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William Lane Craig

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William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig
Born (1949-08-23) August 23, 1949 [1]
Peoria, Illinois[2]
Religion Christianity (Evangelicalism)
Era 20th-century philosophy
21st-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic Philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of religion
Natural theology
Philosophy of time
Christian apologetics

William Lane Craig (born August 23, 1949) is an American Christian apologist, analytic Christian philosopher,[3][4][5] and theologian.[6][7] Craig's philosophical work focuses primarily on philosophy of religion, but also on metaphysics and philosophy of time. His theological interests are in historical Jesus studies and philosophical theology. He is known for his debates on the existence of God with public figures such as Christopher Hitchens[8] and Lawrence Krauss.[9]

Craig established an online apologetics ministry, His current research deals with divine aseity and the challenge posed by Platonist accounts of abstract objects. Craig is also an author of several books, including Reasonable Faith,[10] which began as a set of lectures for his apologetics classes.


  • Life and career 1
  • Thought 2
    • Kalam cosmological argument 2.1
    • Divine omniscience 2.2
    • Divine eternity 2.3
    • Resurrection of Jesus 2.4
    • Divine aseity 2.5
    • Other views 2.6
  • Bibliography 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Life and career

Craig in Middle School
East Peoria Community High School Math Club. Craig is in the top row.

Craig is the second of three children born to Mallory and Doris Craig in Peoria, Illinois.[11] His father's work with the T. P. & W. railroad took the family to Keokuk, Iowa, until his transfer to the home office in East Peoria in 1960. While a student at East Peoria Community High School (1963–67)[12] Craig became a championship debater and public speaker, being named his senior year to the all-state debate team and winning the state championship in oratory.[13] In September 1965, his junior year, he converted to Christianity,[14][15] and after graduating from high school, attended Wheaton College, a Christian college,[16] majoring in communications. Craig graduated in 1971 and the following year married his wife Jan, whom he met on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ.[17] In 2014, he was named alumnus of the year by Wheaton.[18]

In 1973 Craig entered the program in philosophy of religion at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School north of Chicago, where he studied under Norman Geisler.[19]

In 1975 Craig commenced doctoral studies in philosophy at the University of Birmingham in England, writing on the cosmological argument under the direction of John Hick. Out of this study came his first book, The Kalam Cosmological Argument (1979), a defense of the argument he first encountered in Hackett's work. Craig was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship in 1978 from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to pursue research on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus under the direction of Wolfhart Pannenberg at the Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität München in Germany. His studies in Munich led to a second doctorate, this one in theology,[18][20] awarded in 1984 with the publication of his doctoral thesis, "The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus during the Deist Controversy" (1985).[21]

Craig joined the faculty of Bart Ehrman, Gerd Lüdemann, Christopher Hitchens, Ray Bradley, and Sean Carroll. He has also engaged in debates on Islam, having engaged academic and Islamic scholar Shabir Ally, Jamal Badawi and South African Muslim apologist, Yusuf Ismail on the divinity of Christ.

After a one-year stint at Westmont College on the outskirts of Santa Barbara,[22] Craig moved in 1987 with his wife and two young children back to Europe, where he pursued research for the next seven years as a visiting scholar at the Katholiecke Universiteit Leuven (Louvain) in Belgium. Out of that period of research issued seven books, among them God, Time, and Eternity (2001). In 1994 Craig joined the Department of Philosophy and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology in suburban Los Angeles as Research Professor of Philosophy, a position he currently holds.[14]

Craig established an online apologetic ministry,[23]


Kalam cosmological argument

Craig is best known for his use of a version of the cosmological argument, which he coined the "Kalam cosmological argument" in recognition of its medieval Islamic history.

In The Kalām Cosmological Argument, he formulates the argument in the following manner:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.[24]

Philosophically, Craig uses two traditional arguments to show that time is finite: he argues that the existence of an actual infinite is metaphysically impossible, and that forming an actual infinite through successive addition is metaphysically impossible.[25]

Granting the strict logical consistency of post-Cantorian, axiomatized infinite set theory, Craig says that the existence of an actually infinite number of things is metaphysically impossible due to the counter-intuitive absurdities that would arise.[26] Craig uses an example of Hilbert's Hotel, which can be fully occupied and yet, through the transposition of lodgers, accommodate an infinite number of guests. Craig argues that by envisioning different groups of guests checking out of the hotel, one could subtract identical quantities from identical quantities and have non-identical quantities as remainders, which is absurd.[27] Stating that the mathematical conventions stipulated to ensure the logical consistency of transfinite arithmetic have no ontological force, Craig believes that finitism is most plausibly true, and the series of past events must be finite, which he argues indicates the universe began to exist.[28]

