Was William Lane Craig lying for Jesus?

This is what is currently puzzling me.

CraigCBS_2

William Lane Craig is undoubtedly the most popular defender of the Evangelical faith and for both believers and unbelievers, he represents the very best Christianity has to offer.

While trying to prove the historicity of the resurrection of Christ, William Lane Craig often presupposes the existence of God as background information. I think this is a very clever move for the way probabilities are assessed  in that case can largely vary according to the truth of atheism or theism.

But there is a problem here: William Lane Craig also uses the resurrection as independent evidence for demonstrating God’s existence.

Jason, the questioner asked:

“So for the first argument stated, you contend that the resurrection of Jesus serves in itself as evidence for God’s existence. In your Resurrection Hypothesis, you appeal to the evidence for the existence of God as a part of the specific evidence used to show that the Resurrection Hypothesis is more probable than not.Are these arguments not then circular reasoning?”

Let us see what Craig’s answer was.

“My studied view, then, is that one first establishes theism on the basis of the arguments of Natural Theology like the cosmological, teleological, axiological, and ontological arguments, so that when one comes to explaining the facts pertinent to Jesus of Nazareth, one may include as part of one’s background information the existence of the God of Natural Theology. You misunderstood the Defenders lectures. There I challenge the assumption that the probability of the resurrection on our background information Pr (R|B) is very low precisely because we can include God’s existence as part of our background information. We’ve already completed our Natural Theology before we come to an examination of Christian evidences.

So why do I frequently present the resurrection as part of a cumulative case for God’s existence in debates? Well, the reason, frankly, is evangelistic. I don’t want to leave students with just a generic God common to all monotheists but with some warrant for believing in the Christian God, the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth.

Now if one includes the resurrection itself as part of the evidence for theism, as I often do in debates, one cannot include God’s existence as part of the background information (though one could still include evidence like the beginning of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, the reality of objective moral values, etc.). What one will say in this case is just that we’ve got no reason to think that Pr (R|B) << 0.5.

So I hope you’ll find that I’ve been consistent in including God’s existence in the background information only in cases in which I am not using the resurrection as part of a case for theism. When using the resurrection as part of a theistic case, one should simply say that the resurrection has not been shown to be improbable on the background information because we’ve not heard any good arguments for atheism.”

The problem is that in such debates Craig leaves to most of his listeners and readers the misleading impression that one can, on a neutral agnostic ground, prove the resurrection and use this as evidence for God, even tough he seems to recognize at other places that you need to consider God’s existence as granted before doing this.

Is this a real inconsistency? Is that perhaps even a true deception?

I don’t know.

 

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45 thoughts on “Was William Lane Craig lying for Jesus?

  1. Unless he’s arguing for both the historcity of the Resurrection and the existence of God in the same debate, it’s not an inconsistency. In the one case, he’s invoking the general historicity of the Resurrection as one exhibit in his case. Given the historicity of the Resurrection, which I think he’d admit is beyond proving in a debate about God’s existence, he argues that such a reality points more towards theism than towards atheism. In the other case, he’s explaining how the evidentially coherent existence of God supports his thesis about the Resurrection more than it supports his opponent’s. In effect, when arguing for God’s existence, he’s saying, in a world in which arguendo the Resurrection is historically true, God is more likely to exist, if nothing else as an explanation for the Resurrection, along with all the other threads of evidence in his case. When he’s arguing for the historicity of the Resurrection, though, he’s invoking God’s existence as a reasonable background assumption in his case. If you think these tactics are deceptive or inconsistent, then it proves too much, anyway, since the converse tactic is exactly how his opponents argue. “In a world in which, as we can assume for the sake of my argument,” Craig’s opponent might say, “the Resurrection of Jesus never happened, that’s one more indicator of the non-existence of God.” His anti-theistic interlocutor, meanwhile, would say something like, “In a world devoid of God’s existence, which I’m assuming as a reasonable background belief for my own case, it’s that much more reasonable to assume the Resurrection could not happen.”

    • But maybe all you have showed is that atheist apologists can be deceptive too. And that both Christian and antitheist apologists want first and foremost to convert people rather than honestly searching for truth.

      Or what do you think?

      • Now that seems more plausible than merely branding Craig a pseudo-scholar. I’ve never understood the supposed contradiction of a scholar wearing his commitments on his sleeve. Are Jewish scholars of the Holocaust suspect simply because they WANT to produce evidence of how bad the Holocaust was for Jews? Are African-American scholars of U.S. history hacks even if they WANT to show the harm that slavery has caused “their people”? There’s really nothing atheists should be converting people TO, whereas a Christian scholar has a pretty coherent basis for marshaling the facts he or she does. Even so, the veracity of the facts must be weighed on their own terms, not on the supposed “bad motives” of their professor.

