Is human sacrifice morally justified?

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 10: “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?”)

When you’ve dug yourself into a hole that you can’t climb out of, step one is to stop digging. Unfortunately, if you stop digging, people might think you’re admitting that you’ve dug yourself into a hole you can’t get out of. In theological contexts, the way to handle that dilemma is to dig yourself in deeper.

But we can push the argument a notch further. We can show positively that it’s entirely possible that God is all-powerful and all-loving and that many persons never hear the gospel and are lost.

As a good and loving God, God wants as many people as possible to be saved and as few as possible to be lost. His goal, then, is to achieve an optimal balance between these, to create no more of the lost than is necessary to attain a certain number of the saved. But it’s possible that the actual world (which includes the future as well as the present and past) has such a balance. It’s possible that in order to create this many people who will be saved, God also had to create this many people who will be lost… It’s possible that in order to achieve a multitude of saints, God had to accept a multitude of sinners.

What Craig is arguing (without realizing it) is that it’s possible that there is some greater power than God, some power that forces God to do things He would prefer not to do. There’s no logical necessity that requires one or more souls to be damned in order to save someone else’s soul, even given free will. You might think that free will would reduce the chances of everybody being saved, but there’s no logical necessity that says the salvation of one soul requires the damnation of another. (Plus, an all-loving, all-powerful deity would not leave such an important matter to mere chance.) There must be some other power, then, that forces God to do what He would not wish to do. And if there’s some greater power than God, then God by definition is not all-powerful.

And Craig is only starting to dig himself in.

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Grasping at straw men

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 10: “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?”)

A lot of people think that faith and agnosticism are mutually exclusive, but they’re not really. In fact, certain forms of agnosticism are not only compatible with faith, in some cases they’re downright essential, as William Lane Craig demonstrates for us today.

Craig frames the problem as a set of premises: (1) God is all-powerful and all-loving, and (2) some people never hear the gospel and are lost. To these first two premises, he adds what he calls the “hidden premises” of religious pluralists (i.e. those who deny that Jesus is the only way to God). These premises are (3) God can create a world in which everyone hears the gospel and is saved and (4) He would prefer such a world. At first glance, those don’t seem too unreasonable, but let’s look at the case he tries to build on them.

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Spoilers and the weakness of the Almighty

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 10: “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?”)

Normally I hate it when people give away the plot, but today I’m going to make an exception. I’m going to give away the plot behind the “Christian exclusivism” argument that William Lane Craig is making. When Craig says that Jesus is the only way to heaven, he’s not being as humble and pious as he’d like everyone (including himself) to think. He’s not exalting God and abasing man. The whole point of Christian exclusivism (or “particularism,” as he calls it) is to put Christians in the position of having a unique monopoly on what people are supposed to believe and how they must behave. Religious pluralism is anathema to him precisely because it allows people to believe and obey things Christians haven’t approved.

The problem with Christian exclusivism is that, from God’s perspective, there’s no reason for it. If, as the Gospel claims, God were a loving heavenly Father Who earnestly wanted all of His children to be saved, the last thing He would want to do is to tack on some arbitrary and often impossible requirements that severely limit the number of salvations. Craig expends a fair amount of effort trying to defend his exclusivist position against the obvious charge of injustice, but he can’t really explain why God ought to limit salvations in the first place. Shh, don’t tell anyone: the real reason is first and foremost to establish the dominion of Christians like himself.

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The Hell with Christianity

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 10: “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?”)

There are times when a Christian apologist’s chief task is to so corrupt our reason and morals that we are no longer able to tell the difference between truth and falsehood, right and wrong. Last week wasn’t too bad; Craig was standing up for Christian particularism as versus religious pluralism, and that would be fine if there were, in fact, one true religion. But to be true, a thing has to be consistent both with itself and with objective reality, and Christianity fails to meet those criteria, as we’ll see in today’s installment.

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Christian monopoly

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 10: “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?”)

We’ve come to the end of William Lane Craig’s big arguments for God, but there’s still a few loose ends to tidy up. The first problem he tackles is pluralism, i.e. the idea that other religions might also be valid. The trouble with with most of Craig’s arguments (i.e. all but the last) is that they’re non-specific. The kalam argument, the fine-tuning argument, the moral law argument, etc, all boil down to what you might call “superstition with an expanded vocabulary.” If you’re just looking at things you haven’t got a simple answer for, and are arbitrarily attributing them to whatever deity or deities suit your preferences, there’s really no reason to claim that Christianity’s superstitions are any better than anyone else’s.

That will never do, of course, so the first item on Craig’s agenda is to try and disprove pluralism, so that Christians can have a monopoly on the One True Path to God.

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Not with a bang

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 9: “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?”)

For as much energy as he has put into dissecting certain critical theories of the Gospel, William Lane Craig ends his defense of the resurrection on a decidedly flat note: just under 3 and a half pages attempting to defend his so-called “resurrection hypothesis,” and even those consist mostly of just saying, “Yep, I win here too.” I think in the interests of academic honesty, I should go over some of the important factors Craig is leaving out.

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Seeing is believing

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 9: “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?”)

William Lane Craig is trying to convince us that the “resurrection hypothesis” is the best explanation for what he calls the “three historical facts” about the origin of Christianity: the empty tomb, the (perceived) appearances to the disciples, and their subsequent faith. Last week he tried (without much success) to eliminate the “disciples stole the body” alternative. Granted, a conspiracy to hide the body and then lie about the resurrection is pretty unlikely, but it’s extremely possible that some small group of disciples might have removed it without the knowledge or consent of the others, resulting in a major misunderstanding on the part of the others.

The next two alternatives Craig deals with are the “apparent death” hypothesis and the “misplaced body” hypothesis. I’m basically going to skip those two because Craig is mostly correct in dismissing them due to their inherent implausibility. The main argument we want to look at is what Craig calls the “hallucination hypothesis,” i.e. idea that the disciples were just having hallucinations about seeing Jesus.

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