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Three Things You Need to Know About William Lane Craig

November 18, 2019     Time: 20:16
Three Things You Need to Know About William Lane Craig


A theology blog offers three things about Dr. Craig. Does Dr. Craig agree with them?

KEVIN HARRIS: “Three Things You Need to Know About William Lane Craig.”[1] Bill, since you’re here, I think there are three things you need to know about yourself.

DR. CRAIG: I see!

KEVIN HARRIS: This is from the “Pulpit & Pen” blog by Seth Dunn, a Baptist organization for the most part. A couple of months ago they wrote this about you. The article starts out:

In the last few years, William Lane Craig has surpassed Ravi Zacharais as evangelicalism’s foremost Christian Apologist. Craig’s name is most often associated with his ministry organization Reasonable Faith, which is also the name of his most popular book and his weekly podcast. Here are three things you need know about William Lane Craig.

DR. CRAIG: Kevin, I don’t know how you come up with this stuff! [laughter] This is so funny.

KEVIN HARRIS: It’s called Google!

DR. CRAIG: OK, what three things do we need to know?


1. Craig is a Professional Philosopher

Craig was once touted by popular Atheist intellectual Sam Harris as “the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.” Though Craig is indeed most notable for being a Christian Apologist, he is a philosopher by trade.

DR. CRAIG: I really appreciate Seth Dunn saying that. I feel squeamish sometimes when I’m introduced as a Christian apologist because of the negative associations that that word carries in our secular culture. I would much rather be introduced as a Christian philosopher and theologian. Those are my two areas in which I have earned doctorates, and I think describe what I do and the kinds of things that I publish. So, although I certainly do work in and am active in apologetics, I feel more comfortable being described as a Christian philosopher and theologian.

KEVIN HARRIS: He continues,

He holds a Ph.D in Philosophy from the University of Birmingham, where he studied under John Hick and has served as Research Professor of Philosophy at Biola University since 1996.

DR. CRAIG: And he might add Houston Baptist University, as well.


His philosophical contributions include extensive study and writing on Divine Aseity and God’s relationship to time. His philosophical background has certainly assisted him in his numerous debates on the existence of God with atheists and skeptics. His philosophical mindset tends to dominate his biblical hermeneutic thus causing him to come to questionable conclusions when interpreting certain scriptural passages.

DR. CRAIG: I had to smile when I read that. I’m not sure what he means, but in my current work on the historical Adam I’ve often asked myself, “What in the world can I as a philosopher bring to this discussion that is not already discerned by eminent Old Testament scholars and Assyriologists and Egyptologists. And I have to say, over and over again I have seen areas where the ability to draw crucial philosophical distinctions brings conceptual clarity to the conversation that is obscured by people who don’t have that sort of philosophical training. So I think there really is room for this philosophical mindset that he describes in doing a good hermeneutical approach to Scripture.


In fact, Craig is so inclined towards a purely philosophical worldview that he recommends no extant systematic theology text, tending to view the existing material as philosophically lacking.

He is referring to question #510 in the Q&A section of the website.[2]

DR. CRAIG: OK. I said that before Norman Geisler published his Systematic Theology which I have not read. I hope to look at it. I suspect I won’t be altogether happy with it either because of Norm Geisler’s Thomism which I don’t agree with, and his anti-Molinism. But nevertheless his approach should be considerably more philosophically informed than the systematic theologies that have been written by people who don’t have philosophical training.


2. Craig is a proponent of “mere Christianity”

Craig sees himself primarily as an evangelist (he served on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ for two years) and defender of what he believes to be the “core” doctrines of the Christian faith. These “core doctrines” include the Trinitarian nature of God, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith. Craig is an formidable defender of both classical theism and these “core doctrines.” His defense of Trinitarianism against Islamic Unitarianism is especially good.

DR. CRAIG: I appreciate that. It is correct that I’ve tried to focus on “mere Christianity” – these core doctrines. As a result, the work of Reasonable Faith has been appreciated by Christians of so many different confessions whether Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox or Coptic. In speaking in Australia and other places, I have had Coptic priests come up to me with their long, black robes and thick beards with people from their congregations saying how much the Lord is using our material in the Coptic church to encourage believers in Egypt and elsewhere. I just consider this to be so tremendously encouraging that Christians of all sorts can profit from my work.

