I almost feel like I have to apologize, as it’s not at all clear that Craig has actually read David Hart, given that he lumps him in with the Thomists. Hart himself is several times said that his theology is more Platonic than Thomistic. But I figured that putting Hart into the title would draw more readers. 🙂
It’s also unfortunate that neither Craig nor the interviewer has read McCabe, whose understanding of the personhood of God is misrepresented.
He said he was taught under a Thomist–Norman Geisler. It seems that he doesn’t quite grasp the Thomistic school of philosophical theology either. Though Hart, being a Platonist, would be close to Thomism as St Thomas himself was a Platonist (and an Aristotelian).
That said, the discussion appears more speculative than anything else. I cite St Angela of Foligno–“My words speak blasphemy.”
I’m at work and cannot view this. Nor do I imagine I have the patience for it. The small amount of Craig that I have read did not impress.
There are all kinds of Thomists, but those who recognize Aquinas as sympathetic to Christian Platonism are closer to the mark in my opinion.
Brian, I’m curious what you’ve read of Craig. Aware of his evangelical bent, I’ve largely ignored him in the past, but I’ve recently been intrigued by some of his more academic works on time. I wondered if you’ve read any of these, and if they’re worth reading?
As I indicated in my pithy comment above, I have not read much of Dr. Craig’s work. His biblical hermeneutic involves a rather horrid exoneration of Old Testament genocide. In general, I think evangelicals are moderns who think they are anti-modern. This means their understanding of truth, proof, metaphysics, etc. ends up largely in agreement with modern, empirical, nominalist science. Hence, for example, intelligent design folks accept many modern premises in order to make a theistic cosmological argument. I don’t have a problem with the argument — there may be some merit to such — it’s the presuppositions that give the game away from the beginning, no matter how persuasive one’s reasoning is thereafter. Anyway, my recollection is that Craig has a lot of that kind of thinking. I was interested in his views of time and eternity. When I saw them, I was bored. I don’t get the sense that he really understands ancient and medieval thinking, though he undoubtedly believes he does.
I’m still listening to tho this and it’s making me swear, so I blame you, Al. That said, seriously, has he ever read Thomas Aquinas? Has he ever read Hart? I mean really, almost nothing he says indicates that he is.
Surely Craig at some point in his career must have read some Aquinas, but he appears to have rejected his theology because it does not accord with Craig’s evangelical reading of the Bible.
I started wondering last night whether this school of analytic theology was invented in order to justify a certain kind of Protestant theology.
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Dearest Father, I am trying to listen thro this and wonder: what kind of torture and sophistry are they engaged into? Do they really care about the Truth or just winning the argument at any cost?
I’m sure Dr Craig is as committed to the truth as any of us. But he’s an evangelical Christian and his mind is governed by hermeneutical-dogmatic commitments that are different than the commitments that govern catholic Christians.
I have to say, I’ve seen this kind of thing so often. Yes, the commitment to the truth is the reason for which evangelicals do all this. But apparently their view of the truth accommodates the sort of bludgeoning you see Craig giving this poor seminary drop-out. In fact, being able to make struggling people look stupid is the main skill on which fundamentalist pastors and professors build their authority. Anyone who is struggling with their faith is dangerous in the evangelical mindset. You have to separate him from the sheep so that he doesn’t infect everyone else with Error. You can reach out to people you are debating from the other side, but someone from your own flock who is straying cannot be reached. They can only be contemned.
I think the real question is not whether they care about the truth, but what kind of truth they care about. Clearly, their truth is a truth which guides them into epistemological panic and heavy-handed relations with their people. This is a huge part of why I left.
That said, may God forgive us all, and release us from our burdens. I don’t want to stick Dr. Craig, who I don’t know, with any kind of judgment for the failures of evangelicalism or my personal history of pain. We’re all victims of our history, Dr. Craig included.
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Hello, Father Aidan
I’m an Evangelical Pastor (Pentecostal) and I wonder if you would elaborate on your remarks to cityhermit2015 that William Craig is an “evangelical Christian and his mind is governed by hermeneutical-dogmatic commitments that are different than the commitments that govern catholic Christians.”
I’m not asking for a treatise – maybe some bullet points that highlight the key distinctions.
I’ve been following your blog for about 4 months and, to be honest, it has opened up a whole new world of thinking and theology to me.
