Dr. Craig's Inner Witness of the Holy Spirit.

Let me add to what Michael Martin wrote on “Craig’s Holy Spirit Epistemology,” Here.

Dr. William Lane Craig argues that Christians should start with faith in the Christian God. Why? “We know Christianity to be true by the self authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit.” What does he mean by that? “I mean that the witness, or testimony, of the Holy Spirit is its own proof; it is unmistakable; it does not need other proofs to back it up; it is self-evident and attests to its own truth.” Hitchhiking on the philosophical work of Alvin Plantinga’s defense of the a properly basic belief in God, and citing the Bible (Gal. 3:26; 4:6; Rom. 8:15-16; I John 2:20, 26-27; 3:24; 5:7-10), Craig writes: “I would agree that belief in the God of the Bible is a properly basic belief, and emphasize that it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit that supplies the circumstance for its proper basically. And because this belief is from God, it is not merely rational, but definitely true.” [Apologetics, (pp. 18-22)].

Does Dr. Craig mean to say that he cannot be wrong? I think so. He knows Christianity is true. With this understanding he has insulated himself from any and all objections to the contrary. Dr. Craig knows he’s right because he knows he’s right, and that’s the end of the matter. Since he knows he’s right, Christianity is true.

But consider first the content to this inner self-authenticating witness. Does his inner witness of the Holy Spirit lead him to believe that all of the traditional Christian doctrines are true, as he understands them? Does this entail he has the correct understanding of things like God’s foreknowledge, predestination, eschatology, and Calvinism? Are his specific views on the Deity of Christ, baptism, the atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave, and his second coming all the correct ones? What is the particular content of this self-authentication from the Spirit? There must be some content to the witness of the Spirit that gives him assurance he’s right, and where does he learn this content? At what point does it stop and he’s left on his own to work things out from reading the Bible? Furthermore, does this inner witness tell him that his views on the self-authenticating testimony of the Holy Spirit are true?

So what is the actual content of this God experience? Where did this content come from, and how coherent is this content? That’s what I want to know, and I believe Craig will have no real satisfying answer to these questions, at least not to third person outsiders like myself.

And what about the coherence of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit of the things he has led Bill Craig to believe? An eternally uncreated Triune being (3 in 1?) who has always existed as he is (with no growth, for he was always perfect), with all power (but doesn't use it like we would if we saw a burning child), all knowledge (since he never learned anything), and who is present everywhere (a non-embodied being?) is just is too complex of an entity to believe in. And in the New Testament (which surely forms the content of this witness, and not the witness of the Spirit itself) we find an Incarnate Son of God who atoned for our sins (even though no one has yet made any reasonable sense of either an incarnate God or how his death atoned for our sins). Those who disbelieve go to hell (however conceived), making the problem of evil for a good omnipotent God impossible to solve (even though without a belief in hell it's insoluble anyway).

13 comments:

Frank Walton said...

I think the problem with your assessment here is that you totally overlooked Plantinga's Proper Basic Belief. Though you addressed it you haven't really begun to refute it. Atheist Mark Smith made the same mistake except that he didn't even mention Plantinga.

John W. Loftus said...

Frank, your site belittles your opponents, but I thought I'd see what you might say about mine.

As far as Dr. Craig knowing he's innocent of a crime even though all of the evidence points to his guilt, it still is possible that he is guilty of the crime despite him "knowing" he's innocent. He could have done the crime but he now has a mental block making him feel innocent because he has no memory of doing the crime. Even with his own personal experience of "knowing" he's innocent, he should still look at the evidence. At some point he too may doubt his innocence, depending on the strength of the evidence against him.

And as far as the need to have some content to this personal experience of God, Muslims and Mormons all claim to have an experience of some Supernatural Being they describe differently than the Supernatural Being Craig describes. Muslims will describe a completely monotheistic God, while Mormons will describe an anthropomorphic God (if I understand them correctly).

