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Tom Gilson was provoked to produce his book True Reason because of the 2012 Reason Rally (which I attended). He demands: Why allow the atheists to seize control of the word “reason”?

He said, “The atheists claim to be the party of reason, but they don’t do it that well. Christianity on the other hand has a strong claim to be reasonable and based in reason.”

World famous apologist William Lane Craig agrees:

Christians are genuinely deeper, more thoughtful people than unbelievers are because Christians do wrestle with and think about these very profound, ultimate questions. . . . We do encourage hard thinking and self-reflection.

Respect for reason

We’re off to a good start. Christians embrace reason, and Christians are eager to wrestle honestly with tough questions their faith raises.

Let’s turn to Craig’s book, Reasonable Faith to see if Craig continues as the strong advocate of reason.

Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter. (Reasonable Faith, Third Edition, p. 48)

Record scratch. The “witness of the Holy Spirit” beats reason? How can you tell the Holy Spirit from wishful thinking? Dr. Craig seems eager to parrot support for reason when pressed, but his true evaluation gives it a secondary role. More from Craig:

It is the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit that gives us the fundamental knowledge of Christianity’s truth. Therefore, the only role left for argument and evidence to play is a subsidiary role. (Reasonable Faith, p. 47)

Why bother showing the grounding of his belief? That’s really hard! So he just assumes it and declares it self-authenticating. (I wonder why science never takes this shortcut? Maybe because it’s not a reliable route to the truth.)

We do find some rationalization for this position:

It seems to me inconceivable that God would allow any believer to be in a position where he would be rationally obliged to commit apostasy and renounce Christ. (Source)

Wow—the guy’s got two doctorates and this is what he comes up with? Just assume God and fit the facts to that assumption?

Even [people] who are given no good reason to believe and many persuasive reasons to disbelieve have no excuse, because the ultimate reason they do not believe is that they have deliberately rejected God’s Holy Spirit. (Reasonable Faith, p. 50)

Did you see that coming? That’s impressive blame shifting—now it’s the atheist’s fault! Craig elaborates with an analysis of their motivations:

When a person refuses to come to Christ, it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God’s Spirit on his heart. No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with God. (Reasonable Faith, p. 47)

Aha—so I love darkness. Got it. Yeah, what else could explain it?

More sources of delusion

William Lane Craig has plenty of company in Crazy Town. Are you a Christian who needs a pat on the head and assurance that you’ve backed the right horse? You can check your reason at the door, believe whatever the pastor tells you, and have confidence that you’re right.

  • Martin Luther said: “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”
  • The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
  • Apologist Greg Koukl said, “Intuitional truth doesn’t require a defense—a justification of the steps that brought one to this knowledge—because this kind of truth isn’t a result of reasoning by steps to a conclusion. It’s an obvious truth that no rational person who understands the nature of the issue would deny.”
  • Philosopher Alvin Plantinga said, “But lack of evidence, if indeed evidence is lacking, is no grounds for atheism.”
  • The statement of faith of Answers in Genesis begins: “The scientific aspects of creation are important but are secondary in importance to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer, and Judge.”
  • Kurt Wise has a PhD in geology from Harvard but is a young-earth Creationist. He has an unusual relationship with evidence: “If all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.”

An appeal for reason

But the Bible makes clear that Jesus intended his miracles to be evidence of his claims. He said, “Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works” (John 14:11). Demanding evidence is actually biblically supported.

To paraphrase physicist Paul Dirac: in science one tries to tell people, in a way understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in religion, one tries to tell people, in a grand and mysterious way, something they have no reason to believe—that an invisible God actually exists, that prayers are really answered, and that there is an afterlife.

Continue with More Sloppy Thinking from William Lane Craig

[The White Queen said:]
“When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as
six impossible things before breakfast.”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 6/4/14.)

Image credit: joseloya, flickr, CC


CROSS EXAMINED In his first career, Bob Seidensticker designed digital hardware and was a contributor to 14 software patents. Since then, he has explored the debate between Christianity and atheism for...

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