Steve Hays posted the following quote from WLC and a few Bible verses here. Alan Kurschner reposted those citations, with attribution at the bottom. This morning, Rich tells me a bunch of people have been complaining who 1) either missed the attribution at the bottom or 2) were claiming WLC was being taken out of context. Now I will allow Steve or Alan to respond to the second assertion, however, I wanted to point out that this is the exact point I criticized WLC on in one of his debates with Shabir Ally, so this is not the first time WLC has made this statement. I have said repeatedly that WLC's theology is way too hobbled to support biblical Christian theism, which is why he has to produce a much smaller theism to defend. And this is one of the manifestations of starting with philosophy and then crafting a theology to match your philosophical opinions. ---JRW
In response to the complainants:
1. Not only did I quote WLC verbatim, but I gave the link. Anyone can follow the link back to the full text and read WLC in context.
2. What does it mean to quote someone out of context?
i) Quotes are frequently and necessarily selective. They excerpt a statement from the surrounding context. When NT writers quote the OT, they excerpt a small part of what was said.
ii) To quote someone out of context is to quote him in a misleading way. To misrepresent what he said by restricting the cited material in a way that creates a misimpression of what he meant.
However, if you read the quotation in the larger context, it doesn’t change the force of what I quoted. It adds some information which may having a bearing on Craig’s personal beliefs, but it doesn’t affect the point he was making.
Here is what I quoted:
As for your two moral objections, the first is an objection to the doctrine of original sin. But once more, that doctrine is not universally affirmed by Christians and is not essential to the Christian faith. So don’t let that be a stumbling block for you.
And here is the surrounding context:
As for your two moral objections, the first is an objection to the doctrine of original sin. But once more, that doctrine is not universally affirmed by Christians and is not essential to the Christian faith. So don’t let that be a stumbling block for you.What is essential to Christian faith is that all men are sinners and in need of God’s forgiveness and redemption. I’m sure you’d recognize your own moral shortcomings and failures, Luke. So don’t get hung up on Adam’s sin. It’s your own sin you need to deal with. (As for the doctrine, its viability will depend on the viability of imputation. We often know of cases where one person is held responsible for the actions of another because the one person represents the other or serves as a proxy acting on the other’s behalf. Maybe Adam was our representative before God.)
i) In the excerpt I cited, Craig denies that original sin is essential to the Christian faith. Does that excerpt convey a false impression of his actual position? In the surrounding context, does Craig say something additional to indicate that, my quotation notwithstanding, he does, in fact, regard original sin as essential to the Christian faith? No.
He makes a gesture at defending original sin. But that doesn’t change his classification of original sin as a nonessential doctrine.
ii) The larger problem is his hubristic presumption. He takes upon himself the right to tell people what parts of the Bible they are obliged to believe, and what parts of the Bible they are free to disregard.
iii) If Craig himself didn’t think the Bible teaches original sin, then that would be different. That wouldn’t be telling someone that it’s okay to disbelieve Scripture. But the surrounding context indicates that Craig does, indeed, think Scripture teaches original sin (however he understands that teaching).
So even though, apparently, he thinks the Bible teaches original sin, he is telling a correspondent that you don’t have to believe what the Bible teaches about original sin.
When Craig does this he is literally playing God. Indeed, he is playing the role of a rival God. He is acting as if God lacks the wisdom or discretion to tell people what they need to believe.
So Craig comes along and says, “Sure, God may have said that, but you’re not bound to believe whatever God tells you. Leave it to me to clarify just how much or little of God’s word you’re obligated to believe.”
My quotation didn’t distort Craig’s point. And, in fact, the surrounding context makes his statement all the more damning.
He’s trying to usurp too much control over the conversion process, as if he has to protect people against God’s word. As if God’s word is toxic in large doses. And so he assumes the self-appointed role of giving people permission to disbelieve certain Biblical teachings which constitute a “stumbling block” to their conversion.
He makes a V-sign behind God’s head when God is speaking (the rabbit-ear gesture), and with a wink and a nod, assures the audience that it doesn’t have to take this or that divine statement too seriously.