William Lane Craig on Apologetics – plus 2 new tracts on Astronomy

One of the ‘really big names’ in apologetics is William Lane Craig. His signature book, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics is a wonderful resource for arguments to help skeptics over their silly stumbling blocks. You do have to be a bit of an all-you-can-eat glutton, like me on subjects related to evangelism, to enjoy wading through this 400-page (lots of words per page) book. If you’re more the ‘lunch special’ type, then go for Craig’s lighter weight On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, which treats most of the same subjects quite succinctly.

William Lane Craig

I love most of Craig’s work, excepting a couple of woeful blind spots that I’ll address later. Here’s a sample of his argument from Reasonable Faith on why apologetics is vital to evangelism:

”. . . the Gospel is never heard in isolation. It is always heard against the background of the cultural milieu in which one lives. A person raised in a cultural milieu in which Christianity is still seen as an intellectually viable option will display an openness to the Gospel which a person who is secularized will not. For the secular person you may as well tell him to believe in fairies or leprechauns as in Jesus Christ! Or, to give a more realistic illustration, it is like our being approached on the street by a devotee of the Hare Krishna movement who invites us to believe in Krishna. Such an invitation strikes us as bizarre, freakish, even amusing. But to a person on the streets of Delhi, such an invitation would, I assume, appear quite reasonable and be a serious cause for reflection. I fear that evangelicals appear almost as weird to persons on the streets of Bonn, Stockholm, or Paris as do the devotees of Krishna.”

Or, for that matter, on most secular college campuses or urban centers in America. That’s why, to the best of my ability, I work to design both tracts and an approach to 121 evangelism that grabs the attention of people in this culture, today. (Check out the pdfs toward the end of my Tracts essay and my other essays on Evangelism.)

Apologetics – Defense of the Faith! – has two huge applications. If Christian parents don’t educate their children on TRUTH, what life is about, where did we come from, where are we going . . . the world’s unreal philosophies will slurp them up, wrecking lives and destroying souls. Craig often meets parents who have lost their children, children failed by parents and churches, should-have-been mentors who cared little to train their precious young against the idiocies of relativism, naturalism, materialism, evolutionism, Marxism, etc.

The same apologetics arguments that can educate our children can be used to provoke THOUGHT in the mind and conviction in the heart of the lost, whether lost to atheism or false religions. Craig cites a principle that you can use on the street: ”A postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. Nobody is a postmodernist when it comes to reading the labels on a medicine bottle versus a box of rat poison . . . you’d better believe that texts have objective meaning! People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology.”

He sees it exactly like I do. When the scoffers are relativistic only in matters of religion and ethics, “that’s not postmodernism; that’s modernism!” We should make the point – on the street – that the most important issues of our existence are not technological, but rather spiritual – non-material – including love, justice, integrity, hope, meaning, and so on. How foolish to miss TRUTH in the areas that matter!

Let’s walk through some of the nuggets in On Guard. Craig cites Richard Dawkins who sums up life’s purpose in an atheist’s worldview: “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference . . . We are machines for propagating DNA . . . It is every living object’s sole reason for being.”

Richard Dawkins

In 121s with atheists I always want to make this point, which gripped my own soul as a young atheist, providing an open door to the one Christian who confronted me with TRUTH long ago. Tell the young skeptic that if he’s right, life is pointless; it doesn’t matter whether he lives another 50 seconds or 50 years; the future is nothingness and nothing he does now is worth squat. Yet he doesn’t live that way, paying big bucks to get a degree, studying hard to learn skills, making choices as if he is more than just brain chemistry or a DNA-replicating machine, hoping to find love and make a difference. Yet if he’s wrong, he’s accountable to a holy and just God who sees everything.

I’ve been accused of merely repackaging Pascal’s wager, that the skeptic is better off believing in God simply because it’s safer on the consequences. Not true! My challenge is that the consequences of error are so severe that at least some research is warranted, at least as much as would go into a term paper, especially since his purposeful lifestyle and objective morality (murder, rape, and child molesting are wrong) are consistent only with a Biblical worldview. You can’t become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ via intellectual fire insurance (Pascal’s wager), but careful investigation can lead to willful repentance and faith.

Craig is masterful in explaining logical arguments for the existence of the Biblical God. On God’s existence he camps warmly on the Kalam Cosmological Argument . . .

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The argument is logically airtight. The issue is whether the two premises are more reasonably true than untrue. If true, the conclusion necessarily follows. To deny premise #1, to insist that something came from nothing is worse than magic. “When a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, at least you’ve got the magician, not to mention the hat!”

Atheists like to retort, “So what is God’s cause?” But premise #1 is not about mere existence, but what begins to exist. The Biblical view of God is that He is eternally existent. Time came into being along with space, matter, and energy. God is eternal and uncaused. You can disbelieve this, but try to come up with arguments consistent with both the universe you observe and the very fact that you can rationally observe this universe!

Modern objections to premise #2, in light of our observed expanding universe and the academy’s commitment to Big Bang cosmology, now focus on a mythical multiverse, infinite in history and extent, out of which our universe popped some time ago. Craig’s exposition is lucid and helpful, detailing philosophical proofs against the existence of an infinite number of actual things. Or an infinite number of actual time increments.

In short, you can imagine a ‘potentially’ infinite number, like the positive integers. But anything real can’t have an infinite number of parts. If you try to count them, one at a time, “no matter how high you count, there’s always an infinity of numbers left to count.” And if you can’t count to infinity, you can’t count down from negative infinity. If the universe has an infinite past, an infinite number of time increments before the present moment, then today can never be reached. But here we are! Any series of past events must be finite and have a beginning.

