Bronze-level articleWilliam Lane Craig

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Dr. WIlliam Lane Craig.
The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic.
— William Lane Craig [1]

Dr. William Lane Craig, born August 23, 1949 in Peoria, Illinois, is an American Christian apologist, philosopher, and theologian. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the evangelical protestant Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, a summa cum laude Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Birmingham (England),[2] and a Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Munich. Craig claims that religious faith must be supported by reason and logic or atheism will triumph.[1] He has admitted multiple times that he will not change his faith no matter what the evidence points to, because he has "witnessed the Holy Spirit in his heart".[3]

He has authored numerous books on subjects including cosmology, philosophy of science, theology, the Christian church, Christian apologetics, metaphysics and epistemology, and history.

He is best known for his attempted proof for the existence of God using the Kalām cosmological argument. His work is heavily dependent on the perspective of Reformed Epistemology, which, like presuppositional apologetics is criticized as circular for depending entirely on an unwarranted assumption of the existence of God.

Contents

[edit] Profession

Craig is always keen on telling you that he's a "professional philosopher", while rarely playing up his Ph.D. in Theology, so consider his 1979 Ph.D. in Philosophy: Though Craig is curiously silent about this, it was actually a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion. Craig specifically chose[4] as a supervisor John Hick who was a former Evangelical who had mellowed with age, but more importantly was a Professor of Theology at the University of Birmingham.[5] Craig himself described the object of his Ph.D. research as being to "develop a cosmological argument for God’s existence".[4] Note that the underlying premise here is that God is already presumed to exist a priori and that the philosophical argument is simply invoked to affirm God's existence. This is what the rest of us calls apologetics.

Since 1996, Craig has been a Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Since 2003, he has also been a Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College. In 2014, Craig became a Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University, which also employs Lee Strobel as "Professor of Christian Thought" thus inadvertently pwning both its own academic and employment standards and the state of said Christian thought processes in general...[6]

The Talbot School of Theology website includes this "Doctrinal Statement" (also found at Biola University's main page) that reads;

The Bible, consisting of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God, a supernaturally given revelation from God Himself, concerning Himself, His being, nature, character, will and purposes; and concerning man, his nature, need and duty and destiny. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are without error or misstatement in their moral and spiritual teaching and record of historical facts. They are without error or defect of any kind.[7]

As for Wheaton College, their "Statement of Faith and Educational Purpose" includes the following;

WE BELIEVE that God has revealed Himself and His truth in the created order, in the Scriptures, and supremely in Jesus Christ; and that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writing, so that they are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say.[8]

Houston Baptist University describe its "Mission and Values" as;

Founded under the providence of God and with the conviction that there is a need for a university in this community that will train the minds, develop the moral character and enrich the spiritual lives of all people who may come within the ambit of its influence, HOUSTON BAPTIST UNIVERSITY shall stand as a witness for Jesus Christ expressed directly through its administration, faculty and students. To assure the perpetuation of these basic concepts of its founders, it is resolved that all those who become associated with Houston Baptist University as a trustee, officer, member of the faculty or of the staff, and who perform work connected with the educational activities of the University, must believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible, both the Old Testament and New Testament, that man was directly created by God, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, as the Son of God, that He died for the sins of all men and thereafter arose from the grave, that by repentance and the acceptance of and belief in Him, by the grace of God, the individual is saved from eternal damnation and receives eternal life in the presence of God; and it is further resolved that the ultimate teachings in this University shall never be inconsistent with the above principles.[9]


All three of these statements would be an embarrassment to any legitimate academic institution. They are the very antithesis of what an academic institution should represent; namely the promotion of free discovery, understanding and learning.

The mere fact that Craig has associated himself with these three institutions, and only these three institutions, reveals a lot. This is especially clear when he openly admits he will dismiss all and any evidence no matter what because he believes Christianity is true because of the "Holy Spirit" in his "heart."[10]

[edit] On morality

Craig argues in favor of objective morality. He defines objective morality as "to say that something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so." His most common argument goes as follows:

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

This is a common argument among Christian apologists and is logically valid as an instance of modus tollens. However, validity does not entail soundess — neither premise is well-supported. There are two assumptions smuggled into this argument. For one, there are numerous ways of formulating systems of morality that don't require a god. Demonstrating that a god is a necessary condition for objective morality requires either one or more a priori arguments to discredit the various alternatives. Secondly, the argument assumes objective morality is consistent with the existence of god -- this is challenged by the Euthyphro dilemma. Craig of course says that, according to divine command theory, god had goodness built into his character in such a way that everything god does and commands is good. However, that still does not solve the conudrum. If something is good because god says so, this leaves us with nothing more than a tautology redefining good such that we are unable to truly judge what is good. On the other hand, if god says something is good because it is good, then there is an underlying assumption that there exists some moral standard that is independent from god.

