Exposing Christians To Secular Material: Response To William Lane CraigBy David G. McAfee
Christian apologist and philosophical theologian William Lane Craig was contacted this week by a Christian who read my book, Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings, and was subsequently finding it “hard to believe in God.” Craig’s response: “Quit reading the infidel material.”
The question, posed in this week’s Q&A section of Craig’s site, was published alongside Craig’s answer and entitled, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” The anonymous questioner stated that he or she “wants to believe in God,” but is having trouble believing after being exposed to Disproving Christianity, Richard Dawkins, and atheist friends.
“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?”
Craig begins by saying that he is “utterly baffled” by how many “ill-equipped” Christians expose themselves to material that is destructive to their faith.
“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,” Craig wrote. “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?”
Craig goes on to offer the questioner four “suggestions” to help resolve his or her crisis of faith.
- “Make first and foremost a recommitment of your heart to Christ.”
- “Quit reading and watching the infidel material you’ve been absorbing.”
- “Begin a program of equipping yourself in Christian doctrine and apologetics.”
- “Attend some apologetics conferences.”
If Christianity is the transcendent truth and superior to all other faithful and non-faithful worldviews, as Craig believes, then why does it need to be protected from criticism? Why do Christians, in Craig’s view, need to “equip” themselves before being exposed to such material?
My view is the opposite. Where Craig says “believe,” I say investigate. I would never encourage an atheist to avoid the Bible, for example, out of fear that its strong arguments might compel that person to believe. In fact, I frequently encourage the opposite approach: I recommend believers and non-believers alike educate themselves about all of the world’s religions, including a basic understanding of the traditions’ core tenets and Holy Books.
If you study comparative religion, it’s more difficult to be religious because the great faiths are all very similar at the most fundamental level. Each organization has similar cult beginnings and “prophets,” they each began as local and cultural myths before being applied to a global context, and they are almost always spread through a combination of violence and proselytization.
Non-believers don’t have to be fearful of theistic material because there’s simply no evidence for the existence of deities, therefore every argument is automatically philosophical in nature and regards a general “higher power,” and not any specific deity – like Jesus or Allah.
All that said, I’m encouraged by the original questioner. This person decided, against Craig’s advice, to seek out material from someone else’s perspective. They didn’t let the fear of damaging faith keep them from exposing themselves to multiple sides of possibly the longest debate in human history. For any other believers who wish to do the same, please send an e-mail to DisprovingChristianityPDF@gmail.com for a free PDF of my first book, Disproving Christianity.
Good article. I especially liked when you said you would never discourage a nonbeliever from reading the Bible…made me laugh out loud!
That is terrible advice from William Lane Craig, the questioner is going to see straight through him. Craig is advising to shut out all criticism and curiosity. The questioner is reading yourself and Dawkins they will be learning to welcome criticism and opening up to curiosity. Craig also says that atheists are “our enemies” and that they “hate us intensely…” The questioner says they have atheist friends, they are not some over-sheltered kid living in the middle of nowhere, they wont be able to take this seriously. Craig also advertises his book! You have the decency to offer free copies or a pdf. If anything Craig would have damaged the questioner’s faith.
I believe by “enemy of our souls” he means Lucifer, not atheists. I’m inferring this by the use of “he.”
David, I appreciate your post, but you seem to have glazed over one point that Dr. Craig had made. Most Christians that go to read secular material haven’t prepared counter-arguments by reading the material Dr. Craig points to in his response. Intelligent design is just as much a plausible theory as any about the subject of whether there is or isn’t an afterlife.
Are you joking? I kind of think you are joking. In case you are not, then I must state that “Intelligent Design” is not a plausible theory for anything. At best, it is an hypothesis which requires much more work before one could establish a viable theory, assuming that it didn’t fall apart under scientific scrutiny. And even in if ID, or Creationism as it is more commonly referred to, were proven to be true, that would say nothing about the idea of an afterlife.
You cannot say you know what happens after death. Nobody does. At least, not until the very last breath and by that time, it is too late to spread the findings across the globe.