Craig says that just as it is impossible, despite the proponents of "super-tasks," to count to infinity, so it is metaphysically impossible to count down from infinity.[29] Craig says that an inversion of the story of Tristram Shandy is a counter-intuitive absurdity that could result from the formation of an actual infinite. Craig claims that if the universe were eternal, an infinite number of events would have occurred before the present moment, which he says is impossible.[30]

One of Craig's contributions to the kalam cosmological argument is his reference to astrophysics in support of the universe's beginning, namely the expansion of the universe and thermodynamics.[31]

Craig says that the Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker metric Big Bang model predicts a cosmic singularity, which marks the origin of the universe in the finite past.[32] Craig says that competing models which do not imply an origin of the universe have either proved to be untenable (such as the steady state model and vacuum fluctuation models) or implied the beginning of the universe they were designed to avoid (oscillating models, inflationary models, quantum gravity models). Craig says that the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem of 2003 requires that any universe which has on average been in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal.[33]

Craig believes that recent discoveries about the expansion of the universe and relativity theory support his view that thermodynamic properties of the universe show it is not eternal.[34][35] Craig says that postulating a multiverse of worlds in varying thermodynamic states encounter the problem of Boltzmann brains—that it becomes highly probable for any observer that the universe is only an illusion of his own brain, a solipsistic conclusion Craig says no rational person would embrace.[36]

Based on these arguments, Craig concludes that the premise that the universe began to exist is more plausible than not, and conjoined with premise 1, the beginning of the universe implies the existence of a cause. Craig claims that, due to its nature, the cause must be an uncaused, beginningless, changeless, timeless, spaceless, immaterial being of enormous power, which he refers to as God.[37]

Divine omniscience

One of the central questions raised by the classical doctrine of divine omniscience is the compatibility of divine foreknowledge and free will:
(1) If God foreknows the occurrence of some event E, does E happen necessarily?,[38] and
(2) If some event E is contingent, how can God foreknow E's occurrence?[39]

According to Craig, the first question raises the issue of theological fatalism. Craig attempts to reduce this problem to the problem of logical fatalism, which holds that if it is true that E will happen, then E will happen necessarily. He challenges theological fatalists to show how the addition of God's knowing some future-tense statement to be true adds anything essential to the problem over and above that statement's being true.[40]

Craig says that theological fatalists have misunderstood "temporal necessity," or the necessity of the past, and that the impossibility of backward causation does not imply that one cannot have a sort of counterfactual power over past events.[41]

Craig surveyed the rejection of parallel fatalistic arguments in fields other than theology or philosophy of religion. He reviews discussions of backward causation,[42] time travel,[43] the special theory of relativity, precognition,[44] and Newcomb's paradox to conclude that fatalistic reasoning has failed.[45]

The second question arising from divine foreknowledge of future contingents concerns the means by which God knows such events.[46] Craig says that the question presupposes a tensed or A-Theory of time, for on a tenseless or B-Theory of time there is no ontological distinction between past, present, and future, so that contingent events which are future relative to us are no more difficult for God to know than contingent events which are, relative to us, past or present. Distinguishing between perceptualist and conceptualist models of divine cognition, Craig says that models which construe God's foreknowledge of the future along perceptualist lines (God foresees what will happen) are difficult to reconcile with a tensed theory of time (though one might say that God perceives the present truth-values of future contingent propositions). He does not similarly challenge a conceptualist model which construes God's knowledge along the lines of innate ideas.[47]

The doctrine of middle knowledge is one such conceptualist model of divine cognition which Craig has explored. Formulated by the Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina, the doctrine of middle knowledge holds that logically prior to his decree to create a world God knew what every possible creature he might create would freely do in any possible set of circumstances in which God might place him. On the basis of his knowledge of such counterfactuals of free will[48] and his knowledge of his own decree to create certain creatures in certain circumstances, along with his own decision how he himself shall act, God automatically knows everything that will actually and contingently happen, without any perception of the world.[49]

Craig has become a proponent of Molinism, supporting middle knowledge and also applying it to a wide range of theological issues, such as divine providence[50] and predestination,[51] biblical inspiration,[52] perseverance of the saints,[53] Christian particularism,[54] and the Problem of Evil.[55]

Divine eternity

Craig's earlier work on the kalam cosmological argument and on divine omniscience intersected significantly with the philosophy of time and the nature of divine eternity.[56]

Craig examines arguments aimed at showing either that God is timeless or omnitemporal.[57] He defends the coherence of a timeless and personal being, but says that the arguments for divine timelessness are unsound or inconclusive.[58] By contrast, he gives two arguments in favor of divine temporality. First, he says that if a temporal world exists, then in virtue of his real relations to that world, God cannot remain untouched by its temporality.[59] Craig says that given God's changing relations with the world he must change at least extrinsically, which is sufficient for his existing temporally. Second, Craig says that if a temporal world exists, then in virtue of his omniscience, God must know tensed facts about the world, such as what is happening now, which Craig argues is sufficient for his being temporally located. Craig argues that, since a temporal world does exist, it follows that God exists in time.[60]

Craig says that there is one way of escape from these arguments, which is to accept a B-Theory of time.[61] Craig concludes that one's theory of time is a watershed issue for one's doctrine of divine eternity.[62]

In The Tensed Theory of Time (2000) and The Tenseless Theory of Time (2000), Craig examines the arguments for and against the A- and B-Theories of time respectively.

