Is Worship of Jesus Idolatry?

Hello Dr. Craig,

First, I want to thank you for all that you have done for the cause of Christ. You have been a powerful witness for the faith. I've continually been challenged in my thinking and knowledge by your writings and public discourses. You have taught me how to think critically and how to share Christian truth in a Christ-like manner.

I am a student of philosophy looking to go into apologetics ministry. In my studies and my time witnessing I've had to address many of the common objections to Christianity. One of the more recent objections has come from a Jewish man that I am witnessing to. It seems that one of the crucial things that is holding him back is the worship of Jesus. He couldn't see any way how this wouldn't end up being idolatry because, as he claimed, “you would be worshiping man rather than God”. Of course, I tried to point out that Jesus has two natures but it seems like this point was missed. Do you have any helpful ways to explain our worship of Jesus in a way that bypasses this objection? How should we understand our worship of Jesus? Do we worship him in deity and merely admire his humanity?

Any of your thoughts on this issue would be greatly appreciated! Thank you for all that you do in the name of Christ.

Adam

United States


To read Dr. Craig's answer please click HERE

The Reliability of the Gospels

Dear Dr. Craig,

First off, I want to thank you for all that you have done for me through your ministry and hope that your reach continues to spread. I grew up in a conservative Christian home and for the most part accepted everything that I had been taught. Then during my junior year of high school I read some Richard Dawkins, and the likes, and quickly lost my faith. About six or so months later I discovered your ministry and my life was changed! Your arguments convinced me and in no time I had gone back to my faith. I read On Guard and Reasonable Faith among other Christian authors as well. I felt that my faith was strong and I even considered changing my major to Philosophy for a short time. But now, I am saddened to say that I am slowly losing my faith in the Christian God.

Before I go into my reasons for losing my faith, I want to point out that at this point I still believe that Christ rose from the dead but if I were to give that up I would comfortably sit in a deist position, being that I consider arguments for a Gods existence to be convincing. So, the reason for my diminishing faith is that I have found that I can no longer trust the Old or New Testament. I will leave the Old Testament aside for now and focus on the new. In your books you have maintained that the earliest gospel was Mark and that it was written some 40 years after the death of Jesus, give or take a few years. You also hold that in the time between the event of Jesus' death and the writing of the Gospel of Mark that legends could not have infiltrated the original narrative because 40 years is not long enough. I find this reasoning very problematic.

I could grant you that the resurrection did happen (which I hold to) due to its attestation in multiple gospels and the Pauline epistles but that would in now way confirm any of the stories or teachings of Jesus. His whole life could have been made up by the writers, not due to them being corrupt but that these were the simply the stories they were told of Jesus that were passed on to the early Christians. My question here is how can we trust any of the stories of Jesus if they are not attested in each of the synoptic gospels?

I also find that the explanation that 4o years is too small of a window for legend to become present hard to buy into. First, within 4o years it is likely that few if any of the original eyewitnesses were alive being that the lifespan of humans then was minimal. So how could the stories be checked for accuracy if the eyewitnesses themselves were no longer around to do so? Secondly, when the eyewitnesses went to tell their story so others would follow Jesus they could not have told every single person from every town, therefore relying on the ones they told to pass on the story. It is plausible to think that if one's wife wasn't convinced by the stories of Jesus that the eyewitnesses told her husband then her husband would make up an even more miraculous story, like Jesus turning water into wine, to get her to believe. This is just one scenario of many that very likely took place leading to multiple if not the majority of Jesus' life being composed of stories that were made up to convince others.

Now as I stated earlier, I am a Christian but it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold the New Testament as authoritative concerning the matters of Jesus' life.

Best Regards,

David

 

United States


To read Dr. Graig's answer please clck HERE

Why Christianity rather than Judaism or Islam?

Hello Dr. Craig,

I have always wondered about your claim that Christianity is the only true religion (based on historical evidence as you say). But how can you be so sure when Islamic and Jewish scholars claim the same claim?

As a former atheist and now an agnostic, the question of which religion to choose is essential. I'm very well acquainted with Islamic Theology and unlike your claim. Islam affirms that Christians, Jews and Muslims worship the same god ("Allah" is not a special god for Muslims rather it's the term for god in Arabic).

