21 October 2013

William Lane Craig on exposing Christians to secular material

You know how it goes. You have run the gamut with William Lane Craig's insipid arguments, and you swear you're done. Moving on. Then you watch this excellent video of Scott Clifton (a.k.a. "Theoretical Bullshit") coming out of quasi-retirement and sticking it to the Kalam. So then you say, "Hey, maybe I'll head over to that ironically titled site Reasonablefaith.org and see what old 'Dr. Craig' is up to these days". Then you see some colossally asinine post and feel oddly compelled to write about it.

In this week's "Q & A" section on his site, Craig addresses a reader who is having some struggles with his faith while reading some atheistic material:
Hi, Dr. Craig, I'm currently reading "Disproving Christianity" by David McAfee. I've also been listening to Richard Dawkins. I want to believe in God, but I'm having trouble with my faith. I've always been a Christian, but since I started talking to my atheist friends, I find it hard to believe in God. When I think about it, it doesn't make much sense to me to belive in a creator of the universe. It makes even less sense for me to believe in a God who intervines in our lives. Please, I want to believe in God, any suggestions?
Before I get to Craig's answer, I want to talk about the question. Notice that the desire to believe is stronger than any apparent cognitive dissonance. When you have someone who is well-versed enough in philosophy and/or theology to conjure up complex, esoteric and academic-sounding rationalizations to ease this dissonance, you have yourself a bona fide apologist.

Notice also that he says it doesn't make much sense to him, when he thinks about it, to believe in a Creator. Thinking for yourself?! How dare you! Dr. Craig has the solution for that:
I find myself utterly baffled by the cavalier way in which many ill-equipped Christians expose themselves to material which is potentially destructive to them. It’s like someone who doesn’t know how to swim deciding to take the plunge in the heavy surf. Wouldn’t it be the sensible thing to do to first prepare yourself before venturing into dangerous waters?
I remember vividly that when I first became a Christian I was very careful about what I read because I knew that there was material out there which could be destructive to my newfound faith and that I had a lot, lot more to learn before I was ready to deal with it. Do we forget that there is an enemy of our souls who hates us intensely, is bent on our destruction, and will use anything he can to undermine our faith or render us ineffective in God’s hands? Are we so na├»ve?
This exposes Craig's mindset: faith is to be preserved at all costs. It's not so much important that you arrive at your beliefs through careful thought and critical inquiry; what matters is that you simply believe. The justification and rationalization for believing can be hashed out later. For now, it's only important that you take the leap of faith, even if it requires temporarily shutting off your brain.

This is not surprising in light of the fact that Craig believes that Christian faith is justified by what he calls the "self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit", not any particular argument or set of evidence. That the evidence and arguments happen to perfectly line up with and support his Christian faith (according to him, obviously) is really just a happy coincidence. Remember, this is the guy who has said, "... even in the face of evidence against God which we cannot refute, we ought to believe in God on the basis of His Spirit's witness." Faith above all else. Evidence, schmevidence.

If that's not a giant red flag, I don't know what is. Why on earth should believing a proposition be so important that it doesn't even matter how you arrive at said belief? Why should it be considered admirable that someone believes something with complete and total credulity?

Craig continues, explaining that someone who really gets the arguments in support of Christianity most certainly wouldn't be impressed by any atheists:
In your case I strongly suspect that, despite your having been a Christian for most of your life, you have not properly equipped yourself before reading and watching anti-Christian material. I say this, not merely because you fail to see the obvious fallacies in arguments like Dawkins’ (see http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-new-atheism-and-five-arguments-for-god and http://www.reasonablefaith.org/dawkins-delusion ), but also by your admission that “it doesn't make much sense to me to belive in a creator of the universe,” thereby evincing your unfamiliarity with the powerful arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe, such as the argument from contingency, the kalam cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, the argument from mathematical applicability, the argument from intentional states of consciousness, and so on.
Yes folks, only uneducated people think atheists have good arguments. Sorry, Oxford-educated philosophers A.C. Graying and Daniel Dennett – you guys don't count. But it's here where Craig really lays it on the line:
Even if you don’t find these arguments rationally compelling, they at least show that belief in a Creator of the universe makes sense.
Hhhwwwhat? Let me get this straight: Craig thinks that even if one is convinced the above arguments are irrational, one still ought to be convinced that they demonstrate that belief in the Christian God "makes sense"? Talk about a contradiction in terms. 

Craig's argument though, is not that this person should not study secular material, but that they should do it only after developing an extensive repertoire of Christian apologetics.
What would prompt you to feed on the garbage you’re reading and watching, thereby polluting your mind, rather than diligently studying the work of, say, Alvin Plantinga? We are called to be disciples, which in the Greek means “learners.” Is what you’re doing your idea of what Christian discipleship looks like? Is this the path to transformation by “the renewal of the mind” (Romans 12.1-2)?
Certainly, someone does need to read and interact with secular material, but that person is not (yet) you. You first need to prepare yourself.


My answer would be quite different from Craig's. First, I would tell this person that belief is not what's important, but rational and critical inquiry. If you are not convinced of a certain proposition, that's okay. And rather than say something ridiculous like "Don't read any Christian apologetics until you've mastered the atheist material first", I'd simply tell this person to read both. Read Reasonable Faith. Read The God Argument. Read Alvin Plantiga, C.S. Lewis, Ed Feser, Randal Rauser and Bill Craig. Read Dan Dennett, A.C. Grayling, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Expose yourself to contrary ideas and, above all else, think for yourself. If Christianity is true, what do you have to fear?

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