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New Questions From Facebook Part 2

September 27, 2015     Time: 18:30
New Questions From Facebook Part 2


Dr. Craig continues to answer questions about gender identity, Molinism, and how to avoid burn out when doing evangelism and apologetics.

Transcript New Questions From Facebook 2



KEVIN HARRIS: We want to thank the Christian Apologetics Alliance. They are a good presence on Facebook, Dr. Craig, and they interact with your work a lot. I've invited them a couple of times to ask some questions. We've got a few questions here. We are going to continue and look at some of these. Zachery says,

I have two questions: one most pressing to apologetics and one most pressing to me. Number one, I think the next big wave that Christians will need to respond to is gender identity issues. I am curious to know if Dr. Craig has any thoughts concerning both a philosophy and theology of gender?

DR. CRAIG: He may well be right, but this frankly is just not an area that I am working in. At the recent conference at Purdue University honoring Richard Swinburne, Swinburne made some personal remarks at the celebration (or the dinner) honoring him. He said that we Christian philosophers need to move now beyond metaphysics and epistemology and systematic theology into issues of this sort because this is where the cultural objections to Christianity lie. He raised quite a storm of controversy among those present there who did not know how to interpret his remarks. But I think Zach is right that this is an area that will prove to be fertile ground for Christian philosophers and theologians. All I have done in this area is to enunciate views on why homosexual behavior is wrong even if a person's sexual orientation is something that is beyond his control. I've also argued quite independently for the essentiality of heterosexual orientation to marriage. But beyond that I have not done work in these subjects.


Number two, in your estimation, what is the best response to the grounding objection to Molinism. Related, are you familiar with Jennifer Jensen's (of Colorado University) recent work on this topic. Basically she argues a purely defensive strategy. The Molinist can ask the grounding objector what his theory of truth is, and then either a) cook up some possible way to ground a counterfactual of creaturely freedom within that theory of truth, or b) find an independent reason to reject that theory. But she concedes Molinists still need to come up with a positive way to ground these counterfactuals of creaturely freedom.

Explain that question for us a little bit, too.

DR. CRAIG: The question concerns the content of God's middle knowledge. He knows that if Peter were in circumstances C, Peter would freely do A. The question is: in virtue of what is that counterfactual or subjunctive conditional true? The claim is that there isn't anything to ground that truth and therefore there are no true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. This is an argument that would be offered by people who are not only detractors of middle knowledge but who simply do not think that there are any true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom.

I think the best response to it is the one that I have laid out in my article on middle knowledge and the grounding objection. He must be unfamiliar with it having asked this question. So I would simply refer him to the website,, look at the section on divine omniscience and he will find this article on middle knowledge and the grounding objection.[1] To my knowledge, at least, I have not yet seen any lengthy analysis or refutation of the case that I lay out there.

Jennifer, whom he mentions here, I am delighted to hear is at Colorado University, is a former student of mine from Talbot. She and her husband were students in our masters program in philosophy and went on to Notre Dame and did her doctorate there. It is good to hear she's addressing this issue as well. I am not familiar with her work on this, but it sounds as if her approach is very much the same as mine; namely, it is the objector here who bears the burden of proof. He is trying to offer a defeater of middle knowledge. So the Molinist merely needs a defensive strategy to ward off the grounding objection. She points out that he can ask the grounding objector what is his theory of truth. I would say particularly does he hold to truth-maker theory?[2] That is to say, that every true proposition has a truth-maker. That is a theory that is eminently challengeable. Even those who hold to theory of truth-makers typically do not hold to truth-maker maximalism which says every true proposition has to have a truth-maker. If there can be propositions that are true without truth-makers, certainly counterfactuals of creaturely freedom would be prime candidates for propositions like that. So she is right – it is up to the objector to tell us what his theory of truth is and what he means by grounding truth and whether he holds to truth-maker maximalism. Then she says the Molinist can cook up some possible way to ground a counterfactual of creaturely freedom; you can find truth-makers that would meet the bill. For example, I would say the counterfactual of if Peter were in C he would freely to A is grounded in the fact that if Peter were in C he would freely do A! Just as there are ordinary facts, there are counter-facts, too, that obtain in the real world, and it is in virtue of that that that proposition is true. Why not? That would seem to me to fit the bill. Or she says he can find an independent reason to reject that theory. That is the view I would incline toward. I just don't see any reason to think the truth-maker theory is true, much less truth-maker maximalism. A real good resource here would be Trenton Merricks' book. He has a book on truth and truth-making in which he really challenges this idea that you have to have truth-makers for every true proposition. I don't think the Molinist needs to come up with any positive way to ground counterfactuals of creaturely freedom because I don't believe in truth-maker theory.

