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Unreasonable Faith: How William Lane Craig Overstates the Case for Christianity Paperback – 17 Jun 2018
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"As a former student of William Lane Craig, graduating under him at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1985 with a ThM in the Philosophy of Religion, I heartily endorse Fodor’s well-researched and excellently argued book length critique of his apologetics. It's surprising that apologists like Craig need rebutted after intellectuals David Hume, Charles Darwin, and David Friedrich Strauss, but if you’re still not convinced and only want to buy one book, then get this one!"
John W. Loftus, author of works including Why I Became an Atheist, The Christian Delusion, The Outsider Test for Faith, Christianity is Not Great, Christianity in the Light of Science, and How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist.
"an excellent destruction of W.L. Craig’s entire apologetics. Cogently argued and factually accurate, this is required reading for anyone keen to question the soundness of anything W.L. Craig has argued over the decades. Which makes it an invaluable resource for refuting Christian apologetics generally."
Richard Carrier, author on the historicity of Jesus.
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Fodor has written this book with an attempt to stick to rigorous philosophical discussion, selecting quotes from Craig that charitably present his point of view. His writing style is precise and academic in the tradition of atheist/agnostic philosophers like JL Mackie or Graham Oppy. This is a deliberate departure from the polemical tone famously used by atheist writers such as Hitchens and Dawkins. This stylistic choice has advantages and drawbacks.
Fodor does a good job of summarizing the relevant philosophical debates. The problem with this book is the problem with all of philosophy—the subject matter itself consists of meticulous, nitpicky arguments about uncertain, nearly incomprehensible, and frankly boring philosophical points. The first 100 pages of the book extensively cover the tensed vs. tenseless theory of time and the hypothetical existence of an actual infinity.
The quotes selected from Craig’s philosophical publications are borderline impossible to understand, which is a surprising departure from the eloquence of his debate performances. Somehow, Fodor has managed to wade through the jargon to attempt to explain what Craig is talking about. I may end up having to read some of these sections 10 times before the debate makes sense to me.
None of the debates seem to have a clear answer either way. Does anyone really care about the “theory of time” or the “infinite hotel?” The debates never resolve into any concrete knowledge. Does Craig write hundreds of pages in support of the tensed theory of time because he thinks that it is a true insight, or merely because it is a desperate trick to rescue his philosophical system from being built on a foundation of sand? Does Fodor defend the tenseless theory of time because it is correct, or because he has to in order to claim that Craig’s argument fails?
Warning: If you are like me, and you have a preconceived suspicion that metaphysics is meaningless and made up as they go along, there is a high probability that this book will give you 10 more reasons to hate metaphysics.
Although my review is somewhat combative, I want to reiterate that Fodor does a great job accomplishing the goal of this book and presenting an even-handed case. The nature of this project means that it unavoidably contains large amounts of academic philosophy jargon. I hope that this book serves as an academic springboard for future conversations about atheism, but many of the book’s sections need to be reformulated into a style of presentation that would make them accessible to a wider audience.
I will say that I was unsuccessfully raised as a Protestant Christian, and I have since become an atheist. I am an atheist for much simpler reasons than Craig and Fodor discuss, but I am glad to have a more thorough understanding of more complex issues.
Fodor states that: "This book does not aim to convert Christians to atheism, or to undermine faith in God." and the book ends with: "It is my hope that this book has been of use to those seeking what to believe, how to think critically, and the best place to put their trust." He focuses on discussing the scientific and philosophical arguments that Craig makes. The book is organized around specific arguments, e.g., "The Kalam Cosmological Argument," "If the Universe had a Cause, that Cause Must be Personal." He deals with the nature of time (tensed vs untensed); I found it helpful to think of the books involving time travel that I have read: that is pretty much tenseless time. Added later: I'm reading it a second time; the more I understand infinity, the more mind-blowing it becomes.
I don't understand the difference between metaphysical time and physical time. If the former is a philosophical construct, then I'll stick with physical time. I know what the two words mean, just not what they mean together. If anyone can explain it briefly, please do.
Fodor has obviously read broadly in the relevant philosophical literature, and he cites a number of sources, but the book is much more than just a compilation of others' work. I am somewhat at a loss for words to communicate how exciting and insightful I found this book, and it has certainly broadened my knowledge. I'm not even going to archive it as I normally do books that I have finished, because I know I'll read it again soon. I believe that freethinkers will be very interested, as will religious people who think deeply about their beliefs.
A caveat: Although a book like this, taking Craig's own claims and dissecting them through logical reasoning and commentaries by philosophers and scientists, is a valuable contribution to the religious debate, it is not an easy read and not for every reader; I found myself having to slog through some of the murkier philosophical issues. I also kept having the sense that while it is important to rebut Craig by dissecting his own claims, this is not the only approach that can be used. For example, both the kalam argument (a dressed-up "first-cause" argument) and the fine-tuning argument could, I believe, be negated by appeal to current research in loop quantum cosmology; LQC does not disprove god but it offers answers that do not depend on God.
"Unreasonable Faith" is most suited for open-minded philosophers, and perhaps for cosmologists interested in these topics. More casual readers will find superb information logically organized, but it will take some stamina to get through all of it.