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Questions on Marriage, Secular Strategy, and Catholicism

December 23, 2013     Time: 18:50
Questions on Marriage, Secular Strategy, and Catholicism


Is God punishing me for not getting married? Is the new Secular strategy combative rather than civil? Why isn't Dr. Craig a Catholic?

Transcript Questions on Marriage, Secular Strategy, and Catholicism


Kevin Harris: OK, Dr. Craig, put on your marriage counselor hat. We get questions like this from time to time. This one from Nigeria. She says,

I’ve had several offers of marriage when I was younger which I turned down either because I was not ready for marriage then, I was in school, or because I felt I was not attracted to them. I later got into a relationship which did not work out because the guy later felt I wasn’t the one he wants to marry. I’ve not met anyone else since then and now I feel like I am being punished for turning down all those other offers. I always feel a sense of condemnation when I want to pray that God should give me to meet someone else. Should I forget about trying to get married and focus on living a meaningful life?

Dr. Craig: Wow, this is a very personal question, isn’t it? It is probably a source of deep anguish for this young woman. I think we can say a number of things. Remember the sort of God that we serve. He’s not a God who is going to be punishing her because of prior decisions. He loves her, and he has a plan for her life that may include a man with whom she can partner to bring about the advancement of God’s Kingdom in Nigeria and in the world. God isn’t going to punish her because she turned down offers for marriage earlier. Especially if she looks back on those decisions and says, yes, those were wise decisions that I made at that time. I wasn’t ready or I wasn’t attracted to that person. So I don’t think that she has the right concept of God. She really needs to rethink God as a loving heavenly father who loves her as his daughter and wants the very best for her rather than this tyrannical God who is trying to punish her.

The other thing that I noticed, Kevin, is she says, “When I want to pray that God should help me to meet someone else.” I want to suggest to this young woman that she is praying for the wrong thing. I know it’s very tempting for single people to pray that God would bring someone into their life, but I want to suggest that they ought not to be praying for that. She ought to be praying, rather, that God will be so at work in her life that she will be prepared for that person whom God is going to bring into her life at the right time. She doesn’t need to pray that God will lead her to a potential spouse or lead that spouse to her. She needs to pray for herself that God is sanctifying and conforming her to the image of Christ; to make her the woman that God wants her to be so that she will be ready and equipped to be the wife of that husband that God has in mind for her. So I would encourage her strongly to completely reorient her prayer life and to focus on becoming the woman of God that God wants her to be. Then let the marriage partner be left up to God to take care of.

Kevin Harris: I am so glad you said that, Bill, because single people see themselves often as on-hold until they get married, and we treat them that way. “We got to fix you up.” Well, no you don’t. That person may have the gift of single-hood. This is kind of telling in her statement, too – she says, “Should I forget about trying to get married and focus on living a meaningful life?” It is almost like, “I need to get married to have a meaningful life.”

Dr. Craig: You know, that is a really good point, Kevin. That is a false dichotomy if I’ve ever heard one. “Should I forget about trying to get married and focus on living a meaningful life.” As though living a meaningful life is something that you can’t be doing without trying to get married.

Kevin Harris: Yeah. This is often pounded into particularly girls’ heads. “You need to find a husband and have those children. And how come you haven’t had children yet?” Bill, you’ve been a comfort to her. Scripture says there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Next question:

Dear Dr. Craig, would you mind taking a while and speaking to the habit we are observing with what seems to be an outright refusal to interact over what you are communicating in your talks and debates. It is downright appalling how professors in their respective disciplines can behave like grumpy children in public forums only to have their behavior applauded and praised by a large community on the internet. If it were merely the internet crowd hooping and hollering at street behavior, it would be easier to understand. But what I am observing are trained professionals in academic disciplines that have virtually no respect for others. I would say they don’t have respect for you, but when they speak up it is immediately obvious that they haven’t even interacted with your thoughts.[1] Not even the ones you provided on the same evening. Why is it not more embarrassing than it is that so many of your opponents aren’t engaging with your thoughts. I know it is not personal, but I cringe at the leavening effect this will have on our culture.

