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The Apologetic Task with Q&A

The Apologetic Task with Q&A

Time : 00:59:15

The Bethinking National Apologetics Day Conference: "Countering the New Atheism" took place during the UK Reasonable Faith Tour in October 2011. Christian academics William Lane Craig, John Lennox, Peter J Williams and Gary Habermas lead 600 people in training on how to defend and proclaim the credibility of Christianity against the growing tide of secularism and New Atheist popular thought in western society.In this session, William Lane Craig closes the conference by addressing the challenges faced by the Church, from both the rise of secularism and the spread of Islam, arguing that apologetics must be front and center to ensure the church's survival.


DR. CRAIG: Thank you very much. Well I certainly hope that your appetite for the study of apologetics has been wetted by this conference. We have only scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg this Saturday. There is so much more to learn, to study, to master, and I hope that this conference will have been a stimulus for further study for you. I want to close out the lectures of this conference by talking about the challenge that lies before us and the crucial role that apologetics will play in the life of the church in meeting this challenge.

As the twenty-first century unfolds the Christian church in Western Europe in general and in the UK in particular finds itself in spiritual crisis. The church faces overwhelming challenges to which, if we are brutally honest, she does not seem to be equal. The sober observer cannot help but wonder if we are not observing with our own eyes the eclipse of Christianity in Europe. The church faces challenges both on the left and on the right which threaten her very existence. How she responds to those challenges will determine the shape of European and British culture for centuries to come.

On the left the church faces the challenge of secularism. Secularism is the product of scientific naturalism, the view that all that exists are the entities that are postulated by our best theories of physics, namely the contents of the spacetime universe and any abstract objects, like numbers, that you might feel that you are constrained to include. On this view there are no immaterial souls nor supernatural entities that transcend the world of physical objects. In particular, God does not exist. And thus theological statements, if they are not merely expressions of personal taste or sentiment, are uniformly false. On such a view religious belief, if it is anything more than merely the expression of aesthetic experience, is a sort of delusion. Secularism then is a non-religious view of the world which flows out of scientific naturalism.

The twentieth century witnessed the triumph of secularism in Western Europe. Although the majority of Europeans still retain a nominal affiliation with Christianity, about only 10% are practicing believers and less than half of those are evangelical in their theology. The most significant trend in European religious affiliation during the twentieth century has been the growth of those who are classed as non-religious. It went from effectively 0% of the population in 1900 to about 22% by the end of the twentieth century. Specifically in the UK the percentage of the population classed as non-religious went from almost nothing in 1900 to 34% of the population today. In England 84% of the population never darkens the doorway of a church during the course of the year. Only 6% attend church on a regular basis. Secularism has become the dominant force in the culture of the United Kingdom and in Western Europe in general, shaping its intellectual outlook, its cultural values, and its mores.[1]

Now why is this important to those of us who are Christians? Well simply because the Gospel is never heard in isolation. The Gospel is always heard against the backdrop of the cultural milieu in which a person was born and raised. A person who was raised in a cultural milieu in which Christianity is still seen as a viable intellectual option will display an openness to the Gospel that a person who is thoroughly secularized will not. For the secular person you may as well tell him to believe in leprechauns or fairies as in Jesus Christ. It will appear that absurd to him. This is why A. C. Grayling, when invited to participate in a debate with me during this Reasonable Faith tour, declined to do so saying he would prefer to debate the existence of water-nymphs or fairies as opposed to the existence of God. This condescending attitude is meant to express the lack of credibility in the eyes of a secular person of the existence of God.

If the trend of increasing secularization is to be significantly reversed then the worldview of scientific naturalism which undergirds secularism must be challenged head on. If we do not do this, if the prevailing culture remains secular in its outlook, then any renewal movements within the church or evangelism will prove at best to be merely local and short lived. The great Princeton theologian J. Gresham Machen, in his article “Christianity and Culture,” rightly warned,

False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation to be controlled by ideas which prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.[2]

Now the university will be the key sphere of influence here. The single most important cultural institution shaping Western society is the university. It is at the university that our future political leaders, our journalists, our judges, our teachers, our business executives, will be trained. It is at the university that they will formulate or more probably simply absorb the worldview that will then shape their lives and thinking. And since these people are the opinion makers and the leaders who shape society, the worldview that they imbibe at the university will be the worldview that shapes our society. If we change the university we change society through those who shape society. If the Christian world and life view can be restored to a place of prominence and respect at the university it will have a leavening effect throughout society and culture.

