Questions regarding first chapter of Craig’s "Reasonable Faith"

I want to start by saying I’m a huge fan of William Lane Craig and recently met him at a fairly local Reasonable Faith conference. I had almost finished reading On Guard when the conference began and have since completed On Guard and begun reading his signature book, Reasonable Faith. I love this quote from the introduction to Reasonable Faith: “Like a missionary called to reach some obscure people group, the Christian apologist is burdened to reach that minority of persons who will respond to rational argument and evidence.” However, I am not one to accept everything I read without critical examination, so…

These are some thoughts and questions I have regarding the first chapter of Dr. Craig’s “Reasonable Faith”. The chapter is titled “How Do I Know Christianity Is True?” and my questions are mainly regarding the idea of “dual warrant”.

One thing I like about this chapter is that it helped me understand that the testimony of the Holy Spirit functions like the innocent person’s experience of their alibi. It is true even if we cannot show it to be true. This protects it from “theological rationalism” or “evidentialism” which (Dr. Craig and Dr. Plantinga assert) only counts propositions that are self-evident or incorrigible as properly basic, and requires evidence (other than indubitable self-evidence) for all other propositions. If theological rationalism or evidentialism were true, then (according to Dr. Craig and Dr. Plantinga) someone intellectually incapable of a complete apologetic would be incapable of a relationship with God (or, for that matter, their mother, though they didn’t say it).

In a YouTube interview, Dr. Craig accepts that someone can come to believe/know God exists either through 1) experiencing the testimony of the Holy Spirit, or through 2) nonexperiential means (evidence, rational argument, etc.). However, on page 48 of Reasonable Faith, he says, “a sound apologetic…reinforces or confirms…the Spirit’s witness, but it does not serve as the basis of…belief” and on page 58 he says, “they trusted the Holy Spirit to use their arguments to bring people to God”. Since knowledge is justified/warranted, true belief, then if a sound apologetic cannot serve as a basis of belief, it cannot serve as a basis of knowing, either. And Dr. Craig seems to say that nonexperiential evidence does not lead to knowledge, that only the testimony of the Holy Spirit leads to knowledge, when he says there is a difference between how we ‘know’ (through the testimony of the Holy Spirit) and how we ‘show’ (through nonexperiential means like evidence, rational argument, etc.). But Dr. Craig should choose either, 1) we ‘can’ believe/know God exists through nonexperiential means (as he says in the YouTube interview), or 2) we ‘cannot’ believe/know God exists through nonexperiential means (as he says in Reasonable Faith). Perhaps he ‘has’ chosen the first one and has not had the chance to revise Reasonable Faith? Or perhaps he has just not thoroughly thought about it, because on pages 58-59 he writes, “we know confidently and without embarrassment that our faith is true, as can the unbeliever as well”. But the unbeliever does not know based on the testimony of the Holy Spirit, so is Dr. Craig saying we, too, can know without the testimony of the Holy Spirit?

I completely agree that a “personal experience” type of knowledge cannot be “shown” to others because they cannot share our experience. Instead we must use nonexperiential means (which Dr. Craig thinks of as another source of warrant) of showing that what we know by experience (which Dr. Craig considers the first source of warrant) is also true independent of experience. So in order to show it is true, we must not only know it is true by experience (first source of warrant), we must know it is true via the use of those other means (another source of warrant). Dr. Craig calls this “dual warrant” or being “doubly warranted”. This ‘first source of warrant’ does not reduce to subjective truth. For example, we know from experience (first source of warrant) that we did not commit a crime for which we are on trial. But in order to show we are ‘objectively’ innocent, we must provide actual arguments and evidence (another source of warrant) that are accessible to others who do not share our experience. Our first source of warrant will not suffice to ‘show’ the truth, but we will keep ‘know’ing we are truly innocent even if we cannot provide another source of warrant. I disagree w/ the idea of having “dual warrant” but must lead up to this…

As Dr. Craig does not distinguish (instead draws a parallel) between the experience of one’s own alibi, and the experience of the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and does not argue we have ‘triple’ warrant [1) experience of the testimony of the Holy Spirit, 2) experience not involving the testimony of the Holy Spirit…say, Calvin’s sensus divinitatus, 3) nonexperiential evidence substantiating one’s experience in ‘1’ or ‘2’], the following paragraph is written under the assumption that the testimony of the Holy Spirit is considered something we experience, so that the truths to which the Holy Spirit testifies are truths we come to know by experience of the Holy Spirit’s testimony.

