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Reaction to the New York Times Interview, Part 1

March 10, 2019     Time: 15:04

Summary

Dr. Craig takes a look at the avalanche of published responses to his New York Times interview.

KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, we talked about The New York Times interview that you conducted with Nicholas Kristof.[1] It ended up being more about the virgin birth and miracles. He asked you questions that we hear from skeptics quite often. We wanted to talk a little bit about some of the response that you’ve gotten from this interview. There were over 1,100 comments before The New York Times cut it off and said “stop.” They can only handle so many comments. This was flooded with comments in response.

DR. CRAIG: As I read these comments on the interview, one after another was hateful and angry and largely ignorant of the issues that were being discussed. In my mind I kept saying, “Where are the Christians? Where are those who are aware of these issues? Why are they not responding? Why is it all so one-sided?” It really bothered me that Christians were so seemingly uninvolved in commenting on things like this.

KEVIN HARRIS: They are buried down in the threads quite often.

DR. CRAIG: Right.

KEVIN HARRIS: And then covered up by ignorance and blowhards and lambasting and all those things. So you have to kind of mine for them.

DR. CRAIG: In one sense that is a lesson for our listeners who want to comment on things. It is better to put a comment than a reply to a comment because the reply, as you say, gets buried whereas the comment will be on an equal level with other comments and will provide some refreshing change of perspective.

KEVIN HARRIS: It was quite a daunting task to go through over 1,100 comments when I’m looking at this in preparation for the podcast. I decided what we would do is look at the handful of comments that The New York Times picked as best or best representative. The first one right out of the gate – Alan from Humboldt County – says,

. . . a very kindly and wise Irish priest, Father Daffy, who answered my doubts about such questions posed in this editorial by telling me it is a matter of faith. No pulpit pounding, no recriminations, no infliction of guilt, just kind words to encourage my faith.  His lesson has sustained me for a lifetime.

That’s the number one top comment that The New York Times picked. What he is saying is just close your eyes and believe. Is that a typical mis-definition of faith?

DR. CRAIG: Yes, it is. One of the things that surprised me about the comments was that a recurrent theme was that as long as this is just your personal opinion – that it's just your faith commitment – that's fine. But the minute you say there are arguments and evidence in support of this, that elicits anger and this vitriolic response. These secularists are just fine as long as Christians want to say, We just believe this by faith, like this reader did. But, boy, if you claim that you have good reasons for what you believe then you become a target.

KEVIN HARRIS: The second comment that they picked says,

Craig’s position on the difference between Christianity and all other religions boils down to “our miracles happened and yours didn’t.”

DR. CRAIG: That's naive. The fact is that most other religions don't claim miracles in attestation of their beliefs. But in any case, I do think that the miracles performed by Jesus are historical and particularly his resurrection from the dead. I invite any objective inquirer to look at the evidence in support of Jesus’ resurrection and see if the claim of the disciples (“God raised him from the dead”) isn't the best explanation of that evidence. You cannot dismiss this just because of a politically correct desire to be open-minded and tolerant toward all views.

KEVIN HARRIS: Someone else . . . this is like number five on the top picks:

"virginal conception is independently attested by Matthew and Luke and is utterly unlike anything in pagan mythology or Judaism"

DR. CRAIG: Those are my words.

KEVIN HARRIS: And then he answers – this person said:

Perseus? Romulus? I'm pretty sure virgin birth is relatively common in traditions outside the Christian tradition.

DR. CRAIG: This was a very common response to my comments, and what it betrays is an ignorance of Greco-Roman mythology. What you have in these myths are stories of the gods taking on human form and copulating with human females to sire offspring. So, for example, Hercules had a divine father and a human mother, and that's obviously completely different from the virginal conception of Jesus which didn't involve any sort of sexual act. So the contrast between the story of Jesus’ virginal conception and these Greco-Roman myths of gods taking on human form to have sexual intercourse with women is striking. I stand by my original assertion.

KEVIN HARRIS: A lady wrote:

Why did the men writing the New Testament need Mary to stress that Mary was a Virgin?  Why did a Pope have to shame Mary of Magdalena?

Those are the real mysteries of the Catholic faith.

DR. CRAIG: Obviously, a woman who feels very badly about perhaps male priesthood and things like that in the Roman Catholic Church. The Christian faith tremendously honors Mary, and particularly the Catholic Church refers to her as the Mother of God, for goodness sake! Mary is given such an honorific position; indeed, it's an embarrassment visiting some Roman Catholic cathedrals in Europe where Mary seems to be elevated in heaven above Jesus. And there are far more candles being lit before the image of Mary in the church than before images of Christ. So Mary holds an exalted status in Roman Catholicism and in Christianity. Mary Magdalene isn't shamed. She was the first to see Jesus after his resurrection. Jesus didn't appear first to Peter or the male disciples. He appeared to Mary, to these women! And so, again, this exalts the position of women and their importance in the Christian faith and bearing witness to the reality of the risen Lord.