Now this is not as impossible as it may seem. In fact we are living at a time in world history when philosophy is experiencing a veritable renaissance of Christian thinking which is revitalizing natural theology. We are living at a time, moreover, when science is more open to the existence of a creator and designer of the cosmos than at any time in recent memory. And we are living at a time when biblical criticism has embarked upon a renewed quest of the historical Jesus which treats the Gospels seriously as sources historically for the life of Jesus, and which has confirmed the main outline of the portrait of Jesus presented in the Gospels. We are well poised intellectually to help reshape British and European culture in such a way as to regain lost ground so that the Gospel can once again be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. It is part of the task of Christian apologetics to help to create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the Gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking people.[3]

Now I can imagine that some of you are thinking, but, don’t we live in a postmodern culture in which these appeals to traditional apologetic arguments are no longer effective? Since postmodernists reject the traditional canons of logic, rationality, and truth, rational arguments for the truth of Christianity no longer work. Rather, in today’s culture we should simply share our narrative and invite people to participate in it.

In my opinion this sort of thinking could not be more mistaken. It is based upon a drastic misanalysis of contemporary Western culture. The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact a postmodern culture is an impossibility. It would be utterly unlivable. Nobody is a postmodernist when it comes to reading the labels on a bottle of medicine or a box of rat poison. If you’ve got a headache you had better believe that texts have objective meaning. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, technology, and medicine; rather they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But you see that’s not postmodernism, that’s modernism. That’s just old line verificationism and positivism which held that if you can’t prove something by the means of empirical science then it is just a matter of personal taste and emotive expression. We live in a cultural milieu which remains at its heart deeply modernist.

In fact, I think that postmodernism is one of the craftiest deceptions that Satan has yet devised. Modernism is dead, he tells us, don’t worry about it, just forget about it, modernism is dead and buried. Meanwhile modernism, pretending to be dead, comes back around again dressed in the fancy new costume of postmodernism. Your old arguments and evidences are no longer effective against this new challenger, we’re told, forget them, just lay them aside, just share your narrative. And so Satan deceives us into voluntarily laying aside our best weapons of logic and evidence thereby ensuring secularism’s triumph over us. If we adopt this suicidal course of action then the consequences for the Christian church in the next generation will be catastrophic. Christianity will be reduced to just one more voice in a cacophony of competing voices each sharing its own narrative while scientific naturalism delivers to us the objective truth about reality and shapes society’s view of how the world really is.

And as for the idea that people in our culture are no longer responsive to or interested in rational arguments and evidence for Christianity, well nothing could be farther from the truth. If I might be permitted to speak from my own personal experience, for over twenty five years now I have been speaking and debating evangelistically on university campuses in North American and Europe. I share the Gospel in the context of presenting an intellectual defense of the Christian faith. And I always close my talks with a lengthy time of Q and A with the students. And during all those years virtually no one has ever stood up and said, “Your arguments are based on Western chauvinistic standards of logic and rationality,” or expressed some sort of other postmodernist sentiment. This almost never happens. I find that if you approach the question on a rational level then people respond to it on a rational level.

I found debates to be an especially attractive forum for university evangelism.[4] Whereas a few score or maybe a couple hundred will come out and hear me give a campus talk, several hundred or even thousands of students will come out to hear a debate where both sides of the issue can be fairly presented on a level playing field. For example, on my previous UK speaking trip I participated in a dialogue at the Oxford University Theological Society on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection with Professor John Muddiman, a professor of New Testament studies at Oxford. And my student host advised me that the event usually only draws about 20 people at these meetings, and so he said, if 30 show up, I wasn’t allowed to be disappointed in the attendance. Well, some 300 students absolutely jammed the overly small room to hear this dialogue and the rest just had to be turned away. During the Q and A time that followed certain students did challenge my views, but others really went after Professor Muddiman. It was an exhilarating evening of dialogue with these students which ended with thunderous applause. A couple of days later I was at the Oxford Union debating A. C. Grayling on the proposition, “Belief in God makes sense in light of tsunamis.” Both the main floor as well as the gallery was filled with students. And to my surprise Grayling was as docile as a lamb. He just couldn’t defend his views at all successfully. The whole debate was conducted in an academic spirit of collegiality and good humor. And again as the moderator brought the evening to a close the chamber just rang with loud and sustained applause from the students.

