Monday, May 21, 2012

What Craig said....

Craig (PS correction: one of Craig's Reasonable Faith guys) has said about that quote that Craig never meant that reason alone leads to atheism.  Go here. Thanks to the Uncredible Hallq. We should take Craig at his word of course, and put down what Craig actually said to an uncharacteristic lapse of clarity.

Here by the way is another piece by Craig in which he maintains that atheists know God exists and, by the end of their lifetime, also the great truths of the Gospels.

Notice that Craig talks below about how God reveals himself in nature, but also that nature provides "evidence".

Is the idea that atheists can just see that God exists, as they look upon nature? Or is it that they should merely infer God's existence on the basis of evidence that nature furnishes? If the latter, then they don't necessarily know God exists - they may fail to spot the evidence or make the inference. And why is infinite punishment an appropriate penalty for failing to spot evidence or draw the right conclusions? Inattentiveness and logical error don't merit infinite punishment, surely?

Craig appears to endorse Paul, who says that God's existence is manifest in nature, even to the atheist, who thus does know God exists, and thus is without excuse. Plus there is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit drawing the atheist to knowledge of God (though this suggests the Holy Spirit might fail in this project, and thus the atheist might not come to know God exists by that route).

Craig posts a letter in which he is asked:

Dear Dr. Craig,

I am a brazilian Christian. Your work for the kingdom has been a tremendous help to me in my spiritual life.


I believe God exists, but I am troubled with a question.

Christians are supposed to think that God will punish atheists for choosing not to believe. But how can an sincere atheist be blamed for not believing?


Craig responds...

I find that contemporary atheists take great umbrage at the biblical claim that God holds people to be morally culpable for their unbelief. They want to maintain their unbelief in God without accepting the responsibility for it. This attitude enables them to reject God with impunity. 

Now we can agree that a person cannot be held morally responsible for failing to discharge a duty of which he is uninformed. So the entire question is: are people sufficiently informed to be held morally responsible for failing to believe in God? The biblical answer to that question is unequivocal. First, God has provided a revelation of Himself in nature that is sufficiently clear for all cognitively normal persons to know that God exists. Paul writes to the Roman church:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened (Rom. 1. 18-21).

In Paul’s view God’s properties, His eternal power and deity, are clearly revealed in creation, so that people who fail to believe in an eternal, powerful Creator of the world are without excuse. Indeed, Paul says that they actually do know that God exists, but they suppress this truth because of their unrighteousness. As result they become so clouded in their thinking that they may actually deceive themselves into thinking that they are open-minded inquirers honestly pursuing the truth. The human capacity for rationalization and self-deception, I’m sure we’ve all observed, is very great, indeed, and in the biblical view atheists are prey to it.

Second, wholly apart from God’s revelation in nature is the inner witness which the Holy Spirit bears to the great truths of the Gospel, including, I should say, the fact that God exists. Anyone who fails to believe in God by the end of his lifetime does so only by a stubborn resistance to the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing that person to a knowledge of God. On the biblical view people are not like 

innocent, lost lambs wandering helplessly without a guide. Rather they are determined rebels whose wills are set against God and who must be subdued by God’s Spirit.

13 comments:

Steven Carr said...

'In Paul’s view God’s properties, His eternal power and deity, are clearly revealed in creation, so that people who fail to believe in an eternal, powerful Creator of the world are without excuse.'

The Bible says it. Craig believes it. That settles it.

But why should anybody care what Paul thought?

Paul might think that only a god could create cholera, rabies, smallpox and earthquakes.

But why should anybody share that opinion?

CRAIG
Rather they are determined rebels whose wills are set against God and who must be subdued by God’s Spirit.

CARR
I see that Craig thinks his (rather puny god) does not interfere with people's free will.

Or was that in a different context?

How come Craig's puny god can't convince atheists to believe the evidence of their own eyes?

If Craig's god started killing a few more children, as he used to do in the Old Testament, perhaps more people would believe.

2 Kings 17:25

When they first lived there, they did not worship the Lord; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people.

What's wrong with Craig's god? Has he run out of lions, or something?

Why doesn't Craig's god kill unbelievers anymore? That would get them to believe.

Because Craig's god is a figment of his imagination , that is why we unbelievers can get through entire lives without ever needing to think a god ever does anything.

Steven Carr said...

The irony is that Paul, who preached that people should believe just by the world around, according to the Bible story, refused to believe until he was struck down, blinded and received personal visits by the resurrected Jesus himself.

How come we don't get one thousandth of the alleged evidence that Paul got?

As for Craig's hyperbole about the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, his personal testimony revealed that he felt a lot better after a good cry and then went outside and saw a lot of stars in the sky.

That was it.

Somehow that utterly banal event became 'the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.'

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Two corrections:

(1) It's Uncredible, not Incredible (I thought the U was a funny joke when I was 18.)

(2) Craig didn't say that, a volunteer working for him said that, and the volunteer didn't say whether he checked with Craig first.

Less conclusively, Craig's exegesis of Paul should be compared with what he says in Reasonable Faith, where he's quite clear on the fact that many people (Christians and non-Christians alike) have no good arguments for accepting Christianity. From that, Craig infers that arguments can only have a subsidiary role in supporting faith (see p. 50 of the 3rd edition.) This makes it puzzling what Craig thinks God's being made manifest through nature is.

