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Ben Shapiro and a Reasonable Faith Update

September 08, 2019     Time: 20:58

Summary

Dr. Craig talks about his discussions with Ben Shapiro and Sir Roger Penrose as well as what's coming up.

KEVIN HARRIS: Bill, we are little more than half way through the year here, and it has been busy up to this point. Let’s look backwards a little bit and talk about some of the things that we haven’t had a chance to talk about on the podcast. You have had a busy first half of 2019.

DR. CRAIG: It's been very fruitful, both in terms of the traveling and speaking as well as research and writing. The ministry of Reasonable Faith is just booming – reaching out all around the world.

KEVIN HARRIS: Let's talk about Denmark, your trip there.

DR. CRAIG: This was really an interesting trip. It was arranged by Christian philosophers at the University of Aalborg in northern Denmark. They were having a metaphysics conference on the nature of time, and they wanted me to be one of the plenary speakers who would give two lectures on aspects of time from the perspective of a Christian philosopher. I gave one lecture upon God's relationship to time, and then the other lecture came out of my atonement studies where I showed how the doctrine of the atonement, and particularly the expiation of guilt by divine forgiveness, implies a certain theory of time. Those were very novel opportunities. They're both on YouTube now[1] and were very well received by the professional philosophers who were at the conference. In addition to that, though, we did an evangelistic outreach one evening at the University of Aalborg on a case for Christian theism. I used our Zangmeister videos to present and then comment on them and then take questions. We had a huge crowd and wonderful interaction. I then went on to Copenhagen and gave a similar talk for a Veritas Forum in that venue and had lots of Muslims come out to that one. The church where it was held was in a Muslim area of Copenhagen, and so we had really good opportunity to interact with people from that religious faith.

KEVIN HARRIS: Massachusetts – back in the States.

DR. CRAIG: This was a really interesting dialogue with a man named Jeff Hester who is the editor emeritus of Astronomy magazine. He is famous for having taken some of those photos through the Hubble telescope of the so-called Pillars of Creation – these massive gas clouds in outer space, a kind of rusty brown. Perhaps you've seen them? The photos were even made into a US postage stamp. They are stunning photographs, and Hester was one of the astronomers who took those photos. Unfortunately, he is a vehement, volatile, anti-theist and anti-Christian. He is part of the kind of old guard modernist, scientistic movement who thinks that no scientifically informed person can rationally be a theist. That if you're a theist you are literally irrational. The topic he wanted to debate was: Is it possible to rationally be a theist in a scientific age? Is theism rationally possible in an age of science? The philosopher who is the moderator said to me privately by email, Are you sure this is the topic you want? Because it's such an obvious question. Of course it's possible to be a rational theist in an age of science. But this just shows how deeply hostile to religion Hester is that he thinks it's impossible. So in my opening speech I prepared two basic points to share with the students. First I said that there are indisputable examples of rational theists who are scientifically informed persons. I just popped up slide after slide of people like Allan Sandage (the greatest astronomer of the 20th century), Christopher Isham (perhaps Britain's greatest quantum cosmologist), George Ellis from University of South Africa who knows more about cosmology than probably any other human being alive. All of these people from Hester's own discipline of astronomy and astrophysics. I pointed out that what he would have to say, since it's undeniable that these men are scientifically informed, they are irrational because they are theists. Somewhat to my surprise, that's exactly what he did. He bit the bullet.

KEVIN HARRIS: He bit the bullet?

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, he said they're irrational even though these scientists are far, far greater and more distinguished than he is. And then my second argument was that there are good arguments to believe that God exists. I shared, I believe, the Kalam argument, the fine-tuning argument, and the moral argument. Then we dialogued together. His approach, believe it or not, was basically present one genetic fallacy after another. He would argue, for example, that evolution has programmed into us belief in God because it's useful in the struggle for survival, but we need to throw off this belief because it's not true. I pointed out that regardless of how our belief in God may have originated, to say that it's therefore false commits the genetic fallacy. And his retort to that was, well, granted you couldn't say that it's false but there's no good reason to believe that theism is true. I said, But Jeff I just presented three arguments as to why theism is true. So it just completely undercut the case he was giving. This was a really interesting dialogue with a prominent contemporary scientific skeptic. It's on YouTube as well.[2]

KEVIN HARRIS: Well, there were so many people who were excited about you being on with Ben Shapiro. He's got a lot of fans. He's got a lot of fans in the Christian community.