But I don’t need to talk about the past. This week has been a week of remarkable meetings on British campuses dialoguing and debating the Christian faith. Monday night my debate with philosopher Stephen Law at Central Hall in Westminster drew over 1,700 people who came to hear the question “Does God exist?” being debated. Two days later at the Cambridge Debating Union I held a debate with the philosopher Arif Ahmed and British Humanist Association spokesman Andrew Copson, and was partnered with Peter Williams in that debate. The president of the debating society told us before we had the debate that usually the chamber which holds around 400 people is half empty for these debating society events, and so he wasn’t sure how many would come. Well that night not only was the chamber completely filled as well as the gallery, but people spilled over into two overflow rooms, and even into the bar where they could watch the debate on closed circuit television. Some 750 Cambridge University students came out to hear the debate that night on the existence of God. And then last night, what an evening at the University of Birmingham. The philosophy society – note this wasn’t an event put on by Christian groups on campus – the philosophy society invited me to debate Oxford University Professor Peter Millican in the Great Hall of the university. When I walked into this auditorium it was awesome in its grandeur, just a great hall with a huge organ at the back and beautiful shields decorating the ceiling. And the floor was laid out for around 1,000 places, and I thought, how will they ever fill even half of this place? Well as 7:30 neared, more and more people kept streaming in through the back until the entire hall was filled with students and laymen wanting to hear the evidence discussed for and against the existence of God. And, again, when the evening came to a close the applause was just thunderous and sustained as people manifested their deep appreciation for hearing a rational, cordial discussion of these issues.

So don’t be deceived into thinking that people in our culture are no longer interested in the evidence for Christianity. Precisely the opposite is true. It is vitally important that we forge a culture in which the Gospel can be heard as a living option for thinking people. And apologetics will be front and center in helping to bring about that result.[5]

But if the church faces the challenge of secularism on the left, she also faces a daunting challenger on the right from Islam. And I am not talking here about Islamic fundamentalism or terrorism which threatens Western democracy. Rather I am talking about the challenge of normal, moderate, peaceful Islam. For Islam, while accepting the existence of God, nevertheless rejects the deity and atoning death of Jesus Christ, and so espouses a fundamentally different doctrine of salvation than Christianity. Islam is thus an alternative form of theism which challenges the very heart of the Christian worldview. Indeed Islam is the only world religion which has arisen in conscious rejection of the Christian faith.

According to Islam, Jesus, though virgin born, was no more than a human prophet. It follows that the doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation are false. Islam also denies the fact of Jesus’ crucifixion and hence his atoning death for our sins, as well as his resurrection from the dead. It denies salvation by grace though faith. The Qur’an teaches that if you believe and do righteous deeds then God will forgive you and give you what you have earned, plus a bonus. It advises, “He whose good deeds lie heavy in the scales shall dwell in bliss, but he whose deeds are light, the abyss shall be his home” (Surah 101:7-10). Islam is thus deeply opposed to the Christian worldview in central respects.

Islam has in the twentieth century made significant advances in Europe and the UK. It is now the second largest religion after Christianity and its influence exceeds even its actual numbers. One cannot help but wonder where Europe will be in another 100 years if the present trends continue. Will it, as some observers have feared, become balkanized, with countries like Austria remaining staunchly Catholic, and other nations like France being effectively neutralized by their large Muslim minorities? Where will the UK be in 100 years? Will Christianity become an insignificant and enfeebled minority religion? Secularism lacks the spiritual substance for dealing effectively with Islam. Secularism has left a spiritual vacuum at the heart of Europe which Islam is now poised to fill. Without a vibrant Christianity to meet Islam’s challenge, secularism can only respond with draconian political measures which threaten civil liberties and a free society.

