Q & A with Dr. Craig: Finding a Confident Christian Faith

Reasonable Faith

Q: You make a distinction, which I accept, between “knowing” and “showing” that something is true. But the thing is that I don’t know that the Resurrection is true, therefore, assuming it is, I need to be shown this. The problem is that, from the standpoint of the skeptical but open-minded seeker, as I consider myself to be, when looked at dispassionately the historical evidence is, while perhaps sufficient for corroboration of what one already believes, for the rest of us fragmentary and unconvincing.

Let me be clear: I am a theist. But in the absence of better evidence for the Resurrection what Christianity proposes about God, i.e. that he loves each of us personally, when set against the evident and undeniable indifference of the natural world to its creatures, just looks like wishful thinking. Hence I incline, reluctantly, towards stoicism, which seems better in tune with the empirical facts.

Now, the very gratuitousness and unnecessariness of our universe is clear evidence to me of the intrinsic goodness of God, who, after all, can need nothing from us that he doesn’t already have. But I see no unambiguous evidence that this goodness extends down to actual love and concern for individual creatures. Why should God care about us? In any case it is surely inconceivable, if not logically impossible, for God, who is presumably one unitary consciousness, to have a “personal” relationship, i.e. one-to-one, with every single one of the billions of souls alive now, not to mention those who have died and those who will exist in the future.

Of course, God could simply “make” me know that the Resurrection happened and then God’s love for us would be a simple inference from that fact and none of the above would be a problem. But he doesn’t do this, for me anyway, and there seems no purely rational bridge to faith. One possibility is Pascal’s Wager, i.e. act as if until you become conditioned to believe through sheer force of habit, but to me this seems intellectually dishonest, and you and I both care, I think, about the truth.

What is your opinion of my reasoning here? Am I missing something? Is there any intellectually honest way, prior to, or in the absence of, the intervention of the “Holy Spirit”, to get from stoical resignation to a confident faith in the truth of the if true undoubtedly good news of the New Testament? There are after all good reasons for all of us to want such faith: it was undoubtedly this (and not resigned stoicism) that built the modern world and it has long been clear to me that, as you have pointed out elsewhere, if something very like Christianity is not true then human life is ultimately futile and absurd. Futility and absurdity hardly seem like a very good basis on which to build a life that adds up to much…

So, I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts on all of this. I would guess that my epistemic condition is a common one – many of the “spiritual but not religious” types probably share it, so this question will have a broad appeal and interest.

Grant

United Kingdom

A: Answering your question thoroughly, Grant, would require me to run through my entire apologetic case for Christianity! I’m tempted therefore just to say, “Read On Guard or Reasonable Faith.” Have you actually read those books and digested the arguments therein?

Let’s start with the distinction between knowing and showing Christianity to be true. When I talk about knowing Christianity to be true, I’m talking primarily about Christian belief which is properly basic, grounded in the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. This is the ultimate source of a confident Christian belief.

But you just blow this away, asking if there is any “intellectually honest way” to a confident faith “prior to, or in the absence of, the intervention of the ‘Holy Spirit’.” Whence this precondition? You imply that a knowledge of Christianity’s truth on the basis of the Spirit’s witness is somehow intellectually dishonest, despite the fact that one of the world’s greatest philosophers Alvin Plantinga has enunciated and defended in detail just such a religious epistemology.[1] Your choosing to ignore the witness of God’s Spirit is unjustified and even dangerous, since it is apt to harden your heart toward God and cut you off from Him.

Next there is your skepticism…

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Q & A with Dr. Craig: Finding a Confident Christian Faith