Questions From All Over the World Part 3
Dr. Craig fields questions sent to him from all over the globe, including topics such as the Atonement, a Christian view of work, free will, evolution, and how to deal with doubt.
Questions From All Over the World Part 3
KEVIN HARRIS: Welcome to the podcast. This is Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. Today, continuing a series of questions from all over the world including Brazil. Stay close. We have lots of podcasts coming up on topics you are probably following right now. Have you heard about the Nashville Statement? We have Dr. Craig's interaction with some top-notch atheist philosophers coming up as well. And there is a real buzz on the new Zangmeister video on the problem of evil. We have more of those coming. Check those out. Bookmark ReasonableFaith.org and come back often. You can always make a donation through ReasonableFaith.org to keep us going all over the world and answering questions like these.
The next question:
Hi, Dr. Craig. First of all, thanks for all your work. Nowadays I am especially interested in Defenders podcast. It is really helping my journey with Christ. I have just one question regarding an argument that I keep hearing from some colleagues. I am a psychiatrist. I call this argument the argument from epilepsy. As I understand, they usually present it as this.
1. Epilepsy is a complex disease that can cause many symptoms – hearing voices, seeing lights, and other things, and motor symptoms.
2. Many famous people have or had epilepsy. Many of those were prolific writers like Dostoevsky, for example.
3. The prophets and visionaries were probably not treated epileptics. They give as example the conversion of Paul – comparing the biblical description with the recent knowledge about epilepsy.
4. Epilepsy is a completely natural explanation for the so-called revelation events.
5. Therefore the Bible is not to be trusted as the Word of God.
I can see the argument is weak, but I am having difficulty in exposing my response. I wonder how you would respond to this especially because the argument could be used as an explanation for some postmortem experiences with Jesus.
DR. CRAIG: I would commend to Fernando my discussion of the hallucination hypothesis in the book The Resurrection of Jesus: Fact or Figment which Paul Copan edited. This is the text of a debate with the German New Testament scholar Gerd Ludemann on the resurrection of Jesus. Ludemann is probably the most famous proponent of the view that the resurrection appearances of Jesus were hallucinations. He gives a different psychological explanation than epilepsy. His explanation is that Paul had a repressed guilt conscience and so did Peter. These expressed themselves or found relief in projections of Jesus in glory. Whatever you think to be the cause is in a sense not the most relevant thing, but the question whether or not these postmortem appearances can be plausibly explained as hallucinations. I think in the book I give a fairly devastating critique of the theory that these experiences are merely hallucinatory. To mention just one point that the people in Brazil who are pushing this don't seem to have appreciated and that is that psycho-analysis cannot be done on historical figures. Psycho-analysis is difficult enough with a patient that is there on the therapist's couch, so to speak, but it is impossible to do with historical figures. That is why the genre of psycho-biography is rejected by historians. We just don't have enough information about Paul or these disciples to be able to provide a diagnosis like they were untreated epileptics and that what Paul saw was the result of an epileptic fit. For that reason I think this is not a very good explanation of the resurrection appearances, and there are quite a number of other objections that I raise in this book as well.
KEVIN HARRIS: By the way, have you heard that Dostoevsky was epileptic?
DR. CRAIG: This is news to me. Have you heard that?
KEVIN HARRIS: I had not heard it.
DR. CRAIG: I am skeptical of it.
KEVIN HARRIS: I'll look into it. OK.
Dear Dr. Craig, My question is simple. How do you deal with spiritual, intellectual thoughts and feelings of pride? I am speaking in reference to your debates, winning, and being considered by many to be one of the greatest theologians of our time and the fact that God gives his grace to the humble? Thank you for your ministry and time.
DR. CRAIG: What Taylor rightly reminds us of is the statement in James that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. When we are proud or conceited, we need to understand that we are being resisted by God. Think of that. That God would resist you. That is a sobering warning, and I think provides real motivation to fight against this spiritual impairment of pride. Fortunately in my case I frankly don't feel that I have very much to be proud of. When I look at my intellectual abilities, I think they are second-rate. I don't think of myself as one of the top-rung philosophers or theologians. I think of what the Lord has accomplished through our ministry. I am very gratified by it, but I feel like it is just very, very limited and tiny in the grand scheme of things. I actually sometimes have to struggle with feelings of inadequacy rather than pride. I am reminded of Isaac Newton who was the world's greatest physicist who ever lived. At the end of his Principia he has this wonderful passage where he says, I feel as though I have been nothing but a little child playing on the seashore finding a prettier rock or a prettier shell than before while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. I think of that image of Newton like a little child playing with shells and pebbles on the seashore while this great ocean lies undiscovered in front of him. It puts our intellectual attainments in proper perspective. When we understand how paltry and weak our intellectual attainments are, I think this gives good grounds for the humility that the Scripture says we should incorporate into our lives.