For example we see this happening already in France, where in the name of laïcisme, or secularism, the state has banned the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in public schools. As Islam continues to grow the danger is that secular authorities, impotent to halt its advance, will become ever more heavy handed and repressive. What is needed instead is a strong, vibrant, widely shared religious faith that finds no attraction in Islam but is on the contrary burdened to share spiritual truth with Muslim friends and neighbors.

My fear is that the church is basically asleep at the switch when it comes to dealing with the challenge posed by Islam. Whether out of intimidation or political correctness the church has not spoken clearly enough on this subject. Such silence, I think, represents nothing less than a lack of love for our Muslim acquaintances.[6] If we really believe what we say we believe as Christians then how can we not share with Muslims the life giving message of the Gospel of Christ? And again apologetics will be vital in commending our faith to Muslims.

This isn’t difficult to do. The Qur’an’s denial of Jesus’ crucifixion, not to mention his resurrection, is an Achilles’ heel of Islam. For it is the one historical fact about Jesus of Nazareth that is universally acknowledged among historical critical scholars. In the words of Robert Funk, the chairman of the Jesus Seminar, “The crucifixion of Jesus is one indisputable fact about Jesus.” Muslim exegetes are reduced to defending desperate hypotheses to explain away the evidence, like the theory that somebody else whom God made to look like Jesus was crucified in his place. And this just is to admit that the historical evidence does support Jesus’ crucifixion, and that this conclusion can be avoided only by resorting to metaphysical hypotheses. You might as well say that despite all of the evidence to the contrary, Queen Elizabeth is not really the Queen of England, but just somebody who God made to look like her.

Now again Islam can be justifiably criticized for its morally inadequate concept of God. One of the things that surprised me most when I began to study Islam as a theological graduate student in Germany was all of the people whom the Qur’an says God does not love. This fact is emphasized repeatedly and consistently like a drum beat throughout the pages of the Qur’an. Just listen to the following passages: God loves not the unbelievers; God loves not evildoers; God loves not the proud; God loves not transgressors; God loves not the prodigal; God loves not the treacherous; God is an enemy to unbelievers. Over and over and over again the Qur’an declares that God does not love the very people that the Bible says God loves so much that he sent his only Son to die for them. According to the Qur'an, God’s love is reserved only for those who earn it. It says in Surah 19:95, “to those who believe and do righteousness God will assign love.” So the Qur'an assures us of God’s love for the God fearing and the good-doers, but he has no love for sinners and unbelievers. And thus in the Islamic conception God is not all-loving. His love is partial and has to be earned. The Muslim God loves only those who first love him. His love thus rises no higher than the sort of love that Jesus said even tax collectors and sinners exhibit. The Islamic conception of God is therefore morally deficient.

Faced with the challenge of a false theism the church must not remain silent.

When the apostle Paul was confronted with another gospel in Galatia he opposed it unflinchingly, regardless of what people thought. He demanded, “Am I now seeking human approval or God’s approval, or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people I would not be a servant of Christ.”[7] Islam is another gospel. It presents a distorted view of God, an inaccurate picture of the historical Jesus, and a false view of salvation. The church has something better to offer. A holy yet loving heavenly Father, a savior who voluntarily lays down his life for mine, and the free gift of salvation and eternal life through faith in Christ.[8]

In conclusion then the church in Britain faces apparently overwhelming challenges on both the left and the right. But as Paul has said, God has equipped us with weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left. Bearing in mind, as Paul says, that we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but have divine power to destroy strongholds. He says we destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:5. Christian apologetics will be vital to successfully meeting these challenges that confront us.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much for that dynamite. I think you put a fire in our bellies there. Thank you so much. We have some time for you to ask questions now, for you to come to the microphones again and to ask your question about this last lecture. If you could try and keep your comments and questions to this lecture’s specific material, we will have time for other questions in the panel discussion later on. You sir.

QUESTION: Why do you think the Judeo-Christian West has become secularized in a way that the Islamic Middle East hasn’t?

DR. CRAIG: You know, this has been a question that has puzzled me so much, and I wish I knew the answer but I am not a sociologist. I mean, clearly in the West we are the stepchild of the Enlightenment which is the movement in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in which the monarchy and the church were thrown off in the name of free thought and human reason. At the Cathedral in Notre Dame during the Enlightenment a women dressed in the costume of reason was paraded through the city of Paris and elevated on the alter in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Reason – human reason – unbridled by authority of either state or church became the god of the Enlightenment. And we are living, I think, in the shadow of the Enlightenment. That is what modernism is; and, as I said, I think our culture remains deeply modernist.

