds light on this? I am thinking Philippians chapter 2 where he was by very nature God and yet then it talked about setting aside his rights to deity. You covered this in Defenders class a lot. A lot of questions and a lot of people were commenting on it.

DR. CRAIG: Certainly in Philippians 2 you do have this magnificent statement of the incarnation – the full deity of Christ and yet taking on human form, the form of a servant, and then being obedient unto death. But it is not important to rely on any single biblical passage. We want to have a view that is consistent with all of the teaching of the New Testament about the person of Christ. This will include the Gospels as well which portrayed Jesus as having an ordinary human consciousness that grew from infancy, through boyhood, to manhood, and that knew the anxieties and the sorrows and the fatigue that are common to human beings. The incarnation should not be thought of as Superman disguised as Clark Kent. I think that is the view of the incarnation that many Christians tend to have: it is essentially a disguise. But a real incarnation such as you have in the New Testament would involve the baby Jesus having a consciousness like any normal infant, and the boy Jesus having a childhood consciousness, growing up and increasing in wisdom as he increased in stature.The book of Hebrews even says that he was perfected through suffering. So we need to have a doctrine of the incarnation that takes the humanity of Christ seriously.

KEVIN HARRIS: This is a prime example – it sounds like to me – of how we take crucial passages throughout the Bible, but then we have some room here where we have to apply some philosophy and some theology in order to get a full-orbed view here. Fill in some of the blanks, and so on.

DR. CRAIG: Boy, is that true! Anybody who claims that he doesn’t go beyond the Bible doesn’t have an orthodox doctrine of the Trinity or the incarnation because these doctrines are shot through with philosophy – talk of persons and natures and essences and substances and things of that sort. These doctrines are formulated in philosophical categories.

KEVIN HARRIS: There just may be some key passages that we would go to from time to time to inform us on these.

DR. CRAIG: Oh, certainly! Absolutely.

KEVIN HARRIS: As I was editing down the Defenders class, I remember thinking, “Bill, is the emphasis here on the fact that Jesus set aside his rights to deity, not his deity?” Because you cannot set aside deity, but he gave up some of his rights to deity in order to take the form of a servant.

DR. CRAIG: Yes. That’s right. I think the orthodox doctrine of the incarnation is not a matter of subtraction – taking things away from the divine nature to become incarnate. Rather it is a matter of addition – taking on in addition to the divine nature he already had a human nature with all of its essential properties. So we should think of the incarnation not as a matter of subtraction but of addition.

KEVIN HARRIS: This article really wanted to do two things. Teach an orthodox Christology and review your work on it in which he agrees, but also chastise people for not reading carefully enough and seeing a word in somebody’s article and thinking that they embrace it.

DR. CRAIG: Yes. According to this blog, he says, a lot of people have made judgments without ever having read what I’ve written about this in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview but just going on the basis of rumor and hearsay. He is certainly right to rebuke people for that.

KEVIN HARRIS: He says, “If they have publicly called Craig a heretic for this reason, I would call them to publicly repudiate their comments and repent.”

(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Hank Hanegraaff’s recent conversion to the Eastern Orthodox Church brings up questions which Dr. Craig seeks to answer.

KEVIN HARRIS: Maybe you’ve heard The Bible Answer Man broadcast? It is a radio show featuring Hank Hanegraaff. He has been hosting that show for a long time. He is the president of Christian Research Institute, a great apologetics organization. What does it mean that recently he converted to Greek Orthodoxy? Today we are going to talk about it on Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. I’m Kevin Harris. As we get started I do want to mention that we need to pray for Hank Hanegraaff. He recently revealed that we was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, a rare but treatable form of cancer that requires an aggressive chemotherapy. So keep Hank in your prayers.

