William Lane Craig – The Duplicitous Langage of Proposal (5.5)

According to nominalism, “being” – that which is common or universal in any given category – is no more than a “name,” a concept or term. Accordingly, the doctrine of the Trinity in this philosophy leads to tritheism. Excessive realism, on the other hand, associates the word “essence” with some subsistent thing that stands behind or above the person and so leads to tetratheism or Seballianism. – Herman Bavinck (God and Creation 2004, 299)

Recently, Dr. Craig spoke on his podcast about his Christological Position. This was in response to an article forwarded to him from Richard Bushey titled Does William Lane Craig Have An Orthodox Christology?

Some have asked me why this series has stalled out, wondering if I am done with my critique. I am not, but given that the second edition of Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview is due to be released soon, and my understanding is that it contains some new content regarding abstract objects that may be pertinent to the critique, I have decided to wait until then to continue my series.

However, this recent podcast episode does have a few things that I wanted to respond to.

First, it is notable that the only thing that Craig actually does in this episode is restate his position. That does not resolve any of the concerns or objections that I have lodged. In fact, some of what he says actually reinforces them. He makes the comparison between Christ’s human consciousness and his divine subconsciousness with an iceberg where there is a visible mass above the water with an unseen mass below the water. As I noted previously, an unintended entailment of Craig’s position that natures are only collections of attributes, and not some concrete object, is that the combination of two sets of attributes results in results “in a tertium quid, that is a new third kind of nature that is neither human nor divine.” Craig’s use of this iceberg analogy lends support to this, since even though there is a seen portion of the iceberg and an unseen portion of the iceberg, there is still only a single iceberg. The human (visible) part of the Christological iceberg is not a distinct nature from the divine (invisible) part of the Christological iceberg.

Second, Craig makes a big deal out of the fact that Neo-Apollinarianism is only a proposal. He seems to imply that it is a proposal that he does not himself believe. I find this difficult to believe. Although I understand that at times philosophers put forward theoretical views to be tested and critiqued by other philosophers, to sort of test the waters, this does not seem to be the case in my estimation.

In a 2010 debate with Yusuf Ismail, Dr. Craig responds to Ismail’s claim that the hypostatic union is incoherent. He responds (starting at 6:54) by presenting his Neo-Apollinarian proposal, using the analogy of the popular movie Avatar to explain the incarnation. After explaining the concept present in Avatar he says “In exactly the same way, Christ has both a divine nature and a human nature, and these two natures have different powers.” (9:36) He then goes on later to say “I think [Neo-Apollinarianism] makes perfect sense of the incarnation, and there is nothing [illogcal] or incoherent about it.” (10:05)

It seems to me these statements are much less tentative than Craig wants to make them appear in this episode of Reasonable Faith. Are we to believe that he would say of a view that he doesn’t actually hold that it “makes perfect sense of the incarnation”?

Statements like this are simply duplicitous and are a way of dancing around the objections people have. If I were to say “My proposal is that Craig is an idiot heretic.” Craig and his supporters would not accept “It’s only a proposal” as a legitimate way to dismiss their critiques.

The fact that Craig couches his thoughts in the philosophical language of “possibility,” “proposal,” or “model” does not change the fact that he is advocating this model for Christian belief. Even if it did, Craig is saying that it is possible that although the Scriptures teach that Jesus “he had to be made like his brothers in every respect” (Heb 2:17b, ESV), that in a fundamental way he actually didn’t become at all like us. My mind is created, finite, and knows external facts because they are impressed upon me. Christ’s mind, so says Craig, is uncreated, infinite, and knows all facts as a result of his knowledge of himself.

Brothers and sisters, don’t be fooled by Dr. Craig’s disingenuous language. If he doesn’t believe Neo-Apollinarianism to be true, let him explicitly state that. If he is unwilling to do that, then I fail to see how a model that he says “makes perfect sense of the incarnation” should not be considered to be his belief simply because he says “it is only a proposal.”

The Scriptures teach us that “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!’” (Prov 26:18-19, ESV) Well, I say “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘It was only a proposal!’”


Note: I have been unable to find a complete audio or video recording of the referenced debate with Yusuf Ismail, but would much rather link to a complete version. If you know where a complete audio or video recording, or a transcript of the debate, is available, please let me know so I can update this post.

6 thoughts on “William Lane Craig – The Duplicitous Langage of Proposal (5.5)

  1. Hi. So a non-believer will claim that propositions like “Jesus is God” and “Jesus is man,” are *logically* incompatible. If you can provide a possible model where both of these propositions obtain, then you have successfully deflected the non-believer’s objection. For a philosopher to propose a possible Christological model is to show that these two propositions are not logically contradictory. But that is not to say that the philosopher has assented to that model.

    Also if you would like to learn about abstract objects, I recommend looking at Craig’s scholarly work on the subject. Also, his book God Over All: Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism is available.


    1. Then this should be a simple matter to clear up then, and Craig simply needs to say explicitly that he does not believe Neo-Apollinarianism to be what the Bible teaches.

      You seem to have his ear a bit, why don’t you send him a follow up and see if he will note that on his next episode of Reasonable Faith.

    1. Sure, then all he needs to say is that he doesn’t think that this is what the Bible teaches, or that he doesn’t believe it to be true.
      If what you are saying is true, then admitting that doesn’t undermine the usefulness of the model.

      1. I do not think he has said, “I think this is untrue” but what he said is “I am not espousing this view.” (A philosophers language can be a little confusing sometimes.) But I think if you were to ask Dr. Craig, he would likely say that it is the best model. When discussing the mystery of the incarnation, he advocates for humility since we probably will never know for certain beyond that the scripture teaches.

        So it is almost like a scale of certainty. He would not say that it is true or untrue. He would say that it is the most useful way to think about the incarnation.

      2. All he has to do to assuage my views is say that this isn’t what the Bible teaches, which again should not undercut his use if he is using it as you describe.

        As you describe it, you are simply confirming that he holds this view, or thinks it is as close to the truth as we can get… which is exactly why I think his words are disingenuous.

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