William Lane Craig lectures on failure in the Christian life

I found this audio on Brian Auten’s Apologetics 315 web site.

Here is the MP3 file.

And here is my summary.


  • the topic of failure is not one that is often discussed by Christians
  • failure #1: failure in the Christian life which is the result of sin
  • failure #2: when a Christian is defeated while trying to serve God
  • the consequences for failure #1 can be worse for the Christian
  • the consequences for failure #2 can be worse for the world as whole
  • how is it possible for a person to fail when they are obeying God? (#2)
  • how can it be that God can call someone to a task then let them fail?
  • failure is not persecution – persecution is normal for Christians
  • failure is not trials – testing is normal for Christians to grow

Bill’s failure:

  • Bill had submitted all the coursework for his second doctoral degree
  • but he had to pass a comprehensive oral examination
  • he failed to pass the comprehensive exam
  • Bill and Jan and his supporters had all prayed for him to pass
  • how could God allow this to happen?

Solution to the problem:

  • God’s will for us may be that we fail at the things we try in life
  • there are things that God may teach us through failure
  • Bill learned that human relationships are more important than careers
  • we need to realize that “success” in life is not worldly success
  • true success is getting to know God well during your life
  • and failure may be the best way to get to know God well
  • it may even be possible to fail to know God while achieving a lot
  • the real measure of a man is loving God and loving your fellow man


  • give thanks to God regardless of your circumstances
  • try to learn from your failure
  • never give up

The ending of Bill’s story:

  • Bill spent an entire year preparing for a re-take of his exam
  • Bill was awarded his second doctorate “magna cum laude” (with great distinction)
  • Bill learned that American students are not well prepared for exams
  • the year of studying remedied his inadequate American education
  • in retrospect, he is thankful for the failure – he learned more

If you like this, you should pick up Craig’s book “Hard Questions, Real Answers“, which has a chapter on this problem. And here is a similar lecture that Dr. Craig gave at his home church in Atlanta on the same topic. I’m not posting this because I’ve had a catastrophic failure or anything. But I think in this economy, I am seeing a lot of my plans dashed and I am being forced to circle the wagons a little and take fewer risks. I am being forced to aim for smaller goals, and plan for future difficulties. It does bother me that I can’t comfortably take risks to achieve the best goals that I want to achieve. But I have to play the hand I’m dealt, and do what looks doable right now. Some of my friends are having the same problem of having to recalculate what is probable and what is possible.

2 thoughts on “William Lane Craig lectures on failure in the Christian life”

  1. After recently attending a number of Christian fellowships multiple major cites over the years I have yet to hear a pastor/leader accurately portray salvation / discipleship.

    Until accurate there is a major change in Christian teaching that forgiveness is dependent on repentance and “grace/favor” does NOT alter, dismiss, nullify, modify, one the law of reaping/sowing or cause/effect – the bulk of people are casualties before they get started due to incorrect teaching.

    As mentioned, every circumstance is a opportunity to change and grow. Much like Paul and other who despite being jailed, beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, and falsely accused while learning to content in all situations (whoa !!!).

    Btw the mark of real Christian maturity is suffering for Christ (Col 1:24 and 2 Cor)



  2. Oh, goodness, thank you so much for this! I have watched and listened to countless lectures by WLC but I had never heard about this incident!

    The particulars are wildly different, but I fully understand his turmoil. To make a long story short, a few years ago I was sure I was following what God wanted me to do. I was living in a neighborhood where I thought I could make a difference and I was moving forward personally in some areas of personal/spiritual growth. For the first time in a long time, I thought I was on the right path.

    And then i lost my job. I actually left it, because the stress was making me physically ill. This was only after months of prayer and anguish on whether I was doing the right thing. My decision seemed to be confirmed because the day I gave notice, they told me they were going to lay me off anyway!

    I held on to my apartment as long as I could because I thought God wanted me there. I even cashed in my 401(k). The craziest part was one time I received an anonymous envelope with just the right amount of cash to pay the next month’s rent. Surely, God was going to come through!

    It was not to be.

    Six years later, I’m stuck living in my parents’ basement, and no amount of job searching has yielded a thing.

    I have no intention of turning away from God. But I also don’t have any hope that anything will ever change. I’ve had only a handful of job possibilities through these years, and despite all my efforts, even those have fallen through. I can no longer pray about this issue. What is there left to say? I have simply resigned myself to my fate.

    I hope to come through to the other side, as he did. But I confess… I am nowhere near that yet.


    As a side note, WLC has got to be one of the finest minds around. Wow.


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