Thursday, July 29, 2010

W.C. Craig is honest about theology (at least)

William Lane Craig is a theologian and christian philosopher who is well known for his intellectual defenses of Christianity and many debates with atheists. His pompous and oily delivery calls to my mind PZ Myers' line about the “used-car salesmen of the soul”, though I'm sure Craig hopes his paternalistic tone will remind believers that they are the flock and he their intellectual shepherd. Craig most often presents himself as a moderate interested only in reasonably justifying his Christian dogma, and it's true he has turned in some command performances remaining cool under fire from atheist debate partners. However, despite his attempt to maintain his moderate rep, he's a fellow at the anti-evolution Discovery Institute which is in turn funded by a web of extreme rightwing business and political figures. Not very savory. Oh yes, he also penned a charming article devoted to justifying genocide!

What's astonishing about Craig is that he quite nakedly admits that all his pretensions to reasonable debate, to exchange of views, and to finding the truth is all worth about as much as a pelican in the Gulf of Mexico. This video, for instance:

Truly amazing, he's saying here that no matter what evidence against Christianity shows up (or, in our world, already exists) he will never change his belief in the God of revealed scripture. I can certainly list evidence that would cause me to change my conclusions about theism. This should be the case whenever we come to a reasoned conclusion on anything; it simply shows we weighed evidence and made our decision with respect to that evidence. Sadly, as the video shows, Craig can't pass this test of counterfactuals. He can “know that Christianity is true wholly apart from the evidence” and “if, in some historically contingent circumstance, the evidence that I have available to me should turn against Christianity I don't think that that controverts the witness of the Holy Spirit.”

This means, of course, that no debate of Craig's is ever really a debate, and no position of his been reached by careful weighing of evidence and use of reason (even though he's quite happy to lie suggest that this isn't the case). He should immediately take down his website “Reasonable Faith” or at least change its grossly unwarranted name. Still, nothing too surprising here. The great Nietzsche scholar Walter Kaufmann summed up Craig and his ilk in his description of theology:
“Theology is also a comprehensive, rigorous, and systematic avoidance, by means of exegesis, of letting one’s Yes be Yes, and one’s No, No.”