XFiles: Retroactive miracles

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 71/2: “A Philosopher’s Journey of Faith, Part Two”)

It’s testimony time! Before we get to William Lane Craig and his story of how God uniquely blessed him, I’d like to tell a joke. It seems a hunter was out in the woods one day and came across a bullseye painted on a tree, with a single arrow dead center in the middle of it. The bullseye was rather small, and even the tree itself was not too large, so the hunter was impressed. As he continued through the woods, he found more and more of these small bullseyes, each with a single arrow in the dead center. “Clearly,” he thought, “I’ve stumbled onto the domain of a master archer. I must find him and see if he can teach me to shoot as well as he.”

After some searching, he came upon a young man with a bow, a quiver of arrows, small pail of red paint, and a brush. “Are you the one that’s been shooting all those bullseyes?” asked the hunter. “I am,” replied the youth. “Such skill in one so young!” declared the hunter, “Will you teach me?” “Surely,” the youth replied. And with that he set down his paint and brush, pulled out an arrow, drew back his bow, and shot it into a thickly-wooded part of the forest, where it struck a tree. He then took his paint and brush and painted a neat bullseye all around where the arrow had landed.

And now, at the risk of incurring some serious déjà vu, let’s look at how God’s answers to Craig’s prayers have been so remarkably on target.

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XFiles: The emotional rationalization of suffering

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 7: “What About Suffering?”)

William Lane Craig deals with the problem of suffering by assuming that it’s not really an intellectual problem, since he can imagine the possibility that God might be working under some set of unknown constraints. He may not have any grounds (other than wishful thinking) for supposing this to be true, but as long as he can claim that atheists are unable to prove the contrary, he considers the intellectual argument a non-problem for God.

That leaves what he calls “the emotional problem of suffering.” It’s a bit misnamed, because the problem isn’t our response to suffering. Suffering is evil, and people should have a negative reaction to it. When you see one person suffering, and you know that someone else can help them and simply refuses to do so, without any justification for their refusal, then moral outrage is an entirely appropriate. When Craig tells us that God has the power to relieve suffering, and deliberately chooses not to help, and when he defends this behavior by the excuse that we can’t know for certain that God does not have some secret justification, then that’s Craig’s problem, not ours.

Craig doesn’t really offer a good response to that. Instead, he presents us with a choice selection of emotional rationalizations for suffering. And to be fair, these are not uniquely Christian rationalizations, except to the extent that they apply Christian labels to the higher power or powers that are supposed to be punishing us and/or preparing us for some higher calling. What’s interesting is that Craig declares that “the emotional problem” of suffering is more significant than “the intellectual problem,” and needs a correspondingly more significant answer. But if that’s the case, why does he give it such poor ones?

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XFiles: Reasons and rationalizations

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 7: “What About Suffering?”)

Last week, Dr. Craig was just starting to give us four Christian doctrines which (he claims) increase the probability that suffering can coexist with the Christian God. It’s part of his attempt to appear as though he is addressing one of the most significant positive atheistic arguments—the problem of evil—without actually confronting any serious challenge to his conclusions. So far he has replaced the problem of evil with the less-potent problem of suffering, has lowered the standard that Christians have to meet (by declaring that all Christians need to do is suggest the possibility that God might coexist with suffering), and has raised the standard that atheists have to meet (by declaring that atheists have the burden of proving that there is no possibility of God coexisting with suffering). In this week’s installment, he’s going to give us a good demonstration of using rationalization to further evade the issues.

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XFiles: Jamming with Dr. Craig

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 7: “What About Suffering?”)

If you want to know whether or not Christians are telling the truth about God, it’s theoretically very simple: all you need to do is look at the real world and see whether or not it’s consistent with what Christians are saying. Do we find conditions that match the consequences we should reasonably expect, given an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good and all-loving God—or don’t we?

One of the primary goals of apologetics is to prevent us from finding out the answer to that question, and in today’s installment of On Guard, William Lane Craig gives us a good example of the technique. As we saw last week, he has already pulled a sneaky bait and switch, substituting the lesser problem of suffering for the far more difficult problem of evil. This week, he’s going to use a variety of techniques, including the Argument from Ignorance, to try and jam our BS detectors, and leave us incapable of distinguishing false claims about God from true ones.

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