Bill Craig is not an ivory-tower pontificator; he's a man whose everyday life embodies his Christian philosophy. Even when wrestling with the very real issue of his own affliction, he emerges with confirmation that his beliefs are well placed. Everything is undergirded by a supreme confidence in the rationality of Christianity, a religion whose linchpin is a miracle of unprecedented proportions.
"You titled one of your most popular books Reasonable Faith," I said, "but there are skeptics who would call that an oxymoron."
I reached into my briefcase and withdrew a book called Critiques of God, turning to a chapter titled, "Religion and Reason." It was written by atheist Richard Robinson, a philosopher educated at Oxford and Cornell universities. I read Craig a quote that I had previously highlighted:
Christian faith is not merely believing that there is a god. It is believing that there is a god no matter what the evidence on the question may be. "Have faith,' in the Christian sense, means, "make yourself believe that there is a god without regard to evidence.'i3
Closing the book, I looked up at Craig and asked: "How do you see this interplay between faith and reason? Are the two really contradictory as critics contend?"
Craig began with a definition. "Faith is trust or commitment to what you think is true," he replied. "Why a person thinks Christianity is true may differ from individual to individual. For one person, it might be because God speaks to his heart and produces in him a conviction this is true. I certainly believe that's valid.
"To another person, though, it may be a more hardheaded intellectual exploration of the evidence that leads him to the same conclusion. But neither comes to faith until he makes that act of trust or commitment to what he thinks is true. When you understand faith in these categories, you can see it's entirely compatible with reason."
When I asked Craig to elaborate, he thought for a minute and then offered an illustration from his own experience. He began, "I had corneal transplant surgery a while back," but as soon as the words left his mouth, he let out a laugh. One more medical problem did sound like "piling-on" in light of our previous discussion about his health. Craig shrugged. "My wife says I'm a walking medical disaster area," he said with a chuckle, "but the healthiest person she knows!
"Anyway, before I was willing to let anyone operate on my eyes, Jan and I did a thorough search to find the best corneal surgeon in the country. We did research, we looked at the evidence, we contacted him, talked with him, and finally, after becoming convinced on the basis of the evidence he was the best, then I placed my trust in him and let him operate on my eyes. My faith or trust in him was based upon the good evidence that I had in his qualifications and credibility.
"In the same way, with respect to belief in God or miracles, many people make that act of trust or commitment after they have become convinced by the evidence that Christianity is true. Not everybody takes that route, but there are certainly people who do. And that's a logical and rational approach that uses reason rather than negates it."
The subject of evidence opened the door to a fundamental issue that was begging to be explored. Time after time, Craig had referred to the fact that if God exists, then it's reasonable to believe that the miraculous is possible. And while that makes sense, to many people it hinges on a very big "if."
"What affirmative evidence convinces you that such a miracle-working being exists?" I asked. "Can you give me some solid reasons for believing in a divine Creator and the validity of Christianity?"
Craig was nodding all through my question. "In 1986, 1 heard a lecture in which Alvin Plantinga presented two dozen reasons for believing in God. He's the premiere Christian philosopher today, and it was a dazzling display of theistic arguments," Craig replied.14
I glanced at my watch. "How about zeroing in on five main arguments?" I suggested.
"Okay," he said, "I'll go through a conspiracy of arguments for God that reinforce and underline each other."i5
Pushing up the sleeves of his shirt, Craig settled into his chair. As the author of The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe and co-author of Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, published by Oxford University Press, Craig began his arguments exactly where one would expect.
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