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.

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12 thoughts on “In Defense Of William Lane Craig

  1. G. Smith

    For a thorough review of Craig’s view of the Trinity, see “A Critique of Trinity Monotheism” by Brian Huffling, in Christian Apologetics Journal, vol. 10, no. 1, spring 2012, p. 79-100.

  2. Bill Gingras

    Regarding Calvinist Objectors:

    Simplicity, it seems to me, is the appeal of Calvinism and to Pre-suppositional apologetics to many modern Christians. They offer ready made systems that the adherents can simply opt into and maintain good status in so long as they toe-the-line. In this sense, it has more to do with Islam and modern left-wing culture than it does with Christianity.

    There are trends in the modern Calvinist movement where the adherents more closely resemble the Pharisees than resembling the Jesus Christ whom the Pharisees hated. It is this group, the modern Pharisees, who would, after light contact with Calvinism’s doctrine, suspect that doctrinal purity and doctrinal confessions should supersede the demands of brotherly love. They would be wise to slow their roll and find out if they do, in fact stand in the faith that they claim to understand and defend.

    It is the modern Pharisees who would find him to be objectionable. Men and women who forsake the weightier matters to observe the less weighty matters in the hopes of finding favor with men.

    Regarding new-Apollinarianism:

    William Lane Craig goes out of his way to affirm that the model he proposes is a POSSIBLE model and that it would be unwise to presume that anyone could penetrate so deeply into the nature of God to know for sure what he is like.

    He made it clear what the possible model’s purpose is; it is a defense against the claim that the doctrine of the Trinity is logically incoherent. He explained, in Defenders class, that if a reasonable solution could be put forward to explain the Trinity in a coherent way that the detractors argument would be eliminated. He explained that it would no longer be possible for a detractor to claim the doctrine of the Trinity is incoherent if model that was possibly true was put forward?

    His approach here is brilliant. It also respects the objector as someone who might have an opinion worthy of interacting with.

    This last point is one to consider further:

    William Lane Craig is a man that works very hard to show respect to the people who he interacts with and he interacts with many. Many of these are marginal thinkers who want to be better and I have observed him treat them with utter kindness and respect. He has been an example and a rebuke to me in this way; he loves them enough to show them respect, the very thing that many of his detractors fail to do for him.

    William Lane Craig faithfully serves as a Sunday School teacher… did you get that? A Sunday School teacher… and has for many, many years. He teaches lay people and in doing so gives access to the laity to one of the pre-eminent Christian thinkers of our time. I find this simply stunning. I am, so grateful to him for this, my words cannot express it and I am, at times moved to tears as I think of it. I would have no access to a person like him if it were not for the work that God has done in his life and for his faithful and humble answer to the call to Christian service. He is a beautiful man, another reason I find the hope of Heaven to be such a wonderful hope.

    More on this point: I have seen the impact that world class instruction can have on someone. It makes a tremendous difference and is very, very valuable… William Lane Craig gives it away at his local church.

    He is an example to be emulated and not an enemy to be opposed.

  3. DB

    Neo-apolinarianism is actually Craig’s own title for his view and it is apt. Further, Craig himself admits it is heretical. He dismisses concerns over heresy on the grounds that for Protestants, only the Bible counts. He then goes on to cite exactly no scripture in defense if his heretical view. You imply that it’s all just a big misunderstanding but you’re really going against what Craig himself asserts.

    • AC

      DB, I can’t help but feel that you fall into the first group of detractors…

      Craig obviously does not think his own position is heretical. He even did a whole podcast explaining why it isn’t…

      Craig’s point with Sola Scriptura is that there is no scripture that contradicts his view. If his view is permitted by scripture, then you can’t object that his view is incorrect on the basis of later church tradition.

      He does provide a scriptural argument for his view. He argues that the denial of his view leads to multiple sons something that contradicts many verses ( John 1:14, 3:16, 1 John 4:9)

      • DB

        The issue is heresy as such (which is an authoritative doctrinal judgement) – not whether one’s view “contradicts scripture”. There is no heresy that contradicts Scripture once the heretic’s view is allowed to control its interpretation (cf. sola fide with James 2:24). “Sola scriptura” is nothing new – just ask Arius! Hence the need for authoritative Church judgments – which Craig explicitly says he is challenging (aka, “heresy”).

        “Such, then, is the account which they all give . . . striving, as they do, to adapt the good words of revelation to their own wicked inventions. And it is not only from the writings of the evangelists and the apostles that they endeavour to derive proofs for their opinions by means of perverse interpretations and deceitful expositions: they deal in the same way with the law and the prophets, which contain many parables and allegories that can frequently be drawn into various senses, according to the kind of exegesis to which they are subjected. And others of them, with great craftiness, adapted such parts of Scripture to their own figments, lead away captive from the truth those who do not retain a steadfast faith in one God, the Father Almighty, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies I.3)

      • AC,

        What inference can we draw from the fact that Craig doesn’t take his own view to be heterodox other than he doesn’t think his own view is heterodox? Is his own judgement to that effect relevant? Is there some individual or group that does in fact take their own views to be heterodox?

        Given that Craig merely asserts that there is no scripture that contradicts his view is not a reason to think the assertion is true. What exegetical arguments does he offer for Apollinarianism or Monothelitism? After having read everything he has written or said on this topic, I can find none.

        His assertion that a denial of his view implies Nestorianism is just a further assertion. It is no an argument. Second, since he never interacts with any of the primary or secondary sources, especially those that deal with the objection he makes to the Christian position it is hardly exculpatory that he says his positions avoids Nestorianism. And to boot, that is a theological argument, not a scriptural argument. For the latter, he’d have to provide an exegesis of various passages of scripture but he doesn’t.

