William Lane Craig’s Holy Spirit Epistemology

Here’s a video of William Lane Craig’s advice to a Christian who is experiencing serious doubts about their faith:

There are tons of responses on the internet to this approach, and my post won’t be anything new really, but perhaps focused a little differently than some others.  At least it will stand among the many as yet another vote against this kind of approach to finding truth.

I did take some effort to try and get a better understanding of exactly what Craig means in this video, so I read the following a couple of times to make sure I truly got a thorough and proper understanding of his views.  To be honest his writeup didn’t really give me much of a different impression than what was said in the video, although he did go into more depth on his reasoning behind the things he mentioned in the video.

Here’s the most frequently quoted portion of this video: “The way in which I know Christianity is true is first and foremost on the basis of the witness of the holy spirit, in my heart. And that this gives me a self authenticating means of knowing Christianity is true wholly apart from the evidence. And therefore if in some historically contingent circumstances, the evidence that I have available to me should turn against Christianity, I don’t think that that controverts the witness of the holy spirit. In such a circumstance I should regard that as simply a result of the contingent circumstances that I’m in, and that if I were to pursue this with due diligence and with time, I would discover that the evidence, if I could get the correct picture would support what the witness of the holy spirit tells me”

Craig calls this “Reformed Epistemology” and he links it to what he calls “properly basic beliefs” which are foundational beliefs which can’t be fully proven, but philosophers agree are so basic and self-evident that we can be justified in believing them.  I discussed these kinds of beliefs in my previous post.

Simply put, I am very opposed to this kind of approach to finding truth (although it doesn’t seem like it can even be fairly described as an attempt to find truth given that it seems the truth has already been found by Craig).

First the clearest problem here is that this is not at all consistent with the famous mantra of Christians exhorting non-believers to “follow the evidence wherever it leads”.  That was exactly what my Christian friend had urged me to do when he was introducing his faith to me, and back then I didn’t realize the hypocrisy of this.

Now when I became a Christian I also had this feeling deep within my heart/soul that the Christian message was correct including belief in an inerrant bible.  While my main reasons for converting from Judaism to Christianity were what I perceived to be strong evidence of it’s truth, there was a strong feeling in my gut as well that it was true.  I will explain in another post where those feelings came from because I am derailing myself a little here. 🙂

That was when I was a sophomore in college and it was my high school friend who had introduced Christianity to me.  He was the only person who I had ever met who was so completely certain of his answers to the big questions of life and this was very attractive to me.  And I wasn’t to meet anyone else outside of mainstream evangelical Christianity who had this kind of 100% certain belief until my senior year in college.  Until then I had always thought that it was probably true that people of other faiths had that kind of deep certainty, but I passed them off as somehow not the real thing.  When it was right in my face I simply could no longer take the feeling in my heart as an objective feeling, because this other person’s certainty in his heart was very clearly a real genuine feeling as well, yet his beliefs were incredibly extreme and diametrically opposed to what I believed in (it was in an ultra extremist biblical belief that we should literally follow verses like Matthew 19:21).  At that point in my walk I had already accumulated a ton of doubts about my faith, but this one at least was clear confirmation that the feeling I had in my heart was subjective, and it was abundantly clear to me that what I had thought was the Holy Spirit of mainstream evangelical Christianity was not the only source of this kind of certainty.  I started to think more about the sources of these kinds of feelings (again, I’ll discuss more in later posts.)

So I am understanding of my friends who believe in their own faith based on this feeling, because I understand that they may have never actually met someone with opposing views who has this kind of deep gut feeling as well.  Without experiencing it for themselves, although they may have a hunch that people of other religions possess this, it isn’t smack in their face so they don’t have to really deal with it.

However, I have a very difficult time thinking that Craig has not met people like this given that he speaks to so many different people all over the world about Christianity.  Surely he has met at least a few people like this.  And I bet that his response is that those people are simply wrong (perhaps because of evil spirits that give them this feeling).

I’ll have to continue in my next post because I’ve gone way over my goal of less than 700 words per post.

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7 thoughts on “William Lane Craig’s Holy Spirit Epistemology

  1. Pingback: William Lane Craig’s Holy Spirit Epistemology (continued) | Truth Is Elusive

  2. Pingback: Is that feeling deep in the heart unique to your belief? | Truth Is Elusive

  3. Thanks for the reference. I’ve read the comments on your post and now I’m trying to get through some of the comments on Brenda’s post (probably won’t make it through all 81 though!!)
    I’ve seen this video on a lot of blogs and I just thought I had to write about it because it is such a very important topic on thinking about how and what to believe about reality. For me the comments in support of it so far just don’t outweigh all the major drawbacks that I see with this approach.

  4. Pingback: You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling | Truth Is Elusive

  5. Pingback: Why I don’t believe in God(s) | Truth Is Elusive

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