Wednesday, December 7, 2011

William Lane Craig and God-Commanded Violence

William Lane Craig had a debate with Christopher Hitchens that seems to have scared the bejebeers out of atheists. Edward Feser has a funny post on Dawkins ducking any Craig debate. This is all good. But one of the issues atheist have raised as an excuse to not debate Craig is his refusal to exclude the possibility that God might command some Christian or group of Christians to commit mass murder at some point in the future.

At issue is a few of the atheist's favorite passages where God commands Israel to go to war and to kill every man, woman, and child of the enemy people group. Christians don't really focus on these passages much. Mostly they are used to underscore how the new covenant is superior to the old. But as a bible-only Christian Craig has to defend the entire bible as understandable without an authoritative interpreter. These passages make that hard. You can find good explanations for why you don't expect God to give orders for you to exterminate some group of people but can you completely exclude something from happening when there is a biblical precedent? Craig says No. He says Christians should obey a direct command of God even if it involves what would otherwise be gravely immoral.

For atheists this puts Craig in the same category as Muslim terrorists. In some sense they are right. Holding that God can command immoral acts is one of the big problems with Islam. It makes God irrational. It means anyone can claim that God is on their side. There are still important differences. Mohammad was way more violent than Jesus. The Koran is way easier to interpret as a call to violence than the bible is. Muslim history has way more religious violence than Christian history. So we should not accept the notion that Craig has put the two religions in the same category as far as violence goes. But leaving the door open to God giving such a command today is a problem.

It underscores how protestants cannot really believe in development of doctrine. They sneak it in and that is a good thing because it is true. But if you believe that the bible is it then as long as the bible does not change you cannot expect any deeper or fuller revelation of God's word. You have to argue from scripture and plain reason. Any exegetical principle you want to make normative would be an addition to scripture and is not allowed. Remember you are dealing with difficult opponents who will call you on any inconsistencies. So I am not surprised Craig has gone where he has gone.

It is so sad because Christian tradition has gone in completely the other direction. Pope Benedict has recently spoken out against religious violence and atheistic violence. That has been the way the Holy Spirit has been leading the faith for many centuries now. If Craig didn't have his bible-only dogma he could point out lots of authoritative statements that would make this scenario impossible. He could go on the offensive and point out the atheist history of violence as Pope Benedict did. But Sola Scriptura puts him in a theological straight jacket.


  1. Randy, I don't follow this area as much so I'm glad you are. Fascinating analysis. And, I like the pictures!

  2. Randy,

    Thank you for sharing this video. I'm adding your blog to my blog roll. Really good stuff. Keep it up.

    God bless,


  3. Thanks so much Brent. I liked the video but I have to admit I didn't listen to the full 2 and half hours.