Showing posts with label Lessing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lessing. Show all posts

Dr. Craig Considers My Question


I asked former professor William Lane Craig a question and he attempted to answer it this week, here. He attempted to answer "the deeper problem lurking" behind Lessing's broad ugly ditch, in these words:

So what is the problem with basing religious beliefs on historical proofs? The problem, it seems to me, is the relativity of the historical evidence as well as one’s ability to grasp it. We have both the manuscript evidence and the evaluative historical tools to provide a good foundation for belief in Jesus as the Gospels describe him. But what about earlier generations which lacked the evidence and the tools we enjoy? The fact is that the vast majority of people throughout history and in the world today have had neither the training, the time, nor the resources to conduct a historical investigation of the evidence for Jesus. If we insist on a historical, evidential foundation for faith, then we consign most of the world’s population to unbelief and thus deny them the privilege and joy of knowing God in Christ. To me this is unconscionable. This, then, is the ugly, broad ditch which confronts us: the gap between people’s historically conditioned epistemic situation and the evidence required to warrant Christian belief.

It was the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard who, I believe, provided the correct response to Lessing. Through an existential encounter with God Himself every generation can be made contemporaneous with the first generation. We are therefore not dependent on historical proofs for knowledge of Christianity’s truth. Rather through the immediate, inner witness of God’s Holy Spirit every person can come to know the truth of the Gospel once he hears it. This approach has come to be known, rather misleadingly, as Reformed epistemology. Alvin Plantinga has masterfully explicated this approach in his marvelous Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford University Press: 2000). This is not the place to defend this approach, but you may want to look at my chapter on Religious Epistemology in my and J. P. Moreland’s Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview Inter-Varsity, 2003).

So that’s how I leap Lessing’s ditch. Christian belief is confirmed by the historical evidence for those of us fortunate enough to be epistemically so situated as to be able to appraise it correctly; but Christian belief is not based on the historical evidence.

Does anyone think Craig's answer is a good one? His answer is what I had anticipated. But it doesn't solve the problem, in my opinion. If you agree with me, then how would you answer the deeper problem lurking behind Lessing's broad ugly ditch?