New Questions From Facebook Part 1September 20, 2015 Time: 27:51
The Christian Apologetics Alliance asks Dr. Craig questions and also offer what they think are the most pressing apologetics issues.
New Questions From Facebook 1
KEVIN HARRIS: From time to time we’ll invite the members of the Christian Apologetics Alliance (they have a group on Facebook; they also do things outside of Facebook) to ask some questions, Dr. Craig. I ask them what they would like to ask you, but also ask them if they would like to include what they think are some of the pressing issues in Christian philosophy and apologetics. Some of them have given us some things. We’ll look at those as well.
DR. CRAIG: I am really grateful for these questions. You can just tell by the tone of these – they are so different than the questions that I get from secular people or university audiences which are often challenging and hostile. I appreciate so much the open and transparent tone of many of these questions.
KEVIN HARRIS: W. Russel Crawford asks,
Has Dr. Craig ever specifically addressed the ‘health and wealth’ or ‘prosperity’ gospel? I would love to hear him offer a thought, preferably certain philosophical and theological problems, on the system simply because this system is exploding.
DR. CRAIG: I have addressed this issue here and there. I think that the health and wealth gospel is a fundamental betrayal of the biblical Gospel. I would suggest that he take a listen to the talk I have given called “Failure.” As a result of a catastrophic failure in my own life, I came to a new insight on the will of God for one’s life, and that was that God’s will for your life can be that you fail. God can lead you into failure because I think he has things to teach you through failure that you would never learn through success. Moreover my work on the problem of evil has suggested to me that God may allow suffering and evil to enter your life because in the providential plan that God has for human history it may help to form the context or send a ripple effect through history that will bring about God’s good purposes. It is just completely incorrect to think that God wants every Christian to be prosperous and happy in this life. I would say that this is a gospel that is not the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a gospel that won’t preach in Iraq. It won’t preach in Syria. It won’t preach in North Korea. And if it won’t preach there then it is not the real Gospel.
KEVIN HARRIS: Danny asked,
Dr. Craig, after having finished listening to your twenty-part podcast on the creation-evolution subject, I’ve been curious about your particular view on this issue. The best I can gather, based upon the arguments that you critique and the arguments that you seem to support, is that it seems as though you believe that all living things as they are today may have been created from what I will tentatively call an intelligent molding process of former living things into current living things (rather than ex nihilo creation of creatures over time which you refer to somewhat negatively as almost magical) with the possibility of some minimal common descent via the Darwinian mechanism for creatures that are very similar. Would you please explain, describe, or clarify your view?
DR. CRAIG: It would be hard for me to describe it or clarify it better than what Danny has done! I thought that was a very fair and accurate description. I am very open to where the evidence leads because I think theologically biblically faithful Christians have a wide range of options available to them about the development of biological complexity. I do tend toward a progressive creationism that would not be the sudden, and as I say almost magical, appearance of, say, rhinoceri suddenly on the African savanna or of whales suddenly popping into being ex nihilo in the oceans. But God, through this molding process, would bring about the development and progressive creation of biological complexity. I don’t know that that is right, but that seems to be a view that would meet the evidence that we have today, and I think would be biblically consistent so it is a view that I tend toward.
KEVIN HARRIS: Joel says,
In the past, Dr. Craig has made a proposal to the effect that God in his middle knowledge knows those who would accept him and those who would reject him and places those who would accept him at a time and place in history to hear and receive. My question is what does Dr. Craig do with Matthew 11:20-24 where Christ essentially states that if he had ministered to various Gentile nations in history which God had destroyed for their rebellion they would have repented. It seems that God in his middle knowledge knew that with a certain amount of revelation they would have repented and avoided judgment, but he chose to withhold the necessary amount of revelation. How does this square with Molinism?
DR. CRAIG: Matthew 11:20-24 was one of the favorite proof texts of early Molinists. This was one of the scriptural citations that they would give to show that God has middle knowledge. Jesus says that if the miracles done in Bethsaida and Chorazin had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago. This proves God has middle knowledge. The verse, if interpreted in that way, is actually a proof text for middle knowledge, but it would be inconsistent with my views that I've suggested concerning the exclusivity of salvation through Christ. However, I think, as Anthony Kenny has argued, that this verse is probably not meant to be a serious statement of middle knowledge on Jesus' part. I think this is probably more plausibly interpreted in its historical context as religious hyperbole. It is Jesus' way of saying how bad these people in Bethsaida and Chorazin really are – This is how really rotten and hard-hearted you people are. But it is probably not meant to be literally a divine disclosure of middle knowledge of certain counterfactuals. So I don't use it as a proof text for middle knowledge. For the same reason I am not troubled by the fact that the hypothesis that I've suggested with regard to Christian particularism would be inconsistent with taking this verse as a literal piece of middle knowledge.