In April 2011, on his Reasonable Faith website,[11] Craig published an explanation for why the genocide and infanticide ordered by God against the Canaanites in the Old Testament was morally defensible. In summary: When guilty people get killed, they deserved it because they were guilty and bad. When innocent people get killed (including innocent babies), they went to Heaven. Here are some key points:

God had morally sufficient reasons for His judgement upon Canaan, and Israel was merely the instrument of His justice, just as centuries later God would use the pagan nations of Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel.[12][13]

And:

Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.[12][13]

And:

So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life.[12][13]

Please bear in mind that Craig is not some cruel dogmatic wingnut. He’s not some extremist Fred Phelps type, ranting about how God’s hateful vengeance is upon us for tolerating homosexuality[14]. He’s not some itinerant street preacher, railing on college campuses about premarital hand holding. He’s an educated, widely-published, widely-read theological scholar and debater. When believers accuse atheists or non-believers of ignoring "sophisticated modern theology", Craig is one of the people they’re talking about.

Modern theology cannot escape the dogmas of the cruel theology of the ancient times. Educated apologists like Craig must argue that as long as God orders such things to happen, it’s perfectly moral to take the lives of these people. Killing bad people is tolerable, because they’re bad and they deserve it. This implies the problem of evil and the folly of attempting to understanding the motives of a capricious and inscrutable god.

Killing innocent and good people is just as tolerable, because they wind up in Heaven. As long as God approves it, it’s acceptable to systematically wipe out entire races, including babies and children.

Craig said —not essentially, not as a paraphrase, but literally, in quotable words— "the death of these children was actually their salvation." This viewpoint is not something unique to Craig, but is one that apologists often choose to adopt when tasked with explaining the war crimes perpetrated under God's command in the Old Testament. The ethical framework of the Old Testament, if taken in whole, is completely incompatible with most contemporary conceptions of morality. It is difficult to discern whether or not apologists such as Craig are devoted enough to this viewpoint to act on it, but it is safe to say that the objective morality that the apologetic likes of Craig support is anything but objective.

[edit] Divine command theory

Craig accepts the Divine Command, which he describes as follows;

But the transcendent and sovereign God sees the end from the beginning and providentially orders history so that His purposes are ultimately achieved through human free decisions. In order to achieve His ends, God may have to put up with certain evils along the way. Evils which appear pointless to us within our limited framework may be seen to have been justly permitted within God’s wider framework.[15]

So basically, God has ordered everything throughout history to unfold through free will. This means that God does not intervene with human life, otherwise freedom would be eliminated. This is also problematic because it begs the question and it does not answer any ethical problems. God allows necessary evil, it is all part of God's plan. Divine command theory implies that whatever God commands must be the morally correct course of action. Therefore, if/when God endorses genocide, infanticide, animal sacrifice, slavery, or rape, those things are good, whereas if/when he forbids eating certain foods or working on certain days or having certain kinds of kinky sex, those things immediately become bad. This makes divine command theory a subjective theory of morals, one which is arbitrary and can change at God's whim. Claims like "God wouldn't do that", but this doesn't help at all. For one, in many religious traditions he does do such things. For another, if God is the source of morality, he can do whatever he wants and it would still be just as "good" as anything else.

Whether divine command theory is true or not (and there seems to be no reason to think that it is), it is often not an effective method of settling moral dilemmas. For one, it's not clear which religious tradition is correct. For another, religious texts tend to contain many conflicting, arbitrary, or excessively specific rules. These rules rarely allow a clear method of generalizing these ideas to every possible situation, so a believer is forced to do much the same thing that an atheist does, which is to work out moral principles and ideas for herself. Often, the fact that the believer is bound to respect certain statements as absolute truth makes this process even harder, because those statements may not make good sense, or may make sense in most situations but be absurd in others. Divine command theory thus fails to provide moral guidance for much the same reason that religions often fail to provide moral guidance.

[edit] Philosophy Apologetics

All of Craig's philosophy is intimately tied to his apologetics to the extent that his philosophical work simply serves as "ammunition" for his apologetics, an M.O. of Craig's which reach as far back as his Ph.D. thesis in Philosophy (of Religion). Similarly, because his Kalām cosmological argument doesn't work under B-theory of time[wp], Craig has engaged heavily philosophy of time to promote A-theory and in effect denying Einsteinian relativity in favor of what Craig calls a "Neo-Lorenzian interpretation"[wp]. Craig will mostly follow an Intelligent Design-like approach of not explicitly invoking God as the justification for his selective use of science, but any observant reader/listener with even a minimum of background knowledge of Craig will quickly be able to spot the nudge nudge[wp] elements.

[edit] Kalām Cosmological Argument

Craig is best known for his (version of) the Kalām cosmological argument[wp] (KCA). Craig's KCA is a variation of the centuries old cosmological argument originating in Islamic philosophy and arguing for the existence of a personal first cause for the universe. In 1979, Craig popularized this argument, based on his aforementioned Ph.D. thesis on Philosophy of Religion, and some theists see it as wonderful proof of the existence of God. Craig's version is:

  • (P1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  • (P2) The universe began to exist.
  • (C) Therefore, the universe must have a cause.

The conclusion we are supposed to reach from this is that the God of the Bible created the universe. This is generally reached by a few additional sections of argument: that the cause must be personal and that this means a god, and furthermore that this god must be the God of the Bible.

[edit] Why the Kalām Cosmological Argument fails

The first premise of Craig's argument is flawed.

