Dr. Craig Live at West University Baptist Church PART 1January 06, 2020 Time: 24:31
Dr. Craig was recently interviewed by the church staff during Sunday morning worship at West University Baptist Church in Houston Texas.
KEVIN HARRIS: Hey, there! Welcome to Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. I’m Kevin Harris. Dr. Craig doesn’t get a chance to speak to churches very often. When he does, it is electrifying as you are about to hear. He was interviewed by the church staff at West University Baptist Church in Houston, Texas recently as part of the Sunday morning worship service. We are going to hear part one today with Dr. Craig as he is interviewed as part of the Sunday morning services. Let’s go to that now on Reasonable Faith.
INTERVIEWER: We are delighted to have you with us this morning. Your wife, Jan, is with us as well. Jan, we welcome you. Dr. Craig is the founder of Reasonable Faith with aims to provide in the public arena an intelligent, articulate, and uncompromising yet gracious Christian perspective on the most important issues concerning the truth of the Christian faith today. You will want to check out his website. It is ReasonableFaith.org. It is there in the bulletin. There is also some more information about a course he’s teaching this week at Houston Baptist University. That is also in the bulletin insert today. I want to introduce also Dr. Todd Bates. Dr. Bates, as many of you know, is a member here at West University Baptist and Crosspoint Church. He is the Dean of the School of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University. He reached out to me some number of months ago and said, “Hey, we have Dr. Craig coming to town to teach. Would you be interested in hosting us and having him be involved in something here at the church?” And I said, “Absolutely!” Thank you, Dr. Bates for that. Would you all welcome Dr. William Lane Craig with me this morning?
Let's go to the beginning as we spend our time together today. Let's talk about how you came to know Jesus Christ. There were some things stirring in your life at middle school and as a high schooler. The junior year of high school you really wrestled with deep things of faith and came to know Jesus Christ. Tell us that story.
DR. CRAIG: Well, I come from a Midwestern, good, loving family, but not a particularly Christian family. We never attended church to speak of on a regular basis. But when I became a teenager I began to ask what I call the big questions in life. Who am I? Why am I here? What's the purpose of my existence? And in the search for answers I began to attend all on my own a large church in our community. The only problem was that instead of answers, what I found was a sort of social country club where the dues were $1 a week in the offering plate and the other high school students who pretended to be such good Christians on Sunday lived for their real god the rest of the week, which was popularity. And this deeply bothered me. I thought here I feel so spiritually empty inside, but externally at least I'm leading a better life than they are, and they claim to be Christians. They must be as empty as I am but they're just putting up a false front. So I began to regard all of these people as hypocrites, just phonies. I began to grow very bitter toward the institutional church because of this hypocrisy. Soon this attitude spread to other people. Everybody, I said, is a phony. They're all holding up plastic masks to the world, and the real person is cowering down inside afraid to come out and be real. So I thought I don't want anything to do with other people. I don't need them. I despised them. I threw myself into my studies. I was on my way, frankly, toward becoming a very alienated young man. And yet, in moments of honesty and introspection, as I looked into my own heart, I realized that deep down inside I really did want to love and to be loved by others. It hit me at that moment that I was just as much a hypocrite as they were because here I was pretending not to need people when deep down inside I knew I really did. So that anger turned in upon myself from my own hypocrisy and phoniness. I don't know if you can understand what this is like but this sort of inner anger just eats away at your insides day after day making every day miserable. Another day to get through. I remember one day I walked into my high school German class. I was feeling particularly crummy, and I sat down behind a girl who is one of these types that is always so happy it just makes you sick. I tapped her on the shoulder, and she turned around, and I said to her, “Sandy, what are you always so happy about?” And she said, “Well, Bill, it's because I'm saved!” I said, “You're what?” And she said, “I know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.” I said, “Well, I go to church.” And she said, “That's not enough, Bill. You've got to have him really living in your heart.” And I said, “Well, what would he want to do a thing like that for?” And she said, “Because he loves you, Bill.” And that just hit me like a ton of bricks. Here I was so filled with anger and hate inside, and she said there was someone who really loved me – and who was it but the God of the universe! That thought just staggered me – to think that the God of the universe could love me, Bill Craig, that worm down there on that speck of dust called planet Earth. I just couldn't take it in. Well, I went home that night and I found a New Testament that had been given to me by the Gideons when they visited our grade school in the fifth grade. I had never read it, but now for the first time I opened it and began to read, and as I did so I was absolutely captivated by the person of Jesus of Nazareth. There was a wisdom about this man's teaching that I had never encountered before, and especially there was an authenticity about his life that wasn't characteristic of those people who claimed to be his followers in the local church I was attending. And I knew then I couldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Well, as I read the New Testament I realized what my problem was – the reason God seemed so unreal and distant to me was because my own moral wrongdoing. It made a separation between me and God so that I was alienated from him. But the good news of the New Testament was that God, out of his love, sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to die for my sins so that I could be forgiven and my relationship to God that I was created to have could be restored. Well, to make a long story short, I went through about six months of the most intense and agonizing soul-searching that I've ever been through in my life. At the end of that time, one night about 8 o'clock in the evening, I just cried out to God. I came to the end of my rope, and I cried out all of the anger and the bitterness that had been building up inside of me. At the same time I felt this tremendous infusion of joy like a balloon being blown up and blown up until it was ready to burst. I remember I rushed outside. It was a warm, Midwestern September evening and you could see the Milky Way from horizon to horizon. As I looked up at the stars I thought, “God! I've come to know God!” And that moment changed my whole life because I had thought enough about this during those six months to realize that if I ever became a Christian that I could do nothing less than to give my entire life to spreading this message among mankind. Because if this is really the truth – if it's really the truth – then this is the greatest news ever announced, and I could do nothing less than to devote my life to sharing this good news with others. So my call to vocational Christian ministry was simultaneous with my conversion.
