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Christianity: ur doing it rong

Dan Fincke drew my attention to some comments made by William Craig. A Christian wrote him saying he was having doubts when confronted by the arguments on atheist websites and asked Dr. Craig for advice. Craig wrote:

Be on guard for Satan’s deceptions. Never lose sight of the fact that you are involved in a spiritual warfare and that there is an enemy of your soul who hates you intensely, whose goal is your destruction, and who will stop at nothing to destroy you. Which leads me to ask: why are you reading those infidel websites anyway, when you know how destructive they are to your faith? These sites are literally pornographic (evil writing) and so ought in general to be shunned. Sure, somebody has to read them and refute them; but why does it have to be you? Let somebody else, who can handle it, do it. Remember: Doubt is not just a matter of academic debate or disinterested intellectual discussion; it involves a battle for your very soul, and if Satan can use doubt to immobilize you or destroy you, then he will.

I firmly believe, and I think the Bizarro-testimonies of those who have lost their faith and apostatized bears out, that moral and spiritual lapses are the principal cause for failure to persevere rather than intellectual doubts. But intellectual doubts become a convenient and self-flattering excuse for spiritual failure because we thereby portray ourselves as such intelligent persons rather than as moral and spiritual failures. I think that the key to victorious Christian living is not to have all your questions answered — which is probably impossible in a finite lifetime — but to learn to live successfully with unanswered questions. The key is to prevent unanswered questions from becoming destructive doubts. I believe that can be done by keeping in mind the proper ground of our knowledge of Christianity’s truth and by cultivating the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.


I've posted about this line of argument before. I have passed over it much more often without comment, because usually I don't want to raise the profile of the person. (Not that my blog's profile is that high...) But William Craig is a philosopher. I routinely set my class to read his essay on the kalam (cosmological) argument that God exists, and typically it's bundled in philosophy anthologies. So this takes some debunking.

(Dan has already done a very good job, by the way. But now he has me feeling all hot under the collar as well.)

First: not all atheists leave theism because (to quote Craig) of "moral and spiritual lapses" rather than "intellectual doubts." My friend Dan argues for objective morality, essentially the idea that there is a right or wrong that isn't just what the individual or the culture says. He does more with this than I do, actually. While I'm sure not every atheist is actively working to explain why atheism =/=> moral moral nihilism, I know many who are.

Moreover, Christianity has some potential for rather easy morality. Jim Wallis and other members of the Christian left are changing this by having the Christian ethic apply to parts of our life beyond the bedroom (or the parked car, or wherever), for too long it was possible to be a Christian with relatively little change to your life. Look at the political situation. Want the Christian vote? Say the right words (no abortion, ever; homosexuality was an agenda; and recently, work "shariah" into the conversation as often as possible) and the pew-to-poll vote could be counted on. Even in non-political conversations, churches tended to be more interested in identity than true ethical living.

To be sure, lots of Christians are ethical and they use their religion to help them accomplish that (I think of myself that way, actually). But Craig's claim was that people became atheists because they felt guilty. My point is that change really isn't that necessary. And claiming as much is just insulting to them, and embarrassing to you.

Point #2 - and this is even more damning, given Craig claims to be a philosopher - is his question of why his correspondent went to those "infidel" sites:

Which leads me to ask: why are you reading those infidel websites anyway, when you know how destructive they are to your faith? These sites are literally pornographic (evil writing) and so ought in general to be shunned. Sure, somebody has to read them and refute them; but why does it have to be you?


Does he honestly believe the only point of exposing yourself to different opinions is apologetics? I find this lack of faith (in the philosophical method) disturbing. It is by exposing ourselves to and arguing against positions we might disagree with at first glance, that we begin to understand what we believe, including whether it is true. This is, incidentally, the meaning of this blog: fides quaerens intellectum, faith seeking after understanding. While I'm sure Dan would reject the starting-place of faith, my point is basically that thinking about things you don't yet accept is an absolute good. Not because it's the first step necessary to convincing the "other guy" they're wrong, but because the process is an end in itself.

Seeing this outlook laid out by someone presented as a philosopher. (And as a Christian, but it's the philosopher bit that's so shocking. Sometimes the internet's meme-machine is the only adequate critique of a position: ur doing it rong.

This entry was originally posted at http://fidesquaerens.dreamwidth.org/24539.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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