KEVIN HARRIS: Yeah, it is like saying, “If I had all the money I spent on you, I would be a billionaire.”
DR. CRAIG: Exactly, Kevin! Yes! And in the historical context, that is surely right. It is not supposed to be middle knowledge that the historical Jesus has suddenly become aware of.
KEVIN HARRIS: Thomas asks, “How does Dr. Craig feel about using eschatology as proof of the Bible's authenticity?”
DR. CRAIG: I am not persuaded that this is effective. I take it he is talking here about fulfilled prophecies of the end times. I just don't find that very convincing, I guess.
KEVIN HARRIS: Especially if it hasn't ended yet. It is kind of hard to use it . . .
DR. CRAIG: Yeah, how do we know that we are in the eschaton? I think eschatology is more interesting in comparing with what physical eschatology has to say about the end of the universe, and contrasting theological eschatology and physical eschatology. That is very interesting. But I am not a devotee of end-time prophecies.
KEVIN HARRIS: Danny asks,
I have a question about the kalam cosmological argument. How can a timeless being initiate the beginning of the universe and enter time since such a change in state would itself require time? I don't even know if I phrased this question correctly but I am sure Dr. Craig will know what I am getting at. This issue is one of the main reasons I shy away from using the argument.
DR. CRAIG: Let me address the last comment. He shouldn't shy away from using the argument because of this because the argument doesn't require that God be timeless without the universe. He could adopt a view like Alan Padgett’s, for example, that God exists in a sort of non-metric time prior to the creation of the universe in which there are no intervals of a thousand years, a minute, a second, or whatever. You could hold, if you want to, that God exists in a kind of non-metric time prior to the origin of the universe. The kalam argument will still go through because it is dealing with metric time where you can distinguish temporal intervals from each other. But the reason I adopt the timelessness view is because I think it is a more plausible view. If you think of God existing changelessly alone on a relational view of time he would be timeless because there is no change and so there are no events – there would be no before and after. If he then creates the universe, yes, that requires time. Right! So that is why time begins to exist. Time comes into existence concomitantly or coincidentally with the act of creation. But I don't see that it would require time before the act of creation. To say that is true would be to say that when God creates the universe not only does time come into being at that point but there is a kind of retroactive effect that makes time come into being prior to that point. But that doesn't seem to make sense because God existing alone changelessly without the universe is timeless. Then are we to think that he creates the universe and there is this kind of retroactive effect such that now there is time prior to the beginning of the universe? Or are we to think that there is always time prior to the beginning of the universe because God creates the universe at a certain moment of time? That would posit backward causation. There would be backward causation of time from an event that is in the future, namely the creation. I think that is metaphysically impossible. It seems to me that the best view is to simply say that there is no time at all when God is changeless and alone, and that time begins with the act of creation and goes from there.
KEVIN HARRIS: David says,
I am sure Dr. Craig has addressed this before, but as I journey more deeply into apologetics I find a lot of resistance coming from other Christians. Many believers seem to think that science and religion are mutually exclusive so a thoughtful discussion of the kalam, for example, is considered out of bounds. Do you have any suggestions for how we can lovingly foster these conversations within the body of believers?
DR. CRAIG: I want to suggest a different strategy. Bill Bright, who was the founder and president of Campus Crusade for Christ, urged his staff (as he put it) to “move with the movers.” That is to say, to find those students who are ready and eager to be discipled and to learn how to do evangelism and to bring others to Christ and not to spend time inordinately with students who were apathetic or not ready to engage or not really interested in discipleship. He said, I recognize that these people are important too. Christ loves them. They are important. And they need to be ministered to by the church. But Campus Crusade for Christ is not a hospital. It is a movement of discipleship and evangelism. So he encouraged the staff to “move with the movers,” as he would put it. I would similarly encourage David not to be overly concerned in trying to pull teeth from people who aren't interested and don't care, but rather to try to identify that minority of people who are interested and who want to get involved and to begin to disciple and work with them. I think that will be far more fruitful than trying to convince people who are uninterested that they really ought to be involved in doing this.
