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05 / 06

William Lane Craig Interview at Imperial College London

William Lane Craig student television interview

Time : 00:17:35

The student television station at Imperial College London (stoictv.com) conducted an interview with World renowned Philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig who speaks to us about how his interest in Philosophy began, his work on a rational defense of the Christian Faith, and his debates with the world's leading atheists.

Transcript

STOIC Interviewer: So, Dr. Craig, firstly, thank you very much for coming on to speak to me. We really appreciate you taking the time to come and enrich the Imperial College students.

Dr. Craig: My pleasure.

STOIC Interviewer: I just want to find out a little bit of personal history about yourself, so when did you first become interested in philosophy?

Dr. Craig: I think my interest in philosophy developed during my university years. I took some courses on both Christian theology and then philosophy, and courses in literature as well, that really sparked my interest in questions that were philosophical in nature. What is truth, how do we discover truth, what is the truth of the Christian worldview? It would be during those upper classman years of university study.

STOIC Interviewer: Okay, so was religion always the focus of your philosophy, then?

Dr. Craig: Of my philosophy, yes. It wasn’t always the focus of my life. I wasn’t raised in a Christian home or even a churchgoing family. But my interest in religious affairs, you might say, preceded my interest in philosophy. I am a philosopher because I’m a Christian. My philosophy flows out of my Christian faith.

STOIC Interviewer: When did you decide that you wanted to make your philosophy and your religion a career that you wanted to pursue?

Dr. Craig: Well, I think this emerged gradually in the course of my university and then post-graduate studies. I saw that these deep philosophical questions needed to be addressed in order to commend the Gospel to thinking men and women today. In an increasingly secular culture, people have questions about the truth of the Christian worldview, and to ignore or turn aside from answering those kind of questions, I think, would be irresponsible. And so, it seemed to me that it was a natural thing to do—to explore the philosophical foundations of and justification for my own Christian faith.

STOIC Interviewer: You’re on your UK Tour at the moment. What made you decide to come to the UK and do these kind of talks?

Dr. Craig: Well, you have to understand that I’m an Anglophile. (Laughs) I love this country. When my wife and I married, we honeymooned in London, and we always come back whenever we can. When I did my doctoral work in philosophy, I came to the University of Birmingham, and we lived here, and I did my study here. Since then, we’ve come back on sabbatical to do research. And so, when we got an invitation to do a university speaking tour in the UK, we jumped at the chance.

STOIC Interviewer: Obviously with the UK it’s a more secular society in terms of the percent of people who don’t have a religion. Is that evident to you in the way that, perhaps, you’re taken in by the public or seen in the public eye? Is there a different reaction you get when you speak in the US than when you speak in the United Kingdom?

Dr. Craig: I don’t think that I see this difference, personally, because the people who come to our meetings are very interested. We’ve been speaking to packed houses. And so, I don’t see as much the indifferent, apathetic person who doesn’t care about these things. By the very nature of the case, the people who come to hear me speak are interested in it, even if they’re sceptical or agnostic or atheistic. So, there’s a kind of self-selection that goes on here, and I recognize that in that sense we’re not seeing, necessarily, the broader British public, but those who do care about these issues.

STOIC Interviewer: In a recent letter to the Imperial College London, I think you cited seven pieces of rational evidence to lead to the conclusion that the Christian God exists.

Dr. Craig: Yes.

STOIC Interviewer: Why do you think that, to many people who have learned the subjects—people such as Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris who know a lot about the subjects—why do you think that they don’t accept these as rational?

Dr. Craig: Yes, now with respect to the two examples you named, with all due respect, I don’t think they do know a lot about the subject. I have debated both of these gentlemen in public forums at universities, and Christopher Hitchens’ lack of familiarity with the issues is just astonishing. And similarly, with Sam Harris, he was just impotent even to defend his view against criticism.

I think that so often, these folks are so deeply embedded in a kind of secular worldview, and interact so rarely with people from another perspective that they’re utterly unaware of the literature. [1] They don’t read people like me. They don’t participate in conferences with people like me. They don’t invite people like me to share the platform with them as I do when I invite them. And so, there really is a tremendous ignorance, I find. Many of these folks, I think, rejected the Christian faith as young people, 11 or 12 years of age, and they’ve never studied it again since.

