Upcoming Debates and Events at Reasonable Faith
Dr. Craig reviews 2015 and announces some exciting events for 2016!
Upcoming Debates and Events at Reasonable Faith
KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, I want to encourage everyone not to miss the upcoming podcasts. Just when we think that the world can’t get any more interesting, it does! We really have some fantastic topics. We want to begin today just by talking about some of the things that have been going on with you at Reasonable Faith, and some of the things upcoming.
DR. CRAIG: Happy New Year, Kevin! It is good to start a New Year podcasting with you. 2015 was a good year for Reasonable Faith. You know there are several facets to this ministry. The sort of public face of Reasonable Faith would be my speaking ministry on university campuses and elsewhere. This past year we had a couple of international trips that I thought were very significant. Jan and I traveled to the UK where I was invited to give the prestigious Cadbury Lectures at the University of Birmingham. This came just at the time of the completion of my twelve-year research program on God and abstract objects. So it gave me a chance to condense this into these five Cadbury Lectures, and then to close out the week speaking on the kalam cosmological argument. Then we went down to Southampton where I did a talk on the movie The Theory of Everything about the life and thought of Stephen Hawking and the theological implications of that. All of these were very well received.
Later in the fall Jan and I were off to Germany and Austria for, I think, some significant events there highlighted by a debate in Munich with a prominent German atheist philosopher and materialist named Ansgar Beckermann. This debate was in German so in order to do that I prepared months in advance. Every day for an hour in the morning and then again in the evening I would practice German and practice my speaking and review grammar and so forth. I never worked so hard for a debate as for this one. When the tour was finally over I found myself with time on my hands because I was no longer having to practice German everyday as part of my workday. But it really went well. The debate, I thought, was substantive. Beckermann himself came away from it feeling very positive about having participated in such an event. He found it interesting and fruitful, which I thought was really good that he wasn’t alienated but cultivated and felt good about being involved with the Christians who put on this event in Munich.
Then also we had a little speaking tour that took me to Austria where I spoke at universities in Graz, in Vienna, and then also in Innsbruck. In Innsbruck I participated in a conference of the Austrian Society for the Philosophy of Religion which is centered there. This is, I think, probably the most significant center for philosophy of religion in the German-speaking world. They told me that what was done in the debate with Ansgar Beckermann is simply unknown in Germany. These kinds of events simply are not held. So this was really groundbreaking. But in Innsbruck there is this center where some significant philosophy of religion is being done from a Christian perspective. That, I think, bodes well for the future in terms of the flames of this revolution that has gone on in the Anglo-American realm in Christian philosophy can also begin in the German-speaking world as well.
Both of these trips – the one to England and the one later to Germany and Austria – I thought were significant speaking events.
Then there were many events stateside as well. You remember the Bible and Beer Consortium in Dallas.
KEVIN HARRIS: I want to get to that. But let me ask you about Beckermann.
DR. CRAIG: Sure, go ahead.
KEVIN HARRIS: Is there anything in particular that was his main contention for his particular view?
DR. CRAIG: Yes. Beckermann isn’t a specialist in philosophy of religion. He does philosophy of mind and biology. So his arguments for atheism weren’t really on the cutting edge. For example, his main point was the logical version of the problem of evil. He seemed largely unaware that this has been widely, almost universally, rejected in the Anglophone world among both atheist and theistic philosophers alike. Yet he was still pressing the argument that God and evil are logically incompatible. Or, on the other hand, in objection to my moral argument, he pressed the old Euthyphro Dilemma, as though this were something new and cutting edge. That is the argument that if God arbitrarily decides what moral values are then that makes “the good” capricious and arbitrary. On the other hand, if God does what is good then “the good” is independent of God and he is subservient to it. This has been answered so many times by philosophers in the Anglo-American realm that it was surprising again to see this sort of thing being put forward. But, having said that of course, a secular German university audience isn’t aware either that these arguments are passé, and so to them these probably came across as powerful and significant objections that needed to be addressed.
