The reason I like to interact with his work is that he and I agree on so much. It’s easy for me critique him because we play by the same rules: logic and evidence.
Now, I think he’s a bit sneaky when it comes to logic and evidence, but here’s the thing: at least I can call him on it, appealing to the rules of logic and evidence that we agree on. Not so with somebody like, oh, Ray Comfort – who wouldn’t know a logic textbook if it smacked him in the face. (Say, that sounds tempting!)
The other thing I must point out is that his atheist opponents are often just as illogical as Craig. Seriously. Listen to the atheists in his debates. Especially when they talk about morality, for example.
In this post I want to celebrate what Craig and I (currently) agree about. I do this for two reasons:
1. So you can correct me if you think I’m wrong.
2. So atheists can stop wasting time by disagreeing with Craig even when he’s right, and focus on where he’s wrong.
So here’s my list of what William Lane Craig is right about:
- Christian philosophy has experienced a renaissance, and has contributed to genuine progress in philosophy. The first half of 20th century philosophy was dominated by Russell and Ayer. Religion was considered nonsense, and had almost no intellectual defense. By 1966, Time asked “Is God Dead?” The very next year, Plantinga published God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God. Since then, Swinburne, Alston, Craig, MacIntyre, and others joined Plantinga in leading a renaissance of serious Christian thought. Atheist philosopher Quentin Smith says naturalists have been resting on their laurels in the face of so many “intelligent and talented theists entering academia today.” Moreover, these philosophers have not just revived dead arguments, but actually contributed to the progress of philosophy. Plantinga basically killed the logical problem of evil, and also revised Anselm’s silly ontological argument in a form that is actually difficult to rebut. Craig’s recent defense of the Kalam argument utilizes the latest in cosmological science and the philosophy of mathematics. As Craig says, Christian philosophers once again “have a seat at the table.”
- Evolution doesn’t invalidate Christianity. Unfortunately, Craig carries some misunderstandings and misgivings about biological evolution, but we agree that evolution doesn’t invalidate Christianity any more than the germ theory of disease or the Big Bang theory of cosmic evolution. Evolution does contribute to the basic argument for naturalism, that natural explanations have always replaced supernatural ones. And it contradicts what most Jews and Christians have believed that God had revealed to them. But it need not invalidate Christianity as long as one is willing to reinterpret Christian “revelation” to fit new evidence.
- Biblical errancy doesn’t invalidate Christianity. In his podcast on Biblical inerrancy, Craig says that though he accepts the dogma of Biblical inerrancy, it would not invalidate Christianity if errors in the Bible were proven. (Which, I think they obviously have been.) Instead, it would merely show that the Bible is a flawed human attempt to understand God. I think all the flaws in the Bible go to show that Judaism and Christianity are ancient, barbaric, flawed human creations and not creations of an all-powerful, all-wise God, but errors in the Bible certainly don’t prove that God doesn’t exist or that Christianity is false.
- The case for the Resurrection doesn’t depend on inerrancy or even the general reliability of the gospels. The case for the Resurrection of Jesus is stronger than any case that could be made for other ancient miracle claims (that I know of). The number and quality of the sources is much greater. And the case for the Resurrection is a historical one that can be made without appeals to Christian doctrine. The case can be made using either of two competing (and widely accepted) approaches to historical method: (1) the Bayesian path (which Craig rejects, but with which others have argued persuasively) and (2) the argument to the best explanation (ala McCullagh), which is the strategy used by Craig, Licona, and others.
- Abstract objects don’t exist. Though Craig used to argue that the existence of abstract objects was evidence for God (through a weird version of conceptualism; see his debates with Tooley and Washington), he now leans towards the idea that abstract objects do not exist: nominalism. That helps him avoid a powerful argument against God, and strengthens his Kalam argument (if abstract objects don’t exist, it’s more plausible to say that actual infinities can’t exist, and therefore that the universe began to exist in the finite past).
- Atheistic politics don’t have a good track record. State atheism has been pretty awful: Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s Communist China, Communist Albania, and North Korea are the major representatives, and if anything they rivaled the bloodshed and oppression of the religious regimes of the past. In contrast, secularism has a superb track record. (But I can’t tell if Craig supports secularism or not. In many places he defends the separation of church and state, and in other places he calls secularism an “impending danger.” My hunch is that he warns of secularism before church audiences, but applauds secularism before secular audiences.)
- If atheists think certain things are truly right and wrong, they can’t just say that “Rape just is wrong, and we all know it.” Craig often argues that without God, there are no objective moral values. Atheists respond by saying that it’s just obvious some things are right and wrong, or that the good is that which minimizes harm, or something. But they never give an account of why we should minimize harm rather than, say, maximize happiness or sustain complexity or collect marbles. (Of course, Craig’s argument that moral values exist with God is just as dumb: “Moral values exist, and I think we all know it. Also, I have defined morality as being synonymous with God’s nature, so therefore moral values are grounded in God’s nature.”)
What did I miss? What else is Craig right about?
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