So what is your position on Islam? (And I would really like to know from who do you get your information on Islamic theology).

I also would to invest some time in Christian theology, would kindly recommend some introductory books?

Thank you,

Sultan

United States

 

The short answer to your question of why Christianity rather than Islam or Judaism, Sultan, is Jesus of Nazareth. While Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the world’s three great monotheistic faiths, genetically related and so having much in common, what divides them is their account of Jesus. I think that neither Judaism nor Islam gives a satisfactory historical account of the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.

My interest in Islamic thought was sparked by my study of the history of the so-called kalam cosmological argument, especially its development by medieval Muslim theologians like al-Ghazali. In fact, it was due to their contribution to the development of the argument that I dubbed this version of the argument, which goes back to the pre-Islamic Christian era, the kalam cosmological argument (“kalam” being, as perhaps you know, the Arabic term for Islamic doctrine). You can read about their contribution to this and other forms of the cosmological argument in my The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz (London: Macmillan, 1980).

My interest in Islam thus awakened, I chose Islam as one of my two side areas of specialization on which I was examined for my doctorate in theology at the University of Munich. Both the teachings of the Qur’an and the dogmatic history of Islamic theology became subjects of fascination for me. I never dreamt at that time that some day I would have the privilege of debating Muslim apologists in the U.S., Canada, and South Africa and lecturing on Islam and Christianity, not only in North America and Europe, but even at Muslim universities in Turkey and Tunisia.

While you’re certainly correct that “Allah” is just the Arabic word for God, being used even in the Arabic New Testament, it doesn’t follow, Sultan, from common vocabulary or words that Muslims and Christians have the same concept of God. No Muslim would concede that God is a Trinity of persons, as Christians believe, and, as you must know, the Qur’an condemns to hell those who claim that Jesus is God’s Son, as we Christians believe (V.70).[1] Similarly, I have argued that the character of the God of the New Testament is fundamentally different from the character of the God of the Qur’an. The God of the New Testament loves unbelievers with a love that is unconditional and universal (Matthew 5.43-48), whereas the God of the Qur’an has no love for unbelievers but loves only those who are faithful Muslims (III.25; XIX. 95).

But the real Achilles Heel of Islam is its portrait of the historical Jesus. It is ironic that the Qur’an chooses to deny the best established fact about Jesus, namely, his crucifixion (IV.157). Not only is there not a single shred of evidence in favor of this remarkable hypothesis, but the evidence supporting Jesus’ crucifixion is, as Emory University New Testament scholar L. T. Johnson puts it, “overwhelming” (The Real Jesus [San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996], p. 125). Paula Frederickson, whose book From Jesus to Christ inspired the PBS special by the same name, declares, “The crucifixion is the strongest single fact we have about Jesus” (Society of Biblical Literature meeting, November 22, 1999). The crucifixion of Jesus is recognized even by the sceptical critics in the Jesus Seminar as--to quote Robert Funk--”one indisputable fact” (Jesus Seminar video).

When we think that the Qur’an was written by a man living in Arabia 600 years after Jesus with no independent source of information about him, it really isn’t so surprising that his view of Jesus was distorted. Whatever else one might say about Islam, its view of Jesus is erroneous, and so this religion cannot be true. There is good material on this site about Islam and Christianity; for example, www.reasonablefaith.org/who-is-the-real-jesus-the-jesus-of-the-bible-or-the-jesus-of-the-quranwww.reasonablefaith.org/media/craig-vs-ally-canadawww.reasonablefaith.org/media/craig-vs-badawi-university-of-illinois

As for Judaism, again I should say that the decisive consideration is Jesus’ claims to be the Jewish Messiah and his subsequent resurrection from the dead. Jewish scholars are coming to recognize the historical facts undergirding Jesus’ resurrection and are hard-pressed to explain those facts apart from the resurrection. Indeed, one of their number, the late Pinchas Lapide, whom I heard lecture at the University of Munich, declared himself convinced that the God of Israel raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. He also thought that Jesus believed himself to be the Messiah. As Prof. Dr. Wolfhart Pannenberg, my Doktorvater, mused at the time, Lapide seemed strangely unable to connect the dots. If you’re interested in how a Jewish scholar responds to the evidence, take a look at my debate with Peter Zaas, Who Was Jesus?,ed. Craig Evans and Paul Copan [Louisville, Kent.: Westminster-John Knox Press, 2002]).