None of these faiths are describing the same God. They either have 1) differing experiences, or 2) the experiences that they all have are one and the same, or 3) they are all deluded and do not have any of these experiences at all (my view).

If these experiences are all one and the same, then in order to assess which faith interprets these experiences correctly cannot be known from the experiences themselves.

Frank Walton said...

Loftus: As far as Dr. Craig knowing he's innocent of a crime even though all of the evidence points to his guilt, it still is possible that he is guilty of the crime despite him "knowing" he's innocent. He could have done the crime but he now has a mental block making him feel innocent because he has no memory of doing the crime.

Frank: You can certainly make the case that he had a memory lapse but if we're talking about the veridical immediate experience of the Holy Spirit then you'd have to prove that whoever had the experience suffers from "memory blocks" as you put it. Also, realize that it is question-begging to say that those who know something to be true despite the contrary evidence suffer from memory block. Swinburne's credulity principle may come in handy here BTW.

Furthermore, the immediate experience of God does not necessarily entail certain Christian doctrines such as escahtology or sovereignty, etc. Rather, this is more about the proper basic belief. It is a way of embracing a position without having gone through the medium of justification. Wesley Salmon used to call this distinction the Discovery-Justification distinction (see his Logic book in the Foundations of Philosophy Series published by Prentice-Hall, 1984, 3rd ed.). Certain things could be "discovered" to be true yet lack justification until the reasoning and critical thinking process enter into the fray.

You mentioned Craig's book APOLOGETICS - might I suggest you read his more up-to-date book REASONABLE FAITH where he goes more in depth about the immediate experience of God. REASONABLE FAITH is a revision of APOLOGETICS by the way.

John W. Loftus said...

What if you woke up one morning to police officers who arrested you for murder? The case against you is that there were two witnesses who saw you at the scene of the crime, you had no alibi, you had a motive for murder, your blood and hair were found under the victims fingernails with corresponding scratches on your back, and the victim’s blood was found on your shoes? But you “know” you didn’t kill anyone. At that point you must consider the evidence against you, and it’s overwhelming. Your “knowing” is delusional no matter what the reason for your delusion, and that’s my whole point.

Since the above scenario is possible, you could also be deluded in claiming to know God exists because of a purported veridical experience of God.

The difference between the suggested "murder" scenario and Dr. Craig’s scenario is that there is hard objective evidence for the “murder,” whereas there is no hard objective evidence for Craig’s claim. But just because there isn’t the same kind of evidence for us to debunk Craig's claim, he can go on his merry delusional way all he wants to and have defenders like you agree with him. But he and you are both deluded.

Furthermore, could you please tell me the content of this so-called properly basic immediate experience belief of God? When I meet another person I know something about that person for me to claim to say I know her. I know what this person looks like, how she talks, and the better I know her I know how she acts, and what she believes. So there are stages to knowing someone, anyone.

What stage along the way to knowing God is the veridical immediate experience of God? What does someone know about God from this experience? If everyone has this same experience but they come away with differing interpretations of it, or a denial that one even has it, then such an experience is very very weak, and has little or no content to it.

As far as buying Craig’s revised REASONABLE FAITH book goes, I’ve already heard enough to know he’s wrong. I had a class with Craig on “Plantinga’s Thought.” But if you think it’ll help, then you can send me a copy. :)

Frank Walton said...

Hi John,

I really think you should retake the Plantinga class because it doesn't seem you really have a grasp on the philosophy. As I said to atheist Mark Smith, this amounts to an explanation and not an argument. There is a conclusion -- God exists -- and a premise -- God can be immediately known and experienced. Yet explanations have these characteristics, too. If a detractor attacks this as an argument, then it amounts to objecting that people have these experiences. Furthermore, the advocate leaves open the possibility that her experience could be mistaken. So, how do you object to people having these firsthand experiences? And the more one presses an objection, the more the advocate can protect her incorrigible experience. In other words, even if Dr. Craig is mistaken about his experience of God, he still had the experience. And if you say that God does not exist, then welcome to Pandora's playpen! Now you have to provide an alternate explanation. This isn't a debate strategy, it's a way to say that no matter how one critique's Craig's own arguments, Craig can always fall back on his experience until someone can propose a better explanation. As far as I can tell saying that those who had a veridical experience of God suffers from delusion hardly accounts as an explanation for my (or Craig's) experience. As far as I know I had no history of suffering from delusions of gradeur. See? You have yet to refute Craig's premise.

