William Lane Craig’s latest attack on me
Postscript. By the way here’s the quoted sentence in the context of the full paragraph in which it appears:
A robust natural theology may well be necessary for the gospel to be effectively heard in Western society today. In general, Western culture is deeply post-Christian. It is the product of the Enlightenment, which introduced into European culture the leaven of secularism that has by now permeated Western society. While most of the original Enlightenment thinkers were themselves theists, the majority of Western intellectuals today no longer considers theological knowledge to be possible. The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic.
I’m still kind of baffled by this. Here’s the interpretation that seemed most obvious to me at the time, and which I am still not entirely sure is wrong. Given a non-theistic culture, the application of reason will not lead to theism. It will lead to atheism or at least agnosticism. However, within a Christian, theological world-view, theism and Christianity can be shown to be rationally, internally consistent/coherent. We have two world views – both of which are internally rational and reasonable, each with their own presuppositions.
Notice this interpretation would be consistent with Craig’s claims elsewhere that theism/Christianity are rational, reasonable etc, and the title of his podcast “Reasonable Faith”. It’s also a mainstream religious view (it’s Alister McGrath’s, I think). So I saw no very obvious reason to reject it as an interpretation of the above passage. And it does make the final sentence come out as true. Craig is not just asserting that this is the mistaken view of secular “Western intellectuals”. From within the current dominant intellectual culture, the person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will indeed be atheistic or, at best, agnostic.
On another reading, Craig is indeed just saying in the final sentence what most of today’s Western intellectuals wrongly believe. The final sentence states, indeed flags up, a falsehood (which would have been clear had it begun, “The majority of Western Intellectuals now mistakenly believe that…” Though on this reading the paragraph ends very awkwardly (it asserts what’s actually being denied). It’s not the most natural reading, I think.
It would be good to know, just for clarity’s sake, what Craig meant. It’s certainly an uncharacteristically opaque passage open to various interpretations.
The key point of relevance, here, though, is that I did not know, and am still not absolutely sure, what the quoted sentence (and indeed paragraph) means exactly, and whether it it is meant to be true. Hopefully Craig himself will clarify.
[n.b. another fact which caused me pause for thought is that there are some religious intellectuals who hold two views – a “simple” version, for the punters, and a more “sophisticated” version for the intellectual insiders which is not usually made public except in coded form].
Postscript 2. In retrospect, maybe I’ve overreacted to Craig’s podcast on my misunderstandings. Yes he says I didn’t check the context when I very obviously did. And yes, Craig does at one point assert that I knew his actual views, and thus that the quote was misleading, when I didn’t. These comments do put me in a poor light. But of course, he’s hardly spent the 17 mins of the podcast accusing me of murder, here, has he? Perhaps I should have just shrugged and let it go. The more important task is to engage with his actual arguments….