  4. You do rather soften (by omission) how favourably Dr Craig views Apollinarianism. He posits that his critics (via whom we know what Apollinarius taught) had probably misunderstood him, and he seeks, not so much to repudiate what Apollinarius really taught, but to rehabilitate it via a kind of of charitable reconstruction, and he actually ends up agreeing with Apollinarius that the logos only assumed physicality and not a human soul, because, he says, everything necessary for a human mind was already present within the logos.

    So you’ll probably have to concede this one to his critics.

  5. For the record, let me state up front that I have read literally everything in print for the last 150 years on Christological Monothelitism/Monoenergism. I have also read all of the primary sources on Monothelitism/Monoenergism as well. I have also read all of the primary sources on Apollinarianism and much of the secondary literature. That is not to impress anyone but rather to make sure that you know I didn’t just Google this stuff.

    I have also read everything Craig has ever written or said on these subjects as well. And I am also not Protestant and I am also not Catholic. I have no Calvinist axe to grind with Craig.

    Craig self designates his view as “Neo-Apollinarian” (See Craig, Philosophical Foundations, pp. 606-612) so on that charge the accusation is spot on. Craig’s fundamental position is that the person is the soul or mind, roughly following Descartes. Consequently, Craig rejects the Christian model of Christ having two wills and a substantial human soul. Rather his view is that the Logos takes the place of the human soul by a form of kenoticism providing the property functions of a human soul. The Logos by limiting himself manifests the properties of a human soul, mind and will without there actually being a human soul, mind and will.

    This view falls afoul of Chalcedon since Chalcedon affirmed Christs human soul. And given that Chalcedon turned on Leo’s Tome which affirmed two activities, one for each nature, it implicitly affirmed two energies and two wills in Christ. This was affirmed by the next two councils, Constantinople II and Constantinople III, which were the legal and ecclesiastical interpretations of Chalcedon. Both councils have been accepted in their Christological formulations by Confessional Protestants.

    Now as to what you cite from his works, they offer nothing of exculpatory value. First, lots of heresies affirm the humanity and divinity of Christ-Monophysitism, Monothelitism, Nestorianism, etc. It all depends on what we mean by those terms. Craig doesn’t get to redefine them and then claim he is Chalcedonian.

    While it is true that Chalcedon does not offer an explanation of how such things can be and rather provides a structure for an acceptable Christology, the problem is that Craig’s view falls afoul of Chalcedon since it denies two activities in Christ and a substantial human soul in the sense that the Council understood and defined those terms.

    While it is true that Craig rejects crass Apollinarianism that offers nothing exculpatory either. First because everything depends on what Craig confesses and not what criticisms he offers of other views. Second, while he rejects the idea that the Logos takes the place of the human mind and provides no human funcitoning, he still affirms with Apllinarius that Chris lacked a human soul. Craig’s view is therefore fundamentally Apollinarian since it affirms the cardinal point upon which the condemnation of Apollinarianism turned.

    And Craig offers a slight of hand here also. Notice what he says “First, a body without a mind is a truncation of human nature…” Well is that true? Is it that a human body without a human mind is a truncation of a human nature or is it that a human body without a mind simpliciter is a truncation of human nature? Craig’s view is the latter while the Christian position is the former.

    Just so long as Craig’s position maintains that Christ lacks a substantial human soul, his view is Apollinarian regardless of the differences with historical Apollinarianism. (It is not unlike someone claiming Eunomianism is not condemned under Arianism since Eunomius differed in so many ways from Arius.) Having Christ manifest the properties of the human soul through self-limitation doesn’t cut it. One reason it doesn’t is that it is mere mimicry of human existence. Manifesting the properties of a human soul through self limitation would not be a human soul. It would just be the Logos acting like one. (Angels can also manifest material bodies, are they then too incarnations?) But the spirit of the Logos still would not be a human soul. And that doesn’t even touch the heresies of Monoenergism and Monothelitism that Craig openly advocates.

    The fact he is trying to avoid Nestorianism and Apollinarianism doesn’t provide anything of exculpatory value. Arius was trying to avoid Sabellianism and Nestorius was trying to avoid Monophysitism. What Craig doesn’t acknowledge is that Christ lacking a human substantial soul and a human will is heresy. On those two points his view is at least material heresy if not formal heresy, even on Protestant grounds.

    Craig in fact doesn’t try to “deeply nuance” his views. In fact he spends absolutely no time or effort interacting with the deeply nuanced views he rejects. Just look at Philosophical Foundations or any of the other places he discusses the two issues. There is absolutely zero analysis of the primary sources, no exegetical argument from scripture, and no interaction with the secondary literature, especially on Monothelitism. What we are offered from Craig is what “seems” to be the case or what he finds “baffling.”

    Second, when Craig says that he thinks the whole Church got Christology wrong and he offers his teaching in debates with non-Christians instead of Christian teaching, it isn’t a possible model. It is the actual model he is proposing. What Craig offers is that the Christian position “seems” to imply Nestorianism. Well “seemings” aren’t actual arguments. If you are going to say Christianity is wrong on the core doctrine of the Incarnation, then you had better have some proof and Craig offers none.

    The main problem is Craig’s assumption, brought in from his substance dualism that the soul is the person and this acts as a constraint on his Christology, motivating a revisionary account of the core doctrines of Christianity. But this is a position he never argues for.

    So yeah, Craig has placed himself outside of a credible profession of Christianity.

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