In quantum mechanics, things happen that are not caused, such as radioactive decay, or when an atom in an excited energy level loses a photon. No cause is evident in the decay of a radioactive nucleus. Craig has said that quantum events are still "caused" just in a non-predetermined manner — what he calls "probabilistic causality." Craig is thereby admitting that the "cause" in his first premise could be an accidental one, something spontaneous and not predetermined. He therefore destroys his own case for a predetermined creation. Even if the KCA was sound, why would the cause itself not be natural?

The second premise of his argument is also flawed.

The KCA assumes that the universe has a beginning. Not enough is known about the early stages of the Big bang or about what existed before the Big bang. We don't know what the universe was like before the first 10−43 seconds after inflation started to say with certainty that the universe had a beginning, various possibilities exist.

  1. Before the expansion started, the universe existed in a stable state eternally.
  2. The multiverse could have existed before our universe started.
  3. There could have been a Big crunch that finished occurring before the big bang
  4. Something else entirely could have existed.

Furthermore, the conclusion is inconclusive.

Even if we reason that the universe has a cause, we know nothing about the nature of this cause; certainly not enough to ascribe godhood (with properties such as awareness and intelligence) to it. The cause of the universe may very well lack mind or will. There is even less reason to assume the cause of the universe is the God of the Bible.

[edit] Begging the question

The KCA is rendered invalid by begging the question as the phrase "whatever begins to exist" is not presumed to accommodate anything other than God, and that puts God into the definition of the premise of the argument that was supposed to prove his existence in the first place. This is also most likely an example of special pleading, as the first premise, "Everything that begins to exist has a cause", can be rewritten as "Everything that is not God has a cause", unless there exists some other thing or things than did not begin to exist. However, if other things exist but did not begin to exist, then even accepting the other broken premises does not lead to God being the answer. As there is never any positive evidence offered for a god (let alone God), but merely the asserting that a god must have been the cause if there was one, the argument from ignorance is also heavily at play.

[edit] Compositional errors

The two premises that support the conclusion both commit compositional errors. The first premise, "Whatever begins to exist has a cause", suffers from a fallacy of composition. As Francois Tremblay put it:

Dr. Craig is no doubt aware, however, that to infer a necessary causality on a whole -- the universe -- on the basis of observation of such attribute in the parts -- the existents around us - is a fallacy of composition. The attribute being transposed here, being caused, is relational and therefore cannot be transposed. Thus he cannot generalize from caused entities around us to the universe in this matter.[16]

The second premise, "The universe began to exist", forces us to draw an inference between the items in the set (things within the universe) and apply it to the set as a whole (the universe itself). For that to be valid, one must fallaciously presuppose a realm beyond the universe, in which the universe can be taken as an item in a larger set itself, within which it is contained, limited, and defined.

Which gives away to the compositional error, via begging the question, since such a realm beyond the universe, is entirely unproven and in question itself.

[edit] Defining essentials

The KCA fails to identify one of its key concepts (the universe) and define its essential properties, either through its syllogism, or subsequent explanations for its syllogism.

Craig's KCA insists that the Big Bang was the beginning of everything and if it is not, then there's a part of existence that is unaccounted for. That larger whole may be eternal, or may never have begun to exist, or caused our Big Bang, as a local inflationary expansion, or caused the rest of the multiverse in its overall entirety.

If, instead, Craig was to define the universe in his KCA as the totality of existence, the argument would again be rendered impotent and refuted, because the universe could not have been created by something outside itself, since for something to create the totality of that which exists, we end up with the creating agent being non-existent. Furthermore, if the universe is defined as the totality of existence, it could never have been caused as a whole, since that would entail that at one point existence was non-existent, which is simply incoherent.

[edit] Who created God?

Another reason why the KCA is invalid and refuted is because it can be expressed in a competing syllogism.

  • (P1) Everything that is sentient has a cause.
  • (P2) The Abrahamic god is (said to be) sentient.
  • (C) Therefore the Abrahamic god has a cause.[17]

This syllogism can easily be applied to any god, since most, if not all, gods are said to be sentient in some form or fashion; and all referrals to reality attest that sentience does not arise without antecedent causation. Pantheism, in its belief that God simply is the universe, does not necessarily impute sentience to God, making it a notable exception.

The most common apologetic evasion of this problem is an unabashed handwave: define God as being exempt from the laws of logic He is purported to have created. This is a textbook example of moving the goalposts.
Since Craig finessed his P1 by using the phrase "begins to exist", the obvious escape hatch is that God did not begin to exist, because He is eternal. However, Craig's version is (as usual) even more convoluted: Because Craig argues elsewhere that infinity is impossible in the physical world (as opposed to in mathematics) to get around the possibility that the universe might be eternal (i.e. infinitely old) and thus also not fit his P1 and in consequence invalidate his conclusion, Craig can't call God eternal, since that would exclude God from the physical world. Instead, Craig invents the term "timeless", which apparently means that God isn't infinitely old, but somehow exists outside time from where He can apparently pop in to rant against foreskins, impregnate virgins, get "killed", or appear on your toast as required.

