Is William Lane Craig a Christian?

October 17, 2017

Below is a presentation I recently made at a local apologetics discussion group I am a member of. I’ve known about this issue for a long time. I thought it would eventually resolve itself, but it seems to have only gotten worse. I have noticed over the years that a few bloggers here and there have tackled this issue, but they have only done so piecemeal and they by and large really lacked the competence to represent Christian theology accurately and provide a proper diagnosis. Given this blog’s focus on the theology of St. Maximus the Confessor, I saw that I was well placed to address it more fully and adequately.  So I have undertaken to address it as part of a wider project. I hope you find it profitable.

I. What is the Question?

“Christology is the doctrinal locus where Christianity has the greatest need for theological precision. To be wrong here is to be wrong everywhere.”[i]

Now that I have your undivided attention, I need to take some space to toss out the questions that I am not asking. This list will not be exhaustive but sufficient to narrowImage result for big fish movie down the question to something workable.

  1. I am not asking if Craig is a recipient of divine grace. I am not asking if Craig is regenerate or “born again.” This is something neither I nor anyone else could know, maybe not even Craig.
  2. I am not asking if Craig thinks of himself as a Christian. A person may take themselves to be a Christian and may not in fact be one and likewise, one may be one and not know (e.g. Crucified thief)
  3. I am not asking if Craig is a nice person or a mean person. Nothing I write here implies or is meant to imply that Craig is malicious, intentionally deceptive or any other deliberate gross moral failure. Whether Craig secretly eats baby hamsters or some such thing is not something I know nor is it relevant to what I write here.
  4. I am not asking if Craig is the member of a or the Christian church. Whatever Craig’s ecclesial membership is (I simply do not know) is irrelevant to the question I am asking.
  5. I am not asking if Craig has done beneficial things to the furtherance of Christian belief in the world. Whatever good things Craig has done elsewhere or on other topics is irrelevant to whether what he professes in core areas of Christian doctrine count as Christian doctrines or not.

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Changing the unchanging

February 24, 2011

There is a light bulb joke the asks “How many Orthodox monks does it take change a light-bulb?” The response is “Change??”

There is a sense among Orthodox (Catholic) Christians that there is no change in orthodoxy but what does this mean? Is there absolutely no-change in any aspect of orthodoxy? We may also ask what to we mean by orthodoxy? Is it a description of creed/dogma and practice or only creed/dogma or only practice? Then with any one of these options there is the question of what creed/dogma and what practice and the extent of creed/dogma or practice. Read the rest of this entry »

Picking Cherries

June 12, 2010

In the history of Christianity, there has never been a century or so where there has not been some kind of theological controversy. In any given controversy it is usually the case that there is a spectrum of positions that occupy some place on the argumentative field. Caution is therefore required in data selection to establish points about who taught what and how widespread a given view in fact was.

Such is the case with the Iconoclastic controversy. Iconoclasm came in a variety of forms and varied over time. Initially iconoclasm in the East identified images of persons and biblical figures as idols while preserving the use of decorative images such as the Cross. Representational (though not necessarily figurative) images of Christ and images of the saints were prohibited. Due to their material composition they could not convey the resurrected glory of the saints. Such was the position around the 750’s. 

By the early ninth century in the East iconoclasm became more moderate even under the favorable impetus of imperial backing. Gone were the arguments by and large that icons were equivalent to idols, along with the Christological arguments that to make an image of Christ implied a major Christological error.

The situation in the West was different for a variety of reasons. The West was a hodgepodge of various kingdoms, with certain parts of the old empire still under the control or influence of Constantinople. The most salient party is that of the Franks, who had forged an alliance with Rome. Politically this had its advantages but also presented problems. With an alliance with the Franks, Rome was far more free and autonomous than under imperial rule. The Franks gained the political and religious legitimacy that they so eagerly coveted.

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Against Khomiakov

December 2, 2009

When I was first seriously considering becoming Orthodox, how the Orthodox understood church authority was an important area to map out. In discussing the matter with Catholics that I knew, they often objected that Orthodox ecclesiology falls prey to the same problems as Protestantism. There was no locus of authority in the offices of the church, but the source of normativity was ultimately to reside in the judgment of the people.

The cardinal example of this was the rejection of the council of Florence. Upon returning, delegates found that the overwhelming majority would not accept the terms of the union and choose death and slavery to theological compromise. This is true as far as it goes. The signatories were rebuked and the majority did not accept the decree of union. But a little more study brings to light the fact that not all of the Orthodox representatives signed. Mark of Ephesus did not. Other signatories’ assent borders on simony. The Pope provided all kinds of gifts and provisions for those he thought could be won over. For Mark, there was nothing. Mark’s decision was therefore free and clear. Lest it be thought that Mark’s refusal to sign is insignificant, the Pope upon learning that Mark refused to sign, exclaimed, “Then nothing has been accomplished.” And Mark’s rejection was before the majority rejection.

The second line of evidence that is proffered is that for the Orthodox an ecumenical council is either known to be such or becomes such when it has been accepted by the “whole church.” There is no shortage of Catholic apologetic materials that go down this path. (I suspect they do because they rely on pop-Orthodox works or some distinctly Russian theological works.)

The position usually isn’t stated very clearly. Usually it begins with a claim regarding what the sufficient conditions are for a council to be ecumenical, which is a metaphysical claim and then slides into a claim regarding how one can know that a council is ecumenical. This is apparent for example in the above cited source. I take the metaphysical claim to be the more significant. So the idea is that a council can only be ecumenical if the “whole church” assents to it. This is obviously problematic since no council could ever meet such conditions where every professing Christian agreed. There is no council that I know of, even the Apostolic council in Acts 15 that didn’t result in some measure of dissent. I think Catholics are right to object to this idea as untenable. But I don’t think it is Orthodox teaching as such either.

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