Thursday, March 30, 2017

Jesus loves me, this I know,

William Lane Craig recently defended Andy Stanley against Albert Mohler:

i) I think the format was inefficient. An interviewer asked Craig to respond to Mohler's interpretation of Andy. So Craig presumes to speak on Andy's behalf, as Andy's interpreter, explaining what Andy really meant. That's very convoluted Too many layers. It would be preferable if Craig just stated his own position without the intermediaries. In addition, Craig is far more sophisticated than Andy, so I can't shake the feeling that he's improving on Andy's position. Craig is putting words in Andy's mouth, then criticizing Mohler for failing to engage Craig's reformulation. But, of course, Mohler wasn't responding to Craig, and he couldn't very well respond to something before it was on the table. 

ii) I found Craig's analysis confused and contradictory. He begins by distinguishing apologetics from theology. Up to a point, there's nothing wrong with that distinction. It's true that in theology we take the authority of Scripture for granted, whereas in apologetics, we assume a burden of proof.

iii) That said, what is the task of Christian apologetics if not to defend the subject matter of systematic theology? Sure, when you're discussing Christian theology with an unbeliever, you don't expect them to concede the authority of Scripture, or to stipulate any particular doctrine. But that's why you provide reasons for the authority of Scripture or the doctrine at issue. 

iv) It's true that when doing evangelism or apologetics, you probably won't lead with Noah's flood, the virgin birth, Biblical creation, or Biblical inerrancy. That's not your opening gambit when initiating a discussion with an unbeliever. If it's just a generic question of the best starting-point, then that's not your first move.  

However, it's often the unbeliever who initiates a discussion of Biblical creation, Noah's flood, the virgin birth, or inerrancy in general. In addition, Christian apologetics is hardly confined to pre-evangelism. The jurisdiction of Christian apologetics is to defend the Christian faith on all fronts. 

v) BTW, one can certainly preach an evangelistic sermon centered on Noah's flood. Indeed, both 1 and 2 Peter outline that approach.

vi) There is, moreover, a basic difference between not mentioning biblical creation, Noah's flood, the virgin birth, or inerrancy because that doesn't happen to crop up in the course of a sermon or apologetic dialogue, and telling someone they are not obliged to believe those things to be a Christian. There's a difference between not telling someone something because there was no occasion to mention it, and telling them that they have no duty to believe it. In the former case, it never came up. In the latter case, you bring it up in order to tell someone that's optional. 

vii) At one point the interviewer recast the issue in terms of the local flood interpretation v. the global flood interpretation. But that's not what Craig said, and it's unlikely that Craig was talking about interpretation. When he mentions the flood in the same breath as inerrancy or the virgin birth, I think it's clear that he's referring to questions of historicity rather than interpretation. 

viii) In addition, there's a fundamental difference between rejecting six-day creationism or a global flood because you don't think that's the best interpretation of the text, and rejecting them because you think the text is wrong. 

ix) Furthermore, even if a person thinks the creation account, flood account, and nativity accounts are intentionally fictional rather than erroneous, that is just as bad in a different way. 

viii) On the one hand Craig indicates that inerrancy is expendable. That belief in the historicity of Noah's flood or the virgin birth is expendable. On the other hand, he says Christians should believe in what Jesus teaches us; as his disciples we accept his teaching regarding Biblical authority. Well, which is it? Optional or obligatory? 

ix) Finally, he says such issues can be decided later once you've made a commitment to Christ. But what does that mean? Shouldn't conversion involve informed consent? Craig makes it sound like signing a contract before you agree to all the terms. Is this a provisional commitment that's conditional on whether you subsequently resolve those issues to your own satisfaction? Is there an escape clause?

What's wrong with resolving those issues right up front? What makes them unbelievable now, but believable later on? 

What does Craig think commitment to Jesus means? Is that a bright line–before and after? As a freewill theist, does he think something happens when you make a commitment to Christ? Does that change you in some essential respect? Or is commitment a continuum? Degrees of commitment or gradations of belief? What's the difference between Craig's view and Peter Enns? A difference of kind or difference of degree? 

x) It's important to explain to unbelievers that Christianity claims to be a revealed religion. God spoke to and through the prophets. And Scripture is the revelatory record. You can take it or leave it but it's a package deal. 


  1. Some of the scriptures' passages have to be examined and interpreted very carefully. For example, biblical creation. To say that the whole universe was created in six days that means that pre existent sun and a pre existent earth were before the creation in order to count each day. Furthermore, the moon and the sun were created in the fourth day. So there are many interpretations and questions open.

  2. Noah's flood isn't that hard to believe because many cultures around the world believe in a global flood with each culture with their own perspective, mythology, characters, etc.