One thing I disagree with in this chapter is that the evidence of our own experience (for example, of innocence during a court trial) is not lumped in with the nonexperiential evidence that is accessible to others. Evidence is evidence. Experiential evidence may not be evidence for ‘others’ but it is still evidence (for ‘us’). I like the idea that belief in God’s existence is properly basic since, for example, we behave as if (we know/experience intuitively) there are moral absolutes, even though not all of us know (intellectually) the God that grounds them. That intuitive knowing is a properly basic belief that is ‘warranted’/justified even if the intellectual defense is never given. But I would disagree that the intuitive warrant/justification and the intellectual warrant/justification, taken together, make the belief “doubly warranted”—instead, they both contribute to the warrant/justification. If we can have “dual warrant” because we have both experiential and nonexperiential types of evidence, then why stop at the division between experiential/nonexperiential, why stop at ‘dual’? (Only half-rhetorical.) No, if belief is warranted/justified, it is warranted/justified by all the different types of available evidence, no matter how you categorize them—and experiential evidence (in this case, of the Holy Spirit’s testimony) is just one of them, rather than being on an entirely different level from the rest. I was thinking that perhaps 1) distinguishing between experiencing the Holy Spirit, and other evidence, and 2) giving priority to experiencing the Holy Spirit, are both owed to the belief that those who do not believe the witness of the Holy Spirit (first source of warrant/justification) will never believe ‘other’ evidences for the Christian faith (considered another source of warrant/justification)? But Dr. Craig says that one benefit of having this “dual warrant” is that “the availability of independent warrant for Christian truth claims apart from the Spirit’s witness could help predispose an unbeliever to respond to the drawing of the Holy Spirit when he hears the gospel.” So clearly Dr. Craig does not think that an unbeliever will only accept “independent warrant” ‘after’ accepting the Spirit’s witness.

Knowledge is justified/warranted, true belief. But Dr. Craig says that Plantinga said that it is not enough to say (says, said, say, haha) that the belief is justified/warranted, it must also be formed/held by properly functioning (as God designed them to) cognitive faculties. This just seems to push the question further back—how do we know the faculties are properly functioning (as God designed them to)? (See link below.) I like that Plantinga (says Dr. Craig) sees that a properly basic belief, like “God exists” can still have arguments brought against it (it is defeasible, falsifiable), like the problem of evil. I also like that he points out that, just as our experience of our alibi defeats all the defeaters (arguments of the prosecution), our experience of the testimony of the Holy Spirit defeats all the defeaters (arguments of skeptics/atheists)—but only for ourselves. In order to defeat all the defeaters for ‘others’ (Plantinga agrees), we must use nonexperiential means of defeating defeaters (like the Free Will Defense). Where I disagree with Plantinga (via Dr. Craig: “this belief is so warranted that such a person can be said to know that God exists” p. 41) is that our belief in the truths of Christianity is ‘so’ warranted by our experience of the testimony of the Holy Spirit as to constitute knowledge (regardless of all defeaters) because knowledge does not merely depend on warrant/justification, it also requires correspondence/truth. I would also object to the idea that the more firmly we believe something, the more that belief is warranted/justified knowledge (“The more firmly such a person holds the belief in question, the more warrant it has for him, and if he believes it firmly enough, it has sufficient warrant to constitute knowledge” p. 42)—rather, the better our reasons, the more firmly we will believe, and if our belief corresponds to reality (is true), then our believing is also knowing (even for demons, who know God exists while rejecting him). All else is wishful thinking. Also, Dr. Craig reflects the belief that knowledge requires certainty when he says, “even if we can only show Christianity to be probably true, nevertheless we can on the basis of the Spirit’s witness know Christianity to be true” (p. 56) but knowledge only requires that our belief is justified and true—it does not require our belief is ‘certain’. I’m guessing the other problems in this paragraph can all be solved by answering Gettier (though I have yet to read Plantinga), which I’ve done here.

