In Defense Of William Lane Craig

Knowing that to many, my defense of William Lane Craig will inevitably have my Calvinist card revoked, however, I cannot go by without saying anything about this issue any longer. Time after time, I see mind-numbing simplistic dismissals of Craig’s work for very silly reasons. This would encompass the first type of detractors that I see. The second, those who seek to find heresy under every bed of Christian apologetics and make video clips taking people out of context. The third are the well-meaning people who still dismiss Craig for reasons I do not find sufficient. I will be addressing these three categories of objections in this post.

Craig Thinks Young-Earth Creationism Is Embarrassing

Dr. Craig, in the context of a question that was asked of him, responds that the idea that the Earth is 6,000 years old is an embarassing idea. Those who want to assume the Bible details the exact age of the Earth through their counting of incomplete genealogies will say Craig is simply rejecting scripture to make his message more palatable to man. This type of fake piety is annoying and not conducive to discussion. When I say fake, I’m not saying this person doesn’t actually think or feel this way, but the misusing this to be dogmatic about every pet doctrine is not actual biblical piety.

Dr. Craig is an Old-Earth Creationist with some sympathies towards Evolution, however, when he called Young-Earth Creationism embarrassing, he didn’t question the salvation or honest belief of the adherents. He simply implied that most scientists, despite a few fringe ones, will laugh at your claim that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

And they will. Here’s the thing though. Couldn’t you just take the verse out of context that the natural man can’t understand the things of God and leave it there?  Like when a Theologian gets stuck on maintaining consistency and she says it’s a “mystery” in order to save face.

William Lane Craig Has A Bad Apologetic Methodology

This claim usually comes from the presuppositional apologetic crowd, hater of middle grounds and concessions. The general critique of Craig’s apologetic is Craig’s insistence on removing as many hurdles as he can for the unbeliever so that leap of faith to Christ is not a large one. So when Craig gets in a debate and doesn’t explicitly defend the entirety of Christian theism he is screamed at by internet apologists.

Narrowing the scope of the debate makes it more clear not only to the debaters but also the audience. We need to pop our bubbles inside our apologetic chambers and interact with other worldviews without hitting them in the head with our own.

If Christianity truly is the best possible worldview, it will inevitably win in the marketplace of ideas, while I think Presuppositional apologetics has some good arguments, I also think it makes some Christians lazy. What I mean is something Sye Ten Bruggencate said and what some Christians have told me. One of the main things that attract them is the simplicity of it, it is the easy staples button of Christian apologetics. Click the button, a voice comes out saying “By what standard?” and you’re done. That was easy!

I’m not saying that every presup proponent narrows their apologetic to gotcha lines and goalpost moving, but it is a side effect of it for sure.

William Lane Craig Is A Molinist

Molinist has become the new “Calvinist” in the sense that any mention of Molinism is accompanied by shierking men on the internet sharing inaccurate theological memes.

I didn’t understand Molinism until I made friends with one and discussed it with him on several occasions. I think this is a luxury that many did not have, but I fear even worse, that some do not care to actually understand what Molinism is, but rather stay in the dark and say a few one-liners recycled from polemics against Arminians.

Whether you just use the genetic fallacy “Molina was a counter-reformer! A Jesuit!” or you use the “God is sovereign” one-liner that is bound to close off any possible discussion, Molinism has become a topic that has to be at least as misunderstood as Calvinism if not more.

William Lane Craig Has An Unorthodox Christology

This one tends to be the most infuriating due to the nature of this accusation. To make a grave christological error would be to possibly invalidate your claim to the orthodox Christian faith. So what did Craig say that got the christian blogosphere’s panties in a twist?

If you googled, watched a video or read one or two articles on the subject, do not say that you’re informed about Craig’s christology. I’m not saying you have to read and watch everything he’s ever done, but christology is not something you can pick up on so quickly and if you’re going to call someone a heretic, you often need to be thorough, unless they’re outright heretical, like saying Jesus isn’t God.