  3. An atheist or agnostic or a "rational" person won't give credit to any of this because of system of thought rather than the content itself. There are three major systems of thought throughout human history: Magic, religious and scientific. The first two involve causality and necessity personified in deities (in the religious case) and humans (magic). But science wants to get rid of concepts like causality, necessity because it see these terms as an anthropomorphic way to see the world. In fact, it's more a negation of the previous ways of thinking rather than assumptions born inner the scientific way of thinking. As if negation meant a progress or evolution. Let's take an example: Miracles. The miracle of Jesus walking on water without sink. From a religious point of view it's possible because the laws of nature can be broken by the one who created them. On the other hand, the assumption that an object with more density has to sink according to science tacitly affirms the unbreakable nature of natural laws. Why? because it's "logical", because the natural laws are unbreakable. Also the tacit assumption is that these physical laws weren't created and therefore can't be broken, and the only way to be safe is create a bout to not sink. As Wittgenstein would say, none of these two positions contradict each other because they talk about different matters (even though it seems they talk about the same issue). Once a non believer steps into the religious system of thought the issue gets more intricate, because when we confront the Bible and the Qur'an (for example) the atheist might think: "Does work here the true/false criteria in the same way that 'atoms exist or not question'?" Or, in the words of Popper: Does falsification method work in religion the same way it does in science? Atheists would say no because ethics, aesthetics and religion are about values, while science is about facts? David and other Christians brothers would say: Christianity is about facts too, historical facts. Otherwise, history shouldn't be called a science if doesn't work with facts. But, obviously our dear atheists, agnostics wouldn't bother to read biblical history as much as they do reading about secular events like the Constitutional act, the Civil War, 9/11, etc.

    1. Science can't avoid causal explanations for most phenomena.

  4. If we want to dig deeper into the scientific attitude of thinking just read about Bacon, Hume and Spinoza. Particularly the last two. Spinoza says attributes like justice, compassionate, merciful aren't from God because these are anthropomorphic attributes that we put unto him (basically the reflection theory that says that humans create God according to their desires, passions, ideals, etc). Hume, on the other hand, says that we can't believe in God because we can't experience him the way I experience the food I eat; we can't believe in causality or necessity (for example, to think that tomorrow the sun will appear is more a matter of faith rather than testing). I won't speak here about the failures of their systems. However you look at it, something that was an historical product (such as the form of the scientific thought) is now seen as an objective truth, whereas the religious beliefs are seen as barbarian, rudimentary. The relativists from the past are the most authoritarian of today: the religious system of thought of the past (I mean past because it was predominant viewpoint at least 2 centuries ago)is seen as a brick, while the scientific approach is seen as the already-made-building (even though this assumption is some sort of metaphysical argument rather than a scientific one; attitude that they would often throw to religious people). Sometimes scientific premises are dogmas as well.

  5. Other example contrasting religious system and scientific system: Diseases and health. Science tells us that we have to wash our hands before eating (scribes and Pharisees would agree with these) otherwise we can ingest bacteria and viruses and subsequently became sick. But Jesus never thought that way, he said that what comes out of their mouth is what defiled them. What cause diseases are the sins that we have (bacteria and viruses might be the "conveyance", possibly, they may actually not even be the conveyance). Obviously science would disagree because the assumption that we make is that there's a spiritual reality that lies behind. Science, otherwise, would call viruses and bacteria the actual source of diseases, not the "conveyances" as we'd think. Why? because they assume that there's no spiritual reality. In fact, according to the scientific viewpoint I shouldn't care about that "nonsense" called sins because they're not measurable, we can't see them. Where are they? Jesus understood that and that's why when he said to paralytic "Your sins are forgiven" he then subsequently proved that (in science we'd say "testing") by healing his diseases. So, in order for us to believe that we are sinners God made a physical sign in order to believe our state by being sick. That's why the Messiah had to carry the sins of many. If diseases weren't real medicine wouldn't be a science, because science works with facts. Nowadays if Jesus were amongst us we'd call him crazy (even Christians) for not washing his hands before eating. Scientific way of thinking has penetrated so much to our language and thought that even us think that we have to wash our hands, that the cause of diseases are viruses and bacterias, etc, etc. No wonder why the apostles had some much faith - they weren't immersed in scientific explanation of the world. It was all faith and doing God's word. (By the way, nowise these historical episodes make us less Christians, but I want to emphasize that the lack of faith doesn't comes from non believing but also can come from an innocent development as it's scientific system of thought.) Sometimes I interpret Daniel 12:4 as Bacon did. If this interpretation is true then what he said makes sense. "Many will go here and there" sometimes refers to exile, sometimes to spiritual prostitution. If this second meaning it's true, then certainly we prostitute with science.

    1. Ritual ablutions are not about hygiene but symbolic purity and impurity.