In the end, I agree reason (justification/warrant) can only be ministerial, because something is true (if true) whether or not we have good reasons for it or against it. Our knowledge of our innocence is based on the evidence of our personal experience of our alibi (and whatever nonexperiential evidence we may have), but we remain truly innocent even if the defense can produce no nonexperiential evidence substantiating our alibi; even if the prosecution can produce evidence against us. Likewise, our knowledge of the truths of Christianity is based on the evidence of our personal experience of the testimony of the Holy Spirit (and whatever nonexperiential evidence we may have), but those truths remain even if we can produce no nonexperiential evidence substantiating our personal testimony; even if skeptics/atheists can produce arguments against it. However, something that is true will never defy reason/logic. There will be some flaw in every argument/evidence brought against it.

I differ from Dr. Craig on the ‘problem of the unevangelized’ but that is a different topic. We at least agree that the Holy Spirit can be resisted. In my personal experience, God brought me back through the ‘experiential reason’ of the testimony of the Holy Spirit (I still had the choice of saying yes or no), and only after that did I care about finding nonexperiential reasons that were accessible to others (similar to Dr. Craig’s testimony). I only put my faith/trust “in” him after he showed me “that” he exists and loves me. Perhaps there are others out there who come to (were drawn by?) God through those sorts of reasons (come to believe “that” God exists), and ‘then’ experience the Spirit’s testimony (and hopefully choose to put faith/trust “in” him)? Dr. Craig seems to say there ‘can’ be in the YouTube video, but it’s a little fuzzy where he stands on that in Reasonable Faith. Would love to hear from him on that, but he ‘is’ a busy guy.

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About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance and now coordinates the CAA Catechism. She blogs at Ichthus77, and loves apologetics and philosophy. In particular she loves to study all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an AA in Humanities via Modesto Junior College, and moonlights as a freelancer. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
This entry was posted in Gettier Problem, Justified True Belief, William Lane Craig. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Questions regarding first chapter of Craig’s "Reasonable Faith"

  1. Hi Maryann. I think I may be able to help clear up the confusion (at least with respect to one part). It's important to recognize that unbelievers will never know without the Holy Spirit. Regardless of what orthodox view you take of soteriology, the Spirit's convicting the hearts of men is what is foundational to belief (I don't mean sufficient [else all would be saved]). My point is this: if they do in fact believe, it's because they have the Holy Spirit moving in their hearts! Now I don't think Craig is saying arguments do not bear a role in bringing one to salvation, but that it is a “subsidiary” role (p. 48), and this is what he means when he says it is not “foundational.” Further, within that quotation, the person is identified as one who “knows that Christianity is true on the basis of the witness of the Spirit.”

    Finally, I think his distinction between knowing and showing comes into play as well. For in “showing” Christianity to be true, the Spirit may well use that to bring about the “knowing” in the heart of the unbeliever (pp. 51-52, specifically beginning with the relevant section through the sentence ending, “place his faith in Christ” at the top of the page.) In short, a Christian may share the evidences with an unbeliever to show Christianity is true, and it just may be the Holy Spirit uses that and the person is persuaded to trust Christ (and hence he knows it is true). Craig does not state (nor does his view imply) that showing Christianity is true cannot lead to knowing; in fact his entire point revolves around the differences between the two and that the former can lead to the latter! I hope that clears it up. If not, I apologize. It's late! :)

  2. Thanks Randy I'm still chewin' on it.

    From Chris Shannon on Facebook:

    “Maryann,

    “I read your comments and think they evidence some misunderstandings of Dr. Craig’s views on this topic. One quick example is your statement below.

    ““And Dr. Craig seems to say that nonexperiential evidence does not lead to knowledge, that only the testimony of the Holy Spirit leads to knowledge”

    “Dr. Craig states “If the arguments of natural theology and Christian evidences are successful, then Christian belief is warranted by such arguments and evidences for the person who grasps them, even if that person would still be warranted in their absence. Such a person is doubly warranted in his Christian belief, in the sense that he enjoys two sources of warrant.” (p. 48). So, he does think non-experiential evidence does lead to knowledge. There is quite a bit more, but I do not have time right now.

    “I would recommend re-reading the section in RF again and also digging into the resources below. They should help you better understand his views. Also, send in a Question of the Week. He will clear things up for you.