KEVIN HARRIS: Let me tell you a quick story. Pat, a friend of ours, speaks on apologetics all over the country. A youth minister over lunch there at the church before he spoke gave Pat the opinion, You don't need to be doing this apologetics stuff. Kids don't want that.
DR. CRAIG: Who said that to him?
KEVIN HARRIS: This was a youth minister. Students aren't interested in that kind of a thing. I don't think that is the way to reach them. I think you'll reach them just with the Gospel and the whole thing. Pat said, No, you're wrong. He gave him his reasons. Well, the guy went up to go teach a Bible study, and came back a few minutes later and said, Pat, would you come in here? The kids have a question about the reliability of the New Testament and I don't know what to say. So Pat went in and did a little mini-seminar on the reliability of the New Testament for them. He said, The light went on in that youth director's head. I thought I would throw that in. Move with the movers. I like that.
Where did Jesus go during the time he was dead? If it was not hell then why is it that people will go to hell as punishment but Jesus didn't have to in order to take our punishment? The Bible seems to indicate Jesus' death was punishment enough for our salvation, so why is a person's death not punishment enough for their personal wrongs? I know this sounds like I'm making an argument for annihilation but I assure you I am not an annihilationist, I just always wondered about this one.
DR. CRAIG: The Scripture actually answers the question of where Jesus went between his death and resurrection. 1 Peter 3:19 says that he went and preached to the spirits that are in prison. These would be the souls of the dead in the netherworld of the departed. He didn't go there in order to be punished himself. Rather he went there to proclaim the victory over sin and death and Satan. The question then is really one about the endurance of the punishment. I think he is right in saying that the Bible seems to indicate Jesus' death was punishment enough for our salvation. That is the punishment for sin – the wages of sin is death and Jesus experienced death on our behalf. So why is it not enough for us simply to die and that be punishment enough? The real issue here, I guess, is not why that would be punishment enough for us. It is very obvious that merely dying physically isn't sufficient punishment. Indeed, many people would feel that they've gotten off the hook easy if that is all the punishment they get for sin. The more significant punishment would be a kind of spiritual death that persists in eternity and hell. The question would be: why didn't Jesus' death have to be persistent in that way rather than momentary and reversed by the resurrection? It must have something to do with the dignity of his person. It must have something to do with the fact that he is not merely human but he is divine, and that in virtue of who he is (the second person of the Trinity) that God could reverse that sentence of death upon Jesus and raise him from the dead so that that state doesn't persist.
KEVIN HARRIS: Eugene asked, “Is it more effective to get someone to disagree with gay marriage on the basis of its social implications or would it be better to try to convert them to Christianity beforehand so they can clearly see why homosexual behavior is wrong?”
DR. CRAIG: I think this is a good question. I would say emphatically the latter, of course. I think it is probably futile to try to argue with most unbelievers that same-sex marriage is wrong or that homosexual behavior is wrong. What we need to do is to be engaged in sharing the Gospel, winning people to Christ, and then discipling them in biblical ethics. That will be the best hope of producing change of view in their ethical behavior. But you can't expect people to clean up their ethical act prior to becoming a Christian. I think that focusing on social implications of same-sex marriage and these sorts of issues is actually apt to increase people's resistance to the Gospel more than it will help. Greg Ganssle, who worked for many years at Yale University and with the Rivendell Institute, has said that Christian opposition to homosexuality is probably the greatest barrier to the Gospel for unbelievers in his experience at Yale. That is really, really problematic because I don't think this is an issue on which we can compromise. This is an area of biblical ethics that is pretty unequivocal. It is pretty clear we can't compromise. But I think what Greg says is probably true and that, therefore, it would be imprudent or unwise evangelistically to focus on this kind of issue rather than focus on arguments for God's existence, evidence for the resurrection, and trying to get people to become Christians so that then in the course of their discipleship their ethical views can begin to change. I can only add to that the reason you and I have done podcasts on things like same-sex marriage and so forth is not for the benefit of the unbeliever but for the sake of the church. I think the church does need to have clear teaching on this issue. We must not compromise biblical ethics or biblical stance on marriage. Therefore the church (and especially the younger generation of Christians which are under tremendous pressure to compromise in this area) need to have good teaching. For that reason, I think one addresses the issue. But it is not going to be effective, I think, in dealing with culture at large.
