Writing a book chapter on William Lane Craig: what to say, what not to say?

In my currently-in-progress book, I’m planning on having a chapter on William Lane Craig. And I want people’s input on what exactly to include in it. I know I’ll be covering the various arguments for the existence of God he presents in the third edition of his book Reasonable Faith. But what else?

I’ll definitely include the main point I made in my post “Arguments for the existence of God are dead,” namely that very few academics these days are enthusiastic about arguments for the existence of God, so I really had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find one who was. Otherwise, I wouldn’t waste my time on a hack like Craig.

Similarly, I’ll be stressing to my readers that they can’t trust Craig: he’s normally extremely selective in reporting facts, habitually misrepresents his opponents’ views, sometimes makes stuff up, sometimes just plain lies, and generally is willing to say whatever he thinks will sound good. Along with that, I’ll need a response to the “but Craig wins all his debates!” line along the lines of my last post on Craig.

One thing I’m leaning against including is a discussion of Craig’s delisions about non-believers. It was a popular post here (judging by page views), but I think it’s a relatively peripheral issue in the grand scheme of things. I also wonder about overwhelming Craig fans with too many unpleasant truths about their hero.

But what do people want me to include? Anyone who’s been around awhile have things they’d wish they’d known about Craig when they first encountered him?

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  • Kevin

    I do think he’s a very good debater — because he rightly sees his job is to win the debate, not the post-debate.

    It doesn’t matter to him that he Gish gallops, quote mines, egregiously misuses science, goalpost moves, and ultimately denies the very evidence he presents in favor of spooky interpersonal communication with an invisible friend. What matters to him is that he sounds good, that his arguments sound “reasonable”, and that he maintain a placid facade in the face of contradictory evidence.

    I suppose one could do a study of what percentage of the audience for his performances (and they’re performances, no doubt) follow-up with post-debate discussion/fact checking. My hypothesis is that it would be a fairly small percentage of the audience.

    He doesn’t care about the post-debate repercussions. He cares about the 100 people in the room at the time, not the seven people who follow the after-debate fact-checking.

    I’ve said this before, but the only way to “win” a debate against him is to rattle him. Were I ever presented with the opportunity (ain’t gonna happen, so this is hypothetical), I would grant him each and every pre-debate concession he wants, save one. I would insist on the right to present first. My presentation would go something like this:

    “I’m going to cede the remainder of my time to Dr. Craig for this first part of the debate. But each and every time he misuses science, quote mines someone whose views do not comport with his, or otherwise violates his Ninth Commandment, I will blow this air horn … Dr. Craig, your podium.”

    It would be a noisy night, for sure.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    Craig’s ideas on God being completely and always moral even when ordering immoral actions like genocide and rape of female captives are worth a mention.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist


  • random

    Leave out the bit about the gay sex rumors. Nothing has ever been proven.

  • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

    Regarding the fact that one can’t trust Craig, how about including some reference to the way he replies to some of the questions on his website, pointing out that it’s not just his debates where he’s trying to win, but his replies in his site can’t be trusted, either?

    For instance (shameless-self promotion warning; but I’ll pick another example too), when I spotted a contradiction in his use of the Kalam Cosmological Argument to defend theism, he replied by stating that there was no contradiction because he was using some technical definition of a word in one of the cases – which was blatantly false, as I explained later; the contradiction is there.

    Another example (not involving me :)):

    he replied that people go to Hell not so much for adultery, theft or
    murder, but plausibly, for the rejection of God, which allegedly is a
    sin of infinite gravity, whereas here
    he seems to clearly maintain that all immoral
    actions merit infinite punishment (and not just because they also
    involve rejecting God, though I suppose he’d use that to try to
    wiggle out of that one).

  • Kevin

    You could use the many instances of Craig choosing the least charitable interpretation of his opponents arguments to talk about the principle of charity. Some examples that come to mind is when critiquing Scott Clifton’s argument, Craig interpreted “Nothing which exists can cause something which does not exist to begin existing ex nihilo” to somehow say that there are things that simultaneously exist and don’t exist. Also, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zcI6nImLyM

  • Annatar

    On the contrary, I think Craig’s delusions about non-believers are important. He and his fans like to say “the atheists need to learn to engage with the opponent.” However, if Craig believes that everyone has the witness of God in their heart and some just reject it, then he is denying that atheists actually exist–after all, we all know God exists, we just “love the darkness more than the light.” How can anyone think Craig properly engages with *his* opponents when he can’t admit to himself that they actually exist? Isn’t he doomed to using strawmen?

