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The 3rd Edition of Reasonable Faith

June 29, 2008     Time: 00:19:18
The 3rd Edition of Reasonable Faith


Conversation with William Lane Craig

Transcript The 3rd Edition of Reasonable Faith


Kevin Harris: The third edition of the book Reasonable Faith, hitting bookshelves, from Dr. William Lane Craig. Dr. Craig, in the third edition, usually what you want to do is what? Expand on some themes? Go back and correct some typos? What do you want to do? [laughter]

Dr. Craig: I am pleased to say there is very little correction that goes on in the third edition. Very few retractions of anything I said, which is nice. That is gratifying. But what there is is a lot of updating. It is updated in light of, for example, the attacks of the New Atheists. I interact with people like Dawkins and Daniel Dennett and others. It also updates the cosmological information. Lots of new work has been done on the origin of the universe and on subjects like the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life. Also updating on work on the historical Jesus and the recent developments in New Testament scholarship. So almost every chapter of the book has been significantly updated to bring it right into conversation with current literature.

In addition to that there is some expansion of the book. The original Reasonable Faith defended only one argument for God’s existence. Although it historically surveyed about five, it only defended the kalam cosmological argument. In the new edition, I’ve added defenses of all of the different arguments that were surveyed in the historical survey section. I am convinced that all of these arguments are good and therefore it provides a much more well rounded and robust defense of arguments for the existence of God.

We have deleted one chapter from the book. There was a chapter in the second edition written by Craig Blomberg on the historical reliability of the New Testament. Although this is a fine chapter – Craig did a good job on that – nevertheless I did not want that chapter in the book because I felt it wasn’t relevant to the argument of the book. But the editors at the press more or less said you have to have a chapter in here on this subject. So I had Craig Blomberg write that chapter. But it was really kind of a fifth wheel. It didn’t advance the argument or it wasn’t necessary for the argument of the overall book. So in the third edition, to keep the book down to size or manageable in size, we’ve deleted that chapter by Craig Blomberg.

So those are some of the revisions that are in the third edition.

Kevin Harris: You mentioned the New Atheism. I just want to remind people that we have a resource on that. We have done a couple of broadcasts on the New Atheism, why they are called the New Atheism and who is involved and so on. So I would refer people to that. [1] What level would you say that this book is?

Dr. Craig: Well, to be honest, I guess I would have to say it would be upperclassmen, university undergraduates. As much as I would like laypeople to read this, I think unless they’re university graduates or unless you are a student where you are a junior or senior at the university, it is probably not the book to begin with. But if you have already whet your teeth on some other apologetics works and you are familiar with apologetic arguments in philosophy and science and history then this would be a good next intermediate step. So it would be an intermediate step on the way toward actually reading real scholarship.

Kevin Harris: One of the expansions in the third edition is the ontological argument. I know that recently you seemed to have been working on that some more. [2] It seems to have come back into prominence. My reading the literature is that a lot of people think that it has been dispelled and is not even worth arguing. Apparently, that is not the case.

Dr. Craig: You are right. That is not the case. It shouldn’t be the case. I once had that attitude myself that the argument really was not a good argument because there was no way to show that the existence of God is in fact possible, and that therefore you could not make a good case for God’s existence. But it seems to me that, in fact, on the basis of not only our sort of philosophical intuitions about what is possible and impossible, but also on the basis of experiential considerations, that we do have good grounds for saying that it is possible that God exists. The remarkable feature of this argument as it has been developed by people like Alvin Plantinga is that it shows that if it is possible that God exists then it does follow that God exists. I think that that alone is enough to shake up many atheists. Many atheists would be willing to say, “It is possible that God exists even though I don’t think that he does.” But what the ontological argument shows minimally is that if it is possible that God exists then God in fact does exist. So that puts the atheist in the uncomfortable position of having to say it is impossible for there to be God. Which is pretty radical.

Kevin Harris: I don’t want people to be intimated by the ontological argument. It can be intimidating but it is fascinating and very rewarding to study. There is something about it. First of all, that is a big word – ontological. What do we mean by that?