[edit] Ontological argument

While he usually doesn't bring it up in his debates, Craig defends Alvin Plantinga's modal version of the ontological argument for the existence of God,[18] rendering it as:

  1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
  2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
  3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
  4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
  5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
  6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
  7. Therefore, God exists.


This argument has been widely criticized on two main points:

  1. The modal ontological argument, in some presentations, relies on an equivocation between metaphysical and epistemic possibility. It may very well be that the existence of a maximally great being is epistemically possible (i.e. we don't know that it's false) but not metaphysically possible (i.e. non-contradictory). If the concept of a maximally great being is not self-consistent, then it is not metaphysically possible for such a being to exist. Compare: we don't know whether the twin prime conjecture is true or not. Suppose it is false but we don't yet know it; it follows that it is (metaphysically) necessarily false. We might nevertheless agree that it might be true because we don't know its truth value.
  2. Premise 3 is questionable. If this is supposed to follow from the definition of "maximally great being," then that definition needs substantial defense. Otherwise it is question-begging. It suffers from the same problem as St. Anselm's: existence is not a real predicate. A being that exists in every possible world is not greater than a being who does not exist in every possible world.


Premise 2 follows from the definition of the possibility operator. Premise 4 follows from the definition of the necessity operator. Claims 5 and 6 follow from the initial premises. Claim 7 is generally taken to follow from the stipulated identity between the maximally great being and God, in keeping with the Christian tradition.


The issue with the metaphysical possibility as it relates to the first three premises can be clearly shown with a competing version of the argument:

  1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) does not exist.
  2. If it is possible that a maximally great being does not exist, then there is some possible world where a maximally great being does not exist.
  3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
  4. A maximally great being does not exist in every possible world (from 2).
  5. Therefore, a maximally great being (God) does not exist.


This further highlights that the argument has two likely sources of error: with the construction of the argument in general (in which case the argument is not useful for proving anything) or a problem specific to the first premise (in which case the possibility of the existence or non-existence of the character God must be defended with further arguments). Of course it is also entirely possibly the problem lies in both areas, and it is neither possible to prove and actuality from a mere possibility or accept a possibility without supporting empirical evidence.

[edit] Circular evidence

The KCA is also dependent on the controversial A-theory of time[wp] (aka the "tensed" theory of time), which states that the present moment is uniquely real. Craig is very explicit about this:

The moments of time are ordered by past, present, and future, and that these are real and objective aspects of reality. The past is gone, it no longer exists. The present is real. The future has not yet come to be and is not real. And so the future is not sort of out there ahead of us down the line, waiting for us to arrive. The future is pure potentiality, only the present is real.[19]

The common objection to the A-theory comes from Einstein's theory of relativity, which states there is no absolute present moment and time is relative. Opposing this, Craig has written a lot of books on the subject of time, promoting an interpretation of relativity that he calls Neo-Lorentzian[wp], and which includes an absolute present moment. Craig claims that such an interpretation is observationally equivalent to special relativity. Of course this is seriously disputed, but even if this is the case, there is no reason why we should prefer Craig's interpretation (which is very complex) to Einstein's interpretation (which is simpler and works completely fine by itself). Addressing the issue of why we should prefer his "Neo-Lorenzianism" and the A-theory of time, Craig writes:

...we have good reasons for believing that a neo-Lorentz theory is correct, namely, the existence of God in A-theoretic time implies it, so that concerns about which version is simpler become of little moment.[20]

So, it seems that Craig is saying that the existence of God implies "Neo-Lorentzianism", which is needed for A-theory of time to be correct, which is then necessary for the KCA to work, so Craig can prove the existence of God. That is clearly circular.


Craig does have four other arguments for God, however.
One of them is the fine tuning argument. The common objection to the notion of fine tuning is that it is a tautology, weakened by the multiverse theory (Craig never says a multiverse is impossible). Craig's response to this objection is that:

...the hypothesis of a Cosmic Designer...is again the better explanation because we do have independent evidence of the existence of such a Designer in the form of other arguments for the existence of God.[21].

However, we have already seen that we cannot rely on the Kalam to tip the scale in favor of the cosmic designer hypothesis, because that just gets us in the same circle we were in before.


But what about the resurrection of Jesus? The common objection is that any naturalistic explanation, no matter how crazy it may seem, is much more probable, not to mention plausible, than the resurrection story. Craig addressed this objection an a debate with Bart Ehrman and claimed that because the resurrection was a supernatural event caused by God, such naturalistic concerns do not apply:

What, after all, is the resurrection hypothesis? It’s the hypothesis that Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead. It is not the hypothesis that Jesus rose naturally from the dead. That Jesus rose naturally from the dead is fantastically improbable. But I see no reason whatsoever to think that it is improbable that God raised Jesus from the dead.[22]

So, Craig claims to prove the existence of God by invoking the resurrection of Jesus, which is itself explained by presuming that God exists to supernaturally resurrect Jesus. Again, circular.