DR. CRAIG: Oh, yes.

KEVIN HARRIS: He’s an Orthodox Jew but he's very accommodating to the Christian. He appreciates Christianity it seems. He also knows that many of his listeners – I'm not saying that he has an ulterior motive – I'm just saying that he recognizes that he's really admired or followed by people who are Christians so he had you on in Los Angeles on his TV show.

DR. CRAIG: That's right. I went out to Biola and spent a week out there doing some recording of various lectures for the apologetics department at Biola. While I was there Ben Shapiro's studio sent a car to La Mirada and fetched me and took me to his recording studios where we did the interview. I must say, he's an excellent interviewer. He lets his guest talk, which is, I think, the strength of a good interview. He doesn't try to talk over you. He doesn't interrupt you. He lets you have your say. Moreover, he comes to the interview extraordinarily well-prepared. In preparation for the interview, I watched an interview of him with Steve Meyer on intelligent design, and I have never heard a more intelligent informed interview of an ID theorist than the one that Ben Shapiro did. Then he followed that up with his interview of me which was also obviously well-informed and well-prepared. So he is doing a very good job in preparing for and then interviewing his guests that he has on the program.

KEVIN HARRIS: I have to tell you, you had a real opportunity to give the Gospel there, and you did. Not in a forceful way. It flowed naturally from the conversation, but I'm telling you.

DR. CRAIG: I was shocked. I couldn't believe this was happening because he just kept leading me saying, What is the atonement and how does that deal with the problem of sin, and how do we find forgiveness? And then asked me, What happened to you? He basically asked me to give my testimony on the air.

KEVIN HARRIS: Very gracious.

DR. CRAIG: I was just flabbergasted at the opportunity that was accorded me to share the Gospel as well as my own personal story.

KEVIN HARRIS: You gave the evidence for the resurrection, kind of synopsized it,  summarized it, and he asked several . . . I thought he was intrigued. He asked several more questions about it, then he said, Well, I'm not interested in all that. I wondered, wait a minute, Ben, what do you mean? I mean you just heard the evidence here. Where did that come from?

DR. CRAIG: Many people have commented on this to me about that moment in the interview. That was the point at which I thought, all right, we're done now. He doesn't want to talk about this anymore. We're going to move on. It was not appropriate for me to press the point, but it was very clear that he was drawing a line at that point in the conversation.

KEVIN HARRIS: Sure. OK. But he is interested as a person in evidence and in presenting rational arguments and data and backing up what he believes.

DR. CRAIG: Yes. I would love for him to explore more deeply how as a Jew he might believe in Jesus as his Messiah. One thing we did not get to talk about was who he believes Jesus is. He said some things in other interviews that I found in my preparation, and I had prepared some remarks on this. He thinks that Jesus was a failed Jewish revolutionary; that he led a messianic movement that was political and military in nature and was crucified and killed like so many other messianic pretenders. I had a list of reasons as to why this is an implausible view of Jesus of Nazareth. But I wasn't able to give them. They are, however, now on the Reasonable Faith website in the Question of the Week series.[3] A few months ago there is a Question of the Week about my appearance on the show and I was able to share the contents of that brief on how to respond to someone who thinks Jesus was a political revolutionary.

KEVIN HARRIS: The English schools tour that you did.

DR. CRAIG: I think this was the highlight of the year for me so far, indeed a ministry highlight of my life. We had the opportunity to travel to England to speak, not at British universities as I normally do, but rather at private schools – boarding schools. These are the elite schools in England at which future kings are educated. William and Harry, for example, are both graduates of Eton. And future prime ministers – Winston Churchill is the most famous graduate of Harrow. And members of parliament. So the chance to speak to these 13 to 18 year-olds who are at these private schools in Britain was a tremendous privilege. I just felt so honored that this guy from East Peoria, Illinois was lecturing at Eton College and Harrow School and Wellington College and others. It was a tremendous honor. The thing that stunned us that we didn't expect was the warmth of the welcome that we received not only from the students but from Christian faculty at these schools. They were so thankful to us. So grateful that we would come and lecture at their school. We were received with just open arms. They rolled out the red carpet. They had fancy dinners with the headmasters or the provost of these schools before I would speak in the evening. Then the reception of the students was just amazing – how excited they were. At Eton, which is the premier school in Britain, when I finished the ovation was so thunderous and so prolonged that I felt I actually had to stand to my feet again and nod in appreciation before sitting back down. It was just amazing. We just pray God that he will use what we said and did in the lives of these young students that came and especially also in the lives of these Christian faculty because it was such a shot in the arm for these Christian faculty to be encouraged in this way and know that there are people standing in the public square for the truth of the Gospel.

