Tonight at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, William Lane Craig, touted by some as the worlds leading Christian apologist, will be waiting on stage knowing full well that Richard Dawkins will not appear. That’s right, the usually outspoken Dawkins has decided to decline the offer to debate Craig on the grounds that Craig’s views offend him. As a result, Dawkins has come under fire from all sides! Many Christians see this as a triumph, but I am wondering whether it would have been a good thing.
My main issue is with the nature of Craig’s ‘intelligent design’ apologetic. The first thing we must establish is that arguing for the existence of a ‘creator god’ or ‘first cause’ is not equal to presenting people with the Living God of the Bible – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To rely on the ‘cosmological argument’ of a ‘first cause’ or the ‘teleological argument’ of the complexity of the universe, or the ‘moral argument’ of ‘objective morality’, or the ‘ontological argument’ of the ‘greatest conceivable being’ – to rely on these is not inherently Christian.
Don’t get me wrong, Craig does come to Jesus eventually, and he does say that his belief in God does not rely on these arguments – which begs the questions – why use them then?!?
The problem with the philosophical arguments I’ve mentioned is that, if we use them, we are not going to the revelation of God but instead attempting to use human reason alone to get to a ‘first cause’. A HUGE error often made is to assume that when a Christian apologist talks to a philosopher or an atheist about ‘God’ then we are instantly talking about the same ‘God’. That is simply not true. The philosopher could be talking about the Great Bananna God for all we know! So as Christians, we must start with the revelation of our God. And where do we find the revelation of God? Of course, we all know, we find it in the Eternal Son, Jesus Christ. He is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). How can we ever think that we can know anything about God when bypassing the Son? ‘No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (Matt 11:27).
Jesus Christ, the only revelation of our God
As John Calvin says: ‘all thinking about God outside Christ is a vast abyss which immediately swallows up all our thoughts.’ So the problem is, if we are arguing for the existence of a ‘first cause’ it doesn’t actually tell us ANYTHING about the God of Jesus Christ.
I have never known anyone who has come to know Jesus through an intelligent design argument. If, as Christians, we ever manage to ‘win’ an intelligent design argument with an atheist, chances are they will just think we have won a game of logic. Is that really what it is all about? No! Jesus Christ is VASTLY different from that. When we see Jesus, we see the Father (John 14:8-11). Jesus is the only access point by which we can know the Living God – he is the only point of contact with humanity. No human reason can get us there – it is only through Christ that we are brought into the life of the Trinity.
So the problem with starting our ‘Christian’ apologetic with intelligent design arguments is that Jesus is then tagged on the end, as a caveat. But is that the true picture? Jesus is breakfast, lunch and dinner! He is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev 21:6)! He cannot be crammed onto the end. If we discover an ‘intelligent designer’ through philosophical arguments, then we have not discovered the Living God of Jesus Christ, but we have instead discovered the golden calf (Exod 32). If we look at the first Christian apologist, Justin Martyr, his entire apologetic starts with Christ.
So in many respects I am with the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens. I don’t like the god that they are arguing against – I certainly wouldn’t want that god to exist. I’m totally with them on that. But with our Trinitarian God – well that’s a different story.
So I ask this question – why, as Christians, would we NOT start with the heart-melting love of Jesus the Eternal Son? Do we really need to ‘clear the ground’ for him with arguments of intelligent design? Whilst Jesus is waiting for us to show people to him, why would we show them to the golden calf?
As Athanasius says: ‘The only system of thought into which Jesus Christ will fit is the one in which He is the starting point.’