Dr. Craig: It comes from the Greek word ontos which means “being” or “reality.” So it is an attempt to argue for the being or the reality of God from the very concept of God. Once you understand who God is or you understand the concept of God then you will see that there has to be such an entity corresponding to that concept in reality.

I want to second what you just said about the benefits of just reflecting on the ontological argument. Whether you think it is a good argument or not, I think that it does serve to magnify the concept of God and to exalt our understanding of who God is. God is not a being who just sort of happens to exist. He doesn’t just happen to be there. Rather, God is a metaphysically necessary being. He is a being whose non-existence is impossible. So reflecting on the ontological argument I think has great theological value in deepening our appreciation of who God is and what he is like.

Kevin Harris: You also expanded some of the historical Jesus material. Tell us about some of the expansion there.

Dr. Craig: When I wrote the second edition of Reasonable Faith, it was very widely believed among New Testament scholars that the historical person Jesus of Nazareth never claimed to be the Messiah or the Son of God or the Son of Man. These were titles written back into the Gospels by the early church long after Jesus was dead and gone. That has changed now in contemporary scholarship. Today, a good many scholars are quite ready to argue that the historical Jesus did think that he was the Jewish Messiah – that he really believed this, that he thought he was the Messiah, that he thought he was the Son of God, and that he thought he was the Son of Man prophesied by the prophet Daniel in the seventh chapter of Daniel’s prophecy. So the third edition of Reasonable Faith contains a very detailed defense of the historical Jesus’ self-understanding as the Jewish Messiah, the Son of God, and the Son of Man. I look at not only New Testament materials but also very interesting materials from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other what are called pseudepigraphal Jewish writings. These are Jewish writings in between the Old and the New Testament that reveal to us a lot of the Jewish religious thinking in the era preceding Jesus’ advent on this earth. I think these show and make it very plausible that Jesus of Nazareth did have this sort of exalted self-understanding.

Kevin Harris: Bill, there are a lot of Bible believing Christians who would sit here and hear you say that and go, “Well, of course Jesus claimed all that. This is the Word of God. It’s the inspired Word of God.” But when you are doing this kind of work, you are surveying and looking at scholarship and historical arguments in order to at least have some sort of minimal information in order to build your case or to show whether scholarship actually supports that very contention. [3]

Dr. Craig: Yes. That is the key distinction I think, Kevin. There is a difference between believing that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah and thought he was the Son of God and saying that historical scholarship can actually show that Jesus thought and believed these things. My claim is the second one which is, I think, very exciting and can serve to undergird and support one’s faith.

Kevin Harris: Any new material on the resurrection in this edition?

Dr. Craig: What I primarily do there is interact with recent books on the resurrection that have been written. Since Reasonable Faith was published, there hasn’t been any new discoveries pertinent to the resurrection per se, but there have been some important books published on it. So I interact, for example, with the work of John Meier who is probably the preeminent historical Jesus scholar today. I interact with the work of N. T. Wright who has written a massive book, some 800 pages, called The Resurrection of the Son of God, which is probably the most important book on the resurrection today. Then I interact with the work of Dale Allison, a fine New Testament scholar who, although he believes in the historicity of the empty tomb, and the appearances of Jesus, and the origin of the Christian faith, presents what I think is the most compelling negative case against the resurrection. A case that he in the end finds unconvincing but nevertheless is very compellingly presented. So I interact in this chapter with the work of all three of those men.

Kevin Harris: So you certainly didn’t skirt the hard questions?

Dr. Craig: Not at all. Reasonable Faith, I think, is an honest book. It takes on the best and the brightest on the other side. So in dealing with, for example, the atheistic arguments, I don’t content myself with dealing with arguments from popularizers like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. I take on people like Graham Oppy and J. Howard Sobel and Michael Martin’s contributors to his Cambridge Companion to Atheism. These are the high level atheists of our day, and I take them on squarely in the book.

Kevin Harris: In light of some best selling books recently I think that this third edition sounds like it is going to serve a real purpose in looking at things concerning the historical Jesus including some work by Bart Ehrman which calls into question . . .

Dr. Craig: Yeah, I forgot to mention him. He’s in there, too.