The Bible Answer Man Embraces Orthodoxy

Hank Hanegraaff – The Bible Answer Man

Bill, the Bible Answer Man broadcast. You’ve been on that show a few times. From the Christian Research Institute. Affiliated stations all across the country. Hank Hanegraaff recently converted to Orthodoxy. One of the reasons we want to bring this up on the podcast – well, two reasons. One is that social media put this rumor out that he had deconverted from Christianity. We are clearing that up. Two, some of our listeners may not know anything about Eastern Orthodoxy, so perhaps we can spell some of that out. One thing that we need to be careful of is whenever we see something on social media or something on Facebook or whatever, be sure and check it out and see what is going on.
DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: Yes.

KEVIN HARRIS: A few weeks ago, “67-year-old Hank Hanegraaff and his wife entered into Orthodox Christianity . . . in Charlotte, North Carolina. The former Protestant is well known among evangelicals as the Bible Answer Man. Since 1989 . . .” If you’ve listened to that show, people call in and ask Bible questions. It is a good apologetics program. Why do you think that evangelicals may make a move to Orthodoxy? I hear about this happening from time to time.

DR. CRAIG: It does seem that these ancient ecclesiastical and more liturgical traditions do have a real appeal to many contemporary evangelicals who are dissatisfied with what they perceive to be the triviality and emptiness and superficiality of evangelical worship services. That certainly is understandable. When you look at contemporary worship it does seem very superficial many times. I can understand why someone would have a yearning for something more, something deeper. I, myself, don’t feel the tug toward these more liturgical expressions of worship the way many do. But there are quite a number of people who have converted to Roman Catholicism from evangelicalism. I think, for example, of Eleonore Stump or Rob Koons – very prominent Christian philosophers who were once Protestants and they’ve followed someone like a Peter Kreeft in leaving Protestant evangelicalism and becoming Roman Catholic. On the other hand, Orthodoxy provides an alternative for those who want to belong to an ancient ecclesiastical tradition but not in submission to the Bishop of Rome – the Pope. These Orthodox churches preserve the ancient patriarchal structure of the church, which included the Bishop of Rome but also bishops in Alexandria and Jerusalem and Antioch and Constantinople. These Orthodox churches would not agree with the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, or the Roman pontiff that Roman Catholics hold to. So this gives them an opportunity to have a more ancient, ecclesiastical, and liturgical tradition that isn’t Roman Catholic.

One should also mention Coptic Christianity as well in Egypt, which is among the most ancient traditions of Christianity. Eastern Orthodoxy separated officially from Roman Catholicism in 1054. That was when the rift between the East and the Latin-speaking West was finally, decisively accomplished. Five hundred years later, of course, came the Protestant Reformation which we Protestants are commemorating this year – the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. But earlier than that you had Orthodoxy separating off from Roman Catholicism. And even earlier than that, within the first five centuries, you had the Coptic Church in Egypt separating off from the Roman Catholic tradition.

So Orthodoxy has a certain appeal to persons who enjoy this liturgical style of worship and also (we might talk more about this) the more mystical tradition that Orthodoxy affords.

KEVIN HARRIS: Do we as evangelicals and Protestants often lose maybe a sense of mystery or some of the liturgical benefits? Be a little too casual?

DR. CRAIG: I think that is undeniable. Yes, very casual. Some worship services are just scandalous. There was a Roman Catholic young woman who used to come to Defenders class and she characterized the worship services here as “a concert followed by a lecture.” She missed the celebration of the Eucharist and the other elements of the liturgy. So I think that that is definitely true that in many cases we have lost a deep sense of reverence and awe that can go with meaningful Christian worship. But I, at least, don’t find that to be had in more liturgical forms of worship. There is always Anglicanism that would still provide a Reformation alternative to these other Christian confessions.

I think what is important to emphasize is our ministry, Reasonable Faith, is a ministry in defense of what C. S. Lewis called “mere Christianity” which is the Christian essentials that belonged to all of these great faith traditions whether Coptic, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant. Therefore I am so pleased when I travel to meet people from, for example, the Coptic Church or from Orthodox churches who will approach me after the talk saying how much they have benefited in their local congregation from Reasonable Faith materials in the defense of the Christian faith. We have folks who are in all of these different traditions and are benefiting from the kinds of materials that we produce.