Hi, Patrick. Like all evangelicals (and most Protestants), Craig believes that he can know what is biblical apart from the theological-liturgical tradition of the Church. All one needs to do is to read one’s Bible, perhaps in conversation with evangelical (and maybe even non-evangelical) biblical scholars. As a result he has no problem ignoring, or outright dismissing, huge chunks of that tradition, whether it be divine simplicity or the identification of God as Being. He believes that his understanding of divinity is “biblical,” but in fact I doubt whether the Church Fathers or medieval doctors would agree.
Another example: would anyone before, say, the 19th century have recognized his teaching on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as orthodox? I doubt it.
But this, of course, is a problem inherent to most forms of sola scriptura. I do not intend to offend, Patrick, or be contentious or polemical. I simply note that if Scripture alone is one’s theological guide (but why this set of writings and not others?), then it’s hard for me to see how the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity can be defended. Evangelical philosopher Dale Tuggy keeps hitting this point, and he does have a point.
Patrick, my apologies for the crankiness of my above comment. As you might guess, I found Craig’s remarks about Aquinas, Hart, and McCabe quite exasperating.
Father Aidan, I did not find your remarks cranky at all. Thank you for taking time to clarify your comments about William Lane Craig. I confess to an elementary understanding of Trinitarian Theology (but please don’t tell my congregation) . In fact, today I plan to order a copy of “On the Incarnation” by St. Athanasius. I abandoned Sola Scriptura several years ago because of its untenability. I now believe that an ‘infallible document’ requires an infallible interpreter. I am not that infallible interpreter. I believe Church tradition is. So I embrace both Scripture and Tradition as revelation. Your blog is a blessing to many. Keep up the good work. Kindest regards, Patrick.
One unfortunate feature of this talk is the misrepresentation of the theology of Herbert McCabe, whom Craig has clearly not read. But that isn’t Craig’s fault. Craig is presented with a long question from someone who has read McCabe as advancing an impersonal view of divinity—something along the lines, I suspect, of Paul Tillich. There are, of course, verbal similarities between McCabe and Tillich, but that’s where it ends.
I thought of this blog piece by Edward Feser: “The God Above God.”
One of the problems and divides between Craig and those he responses to is there is a massive fundamental difference in worldview between himself (and many current evangelical thinkers, philosophers and theologians like him, particularly any of a analytical bent) and those like Hart and Feser. As Brian says above he is essentially modernist in his basic understanding and approach even as he claims to reject it, he shares that worldview’s presumptions, assumptions, approaches, innate understanding, comprehension and methodology.
The linked problem is he is an advocate of theistic personalism which was described by Hart perhaps bluntly but I feel largely accurately as mono-polytheism (there being just one god rather than many) and essentially akin if anything to Plato’s demiurge. It is a being among other beings, other things etc, an object either within or alongside the universe (hence his discussions on time and space, of which the god he envisions is apart of having kick started it, and is subject to it). But this is not what theists have meant classically by God in any theistic tradition, pagan, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and certainly not Christianity. God is not a being alongside other beings, He is Being itself, Reality and Existance itself etc. For Craig at best his idea of god is a brute fact that brings all the problems to it in the end that pure materialism has, and really is the same idea (just with a powerful Q figure in existence who simply happens to be the first stuff as it were and gets things going and is pretty powerful etc.
This is such a radical difference, and it underlines everything else in the thinking and theological approaches by those like Craig I think, and it really amounts to the fact that they actually do not intellectually believe or think on the same reality as those in classical Christianity (of course this does not relate to their life or behaviour, belief is I think is not principally about intellectual comprehension or assent, and that is least important, orientation of life and the turn to God in sometimes the smallest acts of love and the person’s life and engagement with the life of Christ more central to belief in Christ). Essentially neither are even thinking or view God in terms of who God is and what His nature is anyway the same, they are diametrically different here in their thinking. The basic view of reality between them is so different, that everything else just builds upon that I think.
I agree that Craig gives the impression of not knowing at all what he’s talking about, and it strikes me that this theistic personalism/classical theism discussion needs to be addressed in contemporary philosophy of religion in a serious way.
Josh, for a sophisticated discussion of these issues, I strongly recommend David Burrell, Faith and Freedom. I have found it a difficult book (I’m sure I’ve only understood 20% or so), but it’s definitely one that I will reread (and reread). I find Burrell’s approach far more satisfactory than what I’ve read from the analytic theologians.
Ed Feser (pronounced fay-zer) has respectfully, but critiquel and substantively,, replied to W. L. Craig’s comments on theistic personalism, Thomas Aquinas, and divine simplicity: http://tinyurl.com/gmnv3eg
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