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"When Bill Met Kevin" Part Two

August 19, 2019     Time: 23:10


Kevin's very first interview with Dr. Craig in 1998 continues with a discussion of a big debate in which Dr. Craig participated just prior to this interview.

KEVIN HARRIS: Welcome back to Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. Let’s go back to 1998 again for part two of the very first interview that I had an opportunity to do with Dr. Craig. I had a little show on in Austin, Texas, and Dr. Craig was my guest. And, as I said in the last podcast, it sparked something in us and we began to plan the podcast that you are listening to right now. Again, Dave Geisler, Norm Geisler’s son, was with me in the studio at the time visiting. He helped me with the interview duties. Let’s go to part two of when Bill met yours truly.

One of the top apologists out there today, definitely the man who’s on the front lines when it comes to this debate, and his writings on the historicity of the resurrection of Christ, the existence of God, the beginning of the universe. Dave Geisler is with us as well today. Glad to have you both here with us.

At that Parsons debate on the, I believe Dr. Craig, that the title of the debate was “Why I am a Christian; Why I am not a Christian.” Dr. Parsons, I had heard going in he was supposed to be a pretty formidable opponent. What I found puzzling was that, as I recall my notes and as I recall the debate, he went to a rather what I would say weak argument and that is that the apostles hallucinated. I mean he actually went to that. Isn’t that one of the rather weak ones.

DR. CRAIG: Well, you know, it's tough to explain the evidence for the resurrection. It really honestly is. That's probably as good as any other that you can come up with. I must say, one of the most interesting reflections that I have had on the resurrection as a result of these debates is to notice the desperate lengths to which my informed opponents have to go in order to deny the resurrection, whether it's been John Dominic Crossan’s hypothesis of the primacy of the Gospel of Peter, or Gerd Lüdemann’s suggestion that the early apostles hallucinated visions of Jesus out of guilt complex, or Greg Cavin’s twin theory about Jesus having a younger brother.


DR. CRAIG: It just has been amazing to me the extremes to which skepticism has to go in order to explain away the evidence.

KEVIN HARRIS: I tell you one thing that I've been seeing for several years now, and again this is just on the lay level, that is that the opponents of Christianity must attack or explain away the resurrection. They're starting to realize that. It seems to me that they're starting to say, OK, that’s our big contention here. A lot of studies that are done in this area.

DR. CRAIG: I think that’s good. A number of us are trying to bring that case to the fore. Somebody, for example, like Steve Davis, a Christian philosopher, has recently engaged Michael Martin on this issue in the pages of a skeptical atheistic journal. So this debate is being brought home to these folks. That's good.

KEVIN HARRIS: Let's go to Glen. Glen is on the air with us today. Hey Glen. Welcome to the Saturday show.

CALLER: My question is once you convince someone or you at least go through the explanations of the existence of God and they maybe understand what you're saying, how do you bridge the argument with the biblical view of God in terms of his holiness and character? We're dealing with people who don't even have a grasp of sin and their fallenness in our society.

KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, did you get that?

DR. CRAIG: It was difficult for me to hear, but I thought he asked how do you develop the holiness and the character of God for people in arguing?

KEVIN HARRIS: Yeah, once you've established that God exists then to go to the biblical view of his attributes.

DR. CRAIG: Well, I think a natural bridge to that would be the moral argument for God's existence. We’ve talked about the cosmological argument, but the cosmological argument doesn't give you any of the moral characteristics of God. He could be an absolute stinker for all that argument shows. But if you supplement the cosmological argument with a moral argument then you get a being who is the locus (that is the source and the standard) of all moral value in the world and the embodiment of perfect moral goodness. That, of course, ties right in with the biblical idea of holiness. We need to ask ourselves then how am I to be reconciled to this being whose divine law, moral law, I've violated. An easy form of the argument that I often present just goes like this in three steps:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

I think that is a very simple and sound form of the moral argument that gets you to God as the source and standard of moral value.

KEVIN HARRIS: Boy, I think that is strong, too. Glenn, anything else?

CALLER: Yeah. Just that I evangelize on a college campus, and a lot of times people just don't see any kind of objective morals.

