Hungry for Reasonable Faith in Hungary
Dr. Craig travels to Hungary speaking to leaders and universities and discussing Bart Ehrman, why YouTube critiques of the Kalam Cosmological Argument are usually inferior, and why debating is a serious matter.
Hungry for Reasonable Faith in Hungary
Kevin Harris: We are covering these speaking tours, Dr. Craig, that you've been on, and we're at the third one. It's been a very busy spring for you. You've been to Brazil and then to the Nordic countries and now the European Leadership Forum in Hungary. Let's talk about how it came about and what happened.
Dr. Craig: Well, I have a former student named Greg Pritchard who studied with me at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Greg has a burden for reaching Europe and reviving the church in Europe. And so he's founded this organization called the European Leadership Forum which holds an annual conference by invitation only to Christian leaders in Europe in various disciplines like the sciences, apologetics, theology, philosophy, business, the arts, all different sorts of fields. And they come together in Hungary because that's so centrally located and you can get hotel space there for a good price, and he has a conference that will have upwards of six hundred plus people where you have a week that is just chock full of seminars and workshops on all of these different networks aimed at these target communities within Europe. And the goal is to try to build up the church in Europe, to cast a vision for reaching people's respective countries with the Gospel and for reviving the church there. And so there were conferees from all over Western and Eastern Europe, even as far away as Russia, at this conference.
Kevin Harris: You spoke on the world's ten worst objections to the kalam cosmological argument while at this. Are these some that you've just compiled from various responses that you've had?
Dr. Craig: Right, normally I don't respond to things on YouTube and the internet, as you know, Kevin. I figure that it's very, very improbable that some YouTuber or internet infidel has come up with an objection that hasn't already been raised in the scholarly literature. So if I respond to and cover scholarly critiques I'll probably capture the critiques that would be offered on YouTube and the internet. Well, what I found out is that isn't exactly true because some of the objections on YouTube are so squirrely, they're so off the wall, that they would never get accepted into a professional peer-reviewed publication. And yet these are widely disseminated, viewed by thousands on the internet, and very influential. And so I thought I'll pick the top ten worst objections that I've encountered and write a response to that. And that's been published now in the book God is Great, God is Good that Chad Meister and I edited. But I'll also sometimes speak on this. And so they invited me to speak to the apologetics network at the ELF on this subject. And so I was speaking here to European Christian apologists about these objections.
Kevin Harris: Bill, I have to tell you, the good news is that as numerous as these responses are on YouTube and other forums, there are young apologists who are responding to these and so many of them are also on the forums at Reasonable Faith.
Dr. Craig: Yes.
Kevin Harris: There's a seventeen year old boy who goes in and does a terrific job of answering all these, and I'm so proud of him.
Dr. Craig: I am too, Kevin. It's so encouraging when you see these young guys picking up the mantel and going on.
Kevin Harris: Yeah. These younger apologists . . . well, they're better at computers and they're faster, and they can get there quicker. I mean, they can go boom, boom, boom, boom, all over YouTube. It'll take me an hour to just find one or two – they're just quicker. Back to back sessions on the Scientist Network – evidence for a creator – looks like it's next on the list.
Dr. Craig: Yes, there's a group of scientists, European scientists, that meet together at this conference, and they wanted me to talk about evidence for a creator. And since this was a group of scientists I didn't want to talk about the philosophical arguments against an infinite regress of past events, but to focus on the scientific evidence for the origin of the universe at some point in the finite past. And so I described the current state of contemporary cosmology, looked at alternative models that seek to avoid an absolute beginning of the universe, and explained some of the problems of those, and then argued that the best explanation is that there is a transcendent personal creator. Much of this material came out of the article in The Blackwell Companion for Natural Theology that Jim Sinclair and I did together.
Kevin Harris: The Theologians Network was next, so you got to do some theology there with them.
Dr. Craig: Right, this is one of the more robust networks, as you might expect, the theologians, and they wanted me to talk on the problem of miracles. And so I looked at the collapse in Western culture during the nineteenth century of belief in miracles, and traced its roots to the view of the world that sprang out of Newtonian physics called the Newtonian world machine, which thought of God as a sort of clock maker who wound up this mechanism, set it running, and then never interfered with it again. And then also the critiques of Baruch Spinoza and David Hume and then gave a response to those objections against miracles and argued that it is both possible that miracles occur and that one can identify a miracle in principle.
Kevin Harris: After that was a talk on Bart Ehrman and his critique of the historical Jesus. I haven't read his new book, by the way, on the historical Jesus. I think he affirms Christ's existence?
Dr. Craig: Yes, he's gotten into a really interesting tiff with Richard Carrier and other mythicists who deny that Jesus of Nazareth ever existed, or at least hold out that possibility. And so Bart Ehrman now has sort of endeared himself to evangelicals once again by taking on the people to his left. What is interesting about this to me, Kevin, is that it shows how far to the left Bart Ehrman is himself, that if the only people left on his left wing are the mythicists, if those are the people he's got to criticize, you can see then really how far left of center Bart Ehrman himself is. But in any case we can be thankful to him for defending the existence Jesus of Nazareth.
Kevin Harris: Then we go a step further, of course, to get to critiquing his views on the resurrection.