That leaves us with Craig's moral argument in which he says that if God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Craig asserts that objective moral values do exist, his defence basically being that our personal experiences of morality makes it true, which makes it an(other) argument for God. In making this claim, Craig also makes a blatant appeal to emotion:

On the atheistic view, some action, say rape, may not be socially advantageous and so in the course of human development has become taboo. But that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really morally wrong. On the atheistic view, there’s nothing really wrong with your raping someone. And thus without God there is no absolute right and wrong which imposes itself on our conscience. But the problem is that objective values do exist, and deep down I think we all know it. There is no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of the physical world. Actions like rape, cruelty, torture, and child-abuse aren’t just socially unacceptable behavior. These are moral abominations. Some things are really wrong. Similarly, love, equality and generosity are really good.[23][24]

It is clear that Craig is simply using his own subjective feelings as the basis for his claims. The "deep down I think we all know it" argument for the existence of objective morality is simply a more wishy-washy version of Craig's general elevation of faith over reason, which he most famously expressed as:

The way in which I know Christianity is true is first and foremost on the basis of the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart. And this gives me self-authenticating means of knowing Christianity is true wholly apart from the evidence. And therefore, even if in some historically contingent circumstances the evidence that I have available to me should turn against Christianity, I do not think that this controverts the witness of the Holy Spirit.[25]

Both in the specific case of his claim of the existence of objective moral values and in his general claim for the existence of God, Craig clearly relies on his personal feelings and intuition which is far from being the "reasonable faith" he claims to espouse. Craig is effectively saying that objective moral values exist because he feels that they do, which proves that his feeling that God exists is also true, and anyway if evidence contradicts his feelings then the evidence must be wrong, because Craig feels otherwise. Again, clearly circular.


It is now obvious that, despite his claim that they are based on reason, all of Craig's arguments for God's existence ultimately rely on his inner personal experience of God being reliable. An experience which is neither testable nor verifiable by any observer and furthermore an experience that Craig outright claims trumps any countervailing argument or evidence he may encounter. Craig has reiterated this view in writing as well:

Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter[26]

These statements make a mockery out of Craig's participation in debates, because he has already declared that such debates and their reliance on arguments and evidence are utterly irrelevant to the issue of belief, and that no amount of evidence or arguments could ever make him change his mind. In a brilliant example of projection, Craig adds insult to injury by claiming that the reason others don't accept his arguments for God's existence must be that they are intellectually dishonest:

[W]hen a person refuses to come to Christ it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God's Spirit on his heart. No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with God[27]

This attitude of Craig's led Robert M. Price[wp] to deliver this scathing (but accurate) characterization of Craig's enterprise:

Craig, then, freely admits his conviction arises from purely subjective factors, in no whit different from the teenage Mormon door-knocker who tells you he knows the Book of Mormon was written by ancient Americans because he has a warm, swelling feeling in his stomach when he asks God if it's true. Certain intellectual questions have to receive certain answers to be consistent with this revivalistic "heart-warming" experience, so Craig knows in advance that, e.g., Strauss[wp] and Bultmann[wp] must have been wrong. And, like the O.J. Simpson defense team, he will find a way to get from here to there. Craig would repudiate my analogy, but let no one who can read doubt from his words just quoted that, first, his enterprise is completely circular, since it is a subjectivity described arbitrarily in terms of Christian belief (Holy Spirit, etc.) that supposedly grounds Christian belief! And, second, Craig admits the circularity of it. [...]

If an "unbeliever" doesn't see the cogency of Craig's brand of New Testament criticism (the same thing exactly as his apologetics), it can only be because he has some guilty secret to hide and doesn't want to repent and let Jesus run his life. If one sincerely seeks God, Craig's arguments will mysteriously start looking pretty good to him, like speaking in tongues as the infallible evidence of the infilling of the divine Spirit. [...]

Craig's apologetic has embraced insincerity as a structural principal. The arguments are offered cynically: "whatever it takes." If they don't work, take your pick between brimstone ("God holds you accountable") and treacle ("God still loves you").[28]

[edit] Craig's debating tactics and criticism of opponents

Craig likes to boast that he is a "professional philosopher" and engage in "academic" debates that concentrate on the arguments, not on personalities. Despite this, Craig states that while Richard Dawkins may be a good scientist, he is a "layman" in philosophy and theology and The God Delusion is a "very unsophisticated book. As a philosopher, I was just appalled by the arguments he offers in that book. It is an embarrassment, really, I think." A classic example of his tactics can be seen in his debate with Bart Ehrman, in which most of the listed tactics are used very successfully.