DR. CRAIG: Yes, in other words they would deny the second premise that objective moral values do exist. And here is something that's very interesting. I recently saw a survey that was published. This was a scientific survey that showed that students are much more relativistic than their university professors are, and in particular much more relativistic than philosophers are. That if you are a philosopher, you are much more likely to believe in moral absolutes than if you're not a philosopher. Now, isn't that a fascinating statistic? The reason is, I think, that when you really contemplate moral experience and so forth, I think most of us do realize that there are moral values that we affirm as objective. The best way to bring this home, I think, to the unbeliever is to just honestly probe with him and say something like this: Don't you think it would be morally wrong for us to have witch burnings and burn people at the stake because we think they're witches? Or what if the Christian Coalition took over the United States and decided to have an inquisition and kill everyone who was a homosexual or something like that? Don't you think that would be morally wrong? Don't you think the Crusades were morally wrong? And if the person is honest, I think after a while they're going to say, yes, I do agree there are some moral absolutes. And then you've got your argument going.

KEVIN HARRIS: Glenn, thank you very much for the call. Good stuff.

DAVE GEISLER: Dr. Craig, I had a question for you. What simple facts concerning the resurrection should Christian lay people know when they're sharing their faith? What kinds of things do you encourage?

DR. CRAIG: There are four facts that are agreed upon by the majority of New Testament critics today – and I'm speaking here of the broad spectrum of New Testament scholarship, not conservatives or evangelicals. These would include, number one, the honorable burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb. Number two, the discovery of the empty tomb on Sunday morning by a group of Jesus’ women followers. Three, the post-mortem appearances of Jesus to various individuals and groups after the crucifixion. And, fourthly, the sudden conversion of the earliest disciples to belief that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Those four facts are agreed upon by most New Testament scholars today. My argument then would be that the best explanation of these facts is the hypothesis God raised Jesus from the dead. So if one can remember those four facts, I think you have a good foundation for arguing for the resurrection.

DAVE GEISLER: You have an article that people can get through Christian Leadership on their website?

DR. CRAIG: Yeah. There's, for example, I did a little brochure called “Contemporary Scholarship and Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus.”[1] That's a nice summation of some of the evidence.

KEVIN HARRIS: I've been defending the resurrection and arguing for the resurrection for so long in witnessing settings and in teaching settings, Dr. Craig, but you've brought out something about the resurrection that revolutionized not only my thought on it but also convinced me even more. Now, let me see if I can articulate this. That is that the religio-historical setting of the resurrection is a clue to its significance. In other words, it wasn't just a bare anomaly. It wasn't just an unusual event. People can’t say, well, maybe in history one person did revivify or come back. But it's in a certain context.

DR. CRAIG: Yes, this is an insight that I found in reading Wolfhart Pannenberg who has defended the resurrection of Jesus. And more historically it's the insight that's found in the writings of the classical Christian apologists like William Paley and Samuel Clarke. These men emphasized that the meaning of this event is to be found in the religio-historical context in which it occurred. And when you put it in that context, it comes as the climax to the unparalleled life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and stands as the divine vindication of those claims. That is the way in which one makes the bridge to saying therefore Jesus must have been who he claimed to be.

KEVIN HARRIS: Dave Geisler is here from Meekness and Truth Ministries. Dave, you've got a real concern here about apologetics.

DAVE GEISLER: Yeah, I just think that we need to understand better how to actually use apologetics to do evangelism. I mean there are a lot of great apologists out there like Dr. Craig and my father, Norman Geisler, but as laypeople we need to understand how to use this stuff to actually do evangelism.

KEVIN HARRIS: It’s not filtering down.

DAVE GEISLER: It’s not. It’s not.

KEVIN HARRIS: I stood before a hundred Baptist Student Union students at a university to speak on apologetics. I asked for a showing of hands, Who can tell me the definition of apologetics? Not one hand.

DAVE GEISLER: That’s tragic.

DR. CRAIG: That’s astonishing. I’m just amazed at that.

