William Lane Craig advises skeptical reader how best to believe in god

Would any Christians like to comment on whether this is GOOD ADVICE to give to someone?

Hi, Dr. Craig, I’m currently reading “Disproving Christianity” by David McAfee. I’ve also been listening to Richard Dawkins. I want to believe in God, but I’m having trouble with my faith. I’ve always been a Christian, but since I started talking to my atheist friends, I find it hard to believe in God. When I think about it, it doesn’t make much sense to me to belive in a creator of the universe. It makes even less sense for me to believe in a God who intervines in our lives. Please, I want to believe in God, any suggestions?

William Lane Craig responded…

williamlanecraigI find myself utterly baffled by the cavalier way in which many ill-equipped Christians expose themselves to material which is potentially destructive to them. It’s like someone who doesn’t know how to swim deciding to take the plunge in the heavy surf. Wouldn’t it be the sensible thing to do to first prepare yourself before venturing into dangerous waters?

I remember vividly that when I first became a Christian I was very careful about what I read because I knew that there was material out there which could be destructive to my newfound faith and that I had a lot, lot more to learn before I was ready to deal with it. Do we forget that there is an enemy of our souls who hates us intensely, is bent on our destruction, and will use anything he can to undermine our faith or render us ineffective in God’s hands? Are we so naïve?

In your case I strongly suspect that, despite your having been a Christian for most of your life, you have not properly equipped yourself before reading and watching anti-Christian material. I say this, not merely because you fail to see the obvious fallacies in arguments like Dawkins’ (see http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-new-atheism-and-five-arguments-for-god and http://www.reasonablefaith.org/dawkins-delusion ), but also by your admission that “it doesn’t make much sense to me to belive in a creator of the universe,” thereby evincing your unfamiliarity with the powerful arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe, such as:

  1. the argument from contingency,
  2. the kalam cosmological argument,
  3. the fine-tuning argument,
  4. the argument from mathematical applicability,
  5. the argument from intentional states of consciousness, and so on.

Even if you don’t find these arguments rationally compelling, they at least show that belief in a Creator of the universe makes sense. Equally astonishing, you report that “It makes even less sense for me to believe in a God who intervines in our lives.”

Obviously, you’ve not digested Alvin Plantinga’s fine reflections on divine intervention in his chapter on “Divine Action in the World” in his Where the Conflict Really Lies (Oxford University Press, 2011). Have you looked carefully at the evidence for Jesus’ miracles or resurrection, as laid out, for example, in Graham Twelftree’s Jesus: The Miracle Worker (IVP, 1999) or my Reasonable Faith (Crossway, 2008)?

What would prompt you to feed on the garbage you’re reading and watching, thereby polluting your mind, rather than diligently studying the work of, say, Alvin Plantinga? We are called to be disciples, which in the Greek means “learners.” Is what you’re doing your idea of what Christian discipleship looks like? Is this the path to transformation by “the renewal of the mind” (Romans 12.1-2)?

Certainly, someone does need to read and interact with secular material, but that person is not (yet) you. You first need to prepare yourself. So, you ask for suggestions:

  1. Make first and foremost a recommitment of your heart to Christ. Examine yourself to make sure there is no unconfessed sin in your life and daily ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Make sure that you have a regular time of private prayer and Bible study and regularly participate in corporate worship. Look for ways to serve in a local community of believers. Your spiritual formation is just as important as your intellectual formation.
  2. Quit reading and watching the infidel material you’ve been absorbing. Confess your recklessness and irresponsibility to God. Notice: I’m not saying, quit asking questions. I’m saying, quit going to the wrong people for answers.
  3. Begin a program of equipping yourself in Christian doctrine and apologetics. A good way to do this is to start going through our Defenders lectures (series II) (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast), starting at the beginning. You might also go slowly through On Guard (Cook, 2010). This would be best done with a mentor or a group if you can find one.
  4. Attend some apologetics conferences, like the annual apologetics conference of the Evangelical Philosophical Society every November. Put yourself in the way of learning.
  5. Try to find some like-minded Christians with whom you can discuss your questions. If there’s a Christian college or seminary in your area investigate enrolling in night classes.

