What's Been Going on at Reasonable FaithMarch 03, 2019 Time: 24:04
KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, looking at the last half of 2018, a lot of exciting things happened, and it seemed to all culminate – crescendo – into the New York Times interview which we’ll be talking about. Let’s reflect a little bit on what’s been going on with Reasonable Faith. How’s it been going?
DR. CRAIG: I spent the second part of the year mainly in my study working on my project on the historical Adam. This has just been so interesting to me. I’ve learned so much, and I am beginning to write up some of the results of what I’ve been studying. In addition to that, I was able to do a little bit of traveling and speaking. I was invited to give the Sophia Forum Lectures at Azusa Pacific University. I spoke there in defense of a penal substitutionary theory of the atonement – arguing for both its coherence and for its morality (or justification). These lectures went really, really well. I thought one of the most meaningful aspects of it, to me, was the reaction of a female theology professor at APU. The first day that I spoke, she stood up in the question and answer time and was very skeptical, very challenging, pressed me hard. I answered her objections. Then the second day I gave my talk on the justification of penal substitution. Afterwards, the faculty all went out for dinner together. Over dinner she sat across the table from me, looked at me, and said, Well, I have to say I never imagined that anyone could make penal substitutionary theory look as attractive as you have made it. I took that as a tremendous complement – even to just move her opinion a little bit in the direction of what I take to be a biblical theory of the atonement.
KEVIN HARRIS: It just shows that it tends to offend the sensibilities of people – modern sensibilities. Do you think that is what it shows?
DR. CRAIG: I do. I think this is unfortunate but it is a fact of life. This became very clear to me recently when my longer book on the doctrine of the atonement was rejected at Oxford University Press after nearly a year with the three referees. All three of the referees were explicitly opposed to penal substitution, and there was no changing their minds. After that occurred, I gave the manuscript to a literary agent and said, See what you can do about placing this with a top press. One of the presses that he sent it to returned the reply within three hours of his email saying, We are not going to publish a book that has the A-word in it. The atonement! I thought, Good night! Are we to the point now where the A-word is like the N-word or the F-word? A term of vulgarity and profanity that cannot be used? This publisher said that they felt Christian theologians have basically poisoned the minds of people against the doctrine of the atonement. So this was not something they wanted to publish.
KEVIN HARRIS: It shows how timely your work on the atonement is because perhaps there is some clarification that needs to be made because of what has trickled down.
DR. CRAIG: I think so. I think that this will be among the most important work that I've done because issues like divine omniscience, divine eternity, those are interesting and fascinating, but the doctrine of the atonement lies at the very core of Christian theology as in contrast to these other doctrines. So I think this is extremely significant and important.
KEVIN HARRIS: October at HBU.
DR. CRAIG: Right. At HBU, I taught a course there on Christian apologetics. I had the opportunity to speak at Second Baptist Church which is one of these megachurches in Houston that has multiple campuses and around eighty thousand members. It is just unbelievable. I had a wonderful time with them. One of the highlights of this trip was an evening with an ex-NFL football player named Michael DeVito at HBU. Mike was establishing two scholarships for HBU students in Christian apologetics. It turns out that his life has been deeply impacted by apologetics, and he's a big fan of Reasonable Faith, and has completed a degree in apologetics now himself and hopes to go on to do doctoral studies in philosophy in Scotland. He was using his money to establish these two scholarships for students at HBU. I just thought this was tremendous that we would have a guy come out of the world of professional athletics who would see the importance of the life of the mind and investing his money in building up a future generation of scholars.
KEVIN HARRIS: Very good. You know, we've received some tremendous testimonies from people. One man said that Reasonable Faith has literally saved his marriage because of the crushing doubt and some of the other things.
DR. CRAIG: Right. Those are posted on the website. Listeners can go to the ReasonableFaith.org website. There's a drop down menu that includes testimonials, and those, as you say, are just so wonderful to read.