But it puzzles me, especially why in Britain, secularism should have arisen so dramatically since 1900. I could understand this on the Continent where the First and the Second World War had just ravaged the Continent. But Britain, being delivered from Nazism and national socialism, having won the war, you would think there would be an outpouring of thankfulness to God for having preserved Britain in the face of this incredible threat of national socialism in Germany. And yet the society is becoming increasingly, increasingly secular. And what is also puzzling about this is that Britain has this magnificent intellectual tradition in this country. From William Palely and Joseph Butler right down to scholars of the present day. One thinks, why hasn’t this had more influence, why doesn’t this trickle down to popular culture?

I spoke to the warden at Tyndall House in Cambridge some time ago about this. And he said, “Oh, it is not the intelligentsia in Great Britain that lacks faith in Chris.” He says it is the working classes. He says what happens is that people are separated off so early in the educational system, or who don’t go on to university, but while Christianity is well represented among the intellectual elites, he says it is the uneducated masses that are so often unacquainted with the evidence for Christian faith. I don’t know if that’s true. I am not a sociologist, I am not British, but I share with you what he shared with me.

This is an intriguing and important question because if we can perhaps identify the sources of secularization that will make it easier to counteract them. But I am baffled and puzzled by why this should be so.

QUESTION: Dr. Craig, I just want to check where you come from with a God that loves sinners, and yet in the Bible it says multiple times he hates sinners – not just hates sin, but does actually hates sinners – compared to the God of Islam where he does not love sinners?

DR. CRAIG: I think that if you look at passages throughout the Bible there are almost no passages in which it says that God hates sinners.[9] There are a couple of poetic passages in the Psalms, but very, very few. And these are completely outweighed by the massive number of texts that affirm God’s love for sinners, that affirm God’s love for the world, and the whole plan of Christian salvation which is done on behalf of unbelievers. So the overwhelming evidence in the Bible is that God loves sinners and cares for them, and these other passages would be poetic or non-literal and completely outweighed by these other passages.

And as an open-minded person, I thought, could the same be the case with the Qur'an? Could it be that these are just poetic expressions of God’s hatred of sin? The problem is that there is no place in the Qur'an, no outweighing texts that affirm that God does love sinners and unbelievers. The texts are unanimous that God is an enemy to unbelievers, that he doesn’t love them, that he only loves those who love him and do righteous deeds, and then he will give them love. So the whole concept of the love of God in Islam and in Christianity, I think, is just radically different. In Christianity, God’s love is unconditional, universal, and unearned, whereas in Islam it is conditional, it is partial, and it needs to be earned. So I say that not as a polemicist but just as an honest exegete. I think there is just this world of difference between the two concepts.

QUESTION: Dr. Craig, do you think it is really wise for Christians to refer to Muhammad’s deity as God? Because many Muslims, when evangelizing, they use the word God, but in the shahada they refer to Allah. They use all kinds of tricks like that to make people believe in their religion. Another final thing, I mean, Jibraaiyl for example is completely different from Gabriel that we know of in the Bible, but they try to make it seem as if we are talking about the same things.

DR. CRAIG: Well if you want to, whenever you talk about God in Muslim theology you can refer to him as Allah, as a sort of proper name, and talk about what is the Islamic conception of Allah, for example. But I am told that the Arabic New Testament that is used by Christians uses Allah as the word for God, in the Arabic New Testament. So that the word itself is neutral and just is God. And in a case like that what we would just insist is what I said today, that we as Christians have a radically different concept of God than the concept of God in Islam. And I think that would be an equally accurate way of putting the matter.

QUESTION: Dr. Craig, could you speak to the different aspects of Jihad and how it relates to the life of Muhammad.

