William Lane Craig rationalizes his lie about Ehrman

In the past, I’ve documented William Lane Craig’s repeated lies about Bart Ehrman—namely his attempts to cite Ehrman as a skeptical scholar who accepts the “facts” Craig uses in his argument for the resurrection of Jesus. For years, Craig has been quoting from a 2003 lecture Ehrman gave as if it represented his current views, ignoring the fact that when they debated in 2006, Ehrman said he’d changed his mind. In fact, in their debate Ehrman hammered Craig for his misuse of other scholars’ work.

In the past when I’ve brought this up, I’ve been told, “well, it’s theoretically possible that Craig isn’t lying, because maybe he forgot.” I’ve always found this implausible. Ehrman was pretty damn clear about his views in the debate, making it hard for me to imagine Craig forgetting. But more recently, a reader alerted me to some evidence that Craig didn’t forget. Instead, Craig justifies his continued use of Ehrman as a supporter by claiming that Ehrman is being dishonest about his own views.

In the video below (key bit around the 7 minute mark), Craig spins a theory about “Good Bart,” the scholar who knows Craig is right about the historical reliability of the Gospels, and “Bad Bart,” the dishonest popularizer. According to Craig, “In his Teaching Company lectures, Good Bart admits that these are historical facts, in contrast to Bad Bart, which in his popular works gives the impression that he denies them.”

This kind of rationalization could justify any lie you please about an opponents’ views. Say whatever’s convenient, and when shown contrary evidence, say, “oh, I know they want you to think that’s not they’re view, but what I said really is their view, honest, they’re the one who’s lying.” And if you can convince yourself of that, you’re not technically lying! The fact that such excuses will always be available gives me little patience for the not-technically-lying defense.

The video:

  • Concern_Troll

    How did this guy get to his current position? His apologetics work is garbage, and I have it on good authority from a friend of mine who works on the philosophy of time that Craig’s work in that field isn’t any better (though it’s similarly dishonest). Can someone please tell me?

    • Tova Rischi

      My impression is it’s a combination of low bars, luck, and momentum.

      Modern apologetics more than most other philosophies is populist in its nature, setting a low bar as it’s mostly preoccupied with engaging non-philosophers, which I honestly don’t want to fault it for but it is an unfortunate fact. Luck is luck, geographical and temporal. The momentum comes from his habits of digging up and dusting off ancient arguments, using them, and then lauching off in victory as his opponents played catch ran back to dust off the counterarguments.

      Nowadays I think he’s in too deep. And I think he knows it – deep down he probably believes that he’s doing right in an ends justify the means sort of way, but he knowingly lies for Jesus; quite convincingly. If you watch his debate with Stephen Law for example, while he dusts off Anselm’s old argument, Law dusts off the devil corollary, and Craig just spends the rest of his time at the podium attacking strawmen with this shit eating grin the whole time, never addressing the counterargument. He’s a really good orator, the kind of guy who can bullshit his way into making you think he won until you actually sit down to think about it.

      • D Rizdek

        “Nowadays I think he’s in too deep.”
        “Nowadays, I think he sin too deep.” FIFY
        Don’t take me seriously, I just couldn’t resist.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      One thing to realize is that Craig’s fame mostly comes from his popular work. He has very little academic status. He’s a B-lister even within philosophy of religion, which itself is not taken very seriously in mainstream academic philosophy. The people who think Craig is a great thinker are mostly people who want to believe his lies.

  • Pofarmer

    It was in the Ehrman debate where I realized just how dishonest Craig was. Since then I’ve watched him several times use arguments that were either completely destroyed in another debate or where the person he was quoting actually told him he was wrong, such as Ehrman.

    • Psycho Gecko

      For me, it was when he was in a debate with (I think) Christopher Hitchens. First he tried to give the ole misconception that atheism says there is no god. When Hitchens corrected him, he acted as though he’d heard an entirely new concept. He said something like, “So you’re saying you believe in a sort of ‘ah-theism’.” Yeah, he even pronounced it differently, as if it was an entirely separate thing.

      That, and seeing Kent Hovind’s attempt to explain men having nipples, convinced me that the top guys in the apologism racket are definitely liars. You have your ignorant masses below who pay them and who just repeat what they’re told, but these others are saying things where you can tell they should know better. They’d rather lie to protect their racket than tell the truth.

      It’s one thing to have a conversation with an ignorant person, but there’s no reason at all for me to listen to someone who is knowingly lying to people like that.

  • lunaticus

    Modern apologetics more than most other philosophies is populist in its nature, setting a low bar as it’s mostly preoccupied with engaging non-philosophers, which I honestly don’t want to fault it for but it is an unfortunate fact.

    For most apologists, that’s it exactly. With the exception of an introductory chapter here and there, I’ve yet to read a work of apologetics that does not fit the pattern of 1) pretending to address the concerns of skeptics and outsiders, but 2) actually intending to keep the flock from straying too far. It’s a field devoted more to polemic than to rational argument and empiricism. And yet, even considering that low bar of rigour, those statements by Craig are pretty shameful. It reminds me of his comments about how Alan Guth (I believe) believes the universe might be eternal not because the BGV actually allows for it, but because Guth can’t face up to the possibility of a Creator.

    Then again, Craig proudly proclaims that his reason is “ministerial” to his faith – i.e., he will and does throw out any conclusions that he finds troubling. Comments like those about Guth and Ehrman appear like projection in that light.

    • MNb

      Try Swinburne.

      • lunaticus

        I’m pretty familiar with Swinburne, and I do like some of his work. It’s honest – which is more than can be said for some others – and often interesting. However, his arguments for the existence of god often include things like substance dualism and libertarian free will that your average atheist/naturalist/materialist is likely to see as non-starters. I realize he defends those things in other places, (how well is another question), but I still wonder who the intended audience is supposed to be. I’m not faulting him for it, but just noting it.