KEVIN HARRIS: I guess we're up to the New York Times article. We will do an entire podcast on this. It was an interview with Nicholas Kristoff with the Times.
DR. CRAIG: Yes, he’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and he has interviewed such prominent Christian leaders in the past as Tim Keller and Jimmy Carter and Cardinal O'Connor and others. So it was a privilege to have the chance to do this interview with him for the Times.
KEVIN HARRIS: When we talk about it, we'll talk about all the reactions, what occurred at the genesis of the interview, and everything about it. So what's coming up?
DR. CRAIG: In January, we were very busy. First, we went to New York City where I participated in a professional meeting of the American Philosophical Association. This is the main professional society for philosophers in the United States. I had the honor of having my book God Over All (on God and abstract objects) be the subject of a so-called author-meets-critics session at the APA. The interesting thing was that this session was organized not by some Christian philosopher; it was put together by Erik Wielenberg – the fellow that I had debated last year on the foundations of moral value. Wielenberg and I got along great on a personal level, and so he invited me to have my book be the subject of this author-meets-critics section at the APA. The two critics they picked were Peter van Inwagen from the University of Notre Dame. He is the most prominent Platonist (Realist) about abstract objects on the contemporary scene. Then they had Greg Welty who's now at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he's the most prominent divine conceptualist on the contemporary scene. He thinks that putative or allegedly abstract objects are really thoughts in the mind of God. Each of them offered their criticisms of the book, and then I was given the chance to respond, and then we threw it open to discussion from the audience which included such notable philosophers as Jody Azzouni of Tufts University, Dean Zimmerman from Rutgers, and others. We had a wonderful session that was really great.
KEVIN HARRIS: It's been a while since you've worked on that topic. You may have had to go back and review.
DR. CRAIG: Yes, I did actually! The book was published just in 2016, but since that time I've been through an entirely new research topic (namely, the atonement), closed that out, and now I'm involved in a third on the historical Adam. So, yes, I did need to go back and review things. But I was very pleased with how the discussion went.
KEVIN HARRIS: Then at Grace Evangelical Church.
DR. CRAIG: Right. While I was teaching the two weeks at Talbot I was invited to participate in an evening service at Grace Evangelical Free Church in La Mirada. Erik Thoennes, who's a theology professor at Biola University and a personal acquaintance, was scheduled to conduct the interview. Well, this turned out to be a wonderful evening. Thoennes was so skilled as an interviewer at asking questions that got below the surface. The place was packed. It was just full of people. They were given a chance to ask questions. I think at the end of the day this was the best interview I have ever sat for in my life. It was a wonderful evening. I didn't even ask if it was going to be recorded, but fortunately the technical people there at Grace did record it and so this is available now on YouTube for others to watch. I'm so glad that they did because it was a great time.
KEVIN HARRIS: It sounds like it's going to be a great resource for years to come.
DR. CRAIG: I think so. There were so many interesting questions that were asked, and I think we'll be able to mine that interview for short clips of one or two minutes that we can then post on Facebook. We find that these short clips are what attract the most viewers because they don't take a long commitment to watch. And then after the time at Talbot I was out at Clemson University to close out January. I had a great time speaking there on the question “Why should I believe God exists?” The highlight of this evening for me was the short video clips that the organizer showed from prominent anti-Christian thinkers like Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Bart Ehrman, Sam Harris, and so on. And then they would give me the chance to respond to these video clips much as we do in our Reasonable Faith podcasts. I think this was a great technique because these video clips at first blush really look challenging. I'm sure the average layperson hearing Harris or Neil deGrasse Tyson or Krauss say these things would say, Whoa! Man! How do I answer that? That's really powerful. But then what I would do would be to analyze it closely, dissect it, and show the fallacies that these gentlemen were committing in these clips. I think for many people in the audience they'd never seen anything like this before in their lives. It was just a tremendous exercise in the value of Christian philosophy, careful Christian thought, and the credibility of Christianity in the face of the criticisms offered by some of the most prominent critics in pop culture today.