KEVIN HARRIS: They lined up afterwards and asked me, I want this; where can I get the books? I'm writing on scraps of paper. I actually brought a reprint out. Dr. Craig, I had your articles and some of your books on there – The Son Rises, The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe, and so forth. I had Dr. Geisler’s material. All this stuff. And they were just eating it up. One guy had read one chapter of Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell, and I said, Guys, we've got to get it on. So, Dr. Craig, what is your comment on this?

DR. CRAIG: I wonder when I hear something like that: where does the blame lie? Where do we put the responsibility for this? And in my opinion the blame lies squarely at the door of the church. The church is failing its young people if it just teaches them Bible stories and sort of devotional lessons but doesn't equip them to deal intellectually with the challenges they're going to face as teenagers in high school and in college. I think the church is failing our youth if this is a representative indication of how ignorant people are of apologetics.

DAVE GEISLER: That's exactly what J. P. Moreland says in his book, Love Your God with All Your Mind. We have kind of gotten off the track and we need to get back on.

KEVIN HARRIS: We need to emphasize that the average layperson can be informed on some basic truths, and there are probably only six or seven arguments that people say over and over again. Let's get a grasp of those and knock down some roadblocks to faith in Christ. Dr. Craig, what is the anthropic principle?

DR. CRAIG: The anthropic principle is a principle that says that any observations that we make are conditioned by our own existence as observers so that we cannot observe anything that's incompatible with our own existence. Now, you might say why is that important? Well, the reason that's important is because it has to do with the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life. This seems to cry out for an explanation that there must be a designer who designed the universe in this way. The anthropic principle is an attempt on the part of naturalistic scientists and philosophers to get away from divine design by saying, no, if the universe were not designed then we wouldn't be here to notice it. So given our existence as observers, we can only observe what is compatible with our existence, and therefore we have to observe that the universe is fine-tuned. Therefore we shouldn't really be surprised at it, and we don't need an explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe because if it weren't fine-tuned we wouldn't be here to notice it.

KEVIN HARRIS: Right, if it weren't fine-tuned then we wouldn't be here to notice it. That's the main opposition.

DR. CRAIG: Right. That is the anthropic principle. So in a broader sense, the anthropic principle has to do with this whole issue of fine-tuning of the universe and questions of design. But the principle itself in a narrow sense is an attempt to evade design by just saying that it's a selection effect of our own existence. We can only observe what is compatible with our existence. Now, I've shown in an article published in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science that in fact this use of the anthropic principle is logically fallacious. It commits a demonstrably logical fallacy, and therefore is simply illogical.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. So how do we answer that?

DR. CRAIG: Well, I think the best way to answer it is by using an analogy that shows how ridiculous this is. The analogy I love is drawn from John Leslie, a Canadian philosopher. He says imagine that you were dragged in front of a firing squad of a hundred trained marksman to be executed. You hear the command given: ready, aim, fire! And then you hear the roar of the guns. And then you observe that you're still alive – that all of the one hundred marksmen missed. Now, he says, what would you conclude? Would you say, “Oh, well, I guess I really shouldn't be surprised that they all missed because, after all, if they hadn't all missed, then I wouldn't be here to be surprised about it! Given I’m here, I should expect them all to miss.” Obviously not. You would immediately conclude that they all missed on purpose and that the whole thing was a setup engineered by some person for some reason. And that is exactly parallel to the origin of the universe. Given the enormous improbability of the initial conditions of the universe, it's rational to conclude this is not the result of chance but it's the result of design.

DAVE GEISLER: Isn't that argument an argument from silence on their part?

DR. CRAIG: In what sense?

DAVE GEISLER: That they don’t think that you can observe . . . I mean, there’s no universe . . . I’m not quite sure how to explain it.

DR. CRAIG: I don't think that it is an argument from silence. I think it's just an argument to try to say you don't need an explanation for the fine-tuning. But I think you can see from my analogy how silly that is. It's silly for the person who's just survived this firing squad to think he doesn't need an explanation for why they all missed – that his being there somehow obviates the need for an explanation of why all these marksmen missed.