Dr. Craig: This is a really interesting question, Kevin, because it raises the wider issue of the conduct of opponents in recent dialogues and debates with me where one cannot help but suspect that there is a new strategy that has been consciously adopted by these secular thinkers which is one of personal attack, ridicule, and mockery rather than engage with the arguments. One can’t help but wonder if having failed to refute the arguments very effectively there is a very conscious coaching going on here to say simply bring up the slaughter of the Canaanites, try to make Craig look like an immoral extremist, try to cast aspersions on his character or intelligence, and don’t interact with the arguments themselves.

Kevin Harris: This writer seems to agree with you, Bill, and something that we’ve discussed a few podcasts back, “but I cringe about the leavening effect this will have on our culture.” That is – a little bit of leaven gets in the bread and it leavens the whole thing. Leaven spreads like a virus. He is saying is this going to go viral? Is this going to be the new strategy to get in there and be more combative, in your face?

Dr. Craig: It makes you wonder. If that is true, that would be really unfortunate because then the conversation will become even more uncivil and unproductive than it has been in the past. I see this as a leavening effect of our culture on these events. I think that as a result of talk radio and certain interview programs on television where the participants interrupt and talk over each other constantly. Frankly, even interview programs on television shows like O’Reilly Factor for example. It really is surprising how interruption and talking over someone has become the mode of conversation on so much of these programs. This is not the way in which to have a civil dialogue on issues. You need to let the other person have his say and then you need to interact with what he is saying. If, in addition to that sort of incivility, we now have piled on top of it personal attacks, that is going to make things even worse, even more unproductive.

Kevin Harris: What is the difference between that and just getting up and having a fist fight? I mean, if an atheist and a Christian got up, and the atheist beat him with his fist and won the fight – “I guess God doesn’t exist!”

Dr. Craig: You know, I thought of this when I had those dialogues recently with Lawrence Krauss in Australia. Afterward, I commented that I felt as if I had been in a barroom brawl rather than a philosophical discussion. As I heard the atheists in the audience cheering various, really silly points – I think the worst was when Krauss responded to my argument about the applicability of mathematics to the physical universe, he replied, “Well, if that is true that God designed the universe on this mathematical structure, then why didn’t he reveal the calculus to Moses?” And to my shock, a large number of people in the audience applauded that point. And I said at that juncture to the audience, “Does anyone take that seriously as an objection to this argument?” It does seem that the way many of these secular types judge a debate is not by the worth of the arguments and counter-arguments, but rather by who succeeds in getting the best putdowns of the other participant. Which participant is the one who really puts his other opponent down? Since I don’t try to put down my opponent personally, for these atheists it is going to be obvious that the non-Christian thinker really won that debate because he really put Craig down and Craig didn’t respond in kind.[2] And I think that is such a sad commentary on the intellectual level of many people in our culture that they would judge a debate or a dialogue on the basis of putdowns rather than on the basis of the worth of the arguments.

Kevin Harris: Even the public at large was really taking the popular press to task by saying of the presidential debates, “Who is going to get the soundbite?” Who is going to get that one, “Well, there you go again.” Who is going to get that Reaganesque “zinger,” which is the word they use as well. Well, a zinger might be clever and it might get a laugh, but what does it have to do with social security?

Dr. Craig: That is so true. That is why I have such disdain for what passes as presidential debates when these are not really debates at all. These are not an exchange of ideas or arguments, pro and con, about public policy. As you said, Kevin, people are looking for the sound bite or the zinger or the sentence that is said with deep emotion and passion. That is supposedly going to carry the day. It is just such a sad commentary on the intellectual level of public discourse today.

Kevin Harris: One more thing on this. If this, in fact, becomes a strategy or a trend, it is just going to be up to the moderators, I think in one sense, to say, “I see what you are trying to do and it’s not going to happen here.” Or if the person is known for this, then they’re not going to be invited.

Dr. Craig: I hope so.

