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"When Bill Met Kevin" Part One

August 12, 2019     Time: 20:33

Summary

This is the very first interview Kevin did with Dr. Craig back in 1998. They were joined by David Geisler (who recently lost his father, Dr. Norman Geisler).

KEVIN HARRIS: Always good to have you back on Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. Hey, it’s Kevin Harris. I’ve got a real treat for you today – well, OK, it was a treat for me. I was digging around in the garage and I found a box of cassette tapes and found the very first interview that I ever did with Dr. Craig. This was right around 1998, and I was hosting a radio show in Austin, Texas. I’d been trying to get him on the show for some time but his schedule was just jammed. This is the very first interview that I did with Dr. Craig. It put into motion what a few years later became Reasonable Faith – this podcast. Because after this interview that you are going to hear today, I said, “We really ought to do something here.” A radio show where I interview Dr. Craig. And, of course, the rest is history. What is very poignant about what you are going to hear today is that the late Normal Geisler, who just died, his son, Dave Geisler, was with me in the studio. Dave helped me with the show. So much love and shout out to Dave Geisler. In a couple of weeks, Dr. Craig and I will do a podcast on Norm Geisler. So stay close for that. Here it is – part one of my very first interview, with a little help from David Geisler, Dr. William Lane Craig back in 1998.

Dr. William Lane Craig will be joining us in just a moment. Champion apologist. One of the greatest philosophers, theologian Dr. William Lane Craig. I’m excited about having him on here in just a few minutes. We are going to be going to him and taking your calls. Talking about the existence of God, the beginning of the universe. I bet we could even touch on the evidence for the resurrection, in that Dr. Craig is an expert in that area. I would say that Dr. Craig is probably the number one debater for theism (and particularly Christian theism) today. Also joining me live in the studio today is David Geisler. Dave, it's good to have you back again.

DAVID GEISLER: I'm glad to be back.

KEVIN HARRIS: Thank you very much. I pulled you in at the last minute and said I want some help today. I want you to be the man to do it. And you've done it before. Dave is with International Student Ministries right here in Austin, Texas. He also has Meekness and Truth Ministries. You can go to MeeknessAndTruth.org. Dave, your approach to evangelism is that we need as the church to apply apologetics to our evangelistic approach. That the church is not doing this. We tend to fail. We tend to keep our people ignorant. There are good answers to tough questions out there that culture is throwing at us today. You've spoken all over the place about this, haven't you?

DAVID GEISLER: Yes, I have. I just really would encourage Christians to get more involved in apologetics.

KEVIN HARRIS: Good. This is something that your father has done. He's been a frequent guest on the show. Dr. Norman Geisler. In fact, he'll be with us this month. But, Dave, I would say that that's pretty accurate about William Lane Craig. He's pretty much the champion apologist these days, or at least he's the one that's getting a lot of press. He's a student of your father.

DAVID GEISLER: Yeah. He was. So was J. P. Moreland and Ravi Zacharias and Doug Geivett. But, yes, he has done a lot of great debates.

KEVIN HARRIS: You're an evangelist in your own right and are anxious to see people defending the faith in today's culture and learning how to do that. You don't have to go to seminary. More people should, but you just have to be informed on some basic principles and understanding.

DAVID GEISLER: That’s right. And that's why we put together this ministry. It is to help laypeople to better understand how to use all the good apologetics that are out there.

KEVIN HARRIS: They are already out there.

DAVID GEISLER: Yeah, it's already out there. But we need to learn how to actually use that apologetics to actually do evangelism.

KEVIN HARRIS: This is going to be a fascinating show today as we discuss these issues with Dave and with William Lane Craig. Dr. Craig is with us now, and I want to go straight to him and not waste any time. If you are involved in apologetics, Dr. William Lane Craig needs no introduction. He is just, well, I've heard him called the champion apologist. He's definitely front and center. He's on the front lines these days. He is asked to and invited to debate the leading atheist thinkers that are out there today. He is successful in those debates. I was at one of those debates in Dallas, as you were.