Now, having said that, there certainly are many that are philosophically informed and have a different take on the issue, and I would say that a difference of opinion is possible on these deep questions. I have no desire to impugn the rationality of atheists or others who disagree with me. I respectfully disagree with them and I present my arguments and evidence, but then it’s up to people to consider them with an open mind and accept or reject them.

STOIC Interviewer: With your rational pieces of evidence that you believe lead to the logical conclusion that God exists, that you’ve presented at such like the Imperial College lecture, do you believe that there is a place for faith in the Christian belief system? Because from my point of view—seeing that you believe that these are rational conclusions—that would lead to the conclusion that faith is not necessary for the Christian to believe in God. So, how important is faith, and does it have a part in the Christian belief system?

Dr. Craig: I think it absolutely does leave room for faith. In the New Testament, the concept of faith is not a way of knowing something; rather, it’s a way of trusting in something, a way of committing yourself to something. So, for example, several years ago, I had corneal surgery on my eyes. Now, as you can imagine, before I let myself go under the knife, we carefully investigated who was the finest corneal surgeon in the United States. And then based on that evidence, I trusted him to cut on my eyes.

Now, similarly, when a person has come to the conclusion that God exists, then the decision of faith arises. Am I going to commit my life, now, to this person and trust him? And so, the evidence can actually bring you to the decision of faith.

STOIC Interviewer: Okay, and with the rational evidence, if it was shown in a hypothetical situation that the evidence could be refuted—say, if your arguments, for example, were refuted to a satisfactory level that you would recognize that they were refuted—would you still have your belief, or would it be a case where it became irrational to believe that?

Dr. Craig: I would still have my belief, because my belief in God is not based on these arguments. These arguments are confirmatory of my belief in God, but my belief in God is not based on the arguments. I think that my faith in God is based on the inner witness of God’s spirit to my own heart. I have a personal relationship with him. His spirit lives within me. And while there are good arguments and evidence to confirm that, my faith is not based on that.

I think this is a wonderful thing, because most people in the history of the human race have had neither the time nor the education nor the library resources to investigate the philosophical arguments for God’s existence, or the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. And so, they would be condemned to unbelief if this were the only way of knowing God.

But God, I think, in his mercy, has provided a sort of interior way of knowing that he exists, which is open to all persons, everywhere, regardless of their education, their time, or their resources. But, for those of us who have the luxury of leisure time, university education, and fantastic library resources, we have, as it were, a double advocate. In addition to the interior way, we have these exterior arguments that help to support it.

What’s also good about this, is that it means, therefore, that I can hold these arguments lightly. If a refutation comes along, I don’t have to go to the wall to defend these arguments. I can give them up easily. So, this helps me, actually, to be more objective, rather than less objective, about the validity or soundness of these arguments.

STOIC Interviewer: If you were faced with an atheist, and you were trying to convince an atheist that God exists, would you think it would be more effective to go from a rational standpoint, or would it be from the internal standpoint that you would use?

Dr. Craig: I think that it doesn’t have to be either/or. I think it can be both/and. I would share with my atheist friend these arguments and evidences that I find compelling, but I would also advise him, “Remember that the search for God is not some sort of disinterested, academic discussion, like adding another piece of furniture to your view of the universe. [2] This is a deeply existential and personal quest that needs to be pursued in humility and with openness of heart and openness to God.” I would encourage the atheist to pray, for example, that if God is there, he would reveal himself to him. So, I see it as a both/and.

STOIC Interviewer: You’ve debated with many prominent atheists—the flagship atheists, you might say. You’ve debated Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Dan Dennett. What do you believe is the purpose of engaging in such debates? Is it to try and convert any atheists watching that debate, or is it to simply get your views across to the general public?

Dr. Craig: The purpose of these events is to illustrate to the university communities, in which these debates are typically held, that Christian faith is a viable option for thinking men and women today. So often, university students have been told that it’s irrational to be a Christian—that Christianity is for old ladies and little children, but that no thinking adult can be an intelligent believer—and that is so patently false. And these debates help to illustrate that well. I could come onto a campus—well, as I did at Imperial—and give a lecture myself, unchallenged. But it’s far more, I think, effective and credible when an atheist shares the platform with me, is given equal time and even the last word, and yet students still see that the Christian worldview comes out intellectually head and shoulders above its competitor. So, I welcome the open dialogue with atheists about this.