    “Blessings,
    “Chris

    “Podcasts
    “Religious Experience: Subjective Or Objective
    http://www.facebook.com/l/afc43/www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/RF_podcast/Religious_Experience_Subjective_Objective.mp3

    “Weekly Q&A’s
    “Subject: The Witness of the Holy Spirit
    http://www.facebook.com/l/afc43/www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6489

    “Subject: Counterfeit Claims of the Spirit’s Witness
    http://www.facebook.com/l/afc43/www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5901

    “Subject: The Witness of the Spirit as an Intrinsic Defeater-Defeater
    http://www.facebook.com/l/afc43/www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7679

    “Subject: Counterfeit Claims to the Witness of the Spirit
    http://www.facebook.com/l/afc43/www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8237

    “Youtube Audios
    “Reasonable Faith: How do I know Christianity is True? 1/3 http://www.facebook.com/l/afc43/www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnVJHIeshpM

    “Reasonable Faith: How do I know Christianity is True? 2/3 http://www.facebook.com/l/afc43/www.youtube.com/watch?v=HK0LpoAf49I&feature=related

    “Reasonable Faith: How do I know Christianity is True? 3/3 http://www.facebook.com/l/afc43/www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWbNUpz5uAo&feature=related

    I replied:

    Thanks Chris. Believe me I've read the chapter frontwards and backwards, highlights and sticky notes. I don't think warrant (or justification) 'necessarily' means knowledge. It only means knowledge when coupled with correspondence. But, there was a bit of mix-up on that issue as well, which I mention in my link. I will figure out how to do a question of the week, thankyou for referring me to that. And I'll check those links out, too (think I already listened to one of the last three).

  3. Just listened to the Podcast. In it, Dr. Craig affirms that the witness of the Holy Spirit is not considered evidence. I disagree. It is evidence for those who experience it.

  4. Chris Shannon replied on Facebook:

    “Maryann, the classical definition of knowledge is justified/warranted true belief. As I pointed out, by showing your misrepresentation of his view and and his actual view (via your quote and the quote from the book above), Dr. Craig believes you can have knowledge that Christianity is true via the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit and/or arguments/evidence. You are misunderstanding and thus misrepresenting Dr. Craig's views. He has been writing/teaching on this topic for 30+ years. Do you really think you have all of a sudden found him “mixed up” on all of these issues? I can assure you that is not the case. Re-read the section of the book (I know that you said that you have but your comments show you don't understand the section) and check out those other links and you should be able to get it right. Let me know if I can help with any questions.”

    I replied:

    Chris I received a reply from you in my Inbox but it isn't showing up here. If you are right and Dr. Craig agrees w/ you, that is very encouraging, but it is not made clear in chapter one. I'd like to hear it from the horse's mouth, so I will definitely be checking out those links. If one (or more) of the links clears things up, I'll link to it in my blog post. Still, I think chapter one can spell things out a little better, because warrant (justification) does not necessarily equate to knowledge (no matter how strong the warrant/justification), and attempting to make it do so commits the ought-is fallacy (as applied to epistemology). That we have good reasons to believe, does not make our belief true/correspondent. So good reasons all alone do not equate to knowledge (so the quote you used does not make it clear that Dr. Craig is referring to knowledge, since he only mentions warrant–unless Dr. Craig erroneously equates warrant with knowledge, which I don't want to accept). I have great respect for Dr. Craig and feel that these are details he (and perhaps Plantinga) have either overlooked (I will soon check those links out to try and find out) or/and could have spelled out better in chapter one. I know he is lightyears ahead of my education, but perhaps that comes out in my favor, with fresh eyes? Please focus on my reasons, and not on my inexperience compared to Dr. Craig's wealth of experience–that is logically fallacious, with all due respect. I do not mean any of this as an offense against Dr. Craig personally, I am a huge fan. It would be more offensive (imo) to hold my questions back, out of fear of offending him. That would in essence indicate that I consider him a fool incapable of accepting constructive criticism. That I most certainly do not. Respectfully, Maryann

  5. “So evidential arguments on behalf of Christianity are, in my view, 'sufficient' for knowledge of Christianity's truth but they are not 'necessary' for knowledge of Christianity's truth.”

