Recent and Upcoming EventsMay 21, 2017 Time: 18:41
Debates in Ireland and a return to Israel. Dr. Craig takes us behind the scenes of important Reasonable Faith events
Recent and Upcoming Events
KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, all the working out you’ve been doing has paid off because you have been so busy! You needed your energy.
DR. CRAIG: Boy, that’s true!
KEVIN HARRIS: We are going to talk about everything that has been coming up from Ireland to your teaching to some conferences. What has been going on with Reasonable Faith?
DR. CRAIG: Since we last broadcast, I’ve done a couple of teaching gigs. I was out at Talbot School of Theology where I taught a two-week course on divine omniscience. Then I taught a course at Houston Baptist University on the atonement. This was the first chance I’ve had to actually teach on my recent study of the atonement. So I especially enjoyed that class. In addition to that, of course Jan and I went on this wonderful trip speaking and debating in various cities of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
KEVIN HARRIS: We will talk a little bit about some of those debates that went on while you were there. You had a couple of debates. Give us some of your impressions of Ireland. It has been a while since you’ve been there.
DR. CRAIG: It has been. We were there back in the eighties, actually. It was wonderful to be back in the countries again. There were actually two countries that we visited. The Irish made sure we understood that! There was the Republic of Ireland where we spoke in Dublin and Cork, but then we were also in Northern Ireland which is actually part of the United Kingdom. When we printed on our Reasonable Faith monthly report a flag of the Republic of Ireland, the Northern Ireland people said, “That’s not our flag!” These are two different countries. We visited both of them. We were in Belfast where I had some talks and then also spoke at Queen’s University in the city there. It was a very, very good trip. People were so friendly, so open and welcoming, and so appreciative of the work that we are doing with Reasonable Faith. It was marvelous. The events were well-attended. I think equally significant – we took along with us on this trip our new technical director Michael Lepien who has done wonders with Facebook and social media. He broadcast the events on Facebook Live as they took place. So in addition to the hundreds of people that were actually in the auditoriums, by the end of the week some one hundred thousand people had watched these events on Facebook Live. The impact and reach of the events was far, far more than the actual attendance in person.
KEVIN HARRIS: I want to give a shout out to Michael Lepien. He’s going a great job! Way to go, Michael. I have something here. It is The Journal which is an online Irish journal that says one-in-ten Irish people say they have no religion. One-in-ten. The second largest group behind Roman Catholicism.
DR. CRAIG: Yes, everywhere we went people talked to us about the secularization of Ireland and the collapse of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland because of the sexual abuse scandals on the part of the priests and then the Church attempting to cover it up. This has just rocked Catholic faith in Ireland and hence Christian faith. As one man said to me, Do you understand that when people see you and hear you speaking out in favor of Christianity, to them that means you are speaking out in favor of Catholicism. Even though you are not Catholic, that is the only Christianity they know. So when they hear you defending Christianity, they hear that as defending Roman Catholicism. So many people are turned off to that. It was an enormous cultural obstacle to overcome in contending for the truth of mere Christianity.
KEVIN HARRIS: There were two debates while you were there.
DR. CRAIG: Right. One with Michael Nugent, who is a popular atheist activist in Ireland, perhaps the best well-known. He is the head of an organization called Atheist Ireland. He is sort of a Christopher Hitchens of Ireland, if you will – that type of person. He’s mainly concerned with overcoming the prejudice in public education in Ireland toward Roman Catholicism. We really got an earful from him over breakfast one day about the way in which the Roman Catholic Church is privileged by the public education system in discriminating against non-Catholics, including atheists and evangelical Protestants. Evangelical Protestants have actually aligned with Atheist Ireland in resisting this discrimination on the part of the Roman Catholic Church in the Republic of Ireland. It was very interesting to hear about these issues, though I, myself, of course did not address or speak to them in defending subjects like the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, which is what I addressed in defense of mere Christianity.
The other debate was with my friend Daniel Came whom I first met when I had the empty chair debate with Richard Dawkins at the Sheldonian Theater several years ago. Since Dawkins wasn’t expected to show up, they arranged to have a panel of three respondents in his place. One of them was Daniel Came who is a philosopher at the University of Hull. He is a very open, non-hostile, appreciative, non-theist. We had an excellent debate at Trinity College which is the premier university in Ireland in Dublin.
KEVIN HARRIS: Back in the states, a couple of conferences that you had. Corpus Christi and Seattle.
DR. CRAIG: Yes. I’ve become convinced that in addition to doing evangelistic speaking on secular campuses, it is important for me to be involved in equipping the church to defend what we believe. These were a couple of strategic conferences that I wanted to participate in. The one in Seattle is in the Pacific Northwest, of course, which is one of the most secular areas of the United States. I thought that being involved in training and equipping the Christian church in this area would be a strategic opportunity. The one in Corpus Christi was sponsored by the Texas Baptists who have really gotten the vision of equipping and training their people in the defense of the faith and so are holding these apologetics conferences all around the state of Texas – in Dallas and Austin for example, as well as this one in Corpus Christi. Again, it seemed to me a strategic opportunity to be involved in equipping an influential denomination in the defense of the faith. Both of these conferences were well-attended. The level of enthusiasm was marked at both of these. Again, Michael Lepien traveled with me so that we could broadcast these conference talks that I gave on Facebook Live and reached thousands of more people than were simply there in person.
KEVIN HARRIS: I am curious if you have any impressions of what people say to you outside of your talks because during your talks you obviously have the Q&A session at the end. But there are pictures of you afterwards hanging around because people still want to talk to you. Do you get a feel for some of the things that people are saying?
DR. CRAIG: I do. The overwhelming feeling I get, honestly, is the tremendous love and affection that there is for me in the Christian community. This is quite unexpected.
