Category Archives: Polemics

Dr. William Lane Craig answers questions about Jesus in the New York Times

William Lane Craig lecturing to university students
William Lane Craig lecturing to university students at Purdue University

Nicholas Kristof, a secular leftist writer for the New York Times, is interested in Jesus, but he doesn’t want a Jesus who can perform miracles. He decided to ask the best living philosphical theologian, Dr. William Lane Craig, some questions. As you’ll see, Dr. Craig’s answers to his questions are perfect for the secular left audience of the New York Times.

Before we start looking at the questions and answers, I want to mention one important point. When discussing Christianity, it’s very important that Christians not allow the atheist to nitpick about minor details of Christian history or Christian theology. The Christian needs to ALWAYS redirect the discussion to the question of God’s existence. There, we are strongly supported by mainstream science. Only when the skeptic accepts a Creator and Designer can we allow ourselves to be moved on to specific points of theology or history.

Like this:

  • Skeptic: was Jesus born of a virgin?
  • Christian: do you accept a Creator and Designer of the universe?
  • Skeptic: no
  • Christian: then let’s discuss the scientific evidence for that first

And again:

  • Skeptic: am I going to Hell?
  • Christian: do you accept a Creator and Designer of the universe?
  • Skeptic: no
  • Christian: then let’s discuss the scientific evidence for that first

Why is this important? It’s important because most skeptics are fundamentalists. They think that if they can refute Christianity on an edge case issue, then the core crumbles. It’s very important to frame the discussion so that the skeptic understands that there are core claims of Christianity which are important and strongly evidenced, and there are less important claims, and also claims that are not well evidenced. The goal of any discussion with a skeptic is to get them to accept the important core claims which are strongly evidenced. If they accept the core, that’s enough to get them out of atheism, and into a relationship with God, where they can continue to grow.

I wrote a whole post about this that you can read later, but let’s get to the interview with Dr. Craig.

Let’s start with the first question and answer:

Kristof: Merry Christmas, Dr. Craig! I must confess that for all my admiration for Jesus, I’m skeptical about some of the narrative we’ve inherited. Are you actually confident that Jesus was born to a virgin?

Craig: Merry Christmas to you, too, Nick! I’m reasonably confident. When I was a non-Christian, I used to struggle with this, too. But then it occurred to me that for a God who could create the entire universe, making a woman pregnant wasn’t that big a deal! Given the existence of a Creator and Designer of the universe (for which we have good evidence), an occasional miracle is child’s play. Historically speaking, the story of Jesus’ virginal conception is independently attested by Matthew and Luke and is utterly unlike anything in pagan mythology or Judaism. So what’s the problem?

Did you notice what Dr. Craig did there? Regarding the evidence from science, Dr. Craig has defended that in two separate academic books, both with Oxford University Press. (Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology and God? A Debate Between A Christian and An Atheist)

Here it is again:

Kristof: How do you account for the many contradictions within the New Testament? For example, Matthew says Judas hanged himself, while Acts says that he “burst open.” They can’t both be right, so why insist on inerrancy of Scripture?

Craig: I don’t insist on the inerrancy of Scripture. Rather, what I insist on is what C.S. Lewis called “mere Christianity,” that is to say, the core doctrines of Christianity. Harmonizing perceived contradictions in the Bible is a matter of in-house discussion amongst Christians. What really matters are questions like: Does God exist? Are there objective moral values? Was Jesus truly God and truly man? How did his death on a Roman cross serve to overcome our moral wrongdoing and estrangement from God? These are, as one philosopher puts it, the “questions that matter,” not how Judas died.

For those who are concerned by this answer, you should know Dr. Craig is the former president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, and they do indeed sign a statement of faith that includes inerrancy. But again, an interview in the New York Times is not the place to focus on defending inerrancy. This is the place to have secular left elites contend with the core claims of Christianity.

In the next question and answer, notice how Dr. Craig refuses to yield that the skeptic is rational and evidence-driven. You should never let atheists assume that atheism is the “default” view of people who are reasonable and evidence-driven. Atheism is NOT the default view for reasonable people who are evidence-driven. Atheism is a furious retreat away from reason and evidence. In particular, it’s a refusal to bound your worldview with science and history.

More Dr. Craig:

Kristof: Over time, people have had faith in Zeus, in Shiva and Krishna, in the Chinese kitchen god, in countless other deities. We’re skeptical of all those faith traditions, so should we suspend our emphasis on science and rationality when we encounter miracles in our own tradition?