KEVIN HARRIS: There were two conferences on the historical Adam, and you were able to attend one of them.
DR. CRAIG: Yes. They were two sessions actually of the same conference. What these were were conferences funded by the John Templeton Foundation on Joshua Swamidass’ forthcoming book on the genealogical Adam. Swamidass had, I think, the great wisdom and privilege of organizing these two workshops where scholars from different fields – both scientists as well as theologians – would have the opportunity to read his manuscript in advance and then offer criticisms and comments of it. Then he will take advantage of those comments and criticisms that were offered in the two workshops and revise accordingly and then publish his work on the genealogical Adam. I was very eager to participate in this. I knew Josh's work from the conferences at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School that I've participated in the last two years. He is a biologist. He works in biological informatics at Washington University in St. Louis. So he is a professional scientist working in this area. His work is extremely interesting. Therefore, I was eager to participate in these conferences.
KEVIN HARRIS: Does he seem to be the most prominent person right now writing on this? Is he kind of the go-to person on this subject?
DR. CRAIG: I would say that he is the most prominent person writing, first of all, on what he calls “the genealogical Adam.” This is a very novel approach to the person of Adam. Then I would say as well that he is probably the most prominent scientist speaking to the challenge posed by population genetics to the origin of the human race in an original human pair. There are certainly others speaking to this, but Swamidass, I think, is far more qualified scientifically than the others who have written, and his work is, I think, more discussed, and more prominent. So, yes, I do think he is a key figure in these debates over population genetics and the historicity of a primordial human pair.
KEVIN HARRIS: A podcast on this topic coming up! Stay close. The Zangmeister has been at it again with some new videos.
DR. CRAIG: What a talented man, the Zangmeister is. He has now completed two videos on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. The first one deals with the fundamental facts: the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection. The second video deals with what is the best explanation of those three facts. He has employed classical art in these two videos – wonderful classical paintings of Jesus, of the crucifixion, of the resurrection, and the disciples. It has a very classy feel to it. I told him, I don't want you to use cartoon characters when it comes to Jesus and the disciples. There needs to be a greater dignity here. And so in these he's resorted to classical art, and I think they're just wonderful. What we're working on now is to close out the chapters in the book On Guard. He is working on a video on how can Jesus be the only way to salvation and eternal life. That will finish out On Guard in terms of having animated videos corresponding to each chapter in the book, and I think it will make a tremendous tool for people who are using On Guard in study groups to show the video and then to discuss the chapter.
KEVIN HARRIS: I think you found this to be a very helpful tool as well in your public speaking – that you can illustrate, pause, and then show something so profound in order to illustrate what you're talking about.
DR. CRAIG: That is exactly right. I am really using these Zangmeister videos now when I speak publicly on the existence of God because it breaks up the – I don't want to say the monotony of just listening to me! – but it provides entertainment. I'll speak for a while, then show the video on the argument, then I'll speak a little bit more and expand on what was said in the video because they are very abbreviated. The reaction from audiences has been tremendous. They say that seeing the visuals just really helps them to understand the arguments which are otherwise difficult for laypeople. And as well, it keeps their attention. Even when you're speaking late in the evening at some conference, these videos are so arresting that people are captivated by them and their attention is kept through the entire presentation. So I am finding these videos to be very useful. And, by the way, since you brought it up, that's a good tip for some of our listeners who may be involved in public speaking and teaching. I would encourage them to do the same thing. You can show the video and then give your commentary on it. Then show another video, give your commentary on it. They can do the same thing that I'm doing. This isn't rocket science. This is a great tool for any speaker who wants to present these arguments.
KEVIN HARRIS: What's coming up?