KEVIN HARRIS: You mentioned the Bible and Beer. That was a really exciting event. It took place in Dallas. This group wants to just really be in the world but not of it and really go where people are outside of the church. So they will rent out a nightclub and bring in Christian speakers and philosophers such as yourself. They will have debates and get to the street level. We’ve talked about that event and had a podcast on it, but any reflections?
DR. CRAIG: Oh, your podcast was brilliant, Kevin! That had to be one of the most creative podcasts that I’ve heard you do – that Dallas one. But it was wonderful to have the kind of interaction, dialogue, with non-believers who came out in great numbers to that event because it was held in a bar, I think, largely. Since then we have actually gotten emails from folks – I can think of at least one who became a Christian subsequent to that event and is now following Christ.
KEVIN HARRIS: You spoke on the resurrection; you gave the evidence for the resurrection. You took a Q&A afterwards. Our friend Tim McGrew debated another friend of ours, an atheist Zach Moore, recently at this Bible and Beer Consortium on I believe the topic was, “Is it Rational to Believe in Miracles?” Tim McGrew, as I understand, just did a tremendous job on that. I told Zach that he shouldn’t have done that debate. There is no way you are going to get anywhere with that.
DR. CRAIG: I would be very, very reluctant to debate Tim McGrew!
KEVIN HARRIS: He’s a real specialist on the area of miracles and the miraculous as well. What about in the publishing world? What do you have going on there? On Guard!
DR. CRAIG: Right! 2015 saw the publication of the student edition of On Guard. I think what is most significant about this is that it is not really a book that is dumbed down and put in the language of students. What it actually is is it is a version of On Guard for an unbeliever. The original On Guard is written for Christians. Each chapter begins with a Bible verse, it speaks from an insider perspective about how you can answer the unbeliever if he raises this objection and so forth. It is a manual written for believers to equip them to defend their faith. But what I discovered was that many people, because of the good arguments laid out in the book, were giving it to their non-believing friends as a sort of evangelistic tool. This rather made me cringe because I thought, “Oh my goodness, this book isn’t written for an unbeliever.” It says things like, “If the atheist says this, then you can say that.” It just wouldn’t be appropriate. So I wanted very badly to rewrite a version of the book that could be an evangelistic tool that you could give away to an unbeliever with confidence that there wouldn’t be anything in it that would be off-putting. The chance to do this student edition gave me the opportunity to do that. Now each chapter, rather than beginning with a Bible verse, will begin with a quotation from Shakespeare or David Hume or Camus or someone like that. Then it is written from the standpoint of a seeker – an exploration that we are both on, looking to find out the truth about God and about Jesus, who he was. Then it ends in the final chapter with an invitation and a prayer to give one’s life to Christ and make a commitment if the seeker is ready at that point. The book has a very different texture than the original On Guard. I am hopeful that people will find it useful to give to a friend or family member who is seeking.
KEVIN HARRIS: Let me see if you agree with me on this. This is something that I found. There needs to be some good relationship evangelism if you are reaching out to a person who doesn’t know Christ or who doesn’t believe in God before you thrust a book at them. Books are very helpful, but if you, before laying any ground work or even developing a relationship, just hold this book up and go – “Read this!” – probably they are going to go home with the attitude of, “I am going to take this apart and let me see what I can do to come up with a refutation.” I have found that to be the case earlier in my life in ministry. But after a while, after you’ve developed some of these things and developed a sincere (not a patronizing) relationship with someone (not just to win him over), then a book is helpful because it will deepen some of these things.
DR. CRAIG: I think that is very well said. In fact, sometimes giving a person a book too quickly can actually be really an excuse for not getting involved in their lives; rather than making the effort to really listen to them and find out where their needs are and what they are thinking, you just thrust a book on them, and you think then you’ve washed your hands of this person – “I’ve done my duty.” That is not right. I appreciate your saying that.
KEVIN HARRIS: What else is coming up this year?
