William Lane Craig Answers My Follow-Up Question...Finally!

Back in July of 2007 I asked a question of William Lane Craig about Lessing's Broad Ugly Ditch, which I had previously written about here. This is Craig's answer, seen here. Then later that same month I asked him a follow-up question which he delayed responding to until Kevin Harris asked him on this week's podcast, which can be heard right here.

Based on Lessing's ditch Craig admits that historical evidence does not lead the believer to "certainty." Right that. In fact it's even worse than that. Christian, tell us, what is the probability that your faith is true based upon the historical evidence alone? Be honest. How sure are you that you are right about Christianity? Remember, you must be correct about a whole host of essential so-called historical truths like the incarnation, virgin birth, atonement, salvation, resurrection and so forth. In any debate you've heard on the resurrection, for instance, what would you say the probability is for the winner, even if we grant that the winner is Craig himself? 51% 60% 65% 70%? It's not even close to certainty, is it? The lack of certainty isn't the problem here. The problem is that Christians are called upon to stake their whole existence on a probability of historical evidence, depending on how he or she judges the case. So what is it, Christian? I'm very curious. Do you say that it’s 60% probable the Bible is true? Do you say that it’s 60% probable Jesus bodily arose from the dead? Why not? That’s the best you can say, I think, based upon the historical evidence, and even then I totally disagree. But does a 60% probability demand that you to stake your entire life and all that you do upon it? I think not.

Craig admits even more than this, though. Since people don't have access to the evidence how can they be sure their faith is true? According to Craig, God will not abandon us to the evidence of history or the "accidents of geography." So there must be some basis for these people to believe other than the evidence, he said. Really? How does he come to this conclusion, that there must be some basis other than the evidence to believe? Isn’t this assuming that which he needs to prove? He’s assuming his Christian God to explain away a problem—-the problem of people who do not have adequate evidence to believe—-and that his God would surely not ask them to believe if they couldn’t have access to the evidence. He’s also assuming that he has the correct understanding of the relevant Biblical texts, something which I’ve seen interpreted differently.

So let’s put this into perspective. Craig claims to have access to this evidence but even with this access he cannot know with certainty his faith is correct. An interesting question at this point would be to ask him how probable he thinks Christianity is based solely on the historical evidence he has access to. Again, 60% 70%? Then based on this probability he must also stake his claims about the inner witness of the Holy Spirit on the probability he has properly exegeted the relevant Biblical texts. Again, 60% 70%? Multiplying these two conclusions alone at 70% each, we get an overall probability for his claims of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit at 49% (70% times 70%). Not much of a claim if you ask me, even granting him the strength of his arguments.

Then when asked my follow-up question Craig stumbles a bit. Did you hear it? All he seems to conclude is that this witness reveals that God exists and that a person has assurance she is saved. And that isn’t even an answer, for we still need to know more about this God (a pantheist god, is after all, a God), why we need to be saved, from what do we need saved, how we are saved, what we must do in response to his offer of salvation, and so forth, and so on. He even admits he doesn’t know exactly where the limits are. These limits are “vague” and “ambiguous,” which is so good of a dodge that Sarah Palin would be proud of the way he handled the question!

Even to suggest, as Harris does, that such a witness “starts the regenerative process,” doesn’t help. For Craig affirms he knows the truth of Christianity by this inner witness of the Spirit! If this so-called witness merely starts some process, then how it ends that process isn’t explained! Point in fact, Craig would claim that there are essential propositional truths that someone must believe in to be saved. He would not think a liberal Christian is saved, who does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, or someone who didn’t believe Jesus was God in the flesh, or someone who didn’t accept the Trinitarian God. These are propositional truths and they are based upon historical claims (who, for instance, would claim to know Jesus arose from the dead purely on philosophical grounds--not even Swinburne!?). For Craig, there are essential propositional truths that when believed make someone a Christian. Why then doesn't Craig say the inner witness of the Holy Spirit reveals all of the essential propositional truths necessary for salvation?

Then he finally turns the tables on me. He chuckles while he says, “Why should he (that is me) be setting the standard as to what [content] God wants to provide?” Again, this all assumes he is correct about everything he argues for, doesn’t it? Who sets the standard? Well, the obvious answer is that the rules of evidence and the reasonableness of argumentation set the standard for what I can believe, and that’s it. If there is a reasonable God he should know what those standards are, otherwise he’s asking us to believe against the standards that reasonable people demand, those that he supposedly created in us. It’s simply not reasonable to believe the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is available to everyone, or that it should be used as an excuse for believing without access to the available evidence. The bottom line is that if the Holy Spirit provides its own sufficient evidence to believe, then it should also provide all of the necessary and essential propositional content to the believer for being saved. That’s something I don’t hear Craig saying, because this very content is derived soley from the probability of historical investigations, and those conclusions can only result in some level of probability.