Elements of Craig's philosophy of time differentiates between time itself and our measures of it (a classical Newtonian theme), and includes an analysis of spatial "tenses" to the location of the "I-now," his defense of presentism, his analysis of McTaggart's paradox[63] as an instance of the problem of temporary intrinsics, his defense of a neo-Lorentzian interpretation of special relativity, and his formulation of a tensed possible worlds semantics.[64]

Craig presents a doctrine of divine eternity and God's relationship to time. Defending Leibniz's argument against God's enduring for infinite time prior to creating the universe, and appealing to the kalam cosmological argument, Craig says that God exists timelessly and temporally since the moment of creation.[65] Craig says that cosmic time, which registers the age of the universe, is the measure of God's time. The universe is, Craig concludes, God's clock.[66]

Resurrection of Jesus

Craig's two volumes The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus (1985) and Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus (3d ed., 2002) are said by Christian reviewers Gary Habermas and Christopher Price to be among the most thorough investigations of the event of Jesus' resurrection.[67][68] In the former volume, Craig describes the history of the discussion, including David Hume's arguments against the identification of miracles. The latter volume is an exegetical study of the New Testament material pertinent to the resurrection.

Craig summarizes the relevant evidence under three major heads:[69]

(1) The tomb of Jesus was found empty by a group of his female followers on the Sunday after his crucifixion.[70]
(2) Various individuals and groups experienced appearances of Jesus alive after his death.
(3) The earliest disciples came to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead despite strong predispositions to the contrary.

Craig's discussion of the evidence for each of these events includes a defense of the traditions of Jesus' burial by Joseph of Arimathea, a close exegesis of the Pauline doctrine of the resurrection body, and an investigation of pagan and Jewish notions of resurrection from the dead.[71]

Craig says that the best explanation of these three events is that God raised Jesus from the dead.[72] Craig's explanation conflicts with others, in particular Lüdemann's hallucination hypothesis.[73] Craig says that the resurrection hypothesis best meets the standard criteria for weighing historical hypotheses such as explanatory power, explanatory scope, plausibility, and so forth.[74] Craig claims that, provided there is a god, there is a higher probability of the resurrection hypothesis than of its negation, so he argues the resurrection hypothesis cannot be said to be improbable.[75] He says that the probability of a miraculous explanation of the evidence is increased when one locates the resurrection of Jesus in the context of Jesus' ministry and personal statements.[76] Craig says that context also provides the interpretive key to the meaning of Jesus' resurrection, which Craig says is the divine vindication of the allegedly blasphemous statements for which Jesus was tried and executed.[77]

Divine aseity

Craig is currently focused on the challenge posed by platonism to divine aseity or self-existence.[78] Craig rejects the view that God creates abstract objects,[79] and defends nominalistic perspectives on abstract objects.[80] Stating that the Quine-Putnam Indispensability Argument is the chief support of platonism,[81] Craig criticizes Willard Van Orman Quine's naturalized epistemology and confirmational holism, and also rejects the metaontological criterion of ontological commitment.[82]

Craig favors a neutral logic, according to which the formal quantifiers of first-order logic, as well as the informal quantifiers of ordinary language, are not ontologically committing.[83] He also advocates a deflationary theory of reference, according to which referring is a speech act rather than a word-world relation, so that singular terms may be used in true sentences without commitment to corresponding objects in the world.[84] If one stipulates that first-order quantifiers are being used as devices of ontological commitment, then Craig adverts to Fictionalism, in particular Pretense Theory, according to which statements about abstract objects are expressions of make-believe, imagined to be true, though literally false.[85]

Other views

Craig is a critic of metaphysical naturalism,[86] New Atheism,[87] prosperity theology,[88] as well as a defender of Reformed epistemology.[89] He also states that being a confessing Christian is not compatible with practicing homosexuality.[90] Craig maintains that the theory of evolution is compatible with Christianity.[91][92] Although he does not fully endorse intelligent design,[93] and is critical of Young Earth creationism,[94] he thinks that intelligent design may be a viable alternative to evolution.[95] He is a fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture[96] and was a fellow of the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design (ISCID).[97]

