Science & Faith
7/5/13 at 06:07 PM 3 Comments

The Chronicle: Story of Philosopher-Apologist William Lane Craig in the Leading Academic Newspaper

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Philosopher William Lane Craig

In the Chronicle of Higher Education Nathan Schneider, playing off the "new atheism" designation of Dawkins and company, has written a fair-minded article: The New Theist: How William Lane Craig became Christian Philosophy's Boldest Apostle. When Schneider told evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins about the Craig Chronicle project "the muscles in his [Darwkins'] face clenched." Dawkins twice proded Schneider: "Why are you publicizing him?"

Dawkins has done his best to ignore Craig and downplay his significance. The new Chronicle story on Craig is not playing by Dawkins's self-serving rules. Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, has refused to debate Craig one-on-one, probably because he knows how knowledgable Craig is about philosophy, science, history, and theology. Even fellow atheist Sam Harris called Craig "the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists." Schneider communicates most of this, and more, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is the world's leading academic newspaper. This is bad news for the new atheists.

Craig is an academic heavy weight, especially in the field of philosophy. Among professional philosophers in the field of philosophy of religion, Craig's "books and articles are among the most cited," Schneider reports. Craig's holds a faculty appointment at Biola University, where he teaches in the largest philosophy graduate program in the English-speaking world, Schneider mentions. The M.A. program in Philosophy that Craig teaches in is a sister program to Biola's M.A. program in Christian Apologetics and M.A. in Science and Religion--a program in which I teach as an adjunct about as frequently as Craig teaches at Biola (Craig spends most of his time on research rather than teaching).

Craig emphasizes the evidence for intelligent design at the cosmological level (not biology) in his research and debates with atheists. He is a leading authority on the kalam cosmological argument, which integrates the latest findings in cosmology and philosophy.

Here are some "Science & Faith" highlights from the story about Craig in the Chronicle:

The debates for which Craig is most famous live on long after the crowds are gone from the campus auditoriums or megachurch sanctuaries where they take place. On YouTube, they garner tens or hundreds of thousands of views as they're dissected and fact-checked by bloggers and hobbyists and apologists-in-training.
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In the mid-1970s, Craig was looking for a place to do his Ph.D., on the cosmological argument for the existence of God. He was finishing master's degrees in church history and philosophy of religion at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, near Chicago ... "I couldn't find anybody in the United States who would supervise such a dissertation," Craig recalls.
So he and his wife, Jan, packed their bags for the University of Birmingham, in England. Craig's proposal was welcomed there by John Hick—one of the best-known philosophers of religion of his generation and also one of the most liberal-minded. Hick, who died last year, counts Craig in his memoir as among the top three students of his teaching career, even while describing Craig's "extreme theological conservatism" as in at least one respect "horrific" and generally indicative of "a startling lack of connection with the modern world."
Yes and no. On the one hand, the dissertation Craig produced in Birmingham was a retrieval of the "Kalam cosmological argument"—a way of reasoning about the cause of the universe developed by Muslims and Jews between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. On the other, he updated the argument with more recent scientific notions, such as the Big Bang and the laws of thermodynamics. The dissertation was soon published in the form of not one but two books, which went on to become influential and widely discussed in the philosophical literature.
Hick, a pioneer of religious pluralism and nonexclusivist approaches to Christianity, was taken aback by this brilliant student's single-minded ambition: to persuade more people everywhere to make professions of faith in Jesus Christ.

Any given debate about the existence of God or some related topic reveals the tremendous intellectual labor Craig has undertaken to that end. In addition to his two master's degrees and philosophy Ph.D. under Hick, he spent the early 1980s acquiring a further doctorate in theology at the University of Munich, where he studied the reliability of the source texts about the resurrection of Jesus. He has published more than 100 articles in philosophy and theology journals. The result is a person (verging on machine) who cannot only hold his own against fellow analytic philosophers on matters such as the possibility of an infinite regress and the nature of time, but who can also spar with physicists on the first milliseconds of the universe and with biblical scholars on the provenance of particular passages in New Testament Greek.

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"A person doesn't feel like they have to be a six-day creationist anymore," says Philip Murray, a late-career computer specialist who directs the Reasonable Faith chapter in New York City.
Learn more about Craig's organization Reasonable Faith.
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