Dr. Craig has been accused of espousing what is called “Neo-Apollinarianism”, which, if you saw this accusation and then googled the meaning, you might come to a conclusion that is not reality.

In order to show you what Dr. Craig actually believes regarding Christ, I will quote him in his own words.  In Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, Dr. Craig states

The New Testament affirms both the humanity and deity of Jesus Christ” (pg. 597)

He goes on to talk about the Council of Chalcedon and says

[The Chalcedonian formula] does not seek to explain the Incarnation but sets up as it were, channel markers for legitimate christological speculation. Any theology of Christ’s person must be one in which the distinctness of both natures is preserved and both meet in one person, one Son, in Christ.” (pg. 601)

Another hole in the theory of internet heresy hunters is that Craig critiques Apollinarianism and doesn’t seem very sympathetic to the view at all. He writes:

Two deficiencies of Apollinarian Christology seemed especially serious. First, a body without a mind is a truncation of human nature… Second, if Christ lacked a human mind, then he did not redeem the human mind.” (Page 599) He continues his critique later by saying  “Unfortunately, Apollinarianism was radically defective as it stood. For a complete human nature involves more than a hominid body, so that on Apollinarianism’s view of the Incarnation was really a matter of the Logos’s assuming, not humanity, but mere animality…. [His] opponents rightly charged that such a view undercuts Christ’s work as well as his person, since Christ did not have a truly human nature, but only an animal nature, and so, could not have redeemed humanity.”

So any accusation that Dr. Craig is favorable towards this view is false. Now, you could say his proposed view is similar or perhaps falls into the same problems as Apollinarianism, but that is a different claim and requires nuance that many of Craig’s detractors simply haven’t shown him.

Dr. Craig’s proposal wasn’t an irrational one, like saying the Trinity is contingent. Rather, Craig is trying to avoid both Apollinarism and Nestorianism, as he correctly acknowledges them both as serious errors. (Like when he says “The church seems in danger of dividing the person of Christ,” (pg. 602)

Dr. Craig commits the cardinal sin in the heresy hunting community, he tries to apply nuance to someone well-known for heresy and not much else. He suggests that it is possible that though Apollinarius was very much wrong, that maybe he was on the right track. That perhaps he didn’t actually claim the flesh of Jesus was pre-existent, but was referring to an archetypal man. These suggestions are not arguments, they’re philosophical speculation on theological disputes in history. However, Dr. Craig’s detractors seem to act as if this was his solid position that he was arguing for.

So what is Dr. Craig’s actual view on this matter? Well, look no further than his actual words on the subject.

We suggest what William James called the “subliminal self,” is the primary locus of the superhuman elements in the consciousness of the incarnate Logos. Thus Jesus possessed a normal human consciousness, but it was underlain, as it were, by a divine consciousness. This understanding of Christ’s personal experience draws on the insight of depth psychology that there is vastly more to a person than waking conscious. The project of psychoanalysis is based on the conviction that some of our behaviors have deep springs of action of which are only dimly aware, if at all. … Similarly, the incarnation, at least during his state of humiliation, the Logos allowed only those facets of his person to be part of his waking consciousness which were compatible with the typical human experience, while the bulk his knowledge and other cognitive perfections, like an iceberg beneath the water’s surface, lay submerged in his subconscious. On the model we propose, Christ is thus one person, but in that person, conscious and subconscious elements are differentiated in a theologically significant way,” (pg. 610-11).

I will grant the objector that Craig’s view does have some similarities to Apollinarius’ ideas, this however does not make him incorrect. In the same way the Trinity being similar to Tritheism doesn’t make the Trinity incorrect.

There is nothing heretical about what Craig says here, the heresy has to be squeezed until assumptions come out about where Craig takes this idea.

William Lane Craig is a Misogynist

These claims against Craig are typically not from the same crowd as the other objections but I found it useful to talk about this attack on his character here. Now, if you read about Craig on nearly any free internet blog written by a random atheist, you will find that Craig is indeed no scholar, but a dumb-dumb who commits basic fallacies, it’s a wonder he even get’s published in peer-reviewed journals! Anyway, the reason why those types of objections don’t deserve refutation besides mockery is because they’re angsty emotional try-hard-to-be-edgy-on-the-internet objections and not serious ones.