Hi, Dr. Craig. My name is Matthias. I am a physics student from Brazil. I am very interested in general and special metaphysics. I was skeptical metaphysically naturalistic even without realizing the burden of proof. Then deep into science and metaphysics as much as my resources allow. I was a Christian for many years in my life. But a few years ago I became an atheist. I recently had a different glimpse of the modal ontological argument that made me rethink my position, and now it seems to me the arguments for theism are rational enough for my new intellectual structure. I thank God for not answering those prayers at the time or I would not have investigated so hard during those years and really understood the problem. Thank you for your work. It is very important to me.
DR. CRAIG: This, I think, is extraordinary. The next time someone says to you that no one ever is convinced or becomes a theist because of the ontological argument, we need to point them to Matthias because here is a fellow steeped in metaphysics and science – an atheist – and it was his study of the ontological argument of all things that prompted him to become a theist. So this is, I think, remarkable testimony to how God can use a variety of different arguments in bringing people to recognize his reality.
KEVIN HARRIS: He says,
Turning to my question, Molinism has the concept of radical depravity to which Kenneth Keathley writes, “The old term 'total depravity' gives the impression that fallen humanity is always as bad as it could be. The new term 'radical depravity' emphasizes more correctly that every aspect of our being is affected by the fall and makes us unable to save or even want to be saved.”
DR. CRAIG: Here he is quoting Ken Keathley who is a Southern Baptist theologian who has adopted a Molinist perspective in theology and has written a book on this – a remarkable testimony to the power of Molinism among Protestants today. What Keathley says is that the term “total depravity” is misleading. It makes it sound like sinners are as blackened and as bad as they could be, which is obviously not true. But he proposes uses “radical depravity” instead which means that there isn't any aspect of human life which is untainted by sin. That is what total depravity really meant. He is simply saying that it is a bad label for this doctrine. The doctrine of total depravity says that sin is like a drop of ink dropped into a glass of water. It taints all of the water. It isn't reserved to just a corner of the glass. The whole glass is tainted by the ink, but it is not as black as it could be.
KEVIN HARRIS: The image of God is effaced in man, but not erased.
DR. CRAIG: Well, that is disputed among theologians as to how it affects the image of God. I talk about that in my Defenders class in lecturing on the image of God and the doctrine of man.
KEVIN HARRIS: He says,
Most theologians seem to be strongly favorable regarding original corruption as being inherited which affects all the aspects of human nature and personality and makes the human being incapable of anything good without supernatural grace.
DR. CRAIG: Here he is talking about what is typically called the doctrine of original sin – that Adam's sin is inherited by his posterity. It is not clear whether he thinks that it is the guilt of Adam's sin which is imputed to us or simply the corruption of our nature that we inherit from Adam, but he uses the word “corruption.”
KEVIN HARRIS: He continues:
In a previous answer you said that original corruption is not a central doctrine of Christianity. So where does this natural corruption of humanity come from? Is it really necessary, this natural corruption?
DR. CRAIG: I think what I said was the doctrine of original sin is not a central doctrine of Christianity. For example, in Eastern Orthodoxy you do not have the notion that Adam's guilt is imputed to each of us as his descendants. But they do have the doctrine of original corruption – that Adam's fall introduced corruption into human nature in virtue of which we all then freely sin. But in either case it seems to me that it would be open to Christians to defend the view that each human being is responsible for his own sin and corruption and that this is not inherited from Adam in virtue of our membership in the human race. It seems to me that that is a view that orthodox Christianity could countenance.
KEVIN HARRIS: OK. So that is how he ends. He says, “Where does this natural corruption of humanity come from? If it is possible that human beings only need to be saved from their own sin and not the sinful nature inherited from Adam?”
DR. CRAIG: I would say that is possible. There are theologians who would hold that. Every person does sin and therefore every person needs to be saved from his own sin, but not from some sort of inherited sinful nature from Adam. So I am not pronouncing on the doctrine; I'm just saying that the Bible allows a degree of latitude here, I think, to affirm different views with regard to original sin.
