Knowing vs. Showing: A Critique Of William Lane Craig’s On Our Knowledge Of The Truth Of Christianity -- By: Erick Nelson
Journal: Global Journal of Classical Theology
Volume: GJCT 06:3 (Jul 2008)
Article: Knowing vs. Showing: A Critique Of William Lane Craig’s On Our Knowledge Of The Truth Of Christianity
Author: Erick Nelson
Knowing vs. Showing:
A Critique Of William Lane Craig’s On Our Knowledge Of The Truth Of Christianity
William Lane Craig, in his book Reasonable Faith and several other works, offers a sharp contrast between knowing Christianity is true and showing it is true. He contends that the only way we know this truth is by a direct experience of the self authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit; while we show (but do not know) this truth by way of evidence and reasoning (apologetics).
I would respectfully submit that this thesis is wrong on several levels. It suffers from seven major problems.
(1) The Content Problem. The thesis attempts to explain how x (“Christianity”) is known, but it is extremely vague about what x is. We see a critical dilemma here – If he allows Christianity to be defined in simple generalities (“I am saved”, “God exists”, etc.), he is not dealing with an adequate definition of Christianity. However, if he provides an adequate set of propositions which are known to be true by the Christian, his “top-down” derivation (from general to specific) seems to be impossible.
(2) The Island Problem. The thesis posits a sort of epistemological island which is immune from reason and evidence. Craig would have to agree that reason and evidence provide knowledge in the real world, and of analytical truths; that certain philosophical or religious assertions are known to be true and some false, that some philosophical and religious systems are provably false; that reason and evidence provide knowledge of many of the components of Christianity and of the fine points and nuances of theology. The only thing impervious to reason and evidence is whether Christianity is true.
(3) The Faith Problem. The thesis needlessly conflates “knowledge” with saving faith. It is demonstrably true that one can have saving faith without having a full knowledge of any adequate set of assertions regarding Christianity. It is equally true that one may have knowledge without saving faith. Accepting this distinction immediately solves many of Craig’s problems (such as not limiting Christianity to the intellectual elite).
(4) Logical Problems. The thesis suffers from three logical issues. First, it makes Christianity unfalsifiable, since every argument against Christianity is to be rejected. Second, it appears to relegate reason to a rationalization role (for much the same reason). Third, it trades upon a false dilemma, viz. that the foundation for knowing Christianity is true could only be the witness of the Holy Spirit or evidence provided by the Lord, never a combination of both – and he simply jettisons the latter in preference for the former. <...
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