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.
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.
. . . 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.)
Brad Stine: If there is anything that the intolerant has learned from the cultural narrative of America, it’s simply this: You don’t have to have the facts. All you have to do to win a debate is to pull out the Emotional Card.
Which brings me to my buddy, Josh Harris!
Josh Harris: Thanks, Brad. You know, you bring up a very important point. And I can take things to another level. If you truly want to win someone over to your side and agree with your point of view… especially a lady… and really connect with her on a heart-to-heart level, all you have to do is leave her a voicemail over an R&B track!
Like this (R&B track begins):
Oh yeah, Georgiana… I saw you at the Humane Society, girl.
You were looking A-B-C-D-lightful!
Did we take a science class together?
Because I know we had chemistry.
Let’s do this…
Girl, I saw you at the kennel, didn’t know what to do.
You were looking so fly the moment that I saw you.
We didn’t get to talking, but I ain’t worried.
Cuz a poker player never shows his hand too early.
I didn’t make a move, but I knew you’d let me in.
I stepped back, stayed relaxed, got your number from a friend.
You’re a thief in the night who has just been caught.
Like a cardiac arrest, cuz you stole my heart.
Be my sun, my moon, my end, my beginning
Girl, if you weren’t in my world, the earth would stop spinning.
Your heart is melting in the palm of my hand.
You’re dying to know, “Who’s this mystery man?!”
I’m the last guy that you’ll ever cherish.
Here’s a little secret, my name’s…
Phone Service Operator: You have reached the maximum time permitted for recording your message. Your message has been sent. Goodbye.
Josh: NOOOO!! I was so close!
Dr. Craig responds to a critique by the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry regarding Molinism.
KEVIN HARRIS: Is Molinism biblical? If you are still not sure what Molinism is, we have lots of resources at ReasonableFaith.org – some writings, some podcasts. Welcome to Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. I’m Kevin Harris.
My dear friend Matt Slick of CARM (Christian Apologetics Research Ministry) doesn’t think that Molinism is biblical. Matt is more of the Calvinist persuasion. We are going to look at an article today on CARM that Matt wrote in response to Molinism. Again, Matt is a good friend of mine. I’ve been in his home; stayed with his family. He’s had me speak at a couple of conferences. We’ve been friends for years. I want to tell you a quick story. During the mid-90s when the Internet was growing and still kind of new Matt had the Christian Apologetics Research Ministry (CARM) website. There were some titanic battles on the CARM boards on every topic imaginable. There were some popular atheist websites as well – the Internet Infidels. We would go over there to their boards. They would come over to CARM. We would go at it tooth and nail sometimes. I learned a lot about apologetics and philosophy and every topic under the sun, and also forged some lifelong friendships, not only among Christian apologists and philosophers but among atheists and agnostics. Those friendships were forged and are still around today. Some of my good friends I met online during those apologetics battles back in the mid-90s. A few years ago Matt was able to go full-time with CARM and CARM.org is still there. Internet Infidels are still there. But now there are thousands of websites on both sides of the issues. I just have to tell you, Dr. Craig, I look back on those days with a lot of affection.
DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: I think this is a great illustration of how Calvinists and Arminians and Molinists can all work together in a common cause. We can agree to disagree about certain non-essential issues and yet still support and applaud each other’s efforts to defend the faith.
KEVIN HARRIS: I was up all night typing these written debates. My wife nearly left me; my dog ran away. He begins an article at CARM.org:
According to Molinism, Middle Knowledge is the knowledge that God has about any free will choice any person might make at any time, in any circumstance.
DR. CRAIG: That’s not quite right. It is very important, as he himself recognizes, that the knowledge that God has about how people would freely choose in different circumstances be logically prior to his decree to create a world. Up until the modern era all theologians believed that God had knowledge of what people would do in different circumstances including Matt Slick. The question is when does he know it, so to speak? Does he know it logically prior to his decree to create a world, or does he know it only logically posterior to his decree? Does he himself decree how persons will act in any circumstance he places them in? Is there a kind of divine determinism that Christians have to affirm? Or are God’s choices of which world to actualize guided by his logically prior knowledge of how people would choose in different circumstances? The alternative that God knows them logically prior to his decree would be a Molinist position. The position that God knows them only logically posterior to his decree would be a Thomist or a Calvinist position.