Though I’ve been rather hard on you, that’s only because I’m genuinely concerned for you. I don’t want you engaged in self-destructive behavior. I’m really glad you wrote. There are good answers to your doubts, if you’ll look in the right places.

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13 Responses to William Lane Craig advises skeptical reader how best to believe in god

  1. tildeb says:

    Jasonjshaw,

    Again, non belief is not a belief. Why is this a difficult concept for you to master?

  2. Sometimes it is easy to stay from the path. The atheist writers use fancy language and circular arguments to disprove God. I make a list of the miracles that I personally witness so I can relive those moments. I also find common sense to be of great value in discerning these arguments. Would anyone ever agree that the pieces of a watch can be put in a bag, then dumped out and at some point the watch will be a watch and not random parts? How then did the universe come about in such a way? If we evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys? People can use fancy mathematics and long drawn out arguments, but when dissected they make no sense.

    • Oh, my, have you been taught inaccurately about science and atheism. Let me help a bit:

      Atheism: A LACK of a belief in a deity. It is not demanded there IS NO GOD. Maybe you are thinking of an “Anti-theist”? The closest an Atheist would come close to disproving God is stating why he or she would not have a reason to believe.

      Evolution: It never said that humans evolved from monkeys. The ONLY people who say that are Christians wishing to insult the SCIENCE of Evolution. Evolution states, through testing of DNA, that Chimpanzees, Bonobos and Humans have a common ancestor, many millions of years ago.

      You claim that atheists and/or evolutionists make no sense. Maybe because you have been listening to what other people have been saying about them, instead of getting the facts.

    • jasonjshaw says:

      Kristie, keep in mind that things that seem like miracles might actually have a explanation that is simply beyond your current understanding. But I agree, there is use of fancy language and circular arguments by atheists as well as theists. People tend to have a difficult time admitting that they don’t know or that they aren’t sure. But it is perfectly fine to not understand. Not understanding is what leads us to find new understanding!

      And as atatakaidanjp mentioned, you aren’t quite understanding evolution properly. That’s forgivable, especially with the false and misinformation that some Christian groups spread about it.

  3. jasonjshaw says:

    Seems like the typical draw a box and then make things fit into it approach.

    I actually caught a show today supposedly exploring evidence for and against God belief on the local Christian channel. It makes me want to hit my head against a wall with how limited both the Christian and the Atheist views on the subject can be.

    • tildeb says:

      How limited is the atheist view? You reject Tezcatlipoca because of how limited your views are? Seriously? You don’t hold yourself to this standard but look how eager you are to impose it on those other nasty atheists who don’t present themselves with what you deem is the requite expertise and tonal quality.

      Why have you bought into this garbage that somehow non belief in unsupported claims maybe/perhaps/might be because the subtle nuances of the sophisticated believer have not been properly understood, that the required reading list hasn’t been covered, that some in-depth study has yet to be accomplished to point out the obvious: if these beliefs are true then we have no clue how reality actually operates and our applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time are simply based on the wrong model.

      I am so tired of hearing this stupidity repeated over and over by faitheists trying to cozy up to those on board the train to Crazy Town about having to first acquire some in-depth subject mastery about a vacuous subject called religious belief before the obvious conclusion can be stated plainly and honestly: it’s based on empty belief dressed up to appear sophisticated. It’s not. It’s still an empty claim. And it’s okay not believe in empty claims. No further work is required.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        The Atheist view is one that leans toward a belief that there is no higher power. We don’t have near enough information to be able to jump to such a conclusion, unless you are only working in relation to current faiths.

        If you want to jump to conclusions for or against a higher power, all the power to you. Just realize that you are jumping to a conclusion based on faith. A faith that either there is or isn’t a higher power at some point in existence.