KEVIN HARRIS: Absolutely. Christianity Today had an article on this. They quoted Hank Hanegraaff saying,

“People are posting this notion that somehow or other I’ve walked away from the faith and am no longer a Christian,” Hanegraaff said on his Tuesday broadcast. “Look, my views have been codified in 20 books, and my views have not changed.”

DR. CRAIG: That is very significant. He says his views have not changed. He says that there isn’t anything different that he believes intellectually than what he believed before. Now, that puzzles me a bit because I think there are doctrinal differences between Orthodoxy and Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. For example, the Pope – how you view him. How you view the patriarchate. But he says at least that this doesn’t represent any sort of an intellectual change or doctrinal change on his part.

KEVIN HARRIS: It says,

Hanegraaff and his wife Kathy have been attending the Orthodox church for more than two years, he said on his Monday broadcast.

His journey to Orthodoxy began with a trip to China, when “I saw Chinese Christians who were deeply in love with the Lord, and I learned that while they may not have had as much intellectual acumen or knowledge as I did, they had life,” he said.

On the flight back, Hanegraaff wondered if he was even a Christian. “I was comparing my ability to communicate truth with their deep and abiding love for the Lord Jesus Christ.”

DR. CRAIG: Can you imagine that? That must have shaken him very deeply if this man of all people wondered if he was even a Christian. So he must have seen something in these Chinese house churches that shook him very deeply and made him wonder about his own Christian experience, which had apparently become sterile and intellectual rather than vibrant and living.

KEVIN HARRIS: We all go through seasons of our life where we need more of something than another, or we’ve been doing something the same way for such a long time that maybe we need a little shift or a change.

DR. CRAIG: Here is what he says in this interview that you quoted.

“I have been typically more skewed toward truth and, quite frankly, Kathy more skewed towards life,” he said on air. “But today we are on precisely the same page in life and in truth, and we’re loving it. Daily we thank God that he has saved us by grace alone through an active faith in our dear Lord Jesus Christ.”

So there was something about worship in this Orthodox Church that seemed to pour fresh water upon the dry and arid ground of Hank Hanegraaff’s soul. It had become intellectualized and not experiential. He has apparently experienced a sort of revitalization of his Christian life through worship in this Orthodox community.

It is interesting because one of the things that characterizes Eastern Orthodoxy is its more mystical approach to Christianity. In Roman Catholicism you have very carefully delineated doctrinal statements and catechesis. In certain Protestant denominations, too, doctrinal development is very fine. But in Orthodoxy, one’s connection with God is more mystical and arational. For that reason there is greater use of icons, for example, in the Eastern Orthodox Church where as Protestants have shunned the use of images and Catholics would not advocate the use of icons either.

KEVIN HARRIS: Icons?

DR. CRAIG: Icons are these highly stylized depictions of either the Trinity or the Mother and Child. You have probably seen pictures of these. They often have a kind of pale greenish flesh tone hue, very flat non-three-dimensional look to them. They are very odd sorts of paintings, if you will. For the Orthodox these are not just images or paintings. These are like portals to the supernatural. Through these icons you can gain access to the realm of the supernatural and the mystical. This is not a kind of rational access. It is a more mystical communion with God.

I wonder – it doesn’t say in these articles – has Hank Hanegraaff adopted the use of icons in his worship? Has he gone the full ten yards in Orthodoxy and is using icons? I think that would represent an intellectual change, I should think, in his beliefs since the use of icons is something that isn’t characteristic of Protestantism and certain not evangelicalism.