    • “the Resurrection of Jesus never happened, that’s one more indicator of the non-existence of God.”

      as an atheist, who may oppose WLC, i might have said instead: “the Resurrection of Jesus was perhaps improbable, that’s one more indicator to reject the claim that god(s) exist.”

      why? because it appears that when you state “the non-existence of God,” perhaps you imply that God exists, and thereby implicate WLC’s opponent in a claim of non-existence of that entity.

      claiming the non-existence of god(s) is perhaps more than rejecting claims that god(s) exist.

      can anyone make a claim of the non-existence of anything?

      BTW: i like your icon.

  2. Craig does not represent the best Christianity has to offer for me. His claim that the slaughtered Amalekite children were better off dead, and that the ones we should really pity were the unfortunate Israelite soldiers who had to kill them, puts him pretty low on my list of Christians to admire.

      • I think you’re channeling me, Marc, or maybe vice-versa.

        Another humdinger from Craig is his theory of divine gerrymandering: the idea that all the souls doomed to Hell by not having heard the Gospel, say American Indians, were chosen by God to be people who would have rejected Him anyway.

        You have to admire the byzantine dances people like Craig are forced into, with their combination of goody-goody Enlightenment morals (no more slaves! No more Inquisition!) and belief in Biblical inerrancy.

        • I’m going to write a post soon arguing that hell and God’s love are LOGICALLY incompatible, like being a loving and wonderful husband and beating one’s wife every day.

          I will devote an entire post to the horrific views of hell according to which the Jewish victims of the holocaust would have rejected God anyway.

          Hang on :=)

  3. “… in that case can largely vary according to the truth of atheism or theism.”

    once again, s’il vous plait, atheism is a rejection of theistic claims–nothing more, nothing less.

    how do you apply truth or falsity to rejecting a claim?

      • ok, fine.

        now you have the burden of proof.

        how do you prove “There is no God”?

        can you prove that a thing does not exist?

        can anyone prove that a thing does not exist?

      • Well, you can define it however you like – the problem will inevitably be that the overwhelming majority of Atheists don´t share this definition. So if you talk to the average Atheist about Atheism you *will* end up talking past each other ;-).

      • ““When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less.”

        • What I mean is that if you CALL someone denying God’s existence an atheist, a strong atheist or whatever, it does not matter as long you are clear with your definitions.

          And I know that there is a huge variety of opinions about the meaning of the word “atheist”.

      • Well, the variety is largely caused by philosophers (sorry for complaining about philosophers again 😀 ).
        In the real world, only two definitions matter really – the overwhelming majority of Atheists mean by “Atheist” that they don´t believe in any God, and you have a handful of Atheists who understand it to mean that no God could possibly exist.

      • “In the end it does not matter, definitions of words are merely human artifacts.”

        surely you jest, right.

        is this how you intend to play loose with words?

        • No, I think the first step of every rational discussion is to define terms in a way everyone agree and this is what I am going to do.

          Trying to win a debate by WILLINGLY equivocating the meanings of words is very, very petty.

          And this is a general human problem.

        • Lawrence Krauss pretending to have solved the age-old philosophical question: “Why is there something rather than nothing”, by using quantum vacuum which isn’t nothing and has properties and is governed by laws.

          Theists often do the same kind of mistakes.

          However I am not sure that Krauss was willfully equivocating in that case.

      • “No, I think the first step of every rational discussion is to define terms in a way everyone agree and this is what I am going to do.”
        – Erm… you don´t do that, the overwhelming majority would not agree with how you define the term “Atheist”.

        • Not sure this is true, but if it is then most atheists define themselves in the same way as agnostics. There’s a reason there’s two words. I think Lothars definition of believing there is no God is pretty standard and saying he shouldn’t use it because a lot of agnostics are (if you are right) confusingly labelling themselves atheists, doesn’t wash. It would be like him saying you ought to call yourself an agnostic. Provided you let us know, as you have, that you are defining atheism the same way as agnosticism you are not misleading anyone calling yourself an atheist. Provided Lothar let’s us know he’s defining an atheist as someone who denies God’s existence (and I think most people would use that definition) he’s not misleading anyone either.

          • Not sure this is true, but if it is then most atheists define themselves in the same way as agnostics. There’s a reason there’s two words.

            Provided you let us know, as you have, that you are defining atheism the same way as agnosticism you are not misleading anyone calling yourself an atheist.

            I don´t define them in the same way. An atheist doesn´t believe in any gods, an agnostic has no belief either way. All atheists do not believe in gods but not all of them make positive claims about that.
            Have a look at this:

            – the typical atheist would fall in the upper left part of this chart.