KEVIN HARRIS: We could do an entire podcast on this, but you had a chance to meet with Sir Roger Penrose.

DR. CRAIG: Yes! This was again extraordinary, just the privilege of a lifetime. Roger Penrose is famous as the collaborator with Stephen Hawking on the Hawking-Penrose singularity theorems that demonstrated the inevitability of a singularity in an expanding universe governed by the equations of general theory of relativity. But not just that. Penrose is not just sort of the comrade of Stephen Hawking. In his own right, he is one of the greatest cosmologists who has ever lived and has made enormous scientific advances and discoveries. I was on a radio program, Unbelievable, with Justin Brierley. They sent a car to Oxford and brought Sir Roger to the studio and there we had about an hour-and-a-half dialoguing about some of the deepest metaphysical questions, the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of the universe. It was a really, really wonderful time.

KEVIN HARRIS: I imagine that you had a chance maybe to clarify his positions with him.

DR. CRAIG: Yes. I did. Some of the things that I shared with him he was very appreciative of and said that he had never considered before. On the other hand, some of the things that I said were based upon misimpressions of his model. I was under the impression – this may sound technical – that in his cosmological model that he thinks that in the future electrons will decay so that they will no longer exist. He said, no, no, that's not the model. The theory is that electrons will lose their mass. Mass will not characterize electrons in the future – they will be like photons (particles of light which have no mass). This still means that his model would require a radical revision of physics because in physics the mass of an electron is a conserved quantity. It cannot be lost. But he proposes that electrons will lose their mass in the future and then this provides a necessary condition for the universe sort of recycling in the way he envisioned. So, yes, on both sides I felt that it was a learning experience as well as a good dialogue.

KEVIN HARRIS: We can wrap up today with another full podcast topic, and that would be the Creation Conference that you attended.

DR. CRAIG: This was the third year of the so-called Dabar Conference. Dabar is the Hebrew word for “word.” This is a conference about Christian views of creation at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. It was this conference two years ago that sparked my interest in doing something on the historical Adam. Over the last year I've worked full-time intensively on that subject. This was now the third time that I was able to attend the conference and confer with colleagues in Old Testament studies as well as science on studies about the historical Adam. One of the fruits that came out of this conference was the agreement by Richard Averbeck (who is a professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern languages of Trinity) as well as John Collins (who is an Old Testament professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis) to read my manuscript in first draft and then offer constructive criticisms for improvement from the perspective of Old Testament scholarship. Both of these men now have the first draft in hand that I've written, and I'm very, very eager to benefit from their comments and criticisms.

KEVIN HARRIS: Wow! What a year so far! Anything you want to highlight that's coming up?

DR. CRAIG: The only thing that would be remarkable will be in November the meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society in San Diego, along with the Evangelical Philosophical Society Apologetics Conference that runs in tandem with the two academic conferences. Also the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature will be meeting in the following week. I'll be there for that. And we've scheduled a board of directors retreat – a kind of strategic planning meeting – in connection with these conferences so that all of our board members will be meeting in San Diego. We're going to try to craft a five-year and perhaps a ten-year plan for the future of the ministry. When we started Reasonable Faith over ten years ago, our consultants said, You need to have some sort of a goal to reach. I thought, well, what could we do? I said how about we want to try to reach 1 million people per month by 2020. Well, Kevin, we just had a board meeting in July. We are now reaching over 2 million engaged people every month through Reasonable Faith’s various outreaches. And these are not just people who click on the website. These are people who are engaged. They either like something, or they watched a video, or they make a comment. Over 2 million people engaged every single month with Reasonable Faith material. So it is time now to set some new goals.

KEVIN HARRIS: Bravo![4]

 

[1]           For these two lectures, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEbYPzvgmE8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q5ji6BIjEQ (accessed September 8, 2019).

[3]           This was actually published as a Facebook post, not a Q&A. See https://www.facebook.com/31578213228/posts/10156602322183229/ (accessed September 10, 2019).

[4]           Total Running Time: 20:59 (Copyright © 2019 William Lane Craig)