The End of Debate: William Lane Craig Casting Pearls before Swine

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Published on: September 6, 2014

We neopopulists are explicitly Christian, in the orthodox sense, while being postmodern.  We believe in the deconstruction of modern reason.  In fact, we think that the postmodern rejection of rationalism is a native dimension of orthodoxy.  William Lane Craig, a fellow alumnus of Wheaton College, Wheaton, Il, and famous the world over for debating atheists, seems to despise postmodernism, while he wastes his time, just like a naïve modernist, exposing his sincerity to clowns like the atheist Lewis Wolpert, whose behavior in the video below proves my postmodern point that there really is no debate, no conversation, no dialogue. 

Can’t Bill Craig see this for himself — that Wolpert, the atheist, is not taking the debate seriously, that he is not sincere as is Craig himself?  Wolpert knows he has no good responses to Craig’s arguments, but is comfortable with himself because he understands explicitly that he and Craig do not, in fact, share the same view of reason and science.  Wolpert does not have evidence that God does not exist.  He does not expect himself to.  Craig sincerely expects Wolpert to attempt sincerely to present such evidence.  Wolpert is implicitly postmodern, while Craig is explicitly modern — a scientific realist.  What Craig ought to realize, and say, during such events, is that people like Wolpert are not, in fact, the modernists that they claim to be.  But in that case, Craig is wasting his time debating as if modernism has survived.  Only modernists, including Christians who buy into the modern account of reason, need Craig to do what he does.  And even here, the need is an illusion.

I respect Bill Craig for what he does for Christians of a modern frame of mind.  But as a postmodern Christian, who denies that there are any tradition-independent, universal standards of rational justification, I could have dealt with Wolpert much more efficiently.  I would have simply turned explicit attention to what became obvious in this video of Craig and Wolpert before it became embarrassing to watch two grown men who are not getting to the heart of the matter.  I would point out that we certainly do not have the same account of reason and then stay on that point permanently.  Craig and Wolpert do not share a common understanding of what it means to be rational.  And since Bill Craig is quite obviously intelligent enough to observe this for himself, I should think it would wake him up to some respect for the postmodern theme that all accounts of reason and the practice of reason is, in fact, tradition-relative. 

Wolpert is part of a modern, secular, scientific tradition (Feyerabend always referred to science as a competing tradition) in which reason and science, very ironically, are not at all what Craig thinks reason and science are.  It’s as if Craig is the old Popperian (a believer in scientific objectivity) getting hopelessly hortatory with someone who has never really cared about the serious philosophical questions raised by science as, once again, a competing tradition making knowledge claims about Reality.  Wolpert’s motivations are fundamentally existential, just like Craig’s.   The really important debate here, which is tragically implicit, rather than explicit, is about the nature of reason itself.  Craig’s sincerity (even innocence) is a pearl being cast before swine.  Clearly Wolpert is not actually engaged.  (Watch the whole thing.)

I suppose Craig does it for the kids, not Wolpert.  I don’t know why in the world he would continue to do it for atheists proper who, from his point of view, are really postmodern swine who will not admit it.

I hope that Bill Craig would not consider us Christian neopopulists, as postmodernists, swine.  Perhaps he might be willing to consider us just very loyal, but obviously inferior, Christian dogs.  That would do.  After all, we do pull the sled, just like him.  And we spot him his rationalism to the extent that he uses it to defend the Kingdom of God.  We like him.  Otherwise, we are, of course, totally cynical about debating atheists and rightly so. 

As a postmodern Christian, just in case I can get Craig interested, I am not a relativist.  I have a realist view of truth. The truth is really out there, because God, in my tradition, exists objectively.  God’s Word — i.e. God’s way of talking about Reality — is the explanation of all other ways of talking about Reality, including science.  God, and His language, which He cannot be separated from is the all-encompassing frame of reference.  Furthermore, I believe that every human being is made in the image of God; that our moral dispositions (and therefore the relevance of the Gospel) are universal.  This is the only form of universal reason.  And interestingly, it requires authenticity.  Surely Craig, even as a modern Christian, would not dismiss the centrality of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  To put it the fancy way, rationality is existential authenticity (moral authenticity).  This is a complete rejection of modern rationalism without relativism of any vicious sort; without a rejection of Reality and Truth rooted in an objectively existing God acting in history.

Just because the Christian tradition has its own account reason does not mean it’s wrong.  I believe it is absolutely right.  And this is exactly what Alasdair MacIntyre, in his philosophical best seller, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? seems to be saying.  MacIntyre is a Catholic, even a Thomist. 

The universal standard of rational justification in the Christian tradition is not the mythological principle of non-contradiction, or some elusive criterion of verification or falsification.  These standards have not stood up to philosophical analysis or the history of how science actually works.  The universal standard of rational justification for Christians just is the universal and paradoxically “subjective” image of God in each one of us.  This image only requires moral honesty with oneself to become the standard by which we decide what to believe about Reality.  In other words, the Christian tradition, as William James understood, is pragmatic.  But it is not superficially, or merely, pragmatic.  That is, the Christian way of deciding (morally) what to believe about Reality leads to the conclusion that this method leads to conclusions about Reality.  It is all of a piece, demonstrating that our view of Reality is inseparable from our practical (pragmatism — get it?) understanding of what is coherent.  Coherence is not some standard which can be understood outside of any and all rival traditions.  It depends for its meaning on a particular view of Reality.