Kevin Harris: Oh, he is, yeah. And also there was a movie documentary that the tomb of Jesus had been found and so in light of all these things that have infiltrated the culture – Misquoting Jesus, again, that sold a lot of books. That was surprising.

Dr. Craig: Ehrman is the best selling religious author at Oxford University Press.

Kevin Harris: It just really devastates the case for the Bible, the case for Christ. So in light of that, it seems like some of this material may shed some light on some of this.

Dr. Craig: Absolutely. I don’t know of anything else like this book, quite honestly. You can read individual critiques that have this material in it. For example, Craig Evans work in his popular book called Fabricating Jesus is a great critique of those who think that Jesus of Nazareth didn’t have any exalted self-concept. But Evans book is confined to the historical Jesus. It doesn’t include chapters on the existence of God, the absurdity of life without God, faith and reason, the problem of historical knowledge. You can find books on the existence of God that have very able defenses of, say, the Leibnizian cosmological argument. Tim O’Connor has a new book on this. So does Alexander Pruss. But those books won’t include discussions of the historical Jesus, the problem of miracles, and so forth. I don’t know of anything else that puts all of this material at this level into one volume the way Reasonable Faith does.

Kevin Harris: Reasonable Faith is the name of the book. This is the third edition. It is from Crossway Books. Did you expand the design argument? Any new material coming in on that?

Dr. Craig: Oh, yes. It has got a long section in there on the argument from fine-tuning for the origin of the universe and some very interesting recent developments with regard to the so-called multiverse hypothesis. People try to subvert the design argument by saying that there is a multiverse out there, that is to say, a kind of world ensemble of parallel universes that we can’t see.

Kevin Harris: We are just one among many universes.

Dr. Craig: That is exactly right. One universe among many. And these are randomly ordered in their constants and quantities so that by chance alone somewhere in this infinite ensemble our universe would appear. And lucky us, here we are. [4] That argument is taken by many to be the sort of last line of defense against the inference to an intelligent designer of the cosmos. In the book, I give several reasons as to why that multiverse hypothesis really doesn’t work in explaining away the fine-tuning of the universe.

Kevin Harris: Robin Collins is a scholar, really known in this area. He really denounces the multiverse theory as well, doesn’t he?

Dr. Craig: Yes, he does present arguments against the multiverse. But then Robin goes even farther. He argues that even if there is a multiverse, you still can’t explain away fine-tuning or avoid a designer. So he shows that we can be quite willing to accommodate a multiverse and the design argument will still go through. He has a wonderful argument, for example, based upon the laws of nature which will govern the multiverse, and how the laws of nature themselves point to a designer of the universe. Now Robin Collins work is not yet available except in article form but his main book called A Well-Tempered Universe is still being written and probably won’t appear for another year or so. But I have been personally in conversation with Robin now for some time and profited a great deal from his insights in this area and that has helped me to write this chapter.

Kevin Harris: Bill, I have a stack of papers right here in front of me. It is questions that you receive via email, through the website. There are a lot of questions in here – I see a pattern here – on your view of the inner witness of the Spirit which you begin Reasonable Faith, the first/second edition, with.

Dr. Craig: That’s right, in the faith and reason chapter.

Kevin Harris: Have you found that a lot of people, aside from these emails here, ask just what does that mean?

Dr. Craig: I find that a lot of people don’t understand it, unfortunately. I am often amazed, Kevin, at the questions that come into for the lack of understanding of these views. I think sometimes people, particularly unbelievers, look at the surface of something and if they don’t like the way it sounds they just immediately reject it. They just shut off and they never seek to try to really understand the view and to really explore what it means. Because if they did, I think they would see that these initial first impression reactions are quite misconceived and based on misunderstandings. So in the third edition I do deal with the question of what happens when a person who claims to know that Christianity is true on the basis of the witness of the Holy Spirit finds himself confronted with a Mormon who claims to know that Mormonism is true based upon the burning he feels in his bosom. And does this result in a kind of epistemic standoff – a stalemate. And I argue that it doesn’t. I hope that those who have rejected this view in the past will look at that more carefully and reconsider it because I think it really does make the best sense. [5]