Volunteer representing William Lane Craig denies reason leads to atheism

After my “William Lane Craig says reason leads to atheism” post, it’s only fair that I post the e-mail commenter Annatar got when they e-mailed Craig’s website about the quote:

Dear Annatar,

Thank you for your question. Due to the high volume of questions Dr. Craig receives, he cannot answer every one personally, although he reads each one. I am one of a team of volunteers that helps respond to Dr. Craig’s questions in a timely manner.

Dr. Craig is explaining what Western intellectuals generally believe—that the pursuit of reason will lead them to atheism. Of course, as Christians, we do not believe that.

Blessings,
Tom
Reasonable Faith

So unless Craig comes out and says, “No, I was speaking for myself when I said ‘The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic,’” I won’t be using that quote in the future. Though it wasn’t as obvious as Tom suggests that that wasn’t Craig’s position.

Normally, yes, I’d assume that a Christian isn’t going to think reason leads to atheism. Craig, though, has said he’d keep believing in the resurrection even if he went back in time and personally witnessed that Jesus’ body stayed in the tomb for weeks after Easter. That alone is enough to make you wonder. (Other telling quotes can be found in this thread, where I had originally found the “follows the pursuit of reason” quote.)

  • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

    I think he meant what he said. Reason, followed unflinchingly, leads to atheism. But he thinks that reason isn’t enough. Reason must be supplemented by faith. Since faith is ignored by those influenced by Enlightenment thinking, apologetics must at least appear to be rational.

    At least that’s how I read it.

  • Simone

    Mmm… i think this is effectively what Craig meant. He would never admit in an article for a christian site that intellectual honesty, the one he so poorly practices but brags about sooooo much, leads to doubting the existence of a deity. I think he just made a poor choice of words.

  • http://disagreeableme.blogspot.co.uk Disagreeable Me

    I think it was quite clear what he meant.

    If I said “Christians think those who don’t conform to their morality are going to hell. Atheists are damned and homosexuals will suffer for all eternity”.

    It’s quite clear that I’m not expressing my views but those of Christians. It’s exactly analogous to what Craig said.

    This is a storm in a teacup.

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

      Not exactly analogous. If Craig really intended what his volunteer claims, my own sense of the conventions of English says he should have said, “according to most Western intellectuals today, theological knowledge is impossible. The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic.”

      Think of it this way: in your case and in my re-write of Craig, you can delete the first thought being attributed to the other person to get:

      “Christians think atheists are damned and homosexuals will suffer for all eternity,”

      and

      “according to most Western intellectuals today, the person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic,”

      respectively. You can’t do that with what Craig actually wrote. If Craig intended what his volunteer claims, it was a poorly crafted pair of sentences.

      • http://disagreeableme.blogspot.co.uk Disagreeable Me

        Fair enough. Your rewording is certainly clearer than Craig’s original, and it is a truer analogue to my example.

        I’ll agree with you that he could have said it better.

  • Annatar

    It felt a bit patronizing that Tom said “obviously, as Christians, we don’t believe that.”

    I read it as “OBVIOUSLY, as Christians, WE don’t believe that. Now go away you wretch.”

    But I’m just complaining….

  • Azuma Hazuki

    And this is is why I say ALL apologetics eventually devolves into presuppositionalism. Reading closer, what Craig says is that reason CAN’T get you into theism. Never did, never will. Especially not in the modern age.

    So what’s a believer to do? Why, beat the whore down until she learns her place (“ministerial function”) of course! Just like Luther, the Calvinist before Calvin, said to do!

    the tl;dr version: he believes because he believes because he believes.

  • JJ

    Well, I’m not one to accept the post-hoc explanation of an assigned email respondent as the final (or even temporary) arbitrator of what was meant by an author when he wrote a piece of prose.

    I think the text should be put into the context that it was written into and, if that was not what the author intended (assuming the author can), it is up to to the author to explain what he really meant.

    So, although his spokesman – or even Craig himself – may claim that the statement, “The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic,” was referring to “western intellectuals” and not himself (I wonder, does he consider himself not “western” or not “intellectual”?); the context of the article appears strongly to suggest that the quote reflects his actual position.

    It is interesting that while Craig admonishes his followers not to frame their arguments in terms of post-modernism, this exactly what he extolls them to do in the effort of protecting the faith:

    “A robust natural theology may well be necessary for the gospel to be effectively heard in Western society today. In general, Western culture is deeply post-Christian. It is the product of the Enlightenment, which introduced into European culture the leaven of secularism that has by now permeated Western society.”

    Notice, Craig doesn’t say that natural theology provides the most accurately reasoned position for the existence of a deity; only that it may necessary to have arguments framed in terms of reason to help convince those that are inclined to reason because of the culture they were raised in. In fact, what he does say (although it probably wasn’t his intention) is that the Enlightenment principles of using reason and evidence, led to the secularization of western society.

    Craig goes on to say, “It is the broader task of Christian apologetics, including natural theology, to help create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. It thereby gives people the intellectual permission to believe when their hearts are moved.”

    Post-modernism; thy name is Craig. Create a social milieu to make it seem OK to believe what makes you feel good? Really? Note: These are the reasons Craig gives for why “natural theology” ought not to discarded. He strikingly avoids any hint that people actually should “follow(s) the pursuit of reason unflinchingly.”

    So, given that Craig is a Christian apologist, and he has stated that Enlightenment principles – principles that are historically recognized to be rationalist (reason and evidence) in nature – caused the secularization of the western world, and that he restricts the use of reason to the base utilitarian function of rationalizing non evidenced and reasoned intuitive opinions; I believe that his statement, “The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic,” is an absolutely accurate statement of his opinion.

    If Craig or spokesperson would like to state that the quote is not his actual position, then I think they also bare the burden explaining away the remainder of the text that indicate the opposite.

  • MatthewL

    Tom’s email seems nothing more than spin control.

    A robust natural theology may well be necessary for the gospel to be effectively heard in Western society today. In general, Western culture is deeply post-Christian. It is the product of the Enlightenment, which introduced into European culture the leaven of secularism that has by now permeated Western society. While most of the original Enlightenment thinkers were themselves theists, the majority of Western intellectuals today no longer considers theological knowledge to be possible. The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic.

    This is a series of declaratory statements. There is nothing to suggest that the concluding one is an expression of others’ opinions. Such a reading seems preposterous. It seems to me he is simply arguing against the unflinching pursuit of reason and that apologetics provides a way to flinch without feeling too unreasonable.

  • Steven Carr

    If you want to read a bonkers Craig article, try getting your head to accept this gem of Craig-nuttery.

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/sovereignty-and-salvation

    ‘Indeed, God may have known that through the guilt and shame of what Heinrich did under the Third Reich, he would eventually come to repent and find salvation and eternal life. Paradoxically, being a Nazi may have been the best thing that happened to Heinrich, since it led to his salvation. Of course, one may wonder about those poor people who suffered in the death camps because of Heinrich. But God has a plan for their lives, too, that includes their salvation and He accords them, like Heinrich, sufficient grace for salvation.’