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Dr. Craig's work impacts the next generation

April 26, 2021


Dr. Craig's work impacts the next generation.

KEVIN HARRIS: Welcome back to Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. I’m Kevin Harris. A lot of people are talking about Nahoa Life. That's his name. Nahoa is 12 years old and is interacting with Dr. Craig’s work and others. Today we want to play you some clips of that and get Dr. Craig’s commentary. (always keep that bookmarked; go there often) for some more content dealing with Reasonable Faith. Now let’s go to the studio with Dr. Craig.

Dr. Craig, we are pretty amazed at this young man, I believe he is about 12 years old, who has just got this amazing – well, he’s got an amazing name for one thing. Nahoa Life is his name. Sean McDowell recently interviewed him. If you’ve seen some of the clips, he really has a vast knowledge and has passion for Christian philosophy and apologetics. Have you seen some of these clips?

DR. CRAIG: I have, and I was very touched by them, especially those which expressed his appreciation for my own work. The thing that struck me about Nahoa was not simply his intelligence (he's very well read), but also how articulate he is. He has not simply read these books, but he understands them well enough that when asked he can put the arguments in his own words and give them back to you. And that is a remarkable ability. When I fill out student recommendations, universities will often ask: How is the student's oral expression? They're not simply interested in his written expression but how well is the student able to articulate arguments and his views. And the thing that struck me about Nahoa was not simply how well read he is but how articulate he is. He has the ability to put these things in his own words which shows that he has considerable understanding of the material. So I came away from watching those interviews with the impression that Nahoa Life is an embarrassment for all of us. It's an embarrassment for me because when I was 12 years old – I got to tell you this kid is light years ahead of where I was at 12! And he's an embarrassment for most lay people because he's way, way ahead of where they are presently. He ought to be a real conviction to our lay people who are no longer reading, who are no longer wrestling with these issues, who are in intellectual neutral with regard to their Christian faith. They should feel deeply convicted by this 12-year old who is wrestling with these great questions and is excited about Christian truth.

KEVIN HARRIS: Let's look at a couple of clips then. Here's one where he's talking about your debates.

NAHOA LIFE: I saw Dr. William Lane Craig's debate with Dr. Christopher Hitchens. He's a PhD, right? Dr. Christopher Hitchens?

SEAN MCDOWELL: Christopher Hitchens was not a PhD. He was a journalist.

NAHOA LIFE: So Dr. William Lane Craig versus Christopher Hitchens. That was a really interesting one. I didn't really like watching it because it kind of annoyed me a little bit. Dr. William Lane Craig would give arguments, and arguments for the existence of the Christian God specifically (God in general but specifically the Christian God), and then Christopher Hitchens wouldn't respond to any of it. He would talk about how religion is poisonous and terrible, and then he would say, “I'm so glad there's no evidence for any of this. Thank you.” He didn't respond to anything Dr. Craig says. There's lots of stuff that was kind of like “eh” in the debate.

SEAN MCDOWELL: I was actually at that debate because it was at Biola where I teach, and it was packed out. There was energy, and it's been seen millions of times online. It sounds like when you watch a debate you're paying attention to the arguments but also whether or not people respond and how they carry themselves in a debate. Is that true how you watch these debates?

NAHOA LIFE: Yeah. And I definitely love how Dr. William Lane Craig debates. He always has everything prepared. His opening statement, his rebuttals, his closing. It's always very structured, and he always responds to the opposing side's views. It's really, really cool.

KEVIN HARRIS: How about that?

DR. CRAIG: I just love this boy. He is so discerning. He is absolutely right that that debate with Christopher Hitchens, despite its popularity and the millions of views it's received, was a terrible debate. It wasn't a good debate. A good debate is characterized by clash, argument and counter-argument against each other. And in that debate we were like two ships passing in the night because Hitchens just wouldn't engage with the arguments. So Nahoa is very discerning in that respect. And he was also very discerning in noticing the way I prepare for debates. He is absolutely right that everything is thoroughly prepared in advance – even my responses to the anticipated objections that my opponent will bring up. My goal in debating is to think as little as possible on my feet – to be so prepared that I know exactly what I'm going to say if an objection is raised and I don't have to think it out on the fly. Nahoa clearly saw that in his comments on preparation.