Dr. Craig: Yes, and I did use that as part of my talk. I focused on his misstatement and misuse of the so-called criteria of authenticity for studying the historical Jesus. You would expect a New Testament scholar to be very careful about how he states the criteria, and then about their application, and in fact Ehrman is very sloppy on both counts. And then I looked specifically at the evidence for the resurrection and showed how his critique of belief in the resurrection of Jesus on the basis of the evidence is really just a warmed over version of Hume's argument against the identification of miracles. Ehrman says that it is a self-contradiction to say that the most improbable event probably happened. And what I show is that that's not a contradiction because you're talking about two different probabilities there. Even if a miracle's intrinsic probability is very tiny (that's the probability of the miracle on the background information alone), nevertheless the total probability of the miracle (that is to say the probability of the miracle on the background information plus the specific evidence) can still be very high. So it's no contradiction at all to say that an event which is intrinsically improbable in light of the evidence probably happened.
Kevin Harris: I want people to keep an eye on ReasonableFaith.org because there's a series in the Defender’s class that you teach that is going to be dealing with these in detail, and critiquing Spinoza and looking at Hume's arguments and Bayes' theorem and so on and so that will be coming up.
Dr. Craig: Yes, that comes up in our discussion of the doctrine of providence and how God governs the world.
Kevin Harris: The doctrine of providence, okay, so keep an eye out for that. Now, one of the final things you did is something that I know thousands of people and most of my friends would have really liked to have been at. And that is, you offered a four-hour seminar on how to do a debate, some how-to's, debating as a ministry activity.
Dr. Craig: Yes, this was a post-forum seminar. After the conference was over conferees who wanted to hang around for an extra day could go to some of these post-forum seminars. And Greg Pritchard just twisted my arm to give a post-forum seminar on how to debate, or how do use debate as a ministry activity. And I did not want to do this because I said in four hours you can't do anything but make somebody dangerous in the sense that they'll go out and take risks that they ought not to take. I'm not very enthusiastic about people who say, “Oh, I want to go out and start debating” because this is a discipline that requires enormous amounts of practice. It's sort of like professional ice skating. When you see that Olympic skater it looks so easy, so effortless, but you go out on the ice as a beginner and you're going to fall flat on your behind. It's not as easy as it looks. And so before a person engages in debate, he needs to take courses in it, he needs to have practice debate after practice debate with mock opponents before he ventures on to the public stage and does the real thing. And I think sometimes people rush into this.
Kevin Harris: They do, and everybody wants to do these, Bill, so I don't think we can overemphasize. Be sure, if you have this platform, because it will go into the archives of people's minds; you need to make sure that your ducks are in a row before you have that kind of a platform.
Dr. Craig: Yes. Too many pastors have thought that they're equipped to go out and debate some local atheist thinker, and they get taken to the wood shed, and it hurts the cause of Christ. But nevertheless with those warnings and caveats I was willing to go ahead and offer this seminar to perhaps prompt some people to start moving in that direction. And many people in the seminar were Christian leaders who already have significant ministries, and so it was good to have this sort of input into their lives and hopefully it will be of some benefit for them. Maybe someone will go out and take a public speaking course or debate course and begin to think about this kind of ministry, or they could help them just in even conversational evangelism.
Kevin Harris: Bill, finally, something happened here with a professor that was similar to what happened on your speaking tour in Brazil. That is a philosophy teacher who was a Christian but who was very much in the closet until he heard you. And it brought him out of a depression as well as gave him a new boldness.
Dr. Craig: This was a remarkable story, Kevin. A Norwegian philosopher at a secular Norwegian university took me aside during the conference and said, “Let's have lunch together. I want to tell you my story.” And he told me that although he had always been a Christian his Christianity was utterly privatized. He never let it influence his philosophy; he never thought in the world that he might be a Christian philosopher. And he fell into a period of deep depression that lasted about two years during which he wasn't able to engage in any productive work. And during that time he somehow came across our Defenders podcasts and began listening to the podcasts of my Defenders Sunday school class. And he told me that during the course of those weeks and months as he listened to Defenders it began to dawn on him that he could be a Christian philosopher, and that he could develop a Christian world and life view that would include a Christian perspective on the important philosophical questions that he normally lectured on. And so after he came out of this depression, he said, “I changed everything.” He said, “I now announce to my classes that I am a Christian and that I will approach these topics from the standpoint of a Christian philosopher, whether they like it or not.” And he teaches intro classes that have, he said, three hundred and fifty plus students in them, large lecture classes of students. Moreover he told me he supervises PhD students. He has graduate students that are training to get doctorates and will go into professorships at Norwegian universities. And he is also guiding many of them in doing Christian philosophical work. So this man is having a tremendous impact upon Norway, very secular university environment, and it's all because he began listening to these Defenders podcasts and captured a different vision for his life that has just really changed his whole teaching career.
Kevin Harris: Again, changing lives like this, changing lives in the university culture, trickles down to the culture at large and shows that the cause of Christ and the person of Christ can get a hearing and provides that. I can't say enough about that. But after this rigorous speaking tour here in the spring of these three different counties, Bill, you're back to work on divine aseity.
Dr. Craig: Right, it's very good, Kevin, finally, to be back home in the study and once again at my desk researching and writing. I'm very glad not to be traveling for a while.
Kevin Harris: Alright, thank you, Dr. Craig. Exciting things just keep happening at Reasonable Faith, and you don't want to miss a minute of it. And be sure that you check out Dr. Craig's online class called Defenders. It's available, too, at ReasonableFaith.org, and it's free. I'm Kevin Harris, we'll see you next time.
 See Defenders 2 “Doctrine of Creation” parts 13 through 19 at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/s8 (accessed March 15, 2014).
 Total Running Time: 16:04 (Copyright © 2012 William Lane Craig)