However, because of our current political climate, labeling someone as a misogynist can be a very serious issue. Why is Craig a misogynist you ask? Well, because he complained about the feminization of Christianity in a newsletter once. I’m not kidding. Thankfully, Craig himself has answered this question on his website, so I don’t need to go into much detail but I wanted to add something that he didn’t cover.

Irrelevant mud-slinging at someone’s character does not disprove their argument. Picture for a moment, a possible world in which Dr. Craig was a misogynist beyond a shadow of a doubt. How would that effect his Kalam Cosmological argument or 90 percent of his contributions to philosophy? There are many men of old who are now deemed too unfit socially for today’s climate, great minds like Freud, Jung and Nietzsche are bombarded by 21st century revolutionary cosplayers who seek to discredit anyone who doesn’t fit this hammer and sickle box. Craig is just another name on the long list of thinkers who will be discredited in some minds, not just because of his defense of Christian theism, but because of alleged misogyny or whatever social virtue is at the forefront of politics at the time.

Dr. William Lane Craig is a gentleman, true scholar and excellent philosopher and I’m happy that God has used such a man to contribute to the defense of the Faith and leading people to Christ.

Jesus Wasn’t Born On December 25th

Your average cultural christian might be shocked by this statement, but any Christian who pays attention to their faith will not be surprised. Many, like myself, are agnostic about the exact date of Jesus’ birth, since it seems so hard to determine with any confidence as scripture doesn’t tell us.

I don’t see anything wrong with setting out a day to remember the birth of Jesus if you’re unsure of the day (Calm down, RPWers), that being said, there have been some persuasive arguments for an exact month, an exact day even, for Jesus of Nazareth’s birth.

I remain agnostic on this issue myself, however, I think if I were to take a side, I’d choose this one. Let me explain why.

The main source of research that is used for this view is a book by Dr. Ernest L. Martin titled “The Star of Bethlehem: The Star That Astonished The World.”

I read this book once I saw Dr. Michael Heiser recommended it on his website regarding the date of Jesus’ birth.

Dr. Martin spends the first chapter explaining astrological data suggesting the the star that the Maji may have seen which they thought indicated the birth of Jesus.

Roger Sinnot writes in an astronomical journal about the unusual collision between Jupiter and Venus stating that “The fusion of two planets would have been a rare and awe-inspiring event.”i

Such an event, we could reason, could have been very important to the Magi as they were professional astrologers. Do not confuse astrology with the type of “astrology” you may see today, like getting updates on your horoscopes from some website that gives your computer adware.

The Maji were not only astrologers but professional astronomers, not exactly the status quo of a new-age astrologer you may be thinking of. Matthew’s mentioning of the Magi and their symbolic interpretation of the star linking to the King of the Jews being born was Matthew showing scientific confirmation of his claims. ii The opinion of the Magi was clearly persuasive, as it troubled Herod and the people of Jerusalem in general. (Matthew 2:3)

The Star that the Magi presumably followed was called the Regulus, otherwise called “The Star of the Messiah.” The way the Regulus is positioned about the Leo lion constellation, seems to coincide with some biblical prophecy. (Genesis 49:10)

The overall claim is that the star does not necessarily have to be supernatural in origin, as if it was a star that appeared out of nowhere, but was a natural event that God used to signify the birth of the Messiah.

Though this view is accepted by platenieruims and the scientific community in general, there are some theological objections to this view that need to be considered.

In defense of the December 25th as the day that Jesus was born, I found one particular article that I found as a good defense against Martin’s claims in general regarding the day of Jesus’ birth. I have sought to bring forth the best arguments I could find for both sides of this argument, to start you on your journey of consideration and out of apathy towards the general time Jesus was born.

