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April 24th, 2012 @ 7:57 pm by
There are times when a Christian apologist’s chief task is to so corrupt our reason and morals that we are no longer able to tell the difference between truth and falsehood, right and wrong.
So begins “Deacon Duncan’s” devastating critique of apologist William Lane Craig’s free will defense of hell, as found in Craig’s book On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision. Apparently, Duncan believes Craig employs neither of these tactics, because in his critique, Duncan points out a number of logical inconsistencies in Craig’s arguments, my favorite of which is #4:
[Craig's words]: “Our eternal destiny thus lies in our own hands. It’s a matter of our free choice where we shall spend eternity. Those who are lost, therefore, are self-condemned; they separate themselves from God despite God’s will and every effort to save them, and God grieves over their loss.”
[Duncan's critique]: Let’s count the inconsistencies in these three brief sentences… a misinformed choice is not really free. God does not show up in real life, which limits us to the kind of choices where you either gullibly embrace whatever men tell you about God (and let’s face it, that could be almost anything) or else you stick to the facts, which ends up making you an atheist. If God is real and is hiding from us, His absence is denying us the opportunity to know what our real choices are, and thereby denying us the opportunity to make a truly free choice.
This exchange helps to highlight where I both agree and disagree with Duncan. First of all, as I’ve pointed out in numerous comments and posts, I’m also skeptical of free will. It seems to me that any being who is neither omniscient nor omnipotent will always be in at least partial bondage to fear, ignorance, deception, emotional wounds or self-destructive desires. Therefore, his or her choices can never be truly free. And it does seem the height of injustice for God to hide himself and then punish us for not believing in him. As Duncan says, “If He’s truly offended by our failure to see Him while He’s hiding, then why hide?”
Furthermore, Duncan points out, “When you preach an omnipotent God Who is the creator of literally everything else, you don’t get to appeal to circumstances beyond His control.” Which means arguing that free will prevents God from saving everyone simply won’t work.
Let’s remember who we’re talking about here. If God is everything Christians believe him to be, he is the same being who created an expanding universe composed of at least 300 sextillion stars, a universe whose mass consists of 83% dark matter in addition to those stars, and the outer limits of which we may never be able to observe, never mind explore. And you’re telling me he can’t figure out a way around my stupid decisions?
Where I disagree with Duncan is his statement that sticking to the facts makes you an atheist. That’s certainly an option, but there’s nothing about the facts of life (so to speak) that obligates us to reach such a conclusion. Sticking to the facts may cause us to reject certain forms of Christianity or particular interpretations of various doctrines, but rejecting William Lane Craig’s defense of hell is hardly tantamount to rejecting Christianity altogether.
And yet, without hell, Duncan doesn’t see the point of Christianity. As he says at the end of his post, “Without a Hell to be saved from, what do you need a Savior for?”
Sadly, this is also the view of many Christians. It was my view for years. Salvation was primarily about escaping hell when I died. I acted as if Christianity also had something to offer in the here and now, but it was mostly fear of the consequences that kept me on the straight and narrow–and even that didn’t work so well…
So while many Christians may be offended that I would take the side of an atheist vs. a Christian apologist, I wonder how many of those same Christians also side with Duncan without actually realizing it.