Craig: I don’t follow. Why should we suspend our emphasis on science and rationality just because of weakly evidenced, false claims in other religions? I champion a “reasonable faith” that seeks to provide a comprehensive worldview that takes into account the best evidence of the sciences, history, philosophy, logic and mathematics. Some of the arguments for God’s existence that I’ve defended, such as the arguments from the origin of the universe and the fine-tuning of the universe, appeal to the best evidence of contemporary science. I get the impression, Nick, that you think science is somehow incompatible with belief in miracles. If so, you need to give an argument for that conclusion. David Hume’s famous argument against miracles is today recognized, in the words of philosopher of science John Earman, as “an abject failure.” No one has been able to do any better.

This is the book he’s alluding to, there. Oxford University Press.

Please read the whole interview.

If you have non-Christian friends who think that all the “smart people” reject Christianity, and you don’t now how to talk to them, why not send them this article from the New York Times? There are also resources that you can use to train yourself to answer questions like he did.

Some people reading may not like Dr. Craig’s approach. That might be because you’re only able to talk about Christianity to people by quoting the Bible to them. Maybe you think that quoting the Bible to a non-Christian will cause them to become a Christian. This approach, (I call it the “magic words” approach), is popular in many churches. It will work on people who are already Christians, but it won’t work on non-Christians, since they don’t accept the Bible. It’s also not how anyone in the New Testament talked about spiritual things. (See Acts 17 for an example, or read what Jesus does to prove his claims to skeptics in the gospel of John). If you want to discuss Christianity outside the church, then I recommend Dr. Craig’s approach.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

Did the early church invent the divinity of Jesus over a long period of time?

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity

How early is the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus?

When I answer this question, I only want to use the earliest, most reliable sources – so I can defend them on historical grounds using the standard rules of historiography.

The 4 sources that I would use are as follows:

  • The early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, and 1 Corinthians 1
  • A passage in Philippians 2
  • Two passages from Mark, the earliest gospel
  • A passage from Q, which is an early source of Matthew and Luke

So let’s see the passages.

1 Corinthians

I’ve written before about the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, which skeptical scholars date to 1-3 years after the death of Jesus, for a variety of reasons I covered in the previous post. Here’s the creed which definitely makes Jesus out to be more than an ordinary man. Ordinary men don’t get resurrection bodies after they die.

Here’s the passage: (1 Cor 15:3-8)

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,

8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Additionally, 1 Corinthians 1:21-25 talks about Jesus being “the power of God and the wisdom of God”. Paul is identifying Jesus with the divine.

21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,

23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

But it gets even stronger! You all probably already know that the most important passages in the Old Testament for Jews is the famous “Shema“, which is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. The Shema is a strong statement of Jewish monotheism.

Here’s the passage:

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.

7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

So how does Paul fit Jesus in with this strong statement of Jewish monotheism?

Paul alludes to the Shema in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6.

4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.

5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”),

6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Holy mackerel! How did that get in there? Paul is splitting the roles of God in the the Shema and identifying Jesus in one of the divine roles! Jesus is not an ordinary man. That passage “through whom all things came” foreshadows John identifying Jesus as “the Word of God”, which “became flesh and dwelt among us”. Holy snark – did you guys know that was all in here so early?

The date for 1 Corinthians is 55 AD. It should be noted that skeptical scholars like James Crossley accept these passages, and you can check it out in the debate audio yourself.

Philippians

Check out Philippians 2:5-11.

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The date for Philippians is 60-61 AD. Still within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses, and written by an eyewitness who was in contact with the other eyewitnesses, like Peter and James, whom Paul spoke with numerous times on his journeys to Jerusalem.

Mark’s gospel

Mark’s gospel is the earliest and atheists like James Crossley date it to less than 40 AD, which is 10 years after the death of Jesus at most. When you read the gospel of Mark, you are getting the earliest and best information available about the historical Jesus, along with Paul’s epistles. So what does Mark say about Jesus? Is Jesus just a man, or is he something more?

Check out Mark 12:1-9:

1He then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey.

2At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.

3But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed.

4Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully.

5He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

6“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

7“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’

8So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

9“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.

And Mark 13:32, talking about the date of the final judgment.