  1. Within debates, Craig uses the Gish Gallop, presenting a hailstorm of misrepresentations and dubious statements, wrapped up in a few obvious facts. Since rebutting statements takes up more of his opponents time than it took him to deliver them, he later is able to list out those statements of his which were not replied to, owing to the strictly controlled format and time limit in most debating environments.
  2. He strawmans his opponents arguments and responds to them with an undertone of humour, thereby lessening the credibility of both. He also uses arguments from authority. In friendly audiences, this convinces the public of his upstanding honesty.
  3. He quote mines extensively. This allows him to present his opponents past statements out of context, and out of line of any recent historical and scientific developments. Indeed, it is clear that he uses public resources (eg. Youtube) to gauge public opinion about his opponent, and this allows him to subtly attack his opponents reputation and character. For example, he praises Bart Ehrman for a minor shift in opinion that he made years before the debate date, and he is thus able to convince the audience that the morally and scientifically proper thing for Ehrman to do is to continue to shift towards Craig's position.
  4. He appeals to emotions, and as in his debate with Bart Ehrman, tries to paint his opponent as a bumbling moron while he's the supposed academic scholar. When his opponents take objection to his tactics, he can accuse them of bluster. He disses New Atheist authors like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris as
  5. He twists or ignores the rules of the debate (if any) and this gives him an advantage over his opponent, who is usually civilized enough to stick to the format. He takes a very brief part of his opening statement to state his own views, and takes the majority of the time speaking against his opponent. This has the following effects -
    • He is able to misrepresent his opponents views before his opponent has had the chance to present them himself.
    • By the time his opponent presents his points, the audience already has Craig's rebuttals in their mind, and hence they cannot truly analyze them objectively.
    • He is able to start his rebuttal period with a statement to the effect that he has not heard any rebuttals to his points, completely ignoring the fact that the time period for his opponents rebuttals is yet to arrive.
    • By the time his opponent begins his rebuttal, he is virtually back to his starting position in the audience's mind, due to Craig's double rebuttal.
    • Since he states his arguments very briefly, his opponent lacks sufficient ammunition to rebut them in any detail. Indeed, this lack of detail in his initial arguments allows him to present qualifications for them after his opponents have presented counterarguments. This provides the illusion of an adequate rebuttal and makes it looks as if his opponent has misunderstood or misinterpreted his points.
  6. After he strawmans and misrepresents his opponent's views, he then sets down his own set of points that he feels his opponent must prove in order to support his position. In most cases, those views have nothing to do with his opponents position and are completely different from what his opponent was going to assert. These points are usually absurd and in principle unassertable.
    • If his opponent chooses not to toe Craig's line and instead asserts his own points, Craig can then later list out his own twisted caricatures of his opponents views as points his opponent has failed to assert.
    • If his opponent chooses to try and prove Craig's points, he can rebut them easily as he frames them in an extremely biased way which makes them difficult or impossible to support.
  7. Thanks to the way in which the propositional statements of most controlled debates are framed, Craig is almost never in a position in which he has to simultaneously prove the existence of a god, and the assertion that the god is in fact the Abrahamic god.
    • This is advantageous for him because most of his arguments - the Kalam Cosmological argument, the Ontological argument, the assertion of the existence of Objective Morality, the Divine Command theory, the Fine Tuning argument etc. - do not point to the existence of the Abrahamic god, and can in principle, be used to prove the existence of any given supernatural entity.
    • Since his arguments for the Abrahamic god are extremely weak compared to his general arguments for a god, he never uses that line of argument against competent opponents like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, and only unleashes them against opponents who, at least in principle, believe in a higher power.
    • Another benefit in these oral debates is that the audience cannot hear if there is a capital "G" in "God"/"god" leading to an impression that Craig has argued for the Christian "God", rather than a generic "god". It also provides Craig with flexibility: If challenged, he can emphasise that he's not arguing for God/Yahweh, but a generic deity. If not challenged, it can easily appear to the audience that Craig has indeed argued for God/Yahweh.
    • In his debates on the existence of God/god(s) (as opposed to those solely on the historicity of the resurrection) Craig will even play on this conflation between generic deities and his Christian God by claiming that his arguments form a "cumulative case" for the existence of the Christian God. This is blatantly false as Craig's only argument for the latter is the circular one in which he posits that the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus is plausible due to God's intervention, while he simultaneously claims that it proves the existence of God.[29] Once this argument is dismissed, none of the other arguments are in any way cumulative, though Craig's audience, raised in monotheistic cultures, can easily get that impression.
  8. Craig frequently name drops, referring to the works of famous historians, theologians and apologists, in lieu of presenting an actual rebuttal to his opponents statements. This usually takes the form of "My opponent's arguments have already been replied to by XYZ famous writer, hence I will just make a statement that it is invalid, without actually telling you what that rebuttal is." This is the height of intellectual dishonesty because,
    • He completely ignores the facts that he is the one who is debating, not some long dead writer.
    • Some vague reference to a rebuttal is not an actual rebuttal, but in the eyes of the spectators, it is valid.
  9. Craig's debating style can basically be characterised as heavily dependent on aggressive U.S. high school debating tactics, something which most of his opponents are too polite to either stoop to or call out (one exception was the very blunt denouncement of Craig's tactics by Lawrence Krauss[30]). Unless the audience is attuned to the polite phrasing usually employed in academia, the severity of the criticism levelled against Craig by his opponents can easily be missed.

[edit] Richard Dawkins on Craig

Craig has repeatedly attempted to invite cajole, harass and defame Richard Dawkins into a debate. Dawkins has consistently refused to do so, on the grounds that "That would look great on your CV, not so good on mine". In 2011, Craig proposed to place an empty chair on a stage in Oxford to symbolize Dawkins' absence. Dawkins offered not only not to appear in Oxford, but also not to appear in several other British cities that same evening, and published a grimly surgical dissection of Craig's views on the divinely-ordered massacres in Deuteronomy 20:13-17. (Craig's opinion is that the Canaanites had it coming, but that PTSD among the Israeli [sic] fighters is a bit of a worry.)[31]

[edit] Examples of misrepresentations by Craig

YouTuber The Passionate William Lane Craig Fan (née nooneleftalivekibo) has put together a list entitled The Strongest Case for William Lane Craig's Dishonesty[32] where Craig's versions of other scholars' opinions are contrasted with their actual words.