KEVIN HARRIS: Next question:

I would like to know why Dr. Craig uses the creeds in church history to defend his view of things like abstract objects but dismisses them when it comes to things like Christ's nature. Does orthodoxy matter to apologetics, and if so what grounds it?

DR. CRAIG: The question is not Does orthodoxy matter to apologetics? It is Does orthodoxy matter to theology? I think in doing systematic theology we certainly want to take into account what the great fathers of the church have had to say about an issue, and particularly what the church universal has had to say in creedal statements. But as a Protestant I bring even creedal statements before the bar of Scripture. If they are unscriptural then I will reluctantly and with great caution depart from the creeds in that respect.

In my critique of Platonism I appeal not only to Scripture but also to the ante-Nicene church fathers that lead up to the Nicene Creed to show that they, like Scripture, reject the idea of uncreated objects. These would be called ageneta – things that are unoriginated, uncreated. They believe there is only one agenetas, and that is God himself. I appeal to the Creed and to the ante-Nicene fathers for one reason – my interlocutor Peter van Inwagen (the person with whom I am principally dialoguing on this) is a Catholic who takes the creeds to be authoritative. So given that he regards them as of equal authority with Scripture, I am very interested in helping to show him that as a creedal affirming Catholic he needs to take seriously what the creeds affirm in this regard – that only God is uncreated and everything else is created through him. There is that personal element of my appeal to the church fathers; namely, I am dialoguing with a particular person who does take the creeds as authoritative. But then secondly, as I say, I do take the creeds and the fathers to have some weight in guiding orthodoxy. When they line up with Scripture, as they do in this case, that I think is an important fact to note. But ultimately it will be Scripture that grounds it.

KEVIN HARRIS: Buckle your seats belts for this one.[3] Cody says,

I see how irrational and easily manipulable people are. Even though it won't stop me from doing what I believe God has called me to do, it is enormously discouraging. What is the point in trying to engage with people on an intellectual level when 1) people are much more easily influenced by a song or a comedy show than rational discourse, and 2) people are more interested in one-liners, put-downs, slogans, name-calling, psychological bullying, peer-pressuring, empty rhetoric, etc. than an honest and cordial exchange of ideas.

Cody, I think, has spent some time on the Internet.

What is just as bad is that it seems to me that by far and away most people are more apt to form their metaphysical views based on social issues rather than the reverse. For example, people seem to be more willing to form their beliefs about Christianity based on the Bible's stance on homosexuality rather than actually investigating if the Bible actually is the Word of God. Not only does all of this make me feel like my rational approach to influencing people is next to worthless, but as a philosophy and theology student it provokes in me an elitist attitude that I often have to keep in check. I am not all that smart, but it is hard not to see the hoi polloi as much more than cattle rather than fellow bearers of the imago dei. How awful is that?

DR. CRAIG: That is pretty awful, Cody. I think that last paragraph is the real issue for concern here. If Cody is tempted to look at other people as mere cattle rather than persons whom God loves so much that Christ died for them, I think he is in real danger spiritually. He is aware of it; that's great. He is vulnerable and transparent about his feelings which is also great, rather than trying to cover them up. But it is something that needs to be confessed and kept in check because this is not the way Jesus looked at people. Remember he looked at them and said they are like sheep without a shepherd and looked at them with compassion.