KEVIN HARRIS: OK. He says,
This means that God’s knowledge about people is contingent on human free will choices in a libertarian sense. This is called middle knowledge because it is in between what is called God’s natural knowledge and free knowledge. Natural knowledge is where God knows all things that are possible and logically necessary. Free knowledge is the knowledge that God naturally has due to his omnipresence so that he exhaustively knows all things that exist.
DR. CRAIG: Again, that’s not quite right. God’s free knowledge is the knowledge that he has of the actual world whether past, present, or future logically posterior to his decree to create a certain world. It is not due to his omnipresence. I find it odd that he says that. It is simply the result of his decree to create a certain world and his knowing how different persons would freely choose in various circumstances. So free knowledge just sort of falls out as a consequence of middle knowledge and the divine decree.
KEVIN HARRIS: He continues on the second page:
Libertarian free will is the freedom that an unbeliever has to make uncoerced, self-generating choices that are not completely incapacitated by his fallen nature. These choices, in particular, the act of receiving Christ, are made possible by God’s prevenient grace, which when applied to an unbeliever’s life, will result in the unbeliever’s ability to choose to receive Christ or not. This foreseen knowledge of choice made by the unbeliever, which is possessed by God eternally, is called God’s Middle Knowledge. Therefore, God’s middle knowledge depends upon what he foresees people will choose to do under different circumstances . . .
DR. CRAIG: Again, that’s not quite right. I don’t want to be pedantic but it is important that we get this correct or it will result in confusion. It is not correct to say that God’s middle knowledge depends on what he foresees people will do. That would be foreknowledge – simple foreknowledge. Middle knowledge is God’s knowledge of what people would do freely in any set of circumstances, and those people may never exist. God may decide not to create a world in which those people are real. So middle knowledge is not based in any way upon foreseeing what people will do. That’s foreknowledge, not middle knowledge.
The Molinist certainly does want to affirm libertarian free will in the sense that the unbeliever can make these uncoerced self-generating choices, but that doesn’t mean that the Molinist thinks that this person is not incapacitated by sin. He could well think that the person is incapacitated by sin but there is a kind of healing, prevenient grace given by the Holy Spirit that can help to remedy the natural man’s resistance to spiritual things and bring him to a point where he can either acquiesce in that drawing of the Holy Spirit to God or he can further resist it.
KEVIN HARRIS: He goes into the next section: “Is middle knowledge biblical?”
DR. CRAIG: And here he expresses his reservations about it. In this section it is important to characterize correctly my position. He quotes me as saying that the content of God’s middle knowledge is not essential to God. That is to say, God could have had different middle knowledge than what he does have. Since creatures could choose differently than they would, God could have different middle knowledge in terms of its content. But then he characterizes this by saying that, Dr Craig says that God’s middle knowledge is not essential to God. That is apt to engender misunderstanding. I do think that it is essential to God to have middle knowledge, but it is the content of the middle knowledge, which is not essential to God. I’m going to say later that I think even Matt is committed to saying that not all of the content of God’s knowledge is essential to God. The reason he thinks that this is troubling that the content of God’s middle knowledge is not essential to God is he says,
So, now we have things happening in the universe outside of God’s sovereign control . . . how is anything that occurs in a universe that God created and which all things work after the counsel of his will, be outside of his control.
I think that objection is misplaced because it is precisely middle knowledge that gives God sovereign control of a world of free creatures. For the Calvinist, God can only providentially control a world in which there is no libertarian free will. He can only control a world by determining unilaterally everything that happens. The Molinist, I think, has a more exalted view of God’s sovereignty and providence because the Molinist holds that God can control a world of free creatures by knowing how they would freely choose in various circumstances and then deciding to create certain people and put them in those circumstances so that he can actualize that situation without having to unilaterally determine it himself. So I would categorically reject that there are things happening in the universe that are outside God’s sovereign control. On the contrary, it’s middle knowledge that gives him that sovereign control.