Also, not even the most skeptical scholar of epistemology thinks that evidence is the only means of truth-gathering. The fact remains: there is more than one avenue to the truth.

As far as knowing from who the experience came from I challenge you to read Scripture to find out. God mentions that if you draw toward Him; He in turn will draw to you.

Personally, I'm surprised that you don't have Dr. Craig's REASONABLE FAITH. I mean, you of all people! You practically mention his name all over your blog and even pride yourself at one time being a student of his - yet you don't have one of his most popular books! Seriously, how good of a student were you of his? I would love to give you a copy of the book but as an astute student you should get a copy of your own :o)

Thanks, I actually enjoyed the conversation.

Frank

John W. Loftus said...

Frank, thanks for your insight, and your politeness. You defend what you believe quite well. Feel free to comment on anything else you may enlighten me about on my Blog. I'll be visiting your site too.

Tell me this before we end it; are there occasions where we may legitimately challenge someone who claims to have had personal experiences of something? And are there occasions where the very person who claims to have had a personal experience of something should challenge his own perception of that experience?

And do you disagree with me that personal experiences themselves can be wrong? Experience is never proof of something in and of itself, even to the person having the experience.

What we consider to be incorrigible beliefs are those beliefs based in how something appears to us and how something makes us feel. For instance, even though I have personal experiences of touching a red pole, all I can technically say is that “I am being appeared to redly,” or “I am experiencing hardness.” Only those later two beliefs are undeniable, and hence incorrigible ones. But I could not conclude with any degree of certainty from these experiences and beliefs alone that a red pole exists (i.e. matter exists). (George Berkeley first made this kind of an argument for Idealism).

Likewise, someone might personally experience peace, forgiveness, contentment, security, happiness, or excitement and claim that those feelings came from a veridical experience with God. But what that person really experiences are the incorrigible feelings of peace, forgiveness, contentment, security, happiness, and excitement, not God. The belief that those feelings came from God is a conclusion not warranted by the experiences themselves.

As far as Dr. Craig's REASONABLE FAITH book goes, I have the original 1984 edition of this book, which I had initially quoted from.

Frank Walton said...

Lofuts: ...are there occasions where we may legitimately challenge someone who claims to have had personal experiences of something?

Walton: Absolutely.

Loftus: And are there occasions where the very person who claims to have had a personal experience of something should challenge his own perception of that experience?

Walton: Sure.

Loftus: And do you disagree with me that personal experiences themselves can be wrong?

Walton: No.

Loftus: Experience is never proof of something in and of itself, even to the person having the experience.

Walton: That's a bit simplistic because there are many factors to consider. For instance, is the person who is having the experience sane?

Loftus: The belief that those feelings came from God is a conclusion not warranted by the experiences themselves.

Walton: Read Plantinga. Basically, one would have to defeat defeaters before one can retain warranted belief in God. Just because a belief is properly basic it doesn't mean that you could simply neglect potential defeaters for that belief.

Hope that helps, my friend.

Frank

John W. Loftus said...

Frank, thanks for this discussion. You've made me think.

You've told me to read Plantinga, and I have read much of what he's written.

But what if Plantinga was a Muslim and he defended Islam with the same epistemological grounding?

And what if he furthermore claimed to have defeated all of the defeaters to the Muslim faith?

And what if I was a Muslim and I kept telling you to read Plantinga?

At that point what are you left with? You'd have to show how the Muslim Plantinga didn't defeat the defeaters, wouldn't you? And in so doing you would be asking me whether or not I truly had such an experience of Allah?