32“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

And again, this passage is establishing a hierarchy such that Jesus is being exalted above all men and the angels, too. And the passage is embarrassing to the early church, because it makes Jesus look ignorant of something, so they would not have made this passage up. Jesus is not an ordinary man, he is above the angels – God’s unique Son.

The “Q” source for Matthew and Luke

Here’s Matthew 11:27, which is echoed in Luke 10:22:

27“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

22“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Since this passage is in both of Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark, scholars believe that it is in the earlier “Q” source used by both Matthew and Luke. Q predates both Matthew and Luke, and so it is also fairly early (maybe 67-68), although not as early as Mark and Paul. Bill Craig writes that this passage is also embarrassing because it says that no one knows Jesus.

Did your science textbook teach that embryo drawings prove evolution?

Haeckel's embryos and scientific fraud
Haeckel’s embryos and scientific fraud

Jonathan Wells, a biologist with Ph.Ds from Yale and UC Berkeley, writes about one example of fake evidence here:

Charles Darwin thought that “by far the strongest” evidence that humans and fish are descended from a common ancestor was the striking similarity of their early embryos. According to Darwin, the fact that “the embryos of the most distinct species belonging to the same class are closely similar, but become, when fully developed, widely dissimilar… reveals community of descent.” 2 To illustrate this, German Darwinist Ernst Haeckel made some drawings in the 1860s to show that the embryos of vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) look almost identical in their earliest stages.

But Haeckel faked his drawings. Not only do they distort vertebrate embryos by making them appear more similar than they really are (in a way that Stephen Jay Gould wrote “can only be called fraudulent” 3), but they also omit classes and stages that do not fit Darwin’s theory. Most significantly, Haeckel omitted the earliest stages, in which vertebrate embryos are strikingly different from each other. The stage he portrayed as the first is actually midway through development. Yet according to Darwin’s logic, early dis-similarities do not provide evidence for common ancestry.

Haeckel used his faked drawings to support not only Darwinian evolution, but also his own “Biogenetic Law,” which stated that embryos pass through the adult stages of their ancestors in the process of development.

…Haeckel’s drawings were exposed as fakes by his own contemporaries, and his Biogenetic Law was thoroughly discredited by 20th century biologists. It is now generally acknowledged that early embryos never resemble the adults of their supposed ancestors. A modern version of recapitulation claims that early embryos resemble the embryos of their ancestors, but since fossil embryos are extremely rare, this claim is little more than speculation based on the assumption that Darwin’s theory is true.

Now the standard response from Darwinists: no textbooks are still using the fraudulent embryo images.

You can see the actual faked pictures from the modern textbooks here. These textbooks were being produced as late as 2004, even though the fraud was detected in the 1800s! Is this the vaunted self-correction of science, or science being twisted to support social and political goals?

And this excerpt from that article is interesting:

Some Darwinists continue to deny that there has been any misuse of Haeckel in recent times. If that is the case, why did Stephen Jay Gould attack how textbooks use Haeckel in 2000? Gould wrote: “We should… not be surprised that Haeckel’s drawings entered nineteenth-century textbooks. But we do, I think, have the right to be both astonished and ashamed by the century of mindless recycling that has led to the persistence of these drawings in a large number, if not a majority, of modern textbooks!” (emphasis added) Similarly, in 1997, the leading embryologist Michael K. Richardson lamented in the journal Anatomy and Embyology that “Another point to emerge from this study is the considerable inaccuracy of Haeckel’s famous figures. These drawings are still widely reproduced in textbooks and review articles, and continue to exert a significant influence on the development of ideas in this field.” (emphases added)

Here is a link to the peer-reviewed journal Science, where there is an article talking about the fraudulent embryo drawings. Yes – the drawings really are fraudulent.

And finally, Casey Luskin has a new post up at Evolution News that lists all the textbooks that contain the fraudulent drawings. One is dated 2013! The drawings just keep getting recycled over and over as a “proof” of evolution.

Paul Copan responds to questions frequently asked by postmodern relativists

Lets take a closer look at a puzzle
Lets take a closer look at a puzzle

Four articles from Paul Copan over at the UK site “BeThinking”. Each article responds to a different slogan that you might hear if you’re dealing with non-Christians on the street.

“That’s just your interpretation!”