KEVIN HARRIS: Matt seems to be a little disturbed about your quote in a long article that was online:
“The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him [God] are outside His control. He has to play with the hand He has been dealt.” (William Lane Craig, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-and-the-soteriological-problem-of-evil-once-more)
That image there of God having to play the hand he has been dealt. It seems that would be disturbing to people.
DR. CRAIG: The import of this metaphor of playing the hand you’ve been dealt is to say that God doesn’t determine unilaterally everything that happens, that there are truths about how people would freely choose under different situations. The image here is of a deck of cards in which different counterfactuals are on these cards, and God has a hand of the cards that are the true counterfactuals of freedom. This is contingent because different counterfactuals of freedom could have been different. Creatures could choose differently in the same circumstances. They are not unilaterally determined by God. Were they to choose differently in these different circumstances then God would be holding a different set of cards. So God now plays with the cards that he’s been dealt. But in no way is this meant to imply that there are actual entities or things outside of God that he has to deal with. This is simply an illustration of the fact that the truth value of these counterfactuals of freedom is not unilaterally determined by God, that libertarian freedom is truly possible.
KEVIN HARRIS: I knew exactly what you meant by that when I read it! [laughter]
DR. CRAIG: Oh good!
KEVIN HARRIS: But I’ve got the advantage of having a lot of conversation with you but I also read some of your work. I knew exactly – I thought it was a great illustration.
DR. CRAIG: I love it! I think it is very good to illustrate the way in which a sovereign God works with the counterfactual choices that people would make so as to bring about his purposes.
KEVIN HARRIS: The whole thing is . . . Matt is asking whether this is biblical.
DR. CRAIG: Yes.
KEVIN HARRIS: He cites four or five scriptures here that seem to mitigate against Molinism and give a little hard predestinarian view.
DR. CRAIG: Right. He quotes a number of scriptures that affirm that God accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will. The difficulty in interpreting these passages to mean that God unilaterally determines everything that happens or could happen is that the Scripture also affirms things like God is not willing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance(2 Peter 3:9). Here Peter affirms that it is God’s will that no one be lost, or in other words that everyone be saved. And yet we know that that will is not accomplished. It is these passages that teach the universal salvific will of God for all persons to be saved that persuades me that Matt is wrong in quoting these passages to say that everything that happens is God’s will. God’s will takes into account how creatures would freely choose under various circumstances, and therefore there are things that happen that are contrary to God’s will including human sin and evil, and in particular (as 2 Peter 3:9 says) the fact that some people do not come to repentance and perish eternally. This is not God’s will, Peter says, and yet it happens. For that reason I think that while everything is under God’s sovereign control, that control takes account of the fact that human free decisions are not unilaterally determined by God and that therefore they sometimes do things that God does not will.
KEVIN HARRIS: I heard a theologian quote that verse the other day about God’s not willing that any of us should perish. He said God is an aspiring universalist. God would be a universalist but God knows that sadly it’s not going to happen.
DR. CRAIG: Right. So the Calvinist needs to reinterpret these passages to say it really means that God wants all types of persons to be saved but it’s not really his will that everyone be saved otherwise everyone would be saved. I think that it is a much more plausible interpretation of these passages to take them at face value.
KEVIN HARRIS: He continues:
Therefore, God’s knowledge has areas of contingency. But this makes no sense because whatever occurs does so because God has ordained it to happen.
DR. CRAIG: I find this very puzzling. Does Matt not believe that God is free to ordain differently than he has ordained? If all knowledge is essential to God then that means God could not have ordained differently than he has, and that denies divine freedom, not human freedom. So I think Matt himself, if he thinks about it, will want to affirm God’s freedom to ordain differently. That is what sovereignty means. In that case, God could have had different knowledge than what he does, and so there are areas of contingency in divine knowledge.
KEVIN HARRIS: He says,
Furthermore, such middle knowledge, which is based on God’s perceived libertarian free will of creatures, risks violating God’s aseity. This is the teaching that God is eternally independent, noncontingent, and self-sufficient in all that he is. But, Molinism says that God’s Middle Knowledge is contingent upon God eternally knowing foreseen, human, libertarian free will choices.