KEVIN HARRIS: Let's look at another clip and hear more from him.

SEAN MCDOWELL: What do you think are the best arguments for the existence of God? You've talked about the resurrection, but if a friend asked you or you were maybe in an online debate or discussion and someone said, “Nahoa, why do you believe in God?” what are the arguments that you would give?

NAHOA LIFE: Well, first of all I don't really believe in God because I know of arguments for the existence of God. I don't believe on the basis of this evidence. I think just the Holy Spirit has allowed me to know that it's true. And that's also what Dr. Alvin Plantinga was writing about. So, again, I related to that because Christians don't always believe off of arguments. They could know it, but that's not why they believe. So that's the case for me. But if I was talking to just pretty much to anyone I would give the kalam cosmological argument – probably the most popular argument other than “look at the trees.” And for those of you who don't know it, the kalam cosmological argument is basically divided up into four parts. It's one: “Whatever begins to exist has a cause.” Two: “The universe began to exist.” Three (this is the conclusion): “The universe has a cause.” And then the fourth part is kind of saying this cause is what we call God. This is what we mean when we say “God.” I think each part of the argument has really good scientific and philosophical reasons for accepting each part of the argument, and I think that's a really successful sound argument.

KEVIN HARRIS: He's like Alvin Plantinga with a high voice.

DR. CRAIG: I just love this boy. Did you notice how right off the bat he didn't take Sean McDowell's bait and say “I believe in God on the basis of a particular argument” but appealed to the witness of the Holy Spirit and the proper basicality of belief in the great things of the Gospel just like Plantinga argues. I thought that was so discerning. And then his appeal to the kalam argument. Did you notice how he broke it into four parts, not just three premises (or three steps: two premises and a conclusion) but he included that part four about analyzing the concept of a cause of the universe to show that this is plausibly God. He also mentioned both the philosophical and the scientific support that there is for the premises of the argument. So these are little things that to me show, “Whoa, this boy has really understood this argument!” How many critics on the Internet of the argument never pay attention to that fourth part that Nahoa talks about. They just glide over it oblivious to the arguments for the deity of this uncaused first cause. But Nahoa has got a handle on it.

KEVIN HARRIS: Here's some things on the resurrection.

SEAN MCDOWELL: You have read a lot of his book Reasonable Faith and you appreciate his case for the resurrection. Let's talk about Jesus a little bit. Obviously he's one of the leading scholars on Jesus today. What is it about his case for the resurrection that kind of resonates with you?

NAHOA LIFE: All right. So I think the best way to answer that is to first kind of talk about my favorite case for the resurrection. My favorite case is in two parts and it goes like: the first part talks about evidence (just evidence, not drawing any conclusions), and the second part is drawing the conclusion. What does this evidence support? What's the best explanation of it? And the first part (the evidence) that I would love to give is the empty tomb. The fact that his tomb was found empty and the fact that many people believed that Jesus appeared to them alive after his death. Those two facts, I think, have so much evidence to support them. I've really enjoyed actually reading the documents from ancient history seeing what was actually written and it's just been super awesome. But there's those two facts: empty tomb and people believed Jesus appeared to them. Then, what's the best explanation? Well, then you would narrow it down to the resurrection. Hallucination can't explain it because hallucination can't explain the empty tomb. And it wasn't some big lie because they believed it. They actually were willing to die for this belief. So that's my favorite case. And his case is very, very similar. It's also in two parts: first evidence then explanation. And in the evidence he talks about the appearances, they believed it, he talks about the empty tomb, and then he talks about the beliefs even more. My favorite thing about his whole case is his argument for the empty tomb. When he debates people on the resurrection of Jesus he always blows them away with the empty tomb, and it's just awesome.