Atheist blogger Chris Hallquist, who has written extensively on Craig, has also compiled a list of Craig's misrepresentations.[33]

Atheist philosopher Stephen Law debated Craig in 2011 where he suggested that Craig's arguments for the existence of a good God could equally well support the existence of an evil God and highlighted the hypocrisy of accepting the former conclusion while rejecting the latter as patently absurd. Commenting on a Q&A entry on Craig's website where Craig responded to questions related to the evil God problem and the debate, Law discussed Craig's repeated misrepresentations of Law's positions, incl. suggesting that Law's evil God relies on the presumption that Christians deduce God's perfect goodness from empirical evidence. By contrast, Law's actual argument only relies on an acceptance that God is good, not necessarily perfectly good, and likewise Law doesn't suggest that theists deduce perfect goodness from empirical evidence, but only some undefined level of benevolence.[34]

Sam Harris was straw manned by Craig in their 2011 debate and called the audience's attention to what Craig was attempting to do:

[Harris] Now, I’m obviously not saying that all that Dr. Craig, or all religious people, are psychopaths and psychotics, but this to me is the true horror of religion. It allows perfectly decent and sane people to believe by the billions, what only lunatics could believe on their own.

[Craig] He also says it’s “psychopathic” to believe these things. Now, that remark is just as stupid as it is insulting. It is absurd to think that Peter van Inwagen here at the University of Notre Dame is psychopathic, or that a guy like Dr. Tom Flint, who is as gracious a Christian gentlemen as I could have ever met, is psychopathic. Uh, this is simply, uh, below the belt.

[Harris] Well, you, uh, perhaps you’ve noticed Dr. Craig has a charming habit of summarizing his opponent’s points in a way in which they were not actually given, so I will leave it to you to sort it out on Youtube. Needless to say, I didn’t call those esteemed colleagues of his psychopaths, as I made clear.[35][36]

[edit] Craig and Creationism

Craig has stated that young Earth creationism is an embarrassment[37] and that Christianity is compatible with evolution,[38] much to the chagrin of fundies.[39]

However, Craig wouldn't be Craig if he didn't talk out of both corners of his mouth on the topic of evolution too; so Craig also denies that macroevolution is true,[40] and has defended creationism Intelligent Design.[41][42] He also believes that Adam and Eve existed and were the first two humans that all humans since are descended from: he posits that evolution happened, but the genetic bottleneck in human genetic history was just two people.[43]

[edit] Now, try an experiment

Switch to Craig's Wikipedia entry[wp] — note the difference? Unfortunately, Wikipedia's article on Craig reads like a puff piece. This is due to at least two factors, one systemic and one partisan.

To start with the second factor, Craig's fans are systematically adding positive stuff and phrases to make it appear that Craig isn't some crappy apologist (no matter his Ph.D.s) employed at a couple of two-bit fundie schools. Among the more ludicrious claims is that Craig has defended his "The universe began to exist"-premise in his Kalām Cosmological Argument "scientifically", because:

  1. Craig claims to have done so in an article on his own webshite website,[44] and
  2. it says so in a book by J. P. Moreland[wp] (yup one of the guys involved in drafting the Wedge Document) entitled The creation hypothesis: scientific evidence for an intelligent designer.

See? Craig has defended his premise "scientifically" because two evangelical apologists/theologians/philosophers (one of them being Craig himself) says so! Peer review? We don't need no stinking peer review! And after all, who understands science better than evangelical apologists, right?

As for the systemic problem this is due to Wikipedia's policy of generally avoiding blog entries, YouTube videos etc. as sources. Since very few serious academics[45] bother with Craig's nonsense outside his debate circus,[46] while Craig can still get his "stealth apologetics" published by "reliable third parties",[47] Craig's fans can cite all of this wonderful material. Conversely, most of the sources here on RW would immediately be countered with the "That's not according to WP policy!"-hammer (check the Wikipedia article's talkpage and archives). This is of course tied to the "partisan problem" since it appears that some of Craig's fans are very diligent in monitoring his Wikipedia page. The real irony is of course, that very few would probably have heard of Craig if it wasn't for his thirty-odd years of touring with his debating circus - exactly the kind of thing which falls outside of Wikipedia's definition of "reliable sources"(!)