DR. CRAIG: We’ve got a trip to Denmark in March. There are some terrific Christian philosophers in Denmark. A couple of these fellows are philosophers of time who are deeply interested in the work of A. N. Prior who was a great Oxford philosopher who championed the so-called tensed theory of time, or the A-theory of time, according to which tense is an objective feature of reality and temporal becoming is real and objective, not just a subjective experience. There will be a conference on the philosophy of time at which I'll be speaking. I'm going to apply some of the philosophy of time to my work on the atonement and show how it actually impacts your theory of the atonement and God's pardon of sin. Then there will be a popular-level conference for training Christians in apologetics as well as some other speaking in Copenhagen and in the area. So we'll be going off in March for that trip. Then later I've got an event coming up at Holy Cross in Massachusetts where I will be in a dialogue with the Editor Emeritus of Astronomy Magazine – Jeff Hester. I think I can say that Hester is pretty hostile to religious belief. He seems to view religious belief as just irrational and incompatible with belief in science. So the subject of our talk will be “Is it rational to believe in God in an age of science?”
KEVIN HARRIS: Will this be a debate or just a talk?
DR. CRAIG: No, it will be a dialogue. It will be moderated by a philosopher at Holy Cross, and he'll have some set questions which we’ll each speak to and talk about. So it's a more informal kind of presentation. Then in May we're going to be doing the trip that had to be postponed last year to England. We're calling this our English Schools trip because we'll be speaking at some of these elite prep schools in England like Eton College, Harrow, Westminster, Wellington, and others, as well as some of what are called private schools but they're really public schools. Not the elite prep schools. So it will be a mixture of the elite prep schools along with some of the what we would call public schools in Britain. This is rather unusual in that it won't be doing universities. It's going to be targeting these younger (what we would call) high school students.
KEVIN HARRIS: You may not have to go over there. Someone just sent me an article that I haven't looked at yet that says that atheism is down in the UK right now, and that there is a return to spirituality and so on. Again, something that I haven't looked at.
DR. CRAIG: I will want to see that. That would be very welcome news.
KEVIN HARRIS: Speaking of being postponed. The Ben Shapiro interview was postponed.
DR. CRAIG: Yes, I was to do this while out at Talbot in January. The night before the event I received an email from his agents saying that he had fallen ill, he had lost his voice, and the interview had to be canceled. So I was very disappointed. We're working to try to reschedule that at some time. The difficulty is that I'm not in Los Angeles, and so it would take a special trip to fly out there. But we're trying to see what we can do.
KEVIN HARRIS: If Facebook and some of the emails that I've gotten are any indication, a lot of people were really looking forward to you being with him. There are a lot of fans of Ben Shapiro who are also fans of Reasonable Faith. I've seen that overlap there, even though he's Jewish and holds to Orthodox Judaism. It is very interesting how people were really looking forward to you getting together.
DR. CRAIG: I’ve gotten the same sorts of messages. The funny thing is that we didn’t publicize this. We didn’t make this known publicly, but somehow it just gets out through the grapevine. It was odd because they actually asked us late in the game, Don’t publicize that you are going to do this. And I said to Michael Lepien, our executive director, Oh my goodness, this notice comes far too late. We hadn’t publicized it, but we hadn’t kept it secret either. So a lot of people were aware that it was going to happen, and were disappointed when it didn’t. But, hopefully, we’ll be able to do it again.
KEVIN HARRIS: Bill, I hope our listeners will hold you up in prayer – you and Jan – as you travel and as you keep a very full schedule, not only your work, your research, but also all of these things that you will be attending, that God would give you energy and grace to get it all done.
DR. CRAIG: Thank you, Kevin.
 The first lecture “Is Christ's Penal Substitution Incoherent?” can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3Q3KTpAmzg
The second lecture “Is Christ's Penal Substitution Unjust?” can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63fMR3t4t9A
(links accessed February 26, 2019).
 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/21/opinion/sunday/christmas-christian-craig.html (accessed February 26, 2019).
 To see this part, start at the 50 minute, 40 second mark of the recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4BqGsXWsYA&t=50m40s (accessed February 26, 2019).
 Total Running Time: 24:04 (Copyright © 2019 William Lane Craig)