DAVID GEISLER: Yes.

KEVIN HARRIS: We'll talk about it in just a moment. William Lane Craig lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, Jan, and their two children. Dr. Craig, we are just delighted to have you with us today.

DR. CRAIG: Delighted to be on the program. Thank you.

KEVIN HARRIS: What do you think? That's got to be rather humbling to be considered right on the front lines today and be considered the champion apologist defending Christian theism, in particular in Christianity today.

DR. CRAIG: Well, I think it's good advice not to believe your own press. I really do take all of this with a grain of salt. I just am trying to do my best and slugging it out with the rest of the guys. It's all a team effort.

KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, I don't think I told you that Dave Geisler is here in the studio with us.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, I heard as I joined the program that he was on. Hi, Dave!

DAVID GEISLER: Hi!

KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, one of the things that you're particularly famous for is the Kalam cosmological argument. Where does that argument get its name first of all?

DR. CRAIG: Well, the argument was originally developed by an early Christian commentator on Aristotle named John Philoponus. He was a Christian philosopher living in Alexandria, Egypt. When Islam took over Egypt the Muslim theologians adopted this argument for the finitude of the past and the creation of the world out of nothing. It became a highly developed argument within medieval Islamic theology. The movement in Islamic theology that developed this argument is called Kalam. When I wanted to find a moniker for this type of cosmological argument, I chose to call it the Kalam cosmological argument. The credit for resuscitating this argument, I think, actually goes to Stuart Hackett in his underappreciated book The Resurrection of Theism. It was reading Hackett's book after graduating from Wheaton College in 1971 that really put my interest onto this particular form of the cosmological argument.

KEVIN HARRIS: It is a very compelling argument, and we'll get into it in brief here in just a moment. I tell you one thing though, Dr. Craig, it's one of those things you lay in bed and think about at night and can't go to sleep.

DR. CRAIG: You can imagine writing a doctoral dissertation on this! You know, my wife would wake up in the night and find me lying there awake and she'd say, What are you thinking about? And I’d say, I'm thinking about Zeno's paradoxes – can you complete an infinite number of tasks? It really does stretch your mind to the limit.

KEVIN HARRIS: Trying to comprehend infinity and the whole bit. Dr. Craig, is there a kind of a shift? I'm detecting in intellectual circles a shift toward theism these days. The Big Bang, the design argument. Do we see a positive shift here?

DR. CRAIG: Oh, I think so, especially when you look at the long run. If you look back, for example, at the 30s and 40s in university culture, belief in the existence of God was thought to be irrational. Indeed many philosophers thought that even talk about God was literal baby talk in the sense of nonsense gibberish. It had no meaning at all. It wasn't even false. It was meaningless. Nobody today would defend such a perspective. I think today many of America's finest philosophers at our best universities are outspoken Christians. Today it is acceptable to become a Christian. This was just brought home to me this week. I got a call from a fellow at Iowa State University – a graduate student getting his doctorate. I've been witnessing to this fellow for a few years. He was an atheist. He called to tell me that he had just become a Christian.

KEVIN HARRIS: Wonderful!

DR. CRAIG: I was so thrilled. I thought, you know, for him to become a Christian – it may not have been for intellectual reasons. I didn't get the full story. But what it is is that today it is acceptable for an intellectual to become a Christian. This is a real live option today in ways that it wasn't before. So I see a real renaissance going on particularly in the field of philosophy, but now also spilling over into the hard sciences as well.

KEVIN HARRIS: Wonderful. We're just going to jump all over the place today. The Kalam cosmological argument tends to obliterate the view that the universe has always existed. Is that kind of been kind of the atheistic view? That it's just always been there from eternity?

