Monday, April 24, 2017

What's the difference between Peter Enns and William Lane Craig?

I'm reposting some comments I made on Facebook:

How is Craig's position different from Peter Enns? Is it just a difference of degree? What's the difference between evangelicalism and progressive Christianity, if any?

How is the comparison with Peter Enns a red herring? Peter Enns also jettisons OT stories. Is there a line to be drawn between Craig and Enns? Is one acceptable while the other is unacceptable? If so, what's the principle?

Craig said, "Questions about the historical reliability of these ancient Jewish texts just has [sic] no direct bearing on whether God exists…"

What God? The God of the Kalam cosmological argument? I don't object to philosophical and scientific arguments for God's existence, but these should be a supplement to the record of revelation and redemption, not a substitute.

If Craig thinks the God of Adam and Eve may be a fictional character, and if he thinks the God of Noah may be a fictional character, at what stage in OT narrative does Yahweh denote a real individual who says and does what the narratives attribute to him?

Does the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph exist? Or is that a fictional character? What about the God of Moses? 

Liberal scholars say the Exodus never happened. So what about the God of the wilderness wandering? What about the God of Joshua and Judges? What about the God of David or Daniel? At what juncture does the real God step into the picture?

Is the God whom Christians worship the same individual as the God of Abraham, David, Asaph, and Isaiah? Or is that a literary construct? 

I don't just mean a common object of belief, but whether there's a God who said and did the things that OT narratives attribute to Yahweh in reference to Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, &c. Is there a real continuous referent from OT times to NT times to modern times? Is the God whom Christians pray to the same God who spoke to Noah, Abraham, Moses, &c.? Or is that pious fiction?

Let's briefly review: in my last comment, I asked, given Craig's answer, to what degree OT theism corresponds to the God Craig believes in. After all, when the questioner pointed out how Jesus appeals to certain OT episodes, one of Craig's outs is to compare that to explicitly fictional literature. Where a hypothetical speaker was referring to an incident in Robinson Crusoe. 

I didn't infer that Craig is prepared to compare "these ancient Jewish texts" to pious fiction. Craig himself specifically presented that as one of his viable options. 

But if Gen 2-3 is fictional, then presumably Adam, Eve, and the Tempter are fictional characters. And in that event, Yahweh is necessarily a fictional character in the same story. You can't have a real speaker talking to fictional characters, who respond to a real speaker. Both speakers must either be real or fictional. You can't have a fictional dialogue with a real interlocutor, or a real dialogue with a fictional interlocutor. So it must be consistently fictional or historical. Same thing with the flood account.

So at what point does Yahweh cease to be an imaginary artifact of the narrator? Is there a sudden shift when we get to the patriarchal narratives? Of the life of Moses? Of the life of David? Where does Craig draw the line? Does he have a principled distinction? 

Moreover, on Craig's view, we can't use the example of Jesus to corroborate the historical genre of OT narratives, because another one of Craig's outs is the live possibility that Jesus was a fallible teacher. And that would apply a fortiori to other NT speakers or writers like Paul. 

Is there any historical and metaphysical continuity between the God Craig affirms and the God of St. Paul, St. Luke, St. John, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Psalmists, Joseph, Abraham, &c? 


  1. Steve - thank you very much for posting these questions. I get a little concerned when Craig makes these kinds of unexpected comments. As one who is responsible to give a defense of the Gospel, I'd hate to discover that he became so saturated with philosophy that he missed the actual Biblical message. I recall reading that when a boy of 12 to 13 signs up to study for the RC priesthood, the most amount of time is spent studying Aristotelian philosophy. It's a breeding ground for being so under-educated in the only Gospel that can actually save people.

  2. Craig seems to be lurching leftward.

  3. maybe in a little bit he will be saying the same thing my Eastern Orthodox priest used to tell me..

    Priest: "It's a spiritual book, for spiritual people meant to understood in a spiritual community. It's not a history book. All that matters is the resurrection of Jesus."

    Me: "But where do we learn about the resurrection? From the same book that's unreliable to relate history but is rather a spiritual book for spiritual people meant to understood in a spiritual community? Why should I trust the claims of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus if I can't trust it on the historicity of any other event it tells me about? Why do we abandon the allegorical method of interpretation of the resurrection in favor of the literal interpretation on this point? I mean, if we can abandon the literal understanding of Adam being the first man, and rather see him as a symbolic representation of humanity, then why can't we just as equally see Jesus as merely symbolic second Adam and nothing more?"

    Priest: "There's still too much protestant left in you."