KEVIN HARRIS: Continuing, Seth says:

However, Craig goes out of his way to avoid controversy and seeks to appeal across denominational lines. This can lead Craig to affirming the brotherhood of or failing to adequately condemn heretical sects like Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

DR. CRAIG: I think that is too strong to call them heretical sects, so I would agree with him about his characterization of me. That doesn’t mean that I think every Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox confessor is a born-again Christian, obviously. But I do know some who are, I think, to all appearances born-again Christians. So I don’t think that we need to condemn these confessions as heretical even if we disagree with them on certain areas as I do.

KEVIN HARRIS: He continues,

Although he personally affirms it as a Biola University faculty member, he makes a point of not defending the doctrine of inerrancy or any other doctrine he views as secondary or tertiary.

DR. CRAIG: There is some truth to that, but that is not entirely correct. In my university speaking, I don’t defend those doctrines because they are not essential to core Christianity. But in my Defenders class, we go into these secondary and tertiary doctrines in considerable detail. The initial locus of my review of the theological curriculum is the doctrine of revelation, and by that I mean the way in which God has revealed himself both in nature and in Scripture. We discuss at some length the doctrine of inspiration and the corollary of biblical inerrancy – trying to define what it means and to offer a defensible version of it. So it is not entirely correct to say that I prescind from addressing these issues. There are just appropriate forums and inappropriate forums.


3. Craig Borders on the Unorthodox

DR. CRAIG: Oh boy! Here it goes!


Though Craig is a member of and a Sunday School teacher at a Southern Baptist Church, he is Wesleyan in terms of soteriology.

DR. CRAIG: Right! Now, I don’t think that borders on heresy, but I certainly do identify with the Wesleyan tradition, like the United Methodists for example.


He is also a Molinist and social trinitarian.

DR. CRAIG: Right. I think that Molina has offered the best reconciliation of divine sovereignty and human freedom that is out there. I think the Reformed perspective safeguards divine sovereignty only by sacrificing human freedom. The open theist view sacrifices divine sovereignty in order to preserve human freedom. I think that Molinism provides the best account of safeguarding both.

KEVIN HARRIS: Social trinitarian?

DR. CRAIG: That's just to say that I think that there are three centers of consciousness in God – that there is the Father who can say “I am the Father,” and there is the Son who says “I am Jesus Christ,” and the Holy Spirit who could say or think “I am the Holy Spirit.” I take this to be a serious robust doctrine that there are three persons in the Godhead. I would be opposed to what's been called Latin trinitarianism or sometimes called antisocial trinitarianism which sees the persons of the Trinity as not robust persons in the psychological sense but just as subsistent relations within the Godhead. The Son is sort of like the “me” of the Father's “I.” The father says “I love the Son” and the Son says “The Father loves me.” The “I” and the “me” are just two different relations of the same reality. I don't think that is a robust enough notion of a person.


He has proposed a controversial Neo-Apollonarian Christology.

DR. CRAIG: Yes. I confess to that as well. But I've also tried to show that it stands within the boundary markers of the Council of Chalcedon in affirming that Christ has a complete human nature and a complete divine nature. I don't see a good way of preserving the unity of Christ's person and the distinctness of his natures apart from this sort of proposal.

KEVIN HARRIS: He continues:

Although Craig rejects Open Theism, he has stated (in the course of explaining Transworld Depravity) that God must play the cards He has “been dealt.”

DR. CRAIG: That's a metaphor that expresses that God does not determine the truth value of counterfactuals of human freedom. For example, it would be true perhaps that if you were to eat at Longhorn Steakhouse this noon you would order a mushroom hamburger. And to say that God plays with the cards he's been dealt is a metaphorical way of saying God doesn't determine that – that if you were to eat at Longhorn you'd order the mushroom burger. Rather, that's a free choice of your will, and God allows you to make that free choice. Then, given the fact that you would so freely choose, God will providentially factor that in and take that into account in his providential planning of human history. So that’s what I mean when I say he works with the cards that he's been dealt. Given the counterfactuals of human freedom that are true, God works with those. He factors them in in developing his providential plan for human history.


Craig has been known to make strange analogies, such as comparing the Trinity to the mythological three-headed dog Cerberus and comparing the two-natures of Christ to a character from the science-fiction film Avatar.