KEVIN HARRIS: It is humbling, too, isn’t it?
DR. CRAIG: It is. I am almost sort of bewildered by it, but it is not just a sort of admiration for intellectual prowess. There is a genuine affection – a real love – that I hear from so many people afterwards who express the difference that Reasonable Faith and our materials have made in their lives, how it has helped them to come closer to God, and impacted their spiritual lives. This is very, very gratifying to experience.
KEVIN HARRIS: Some upcoming events as well later on in the year. Talk about that.
DR. CRAIG: The most immediate upcoming event is a conference that is being sponsored by the Templeton Foundation and held at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School called “The Dabar Conference.” When I first heard of this I thought it was something in the Middle East, but “dabar” is the Hebrew word for “word.” It is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word “Logos.” The theme of this conference is “Creation Out of Nothing.” I’ve been invited to address the subject from the angle of scientific cosmology and creation out of nothing. Then there will be a pair of respondents to my paper, and I’ll in turn have a chance to comment on my respondents’ remarks. We are looking forward to this. This is not open to the public. It is a kind of working conference of professional scholars in biblical studies, philosophy, science, theology, and I am looking forward to participating in this.
KEVIN HARRIS: Then it is back overseas in September.
DR. CRAIG: Right. The organization called Die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Wissenschaftsphilosophie, or The German Society for Philosophy, is holding their conference in Berlin in September. This is the largest philosophical society in Germany and so will draw Germanic-speaking philosophers from Austria, Switzerland, Germany to Berlin for this secular conference. There is going to be a section of the conference that I’ve been invited to participate in on God and abstract objects. This will give me a chance to share out of my recent work on the relationship between God and abstract objects as well as the challenge that abstract objects pose for naturalism. I am going to argue that Platonism – the view that abstract objects exist – is a challenge both for the naturalist and for the theist. So we have common cause in trying to resolve this challenge by enunciating some kind of anti-Platonist worldview. So I’ll be giving that paper there. Then there will be a pair of German respondents to the paper, and then I’ll have a chance to reply to my commentators. I think this is well worth doing for two reasons. One is it is a chance to represent a theistic point of view at a very secular conference. Secondly, it is a chance to encourage the budding movement in Christian philosophy that is starting to take place in the Germanic world. There isn’t anything comparable in the German-speaking world to Christian philosophy in the Anglo-American world. But there is a tiny nascent movement of Christian philosophers in Germany and Austria that I want to do everything I can to encourage and to abet. By participating in this conference and being bold in enunciating Christian perspective on these problems I am hoping that this will be an encouragement to Christian colleagues in this nascent field.
KEVIN HARRIS: Germany has a real heritage of theology, don’t they?
DR. CRAIG: Yes.
KEVIN HARRIS: One wonders why because of all that theology from Germany that there is not more Christian philosophy or that it needs the encouragement that it does.
DR. CRAIG: A lot of German theologians are philosophically informed. My doctoral mentor in Germany, Wolfhart Pannenberg, was virtually a disciple of Hegel. He knew Hegel backwards and forwards and followed him in much of his thought. But I think here the unfortunate thing is that German philosophy tends to be dominated by what we would call continental philosophy as opposed to Anglo-American analytic philosophy. Analytic philosophy has deep roots in Germany – in the Vienna circle and the kind of logical positivism that was present there in the twenties and thirties. But theology in Germany is dominated by existentialism, phenomenology, and other continental forms of thought instead of analytic philosophy such as is dominant in Anglo-American thought. Analytic philosophy with its emphasis on clear definitions, carefully formulated arguments, logically constructed reasoning is much more amenable to Christian perspectives than is this kind of wooly, obscure, continental sort of philosophy that unfortunately dominates German theology.
KEVIN HARRIS: Back to Israel in October.
DR. CRAIG: Right! We have this unusual opportunity to go to Israel again for the third time. This time not leading a group but as invitees of an organization in Israel called Israel Collective. From what I understand, this is an organization in Israel that is involved in what one might call cultural politics. They are trying, I think, to cultivate good will in the American Christian community toward the state of Israel. So they have invited quite a number of us who are involved in Christian apologetics to come to Israel and to participate in seminars that they will put on informing us about the current state of Israel, what it is like, the challenges it faces, as well as seeing the fantastic sites that are in the Holy Land. Jan and I are very eager to go back to Israel again and to see the land.
KEVIN HARRIS: The last several years a lot of your time has been devoted to abstract objects and then into the atonement. What do you see coming to the forefront in your personal work and research this year?
DR. CRAIG: I hope this year to be able to complete my work on the atonement. I have no intention whatsoever of spending a decade working on the atonement the way I did on the subject of divine aseity and the challenge of Platonism. I think that essentially my work on the atonement is already complete. What I am doing now is simply rounding out my mastery of the literature on the subject – making sure that I’ve read the essential works both historically and contemporary that bear on the doctrine of the atonement. But the outline of my defense of the atonement, my understanding of the doctrine, I think is already in place. So I hope to be able to wrap it up this year.
KEVIN HARRIS: As we conclude today, I think our listeners can see not only the strategic locations that you’ve been but also the international reach that Reasonable Faith have had over its last ten years.
DR. CRAIG: It has been wonderful. It has been a dream come true. It is marvelous the way the website and YouTube have broadened the impact of this ministry. When we started it ten years ago I thought of Reasonable Faith as a sort of megaphone for our ministry. We do the same things that we’ve always done, but now we have a megaphone to broadcast the impact of that throughout the world. Every week we receive messages from places in Africa, Asia, Australia, the Middle East even, not to mention Europe and North America, interacting with our material and expressing the appreciation that folks have for how it has strengthened them and challenged them.