      • “Lawrence Krauss pretending to have solved the age-old philosophical question: “Why is there something rather than nothing”, by using quantum vacuum which isn’t nothing and has properties and is governed by laws.”
        – Well, it´s the only “nothing” that can exist based on what we know about physics.
        If you define “nothing” like a philosophical “void” (i.e. the absence of everything), but cannot show that such a void is actually a *possible* state for reality to exist in, the question “why is there something rather than nothing” is not really that interesting, because you would need to answer the question “could there even be nothing / a void rather than something?” first.

      • “‘could there even be nothing / a void rather than something?'”

        thanks for that poser Andy. when i was a young man i recall pondering the idea of no thing. try as i might, i could not conceive a no thing.

        -there is a no thing- sounds like a contradiction in terms to me. if i say, “there is,” then i believe implicitly i refer to some thing; then if there is some thing, how is this some thing no thing (if i can ideate no thing)?

        makes my head spin.

        • The problem is that physical nothingness is different from the philosophical nothingness Leibniz meant as he asked: “why is there something rather than nothing?”

          Both questions: “why is there a quantum vacuum with properties and obeying laws rather than nothing?”
          and
          “Is it even possible that there is nothing?” are two valid questions.

          If you answer “no” to the second question, you are committed to the NECESSARY existence of certain things.

          Is that the case?

      • “The Book of Nothing” has been on my to-read list for a few years. i suppose diving into to it now is as good a time as any. maybe i’ll find nothing there.

      • “If you answer ‘no’ to the second question, you are committed to the NECESSARY existence of certain things.”

        firstly, i dunno what should be the answer to the second question.

        but perhaps, if there is no -nothing-, then there simply is. and this may suggest that -there is- includes all things–whatever all things means.

        is there a -no thing- in all things? can there be a -no thing- in all things?
        hell, what is all things?

        did Cantor/Godel have a set called all things? more reading needed here.

        from my previous post: -there is no thing- sounds like a contradiction to me. so, am not sure what to make of my attempt at an answer above.

        sigh. how can there be a -no thing-? and i cycle back to what sounds like a contradiction.

        i think i need to sit down a while while my head spins. wait, i am sitting.

      • “If you answer “no” to the second question, you are committed to the NECESSARY existence of certain things.
        Is that the case?”
        – Not sure, thinking about this hurts my brain :-D. Well, lets try to imagine this philosophical void – the absence of everything (I can´t imagine it but I´ll try my best). If we have such a void, does the principle “from nothing, nothing comes” still apply?
        If it does apply, then we don´t actually have nothing, we have nothing + one “law” (for lack of a better word, lets just call it a law). If it doesn´t apply, then it follows necessarily that “nothing” is *unstable*.
        So, philosophically, I don´t believe that such an absence of everything is possible because it is self-contradictory. But on the other hand, I strongly doubt that this question can actually be answered based on mere armchair philosophy as I just attempted to do (if it can be answered at all).

  4. BTW: to answer the main question of this blog, I do not believe WLC is lying. He believes in his god, and, believes strongly that he should defend his faith. Like any homo sapiens, he makes errors. I doubt his errors are purposed or malicious.

    Yes, sometimes his reasoning comes across as repugnant; but that’s a value judgement on my part.

    • I don’t know.
      One day Randal Rauser mentioned an unnamed famous Christian apologist who changed the topic when he was asked an embarrassing question because he did not want to admit serious uncertainties in his beliefs in public.

      I wonder if this might not be Craig. But maybe I am being unjust, I just don’t know…

    • As in many other areas involving human judgments, I don’t think there is always a hard and fast line that can be drawn between lying and simply being wrong and/or misled or deluded about something. I also, like xon-xoff, find that WLC comes across as being sincere- more so than, say, the bling-bling televangelists, most of whom probably know that they are conmen. But there are degrees.

      I do find it hard to believe that Craig, who does not seem to be a stupid man, cannot see the absurdity of some of his positions: say, that an omnipotent God would make sure that all the people living just past the last hill the missionaries reached were souls who would have rejected Him anyway. It’s just such a bizarre notion. But people continually surprise me what bizarre notions they are willing to swallow.

  5. I’m not as educated as most of the people posting on this page but I know bullshit when I hear it. I watched his debate in Mexico and it was just an embossment to watch. He argued from emotion with no evidence to back it up. When that failed he resulted to name calling and begging.

    • Hello James, thanks for your comment!

      Yup, it can be pretty frustrating to wacth the debates of WLC.

      I would not say that he presents no eivdence at all but insufficient evidence and draws many unwarranted conclusions.

      Like a good politician, he does not put his cherished beliefs to the test but search how to defend them in the most convincing way.

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