Kevin Harris: This will die its own death if we let it. I certainly don’t want people who represent – in particular when there are Christian debates going on, a Christian representative – that some obnoxious Christian gets in there and mixes it up just as bad.

Dr. Craig: I think that would be very counterproductive. I think you are right, Kevin, that the correct response to this strategy will not be to say, “All right, if they are going to be like that, I won’t participate” because, you see, that is exactly what they want. They want the Christian voice to be silenced; to say, “I’m not going to participate anymore with these people.” But rather I think what you said is right. Let them play this strategy. Let the strategy play itself out. Don’t respond in kind. I think that in the end the vacuousness of this kind of strategy will expose itself. People will see how empty it is. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that when, in a dialogue (like some of those that I had with Krauss that took place in Australia), the atheist sectors in the audience were whooping and applauding, having a great time, but when this is viewed online, on a YouTube video or when one reads the transcript, I think the reaction is very, very different. Then one dissects the arguments, analyzes the premises, and the support for those premises. Then the name calling and the shenanigans looks like buffoonery, frankly. The shallowness of that sort of strategy becomes very apparent. So I think we just let it play itself out and, in the end, the person who sticks to the higher level of intellectual discourse will prevail.

Kevin Harris: Next question from England, Dr. Craig. He says,

Dear Dr. Craig, my question is simple yet cuts through to the bone to discover that which lies below the surface. Its intent is extremely serious. Why are you still a Protestant?

Dr. Craig: Many Catholic readers of Reasonable Faith ask me this question. This question comes in a lot. I think it is because I defend doctrines which are common to Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, and even Coptic Christianity. So I have been so encouraged, Kevin – and I mean this from the bottom of my heart – to see the inter-confessional appreciation and use of our Reasonable Faith materials. Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Coptic Christians come to me and say, “Bill, your work is so much appreciated. We are using it in our churches interdenominationally.” So I am defending what C. S. Lewis called “mere Christianity” which is that body of central truths to the Christian faith which all of the great confessions of Christendom affirm, rather than majoring on minor doctrines that divide us.[3]

But to answer this question straightforwardly, the reason that I am a Protestant rather than a Catholic, is that there are just a number of Catholic doctrines that I can’t bring myself to believe. I would be a hypocrite to become a Catholic. I don’t believe, for example, with the Council of Trent that our works which God graciously enables us to do, merit eternal life. I don’t agree that Mary was immaculately conceived nor ascended into heaven. I don’t agree with the primacy of the Bishop of Rome over the other bishops of the church nor that when he speaks ex cathedra that he speaks infallibly. I don’t believe in infant baptism. I think believer’s baptism is correct. I don’t believe in transubstantiation. All of these are Catholic doctrines that I just don’t believe them, Kevin. So I just couldn’t, in sincerity, be a Catholic.

I recently was speaking to a Christian philosopher who had decided to become a Catholic. I said to her, “Do you really believe that Mary was immaculately conceived and ascended into heaven? Do you really believe that now?” And she said to me, “Well, you don’t have to believe those things to be a Catholic.” And I said, “What do you mean? Why not?” And she said, “When I was taken into the Catholic Church, they asked me only one question and that was ‘Do you believe what the Catholic Church teaches as revealed?’” I said to her that I don’t even understand that question. What does that mean? “Do you believe what the Catholic Church teaches as revealed?” And she said, “Well, I said yes, of course I believe what the Catholic Church teaches as revealed.” She had an interpretation of that question to which she could answer yes. So as a result she became a Catholic, even though I take it there are a number of these doctrines that she herself doesn’t really believe. Well, I couldn’t do that, Kevin. I take seriously what the Councils and Popes have said represent Catholic doctrine. So if I can’t agree with it, it would be hypocritical for me to become a Catholic. Having said that, I certainly respect and appreciate brothers and sisters who do affirm those things, and work shoulder by shoulder with them in the advance of the Kingdom of God in this world.[4

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    Total Running Time: 18:50 (Copyright © 2013 William Lane Craig)