Some of his possible responses:

  • Gently ask, ‘Do you mean that your interpretation should be preferred over mine? If so, I’d like to know why you have chosen your interpretation over mine. You must have a good reason.’
  • Remind your friend that you are willing to give reasons for your position and that you are not simply taking a particular viewpoint arbitrarily.
  • Try to discern if people toss out this slogan because they don’t like your interpretation. Remind them that there are many truths we have to accept even if we don’t like them.
  • ‘There are no facts, only interpretations’ is a statement that is presented as a fact. If it is just an interpretation, then there is no reason to take it seriously.

More responses are here.

“You Christians are intolerant!”

Some of his possible responses:

  • If you say that the Christian view is bad because it is exclusive, then you are also at that exact moment doing the very thing that you are saying is bad. You have to be exclusive to say that something is bad, since you exclude it from being good by calling it bad.
  • There is a difference, a clear difference between tolerance and truth. They are often confused. We should hold to what we believe with integrity but also support the rights of others to disagree with our viewpoint.
  • Sincerely believing something doesn’t make it true. You can be sincere, but sincerely wrong. If I get onto a plane and sincerely believe that it won’t crash then it does, then my sincerity is quite hopeless. It won’t change the facts. Our beliefs, regardless of how deeply they are held, have no effect on reality.

More responses are here.

“That’s true for you, but not for me!”

Some of his possible responses:

  • If my belief is only true for me, then why isn’t your belief only true for you? Aren’t you saying you want me to believe the same thing you do?
  • You say that no belief is true for everyone, but you want everyone to believe what you do.
  • You’re making universal claims that relativism is true and absolutism is false. You can’t in the same breath say, ‘Nothing is universally true’ and ‘My view is universally true.’ Relativism falsifies itself. It claims there is one position that is true – relativism!

More responses are here.

“If you were born in India, you’d be a Hindu!”

Some of his possible responses:

  • Just because there are many different religious answers and systems doesn’t automatically mean pluralism is correct.
  • If we are culturally conditioned regarding our religious beliefs, then why should the religious pluralist think his view is less arbitrary or conditioned than the exclusivist’s?
  • If the Christian needs to justify Christianity’s claims, the pluralist’s views need just as much substantiation.

More responses are here.

And a bonus: “How do you know you’re not wrong?“.

Older career woman calls Dennis Prager show to warn young women about marriage

I used to listen to the Dennis Prager show all the time, and my favorite hour was the male-female hour, which is the second hour every Wednesday. In that hour, you will hear some of the most frank discussion of male and female issues. In a recent male-female hour, a 50-year old woman called in to give advice to younger women.

Prager explains in National Review:

Every Wednesday, the second hour of my national radio show is the “Male/Female Hour.” A few weeks ago, a woman named Jennifer called in. For reasons of space, I have somewhat shortened her comments. Every young woman should read them. This is precisely what she said:

Dennis, I want to get right to it. I’m 50 years old with four college degrees. I was raised by a feminist mother with no father in the home. My mother told me get an education to the maximum level so that you can get out in the world, make a lot of money. And that’s the path I followed. I make adequate money. I don’t make a ton of money. But I do make enough to support my own household.

I want to tell women in their 20s: Do not follow the path that I followed. You are leading yourself to a life of loneliness. All of your friends will be getting married and having children, and you’re working to compete in the world, and what you’re doing is competing with men. Men don’t like competitors. Men want a partner. It took me until my late 40s to realize this.

And by the time you have your own household with all your own bills, you can’t get off that track, because now you’ve got to make the money to pay your bills. It’s hard to find a partner in your late 40s to date because you also start losing self-confidence about your looks, your body. It’s not the same as it was in your 20s. You try to do what you can to make your life fulfilling. I have cats and dogs. But it’s lonely when you see your friends having children, going on vacations, planning the lives of their children, and you don’t do anything at night but come home to your cats and dogs. I don’t want other women to do what I have done.

How did this happen to her?

Somebody asked me the other day, “Why did you stay single and never have kids?” There’s answers: Because I was brainwashed by my mother into this. But it’s hard and it’s shameful to tell people, “I don’t know. I ran out of time.”

There’s not a good answer for it except “I was programmed to get into the workforce, compete with men and make money.” Supposedly, that would be a fulfilling life. But I was told that by a feminist mother who was divorced, who hated her husband — my father.

She tried to steer me on what she thought was the right path, but feminism is a lie. That’s what I want women to know.

I didn’t realize this until late in life. I want to tell women: Find someone in your 20s. That’s when you’re still very cute. That’s when you’re still amiable to working out problems with someone. It’s harder in your 50s, when you’ve lived alone, to compromise with someone, to have someone in your home and every little thing about them annoys you because you’re so used to being alone. It’s hard to undo that, so don’t do what I did. Find someone in your 20s.