DR. CRAIG: Right, one of the interesting things when you read the Qur'an is that violence is enjoined as a means of propagating the faith, that the Qur'an actually commands violence as a means of propagating Islam. In the ninth Surah of the Qur'an, a passage that is written very late in Muhammad's life, just a couple of years before he died, he tells them, lie in ambush for the unbelievers, attack them, assault them, wherever they are, and bring them into submission. And he is talking there about pagans, as the unbelievers. But then it goes on to say also to attack the people of the Book, that is to say Jews and Christians, and to utterly subdue them until they convert or pay alms out of the hand, and are submissive. And Muhammad died before these commands could be carried out, but his successors then carried out these commands. They attacked Persia, and then Jerusalem fell, Assyria fell, Egypt fell, and then right across North Africa as these commands were carried out. And so Muslim theology divides the world into two houses, the dar al-Harb, and the dar al-Islam, that is to say, the house of submission (and this would be the countries and the nations of the world that are submitted to Islam) and the dar al-Harb, the house of war.[10] And that is the way they look at these nations of the world that are not yet submitted to Islam. And that is why these Islamic fundamentalists are so radically opposed to these dictators like Mubarak and Hussein and Gaddafi, because they have adopted a Western model of governance in which the government is separated from religion. In Islam there is no separation of church and state, that is a Western idea. In Islam everything is to be brought into submission to the Muslim faith, including the banking system, the culture, the government, everything. And so Islamic fundamentalists are deeply opposed to these secular Muslim countries and states and want to see them overthrown. So I do think that, as I read the Qur'an, violence and the use of war is a part of the means of evangelization that Islam uses to spread it, and that is in fact historically how it has been spread.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. My question is a bit related to the previous question. You addressed the problem of the left and of the right. I mean as Christians, I mean, are we going to deal with the left the same way we deal with the right, i.e. Islam? I mean, and I would want to follow up in saying, for example, Jesus is addressed in the Qur'an to the degree that we would find it a bit blasphemous, and if we challenge Muhammad to the same degree we will have problems. So how are we going to challenge . . .?

DR. CRAIG: I don’t think we should challenge Muhammad. I see no reason to get people’s backs up by challenging their prophet, or deriding him or castigating him. Jesus is the issue, Jesus is the stumbling block, he is the stumbling block over which people fall when it comes to Christianity. And so what we need to do is focus on who is the historical Jesus. And therefore I think our approach to the challenges on the right and the left is very much the same, the approach is the same. It is through rational argumentation and debate. And so when I participate in debates with Muslim apologists and theologians, which I have often done, I will focus upon the identity of Jesus of Nazareth and the evidence for his crucifixion and resurrection because if that is right then Islam is ipso facto false. And we don’t assume that the Bible is an inspired text, or the Qur'an is an inspired text. We examine these documents historically, as Gary Habermas described. And when you do so the New Testament is obviously a superior historical source for the life of Jesus because it was written in the first generation after the events by people who were actually there, whereas the Qur'an was written 600 years later by a man living in Arabia who had no independent source of information for Jesus apart from the New Testament. So no historian or historical scholar treats the Qur'an seriously as a source of historical information for the life of Jesus. It is the New Testament sources that are the primary documents. So I think the approach is very much the same. We don’t need to get into theological critiques of Muhammad or even the Qur'an. Just talk about Jesus and who he was, and the same historical apologetics for the resurrection that you use with the secularist you can use with your Muslim friend to try to convince him that Jesus was more than a mere prophet.

QUESTION: I had a followup question to that. Having made that case, and your friend turns to you and says, okay, I grant you the case for Jesus being someone who is the center of reality, and being God, and essentially grants an overwhelming core of the beliefs of Christian commitment. How would you then help that person move into a living, loving relationship with Jesus?

DR. CRAIG: I guess I would invite him to pray with me, repent of his sins, and give his life to Jesus Christ and ask God for spiritual cleansing and forgiveness; to be born again by the inner regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.[11] And then if he will make that commitment with you, then begin to meet with him privately to disciple him in growing in his relationship. And in time he will probably gather the courage to make a public profession. But I would work with him privately, I think, to help disciple him in his new faith.

QUESTION: Hi. This is going back to the engaging the left. Nancy Percy, an apologist, has written quite a lot saying that postmodernism is the offspring of naturalism. So Darwinism would lead to postmodernism. In a nutshell if Darwinism is true there is no such thing a truth; long live postmodernism. Is there any mileage in highlighting that link, that postmodernism is the smoke of the fire of naturalism?