INTERVIEWER: I want us to unpack that in just a second here, but we talk about apologetics is our defense of the faith. You've debated all sorts of atheists on college university campuses and the like. But Sandy's apologetic was joy. Then she spoke of Christ. And that changed your life.
DR. CRAIG: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: The walking with Jesus, being filled with the Spirit, the joy that overflows. You've had a chance to talk with Sandy, I think . . .
DR. CRAIG: I have.
INTERVIEWER: Tell us how you . . .
DR. CRAIG: Let me just say about her that she had an uncanny wisdom in knowing how to cut to the very heart of the issues. She often would say to me, “Bill, our lives are the only Bible that some people will ever read.” She radiated Christ, and that so attracted me to what she had to share as the source of her joy and meaning, whereas I, as a non-believer, had nothing but darkness and despair. When I graduated from high school and went away to Wheaton and then on to seminary and overseas to Europe for my graduate studies, she went to Illinois State University. We drifted apart and never saw each other again. Then many, many years later I received a speaking invitation to Bradley University in my hometown Peoria, Illinois. I accepted it and gave a talk there that night. Afterwards this middle-aged woman came up to me and held out her hand and I took her hand and she said nothing. She just looked at me. I said, “I'm sorry; do I know you?” And she said, “I'm Sandy.” And then the years fell away, and in a moment I saw in her face that sixteen-year-old girl that I remembered. It was such a sweet reunion to see her again. She shared with me that her sons were attending Peoria Christian High School, and that in their high school apologetics class their teacher was showing my debate videos to train them in the defense of the faith. They said to him, “Oh, yeah, we know that guy. Our mom led him to the Lord.” [laughter] And he didn’t believe them! So they brought him that night to Bradley to hear me, and I got to meet their teacher as well.
INTERVIEWER: That's a great story.
DR. CRAIG: It was a beautiful circle, I thought.
INTERVIEWER: You'll never know how your life . . . we talk a lot here about influence. And your joy, your time with Jesus, how that will influence people. Or your lack thereof. If your lack of spending time with Jesus and you’re dry, how that will influence . . . You are influencers. We talk about that all the time. Here's this young girl who just was overflowing with joy and God used that to call you into his presence, into salvation, and into ministry. Let's talk about your ministry. Tell us about your pilgrimage as an apologist, and how did you come to understand that calling on your life? Was that defined? “I'm going to go into apologetics.” Or how did you discover that?
DR. CRAIG: Well, I knew from the beginning that I had to be involved in the work of evangelism. This message was so important and so joyous that I had to share it. But I wasn't sure exactly how that would look. But when I studied at Wheaton College, the priceless gift that Wheaton gave me was the integration of my faith and my education. They strongly emphasized the importance of building a Christian worldview that would include a Christian perspective on the arts, on music, on literature, on philosophy, as well as on the sciences, on history, and so forth. It was at Wheaton that I was seized by this vision of sharing the Gospel in the context of giving an intellectual defense of the Christian worldview. And so it was there at Wheaton that this vision crystallized that then later came to fruition.
INTERVIEWER: That's great. That is very good. Most of us have seen your debates. You've debated people all over the world, debated some of the most notable atheists. Now, when you enter into this debate, most of us tend to think you're just a genius and so you just stand and go. But I know that's not true because we've talked before. Take us through your preparation for the debate, and then add to that. What do you seek to accomplish in every debate that you encounter?
DR. CRAIG: I think that the most important factor in success in debating is preparation. It's what you do in your office prior to the debate. So before any debate I will read anything that my opponent has written on the subject, whether books or articles. I will also watch any videos that might be available on YouTube of him speaking so I get an idea of his style and what he presents. Then on the basis of that I begin to construct what I call briefs which will be outlined responses to his main arguments. I'll list his argument, and then I'll give a two or three point response that I can share to that argument with supporting evidence and documentation. Then I'll do the same for my positive case. I will anticipate what objections he will probably raise to it based on what he's said and written, and then how I would respond – two or three points – in response to each of those. Then I'll go into a debate situation and have these briefs in front of me on the table. As he speaks and I hear an objection raised, I just pull that brief and I'm ready to go. He raises another objection and I pull that brief and put it behind the first one. Then he raises a different objection, I pull that brief. And then I'll speak from the briefs. Most of the briefs I've prepared are never used. They just remain in the folder on the table. But those that are used enable me to go point by point through his case with multiple responses to each of his points with evidence and documentation. It's that kind of preparation that I think really makes for success in debating.