DR. CRAIG: Here I don’t think there’s any violation of divine aseity (which says that God is a self-existent being) because the Molinist can be an anti-realist about possible worlds, counterfactual propositions, and any other sort of thing that you might think to violate divine aseity. On the Molinist view it is perfectly consistent to say that everything that exists is either God or created by God and dependent upon him. So the affirmation of the possibility of libertarian freedom isn’t in any way a violation of divine aseity in the sense of God’s self existence.
KEVIN HARRIS: The conclusion. He says,
Middle knowledge is not biblical because it requires that God’s knowledge is, in some sense, contingent upon the libertarian free will choices of creatures. Therefore, God’s knowledge is not absolute in all things but is contingent upon his creation. This violates God’s aseity which is his non-contingency in all things. And, libertarian free will violates Scripture by assuming that the unbeliever is capable, under the right circumstances, of freely receiving Christ. So, middle knowledge which is based on God’s contingent knowledge libertarian free will creatures is false.
DR. CRAIG: That is just a summary, and I’ve already responded to all of those points. I think Matt himself is committed to God’s having contingent knowledge because surely Matt would want to affirm that God is free to ordain differently than he has. I don’t see any problem in affirming that God doesn’t unilaterally determine everything that happens. Indeed, I think it leads to a higher view of divine sovereignty that God can sovereignly direct and control a world of free creatures rather than just a world of puppets or marionettes whose strings he pulls. So I’m persuaded that middle knowledge is actually a better reading of Scripture than unilateral determinism.
KEVIN HARRIS: I have to say in conclusion that Molinism is really growing as a view just from my own anecdotal look at things. There is tremendous excitement about this view. For a lot of people it is the insight that they’ve been looking for in their Christian faith and Christian walk. There’s a group on Facebook – they are the most enthusiastic people. There is a Molinist group on Facebook! They are downright enthusiastic.
DR. CRAIG: I’ve received email messages or Facebook messages from listeners or readers who have testified to the revolutionary effect that this doctrine has had in their Christian lives. It has revitalized them which is just wonderful. And I think it is growing in popularity. Dean Zimmerman, a fine Christian philosopher at Rutgers University and not himself a Molinist, has said that Molinism is probably the most popular view of the relationship between divine sovereignty and human choices. That doesn’t mean it is a majority view. It might be, say, 35% but every other view is 20% or 15% or less. So it is the most popular view out there, he says, among philosophers.
(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by Christian Podcast Network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
Dr. Craig comments on an article that shows the pitfalls of “identity politics” and certain aspects of sexual identity.
KEVIN HARRIS: Heaven help us! We are getting into some deep waters here. Welcome to Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. Today, we are checking out an article by a woman who mentions the Nashville Statement and recounts her story of being in a mixed-orientation marriage. She offers, as we will read in a moment, lots of caution in this article. This whole issue continues to be front and center in the culture, doesn’t it?
DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: Yes, it really is. And it does have relevance to Christian worldview. This is not just a political issue. This is a moral and theological issue.
KEVIN HARRIS: I know that a lot of people ask you to comment on things outside of your expertise because you are a Christian leader nonetheless.
DR. CRAIG: But if I might say, I typically refrain from expressing myself politically on these various issues because I don’t want evangelical Christianity or the Gospel to be thought to be in lock step with right wing conservative politics. But an issue like transgenderism or homosexual behavior is not for me a political issue. These are ethical issues that are addressed explicitly by Holy Scripture and on which the Christian therefore needs to take a stand however politically unpopular it might be.
KEVIN HARRIS: This article came to my attention. There is a minister named Matt Moore who puts out a newsletter and some writings. He is a man who has same-sex attraction and yet lives in purity and is celibate as a minister and as a single person. He writes on how we should respond to those who have same-sex attraction inside and outside the church and how we can present a Christian witness. He says we must read this article. So I said, OK, I’ll read it. It is from Monica who has the “Deliberately Domestic” blog. She was married to a man who was homosexual. They have three children together. They call it a mixed-orientation marriage. I think that is relatively rare, but apparently there are some of these. It brings up an issue of whether someone who has just an almost dominating same-sex attraction and who is a Christian – should they marry a woman (say if they are a man, someone of the opposite sex) or should they remain single? You’d have to look at each individual case I guess.