KEVIN HARRIS: Couple more questions. This says,
Hi, Dr. Craig. I just read your post outlining a dialogue with an atheist, Bob. I am a Christian and find it very often when I discuss my faith with atheists a common language is lacking so we talk past each other. My advanced degrees are in computer science and business with only a minor in philosophy so I certainly don't have the depth that you possess in this area. I just wonder if in a future post you can help us with some pointers on how to keep someone on point instead of getting lost in translation. I realize that at some point an atheist has made up his mind and whatever I say is meaningless to them, but I like to go as far as I can prior to that point. Thank you for everything you do. Your brother in Christ, Rob.
DR. CRAIG: I can think of two things that would be relevant to his question. First with respect to vocabulary, I don't think that one should try to use specialist philosophical vocabulary in talking to most unbelievers. This is apt to be uncommunicative even if it is accurate. You can be very accurate and yet not communicate well because the unbeliever isn't familiar with the vocabulary you are using. One of the important things in talking with an unbeliever will be to make sure we have a common definition of terms. I really like Greg Koukl's advice when an unbeliever makes a claim – you say, What do you mean by that? That is a very important question to ask right at the beginning. Often you will discover that you are not even talking about the same thing because they have different meanings. Then you can lay out exactly what you do mean and make sure you are on the same page. The other thing that I have found so useful in keeping the conversation on point is to lay out the premises for your argument or if the unbeliever has an argument put his argument in the form of premises and then focus on the truth of the premises. Don't allow the question or the discussion to veer off on rabbit trails pursuing other things. Always come back to the premises and their truth. So say to the unbeliever, I understand you've got that question. We can perhaps talk about that later. But right now if you are to avoid this conclusion – if you think my conclusion is false – you must think that one or more of the premises is false. So which premise do you think is false and why? And keep coming back to that question – which premise do you think is false and why? That is the best way I think to keep the conversation on track.
KEVIN HARRIS: Final question today. From the UK:
Hi, Dr. Craig. I am studying philosophy at Sixth Form College in England and the only theist let alone Christian in my class. I discovered your work a few weeks ago at a crucial point in my Christian faith where I had a lot of difficult questions about God, the universe, and everything. I am tremendously grateful for all your work and Reasonable Faith has been an incredibly useful resource to me for finding answers to the questions. It is truly a godsend. May God bless you and all your team at Reasonable Faith. My question concerns the modal ontological argument for God's existence which has made me most interested in modal logic. While studying all the iterations of the argument in my classes, the most profound criticism of it seemed to be an idea of Hume's fork. When I asked my atheist teacher whether the possibility of a MGB [maximally great being] existing entailed that it actually existed, he responded along the lines, Look, you can't go from a priori premises to an a posteriori conclusion. It seems to suggest that since the argument is a priori and hence a relation of ideas it couldn't tell us anything about the world and therefore a priori proofs aren't possible. Is this true? Does the argument fall neatly onto the relation of ideas prong of the fork? Or the matters of fact prong? Or is it a synthetic a priori proof? Perhaps it doesn't help that he thinks metaphysics along with religion are both nonsense.
DR. CRAIG: That last comment is very revealing. His professor thinks that metaphysics along with religion is just nonsense. This shows that he is an old line positivist and verificationist who would dismiss the meaningfulness of metaphysical statements. He draws it back to this fork of Hume where he says that every proposition is either just an expression of relations of ideas or some kind of analytic statement like “All bachelors are unmarried” or else it is a matter of fact that cannot be deduced from pure reason alone. This professor is simply out of touch with contemporary philosophy which I think would recognize that Hume's fork represents an oversimplistic bifurcation with regard to truths. With respect to the ontological argument, it is a demonstration that from the fact that it is possible that a maximally great being exists that that being does exist. The statement that it is possible that a necessarily great being exists is not one that can just be known a priori, I think. You have to examine the concept of a maximally great being and see “Is this an intuitively possible concept? Is this something that could be instantiated?” In that sense it is not really a priori and in fact there are also a posteriori considerations that support it as I've argued in my work on the ontological argument. So I think that the long and the short question is that the professor is simply mistaken and offering overly simplistic distinctions like Hume does is not a sufficient refutation of the ontological argument.
 For discussions of this in the Defenders 2 Series, see “Doctrine of Man” lectures 1 and 2 at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/s10 (accessed September 13, 2017).
 See Q&A #518 “Dialogue on the Kalam Cosmological Argument” at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/dialogue-on-the-kalam-cosmological-argument (accessed September 17, 2017).
 Total Running Time: 20:24 (Copyright © 2017 William Lane Craig)