DR. CRAIG: I don’t think so. As I understand postmodernism it is a reaction to modernism. It is a rejection of the Enlightenment. It’s saying that we are now going to move beyond the Enlightenment by rejecting the traditional canons of logic, rationality, and truth, in favor of a kind of observer created reality where each one of us creates his own reality. And so they might be willing to say, yes, in your reality God exists, your reality includes God, but not my reality. And we live in different realities, and there is no objective truth about the world. That is what I understand the real dyed in the wool postmodernist to affirm. So I think here we need to take our stand with the objective canons of logic, and evidence, and truth, and try to show that that kind of a view is just incoherent, it is un-affirmable, it cannot be right, it is self-refuting.

And if I might just very quickly say, as an evangelistic strategy too, I think it is very unwise to attack Darwinism. People are so deeply wedded to Darwinism. We shouldn’t make them jump through the hoop of becoming creationists in order to become Christians. Let them become Christians and believe in Darwinism and the theory of evolution. If they change their minds later, fine. But my evangelistic strategy is to set the bar as low as you can, make it as easy as possible to become a Christian. There are very few things you need to believe to become a Christian: you got to believe that God exists, that Jesus Christ is divine, that he died for your sins and rose from the dead, and that you will be saved by grace through placing you faith in his atoning death. And really that’s about it, you know, there is not a whole lot more. You don’t have to believe in creationism and things like that.

RESPONSE: You’re just setting the cultural milieu in which Christianity becomes more credible, by showing that naturalism, Darwinism, and postmodernism . . .

DR. CRAIG: Well now I am talking about evangelistic strategy, which is what I thought you were speaking to. Certainly we need our theorists to be working on all these sorts of questions, absolutely. But I am speaking to you now in this room: in doing evangelism I would encourage you not to try to argue with unbelievers about Darwinism. I think that is just a nonstarter. They are so deeply wedded to it that you ought to just leave it aside. Get them to Christ first and then worry about these other tangential issues that are secondary.

QUESTION: I would like to ask a question about violence, really, because it is an issue that seems to be quite prevalent within the era that I live. And you were talking about the world wars in the interim periods and the drop off of faith. I mean initially there was a growth before it dropped off. In the sixties, human love seemed to be predominant over God’s love. God had failed and therefore human love was the answer to all our problems in the world. How would you address this issue of violence? How does God show his love when there is so much violence, is the issue that I am constantly coming up against. I mean, apart from obviously Christ's death on the cross and his profound love that was shown through that, how else can we address it as evangelists?

DR. CRAIG: Boy, as a philosopher I am not really qualified to address that kind of a question, frankly.[12] I think that is more of a social question. Obviously Christians ought to be peacemakers and ought to be supporting efforts, I think, to foster freedom and to stop violence against women and children and so forth. My work as a philosopher is more theoretical as opposed to pragmatic and so I am not really the person to ask, I guess, about how would Christians effectively work against violence in our society. I certainly think we should.

RESPONSE: Well how do you get the argument across between the concept that God has therefore failed because violence is still prevalent, and human kind has got to sort out the violence themselves?

DR. CRAIG: Well don’t you think that if the world would accept the ethics of Jesus, the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount, then violence would be largely curtailed in the world? It is through a rejection of the ethic of Jesus that violence is so prevalent in the world. So we should always point people back to Jesus. Jesus would not have been a guard at Auschwitz; Jesus would not have been a criminal. We point people to Jesus and his ethic which is, I think, so elevated and so attractive that it would be the antidote to violence if people would follow it.

QUESTION: Hi there. I just wanted to find out, what is the best way of letting churches and church leadership know that apologetics, rather than introducing doubt to new believers, is something that can produce a confidence.

