(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 1: “What is apologetics?”)
In this week’s installment, Dr. William Lane Craig addresses the topic, “Why Is Apologetics Important?” As I mentioned last time, apologetics is important because God’s failure to show up in real life leaves Christians without an objective basis for their faith, and therefore they have no alternative but to rely on the works of men like Dr. Craig. But that might be a bit blunt for a book intended to encourage Christians to keep believing, so he offers three other reasons instead.
- Shaping culture.
- Strengthening believers.
- Winning unbelievers.
Here’s how Dr. Craig introduces point number one:
We’ve all heard of the so-called culture war going on in American society. Some people may not like this militaristic metaphor, but the truth is that a tremendous struggle for the soul of America is raging right now… Secularists are bent on eliminating religion from the public square. The so-called New Atheists, represented by people like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, are even more aggressive. They want to exterminate religious belief entirely.
He forgot to say add atheists are the reincarnation of Adolph Hitler, but I’m sure that was just an oversight.
In one short paragraph, Dr. Craig sets the tone for his entire book. This isn’t going to be the pseudo-scholarly pretense at objectivity we saw in Geisler and Turek’s I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST. This is going to be an appeal to Fox News-style demagoguery and demonization. Anybody who disagrees with or criticizes Christianity–with or without justification–is automatically waging war against the very soul of America, seeking to drive religion from the public square if not to exterminate it entirely.
It’s an argument that is sure to resonate well with his intended audience, and also to immunize them against the objections they’re bound to encounter. We’re not having a reasonable discussion, you see. We’re not weighing the facts and seeking a balanced and objective conclusion. This is a war, and anybody who disagrees with you is trying to destroy your homeland. So it’s ok not to listen to what they say. They’re not just the enemy, they’re an evil enemy. So don’t listen to them. Fire your shots and then run back to take cover in your church (or better yet, your voting booth).
Already, at the very beginning of the book, Dr. Craig has exposed himself as a Christian supremacist, a bigot who assumes that Christianity has a natural and rightful place as the true religion of America, no matter what the First Amendment says. Christian supremacists like to play the martyr card and the “war on Christians” card, but in point of fact our nation was explicitly established as a secular nation, with explicit prohibitions against establishing any religion or enacting any restrictions on the free exercise thereof. The “soul” of America is supposed to be secular, according to its own constitution. Our founding fathers came here to get away from the Christian nations they grew up in.
In the war to change that soul into a Christian soul, it is Christian supremacists like Dr. Craig who are the aggressors. Yes, the New Atheists criticize Christianity (and other religions), but they are only exercising their right to express their objections, as everyone has the right to do. And likewise, there are those who truly care about human rights and liberty, and these people do oppose attempts by Christian supremacists to establish Christianity as the arbiter of American law and government. But there again, it is the Christian supremacists who are the aggressors, who are not content to merely express their beliefs (as the New Atheists do), but who seek to subvert the power of government to forcibly impose those beliefs on those who do not share them.
We see this, for example, in the number of states that have passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. It’s none of the state’s business who I or anyone else chooses as a spouse, yet Christian supremacists have abused their majority status and subverted the democratic process for the sole purpose of interfering in the private affairs of others, denying them their liberty and human rights, just so they can say, “This is a Christian nation, and gays are not welcome here.” This is not “the public square,” where opinions may freely be expressed. This is big government intruding into the private lives of individuals and imposing Christian prohibitions on those that do not believe in them. Christians are the aggressors, and secularists are the ones defending the values of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” on which our nation was founded, Dr. Craig’s propaganda notwithstanding.
So now that Dr. Craig has shown us his true colors, what arguments does he make to support the claim that Christianity is losing the culture wars? Does he cite the number of Christian-backed initiatives that have failed at the polls? Does he cite the 40% of states that still lack amendments banning gay marriage? Does he claim that Christians have been pushed out of politics or that the majority of those making our laws are publicly disparaging religion and asserting their unbelief as though it were a virtue? No, this “war” isn’t about facts, it’s about something else entirely.
How many films coming out of Hollywood portray Christians in a positive way? How many times do we instead find Christians portrayed as shallow, bigoted, villainous hypocrites? What is the public perception of Bible-believing Christians in our culture today?
And he follows this mini-rant with a cartoon showing a family of Southern Baptists on exhibit at a zoo, as though they were a rare specimen.
Isn’t that amazing? With Christians taking over school boards, state legislatures, federal courts, and Congress, with even Hollywood producing big-name pictures like The Passion and The Chronicles of Narnia, he declares America to be post-Christian because the fiction coming out of Hollywood fails to flatter Christians as much as he thinks it should. He’s telling us that apologetics is important because, with the right apologetics, we might someday be able to produce more fiction about Christians being noble and respectable people! If only there were more fiction about admirable Christians, the average American might be able to look past all the bad PR that comes from news stories about how real Christians are behaving in real life. That is the culture war that apologetics needs to win.
All I can say is, apologetics has its work cut out for it. But Dr. Craig isn’t finished yet.
[T]he gospel is never heard in isolation. It is always heard against the backdrop of the culture in which you’ve been born and raised…
To see the influence of culture on your own thinking, imagine what you would think if a Hindu devotee of the Hare Krishna movement, with his shaved head and saffron robe, approached you at the airport or shopping mall, offering you a flower and inviting you to become a follower of Krishna. Such an invitation would likely strike you as bizarre, freakish, maybe even a bit funny. But think how differently someone in Delhi, India, would react if he were approached by such a person! Having been raised in a Hindu culture, he might take such an invitation very seriously.
Notice, Dr. Craig is not saying it would be a good thing for you to become a follower of Krishna. In Dr. Craig’s worldview, Hinduism is a false religion, and Krishna is a false god. Look at what he is saying, though. India has a culture that makes it easier for people to be sucked into a false religion that worships a false god. Think how much better off Christianity would be if our culture also made it easier to suck people into false religions that worship a false God!
Wow, really? Yes, really. William Lane Craig is an apologist, a man whose job it is to suck people into believing Christianity, in the absence of a God Who actually shows up in real life. He’s jealous of other false religions, where the entire culture makes you more vulnerable to religious deceptions instead of equipping you to discern truth from charlatanry. He wishes we had that here, so that his job, as an apologist, would be easier.
Says a lot right there, doesn’t it? Secular folk admire cultures that promote sound critical thinking and reason and objectivity, leading to greater cultural, economic, and scientific advancement, but the Christian supremacist admires cultures that promote superstition and gullibility. Here’s how Dr. Craig sums up his point.
I’m not saying that people will become Christians because of the arguments and evidence. Rather, I’m saying that the arguments and evidence will help to create a culture in which Christian belief is a reasonable thing.
In other words, a culture like they have in India, where false religions like Hinduism seem reasonable–not because of the evidence, but because of familiarity and cultural reinforcement. The evidence itself is not really convincing, so he does not expect it to actually convince people. He just hopes that, through repetition, he can create a recognition factor that will take the place of reason in helping attract people to Hinduism’s competitor. It’s a common marketing ploy.
And that’s reason number one why apologetics is important. Christian supremacists need it to help create a Hollywood fiction that will make gullible people more likely to buy into false religions. Dr. Craig doesn’t express it in quite those terms, of course, but that is the point he’s making. And he’s one of America’s foremost defenders of Christianity. He’s not just saying that to make Christianity look bad. From his perspective as a committed, born-again, and highly-educated conservative evangelical, this is really and truly a role that apologetics needs to play.
And I think he has hit the nail exactly on the head.