DR. CRAIG: On the publishing front, what is very significant for me personally is that after a dozen years of working on this topic on God and abstract objects, or divine aseity (a defense of God’s self-existence in the face of the challenge posed to this attribute of God by Platonism), my semi-popular book on this subject is now under contract with Oxford University Press. I am just elated about this. Oxford University Press is the foremost publisher of books in the philosophy of mathematics which is what this book largely deals with. I am really thrilled that they were interested in offering a contract. I’ve delivered the final manuscript to them. The book should appear by the end of this year. The book is an expansion as it were of my Cadbury Lectures that we spoke about a moment ago. There were five of those lectures. I’ve expanded those into ten chapters. It is a difficult book. I call it semi-popular because it is just impossible to make some of these issues popular-level material. But nevertheless I’ve tried to explain everything very thoroughly, especially new terminology. It has a fifteen page glossary in the back of the book where every term is either explained or illustrated in a very simple way so that people who are unfamiliar with this sort of literature and discussion will be able to learn the vocabulary and get into the debate and understand what the issues are. This, I think, is the most significant publishing accomplishment that we’ve had this past year and going forward.
I am still looking for a publisher for the more lengthy scholarly version of this work. I am finding that publishers are, as you can expect, very reluctant to publish big, fat books on obscure topics because they just don’t make money. So that is a challenge, and I am praying that in 2016 I will land a publisher for the more scholarly version.
KEVIN HARRIS: Any debates scheduled this year?
DR. CRAIG: I have a kind of dialogue, as I would call it, at Ohio State University coming up in February with a philosophy professor there named Kevin Scharp. We will be talking about the existence of God in a Veritas Forum at Ohio State. I do have that one to look forward to.
KEVIN HARRIS: Facebook continues to explode at Reasonable Faith.
DR. CRAIG: Our social media has just gone through the roof. At the beginning of 2014, I think we had about 20,000 Facebook followers. By the end of that year it had grown to 120,000. By the end of 2015 it is now 320,000. The activity on Facebook is just exploding. Much of this activity is from foreign countries. Much of it is in Brazil and in Turkey, interestingly enough. We are very encouraged to see this social media presence, and hope that this will help to draw people to the website and to the YouTube channels as well as these podcasts where they can get further information.
KEVIN HARRIS: Reasonable Faith chapters continue to spring up all over the world.
DR. CRAIG: Our director, Stephen McAndrew, is doing a terrific job with them. He has cleaned out the dead wood, so to speak – chapters that were inactive and only existed on paper. So they are all now active chapters. They continue to grow. There are currently 82 chapters, both here and abroad. Some of the people who are involved in these have very significant ministries in their own right. Just to name one. One of the chapter directors is Kirk MacGregor, who is a philosophy teacher. He has just published the very first biography ever written of Luis Molina. It is getting rave reactions from people who have looked at it. I am about halfway through the biography. It is a thrill to me to see that Reasonable Faith is partnered with someone like Kirk who is doing such great work. There are many other chapter directors as well.
KEVIN HARRIS: The founder of Molinism.
DR. CRAIG: Yes, that is right. Luis Molina developed the theology of Molinism now named after him based upon the doctrine of middle knowledge, which we’ve talked about on many occasions.
KEVIN HARRIS: As we conclude today, I don’t know if we have a Reasonable Faith chapter in Iceland, but we just got a report that no Icelander under the age of 25 (according to one survey) believes God created the universe. We may talk about this in a podcast as we look at world trends in the future, but Reasonable Faith chapters are certainly helpful in areas like this. Maybe some of our Icelander friends can start a chapter.
DR. CRAIG: I would love that. I think that in these very secular countries, especially in Western Europe, Reasonable Faith can be a bright beacon of hope and a rallying point for the minority of Christians that are there. This is also, I think, a warning and an object lesson to us here in the United States to do everything we can to prevent our society and culture from following the lead of these secular Western European nations where Christianity has been diminished and the light of the Gospel is now so dim.
 For this podcast, see http://www.reasonablefaith.org/live-in-downtown-dallas (accessed January 25, 2016).
 Kirk R. MacGregor, Luis de Molina: The Life and Theology of the Founder of Middle Knowledge (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2015).
 Total Running Time: 18:16 (Copyright © 2016 William Lane Craig)