INTERVIEWER: So debating – you got into this actually before you came into Christ. But then in your journey after your graduate degrees, you started to be invited to university campuses to debate. Talk to us how you got into debating in the first place, and how you see God has used that in your ministry.
DR. CRAIG: This is another one of those things that makes you smile at the providence of God. I have an older sister who was two years ahead of me in school. When I was in junior high we used to argue all the time. She in exasperation said to me, “All you want to do is argue. You should join the debate team!” I said, “What's that?” And she said, “It’s this high school club that argues and debates, and you ought to be in it!” So when I entered high school the next year I went out and joined the debate team. And so for four years in high school I competed for our high school with other high school debate teams all around the state. Then in Wheaton I also had four more years of intercollegiate debate competitive speaking all around the country. Now, for me, this was just an intellectual sport. We debated secular public policy subjects. It wasn't in any way a ministry. I was no good at athletics, but I could represent my school in debate by competing with other schools in the debate league. That's what it was for me. I thought when I graduated from Wheaton that would be the last debate I ever did. But what I found was, after earning my doctorates in England, I began to get invitations from Canadian campus ministries inviting me to come and debate top secularists, humanists, and atheists on these Canadian campuses. We would debate a topic like “Does God Exist?” or “Humanism versus Christianity.” What I soon discovered was that whereas a few score people might come out and hear me give a talk on a campus, hundreds, even thousands, of students will come out to hear a debate. It became very clear to me the debate is really the forum for evangelism on the university campus today. Today's students are very skeptical, and so they want to hear both sides represented and an even playing field. Not only Christians but throngs of non-Christians will come out for these debates as well. And then what I try to do is to do the very best I can in showing that the Christian worldview is the more reasonable worldview and that therefore they ought to adopt it.
INTERVIEWER: Is it fair to say that the Christian worldview is underrepresented on our university campuses?
DR. CRAIG: Yes, I think that is fair. I like to emphasize the renaissance in Christian philosophy that has gone on in my field over the last 50 years. There really has been a sea change between say the 30s and 40s and the way the discipline or field of philosophy looks today. Christians are very well represented in my discipline, thank God. But in the broader university context I'm afraid that secularism is still very dominant and that Christians are underrepresented.
INTERVIEWER: You mentioned in your book Reasonable Faith, you talk about this lack of evangelicals engaging intellectually and the war that's being waged on the university campus. Let me share your words with you and have you respond to this.
Evangelicals have been living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence. The average Christian does not realize that there is an intellectual war going on in the universities and in the professional journals and scholarly societies. Christianity is being attacked on all sides as irrational or outmoded, and millions of students (our future generations of leaders) have absorbed this viewpoint. This is a war which we cannot afford to lose.
I hear two things there. There's a challenge to the evangelical to pick up their game intellectually, and an awareness you're trying to convey to the church about the actual war that's taking place that if we don't realize is taking place we can't engage in it. Tell us about that.
DR. CRAIG: We are involved in a tremendous culture war for the soul of American society right now, and I would say Western culture as well. This is not a purely political contest. There is a spiritual or religious dimension to this conflict as well. The forces of secularism are very aggressive and I think constitute a very significant and dangerous threat to religious liberty and religious freedom in this country right now. The significance of the university in all this is that the university is the single most influential cultural institution shaping American society today. It is at the university that our future judges and lawyers and doctors and elementary school teachers will be trained. It is at the university that they will form or more likely simply absorb the worldview that shapes their lives. Therefore, if we allow the university to be lost to secularism, American culture will be lost as well. What awaits us in this country is already evident in Europe – just a domineering secularism where the Gospel is so absurd that to ask someone to believe in Jesus Christ is like asking them to believe in fairies. It's not even considered a credible option. It is absolutely critical that we maintain a cultural milieu in this country where believing in Christ is still an intellectually responsible option for thinking men and women. That's the importance, I think, of influencing the university. The challenge is that our Christian laypeople are largely unaware of this and are not intellectually engaged. I am afraid that if you were to ask your average churchgoer questions about Christian doctrine, like the deity of Christ or the Trinity, that a great many of them would turn out to be heretics. They are just uninformed. They rarely read books that are intellectually challenging and substantive. If they read at all, it will be self-help books or devotional books or Christian romance novels. So the life of the mind is stagnating. Their minds are going to waste. The tragedy of this is that we are going to lose the next generation. The youth will walk away from that kind of brain-dead Christianity as no longer worthy of their belief. And so if you want your children to be Christians, as you are a Christian, it is vital, I think, that you intellectually engage with the faith yourself and that from a young age you teach your children, simply at first and then with greater sophistication as they grow older, basic Christian doctrine and apologetics.
 Total Running Time: 24:31 (Copyright © 2020 William Lane Craig)