Thursday, June 16, 2011

"No Easy Answers" William Lane Craig

Now that I'm out of school for the summer, I'll try to post a few blogs.

Last winter, I finished reading "No Easy Answers", a book by William Lane Craig - the famous apologist.
His introduction in a plea for Christains to work at being thinkers; and he speaks to some of the anti-intellectualism he notices in some Christian and secular circles.

His book is about doubt, failure, and suffering. For each area, he goes beyond the glib "easy" answers and tries to take the thing seriously and then do his best to provide guidance and logic in each area.

His first chapter is on "Doubt". When doubts arise, says Craig, "recognize that your struggle is not unique...that doubt is never a purely intellectual problem" (p. 31) Rather, there is a spiritual battle for our minds and souls that will affect us in this area. "Second," Craig continues, "when doubts arise keep in mind the proper relationship between faith and reason." (p. 33) There is a great section in here where he discusses Martin Luther's division of reason into 2 catergories: "magisterial" use of reason, and "ministerial" use of reason. The first seeks to be above everything, handing down judgments like a magistrate would. The second uses reason, but submits to and serves God's truth. Craig acknowledges that we may have to live with some unanswered questions; but that one is able to do so victoriously. Third, Craig recommends that we keep in mind the frailty of our own limited intellect. And fourthly, that we pursue our doubts into the ground.

He has a chapter on unanswered prayer which is really quite good. He delves into the different biblical reasons for unanswered prayers, and also sort of refutes the super-spiritual arguments made about unanswered prayer. For example, one night a man was in a hospital dying and people stayed up all night praying that he would make it out of the hospital. When he died the next morning, the pastor said to the grieving people, "well, we asked that God would take him out of this hospital and I guess God answered our prayers." Here is Craig's response to that story: "Well, this sort of rationalization strikes me as basically dishonest. It was clear that the intent of our prayers the night before was that God would heal the man. Rationalizing away a negative answer to prayer is to view God as a great genie from Aladin's lamp who fulfills the technical language of our requests but misses the intents altogether, so that we wind up with something totally different from what we requested. That is not the God of the Bible. Why not be honest and admit that God just did not answer the prayer?" (p.46)

He then has 4 chapters on failure, hell and other forms of suffering which cause people to question God. He calls us to develop a theology of suffering and of failure which may include the fact that we are called to persevere even when we don't have all the answers. He looks to God's view of success and failure as opposed to ours = In 1 Cor. 13, it says that a person may do everything right, may be full of wisdom and power and faith, but if they don't have love it's worthless. Giving love is what God considers success. Furthermore, while many people view suffering in this life as a primary reason to doubt God - it is actually something that shows the fingerprint of God in our souls. Why are we so morally outraged about suffering? Only because we were built in the image of a moral God. And He offers the solution to suffering too. As Craig concludes, "So, paradoxically, even though the problem of evil is the greatest objection to the existence of God, at the end of the day God is the only solution to the problem of evil. If God does not exist, then we are lost without hope in a life filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering." (p.103) He brings up an example (one from Packer) of being in a signal box which resonated exactly with something I thought about in a time of suffering. The signal box is a place up high above the train tracks which sends certain trains forward and stops other trains and makes them wait. He writes, "The Christian who wants to know why God permits every failure in his life is asking, Packer says, to be in God's signal box, and yet, for better or for worse, we just don't have access to it. Therefore, it is pointless to torture ourselves about why God permitted this or that disaster to come into our lives. But, although we don't always discern or comprehend God's providential design, we can still learn from our failures. As Lutzer says, 'It isn't necessary to know why God sent us the misfortune in order to profit from it.'" Craig also uses a quote from Nixon that I really liked, though it was very simple. After Nixon was despised by everyone in the country, he kept plugging ahead and eventually became a respected statesman who was often on shows and quoted in papers. Time did a famous article on Nixon called, "He's back!" and they asked him how he won back the favor of the country. He said, "You're never through when you fail. You're only through when you quit." (p.69)