You ask, “How can you be so sure when Islamic and Jewish scholars claim the same claim?” Well, because they can’t explain the evidence concerning Jesus as well as Christianity. I’d invite you just to look at the resources I mentioned and judge for yourself. For more on Christian theology, I suppose I’d recommend Bruce Milne’s Know the Truth, 3rd ed. (Downers Grove, Il.: Inter-Varsity, 2009) or my own lectures on Christian doctrine at www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast .

 



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If ISIS’s God Were Real, Would I Be Obliged to Follow Him?

Dear Dr Craig,

You may be aware that Frank Turek has a question he will sometimes ask atheists, "if Christianity were true, would you become a Christian"? Well, recently, an atheist flipped this question around and asked me "If the Islamic State were true (by which he means, if the specific type of Allah that IS believe in, existed) then likewise, would you become an IS member?"

Now, my gut reaction is to say no. I would not follow a God whom I find so horrendous as to condone rape, mass murder and forced conversion such as we're seeing happen right now in the Middle East.

Two problems arise, however:

Firstly, if I say this, the atheist can simply reply, "exactly! And now I'm sure you're aware how I feel too. Even if your Christian God existed, I would not follow him, because I find certain things about his morality horrendous and objectionable". This would seem a conversation stopper.

But, secondly, there seems an even greater problem:

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Theistic Ethics and Mind-Dependence

Dear Dr. Craig,

I'm an atheist living in Sweden (there are plenty of us here, as you know!) with an interest in philosophy and ethics, and while I probably disagree with you on a lot of things I very much enjoy your writing and debates. Everyone knows they're in for an intense debate when you take the stand! (There might be a theistic argument here: if God does not exist it's a *miracle* you win so many debates, and therefore evidence of God! I kid, I kid)

I have a question about morality that you'll hopefully be able to answer and clarify your position on. My knowledge of meta-ethics is pretty modest, but I'm actually leaning albeit tentatively towards morality being objective (see, there's at least one thing we agree on!). I'd argue that moral obligation can be objective without God (I won't do that here though), but I'd go even further and say that IF morality is founded in God it is NOT objective. If "objective" means "mind-independent" which might be a rough definition of objective, but let's accept it for now doesn't that make morality founded in God "divinely subjective" rather than objective? Now, perhaps you'd want to object here and say this is a straw man your view is that morality is founded in God's *nature*, perhaps. But if God's nature IS "the good", I don't understand where the normativity comes in. You'll recognize this as the is/ought problem: if God's nature IS in one way and not in another, how does that commit us to the view that we OUGHT to reflect the nature of God in our actions? It certainly seems like we might have prudential reasons to do so (if it were true), but I don't see how we'd have any *moral* reasons (at least not in any stronger sense than what we'd get from basic utilitarianism which I know you reject).

My second question is more directly about your moral argument: if our moral duty is to "reflect God's nature" and God simply IS "the good" (or however you want to put it, I'm trying my best not to straw-man!) doesn't that make your moral argument circular? It seems to me it only make sense because you never define what you actually mean by "moral values and duties" (well, I've never seen you define it anyways!), if we change "objective moral values" to "God's nature" and "duties" to reflection of that very nature, we get:

P1. If God does not exist, God's nature and actions that reflect his nature does not exist. (I agree!) 
P2. God's nature and actions that reflect his nature does exist. (I disagree, this is what we're arguing about!) 
Therefore, God exists.

That seems to make it circular, cause you're just assuming that God's nature exist in premise two. Maybe you can clarify this!

So, to summarize (I know you like summaries): What's the argument that bridges the is/ought problem above, and isn't your moral argument ultimately circular? (Perhaps you could make a clarified version of your moral argument where you define moral values and duties explicitly)

Stay skeptical, keep educating and keep learning!