On this website, Martin’s work is critiqued as a biased and exaggerated opinion piece, who omits several important facts and “reads like a tabloid rather than serious academic work.” Clearly, the rhetoric is there, but how about the argumentation?

The author argues that Martin is guilty of special pleading, puts too much faith the science of astronomy knowing how the constellations would look 2,000 years ago and questioning the biblical interpretation of Martin on Revelation chapter 12.

Dr. Michael Heiser, in analyzing the critics has stated:

Martin’s thesis has, of course, been critiqued in some detail. There are problems, but none of them are insurmountable and can be rebutted with good evidence. This reality, along with the comprehensive explanatory power Martin’s work, as well as the date’s remarkable synchronicity with Jewish messianic symbolism and calendar, make Martin’s work persuasive to me

I will summarize the argument that is accepted by Martin, Hesier etc. by quoting Robert Rowe, Christian Apologist and a student of Physics at Edith Cowan University

  1. On the 12th of August in 3 b.c., Venus and Jupiter are in their first conjunction, visible low in the eastern twilight before sunrise. Both are moving eastward against the stars. This is what the Magi described when they met Herod [Matthew 2:1-2].
  2. On the 11th of September in 3 b.c., Jupiter and Regulus are in conjunction for the first time. It is on this date that Jesus was born. Thus, as Jesus began his ministry in October / November of 28 a.d., he was ~2 months past his 30th birthday, precisely as in Luke 3:23.
  3. On the 17th of February in 2 b.c., Jupiter and Regulus are in conjunction for the second time, as Jupiter is in retrograde motion.
  4. On the 8th of May in 2 b.c., Jupiter and Regulus are in conjunction for the third time.
  5. On the 17th of June in 2 b.c., Venus and Jupiter are in conjunction. They appear to merge into a single star low in the west at sunset. This is the Star of Bethlehem! By this time, Jesus is 9 months old.

Again, I do not think the evidence is strong enough to be dogmatic on this issue, It it quite possible that neither of us are right, that it’s not December 25th or September 11th. However, I find Martin’s arguments persuasive and if forced to choose a side I will defend Jesus being born on September 11th, though I have no problem with us celebrating it on December 25th for tradition sake.

i. Sky and Telescope, December, 1968, 384–386.
ii. The Star of Bethlehem, Chapter 2

Saving Christmas From Christians

It seems that every December we see an influx of anti-Christmas posts, whether it be from fundamentalists or strict RPW proponents. Usually they will make arguments against Christmas from their strict view, by saying that either celebrating Christmas isn’t biblical or that Christmas is pagan and therefore should not be celebrated. 

Such argumentation cannot be logically consistent, however, because pagans throughout history have co-opted many things, a good example is the triquetra. Some conspiracy theorists think that the triquetra  is three 6’s rather than something early Christians used to represent the Trinity. (To be fair, a 2CV argument against the Triquetra would be different.) 

The days of the week you observe are all based on pagan names, the planets that you acknowledge are based on pagan names, we cannot escape the pagans. That being said, there is a difference between taking a pagan concept, renewing it to the glory of the Lord and participating in outright paganism, though the detractors seem to say that they’re one in the same. 

My assertions are 

1.) Christmas is not a clear-cut case of pagan origins. 
2.) Even if it was, it is not necessarily a sin to observe it.

We will start in order. How good is the evidence for Christmas having pagan origins? Well, it’s about as good as the atheist memes that compare Horus to Jesus. 

The Anti-Christmas argument is framed like this

1. Pagans did X 
2. Christian Practice Y is similar to X
3. Therefore, Y is Evil.

An example given by InspiringPhilosophy in his video is a bonfire. Odds are, you or your church groups have started a bonfire, roasted some marshmallows and had a good time. However, if someone were to come up and say “You need to put that bonfire out, because pagans used bonfires for their rituals.” How would you respond? Hopefully you would say that your bonfire is not built with the intent to worship a pagan god, rather it was for other reasons, like fellowship or just a night to hang out with friends. This response recognizes that sometimes motivation matters more than the act itself. 