KEVIN HARRIS: This commenter says:

How can it not ever occur to the professor that if he were born in Iran, Thailand, or in a lost tribe in the Amazon that he would be saying the same thing about Christianity? This failure of empathy--to imagine life from another's viewpoint--is truly depressing.

DR. CRAIG: There's two things going on there. One is a philosophical objection which I have certainly reflected upon and published on! If you look at the last chapter of my book, On Guard, I talk about this objection. The objection is fallacious because the truth of a person's worldview has nothing to do with its origin. In fact, this objection is a double-edged sword because if this person had been born in, say, Pakistan or in medieval Europe, he would likely have been a Christian or a Muslim and held to the exclusivity of those faiths. So this kind of relativism doesn't get any mileage from this idea that if you'd been born in another country you would have held to a different belief. If I'd been born in ancient Greece I might have believed that the world was flat and that the sun goes around the Earth. That doesn't do anything to make my belief that the Earth is spherical and the Earth goes around the sun false or unwarranted. Rather, the real point of the objection is the last sentence – that it displays a lack of empathy. That you've got to empathize with those, and I certainly do empathize with those in other faiths. I share the Gospel with them because I love them. I want them to find eternal life and forgiveness of sins. I don't think anyone has greater empathy or compassion for persons in other religions than the Christian who feels constrained by the love of Christ to share the Gospel with these persons.

KEVIN HARRIS: I could chase a rabbit here. I just have to tell you that I've noticed that empathy is kind of the new watchword. It’s the new word for secularists and really for those who lean left and liberal – empathy, empathy, empathy. That we are becoming a society that lacks empathy. There’s a point there. We all need to be empathetic, but it opens up a whole can of worms.

DR. CRAIG: Don't you think the hidden assumption here is that to be truly empathetic implies relativism?

KEVIN HARRIS: It does.

DR. CRAIG: That empathy implies relativism.

KEVIN HARRIS: But I'm not going to show any empathy to your view!

DR. CRAIG: And that's so mistaken because it means that you can only have empathy for people who don't disagree with you, whereas we would say even though we disagree on what is true I can love you and have compassion for you and will your good. Empathy doesn't imply relativism about truth.

KEVIN HARRIS: I think you may have just uncovered it – the hidden assumption of that. I think that's what it is – it is relativism under the guise of empathy.

DR. CRAIG: Then the fallacious argument about “if you had been born in another country you would have had a different belief” is used then to try to shore up this relativism.

KEVIN HARRIS: Here's another reply:

When Dr. Craig understands why he dismisses all the other possible gods, he will understand why an ever-increasing number of people dismiss his.

DR. CRAIG: Notice the attempt to be on the winning side there – “an ever-increasing number of people dismiss [the Christian God].” That just shows an ignorance of demographics in the world. The growth of Christianity throughout the world over the last 25 years is unparalleled. In Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, evangelical Christianity is growing faster than the population rate even if the growth rates in the indulgent Western world are flat at this point. That just shows an ignorance of what's going on in the world today. And then, again, he simply fails to come to grips with the fact that the Christian has objective evidence and arguments in the favor of Christian theism. That will be the issue. Are there good arguments and evidence?

KEVIN HARRIS: There is one long ranting reply that The New York Times picked as one of their “Times Pick” as they call it. You'll get the gist of it just if I read the first sentence here. It says,

I am undecided whether to think of Craig as an honest person or one who is severely deluded. Although the so called "evidence" he speaks of has been rebutted on numerous occasions, he continues to roll out the same defunct arguments hoping to snare and recruit the unwary and the ignorant.

He goes on to say there is no evidence for God.

DR. CRAIG: I hear this all the time – that people say I'm either ignorant or I'm dishonest. And since it's pretty difficult to say that someone with my education is ignorant, they conclude I therefore must be dishonest – I am a liar, I am a bad man, a charlatan. I think that that's a horribly insulting personal attack upon my character. I try to live an ethical life that is honoring to Christ, and the notion that I would be a liar or charlatan is frankly just really offensive to me. I don't think these arguments have been at all refuted. One of the unique features of the ministry that I carry out that is so different from most Christians is the debates that I participate in on university campuses – secular environments – where the opponent is given a level playing field to present his arguments and evidence against the Christian faith and to answer my arguments. I would invite any objective fair-minded observer to watch these debates and decide for himself where the evidence points. I think it is far from clear that the arguments and evidence that I present in support of the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus have been even close to refuted.

KEVIN HARRIS: Bill, let’s stop right here. Next time I want to look at a couple of Christian responses to your New York Times interview. I saw this on YouTube. It might get a little “wretched.” That’s next time on Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig.[2]

 

[2]           Total Running Time: 15:03 (Copyright © 2019 William Lane Craig)