Kel said...

"God has provided a revelation of Himself in nature that is sufficiently clear for all cognitively normal persons to know that God exists."
I guess I'm not cognitively normal - though I'm unsure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Stephen Law said...

(i) apologies for type-O Chris.

re (ii) I have corrected that, thanks.

And thanks for the ref, to Craig's Reasonable Faith. Yes I was vaguely aware he said that (having read the book last year). So perhaps, though Craig talks about evidence in the above quote, he doesn't really mean that we must infer that God exists on the basis of what we see around us; rather, God's existence is just directly manifest in what we see around us. Argument is not required.

Stephen Law said...

Sorry, Craig talks about evidence in the *continuation* of the above quote:

"Their unbelief is culpable because it is maintained in the face of the evidence and in defiance of the Holy Spirit."

Paul P. Mealing said...

The Brasilian Christian demonstrates a quality that Craig does not possess. He is empathetic and tolerant and therefore expects a tolerant God. Craig’s God is narcissistic and intolerant, not unlike Craig.

Regards, Paul.

Tony Lloyd said...

Is the idea that atheists can just see that God exists, as they look upon nature? Or is it that they should merely infer God's existence on the basis of evidence that nature furnishes?
Could the claim not be that there is so much evidence that there is simply no option but to accept that God exists? Rather like evolution. Though we do allow for ignorance with evolution we can safely take it that those who are not ignorant are mentally defective or dishonest. Our attitude to someone like Kent Hovind is very similar to that of Paul to towards the ungodly: he does really know and he’s without excuse for pretending otherwise.
The difference being, of course, that there is an argument that there is overwhelming evidence for evolution and that argument has been, repeatedly, made. (It consists of compiling an overwhelming argument for evolution and saying “here it is”). Craig’s arguments do not consist in showing how the evidence for God stacks up but in using Paul as his evidence that there is evidence.

wombat said...

"unbelief is culpable" ?

How so? In what way is this a moral act.

Does he mean something more active like "declaring a belief" or "acting on a belief"? Simply holding a belief in the privacy of ones own mind does not appear to have any moral consequences.

That aside, the idea that one can choose a belief in a conscious way seems rather debatable. If it is possible, like some sort of extreme method acting, would it be sincere enough to ensure a happy afterlife?

Anonymous said...

open-minded inquirers honestly pursuing the truth

If all the information is there to see, do all non-atheists and Craig see the same?
Or do some see better than others?
If the best of these seers were put in separate rooms and presented with the same questions, would they all relate the same observations?
If not. What test would Craig suggest be applied to differentiate the deluded from the divine?

Angra Mainyu said...

Craig:
First, God has provided a revelation of Himself in nature that is sufficiently clear for all cognitively normal persons to know that God exists. 

That's obviously false (since God does not exist :)), but leaving that aside, the evidence indicates that cognitively normal people, in nearly all cases, do not acquire belief in God unless they're exposed to belief in God.
This can be seen by the existence of societies without such belief, or without even a word for 'God'.

If the claim or implication is that every one of those people had a moral obligation to observe nature and conclude that God existed by some of the arguments, but failed to do so, the claim is unwarranted.

But in any case, that claim would still entail that those people only failed to reach the proper conclusion, and as Stephen Law points out, that does not merit eternal punishment. Indeed, people fail to reach proper conclusions all the time. We're not perfect. But that does not merit infinite punishment.

Craig:
Anyone who fails to believe in God by the end of his lifetime does so only by a stubborn resistance to the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing that person to a knowledge of God. 


Let's suppose some hunter-gatherers spend their entire life living in a harsh environment, trying to survive predators, etc., and sustain their families. They never heard of God, had no concept of God, etc.

Are we supposed to believe that they engaged in a stubborn resistance to the work of the holy spirit? Seriously?

In fact, even conversions to Christianity show otherwise: many people converted to Christianity after being exposed to it, but their ancestors had no belief in God whatsoever. If the converts had not been exposed to Christianity or any other belief in God, they wouldn't have believed in God, either. That's an obvious assessment of the evidence; of course, Craig may claim otherwise, but there is no good reason to even suspect so.

The bottomline is: the evidence clearly indicates that nearly all humans who aren't exposed to belief in God, do not come to believe in God, or even to have the concept of God; there is no rejection or stubbornness on their part, but rather they never even considered such a matter, and didn't even have any of the concepts of God (that may be relevant in this context) to consider whether he existed in the first place.

Paul Jenkins said...

If it wasn't God who made the universe, and all the things we see in nature, by which we can know He exists, who did?

I'll tell you. It was me. I did it. I am the One who made the universe and everything in it. How do you know this is true? Because I'm telling you, that's how.

(Oh, and by the way, that still small voice that people think is the Holy Spirit — that's me too.)

Now if you'll excuse me I've got to go and be ineffable for a while...

emr said...

Which damn god is Craig going on about? Is he expecting me to look at a patch of grass and immediately infer the specific triune god of Christianity?