KEVIN HARRIS: It's got to be very gratifying that you . . .

DR. CRAIG: Oh, I can't tell you how much this means to me to see a young fellow like this interacting with and absorbing and mastering this material. Again, I've been trying to beat my head against the wall on this double-part argument for the resurrection. First establishing what are the facts to be explained, and then secondly asking what is the best explanation of the facts. And Nahoa picked right up on that dual nature of the argument – the two steps in the argument – and then lists the evidence under the first part. When I hear him I am amazed. He has really got it in contrast to so many popular apologists and lay people.

KEVIN HARRIS: Now you're in trouble because Nahoa disagrees with you at one point. Let's hear that clip briefly.

NAHOA LIFE: I really love pretty much all of his work. There's some things that I would disagree with him on, but yeah, I really respect Dr. William Lane Craig.

SEAN MCDOWELL: Now you've got me curious. What would you disagree with Dr. Craig on? It's OK, too. He's the kind of person who would love somebody of your age (or any age) to have a disagreement with him and share why. So what's maybe an issue or two you just see a little bit differently than he does?

NAHOA LIFE: I would love to understand more really what he thinks about this, but from what I've read and his blogs and stuff, it seems like he doesn't think abstract objects exist. He doesn't think numbers or propositions actually exist. He says, “I can say, ‘The Earth has one moon’ without saying ‘The number one exists.’” That to me seems very, very odd. But the most important thing is the propositions – he doesn't think propositions objectively exist. I think that's contradictory to say “There are no propositions.” It's self-defeating. In the same way you can't say “There is no truth” – well, is that true? Like this statement, “There is no truth,” it assumes there is truth. So a proposition is a statement that can either be true or false. So if you say, “There are no propositions” you are stating something that's either true or false. So to say there are no propositions presupposes the existence of propositions. I mean that seems like the case to me.

KEVIN HARRIS: He's dealing with a big portion of your work here.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, and I'm feeling the heat here from this criticism! And what I want to say here is how much I admire Nahoa for thinking independently and critically. It's very clear he's just not parroting what I say or just agreeing with what he reads. This boy is critically assessing what he reads or hears and offering his own view. And I find that admirable.

KEVIN HARRIS: The temptation is not to do that. The temptation is to defer to your favorite mentor philosophers.