DR. CRAIG: Yes. When you think about it historically, from the time of pre-Socratic philosophers and Aristotle on up through modern materialism, Marxism, idealism, the view has always been that the universe is eternal and uncaused. It was against this doctrine that the early church fathers dug in their heels and said, no, the world was created out of nothing a finite time ago. And the church stood against this prevailing eternalism with respect to the universe for thousands of years before, in this century, modern cosmology has said that in fact the church was right – the universe did begin to exist. So it really is remarkable how unique this doctrine of creation out of nothing is to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

KEVIN HARRIS: So Christians shouldn't fear the Big Bang.

DR. CRAIG: No. I think that that's a mistake. The only persons who would have a problem with it would be your so-called Young Earth Creationists who believe that the world is only twenty thousand years old or so. They could not accept it. But even for them I think it's of apologetic use in that they can say to the non-believer, You may not accept my point of view, but even on your own presuppositions, on your own cosmology, the universe began to exist and this points to a creator. So I think even the Young Earther can use this argument effectively.

KEVIN HARRIS: One of the tenants of the Kalam cosmological argument, and Dr. Craig I'm trying to eat more potassium and drink less caffeine just so I can try to get this down, but that is that you cannot traverse an actual infinite.

DR. CRAIG: Right.

KEVIN HARRIS: How am I doing?

DR. CRAIG: That is one of the philosophical arguments that has been traditionally offered on behalf of the premise that the universe began to exist. That's right. You could not have an infinite past elapse one event at a time.

KEVIN HARRIS: Now, what a debater would throw up to you I guess at that point, or a student would ask, well then how did God traverse an actual infinite if he’s from all eternity?

DR. CRAIG: I have been just amazed at how often this issue comes up. When I tell students that God is timeless without the universe but he created time and space and therefore he exists beyond time and space, they are utterly befuddled. It's as though they have never heard this before. It's so funny because I say to them, You know, this is not some unusual entailment of this argument. This is the traditional Christian view that the church has held for a couple of thousand years. And yet the notion of divine timelessness is something that strikes most non-Christian students as utterly bizarre and something they've never heard of before. I think it just is an illustration of how theologically illiterate our culture has become.

KEVIN HARRIS: So God is from all eternity – as the Bible says, from eternity, into eternity.

DR. CRAIG: Well, now, that depends on how you interpret that, of course. The Bible says that God is without beginning and end, but there's two ways you can be without beginning and end. One would be to endure throughout infinite time – infinitely from the past and infinitely into the future. Then you would have no beginning and end. Another way not to have a beginning and end is just not to exist in time at all – just to transcend time. And if you're not in time then obviously you don't have a beginning, an end, or a middle!

KEVIN HARRIS: Wow! Dave? You are taking notes over there, bud! [laughter]

DAVID GEISLER: I’ve been wanting to ask Dr. Craig this question. What are the strengths and weaknesses between his form of the Kalam cosmological argument and say my father, Dr. Geisler, his current causality argument? I've never really heard anyone . . .

DR. CRAIG: Well, I think that the Kalam cosmological argument is more obviously true in my opinion. The contingency form of the argument that Norm Geisler defends involves a very subtle metaphysical distinction between a thing’s essence and its existence. It's to say that everything which is contingent in its being has an essence which doesn't involve existence and therefore it needs to have existence added to its essence in order for it to exist. Well, the distinction between essence and existence is obviously not something that you can see with your eyes or grasp with your senses. This is a conception . . . well, it's more than conceptual. It's a metaphysical distinction that isn't just obvious, I think. Whereas things like the empirical confirmation of the beginning of the universe is evident to the senses. So I think the contingency argument is considerably more subtle and difficult to grasp than is the other, in my opinion.

KEVIN HARRIS: Both of them are strong, one is just a little more subtle than that.

DR. CRAIG: They are just very different, and the one is based upon metaphysical distinctions that aren't immediately obvious, I think.

DAVID GEISLER: One says “What began the process of causality?” and the other one says, “What's holding us into existence at this very moment?”