To address his issue, though, that he raises, one of the things that I have said is valuable about apologetics is that while people may not been convinced by your arguments, there may be very few that actually come to Christ because of your arguments, what the arguments can do is give the person the intellectual permission to believe when his heart is moved by that emotional song or comedy routine or Christian athlete or someone making an emotional appeal. He can in good conscience follow his heart and embrace the Gospel without committing intellectual suicide because he's seen that this is an intellectually defensible option. So don't be too discouraged if people don't respond to your arguments and evidence by changing their mind. What you are doing in a sense is removing from them any sort of obstacle or excuse before God, and enabling them to respond when the Holy Spirit moves their heart.

KEVIN HARRIS: Planting seeds, too. Watering seeds, planting seeds.

DR. CRAIG: Yes, but the point I am making is more than that. I am talking about giving someone intellectual permission to follow his heart. To follow these emotional influences that Cody rightly says are more efficacious in moving people to believe than just intellectual arguments.

The other thing, of course, that can be added is that we shouldn't just make purely intellectual appeals. We should try to couple it with an emotional argument or emotional appeal when we can. In my debates, I'm sure you've noticed, many times after sharing arguments for the existence of God and the person of Christ I'll end with a word of personal testimony and share what Christ means to me and how he's changed my life and invite people to investigate. I think that having presented the arguments and evidence, you've earned the right then to share that personal experience which can be more emotionally appealing and invitational to people. It shouldn't be a kind of either-or. We should try to use all of these means to try to win people to Christ.

KEVIN HARRIS: I just want to tell Cody to hang in there, not to get burned out, and not to grow weary in well-doing. This has really hit a nerve because we've all been there. Spend one hour doing evangelism and apologetics on the Internet and you are going to run into all of that. You can get burned out.[4] Stay in fellowship with others. Get some time of refreshing. Keep the spiritual disciplines – your devotional life – strong. Otherwise you are just going to be hammering out these things and it can be really taxing. Cody is certainly expressing some things that you just addressed there.

Glen says,

In On Guard, Dr. Craig gives snippets of his life and select events which influenced him as he grew into the man God is using today. Is Dr. Craig working on an autobiography? If so, when might we expect it to be released. If not, why not?

DR. CRAIG: I am not working on an autobiography. I would need Jan's consent to do something like this. I am not sure that she would be prepared to do this. But I have to say Lee Strobel approached me last year about writing such a biography of me. I talked to Jan about it. She was open to it. I don't know if Lee is going to pursue this or not, but if he did we are willing to sit down, talk with him, and do some interviews. I have to say that Jan and my life together is a remarkable story. It is a story of God's provision in unbelievable ways, and his leading time after time. I do think it is inspiring just to see how God can take two ordinary people and do wonderful things.

KEVIN HARRIS: Your trips to Europe. Your studying in Europe. There are so many incredible stories. All the things that were going on in the 70s. All of that. I do think you need to name the book “My Adventures with Kevin Harris, by Dr. William Lane Craig.” [laughter]

Erin asks: “What areas in academia does Dr. Craig think need the most attention from Christians and why?”

DR. CRAIG: I think that we need folks who are going into neurobiology, brain studies, and then its interface with theology – what has sometimes been called neurotheology. There are all sorts of important and interesting issues that arise as a result of brain studies for human personhood, for belief in God being hard-wired into the brain, things of this sort. I think we need folks who are willing to do the tough biomedical studies in brain science but then also have philosophical and theological training to integrate these with our Christian worldview.

KEVIN HARRIS: We are out of time today. We'll pick it up next podcast and add to it another Facebook group of atheists called Challenging Christianity whom I also invited to ask some questions of you, Dr. Craig. We'll have some of those questions next time on Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig.[5]