DR. CRAIG: Yes. Wonderful independence and critical thinking ability. What I would say here to Nahoa is that I defend what is called a deflationary view of truth. A deflationary view of truth holds that truth is not a metaphysically significant or heavy property. The truth predicate “is true” – “blank is true” or “it is true that blank” is not a metaphysically heavy predicate. You can avoid saying or speaking of truth by simply asserting whatever goes in the blank. So, for example, instead of saying “It is true that Hitler was an evil man” you just assert, “Hitler was an evil man.” Or instead of saying “2+2=4 is true” just say “2+2=4.” In other words, the truth predicate is merely a device of semantic ascent. It is a way of not asserting something but of talking about the assertion by ascribing truth to it. And you can descend semantically by not talking about the assertion and saying that it's true but just making the assertion. Sometimes this is called the redundancy theory of truth. It seems like truth is really rather redundant because you can just always semantically descend and make the assertion and then you don't need to have the truth predicate. But I think that the truth predicate is useful for making what are called blind truth ascriptions. These are ascriptions of truth when we don't know what fills in the blank or when what fills in the blank is too vast for us to assert. We don't have time to do that. So, for example, I might want to make a blind truth description by saying, “Everything in the Mueller report is true.” That report is so vast (hundreds of pages long) that I could never make all those assertions. So I just make a blind truth ascription to the whole thing and just say everything in the report is true. Or I might say something like this: “What the classified documents say is true.” Now, I don't have access to those top secret documents so I don't know what they say, but I can talk about the truth of what's in the classified documents. So I don't think that the redundancy theory of truth is correct. The truth predicate is not completely redundant. The truth predicate is useful for making blind truth ascriptions when we either don't know what goes in the blank or what goes in the blank is too voluminous for us to assert. But notice that God wouldn't have any need for the truth predicate because as an omniscient being and an eternal being he has plenty of time to make those assertions if he wants to. He also knows everything and so never needs to make a blind truth ascription. So it turns out that the truth predicate really is superfluous for God. It's only something that's handy for us making blind truth ascriptions. So to apply it to an example, I would say it is not true during the Jurassic period that there were no human beings about. That's not true that there were no human beings about during the Jurassic period. Rather, what I would say is there were no human beings about during the Jurassic period. I just make the assertion. I don't ascend semantically to talk about the truth of the assertion because during the Jurassic period there was no such assertion. There were no human language users at that time, so even though there were no human language users during the Jurassic period it would not be correct to say it was true that there were no human language users during the Jurassic period. I hope you can see that this is not some kind of weirdo post-modernist relativistic denial of objective truth. If a proposition or a sentence is true, reality is as it claims to be. So if I truly assert something then that is the way reality is. Reality corresponds to what I assert. But you don't need to ascend semantically to talk about the truth of the assertion. You just make the assertion. So I would invite Nahoa to think some more about this. I've written an article called “Truth – who needs it?” It's on the website.[1] What I claim is that God doesn't need the truth predicate because he doesn't need to ascend semantically and make these blind truth descriptions that we do.

There's one other clip I want to say something about.

SEAN MCDOWELL: Do you feel like if you believed evolution would that threaten your faith in the way when you read Dawkins’ book and that was unsettling to you?

NAHOA LIFE: No, because it depends on what you mean by evolution. I don't think the idea that species change over time and that every living thing on Earth is related – has a common ancestor – I don't think that conflicts with the Christian faith. And I can explain why in just a second, but if you're talking about Darwinism – the evolution that's taught in schools and taught as a standard you have to learn about this in textbooks – and the idea that random variation and natural selection produces the diversity of life – that conflicts with Christianity because it's random. God isn't involved in the process in any way. But if it's just evolution like species changing then that could be a process which is intelligently designed. But one reason I don't think the idea that evolution conflicts with Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 is because those first three chapters (Genesis 1, 2, and 3) it seems to be metaphorical. The author doesn't seem like he intended it all to be literal. Dr. William Lane Craig has a series of lectures on this topic, and it's really good. That series is called Life and Biodiversity. So that's a great series where he talks about Genesis is more metaphorical, mythical, rather than a detailed historical account.

KEVIN HARRIS: He's talking about your Defenders class.

DR. CRAIG: He is! He has been watching Defenders. This clip was the most meaningful to me personally of all of them, and the reason is this. When I did this work on the historical Adam in which I argued that Genesis 1-11 is of the literary genre called mytho-history, I truly feared that this would destroy some people’s faith. People who have a kind of naive belief in the literality of all of the Bible would be very upset, I feared, by the claim that Genesis 1-11 is not meant to be interpreted literalistically but is metaphorical and figurative and belongs to a type of literature called mytho-history. So for me to see this 12-year old who had been convinced of the theory of evolution finding that this did not in any way threaten his faith because he understood that Genesis 1-3 is metaphorical and figurative rather than literalistically just did my heart a world of good. It reassured me that God is going to use this work on the historical Adam, not to ruin people’s faith, but to really strengthen their faith.

KEVIN HARRIS: I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty good about the future right now.

DR. CRAIG: Yes, and I would encourage folks to pray for Nahoa. We cannot afford to lose someone like this to the secular side. I’m sure Satan is going to be after this boy. I think we should remember him in our prayers.[2]


[2] Total Running Time: 25:44 (Copyright © 2021 William Lane Craig)