That’s utter nonsense. Intelligent Design is creationism; There’s no difference. And neither of them are equally valid positions as the fact of evolution. In fact, all the legitimate science from the range of areas makes the notion of creation increasingly unlikely. You can’t just say these absurd, unsubstantiated claims are equally valid or likely, because that’s simply not true.
Of course, when ‘faith’ is threatened, quickly get inside your bubble, shut your eyes and repeat “Lala la, Lala la” until you pass out. That way you’ll probably have a vision.
Once you take a bite of the apple…
Just look through a telescope and notice that EVERYTHING you see is basically spherical….moon, sun, stars, planets. But never assume that Earth is the exception and must therefore be flat, because an ancient book tells you so. How dare you question the word of the Church! Pay no attention whatever to the works of Galileo or Copernicus, or thousands of others who actually “thought” about things. With their power to “burn at the stake” those who dared to think for themselves, WLC and his cronies are fast losing any credibility they may once have enjoyed. By all means and effort, read your Bible, cover-to-cover, perhaps for the very first time. Dwell on the advice that plants survive without photosynthesis, stars can fall to Earth, light was created before the Sun or Moon, bats are birds, insects have four legs, Pi is “about” 3, spotted cows are made by mating their parents in front of striped poles, strong men get their strength through their long hair, and a myriad of other real “truths”. Then come back to WLC and give him a big “raspberry”. 🙂
David, excellent article. Here’s a story for you. I was raised Christian by my mom but not by my dad. I went back and forth with belief and agnosticism until I was in my late teens. At age twenty I decided to commit my life to Jesus. But I still had doubts that he was really the son of god. I felt like he had changed my life but I couldn’t shake the doubts. My Christian mom mentored me in the faith and her solution was for me to increase time reading the Bible every day. She said, “Jacqueline, you are going to continue to be confused until you get in the word of god every morning. Just make it five minutes and god will let you know how often to increase it.” Well guess what? I started immersing myself in nothing but the Bible and I lost my doubts. So let’s get this straight. Just like that man told the questioner to do, the solution for confusion and doubt is to isolate the mind and put only Christian material around it as a barrier against satan, the “enemy of our souls”. I smell a CULT!!!! When I became atheist after researching world history and ancient religions I realized what had kept me believing for so long was complete segregation. Christianity is a total cult where we were taught that the devil was the source of all outside information and the world’s wisdom was demonic. Brainwashing!!!
Actually, reading the Bible in totality should make you realise that the Judeo-Christian God is a sicko. God may be real, but if he is like the one the Bible portrays, he is worthy only of fear, not love.
You only have to read the first few chapters of Genesis to figure that out. By the time god is killing babies in Egypt I was bored of that sicko.
notice Craig had not concrete information or advice other than simply stop thinking and continue your Christian indoctrination. Of course, there is no evidence, and therefore nothing more Craig could offer.
This article is misleading. First, it assumes there is no God, which is the very question at hand and not something that can be used to prove itself. Second, it implies Craig is promoting willful ignorance to enable faith. He is not doing so. Even if you filter out the spiritual elements of his response, all he is saying is that Christians tend to expose themselves to one side of the argument without being familiar with the other. I think we’d all agree that this is pretty foolish and does indeed present a great danger to one’s pursuit of truth.
Dear Brandon, it is surely not misleading to assume there is no god. This is called the “null hypothesis”, otherwise known as the default or standard position. The burden of proof is on the theist side. A child not reared in a religious family does not believe in a god. Believing in a god is learned behaviour, not something that occurs naturally.
Further more, if it would be normal to believe in a god, then why in this particular god? All religions claim that their god is the only one (or the best god, or the first, etc. etc.), so why chose this one? And why only chose one, not two, ten or hundreds?
And if Craig is saying that Christians tend to expose themselves to the non-believing side, before knowing the Christian side, why are they Christians at all? Apparently not because they thought about it, but because they were indoctrinated into this belief.
“Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.” – Isaac Asimov
Wily Lame Craig is the craftiest ‘philosopher’ around. He abuses fallacious thinking; he overloads information, so that he can say people do not answer his questions; and then as a last result calls anyone who dissagrees with him evil infidels. All in all, not a good example of a Christian.
Christianity has had its day and is trecking along to the myth section of the library to join the other ‘right’ religions.
The only thing going for religion is community (slowly emerging in atheism), and music. Hymns, oratorios etc are beautiful music, but totally spoiled by the words. Another case of crafty religion. The harmonies of music being bastardised by cruel words. I am reminded of the most famous hymn, amazing grace, followed by ‘that saved a wretch like me’ despicable!
Craig’s advice is fine and it applies to the non-believer as well as to the believer. There is a simple analogy that explains Craig’s position: counterfeiting. For one to identify the counterfeit (e.g. currency) one needs to know the real deal intimately. How often do people from either side like it when their position is attacked on completely spurious grounds? That’s Craig’s point and he inarguably spot on.
Furthermore, McAfee is guilty of this very thing—attacking Christianity on spurious grounds. Craig never said Christianity is to be protected from criticism. He, himself, is highly critical of it and other belief systems, has investigated them, and he has found that Christianity is the “best explanation” of the world around us. I doubt that McAfee has as deeply explored either side of the coin. To say that the faiths of the world are similar on the FUNDAMENTAL level is laughable. They are most similar only on a SUPERFICIAL level. This leads me to believe, again, that that is as far as McAfee has gone.
Actually, I have a Bachelor’s in Religious Studies, with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions. The questioner said he or she was a Christian for life, so why would one need to bone up on apologetics to withstand critical arguments? As I mentioned above, I would never caution a fellow non-believer to avoid the Bible out of fear that they’d be convinced by its strong arguments.
Unfortunately, in the Church today much more emphasis is put on the emotional aspects of Christianity than actually figuring out what you believe and why you believe it. As some of you have pointed out, most Christians start out being raised Christianity and, unless they are given the resources to research it on their own and decide for themselves what they believe, it is indoctrination. Many people simply do not take the time to research it for themselves, so, in the case of the questioner, I assume (but could be wrong) that her grasp of Christianity and apologetics did not reach past the surfacy lessons taught to her in Sunday school.
What a load of crap. The only reason Craig finds the Christian story the most compelling one is because he was indoctrinated. He attended Catholic schools, high schools and universities and got Catholic degrees in Catholic subjects.
It seems he has spent much time looking at the other side to this one-sided coin, eh?
I don’t dislike Craig entirely; but, damn, you would to be blind to think he hasn’t had a biased view for all his life.
How can anyone defend Craig’s “advice”??!!
It’s absurd, vile and pathetic! All he offered (to those who are gullible enough to take it), besides his sickening arrogance, was a closet and a method in which to brainwash one’s self within it!!
So, if WLC was advocating his “system” for proving a fallacious theory, it would go something like this:-
GRAVITY IS NOT REAL, ONLY A THEORY
Hold a heavy rock over your head and get ready to let go of it. Some will tell you that the rock will fall on your head, but they are wrong. You should not listen to them, you should immerse yourself in scripture and have faith that the rock will not fall. Praise the Lord that he will not allow the rock to fall or to injure you. Then …let go of the rock . If it actually falls on your head and kills you, then it was God’s will.
The content of this article is why I do not beleive, having grown up in a Catholic and cofe house also attending a Catholic school I still dis believe. My parents never clouded my view and allowed me to explore my own spiritual path. I concluded very early on that to Believe meant closing your mind to all other external influences, simple analagy I have £20 in my pocket blindly believe it is there and it will sustain your whole life. No matter how much your laundrette tells you there is nothing in your pocket. That is something I’ve never been able to do, to not believe or rather to not blindly beleive frees your mind in fact your existence to explore your own path in this existence, it opens your mind to the infinite possibilities of our existence and the universe around us including creationism.
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