William Lane Craig's Debt to Stuart C. Hackett

I remember my first class with Stuart Hackett at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the Fall of 1982. The class was called "Religious Epistemology," and we studied through George Mavrodes book, Belief in God, William Montague's book, The Ways of Knowing, C. Stephan Evans' book, Subjectivity and Religious Belief, and Arthur Holmes book, All Truth is God's Truth. My memories of Dr. Hackett as a teacher parallel Dr. Craig's memories, as can be read here. As a man Stu was indeed a sort of an odd ball, but he was also brilliant.

Stu argued for a Neo-Kantian "rational/empirical" epistemology, which he would reverse by calling it an "empirical/rational" epistemology. I remember arguing with him in class from time to time. I argued he must choose between being a rationalist or an empiricist because one side or the other must dominate his epistemology, but following Kant he disagreed. Then I argued that Montague's book actually argued against his position, and he did have to agree, even if he wouldn't budge from his own view. In any case, he developed a fondness for me, and I had a respect for him. I remember Stu telling me that some of his best students were the ones who argued against him in class, so he expected good things from me.

The last time I saw him was at a Fall Philosophy Conference held at Wheaton College, probably in 1987. After a Christian philosopher had presented a paper, there was a time for questions and answers. Time was running out when someone said that if the evidence was against Christianity we must give up our faith, and Stu blurted out "NO!" Since the time was up, the moderator closed the session and directed anyone who was interested in what Stu had to say to discuss it with him. So people from all over the room came to listen to him, and some listened to him for about a half an hour.

I suppose it's too bad I now argue against what Stu argued for, but that's how life goes sometimes. We must follow the evidence, and if the evidence is against Christianity we must reject it, period. I argue that the evidence is indeed against the Christian faith and therefore should be rejected by civilized, scientifically literate educated people.

In any case Dr. Craig said this about Dr. Hackett's 1957 book, The Resurrection of Theism (which you can download for free):
I am convinced that if The Resurrection of Theism had been published by Cornell University Press rather than Moody Press, then the revolution in Christian philosophy that began with the publication of Alvin Plantinga’s God and Other Minds in 1967 might well have begun ten years earlier.
This book was subtitled as a "Prolemogena to Christian Apologetics". It was an introduction to the knowledge of God, which was to be followed by two other volumes, but they didn't appear. Hackett, however, did write what he called "my Magnum Opus," titled Reconstruction of the Christian Revelation Claim: A Philosophical and Critical Apologetic, in 1984. To read a very brief description of Hackett's views see chapter three in Gordon R. Lewis' Testing Christianity's Truth Claims: Approaches to Christian Apologetics.


Edit on November 17th, 2012: I just learned of the death of Stu Hackett. My continued reflections upon his death can be found here. He will be missed.