As a Divine command theorist, Craig believes God had the moral right to command the slaughter of the Canaanites if they refused to leave their land, as depicted in the Book of Deuteronomy.[98][99] This has led to some controversy.[100][101]


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  • Apologetics: An Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press. 1984. ISBN 0-8024-0405-7
  • The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus during the Deist Controversy. Toronto: Edwin Mellen. 1985. ISBN 0-88946-811-7
  • The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom. Grand Rapids: Baker Bookhouse. 1987. ISBN 1-57910-316-2 / ISBN 978-1-57910-316-3
  • The Problem of Divine Foreknowledge and Future Contingents from Aristotle to Suarez. Leiden: E.J. Brill. 1988. ISBN 90-04-08516-5 / ISBN 978-90-04-08516-9
  • Knowing the Truth About the Resurrection. Ann Arbor: Servant. 1988. ISBN 0-89283-384-X / ISBN 978-0-89283-384-9
  • Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom: The Coherence of Theism I: Omniscience. Leiden: E.J. Brill. 1990. ISBN 90-04-09250-1 / ISBN 978-90-04-09250-1
  • No Easy Answers. Chicago: Moody Press. 1990. ISBN 0-8024-2283-7 / ISBN 978-0-8024-2283-5
  • Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (with Quentin Smith). Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993. ISBN 978-0-19-826383-8
  • The Tensed Theory of Time: A Critical Examination. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN 0-7923-6634-4 / ISBN 978-0-7923-6634-8
  • Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate Between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan. Grand Rapids: Baker Bookhouse. 1998.
  • God, Are You There?. Atlanta: RZIM. 1999. ISBN 1-930107-00-5 / ISBN 978-1-930107-00-7
  • .
  • God, Time and Eternity. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 2001. ISBN 978-1-58134-241-3 / ISBN 978-1-58134-241-3
  • Time and The Metaphysics of Relativity. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 2001. ISBN 0-7923-6668-9
  • Time and Eternity: Exploring God's Relationship to Time. Wheaton: Crossway. 2001. ISBN 978-1-58134-241-3 / ISBN 978-1-58134-241-3
  • What Does God Know? Atlanta: RZIM. 2002. ISBN 978-1-930107-05-2
  • Hard Questions, Real Answers. Wheaton: Crossway Books. 2003. ISBN 978-1-58134-487-5 / ISBN 978-1-58134-487-5
  • Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (with J.P. Moreland). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. 2003.
  • .
  • Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration (with Paul Copan). Grand Rapids: Baker Bookhouse. 2004. ISBN 0-8010-2733-0
  • Reasonable Faith. Wheaton: Crossway. 1994. rev. 3rd ed. 2008. ISBN 0-89107-764-2 / ISBN 978-0-89107-764-0
  • On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook. 2010. ISBN 1-4347-6488-5 / ISBN 978-1-4347-6488-1

See also


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  7. ^ Nathan Schneider, "The New Theist: How William Lane Craig became Christian philosophy's boldest apostle", The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 1, 2013, article
  8. ^ , Craig/Hitchens debate on existence of GodChristianity Today
  9. ^ Krauss debates Craig
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  24. ^ Craig outlines this argument and seven others for the existence of God in Philosophy Now magazine, December 2013
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  88. ^ | William Lane Craig | Q&A #154 Lightning Strikes Again Answer to question 8: "I think that the prosperity gospel of health and wealth is a false doctrine and an abomination. That gospel won't preach in Darfur, Iraq, North Korea, or a thousand other places, and if it won't preach there, it's not the true Gospel."
  89. ^
  90. ^ Christian Apologist Says Church Losing Battle Against Hate Label for Homosexuality Stance. William Lane Craig, Hard Questions, Real Answers (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2003), 129–144. A Christian Perspective on Homosexuality. Christian Homosexuals?.
  91. ^
  92. ^ [Craig writes: "If we take "random" to mean "irrespective of usefulness to the organism," then randomness is not incompatible with direction or purpose. For example, suppose that God in His providence causes a mutation to occur in an organism, not for the benefit of the organism, but for some other reason (say, because it will produce easy prey for other organisms that He wants to flourish or even because it will eventually produce a fossil that I will someday find, which stimulates my interest in palaeontology, so that I embark upon the career God had in mind for me). In such a case, the mutation is both purposeful and random." "Q&A #253: Evolutionary Theory and Theism",, accessed at See also "Q&A #263: Who Speaks for Science?", accessed at]
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Further reading

  • Chad Meister (n.d.). "Philosophy of Religion". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 11 August 2015.

External links

  • Reasonable Faith William Lane Craig's personal website
  • Faculty webpage
  • Comprehensive Debate list
  • Interviews from the program Closer to Truth
  • Works by or about William Lane Craig in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • Audio files at
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