DR. CRAIG: We need to understand that the use of Cerberus the three-headed dog was a springboard – a thought experiment – to help us eventually arrive at a doctrine of the Trinity. It was not an analogy for the Trinity. Rather, it was a way of asking the question, “How can there be one thing – one being – that has three centers of self-consciousness and yet is still one thing?” And the analogy of Cerberus came to mind. The analogy in the end I show is inadequate. It's just a springboard to developing a fully adequate notion of God as tri-personal. So I think it's quite all right to use the analogy as a springboard or thought experiment for dealing with this. As for the two natures of Christ analogy, well, I was just quite struck by how the handicapped figure in the movie Avatar (I think his name is Jake) remains up in the spacecraft while his consciousness is in the body of one of the Na’vi beings who inhabits this world. In the one nature he has, he is weak, inhibited, spatially-located. In the other nature he's strong, capable, mighty, and so forth. And yet it is the same person. It is the same person who has a human nature and a Na’vi nature which are very different from each other in terms of their capacities. And I do think that the figure is a Christ-figure in that movie. He becomes the savior of that race by, in a sense, becoming incarnate there. So I think it's a pretty good analogy.

KEVIN HARRIS: He continues:

Craig not only rejects Young Earth Creationism but has shown disdain for those who defend it.

DR. CRAIG: It's true that I reject Young Earth Creationism. I show, I think, disdain for the view. I think the view is incredible. It's scientifically indefensible, I think. Though I think hermeneutically it's a real option. In fact, I think the really terrifying thing is that the Young Earth Creationist could be right hermeneutically about the interpretation of Genesis 1 to 11 which would throw us into massive, massive conflict with modern science as Young Earthers themselves admit. I don't have disdain for them as persons, but I do think that their view is preposterous scientifically.


He ardently rejects Calvinism but has been quite lenient on Roman Catholicism.

DR. CRAIG: The reason for that is what I said earlier – my heart is the heart of an evangelist. I want to win Roman Catholics to Christ. I recognize that a good many Roman Catholics are merely nominal Christians and I want to help them to come to know Christ. By contrast, I think my Calvinistic brethren are probably largely already regenerate Christians. That was why, when Christopher Hitchens in our debate at Biola University said to me, Well, what Christian view do you think is false? I thought to myself and said, OK, I'm going to alienate somebody. I could say Roman Catholicism but I don't want to alienate them, and so I said Calvinism because I figured my Calvinist brethren would forgive me. That was why I said that. But I'm obviously not a Catholic. In my dialogue with Bishop Baron a couple of years ago, he asked me, Why aren't you a Catholic? I explained a couple of reasons.

KEVIN HARRIS: Boy, you were on the hot seat.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, I really was because the purpose of that dialogue was to emphasize our points of commonality, and then all of a sudden he says this to me – Why aren't you a Catholic? – and forced me in a sense to voicing some disagreements with Catholicism which I do have. I was about to explain how I have a very different view of justification than Roman Catholics do, but I bit my tongue at that point and thought there's no need to alienate the Roman Catholics here in the audience. So I didn't express those disagreements publicly. I really do want Roman Catholics to profit from and benefit from the material that we're putting out.

KEVIN HARRIS: Seth continues:

His apologetic for Progressive Creationism stands out among his otherwise solid work as a “god of the gaps” ad-hoc explanation for a biblical difficulty.

DR. CRAIG: Now, that's said by a Young Earth Creationist. That's what Seth holds to. It's important to understand here that progressive creationism is not offered as a scientific explanation. It’s not a God-of-the-gaps attempt to explain the data. Rather, it's a way of integrating the Bible and science. Given the truth of the Bible and of modern science, how can we put these together? I think progressive creationism is one way that would be a coherent packaging of these. But it's not a competing scientific theory.


In the course of trying to make Christianity easier to believe for people, he can almost leave it or, at the very least fail to provide, a doctrinally deep picture of the religion.

DR. CRAIG: I think that's just completely wrong to say that I can almost leave it. I have been ardent in my defense of the Christian doctrine of God and of the deity, substitutionary atonement, and resurrection of Christ, and of the necessity for repentant faith and being born again. I am nowhere near to almost leaving Christianity. And as for a doctrinally deep picture, he's quite right. In evangelistic messages you don't present a doctrinally deep picture. That's not the forum. But I can guarantee if anyone will go through the four or five years that it takes to get through my Defenders survey of Christian doctrine, he will receive an education in systematic theology that will exceed, I think, virtually any seminary-level education that we are offering to our future ministers and pastors.[3]


[3]           Total Running Time: 20:16 (Copyright © 2019 William Lane Craig)