But let's say I remain convinced the Muslim Plantinga did defeat all of the defeaters. You'd just have to claim my mind is clouded by sin, even though I wouldn't think so at all.

I would be claiming to have a veridical personal experience of Allah, while you would be claiming I did not. You would say I had an experience of God but that I just misinterpreted it to be that of Allah. And even though I could use all of the same arguments of the Muslim Plantinga in defending my experience, you would still disagree, wouldn't you?

That's where we'd just have to leave it.

So, in the end, what good does it do the Christian faith to argue as Plantinga and Craig have argued? Why waste the ink and the paper? It may offer a false comfort and hope to Christians, and it does cause us all to think, but it offers no assurance whatsoever about the truth of the content of what you claim to have experienced, now does it?

Frank Walton said...

Loftus: But what if Plantinga was a Muslim and he defended Islam with the same epistemological grounding?

Walton: Muslims and Christians don't have the same epistemological grounding. There's a reason why Plantinga's philosophy is described as "Reformed Epistemology." Also, Craig mentioned the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit. Last I read, Muslims don't believe in the Holy Spirit. Plantinga's and Craig's philosophy here is distinctly Christian.

Steven Carr said...

If somebody is convinced they have a memory of being abducted by aliens and experimented on, is that properly basic?


Plantinga wrote a big, big book about warranted Christian belief.

In that book, is there a list of Christian beliefs Plantinga thinks are warranted?

It would be nice to see such a list.

Frank Walton said...

Carr: If somebody is convinced they have a memory of being abducted by aliens and experimented on, is that properly basic?

Walton: Possibly.

Carr: In that book, is there a list of Christian beliefs Plantinga thinks are warranted?

Walton: Why don't you read the book and find out?

Steven Carr said...

I think Frank is conceding, in his own special way, that Plantinga can write a big book about warranted Christian beliefs and never state *which* specifically Christian beliefs are warranted.

A mountain to produce a molehill....

How can the doctrines in the Nicence Creed be properly basic beliefs?

'And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.'

This is a properly basic belief of Christians?

Many Christians can't name the 10 commandments or the 4 Gospels, let alone have a personal experience telling them that Christ is begotten , not made, of one substance with the Father, God of very God.

Many Christians don't even know about these properly basic beliefs that Plantinga assures us Christians have.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Loftus: But what if Plantinga was a Muslim and he defended Islam with the same epistemological grounding?

Walton: Muslims and Christians don't have the same epistemological grounding. There's a reason why Plantinga's philosophy is described as "Reformed Epistemology." Also, Craig mentioned the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit. Last I read, Muslims don't believe in the Holy Spirit. Plantinga's and Craig's philosophy here is distinctly Christian.

This discussion seems centered around the idea of "personal" religious experience. People can believe that they had-or can claim to have had-some sort of "personal" experience with a supernatural being and can then say that because of that "personal" experience, they "know" that the supernatural being exists. Of course it goes without saying that when a person says that he or she had a "personal" experience with a supernatual being, this is never going to be enough, by itself, to convince any reasonable person that such a supernatural being actually exists. If a Muslim apologist says that he had a "personal" experience with Allah, this is not going to convince Bill Craig that Allah exists. Craig would certainly deny that this Muslim apologist had a "personal" experience with Allah. Craig would likely call it a delusion or would attribute it to demonic powers from his own Christian theology. So who cares about "personal" religious experience-apart from the person who has it? If "personal" religious experiences were to actually be considered reliable evidence for supernatural beings, then there is likely to be a multitude of supernatural beings out there since people claim all the time to have spoken to or to have otherwise had "personal" experiences with all sorts of supernatural beings. Does Frank Walton deny that these "personal" religious experiences are genuine? Does he believe that only Christian "personal" religious experiences are real?

I think it would be interesting to learn what, specifically, Bill Craig is referring to when he talks about personally experiencing God. Does he hear voices in his head, or does he see a bright light, or does he feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Does Craig described this "Inner Witness of the Holy Spirit" anywhere?

Brooks