KEVIN HARRIS: The issue is Jesus, not homosexuality, when it comes to a person who doesn't know Christ.
DR. CRAIG: Well said.
KEVIN HARRIS: It is not like, Quit smoking, drinking, and cussing, and come to the Lord. It is Come to the Lord, and he will make you into what he wants you to be. That is our message. That is the good news. Thank you for that question. I appreciate it.
A couple more here. Tyson says,
I am the Chapter Director for Reasonable Faith, Monterey Bay. I found Reasonable Faith's resources to be invaluable for equipping Christians intellectually. I would love to see more chapters started around the world. Could you have Dr. Craig give a quick rundown on the simple process for starting a chapter for those who may be interested?
DR. CRAIG: I would be glad to! He is right – it is simple! I am surprised at how some people think this is so difficult when in fact it is easy. All you've got to do is share with us your personal testimony to show that you are a genuine born-again Christian who is walking with the Lord. You then need to sign a doctrinal statement that is a general statement of evangelical biblical orthodoxy about Christian worldview so that we know you are not a heretic. Then the last thing is you need to complete the Reasonable Faith workbook which is a fill-in-the-blank workbook on the book I wrote, Reasonable Faith. By filling out the workbook it will show that you understand the contents of Reasonable Faith and are prepared to teach it. You will send your testimony, your doctrinal statement, and the completed workbook to Stephen McAndrew, who is the National Director for Chapters, and he will grade the workbook to make sure you've answered each question correctly. If there are questions you have not answered correctly, he will return it to you and say, This answer wasn't accurate. Look again and redo this one. After one has completed that process then we are going to give you a platform where you could use our name and our logo and materials to launch your own ministry. This is a way to empower you to have a ministry of your own. I would encourage folks to take advantage of it.
KEVIN HARRIS: “Dr. Craig, what do you take to be the greatest challenge to the kalam cosmological argument?”
DR. CRAIG: I suppose I would say skepticism that the actual infinite is just a strange and seemingly paradoxical idea but there is nothing really absurd about it. You just swallow hard and say that is the way it is – there can be an actually infinite number of things. Then with respect to the scientific evidence for the universe, you would just sort of play the skeptic's card and say we don't know enough yet, it is still very uncertain that the universe began to exist, it may be that the future advance of science will restore the eternality of the universe. Beyond that, I think that is about the best you can do. There is not much more you can do to challenge the argument, I think, than that.
KEVIN HARRIS: Brendon says,
I think good apologetics in the area of biblical scholarship is absolutely critical at this point. I find very often that philosophical apologetics come in second place to questions of what really happened in history. In my experience it is rather easy to take someone from atheism to agnosticism (pseudo-deism), and very difficult to get them to make that jump to Christian orthodoxy. The false controversies created by The History Channel (like “Did Jesus Exist?”) and the subtle semi-scholarly hit-pieces that people like Bart Ehrman produce are extremely popular. Nobody has ever heard of Darrell Boch or Daniel Wallace or Craig Evans.
DR. CRAIG: I had to laugh when I read this because at least until a few years ago no one had ever heard of me either! So I am very encouraged that he would think that philosophical apologetics are so effective today. That has not been my experience. I don't find in my experience people objecting so much to the historical issues as to the philosophical questions. It seems to me that if you can get a person from one side of the Grand Canyon of atheism to the other side of theism then it is just a little gulch to get him from theism to Christianity. Given the fine work of people like Evans and Wallace and Boch and so many others we just have abundant resources on the historical Jesus today. It is a shame that nobody has heard of them in Brendon's experience because I think in the same way that there has been this renaissance of Christian philosophy going on over the last half century, there has been similarly a renaissance in historical Jesus studies going on as well. Some of the best historical Jesus scholars today would be people that are recognizably evangelical. The resources are there. We just need to make people more familiar with them.
For a video of this talk and its transcript, see http://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/what-is-the-meaning-of-failure-for-the-christian (accessed September 21, 2015).
Total Running Time: 27:52 (Copyright © 2015 William Lane Craig)
Total Running Time: 27:52 (Copyright © 2015 William Lane Craig)