William Lane Craig is professional philosopher who’s known for his arguments for the existence of God… and also a charlatan who’s made excuses for genocide and is in the habit of telling lies about people who disagree with him.
Saying this is not how I would normally start a post series on the work of a professional philosopher. I don’t think it’s true of a single other professional philosopher I know of; I don’t think it’s true of Plantinga or Swinburne of van Inwagen.
But in Craig’s case, I think what I’ve said about him is true and very important to say. This is not because it necessarily means Craig’s arguments are no good. The world’s greatest liar could say it’s raining, and that doesn’t make it sunny.
Rather, it’s because I think people who are interested in debates about the existence of God should know that they cannot trust Craig. They can’t trust him to accurately describe the views of the experts on various subjects (who Craig constantly insists are on his side). They can’t trust that when he says something’s a fact, it’s really a fact. And they can’t trust him to accurately describe the views of his opponents.
This matters because few arguments are really matters of pure logic which anyone could verify. Most arguments rely on factual information, and when we listen to an argument we have to be able to trust the arguer to have their facts mostly right. And even with arguments that claim to prove their point through pure logic, when the arguer deals with objections to the argument, we need to be able to trust that they’re describing the objections accurately.
I also say all this right away because I don’t want the fact that I’m devoting post series to Craig to add to his (undeserved) reputation. Why, then, am I devoting a post series to him? Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on someone who’s at least honest?
Normally, yes. The problem is that respectable defenders of arguments for the existence of God are in short supply. Craig does not have quite the academic status of Plantinga, Swinburne, of van Inwagen, but Plantinga and van Inwagen aren’t mainly known for arguments for the existence of God. Well, Plantinga is in part known for his version of the ontological argument, but he actually admits it isn’t terribly compelling.
Swinburne is known mainly for his arguments for the existence of God, which I’ve already addressed. But I just can’t bear to say much more about Swinburne than I already have. What do you say about such offensively awful “solutions” to the problem of evil?
Furthermore, there seem to be a lot of philosophy professors who think Swinburne is worth reading, but very people anywhere seem to think his arguments actually give a good reason for believing in God. William Lane Craig, on the other hand, writes a lot of popular material and is also known for doing live debates with prominent atheists (something I’ll eventually have quite a bit to say about), and has a large fan base who I run into semi-regularly as a blogger.
In fact, while he doesn’t quite have Swinburne’s status in the academic world, you could actually argue Craig is the leading defender of arguments for the existence of God today. Craig (along his lesser-known, sometimes-collaborator JP Moreland) was the editor of the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, Blackwell being a major academic publishing house. Not that this shows what a great guy Craig is–rather, I think the lack of a more credible defender of Craig’s views shows how fringe those views are.
But I won’t say any more on that until I’ve talked a lot more about the arguments Craig uses. I’m going to go through his arguments one at a time, in the order they appear in the most recent edition of Craig’s apologetics textbook Reasonable Faith. As I discuss the arguments, I will give many examples of Craig’s dishonesty. Once I’ve gone through all of Craig’s arguments, I’ll say a bit more about his dishonesty and why it matters.