DR. CRAIG: I think so. That would be a question for a psychological counselor, certainly not for a philosopher or ethicist.
KEVIN HARRIS: I’ve heard of at least two successful marriages like this where they thought it would be the right thing to do. They loved each other as individuals even though the man continued to struggle or had to walk in God’s grace with same-sex attraction. They’ve been successful. This one wasn’t. They ended in divorce. Monica says:
I have attempted to be private about the details of my divorce and what led to it. I hope I have done right by protecting my former husband and by not airing laundry the world did not need to know. And yet, our marriage was very public in many ways. For those of you who have known me for years, you remember when we were writing publicly about Brian and I’s mixed orientation marriage. You remember seeing me post pictures at Pride Parades, having countless LGBT-friendly gatherings in my home, and may even know we were on track to writing a book on the subject. In my mind, I was trying to create a bridge between the two worlds I found myself in: the gay world filled with many people who were dear to me and the conservative Christian world I was raised in and continue to choose to align myself with.
And since all of that was very public, I’m sure many of you have wondered where I stand now. How do I look back on it all? Would I endorse the positions I held and wrote about back then? Do I agree with the ways we conducted ourselves? How do I feel about controversial events happening on a national level, with the Nashville Statement coming out this past week and LGBT issues in the news constantly? How do I feel when I see the kinds of views my ex-husband is posting publicly and everything he now stands for?
Well, I’m going to answer those questions to the best of my ability while continuing to preserve discretion where I can. I think we were wrong. Not for getting married, not for attempting to stay married, not for pursuing Christ and forsaking all others. Those things were right and I wholeheartedly believe our marriage could have survived based on that foundation. But we were wrong to embrace “being gay” as an identity. We were wrong to move away from the gospel and to move towards figuring out some new way to exist. When I look back on what we wrote, I think, “dear Monica, run to Jesus. He is ever and only the answer. There is no other way. Don’t succumb to pressure, don’t give in to what feels comfortable and more palatable. Cling to God and truth.” Brian slowly, inch by inch walked away from faithfulness to the Scripture. Our hearts can only serve one god, and he chose identity in his sexuality above all else. He eventually sacrificed everything on that altar: his relationship with God, our marriage, and our family.
When I read the Nashville statement, all I can think is “YES. Thank you.” I wish this was written twenty years ago and that I had never begun to depart from it. I obviously bear responsibility for allowing myself to be moved on a variety of topics, but I felt helpless to do otherwise. Like many, if not all of you, I had heard that because I did not personally experience these issues that I could not have a voice in the discussion. I trusted Brian. I trusted him to lead me and our family, and so I often deferred to his judgment. When he said “we don’t like what so-and-so is saying” I agreed. I didn’t bother to read for myself or figure out how things were lining up with Scripture. I planted my flag in the ground, defending him at all costs whether I fully understood why or not. That is my fault. I should not have done that. . . . Because you cannot get away with calling sin “good”, just because it feels more loving. Because I know where attempting to find a middle ground leads. I know because I watched it happen first hand in the person I loved more dearly than any other in this world. I watched this man who loved Jesus turn into someone who I do not recognize. There is no middle ground. There are only two ways to live — towards and for Christ or away and against Him. I choose the former.
OK, Bill, there is a lot to this. Apparently in their attempt to build a bridge and to be loving toward the homosexual community nevertheless they fell prey to the false teaching and false concepts that can exist. You should not identify as a “gay Christian” – it sends the wrong message.
DR. CRAIG: That does seem to be the lesson that she is drawing from this. It is an enormous mistake to attach your identity as a person with your sexual orientation. So long as her husband continued to think of his personal identity in terms of his sexual orientation he could not finally be free of that. It was just too powerful. So she seems to be advising us to think of our identity as who we are in Christ rather than as wrapped up in our sexual orientation. We can think of analogies to this, I think. For example, do I think of my personal identity in terms of being an American? Or being a caucasian man? Or being even a philosopher? Is that who I am as my personal identity? If you think of who you are in terms of your sexual orientation then you are never going to be free of that, she is suggesting. It is going to overwhelm you in the end. So it seems that she is saying that in this mixed-orientation marriage he needed to find a new identity. He needed to think of himself as a person in Christ, a sinner redeemed by the grace of God, and not to think of himself as, as you put it, a “gay Christian.” That is a fundamental mistake.