DR. CRAIG: Yes, that’s right. And in that sense they're very different.

KEVIN HARRIS: Both of those arguments in the classic cosmological arguments for the existence of God (including the Kalam cosmological argument), Dr. Craig, take a while to unfold. We, as we go about our daily lives, encounter people who are atheists or agnostics who don't believe in God or who are unsure, what is difficult for me to do (and maybe you can give us both some advice on this) is to chop that down a little bit to at least get the conversation going.

DR. CRAIG: Sure.

KEVIN HARRIS: Rather than go through the entire argument, are there short answers?

DR. CRAIG: I think that's absolutely critical. One of my theology professors once gave this advice. He said know your subject profoundly but share it simply. I think that's what we need to do. What I would do with somebody who doesn't believe in God is just say, You don’t? Well, where do you think the universe came from? That's a way to start the argument going. And then if he says it's just always been there, then say, Well, you know, that's not what modern science says. Modern science says the universe had a beginning at the Big Bang about 15 billion years ago and there was just nothing before that. Well, that's it! That's the argument! And I just said it in about 1 or 2 sentences.

KEVIN HARRIS: That at least primes the pump. That at least gets a person in the position for pre-evangelism. Then we can go from there. Once theism is established that there is a God . . .

DR. CRAIG: I'm assuming we're talking to someone who doesn't believe in God. If he believes in God already, well then don't waste your time trying to convince him God exists.

KEVIN HARRIS: There's something I've noticed in a couple of your debates, Dr. Craig. Dave and I were both at the Dallas debate with Parsons. We were both in the audience there. Four or five thousand people there for that one. It was just a packed event. You always bring through God can be experienced by you. And you've given your own personal experience. What people will try to jump on you about at that point is it's all subjective.

DR. CRAIG: What I typically do in these debates is first share about four objective arguments, and then I close with my fifth point which is my own personal testimony and experience.

KEVIN HARRIS: Yeah, that's what I'm trying to get at.

DR. CRAIG: So they cannot say this is just your own personal subjective view, because I've just shared four scientific, historical, philosophical arguments for the same conclusion, and then conclude by saying, “and this is real in my experience as well.”

KEVIN HARRIS: And so your experience has solid grounds.

DR. CRAIG: Right. And what I often will do is when I'm talking about this experiential dimension I'll say, “God is real to me. Why should I deny my experience and think that it's an illusion unless I have some sort of overriding good arguments for atheism?” In the absence of any overriding arguments, why should I regard my experience as delusory? Usually the atheist has never given any positive overriding arguments for his view. So I say I'm rational to rest with my experience in the absence of any overriding defeaters of that experience.

DAVID GEISLER: I think it's important as we witness to people to keep that balance in perspective – to give objective evidence for our faith, but then to share what God has done in our lives. Both are important, but one is incomplete without the other.

DR. CRAIG: More often than not, I think it will be your own personal testimony that will really speak to another person and draw them to Christ. But the objective intellectual arguments in a sense make it permissible for them to become a Christian and to follow your lead in pointing to this experiential dimension. Not too many people may become Christians directly because of the intellectual arguments, but the intellectual arguments make it possible for them to yield their lives to Christ because they can sense I’m not committing intellectual suicide.

KEVIN HARRIS: It knocks down roadblocks that may keep them from faith in Christ.

DAVID GEISLER: It answers the question: How can my heart accept what my mind rejects?

DR. CRAIG: Right. That’s very good. A good way to put it.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK, let’s pick it up right there next time. 1998. Boy, we were so young back then! We will continue with this interview next time on Reasonable Faith. By the way, if you would like to make a donation, it would really be a blessing. You can go to ReasonableFaith.org, click on the Donate button, and do it right there. We will see you next time for part two on Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig.[1]

 

[1]           Total Running Time: 20:33 (Copyright © 2019 William Lane Craig)