We must not allow ourselves to be led into this illusion that we share some account of reason with the world which makes it possible to achieve logical contact while “debating” or even just engaging in conversation.  Again, the practical meaning of the principle of non-contradiction is determined in the first place by our whole view of Reality.  Christians believe it is coherent to claim that God is one and three.  Secularists deny this.  Quantum physicists think that their view of Reality is in fact a view of Reality (coherent) even though it says that the same particle can exist in two different places at the same time, or two particles can exist in the same space at the same time (or are otherwise “smeared” out with no specific location whatsoever), and that light is both a wave and particle (the same light). 

Craig is missing out on the real debate because he still holds on to a modern faith in objective, universal standards of rational justification and scientific realism.  The real debate is much more fundamental than this phony non-debate with atheists, which the latter cannot take seriously because, ironically, they do not actually share, in actual practice, Craig’s naively modern understanding of reason.  It’s as if Satan gave Christians a useless toy to be uselessly occupied with as he went on his way, taking over the culture by simply asserting the authenticity of evil  (Just ask the heavy metal rock bands and other new agers.) 

Again, Craig’s sincerity about modern reason is just embarrassing to these atheists, who no more believe in objective, irrefutable evidence than I do.  Wolpert turns the debate into superficial entertainment — party chatter.  He cannot, does not, reflect Craig’s passion.  Wolpert, who is not fully conscious, not authentic, and utterly transparent, seems to understand, nevertheless that the real nature of his atheist reason is not the objective process Craig demands that it be.  He, nevertheless, believes that he is not just rational, but exclusively so.  Wolpert’s account of Reason is tradition-bound and simply serves his will to power.  Reason is not something separate from the content of his tradition any more than it is in Craig’s case.  And Craig should say so.  But then the “debate” would become an explicit, personal, moral confrontation which would be very dramatic for its authenticity, but is not what either Wolpert or Craig wants.  From my pragmatic, postmodern point of view, Craig should be bored with anything less.  Instead, Craig cooperates with the illusion that the debate is impersonal precisely because he is a rationalist like Wolpert (just of a different stripe).  Craig and Wolpert are ironically enabling each other to avoid the practical, existential Reality — that their traditions are ironically loathed of one another and at war — not “logically,” but personally, historically.  And the stakes are worthy of spiritual if not physical violence.

Perhaps the perfect example of how a postmodern Christian would engage in an anti-debate with an atheist involves noticing that there is a much more interesting point to make about the atheist’s naturalism than Craig’s traditional point that it “begs the question.”  (It does not allow for evidence of the supernatural in the first place.)  This old saw is hardly as devastating as the postmodern deconstruction of this debating point itself.  All observation is theory laden.  We all “beg the question.”  The point to focus on is why the atheist imagines that his naturalistic observations “explain” anything.  All naturalistic explanations terminate in mystery — just like religious “explanations.”  They end at the brick wall of the dispositional properties of particles or, more summarily, the business logic of nature as a whole for which there is no physical location, no “explanation.”  Neither atheists nor Christians offer explanations of the (mythological) scientific sort.  Chesterton, for one, was quite clear about this at the turn of the last century.  And so atheists and Christians simply have different rules for using the term “explanation.”  In turn, they have different rules for using terms like “mysterious,” or “reducible” and “irreducible.”  They are playing different language games.  What survives as the final, practical difference between Christian rationality and atheist rationality is just these competing rules for using language which are motivated by completely different moral and cultural programs.  What Craig should be doing is deconstructing debate itself.  If he wants to save debate then he will have to produce those language-independent, universal standards of rational justification — which no philosopher has been able to do.

Bill Craig is a genius.  If only we could get him to really read and understand the later Wittgenstein and MacIntyre.  (We will not require him to read Derrida.)  He is shoring up the modern world with his commitment to modern standards of reason (as a principle without content) and the concomitant legitimacy of debate.   He should be blowing the whole of the modern world apart.  In the postmodern world, Christianity is radically free to really operate — pragmatically, existentially, authentically.  Apparently Craig loves debate.  Debate is the last thing in the world we postmodern Christians are in love with.  Debating with the modern tradition, or within it, is a bb gun fight compared to the nuclear option of blowing up the whole modern world.  We postmodern Christians are spiritually violent warriors.  We would turn our encounter with Wolpert into a truly authentic, spiritually violent confrontation.  His smug disengagement would become impossible.  We are not here to smile in his face as we debate him as if he is worth debating, or shake his old, shrunken, modern hand.  We are here to destroy his whole world, and make him genuinely irrelevant.  We know what we are about.  The worst thing about Bill Craig debating with people like Wolpert is that it asserts the relevance of their only feigned modern reason. 

In a nutshell, my objection is to every Christian and every secularist who has an “argument.”  We do not have “arguments.”  We have whole views of Reality which cannot be either verified or falsified from the outside.  There are not “arguments” standing outside of the text of every tradition while leading to just one of them.

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