  • AgeOfReasonXXI

    How about the following:

    include a couple of quotes from Craig (from his book “Reasonable Faith”) where he claims no evidence or argument can convince him he’s wrong(ha!), stressing the fact that this comes from a person who’s spent his life presenting arguments for God which he clearly expects people–like atheists and agnostics–to accept, and…change their minds!
    or how about that: “If somehow through my studies reason is to turn against my faith, so much the worse for reason!”
    Then, after you show Craig is a fideist, an epistemological solipsist, a fundy with intellectual pretenses, whose apologetics has “adopted insincerity as a structural principle”(to quote Robert Price) and exposed him as a hack unworthy of being taken seriously, Id’s say do not discuss his arguments for that would mean you’re taking him seriously. You might want to rename the chapter to “The Sorry State of Christian Apologetics”

    And just so that your readers don’t presume you’re trolling or something of the sort, you might provide a couple of quotes from what others have to say about Craig: you know, people like Robert Price, Richard Carrier, Andrew Copson, Hector Avalos, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss, etc., and point out the words most often associated with this guy and apologists of his ilk, such as “half-truths”, “lies”, “distortions”, “disingenuous”, “insincerity”, “ignorant”, “incompetent”, “sneaky”, “shoddy”… and so on and so forth. I mean, even his more conservative Christian brethren appear to have a phrase “William Craig Double Talk”. that says a lot.
    As for any charges of character assassination, don’t worry, the quote from Craig where he says nothing would change his mind should suffice, since it shows the guy has apparently committed an intellectual suicide, so there really isn’t anything to assassinate; Craig had done the job himself

  • AgeOfReasonXXI

    Also, don’t forget to include this quote from Craig, if you choose to mention his despicable defense of biblical genocide and infanticide. This is from Question 55 “Do the Damned in Hell Accrue Further Punishment?” from his ill-named “Reasonable Faith” website:

    “Nonetheless, I completely concur with you that we should not think of a person’s rejection of Christ as being the sum total of his individual sins. I, too, am uncomfortable with the idea that the damned could escape hell by repenting and serving out their time (that smacks of purgatory). That’s why I went on to offer the second, better solution: that the rejection of Christ as Lord and Savior, being a rejection of God Himself, is a sin of infinite gravity and proportion and therefore plausibly does merit infinite punishment. So seen, people are sent to hell, not so much for murder and theft and adultery, but for their rejection of God. Moreover, if God has middle knowledge, then we can say that He allows the damned to pass from this earthly life only once He knows that their rejection of Him is irrevocable. The damned are thus responsible for their own fate and cannot impugn God’s justice.”

    One doesn’t read very often such patently wicked and disgusting rationalizations for tormenting people for eternity, at least not coming from “prominent” apologists.

    I can almost picture William Craig growing increasingly “uncomfortable” at the prospect that, say, someone like Einstein, might in the far future repent and escape Hell! Surely, he hasn’t achieved anything in his life to merit him being allowed to join Craig and the rest of the “blessed” in Heaven!

    Given stuff like that, how can one not get offended, if not pissed off, when someone like John Loftus begins spewing nonsense in articles titled “In defense Of William Lane Craig”, arguing that Craig is a decent person and a good man? For shame

  • Azuma Hazuki


    THANK YOU. This shit is number two on my list, and I’d say number one is how he flat refuses to change his beliefs. Do point out that this essentially means he worships the 2 kg of squishy pinkish-gray meat between his ears when you do :)

    With regard to the above: point out that a finite being cannot sin infinitely by definition, and that this means God is infinitely vengeful. I am sometimes stunned by how ill-thought-out Craig’s arguments are; maybe I just approached him with too much respect to begin with but the more of him I read the more I come to think of him as basically Duane Gish in a good suit.

    It would be interesting to debate him on Hell and bring a lighter or one of those butane BBQ match things though. I wonder how many Universalists could be created at the end of a blowtorch? This seriously strikes me as a lack of empathy, or even possibly a mild case of sociopathy.