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6489

  6. “My knowledge of Christianity’s truth, while supported by strong arguments, is not ultimately based on those arguments but on the witness of God Himself.”
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8237

    So, comparing this quote with the quote directly above, when he says “not ultimately based” he means, “my knowledge is based on those arguments, but not ultimately” — right?

  7. Another thing I forgot to mention that I love about this chapter is how it talks about faith being trust, not merely belief. It makes me want to go back and review my previous articles on faith to make sure they agree w/ that. Reasonable faith is trusting in a God you have good reasons to believe exists. Blind faith is trusting in a God you do not have good reasons to believe exists. You can have good reasons to believe God exists without putting faith/trust in him.

  8. This is excellent (wish it was in the book), but I still view our experience as evidence (to us, not to others). Immediate evidence, sure, but evidence nonetheless–reason(s). Dr. Craig doesn't want to go that far, but he does go as far as saying it is part of the 'deliverance of reason'.

  9. While he doesn't come out and use the word “know” he does say that both experiential (witness of Holy Spirit) and nonexperiential (arguments and nonexperiential evidence) paths to the Lord are rational deliverances of reason.

    His motivation is to keep from denying reasonable faith to those who have not fully investigated the arguments and nonexperiential evidence.

  10. This clears some of it up for me…would be cool if this quote were actually in the chapter: “So evidential arguments on behalf of Christianity are, in my view, 'sufficient' for knowledge of Christianity's truth but they are not 'necessary' for knowledge of Christianity's truth.”
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6489
    His motivation is to keep from denying reasonable faith to those who have the witness of the Holy Spirit but have not fully investigated the arguments and nonexperiential evidence.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWbNUpz5uAo&feature=related Still disagree that the witness of the Holy Spirit is not evidence and that experiential/nonexperiencial evidence give us “double warrant”…they both just give us plain ol' warrant. But I do like that the experiential evidence (witness of the Holy Spirit) is seen as a rational deliverance of reason foundational to a properly basic belief in the God of Christianity. But there is still the issue of equating warrant w/ knowledge, if in fact he does. I'll ask him about it in my question of the week.

  11. My question of the week:

    It would be cool if this quote were actually in the first chapter of Reasonable Faith, because it isn't clear in that chapter whether or not you think evidential arguments can be a basis (though not an ultimate basis) for knowledge of Christianity's truth: “So evidential arguments on behalf of Christianity are, in my view, 'sufficient' for knowledge of Christianity's truth but they are not 'necessary' for knowledge of Christianity's truth.”
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6489

    I disagree that the witness of the Holy Spirit is not evidence and that experiential/nonexperiencial evidence give us “double warrant”…they both just give us plain ol' warrant. But I do like that the experiential evidence (witness of the Holy Spirit) is seen as a rational deliverance of reason foundational to a properly basic belief in the God of Christianity.

    But (and here is my question) there is still the issue of equating warrant w/ knowledge, if in fact you do–do you? Here's what makes me think you do:
    “this belief is so warranted that such a person can be said to know that God exists” p. 41
    “The more firmly such a person holds the belief in question, the more warrant it has for him, and if he believes it firmly enough, it has sufficient warrant to constitute knowledge” p. 42

    And do you think knowledge requires certainty? You seem to when you say:
    “even if we can only show Christianity to be probably true, nevertheless we can on the basis of the Spirit’s witness know Christianity to be true” (p. 56)

    Knowledge is justified/warranted true/correspondent belief–belief that is 'both justified/warranted 'and' true/correspondent. The justification/warrant does not make the belief true, and the truth of the belief does not make the belief justified/warranted–they are two separate issues, that is why they are both required in order for a belief to count as knowledge. So no matter how warranted/justified a belief is (no matter how 'certain' we feel, whether only a little, or a lot), it doesn't count as knowledge unless it also corresponds/is true. So certainty is not required for knowledge, but more than just warrant/justification is required for knowledge–truth/correspondence is also required.

    Perhaps I am misinterpreting what you meant in those sentences on warrant? Or perhaps I've hit upon something and a revision of the first chapter is called for? I look hopefully forward to your analysis.

    There are many things I love about the first chapter that I did not get a chance to talk about here, and can be seen here: http://ichthus77.blogspot.com/2011/04/questions-regarding-first-chapter-of.html including in the comments.

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