        Personally, I will allow the evidence to tell the tale of what is or isn’t out there, should we ever find evidence that speaks of the origins of existence beyond the big bang.

        As for religion, it is not based on “empty belief”. It is based on wanting to have an explanation for existence to work from to give some sense of order to our seemingly chaotic existence, however misguided that need for such a security blanket is.

        But it is wise to not believe in specific views of a higher power that have significant plot holes. One should keep in mind that even though specific versions of what a higher power might be are wrong, it doesn’t equate to there not being some sort of higher power out there at some point beyond what we know.

      • tildeb says:

        Do you see what you did there?

        Atheism means non belief in gods or a god. Note the key term: NON BELIEF.

        Here you come along and assign a whole new meaning: “the view is one that leans toward a belief that there is no higher power.”

        POOF! You magically turn a NON belief into another kind of belief (in the same way that a non fish – say, a bicycle – is really just a different kind of fish) that suits your goal… to make atheism and theism the same thing: a belief of different kinds. That should be a clue to you that something in your thinking has gone awry (because a bicycle, you’ll be sad to hear, really isn’t a different kind of fish).

        Sorry, jasonjshaw. Your word games don’t justify your rigged conclusion, which is “If you want to jump to conclusions for or against a higher power, all the power to you. Just realize that you are jumping to a conclusion based on faith.”

        No, I’m not jumping at all. What you’ve concluded is the unmitigated north end product of a south facing evacuating male bovine. You are intentionally conflating the two very different uses of the term ‘belief’; an atheist doesn’t believe something for the same reason you don’t: insufficient reasons to justify any confidence in the belief. That’s a conclusion adduced from reality and not a belief statement imposed on reality. Fish, meet bicycle.

        If I used your reasoning against your non belief in, say, Tezcatlipoca, let’s see how well it plays out.

        You are trying to tell us that you have a faith-based belief that Tezcatlipoca is not a higher power. You base that belief on… what? Have you even heard of this god? How can you hold a belief about something you’ve never even heard of? You are trying to tell us that you think it falls to you as a non believer in Tezcatlipoca to go out and educate yourself about Tezcatlipoca before you can legitimately claim why your faith-based to not believe lacks sufficient knowledge about Tezcatlipoca. In fact, you insist it is only right and proper that you be agnostic about Tezcatlipoca.

        Come on.

        Does this make any sense to you? You don’t believe in Tezcatlipoca for the same reason I don’t: neither of us has any good reasons to believe such a divine critter may indeed exist. That’s it. Neither of us assumes any belief about Tezcatlipoca. Neither of of us has any cause to think Tezcatlipoca offers us knowledgeable or practical or useful or moral or ethical or insightful or meaningful about anything whatsoever. To pretend otherwise is ludicrous because you don’t believe in thousands upon thousands of such supposedly rela and interactive divine causal critters and not once do you take yourself to task for lack of any ‘critter education’ to justify your non belief in any of them. You simply do not have – any more than any atheist – thousands upon thousands of faith-based beliefs regarding these critters. The fact is, you have NO belief about any of them… save perhaps one for which YOU make a special exemption (but for extraordinarily poor reasons).

        Again, you want atheists to be held to a standard different from the one you enjoy. But the game’s rigged and you;re the one doing the rigging. Don’t blame me for simply pointing it out. You’re not that special. And neither is your god.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        You are actually using the modified version of “atheism”, if you research the historical use of the word you will see. I prefer not to use such false binaries. Theism/Atheism are part of a scale of belief.

        In relation to belief in Tezcatlipoca specifically, I would be an atheist. In relation to belief of the Christian version of God, I am an atheist. I disbelieve both. In regards to there being some form of higher power out there somewhere, I am hovering around the midpoint of the belief/disbelief scale. I am neither a clear theist or a clear atheist as there is not enough evidence to warrant any such position. To lean either way would be an act of belief.

        You are either working in context with existing belief, or you are demonstrating faith. Take your pick.

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