STOIC Interviewer: In contrast to when you’re speaking at a university, when you’re speaking at a predominately Christian event, what would you say is the purpose of that? Is it just to affirm the faith of those present, or do you have another motive for doing that?

Dr. Craig: It isn’t just to affirm the faith of those persons. It certainly is, because, contrary to what atheists say, Christians are actually pretty open-minded and many struggle with real doubts. They hear these objections of the New Atheists, for example, and they’re troubled by them. They think about them. Christians are not the brain dead people that atheists sometimes portray. And so, hearing that there are good reasons to believe, as well as good answers to the objections, can affirm the faith of Christians.

But there is a further reason I will sometimes speak to Christian audiences, and that is to equip them. If Christians can be trained to give good reasons for what we believe and good answers to unbelievers’ questions, then they will be more effective in sharing with their friends and family members the good news of the Gospel. And so, I am interested in equipping Christians as well to be good witnesses to the truth of the Christian faith.

STOIC Interviewer: As well as doing the debates, you do a lot of writing. First of all, what do you enjoy doing more? Secondly, what do you think is a more convincing form of argument?

Dr. Craig: Ah, this is a really good question. I enjoy them both so much. When I’m home in my study writing, I’m very often thinking, “Gosh, I wish I could be out on the road speaking or debating.” When I’m traveling and speaking and debating, I’m thinking, “Oh, I wish I could be in my study now, with peace and quiet and writing.” They’re both really wonderful opportunities, and I enjoy them both and do both equally.

In terms of which is most effective, I once would have said, and I’m still probably inclined to think that the writing and research is more effective in reaching people, because my circumference of personal contacts is so limited compared to the written word. My books get into the university libraries, where they will be there for generations. And so, my goal as a writer is to leave a legacy that outlives myself.

However, since the development of the internet and YouTube, what it turns out is that the number of people who hear me live, say, at Imperial College, turns out to be a tiny minority. There will be tens of thousands of people who will watch that YouTube video. I have never put a video on YouTube, but other people pirate them and put them up. I recently saw a Google stat that said that at these Dr. Craig video sites, they have had over four million views. [3] That is far more than I’ve sold in terms of books.

So, it may well be that the public speaking actually will reach more people, because it too is archived in this way and reaches far more people than I do in the actual live audience.

STOIC Interviewer: Okay, and just before we end I’ve got two more questions. The first one is about Richard Dawkins. Obviously there has been a lot of back and forth between you and Professor Dawkins, and I was just wondering if you’ve read his recent article in The Guardian that was published?

Dr. Craig: I have read it, but I want to say there has not been a back and forth between me and Richard Dawkins. I have not responded to any of this. All of this is generated by other people who invite him and me to be in these debates, who started this bus campaign in Oxford, who made these YouTube videos. I don’t have anything to do with that. I have preferred to just stay out of this and watch as a sort of amused bystander. So, yes I have read the article, but I’m not going to respond.

STOIC Interviewer: Okay, fair enough then. Lastly, I just want to get your thoughts about the future of this whole atheist/theist debate. What do you think will be the questions we’re asking in, say, a hundred years from now? Do you think they’ll be the same questions?

Dr. Craig: I do. These are perennial questions. I think the problem of suffering and evil and the hiddenness of God will always be the primary reason for doubt about God’s existence. And I think that modern science will continue to discover facts about nature and the world we live in, which point beyond itself to a transcendent creator and designer of the universe. The moral argument will always be with us, because we’ll always be asking, “What is the foundation for moral values and duties? Do they even exist objectively, or is everything relative?” These, I think, are perennial questions that will be with us in a hundred years and more.

STOIC Interviewer: Well, once again, thank you very much for agreeing to speak to me. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Dr. Craig: Certainly, good to be with you.

STOIC Interviewer: And I wish you luck on the rest of your UK tour.

Dr. Craig: Thank you.

STOIC Interviewer: Thank you very much.

Dr. Craig: Sure. [4]

  • [1]

    5:03

  • [2]

    10:15

  • [3]

    15:12

  • [4]

    Total Running Time: 17:36