Another point is that pagans adopt all types of symbols in their worship throughout the time of their existence. Even in the time the Bible was written, they used “King of Kings” a term given to Jesus, to apply to secular kings in royalty worship among other things. (1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 17:14, Revelation 19:16) 

What is it about symbols that brings about an inherent evil in their use because an evil person used them? We even see this in secular society. The Swastika, used by Hitler and his Nazi Regime is widely recognized as a hate symbol now, because he co-opted it. However, the swastika predates Hitler, he didn’t invent it. It actually was a symbol belonging to the Hindus. In fact, swastika comes from sanskrit and means “conducive to well being”. In the Hindu belief system, it is a reference to a clockwise symbol, representing the sun, prosperity and good luck while the counterclockwise part of the design represents night. A similar idea is that of the Yin Yang, so imagine if Hitler co-opted the Yin-Yang instead of the Swastika, we’d have a lot less 40 year old men and women with yin yangs tattooed on them, that’s for sure. Instead, we’d have people, not affiliated with nazi ideology, with swastikas, because it’d be a religious/mystical tattoo rather than a hate symbol at that point.  

Now, this doesn’t mean I think we can take back the Swastika and act like Hitler never happened (though in places where Hinduism is the majority this should be fine) but to recognize that the symbol itself is not evil, it’s what you mean when you represent that symbol that matters. Typically, at least in america, when sporting the Swastika as a tattoo or T-shirt, this usually refers to some white pride, white power nationalism and racist beliefs. This is not what the Hindu means. The anti-Christmas argument, if it were consistent, would have to condemn the Hindu for using the Swastika, even though they predated Hiter’s use of it and don’t mean the same thing when they use it. 

We also see that biblical writers used pagan books in their writing of scripture. Scholars, such as Paul Overland, in his work “Structure in the wisdom of Ammennope and Proverbs” shows that the writer of Proverbs was clearly influenced by the writings. Now, does this matter? No, not really. But it should matter to the anti-christmas crowd, if they were being consistent with their argumentation. 

It reminds me of when Augustine cautioned the people to stop ignoring the pagan scientists, because despite their rejection of Yahweh, they understood some of his truths about the universe. 

It shouldn’t be controversial to say that you agree with a pagan when they get something right. If a Pagan, who is otherwise heretical, says that Jesus is the savior of the world, you wouldn’t disagree with them because they said it, would you? Rather, you would find out their motivation for saying that in the context of the rest of their theology. 

Paul’s use of the term “subjugation” in 1 Corinthians 15:25-28 was seen by the early Christians as partly to due with reclaiming God’s creation as his own. InspiringPhilosophy mentions an example of the obelisk at the Vatican, the obelisk was moved to Rome in 37 A.D. by Caligula and in 1586 Pope Sixtus christianized it by adding a cross to it and giving it a different meaning, that meaning being of man reaching up his hand to God, much like Peter, thinking he was going to drown before Jesus pulled him up. (Rome, Marcia B. Hall pg. 282) 

Another argument made is the day itself, December 25th, was chosen as “Jesus’ birthday” in relation to the pagan celebration of Sol Invictus, which was only celebrated on December 25th. However, there are two problems with this. The first being that the earliest inscriptions of Sol Invictus do not mention a date that it was celebrated. The second problem is the first mention of it being dated was in 394 A.D. when Christians were already in power. It could be, that pagans moved their holiday to December 25th to combat the Christians. In fact, Scholar Thomas Talley argues just that, he argues that It is more likely that the Roman Emperor Aurelian placed Sol Invictus on December 25th to compete with Christianity  (Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Calendar (pg. 88-91)  

A few side notes that I found interesting was that John Chrysostom says celebrating Christmas on December 25th was a long-time tradition (Homily on Christmas)  and that the Philocian calendar lists Christmas as a church holiday 

You don’t have to celebrate Christmas, put let’s put the fake piety away and be a little joyful. 

Have a Merry Christmas!