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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Saint Cyril on Divine Simplicity

July 16, 2009

Bekkos over at De Unione Ecclesiarum has posted some citations from Saint Cyril of Alexandria. Since he has the Greek text there I won’t bother reproducing it here. Peter seems to think that Cyril’s position on simplicity, particularly with respect to the divine will and being are isomorphic with that of Aquinas rather than say Palamas. I don’t think that’s the case, but let’s take a look at the passages.

Hermias. And how, they say, is the divine simple if, in existence on the one hand and in will on the other, it is conceived of separately? For then it would be composite and as though it existed, in a way, out of parts that had come together into a closer unity.

Cyril. Therefore, since, in your view, the divine is simple and exists above all composition (and this view of yours is correct), his will is nothing other than he himself. And if someone says “will,” he indicates the nature of God the Father.

 Hermias. So it would appear.

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Dialogues on the Trinity (Ad Hermiam), book V; SC 237 (de Durand, ed.), p. 290; PG 75, 945 C.

 With the first citation here I’d like to call your attention to a few things. First, the Palamite position doesn’t deny that God is simple, but rather denies a specific understanding of divine simplicity so that references employing terms such as those above will be inadequate until a demonstration is forthcoming showing what concept is picked out by said terms.

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St. Maximus on Caesaropapism

March 29, 2009

Then the saint mentioned how the synod convened in Rome by the blessed Pope Martin had condemned the Monothelites, to which Bishop Theodosius responded, “It is the Emperor’s summons that gives authority to a council.”

“If that were so, the Orthodox faith would have long since come to an end,” said Maximus. “Recall the councils summoned by imperial decree to proclaim that the Son of God is not of the same essence as God the Father. The first was held in Tyre, the second in Antioch, the third in Seleucia, the fourth in Constantinople under Eudoxius the Arian, the fifth in Nicaea, and the sixth in Sirmium. Considerably later, a seventh false council took place in Ephesus, at which Dioscorus presided. All these synods were convened by imperial decree, but were rejected and anathematized, since they endorsed godless doctrines. On what grounds, I would like to know, do you accept the council which condemned and anathematized Paul of Samosata? Gregory the Wonder-worker presided over that council, and its resolutions were confirmed by Dionysius, Pope of Rome, and Dionysius of Alexandria. No Emperor convoked it, but it is unassailable and irrefutable. The Orthodox Church recognizes as true and holy precisely those synods that proclaimed true dogmas. Your holiness knows that the canons require that local councils be held twice yearly in every Christian land for the defense of our saving faith and for administrative purposes; however, they say nothing about imperial decrees.”


Cur Deus Homo?

February 18, 2009

 

As is well known this is the title of Anselm of Canterbury’s famous treatise on why God became man. Anselm sought to demonstrate the truth of the Incarnation on grounds independent from specifically Christian texts. This was probably due to some of his more prominent opponents were educated Jews who did not accept the New Testament as a source of revealed information. (See R.W. Southern, Anselm: A Portrait in a Landscape) The upshot is that God became man in response to the fall because humans could never make satisfaction, where satisfaction has a precise theological meaning for Anselm. In other words, Anselm wasn’t advocating a penal model of the atonement.

 But what if the Fall had never occurred? Would Christ still have become incarnate anyway? If so, what purpose could it serve? If Christ were to become incarnate without a fall, doesn’t this leave the incarnation as an explanatory dangler, not to mention the Cross?

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Metaethics and Maximus

March 6, 2008

“[G.E.] Moore is as it were the frame of the picture. A great deal has happaned since he wrote, and when we read him again it is startling to see how many of his beliefs are philosophically unstable now. Moore believed that good was a supersensible reality, that it was a mysterious quality, unrepresentable and indefinable, that it was an object of knowledge and (implicitly) that to be able to see it was in some sense to have it.  He thought of the good upon analogy of the beautiful; and he was, in spite of himself, a ‘naturalist’ in that he took goodness to be a real constituent of the world.  We know how severely and in what respects Moore was corrected by his successors. Moore was quite right (it was said) to separate the question ‘What does “good” mean?’ from the question ‘What things are good?’ though he was wrong to answer the second question as well as the first. He was right to say that good was indefinable because of judgments of value depend upon the will and choice of the individual. Moore was wrong (his critics continue) to use the quasi-aesthetic imagery of vision in conceiving of the good.  Such a view, conceiving the good on the analogy of the beautiful, would seem to make possible a contemplative attitude on the part of the moral agent, whereas the point about this person is that he is essentially and inescapably an agent. The image whereby to understand morality, it is argued, is not the image of vision, but the image of movement. Goodness and beauty are not analogous but sharply constrasting ideas. Good must be thought of, not as part of the world, but as a moveable label affixed to the world; for only so can the agent be pictured as responsible and free. And indeed this truth Moore himself half aprpehended when he separated the denotation from the cnotation of ‘good.’ The concept of ‘good’ is not the name of an esoteric object, it is the tool of every rational man. Goodness is not an object of insight or knowledge, it is a function of the will. Thus runs the correction of Moore and let me say with anticipation that on almost every point I agree with Moore and not with his critics.”

Iris Murdoch,  The Sovereignty of the Good, Routledge 1970, 2001, pp. 3-4


The Gnomic Will in Scripture

February 18, 2008

St. Maximus the Confessor: “Thus, those who say that there is a gnomie in Christ, as this inquiry is demonstrating, are maintaining that he is a mere man, deliberating in a manner like unto us, having ignorance, doubt and opposition, since one only deliberates about something which is doubtful, not concerning what is free of doubt. By nature we have an appetite simply for what by nature is good, but we gain experience of the goal in a particular way, through inquiry and counsel.” [Joseph P. Farrell, Disputation with Pyrrhus, p. 31-32]

There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12)

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Gen. 3:6)

For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Heb. 5:13-14)


Essence and Energies in the Fathers

January 20, 2008

“Is it not ridiculous to say that the creative power is an essence, and similarly, that providence is an essence, and foreknowledge, simply taking every energy as essence?” Basil the Great, Contra Eunomius, I.8, PG 29, 528B

“The energies are various, and the essence simple, but we say that we know our God from His energies, but do not undertake to approach near to His essence.  His energies come down to us, but His essence remains beyond our reach.” Basil the Great, Epistle 234

“And if we may reckon that the Cause of our existence did not come to the creation of man out of necessity but by benevolent choice, once more we say that we have seen God in this way too, arriving at an understanding of his goodness, not of his being…He who is by nature invisible becomes visible in his operations, being seen in certain cases by the properties he possesses.” Gregory of Nyssa, Homily on the Beatitudes, VI.

“Essence and energy are not identical.” Cyril of Alexandria Thesaurus 18, PG 75:312c

“The man divinized by grace will be everything that God is, apart from identity of essence.” Maximus the Confessor Ad Thalassium 22, PG 90:320a

“But He Who is beyond every name is not identical with what He is named; for the essence and energy of God are not identical.” Gregory Palamas Triads, p. 97

“Nor does indeed everything predicated of him denote the substance, for relation is predicated of him, which is relative and refers to relationships with another but is not indicative of substance. Such also is the divine energy in God, for it is neither substance nor accident, even though it is called a quasi-accident by some theologians who are indicating solely that it is in God but is not the substance.” Gregory Palamas Capita 127

“God also possess that which is not substance. Yet it is not the case that because it is not a substance it is an accident. For that which not only does not pass away but also admits or effects no increase or diminution whatever cold not possibly be numbered among accidents. Gregory Palamas Capita 135,

“Nature and energy are not identical.” Gregory Palamas Capita 143


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