Love,

Rasmus

 

Sweden


Click HERE to read Dr. Craig's answer

How Can Christ Be the Only Way to God?

William Lane Craig

A rigorous attempt to answer the problem of the fate of the unevangelized and the challenge of religious pluralism.

Introduction

I recently spoke at a major Canadian university on the existence of God. After my talk, one slightly irate co-ed wrote on her comment card, “I was with you until you got to the stuff about Jesus. God is not the Christian God!”

This attitude is pervasive in Western culture today. Most people are happy to agree that God exists; but in our pluralistic society it has become politically incorrect to claim that God has revealed Himself decisively in Jesus.

And yet this is exactly what the New Testament clearly teaches. Take the letters of the apostle Paul, for example. He invites his Gentile converts to recall their pre-Christian days: "Remember that at that time you were separated from Christ, aliens to the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph 2.12). It is the burden of the opening chapters of his letter to the Romans to show that this desolate condition is the general situation of mankind. Paul explains that God’s power and deity are made known through the created order around us, so that men are without excuse (1.20), and that God has written His moral law upon all men's hearts, so that they are morally responsible before Him (2.15). Although God offers eternal life to all who will respond in an appropriate way to God's general revelation in nature and conscience (2.7), the sad fact is that rather than worship and serve their Creator, people ignore God and flout His moral law (1.21-32). The conclusion: All men are under the power of sin (3.9-12). Worse, Paul goes on to explain that no one can redeem himself by means of righteous living (3.19-20). Fortunately, however, God has provided a means of escape: Jesus Christ has died for the sins of mankind, thereby satisfying the demands of God's justice and enabling reconciliation with God (3.21-6). By means of his atoning death salvation is made available as a gift to be received by faith.

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Failure within the Christian Life

William Lane Craig

Personal reflections on how God can use failure in your life.

I have been a Christian for over thirty years. I estimate that in my Christian lifetime I have attended upward of a couple of thousand church services, hundreds of chapels at Wheaton College, and scores of Christian meetings at retreats, conferences, and so on, held by Campus Crusade and other groups. Yet during this entire time I have never once—not a single time in the thousands of meetings over some thirty-odd years—heard a speaker address the subject of failure. In fact, I probably would not myself have reflected seriously on the topic if it had not been for a crushing failure that drove me to face the problem personally.

The lack of treatment of this subject on the part of Christian speakers is not due to any lack of importance in the subject. Any Christian who has failed at some time knows how devastating the experience can be and the questions it raises: Where is God? How could He let this happen? Am I outside His will? What do I do now? Does God really care or exist?Those are agonizing questions. What is the meaning of failure for a Christian?

In addressing this problem, it seems to me that we need first to distinguish two types of failure: failure in the Christian life and failure in the life of a Christian. By failure in the Christian life, I mean a failure in a believer’s relationship and walk with God. For example, a Christian might experience disappointment and failure due to a refusal to heed God’s calling, or by succumbing to temptation, or through marrying a non-Christian. Failure of this type is due to sin. It is essentially a spiritual problem, a matter of moral and spiritual failure.

By contrast, failure in the life of a Christian is unrelated to spiritual considerations. It is not due to sin in the life of a believer. It is just some defeat a person who happens to be a Christian experiences in his day-to-day life. For example, a Christian businessman might go bankrupt, a Christian athlete might see his boyhood dreams shattered when he fails to make the major leagues, a Christian student might flunk out of school despite his best efforts to succeed, or a Christian workingman might find himself unemployed and unable to find a job. Such cases are not instances of failure in a person’s walk with God but instances of failure in the ordinary course of life. They just happen to occur in the lives of people who are Christians.

In his best-selling book Failure: The Back Door to Success, Erwin Lutzer deals with the distinction I am trying to make here. He attributes failure in the Christian life to lust of the flesh (sexual gratification), pride of life (egoism), or lust of the eyes (covetousness). Failure in the life of a Christian that is not related to those elements is just part of life. Lutzer finds no particular difficulty with the second type of failure, but he does find the first kind of failure problematic. He writes:

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God, Evil, and the Rules of Logic

Dr. Craig,

I love your work and all that you do! I believe you are one of the chief defenders of our faith today. I am a missionary about to begin living in England and am preparing myself for the questions I may be asked.

