The Very Latest From Reasonable Faith
Dr. Craig reviews some of his recent experiences and some upcoming events and debates
The Very Latest From Reasonable Faith
Kevin Harris: This is Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. Thanks for joining us. I'm Kevin Harris. Stay close! At the end of today's podcast, I'll tell you about some of the amazing topics we are going to be talking about with Dr. Craig in the coming days. Believe me when I tell you, there are some interesting things that we cover from all over the world, and you don't want to miss a minute of it!
In the meantime, Dr. Craig, you've been busy as usual. Fill us in on some of the things you've been up to – you've been spending some time out on the West Coast in the States?
Dr. Craig: Yes, that is right. I've been out at Talbot. I was there for two weeks teaching a course in Philosophy of Religion at Talbot School of Theology. I had a great group of students. Then a week after that I was back out at Biola once more for a dialogue on religion and science that featured my colleague J. P. Moreland as well as John Lennox, who is really a remarkable man. I got to know him a little bit better during this forum. Those were a couple of recent events that I've been involved in.
Then in early February I was at Rutgers University where Ratio Christi sponsored a campus-wide event where I spoke on the existence of God and the beginning of the universe. We had a large capacity crowd for that. It was about an hour and a half of questions after the lecture that I did. That was very, very fun. Then the next day I spent an hour and a half with the Ratio Christi chapter answering questions that they peppered me with. This group includes quite a number of unbelievers as well as Christians. We had a very good time of interaction. These folks are very congenial. They are not hostile or rude; just genuine, sincere questions that we explored together. Then we hurried from that informal time to a reading group that is run by Dean Zimmerman at Rutgers. He is in the faculty of Philosophy there, and one of, I think, America's foremost meta-physicians. They had read my paper on anti-Platonism which is part of the “Six Views” book Beyond The Control of God edited by Paul Gould. I walked into the room and there I saw not only Dean Zimmerman but Bob and Marilyn Adams sitting there. They are very prominent Christian philosophers. In the corner was Rob Koons from UT Austin who is there on sabbatical. Then in the other side of the room, Howard Robinson from Central European University in Budapest, as well as quite a number of graduate students. For the next two hours we had a discussion of this paper. It was really a wonderful experience to have this interaction by peers on my work. It was an encouragement to me that I'm going in the right direction and that my thinking on this is solid and defensible. So that was a really good time. Then when that reading group finished we hurried down the hall to Marilyn Adam's seminar in philosophy of religion. She is doing a course on the incarnation. As part of that they read my chapter from Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview in which I propose and defend a neo-Apollinarian Christology. For the next two-and-a-half hours until I had to go to the airport we dialogued and discussed this proposed Christology. That was very interesting as well. It was helpful to me as well to see their insights and feedback on this model. That was a really great trip.
Those are some of the things that I've been up to lately.
Kevin Harris: You had a chance to speak at a church as well.
Dr. Craig: I'm sorry! I overlooked that. That is right. When I was at Talbot, I went up to Ventura, California which is up north close to Santa Barbara, and spoke in Ventura Baptist Church. They did a very novel thing. They had set aside their Sunday morning services and turned them over to evangelistic outreaches geared toward non-believers. You can bring your non-believing friend. During the first hour I spoke on the question, “Does God exist?” We used the three videos that we've developed on the kalam cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, and the moral argument. I would show the video clip, and then I would reflect on it and discuss it a little bit, and then we threw it open to the floor for questions. In the second hour we talked about the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Has God revealed himself in history in some way that we can know him in a more particular way? I argued for the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. This was really a great way to use a Sunday morning to reach out to the community. They about doubled their attendance from what they normally get during those two services. They were really excited about this outreach as well.
Kevin Harris: Churches, take note! What a great way to spend a Sunday morning, as you said, to do something like this. Fantastic. That is good material, too, Bill. Three reasons God exist and three reasons that it makes a difference.
Dr. Craig: That was the name of the talk. Right.
Kevin Harris: We can defend God's existence and talk about his existence, then somebody says, “OK. God exists. So what?”
Dr. Craig: “So what?” Yes.
Kevin Harris: Three reasons that it makes a difference.
Dr. Craig: Right. I led off with the three reasons that it makes a big difference if God exists, and therefore you ought to think about it. The first reason was that if God does not exist then life is ultimately meaningless. We are all just doomed to perish in the heat-death of the universe no matter what we do or what we think. It all ends up the same. The second reason was that if God does not exist then there is no hope of deliverance from the shortcomings of our finite existence. I am thinking here of things like evil in the world to which there is no solution. If there is no God, the world is just filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering. Then I am thinking, too, of, of course, aging, disease, and finally death. There is no hope of deliverance from those on atheism. Finally, the third reason was a positive reason. If God does exist, then not only is there a basis for meaning and hope but it also provides a possibility of coming to know God and his love in a personal way. This could be a life-changing experience. Therefore, it is very important to ask the question, “Is there really a God?”
Kevin Harris: Bill, talk about the event at Baylor University as well. That wasn't too long ago.
