Tuesday, November 1, 2011

William Lane Craig and the Immorality of Apostasy

This is a quote that Craig has posted on his webite Reasonable Faith. In response to a Christian struggling with doubt, he writes:

…..Be on guard for Satan's deceptions. Never lose sight of the fact that you are involved in a spiritual warfare and that there is an enemy of your soul who hates you intensely, whose goal is your destruction, and who will stop at nothing to destroy you. Which leads me to ask: why are you reading those infidel websites anyway, when you know how destructive they are to your faith? These sites are literally pornographic (evil writing) and so ought in general to be shunned. Sure, somebody has to read them and refute them; but why does it have to be you? Let somebody else, who can handle it, do it. Remember: Doubt is not just a matter of academic debate or disinterested intellectual discussion; it involves a battle for your very soul, and if Satan can use doubt to immobilize you or destroy you, then he will.

I firmly believe, and I think the Bizarro-testimonies of those who have lost their faith and apostatized bears out, that moral and spiritual lapses are the principal cause for failure to persevere rather than intellectual doubts. But intellectual doubts become a convenient and self-flattering excuse for spiritual failure because we thereby portray ourselves as such intelligent persons rather than as moral and spiritual failures. I think that the key to victorious Christian living is not to have all your questions answered — which is probably impossible in a finite lifetime — but to learn to live successfully with unanswered questions. The key is to prevent unanswered questions from becoming destructive doubts. I believe that can be done by keeping in mind the proper ground of our knowledge of Christianity's truth and by cultivating the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives….

The first thing I take issue with is his abuse of the etymology of the word "pornography". It doesn't "literally" mean evil writings, the Greek word πορνεια::porneia is specifically used in a sexual context. It would be closer to sexual immorality (or even "sexual evil") not just plain old evil. Evil writings would be something like cacography. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 5.1:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and a kind [of sexual immorality] that does not occur even among pagans
Ὅλως ἀκούεται ἐν ὑμῖν πορνεία, καὶ τοιαύτη πορνεία ἥτις οὐδὲ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν
Anyway, now that I've gotten my superficial pedantry out of the way, I want to address the meat of Craig's response. I personally have a soft spot for II (Internet Infidels) because their writings and (now defunct) message board educated me a lot in the ways of scholarly Christianity. I can't claim (or blame, as Craig intimates) II led to my deconversion because I was already a non-Christian when I started reading their material sometime around 2002. What I take offense at is Craig's implication that the intellect has nothing to do with the moral.
 
On the contrary to Craig's argument here, I don't think that II is immoral. I personally think that Christian faith itself is immoral (note: I'm not saying that Christians as people are immoral). I went over my reasons in a somewhat recent post here. All of my reasons are intellectual reasons; non-intellectual morality leads to certain gut level reactions that produce "moral reasoning" like xenophobia, homophobia, racism, sexism, and other formerly moral dictates that we as a society have moved beyond. What really irks me about this is that Craig is equivocating apostasy with immorality. Sure, this makes sense in a Christian worldview, but not in the modern world. A modern world where we rightfully balk at Muslim countries who say that execution for apostasy is just. It wouldn't surprise me if Craig thought that apostates should be killed, since he already defends genocide. Though, I do guess it follows logically that if you are to burn in hell for all eternity for not believing in Christ, and only immoral people are sent to hell, then apostates most certainly would be "immoral".
 
Divine Command Theory really is abjectly immoral.
 
More contrary to Craig. Doubt, I think, is a good thing. But again, this depends on the type of doubt. As far as I can tell, there are two kinds of doubt. One is emotional, and the other is intellectual. Emotional doubt is nothing more than fear, and from what it looks like Craig is writing, he advocates fear. Fear in any sort of knowledge that might make one lose faith. Fear of the intellect; fear of knowledge; fear of curiosity; fear of even life itself. This sort of fear that Craig advocates will surely lead any Christian under his tutelage to fear the world at large (that seems to be his goal, with all that talk about Satan at the beginning of that quote). I do not condone that type of doubt, since it is overall a negative emotion; it's the sort of doubt you have when you think your wife may be unfaithful to you.
 
However, the other kind of doubt I recommend highly. This second type of doubt is analogous to curiosity. If a Christian is curious about their faith sometimes (my substitue to explain that they're using the first kind of doubt when they say that they 'doubt their faith sometimes'), then this means that they are an unthinking Christian. Why would you only be curious about Christianity "sometimes"? Maybe that's the type of Christianity that Craig is promulgating, especially in the quoted section above? Who knows; I haven't read that much of Craig's writings to offer a definitive conclusion on that part.
 
A secondary point is an ironic charge that Craig gives to the person that he's writing to: "Sure, somebody has to read them and refute them; but why does it have to be you? Let somebody else, who can handle it, do it". Why is this ironic? Because Craig is a Protestant. One of the main gripes that the original Protestants had about their Catholic leadership was exactly this reasoning. Why do the lay people have to rely on Catholic leadership to interperet the Bible? The entire point of Protestantism was to remove this power from the Catholic church and give it to the common person (mainly done by translating the now unintelligible Latin into common languages). Craig is implying the same appeal to consequences that Catholics gave to Protestants: you can't handle doing things by yourself so let someone else -- who can actually handle it -- do it for you. Your very salvation is at stake! Let your spiritual adults handle this for you. 
 
History tells me that Craig's approach won't work. If it did, then Craig himself would still be a Catholic.
 
(H/t Bruce of Fallen From Grace)

2 comments:

atimetorend said...

"I personally have a soft spot for II (Internet Infidels) because their writings and (now defunct) message board..."

I have a soft spot for that site too, it was an invaluable resource for me when I started questioning evangelical/fundy christianity. Where else can you go an get a decent response to nearly any popular apologists arguments?

Would like to comment more on this post, maybe later, too crushed for time. But briefly I find Craig's response especially galling, it sounds to me like, "Don't think, just believe us, don't use reason..." over and over again. Why not just get a frontal lobotomy to settle everything?

Think they just moved the message board, not closed it, or is this something else?
-link-

J. Quinton said...

Yeah the discussion board moved, but it's no longer associated with Internet Infidels.