As a mental exercise I like to ask myself questions about my faith that I feel may one day be asked by an atheist or agnostic. I sometimes run down a rabbit trail of thought that I myself cannot come up with a satisfactory answer. Today, I bring you one of those rabbit trails. In your discussions on the problem of evil you often argue that a world of beings with free-will that choose to follow God and negate all suffering may not be "feasible" for God to create. Although, it does seem logically impossible to create a being that is free but only chooses the correct path, it occurs to me that God himself created logic. Why should he be subject to the rules of logic? Can God not do anything? As far as I understand God created all things that exist. He is the ultimate entity. Thus, can he not create a free being that follows him no matter what? Sure, to my human understanding that is impossible. But with God all things are possible. Could he not have created a world where freedom of choice and ultimate happiness co-exist?

This is a question that keeps me up at night. God himself created reason and logic. Why is he subservient to it? Am I missing something here? I hope you can take the time to respond to this question that currently plagues me. Either way, thank you for all that you do and I pray that you know you have made a great difference in many lives!

Dylan

 

United States


Click HERE to read Dr. Craig's answer

Human Insignificance

Hi Dr. Craig. I'm a Christian from Canada and I love watching your debates on youtube. Thanks for being so awesome. You are a true inspiration.

I'm writing because I'm struggling with some questions that are really challenging my faith. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. First I'll provide you with the lens through which my questions are posed. That way you will understand my mindset.

I feel that when compared to God, I am completely devoid of significance. Even though he loves me and created me in his image and sent his only son to die for me; if compared to him, I am completely insignificant.

Moreover, I feel that the all-powerful, all-knowing God who existed in the past eternal could have created an infinite number of universes before this one and could have an infinite number of universes simultaneous to this one. This assertion leads, again, to a feeling of insignificance; also fear and doubt.

I become fearful and begin to doubt that God loves me (us) when I consider how insignificant I am by comparison. I am less than a speck of dust when considering the span of eternity and in comparison to God. Even though I am a believer, a part of me feels that it is inconceivably pretentious to believe that God Eternal - Creator of the Cosmos, loves me (us).

So now that you have the lens I'm looking through, here are my questions:

1) Does God love us? Why would he? We're so insignificant and could be easily replaced?

2) Are we, in any way, significant? How can that be?

3) Will we ever truly comprehend God? Can we ever hope to truly know him or understand him?

4) Is it wrong or evil of me to have difficulty with the idea of submitting to eternal insignificance, uncertainty, lack of control (freedom) and devotion to a being I don't truly know or understand and who I have no hope of truly knowing or understanding? Am I alone in feeling these things?

I apologize that my questions are so negative. I'm sure you can understand why it's so important to me to find some answers. If you can provide some sources for further study as well I would be very grateful.

Thanks and God Bless You.

Sincerely,

Ryan

Read Dr. Craig's answer HERE

Jesus’ Predictions of His Own Resurrection

Dr. Craig,

I appreciate the work you do a great deal and it has been personally beneficial to my faith and my ministry. I do have a question, however, concerning the 1st century Jewish expectations of resurrection. You write, and I agree that the evidence points to a Jewish belief in a general resurrection at the end of the age (John 11:24), as opposed to that of a dying and rising Messiah during their own lifetime. This would seem to work as evidence against certain theories that would deny the resurrection, such as it being a hoax, or the resurrection appearances being hallucinations, etc.

My question is about events like Jesus raising people from the dead (John 11:43-44; Matthew 9:25; Luke 7:13-15), and Jesus' predictions about His own death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31, etc.). Would not these event's and predictions have created an expectation in His disciples that He would die and rise again? It seems difficult to argue both that there was no expectation of a dying and rising Messiah and that Jesus vindicated His radical personal claims to be a dying and rising Messiah. Did the disciples simply ignore what He said and taught? Did they fail to understand what He meant? I am curious to hear your thoughts on these questions.

Travis

United States

CLICK HERE TO READ DR. CRAIG'S ANSWER