        However, in the case of someone like WLC, I think it’s fairly glaring that he’s not really out to convince the informed skeptic. The fact that he so often misquotes and misrepresents scientists, atheists and assorted others, and in ways that are so easy to uncover with such minimal digging, lead me to conclude he assumes his intended audience simply aren’t interested in doing any digging for themselves.

        • MNb

          ” I still wonder who the intended audience is supposed to be.”
          My guess is his colleague philosphers in the first place. I happen to know that he had an extensive conversation with Dutch atheist philosopher Herman Philipse.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    I don’t think that Ehrman ever accepted the “facts” or even changed his mind about them. Both before and after 2003, he denied that there was sufficient evidence to establish the historicity of the empty tomb or the honorable burial by Joseph of Arimathea.

    In 2003, Ehrman recorded a twelve-hour series of lectures for The Teaching Company titled From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Christianity, in one hour of which he gave a short overview of the sources for the historical Jesus. As part of that overview, he discussed examples of issues that were subject to historical inquiry such as the burial and the women finding the empty tomb as opposed to issues that were not such as the supernatural resurrection of Jesus. He did not discuss any criteria of historicity or seek to make any determinations about the empty tomb or the burial because that was irrelevant to the point he was making. He simply used those stories as examples of the kinds of things historians could address.

    Three years earlier, Ehrman recorded The Historical Jesus in which he devoted twelve hours to the topic he covered in one hour in 2003. In those lectures he specifically discusses criteria of historicity and why he thinks the empty tomb story and Joseph of Arimathea came up short. He also made that conclusion clear in his 1999 book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.

    Ehrman is far from precise in the 2003 lectures, but I would point out that he hedges himself by saying that it was “possible” that Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus and by referring to the empty tomb story as “historical datum” rather than “historical fact.” Nevertheless, based only on the 2003 lectures, it might be reasonable to think that Ehrman accepted the historicity of Joseph of Arimathea and the empty tomb story, but when viewed in the context of everything Ehrman has written and said before and after, I don’t think there is any question but that he doesn’t and never did (or at least not since he abandoned his Moody Bible Institute beliefs.

    I really don’t have any problem with Craig using the quotes from From Jesus to Constantine in the debate as a tactic to distract Ehrman, but he had to have known then that they did not fairly represent Ehrman’s position. Moreover, Craig lied on his website by referring to the quotes as something Ehrman had “written.” He also lies in he video when he refers to the position that Ehrman took in his lectures for the Teaching Company since he ignores those lectures where Ehrman discusses the issues in depth and clearly rejects the position that Craig attributes to him

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Maybe we should be pleased that WLC at least didn’t use the term “flip flopper.”

    Wm. Lane Craig for president!

  • MNb

    I’d like to point out WLC’s arrogance. He claims to know better what and how Ehrman thinks than Ehrman himself. So much for christian humility.

    • Denis Robert

      There’s never been such a thing as Christian humility. Haven’t seen it, ever. Christians are past masters at faking humility to ensure their fame.

  • http://oldtimeatheism.blogspot.ca/ Andyman409

    Vinny, can you send me a link to the 12 hour series Ehrman did on the empty tomb story? I’ve googled it and checked amazon and cant find anything on it.

  • Psycho Gecko

    I’m not a fan of Ehrman for different reasons.

    From what I have read, Ehrman’s made a number of mistakes that he refuses to acknowledge regarding the historicity of Jesus. Generally historians are willing to give any random Joe Blow the benefit of the doubt as far as existing just because a lot of people didn’t leave behind handy documents proving they lived and had this name and birthdate with a Social Security number and their horse driver’s license. Problem is, they want to let Jesus squeak in on that standard while still ignoring that the basis for believing he existed at all is a story where he has supernatural powers that’s part of a collection that believes in the existence of talking donkeys and snakes. The closest contemporary non-Biblical evidence they have tends to be stuff that was faked by later Christians attempting to lay that kind of groundwork.

    Worse, if you attempt to bring up any of this, people treat you like a conspiracy theorist merely because the vast majority of predominantly Christian historians go “Well, sure, he existed.” I know Ehrman’s supposed to be agnostic, but his failure to address concerns raised by other scholars about the poor quality of his work attempting to claim Jesus really existed doesn’t help his case.

  • Ross

    It is an open question as to whether authors who have published views different from their own current views can still have their old views quoted.

    Their old views have been published and disseminated through the peer-reviewed literature. Their old views are sitting in libraries and on personal bookshelves.

    If there is material that “ought not to be quoted,” shouldn’t it be repudiated by their authors? Ehrman hasn’t done that.

    At some point in time, it is assumed that some competent scholar held those views. Even if they have changed their mind now, that fact doesn’t change.

    There’s so much more nuance to this issue that is just being glazed over by your full-time hatred of William Lane Craig. It’s embarrassing. Stop it.

  • Anon

    Another lie by Craig:

    He claims that Ehrman is an atheist. He says:

    “Eventually, he became an agnostic and finally an atheist.” (source: http://youtu.be/70yS6sxi4p4?t=2m44s

    Wrong. Ehrman is an agnostic as he has repeatedly said.

    As for Craig’s three “facts”, it is clear that Ehrman doesn’t affirm them when he says (in the comments section):

    “I used to accept that, but I no longer do. I don’t think there is good
    evidence for a decent burial or an empty tomb, and will explain why in
    my book (I have two chapters on the resurrection).” (source: http://ehrmanblog.org/on-scholarly-consensus).


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