I know that was too brief, so buy the book. There are many other logically impossible or ridiculous ideas with an infinite multiverse. For example, in an infinite multiverse it is far, far more likely for us to find ourselves in a universe with just a single solar system than with the gazillion stars and galaxies we observe. Earth and its ecosystem could prosper without the rest of those stars. Further, it is far more likely that our universe would consist of a vast space in which floated a single “Boltzmann brain,” which merely imagines all of your sensations and experiences and observations, rather than posit the incredibly vast and diverse universe we actually inhabit.

If that isn’t enough insight to convince you of the bankruptcy of the idea of an infinite multiverse, consider this: Infinity is not just like any old super big number. If there really are an infinite number of universes, especially if the laws of physics can vary just a bit from one to another (which is widely fantasized), then the following histories are unfolding at this very moment! . . .

1. Frodo is climbing Mt. Doom in millions of universes, but an orc arrow kills him in many of them. (Actually this happens in an infinite number of universes within the infinite multiverse . . . yes, infinity is a strange ‘number.’)
2. Captain James T. Kirk is fighting Klingons, but survives only on some occasions.
3. Virgil Samms just visited Arisia and is testing out his new Lens.
4. An identical ‘you’ has just been elected the U.S. President and is married to a gorgeous Hollywood actress (or actor, depending). Unfortunately, you are being impeached for corruption. Sorry.

(If you don’t get reference #3 above, your literary education is woefully inadequate.)

Craig’s big hole in this area is that he is an old-Earth Big Banger. He doesn’t take Genesis 1 or Exodus 20:11 or Mark 10:6-9 simply, literally, as if God actually meant what He said. He never addresses, in either book, how his position can account for God pronouncing His creation good, Adam’s fall due to sin, initiating sickness, death, and the consequent travail of creation (Genesis 3, Romans 5, Romans 8:21-22), and the very need for the Gospel itself!

He uses fine-tuning arguments from physics and cosmology to marvel at how God must have so carefully designed the Big Bang, not realizing that these fine-tuning arguments are better used to refute Big Bang cosmology. I won’t review all that here, but will say that any scientific theory that requires such incredibly improbable and special conditions is a rotten theory, not worthy of serious consideration.

Virgil Samms - First Lensman

What Craig did for me in this area, however, is turn me on to the calculation of Roger Penrose, a secular mathematician / cosmologist, who generates a probability calculation, using fundamental principles of statistical physics (my one-time research specialty), producing “odds against” which certainly represent a world record. Neither Penrose nor Craig realize that this argument is a slam-dunk refutation of Big Bang cosmology and a brilliant affirmation of fiat creation.

Let me introduce my two new tracts, designed especially for college students, or for anyone who has been indoctrinated in the fantastic myths of the Big Bang or a naturalistic origin of our own solar system.

The first tract summarizes . . . oh so briefly! . . . how difficult it is to pack info into a tract! . . . how simple observations refute the fable of our sun and its planets congealing from a spinning cloud of dust and gas.

Click on . . . Tract – Our Solar System Fables & Fantasies

The second tract summarizes the consternation within the astronomical community regarding the very existence of stars and galaxies. I also include the result of Penrose’s calculation and its significance.

Click on . . . Tract – Cosmology

Craig does a fine job, once he’s back on track, addressing the so-called Anthropic Principle: We find ourselves alive and well in a universe permitting life because otherwise we wouldn’t be here to talk about it! So there’s nothing to explain! . . . Supposedly the Anthropic Principle overcomes the incredible improbability of our functioning universe, the uncanny nanotechnology of living systems, our beautiful and habitable Earth, and Earth’s networked ecosystems.

Craig shows how the reasoning is bankrupt. He asks you to imagine you’ve been falsely accused of drug dealing in a 3rd world country, and dragged before a firing squad, 100 trained marksmen ready to end your life. You hear, “Ready! Aim! Fire!” The gunfire is deafening, but you observe you’re alive and unharmed! All 100 shooters missed! You conclude, “Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they all missed! After all, if they hadn’t all missed, I wouldn’t be here to be surprised about it! Nothing more to be explained here!”

No, you would be really curious about why they all missed, certainly concluding “that they all missed on purpose, that the whole thing was a set up, engineered for some reason by someone.”

Craig’s chapters on morality and suffering are solid, as are his expositions on the “real Jesus” of Biblical history, the historical evidence for the Resurrection, and the reasonableness of salvation through the Biblical Gospel. Craig’s hole in the latter chapters is that he plays the world’s game, looking at the texts of Scripture as if they are merely historical documents, in order to build the case for a genuine Christian foundation in history. He plays the game well, but misses the stronger case that can be made presuppositionally, by affirming (and supporting) Biblical inerrancy through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit . . . not to mention preservation through the Masoretic Hebrew and Greek / Latin Received Text.

In short, Craig has a modern evangelical mindset, bypassing issues of inerrancy and preservation. It doesn’t happen often, but I have met skeptics who go after textual corruption as enough of an excuse to deny Biblical truth. The modern evangelical languishes among versions based on an ever-changing Critical Text, leaving him little to say in response. I have found that a quick defense of inerrancy and preservation can startle a skeptic enough to enable discussion on other, more vital issues, like sin / justice / judgment / repentance / (a reasonable) faith / and the Gospel.

Overall . . . you should get one or both books. Learn this stuff. You might be able to help someone who’s been conned by the pseudo-intellectuals who dominate the classrooms and the media.

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com

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