Dr. Craig: That's right. That was last November. This was a really interesting conference. Years ago, back in 1982 I think, Alvin Plantinga was invited to give a lecture at Wheaton College at the Philosophy Conference. As a young philosopher and faculty member at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School which is just north of Chicago and northeast of Wheaton, I attended this conference. The lecture that Plantinga gave was called “Two Dozen or So Arguments for God's Existence.” Kevin, it was just a tour de force. He laid out more than two dozen arguments for God's existence, many of which were so creative and novel and unusual that they just never had been discussed before. Now, years later, the philosophers at Baylor University decided to have a conference where they would revisit these two dozen or so arguments. They would invite Plantinga to come to the conference and they would assign to a Christian philosopher each one of these arguments. Then he would give a paper on it, and these would eventually be published in the form of a book on these two dozen or so arguments for God's existence. The conference was a sort of working conference where certain selected participants would present the rough draft of their chapter or their paper and get feedback from the other people in the audience. I was invited to give a paper on the kalam cosmological argument. This was not, interestingly enough, one of the two dozen listed by Plantinga back in 1982. But he had a section of the paper called “And so on.” The kalam argument got thrown into the batch of “And so on” arguments.
Kevin Harris: I wonder why? That family of cosmological arguments are among the more prominent.
Dr. Craig: I would like to think that since I wrote The Kalam Cosmological Argument only in 1979 that it was still very new in terms of people's consciousness. But I also think that Plantinga, when you look at the body of his work, really never interacts with the argument. Even subsequently, he never endorses it and never disputes it. The only place I found in his corpus where he interacts with the argument is a brief passage in his book Warranted Christian Belief where he criticizes Kant's argument in his First Antimony for the thesis that the world had a beginning. That was part of my talk that I gave at Baylor. I looked at Kant's argument – quoted it verbatim – then looked at the relevant paragraphs from Plantinga's argument and showed how Plantinga, I think, just had failed to connect with Kant's argument. He really didn't represent it accurately and that his criticism was therefore quite off target. That was part of the paper that I presented and will eventually be developed into this chapter. Again, it was really fun to interact with the other philosophers. The first one to ask me a question, as I recall, was Richard Swinburne!
Kevin Harris: I would have loved to have been at this conference. I saw a picture of Richard Swinburne asking you a question. I said, “I would like to be a fly on the wall.” What did he ask?
Dr. Craig: I think it had to do with whether or not, if the universe had a beginning, there was time before the universe. Because his view is that there is a kind of non-metric time prior to the beginning of the universe in which intervals of time cannot be compared. It makes no sense to say, “There was a period one trillion years prior to the beginning of the universe or one second prior to the beginning of the universe.” In this non-metric time it doesn't make sense to compare the length of intervals that are not nested within each other. So I just interacted a little bit with that question and explained that the kalam argument is itself neutral with respect to whether non-metric time existed prior to the beginning of the universe. The kalam argument would be that there cannot have been metric time infinite in the past.
Kevin Harris: Is non-metric time another way to refer to undifferentiated time?
Dr. Craig: Yes, that is right. The easy way to think about it is that it is a time which is impossible to measure in terms of its duration or the length of any intervals that you might make in it. As I say, there is just no difference between one second prior to creation and ten trillion years prior to creation because you can't measure intervals according to Swinburne.
Kevin Harris: Do you feel you got young Swinburne straightened out?
Dr. Craig: Oh, he's not the sort of fellow who changes his mind. [laughter] But I think my response was adequate.
Kevin Harris: He is still very influential.
Dr. Craig: And very active! This Baylor conference was honoring Alvin Plantinga who also was in attendance there. But then also I believe in November, or at least some time in the fall, there was a conference at Purdue University honoring Richard Swinburne's contributions to philosophy of religion. This also featured some of the top philosophers in philosophy of religion today, and again showcased Swinburne's contributions. I would say that while Plantinga is better known and more influential in North America, that in Europe (I am particularly thinking of Continental Europe) Richard Swinburne would actually be the more influential of the two.
Kevin Harris: You had a deadline that you had to meet as well – an essay on a Molinist perspective, the problem of evil. That is coming up in a forthcoming book?
Dr. Craig: Right. Chad Meister is editing a “Four Views” book on different approaches to the problem of evil. He asked me to make a contribution from the Molinist perspective. That is to say, if God has middle knowledge (knowledge of what any person he might create would do in any possible set of circumstances he might place him in) does that help in dealing with the problem of evil in the world? I argued that it helps a great deal because it shows very clearly how God could have good reasons for allowing the suffering in the world that would not at all be perspicuous to us. These instances of evil or suffering might appear to us utterly pointless and unnecessary and gratuitous, but for a God with middle knowledge who understands the incomprehensible complexity of providentially ordering a world of free creatures to ultimately achieve his ends, there might be reasons for this suffering that God has even though they are not obvious to us.
Kevin Harris: Houston Baptist University has some things going on as well to keep you busy?
Dr. Craig: Right. I was there in the fall and had a wonderful experience at that time. Now Jan and I will be back again at HBU for a week where I will be teaching on the kalam cosmological argument. I will also be meeting with President Sloan and his wife and getting to know some of the members of the board who are having a meeting themselves during that week. So we are looking forward to that time at HBU.