KEVIN HARRIS: It sends the wrong message. Just what you said. That is why Matt Moore doesn’t call himself a gay Christian. He says he is a Christian, and he has, for whatever reason, struggles with same-sex attraction.
DR. CRAIG: Yeah. You think of yourself as a Christian. That is the way you identify. My personal identity is in Christ. Then I have all of these hangups and sinful proclivities that I am dealing with and fighting against but they don’t touch the core of my being because my essence is that I am a Christian. A new creation as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 – if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away; all things have become new. Perhaps here there wasn’t that sense of the new creation – of a new identity. It was still clinging to the old identity. That just then proved insuperable for this fellow.
KEVIN HARRIS: She makes reference in this article – we’ll touch on it quickly – a counter-statement to the Nashville Statement. A group called Christians United put their own statement out. It is practically the opposite of everything in the Nashville Statement. We won’t go over the whole thing. Maybe it is another podcast. But something I did want to ask you about did kind of jump out to me. Whereas Christians United had this article that says that it is OK to have a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex, that God ordained that and that is OK with God. God created it. Yet when I look at the entire Christians United statement, I didn’t see anything that would indicate that they say, “Yes, it is OK for people of the same sex to engage in sexual behavior.” They wouldn’t go that far. Why not? It is almost like: We still can’t get there. Our intuitions are screaming at us! They use the word “romantic” which you can be a romantic but . . .
DR. CRAIG: That’s playing with fire. It really is playing with fire. I think that is the lesson of this blog. If you play with fire in that way it is going to ultimately incinerate you. You need to make a decisive and clean break with that former lifestyle. Not just the lifestyle but even the identity she is saying. You must not self-identify anymore in this way, otherwise it will eventually overcome you. For people to say, Be involved in romantic dating relationship or something of that sort with the same sex – that is just folly if you think that it cannot lead anywhere legitimate.
KEVIN HARRIS: I don’t want people to misunderstand her either because she said, We had gay-friendly people, homosexual people, over to our home. That is a good thing. Paul told the Corinthians if a non-believer invites you over for dinner and you want to go, go and eat whatever is put before you. It is not like you can’t have a person in your home. But she just said that the sum total of attending these Pride Parades and having these gay-friendly parties in their home led to their demise.
DR. CRAIG: Yes, because he still identified with that community though a Christian. I wonder, in a case like this (and I am just speculating here), whether or not for a person trying to make a mixed-orientation marriage work if it wouldn’t be better to sequester yourself from these kinds of relationships and ministries. Let other people reach out to those communities to try to help them and win them. But for you, you’ve got to make this mixed-orientation marriage work, and therefore you ought to perhaps sever any sorts of relationships that would be tempting or conducive to immorality. It would be, for example, like an alcoholic who’s trying to recover from alcoholism. He doesn’t go to the bars to try to minister to other alcoholics there and try to win them over. That would be silly for him to put himself in those sorts of environments and positions. He needs to sever himself from anything that might lead him to indulge in alcoholism, at least until years have gone by and he is safely delivered from that sort of proclivity and temptation. Similarly here, I just wonder if it wasn’t imprudent for them to try to continue to immerse themselves in this other community while trying to make a mixed-orientation marriage work. Different people are at different places in their lives. What might be prudent and profitable activity for one person might not be prudent and profitable for another person. Indeed, for that other person it might be destructive and dangerous to be involved in that kind of activity. Maybe the bottom line is this: if there are any of our listeners who are thinking about going into a mixed-orientation marriage, they need to do so with their eyes wide open to the dangers and pitfalls that this can involve and to try to find their identity in Christ alone.
(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 Podcst Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
Dr. Craig comments on a growing Theistic Evolutionist movement.
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.”
DR. 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.)
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?
DR. 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.
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.)
An article in the New York Times discusses “fake news” and how it relates to Evangelical Christianity
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.
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.
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.
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.
The evaluation of a vigorous debate continues between a Classical and a Presuppositional apologist.
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.
DR. 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.
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.
Recently 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.
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?
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.