The emphasis on mysticism in the Orthodox tradition was brought home to me very powerfully through a conversation several years ago with a Russian Orthodox geophysicist when I was in St. Petersburg. This was shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain. There was a tremendous turning to God in Russia, which meant for them a return to the Russian Orthodox Church. This Russian Orthodox scientist explained to me how much closer he, as an Orthodox Christian, felt to evangelicals than he did to Roman Catholics because of the evangelical emphasis upon the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit. The charismatic dimension of Christianity was something that appealed to him as an Orthodox believer because it was more akin to mystical experience. He explained this to me by saying that in Roman Catholic theology the Holy Spirit is conceived to proceed from the Father and the Son. The Son is the second person of the Trinity – the Logos of God. The Spirit comes from God the Father via the Logos – via the Son – and then to us. Whereas in Orthodoxy the Spirit proceeds directly from the Father, not through the Logos. If you think of the Logos as reason and rationality you can see where that would lead to a kind of intellectualizing of the experience of the Spirit by thinking that it is mediated by the Logos, whereas for the Orthodox believer (at least this man) the experience of the Holy Spirit was not logical, not rational, because it didn’t come through the Logos. It was immediate to God the Father. That would bear out exactly what I’ve been talking about – this mystical access to God that is not rational. It is arational. This sort of experiential approach seems to have had a great appeal to Hank Hanegraaff.

KEVIN HARRIS: Christianity Today says this idea that you are talking about here is called theosis – the experience of God – “the Eastern Orthodox teaching on seeking union with God.”

DR. CRAIG: Theosis, or divinization, is the idea that we somehow come to partake of the divine nature. This can sound like pantheism, right? That somehow we become God; that we become divinized. But that is not what the Eastern Orthodox mean by that. They recognize that God has essential properties like necessity, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, and so forth, and that I never will come to partake of those properties. I will never be omniscient and holy and omnipotent and eternal and necessary. But what they mean is that I come to have this sort of mystical union with God and so partake in the divine nature as well. In that sense, that is unobjectionable. Protestant theologians often talk about our mystical union with Christ – that we are in Christ insofar as we are regenerated by his Holy Spirit and in a state of grace we are in Christ and thus have a kind of mystical union with him. But that is emphasized even more strongly in this Eastern tradition and seems to have spoken deeply to Hanegraaff’s heart.

KEVIN HARRIS: As we conclude the podcast today, one thing about Eastern Orthodoxy is that many are drawn to it for another reason and that is they want to try to get back to the first century church – to the New Testament church. They think that Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism or other things like that are the way to do that. I am going to ask you – don’t we all who belong to the church of Jesus Christ want to be a New Testament church?

DR. CRAIG: I think that is absolutely right. People who converted from evangelicalism to Orthodoxy early on like Peter Gillquist would claim that they are getting back to the New Testament church by becoming Orthodox. I think that is a bogus argument. When you read the pages of the New Testament that gives you a picture of what the New Testament church is like. That could be any local congregation in any town that is unrelated to submission to a patriarch or a bishop that would be over these various churches much less that would represent the kind of developed tradition that exists within Orthodoxy. I think we can all aspire to get back to the New Testament church in terms of its primitive beliefs.

In fact, I would say that of the churches that I’ve worshiped in the one that would probably have the most plausible claim to be like the New Testament church would be the Brethren. When we were in England, we worshiped at a Plymouth Brethren church. In these churches there was no appointed minister who would preach every Sunday. Instead there were elders. Anyone could stand up during the service and share a song or a Scripture reading or give an exhortation. It sounded very much like the kind of worship service that you have in 1 Corinthians 12 to 14 where various prophets would get up and speak and the others would weigh what is said. That sort of worship service to me probably comes closest to what was going on in the New Testament in these local communities where there were no professional clergy and there were just local Christian groups that would meet together.

But we don’t need to try to imitate the style of worship of these early churches. What we need to be sure is that we are on the same page with them doctrinally and in what we believe and in our common mission to fulfill the Great Commission and preach the Gospel to every nation, baptizing them and making disciples in the name of the Lord.

(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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