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.