Site Updated May 16, 2018

A MISUNDERSTANDING BY DR. WHITE

 

 

 

 

The misunderstanding

 

In a blog post titled "William Lane Craig Comments", Dr. James White attempted to respond to comments made by William Lane Craig. The problem is that Dr. White presented Dr. Craig's words as if they were saying something different from what they were actually saying. Dr. White ultimately only seemed to respond to a distorted version of Dr. Craig's views.

 

In the post Dr. White explained:

 

"Craig said this, 'I don’t really have any favorite theologians, at least systematic theologians, for I find most of them to lack the philosophical training to do really good systematics.'  This kind of “philosopher’s arrogance” is common for Craig. He was once heard telling a group of young men at a conference, “If you want to do good apologetics, you have to stop reading so much theology and start reading more philosophy.”  This kind of inversion of the biblical norm (it is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom, not the fear of Plato, and before Adam did philosophy, Adam heard from God—revelation precedes, conditions, and grounds, man’s thought, not the other way around) is standard fare for Craig and his disciples."

 

White, James. “William Lane Craig Comments” Alpha and Omega Ministries, blog article. October 9, 2013.

http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/2013/10/09/william-lane-craig-comments/

 

James white's criticism here seems to equate the reading of systematic theologians (e.g. Calvin, Augustine, etc) with the reading of God’s revelation. First notice how Dr. Craig’s comments are clearly about the work of extra-biblical systematic theologians. Then notice how Dr. White responds as if Craig’s comments were about God’s revelation. The two are not the same. Dr. Craig did not advise students to stop reading so much scripture and start reading more philosophy, but White’s critique is based on that assumption/misrepresentation. Dr. White says that Dr. Craig’s words here are a kind of inversion of the "biblical norm”. But what is that biblical norm which demands that Dr Craig have a favorite systematic theologian? What is the biblical norm which demands that Dr. Craig recommend the works of most systematic theologians? What biblical norm demands that he recommend that students read more works written by such theologians? We can only guess that Dr. White is confused by his own misrepresentation of Dr. Craig and is referring to a different norm, i.e. sola scriptura. For Dr. White argues that "revelation precedes, conditions, and grounds, man’s thought, not the other way around."

 

The problem here is that Dr. Craig does hold to the doctrine of sola scriptura. This can be found in much of Dr. Craig's work. Here is but one substantiating quote:

 

"No earnest Christian wants to be considered a heretic. But we Protestants recognize Scripture alone as our ultimate rule of faith (the Reformation principle of sola scriptura). Therefore, we bring even the statements of Ecumenical Councils before the bar of Scripture."

 

Craig, William Lane. “#75 Monotheletism” Reasonablefaith.org, Q&A article. September 22, 2008

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/scholarly-writings/divine-omniscience/middle-knowledge-truth-makers-and-the-grounding-objection/

 

Thus any traditions or philosophical or theological ideas developed by systematic theologians of the past (e.g. Calvin, Augustine, etc.) need not be accepted by Dr. Craig in order for Dr. Craig to be a biblically sound theologian or in order for Dr. Craig to hold to sola scriptura. This is especially the case if Dr. Craig has found that these theologians have not done really good systematics due to a lack of training in philosophy (e.g. training in logic, sound argumentation, systematizing, etc). There is irony in the fact that Dr. White has taken such offense at Dr. Craig not recommending the work of systematic theologians that Dr. White here charges Dr. Craig with inverting the biblical norm of sola scriptura. But a biblical scholar must be willing to hold even the work of the most revered theologians to the light of a consistent systematic reading of scripture. Right or wrong in his assessment of other systematic theologians, Dr. Craig is merely trying to do just that.

 

Dr. White concludes:

 

"his comments again were marked by the massive imbalance created by starting with philosophy and only then considering theology"

 

White, James. “William Lane Craig Comments” Alpha and Omega Ministries, blog article. October 9, 2013.

http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/2013/10/09/william-lane-craig-comments/

 

Interestingly enough, William Lane Craig, at the time of Dr. White's above critique, had already directly engaged with this sort of false accusation coming from Dr. White. Below is an excerpt from a podcast conversation with Kevin Harris.

 

Kevin Harris: "I also want to mention that twice now Dr. White has made intimations that on our podcast we put philosophy over the Word of God. He says the reverse is true – that we need to know the Word of God and then develop our apologetics and philosophy based on the Word of God. Is there any merit to that criticism?"

 

Dr. Craig: "No, because that's my own view, the view that you just described. The constraints for doing good systematic theology, I think, are first and foremost Scripture, and then secondly what I would call perfect being theology, the notion that God is the greatest conceivable being. So that when we interpret Scripture we will interpret it in such a way as to magnify and glorify God to the greatest extent. So if Scripture says, “God is all-mighty,” for example, it doesn’t explain to us what that means, but the systematic theologian who's committed to perfect being theology will understand “all-mighty” in terms of maximal power. He will construe omnipotence in the greatest terms that are logically coherent. Similarly with other attributes of God. So I see the constraints on doing theology as being first and foremost Scripture, and then you will interpret Scripture in light of perfect being theology."

 

Craig, William Lane. “Is There a Good Analogy for the Trinity” Reasonable faith podcast, podcast audio. August 6, 2012.

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/is-there-a-good-analogy-for-the-trinity/