[edit] See Also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. 1.0 1.1 William Lane Craig, God Is Not Dead Yet, Christianity Today, July 3, 2008
  2. Actually it was in Philosophy of Religion, his supervisor was Professor of Theology, and Craig's research bears more than a passing resemblance to apologetics, but more on that later.
  3. YouTube interview with Craig entitled Dealing with Doubt in which he explains to his fellow believers how to deal with doubt. Basically, the faithful should just assume they're right and that, eventually, evidence will turn up which will vindicate their religious beliefs.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Double Doctorates from the Q&A section on Craig's Reasonable Faith website.
  5. http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/philosophyofreligion/about/index.aspx
  6. Lee Strobel's CV at Houston Baptist "University"
  7. Talbot School of Theology's Doctrinal Statement is also the one that the entire Biola "University" subscribes to.
  8. Wheaton College, Statement of Faith and Educational Purpose
  9. Houston Baptist "University's" Mission and Values
  10. YouTuber TheMessianicManic highlighting Craig's bad faith in not actually being willing to accept contravening evidence
  11. Q&A on William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith website: Slaughter of the Canaanites, or: Killing babies? Totally moral when commanded by God.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 One More Reason Religion Is So Messed Up, By Greta Christina
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 It’s about morality, stupid: why Dawkins won’t debate William Lane Craig
  14. Christian Apologist Says Church Losing Battle Against Hate Label for Homosexuality Stance. William Lane Craig, Hard Questions, Real Answers (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2003), 129–144. A Christian Perspective on Homosexuality. Christian Homosexuals?.
  15. The Problem of Evil, William Lane Craig
  16. Dr. Craig's Unsupported Premise a post by Francois Tremblay on talk.origins, June 15, 2004
  17. Providing that the Abrahamic god exists and is sentient, of course.
  18. Q&A on William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith website: Two Questions on the Ontological Argument, or: I can fuck around with language, therefore God exists - REPENT SINNER!
  19. The Nature of Time an interview with William Lane Craig by Robert Lawrence Kuhn[wp]
  20. Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity (p. 179)
  21. God? (p. 14)
  22. From the transcript of the Craigh/Ehrman debate from 2006 entitled from Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus? available on Craig's Reasonable Faith website
  23. From the transcript of Craig's 1999 debate with Ingmar Persson entitled [http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-exist-the-craig-persson-debate Does God Exist?
  24. Craig used the same argument(and I mean verbatum) when debating Arif Ahmed at Cambridge in 2009 with hilarious results. Curiously, this is one debate that Craig's Reasonable Faith website does not have a transcript of...
  25. Dealing with Doubt. In this (in)famous interview with William Lane Craig, he also claims that the Devil is both real and responsible for instilling doubt about the truth of Christianity - "professional philosopher", indeed...
  26. Reasonable Faith (1994), p. 36
  27. Reasonable Faith (1994), pp. 35-36
  28. By This Time He Stinketh an essay written by Robert M. Price in 1997 which later formed Price's introductory statement in his 1998 debate with Craig
  29. Here Craig tries to word fuck use sophistry "argue" why this isn't blatantly circular.
  30. "Now, Dr. Craig is much more refined and intelligent than that man, I can say, having spent time with him. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t use the same techniques. When you can’t check his facts or he doesn’t think you know them, he will lie."
  31. Dawkins, Richard (20 October 2011). "Why I refuse to debate with William Lane Craig". The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/oct/20/richard-dawkins-william-lane-craig. 
  32. The Strongest Case for William Lane Craig's Dishonesty a YouTube playlist by The Passionate William Lane Craig Fan
  33. Chris Hallquist, Documenting William Lane Craig’s lies about his opponents: a reply to Jeff Lowder from the blog The Uncredible Hallq, July 31, 2012
  34. Stephen Law, Stephen Law, Craig's website response re our debate], November 7, 2011
  35. Transcript of the 2011 Craig/Harris debate on Craig's website
  36. See also this YouTube video by the aforementioned The Passionate William Lane Craig Fan which contrasts Harris' words with Craig's misrepresentation as well as Harris subsequently calling out Craig's straw manning
  37. William Lane Craig: Creationism is an Embarrassment
  38. Is Evolution an Issue with Christians? by (in)famous YouTuber drcraigvideos
  39. http://creation.com/william-lane-craig-vs-creation
  40. Craig denying that macroevolution is true in his 2007 debate with Lewis Wolpert
  41. Craig defending ID in a 2009 debate with biologist and philosopher Francisco Ayala
  42. Craig answering a fellow believer's worries about evolution being incompatible with Christianity by claiming that the "neo-Darwinian paradigm" is "so speculative and so weakly confirmed" citing ID nonsense and Alvin Plantinga's anti-naturalism BS
  43. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2013/02/william-lane-craig-young-earth-creationism-is-an-embarrassment/
  44. How Did the Universe Begin?, Reasonable Faith, September 6, 2009. Incidentally this was a speech made at the Saddleback Church
  45. Especially actual scientists - some of Craig's articles appear in theological journals while his philosophical publications thend to appear in journals dedicated to philosophy of religion (read: sophisticated theology) or metaphysics (ditto). None of Craig's articles are actually published in journals dedicated to the natural sciences that Craig claims backs his premises and arguments - wonder why...
  46. No, not a typo. When you keep rehashing debunked crap for over 30 years it's not a debating circuit, but an apologetic circus.
  47. I.e. printed on real paper, in a real book from a "reputable printing house" - wow! For just one concrete examples of why this is not a terribly good bullshit filter, try seeing McGrew & McGrew's Bayesian argument in favour of the historicity of Jesus' resurrection in this excerpt from The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, specifically p. 5
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