DR. CRAIG: This is a very good question. Let me say what I think is the wrong approach. The wrong approach is to go to your pastor and demand that he begin to offer apologetics and get involved, and so forth. Your pastor is so busy and so harried that the last thing in the world he needs is another responsibility to take on. He won’t do it. Instead what you do is you volunteer as a layman to say, “Pastor, I’d like to teach a Sunday school class or an evening Bible study,” or something of that sort, in dealing with answering tough objections to Christianity. Or, “I would like to do a book study and take people through On Guard, would you give me your sanction to do that?” And I will tell you, your pastor will fall down and call you blessed because he wants volunteers, he wants laypeople to take the leadership, and take some of the burden off his shoulders. And that’s what I’ve done in our home church where Jan and I attend. I just began teaching this class called Defenders on apologetics and over the years it has just grown and grown and we have now a very large class meeting in our church where people come to hear the Christian doctrine and apologetics taught. And what is fun is that people will even come from other churches, from the Catholic church, the Methodist church. They will go to services there to worship then they will come over to our church to go to this Sunday Bible class in Defenders and hear doctrine and apologetics because there is nobody at their churches that are teaching these kinds of things. So I would encourage you as a layperson to take the lead on these issues and network with other interested persons and begin to do this kind of thing yourself. And I think that’s the best way to introduce this into the local church context.

RESPONSE: I suppose that the concern is making sure that some churches see the importance of it rather than as something that could lead people down the wrong path or cause people to start worrying or doubting based on the difficult objections they come into or the difficult concepts they encounter.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, I think what you might do is talk to the pastor when you go in, and share with him some of the stats that, I think, Gary Habermas mentioned, about the number of Christian students who lose their faith when they go off to university and become unbelievers. And the statistics about how the church is being devastated by the loss of its youth, and that apologetics can be one of the means of sustaining faith in our teenage and twenty-something age group. And maybe, if you think he won’t be convinced, bring one such person with you. Bring somebody along who, say, had lost his faith and has now come back to Christ through the study of apologetics.

Oh, I just thought of another way you could do this. Say you don’t feel qualified to teach such a class, on our website at, these Defenders classes that I described, they are all podcast. So you can just download these and listen to them together, and then have a class discussion afterward. You don’t even need to teach the class, I’ll teach it for you, and then you have a discussion.[13] People are already doing this. We get emails from people in Germany and other places around the world; they say, we love listening to the Defenders class, and we even have our own class where we just listen to this material. They say, we feel like we are part of the class, we feel like we know Cindy, and Steve, and Hobert, and these other people who ask questions, because the class discussion is all included. So avail yourself of these resources, that’s what they are there for.

QUESTION: Sorry to being in Darwin one more time. A problem I always have is with Romans 5 where Paul goes into quite a bit of detail on the origin of sin, how sin entered the human race through Adam and how Christ turned the tables as the second Adam, and so forth. If Adam wasn’t a real historical figure, I don’t know if that is your standpoint or not, but if Adam was not a real historical figure, then how can we say with certainty that Christ is the second Adam if there was no first Adam?

DR. CRAIG: Well, you couldn't say it in a literal sense. It would have to be purely symbolic. If you don’t believe in a historical Adam then you would have to say that Christ is the second Adam in the sense that he reverses the Fall and sin and death and so forth. And while I affirm the historical Adam, the existence of Jesus of Nazareth and his death on the cross and resurrection doesn't stand or fall with the historicity of these ancient Hebrew narratives. I mean, even if they were symbolic or even mythological, on an unsympathetic view, that wouldn’t do anything to undermine the historical credibility of the Gospels as sources for the life of Jesus, as Gary Habermas described. So I think that you are right. You couldn't interpret it in a literal way, it would have to become just sort of a theological symbol that he would be the second Adam.

MODERATOR: I’m afraid that’s the last question we have time for, I’m sorry.

DR. CRAIG: Okay. Well thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Please give Bill a round of applause.


MODERATOR: I think it is worth expressing to Bill how deeply inspired and encouraged we are that he has given this time to come and do this tour of the UK. It’s an incredible service and it’s an inspiring thing. And it should, I hope, inspire each of us to use our gifts in the particular way that we find we can use apologetics in our lives.[14]



[1] 5:04

[2] J. Gresham Machen, “Christianity and Culture,” Princeton Theological Review 11 (1913): p. 7.

[3] 10:12

[4] 15:04

[5] 20:15

[6] 25:02

[7] cf. Galatians 1:10

[8] 29:57

[9] 35:08

[10] 40:13

[11] 45:00

[12] 50:02

[13] 55:20

[14] Total Running Time: 59:14