Now I have a lot I want to say about this column, but I really liked what Robert Stacy McCain said in his post.

He wrote:

There is an entire category of self-help books by Christian women whose devotion to “traditional family values” somehow never resulted in them walking down the aisle, and so they write about the “godly single” life and offer relationship advice (which would seem to be the blind leading the blind, so to speak). [Older traditional conservative unmarried women] often blame men for their failure, complaining that men need to “man up.” The more likely explanation, of course, is that these women actually had matrimonial opportunities in their youth, but just didn’t play their cards right and, rather than confess their errors — “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa” — instead rationalize their failure by scapegoating men.

I don’t want young women to be wasting their teens and 20s like this woman is, choosing men for relationships using criteria that have nothing at all to do with marriage, or what a man does in a marriage:

This person is looking for domestic violence, not a husband
She’s looking for drama, domestic violence and instability – not for a husband

I would advise young, unmarried women today not to indulge in drunkenness and promiscuity in their late teens and 20s. We know from studies that virgin brides make for a more stable and happier marriage. Given the divorce laws, and the high number of divorces for unhappiness, it makes sense to be a virgin and choose a virgin to marry. I think young women should focus their energy on relationships with men who don’t want sex before marriage, but would prefer to commit and start a family. Although these men may not be “attractive” according to superficial criteria, they should be selected because they are good at marriage, and want to marry sooner, rather than later.

On the other hand, I would advise successful man to choose a woman who is attracted to his abilities as a husband and father. Choose a woman who respects your ability to be serious, to be self-controlled, to be focused on serving others, and to achieve what you set out to achieve. Men need respect more than they need oxygen. In order to get that respect, a man has to choose a woman who has, from earliest times, preferred men who have good moral character, demonstrated leadership ability, and a proven record of achieving what he set out to achieve by wise decision-making.

Where are all the good women?

Captain Capitalism says that although successful men would like to have a wife and children, they are not finding any women who are qualified to be wives and mothers.

He writes:

It is a very REAL fact men are facing today when it comes to marriage – that the only younger women out there to date and potentially marry up are all brainwashed, leftist, NPC women.  They ALL vote democrat.  They ALL are feminists.  They ALL put their career above everything else.  They ALL have crippling debts.  They ALL have dubious careers.  And to any man who takes having a wife and forming a family seriously, these women are simply unqualified for the job.  This isn’t to say literally “all” women are like this (there are engineers, accountants, and traditional women), but the statistics are so skewed, so bad, there is effectively no choice for most men today.

There’s a wonderful opportunity here for Christian women to distinguish themselves from women who aren’t making good decisions about men and marriage.

For example, I think it’s a good idea for women to have a worldview that is pro-marriage. I even wrote a post about that, with 10 questions to evaluate whether you have a marriage-friendly worldview.

It’s also a good idea for young Christian women to prepare to how to discuss their faith intelligently with a man. I put together a helpful list of 10 questions that a woman who is serious about her Christian faith should be able to answer.

Ideally, it would be common for Christian women to understand how to discuss their faith in a reasoned way with non-Christians, using scientific and historical evidence. That will prepare her to evaluate a man’s spiritual leadership ability, and to answer the questions that serious Christian men will ask her to see if she is ready for marriage. Men ask these questions because we think about choosing someone who has an authentic faith in order to raise our children. The idea of putting an informed Christian woman in the mother role excites us. Note: men know that debt-free wives can have children sooner, and that means we will get more children. If you want to get married, and have lots of children, then choose a STEM degree, so you can get out of debt quickly with only a few years of work.

Christian women should be more serious about preparing for marriage, and choosing marriage-minded men, than this lady:

Do young women understand how to get to a stable marriage?
Do young women understand how to get to a stable marriage?

There’s no question today that women have the intelligence and ability to succeed in careers. We should be teaching them to apply their intelligence and ability to understanding how to prepare for marriage. They should understand when men want to marry and why men want to marry, and then govern their own decisions and priorities so that they achieve the goal of getting married. Not every man is marriage-ready and commitment-focused. But if women are serious about marriage, then they should choose to get into relationships ONLY with those men who are serious about marriage. They shouldn’t choose to waste their best years on fun with men who don’t want to commit to them.