Kevin Harris: Some television appearances as well in Nashville coming up?
Dr. Craig: That's right. The National Religious Broadcasters is inviting me to come to Nashville and do a talk on the concept of God in Islam and Christianity. As you know, of course, Islam is so much in the news today. So they are inviting a number of pretty prominent individuals to come in and address the question of Islam and Christianity from different perspectives. As a philosopher and theologian they invited me to talk about the differing concepts of God in these two religions.
Kevin Harris: Hope and pray that this will be some real seed-planting at the NRB – National Religious Broadcasters – because the most influential, certainly religious broadcasters, and Christian broadcasters as well as just American broadcasters are members of the NRB and attend these conferences.
Dr. Craig: Yes. This isn't normally something I would do, but precisely for that reason I felt that this was a strategic opportunity to introduce the resources that Reasonable Faith has to these folks and hope that they would then take advantage of them.
Kevin Harris: What does the rest of the year look like so far? Debates? Lectures?
Dr. Craig: A number of things this year. A couple of international trips and some really exciting opportunities coming up. In March, Jan and I will be traveling to England for my Cadbury Lectures at the University of Birmingham. This is a very prestigious lecture series that I have been invited to deliver. It is particularly meaningful to me because the University of Birmingham is my alma mater. This is where I studied the cosmological argument under the direction of John Hick, who was a doctoral adviser than which a greater cannot be conceived! [laughter] He was just terrific to work with. I am really excited to be giving these lectures. The overall title of the lectures is “God Over All.” It is a defense of God's being the sole ultimate reality. There are no uncreated entities apart from God. So it will be meeting the challenge of Platonism to this Christian claim. I will be talking about the Platonist claim that there are uncreated abstract objects like numbers and propositions and possible worlds and properties and things of those sort. Then after the Cadbury Lectures are over I will be giving a public lecture at the University of Birmingham on the kalam cosmological argument, which is very appropriate since it was there that I wrote the doctoral dissertation that that argument in my word came from.
Kevin Harris: Any debates scheduled?
Dr. Craig: I do have a debate in October. This will be our second international trip. At the University at Munich which is, again, interesting because that is where I did my doctoral studies under Wolfhart Pannenberg in theology on the resurrection of Jesus. This will be a debate on the existence of God with a German philosopher named Ansgar Beckermann. In reading his work, I found Beckermann to be very informed about Anglo-American analytic philosophy of religion. He cites Swinburne, cites Plantinga, and interacts with their work. This debate is going to be in German which makes it a particular challenge. My German isn't good enough to just do this extemporaneously. That would give too much of an advantage away to Hr. Beckermann. What I said I would do is if we exchange our speeches in advance so that mine can be translated into good idiomatic native German then I will do it. We've already begun an exchange of speeches. We've already exchanged our opening statements. I have then sent to him my first response. I am awaiting from him his first response right now as we speak. I have been practicing my opening speech in German so as to be able to deliver it with the right phrasing and intonation and everything. This has been a great deal of fun because it has been decades since I have spoken German on a daily basis. This has really been fun preparing for this.
Another event taking place in April will be, I think, of interest to everyone who is part of a Reasonable Faith chapter around the country. We are going to be live-streaming an event put on by the Dallas chapter that will take place in a Dallas bar! They got the permission of the bar to have me give a talk on the existence of God in this saloon and then it will be live-streamed to all of our Reasonable Faith chapters around the country. Folks will be able to ask questions. This promises to be a really interesting interactive time with a largely non-Christian audience.
Then in April I am also going to be going over to Southern Evangelical Seminary for a very interesting dialogue with Peter van Inwagen and J. T. Bridges on the subject of God and abstract objects. Van Inwagen is one of the world's most prominent meta-physicians and is also a Platonist. We see eye-to-eye on almost nothing! This should be a really good dialogue, I think, on this very important topic.
Kevin Harris: OK, thank you, Bill. Now here are some topics that we will be talking about in coming weeks. Recently, Dr. Craig got a very interesting letter. He included it as a question of the week. Many are saying, including me, that it is one of the most compelling question of the week letters we've ever received at Reasonable Faith. It is titled, “You've Ruined My Life, Professor Craig!!” You can read the letter and Dr. Craig's response in the question and answer section of ReasonableFaith.org, but we want to discuss it further in a podcast. That is coming up. Also some more on the pastor who decided to live as an atheist for a year. The story has gone viral. This former pastor mentions Dr. Craig in a CNN article. We will look at that some more. And more on God and science. You may have noticed that there is a sudden increase on the relationship between God and science in the popular press. There is still so much misunderstanding in this area. Don't miss any Reasonable Faith podcasts coming up. As always, we so appreciate any support you can give us to keep the resources from Dr. Craig free and flowing all over the world. You can donate right there on the website, right now, at ReasonableFaith.org. We really appreciate it. I'm Kevin Harris. We'll see you next time on Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig.
 http://www.reasonablefaith.org/you-have-ruined-my-life-professor-craig (accessed March 3, 2015).
 Total Running Time: 22:30 (Copyright © 2015 William Lane Craig)