KEVIN HARRIS: Good thinking though, Dave, I saw your wheels turning there. I saw you going for it. Dr. Craig, there was a question that I said if I ever had a chance to meet you I was going to ask you. I have a million questions, but there was one who stood up at the debate in Dallas and is apparently somebody that you knew. I think he follows you from debate to debate.

DR. CRAIG: The Beverly Hills lawyer.

KEVIN HARRIS: Oh, really?

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, and I finally debated him at Pepperdine this past spring.

KEVIN HARRIS: I couldn't see him. Was his name Eddie?

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, Eddie Tabash.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. One of the questions he asked was why doesn't God still do some of the big Old Testament miracles? What is an answer to that? I mean in other words, God is not parting the Red Sea anymore.

DR. CRAIG: This is a question that is often called the hiddenness of God. Why is God hidden in a sense rather than making his existence evident by, say, writing his name in the stars or skywriting or something like that? I think a number of things can be said here. One thing I noticed that Philip Yancey draws out very well in his book Disappointment with God is that in God's dealings with humanity there seems to be a progressive internalization of God's witness to us. It began with these sort of exterior, external signs and wonders such as you had in Egypt when Moses was leading the people out of Egypt. But then it became more and more internalized through the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. And what Yancey points out is that in the Old Testament when God was doing these signs, they were no more effective in winning the people's allegiance and fidelity to God than is the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. These people had all these signs and yet Israel apostatized again and again. So when you remember that God's purpose is not just to convince people of his bare existence – I mean even the demons believe and tremble, right? – but his purpose is to win people's love and worship, then I don't see any reason to think that miraculous signs and wonders and so forth would cause people to love and worship God any more than his interior witness of the Holy Spirit. So I think that's one point that really needs to be made. In conjunction with that, I would want to say this as well. Given that that is God's purpose – not just to convince people of his bare existence but to win people's love and allegiance – I think that God is able to create through his providence people at such places and times in history where he knows what will be the most effective in bringing them to this personal knowledge of himself. I see no reason to think that giving miraculous signs and wonders to people would be more effective in bringing people to himself than what he has done. The objector would have to prove here that if God were to give more miraculous signs and wonders that more people would come into a loving trust relationship with him than will actually do so. And I can't think of any way that the objector could possibly prove such a thing.

KEVIN HARRIS: I can't think of one either. Carl Sagan said that it would be easy – all God would have to do is put a big glowing neon cross in the sky and we'd all believe him. That may not necessarily be the case.

DR. CRAIG: No. We might all believe then that God exists like the ancient Israelites did, but there's no reason to think that that would cause us to love God and want to give our lives to him. In fact, when you think about it, after a while that big neon cross in the sky would become as, what shall I say, unimpressive and commonplace as the moon being up in the sky. It just wouldn’t . . . after a while its effect would kind of wear off.

KEVIN HARRIS: It would show that God is a poor interior designer, interior decorator.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, that’s true. A big ugly neon cross. We might even come to resent him for having that thing up there.

KEVIN HARRIS: Use Martha Stewart, maybe.

DR. CRAIG: But when you really think about it, these kinds of exterior signs and wonders after a while I think a person could become jaded to this sort of stuff and it wouldn't do anything to win his love and allegiance to God.

KEVIN HARRIS: We only have a couple of minutes left. Dr. Craig, I want to encourage everyone to get your work in area bookstores and get your articles and to get your debates. How should we as believers approach these debates? When I talk to my friends in apologetics, they really want to see you go in and vanquish the foe. They say, Man, he tore him limb from limb. We have our own little cheering section going. How should we approach?

DR. CRAIG: I think that it is a huge mistake to look at unbelievers as the enemy. We should look at unbelievers as the lost sheep that we are trying to rescue. Christ loved them so much he died for them. We want to go out and win them. They should not be thought of as the enemy to be vanquished.

DAVE GEISLER: They are victims of the enemy.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah.

KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, we want to have you on again sometime after the first of the year.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, I enjoyed it. This has been a very intelligent interview, and that’s very refreshing. I enjoyed it.

KEVIN HARRIS: Thank you, very much, Dr. William Lane Craig. We’ll see you next time.[2]


[2]           Total Running Time: 23:10 (Copyright © 2019 William Lane Craig)