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Daniel, My comments were based on the article Luke posted. Now, in the past - I would agree that Craig does base his arguments on what he deems to be "good evidence" for the existence of the Christian God. However, based on the comments that Craig makes in the article, I don't see how you could draw the conclusion that this "Inner Witness" argument is secondary to all that. If we are to take Craig in context, I don't see that he merely poses personal experience as a confirmation of his intellectual arguments - a sort-of dollop of Holy spirit whipped cream on the historical Jesus pie. (um, so to speak - sorry, I just had some leftover pumpkin pie after lunch today) Anyway, based on my reading, this seems to be the exact opposite of what he truly means to say. In fact, he explicitly states that the only REAL truth is the one that has been personally revealed to him, and that any "arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit". Furthermore, Craig admits that even if he were personally to witness evidence to contradict the (as you put it), "historical, biblical God" (i.e. witnessing Jesus NOT rise from the dead) - that his personal, experience would supercede that knowledge due to the belief that his personal experience with the Holy Spirit is "self-authenticating". He specifically states that "[The inner witness of the Spirit] trumps all other evidence." Going back to my (delicious) pie analogy, this "Inner Witness" argument would seem to be the crust of Bill Craig's God-pie recipe - the basis on which all other knowledge, beliefs, and suppositions are laid. Contrary to your assertion, this does not seem to be a secondary argument at all for Craig - in fact, I think it's now fairly obvious that he buoys the totality of his Christian beliefs on his personal experience of the Holy Spirit - all other evidence simply serves to justify, confirm and mold it. What my post on your blog was alluding to is that this type of "I know because I KNOW" argument is not evidence. It is simply a claim to self knowledge, and is one that ANYONE can make about ANY BELIEF - including atheists. Not only is it not evidence, it's not really even an argument. It's subjectivity is fallacious and at the very least credulous. But I'm curious, now... As one who seemingly subscribes to this "Inner Witness" claim of Craig's, what would you say to someone (like myself, for instance), who used to be a believer in God and Jesus Christ, and experienced their own very believable and real personal revelation of God, Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit - yet eventually lost every one of those "self-authenticating" beliefs altogether?
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Thanks for the post - glad I found your blog via Common Sense Atheism! And now I'd like to quickly toss in my two cents... First, let me say that when it comes to most decisions regarding one's life, personal experience undoubtedly comes into play first and foremost. Even being an atheist, I have no problem with this. I also do not doubt the power of personal experience, especially in relation to the belief in a deity or God. However, once those experiences have been considered and accounted for, one must then use their intellect to determine if those experiences accurately and consistently represent the real world. If they do not, then I see no reason why those experiences, no matter how convincing, shouldn't be overthrown by reason and rationality. For instance, a wholly believable and powerful personal experience one may have that involves being abducted by aliens from outer space does not then mean that particular creature actually exists, nor does it prove that such a creature could exist. The experience would inevitably have to be filtered through a process of reasoning and critical thinking to see if its subjective nature matches what we know about reality. Ultimately, subjectivity can only get you so close to the truth. And in the many debates and arguments I’ve heard and seen from Craig, he consistently uses objective absolutes (moral and logical) as the basis for many of his pro-God arguments - one of the reasons I admire Craig's debating style so much. However, now Craig seems to be stating that his own subjective, “self-authenticating” knowledge of God trumps his very own objective arguments, as well as any others to the contrary. I find this line of argument from Craig very disappointing, not to mention inconsistent and utterly incoherent. It seems to me that Craig could now simply posit the following argument for ANY debate on the existence of the Christian God: 1. God has revealed himself to me via a personal and unmistakable experience with the Holy Spirit. 2. This personal experience has provided me with a fundamental knowledge of the truth of Christianity. 3. Since I believe the Christian God to be true, and my personal experience has confirmed this belief, it is therefore self-authenticating – meaning that no amount of argument and evidence to the contrary could trump its reality, validity or truth. 4. Therefore, the Christian God exists. If this is essentially Craig's argument – then it is a huge fallacy - which is why I suspect you won't be hearing it from him as the basis of any debate he'll be having in the near future. Why? Because this premise of “self-authenticating” knowledge can be used by believers of any faith to conclude the existence of their particular God / deity as well. Additionally, how does Craig "know" it is God that is providing the experience? On top of the subjective nature of the experience itself, the very interpretation of the experience becomes subjective based on one's own preconceptions. This type of argument doesn't help to prove the existence of the Christian God, it simply helps to prove that people have personal experiences that they attribute to their own subjective view of what a God, Deity, Demon, Spirit, Pixie may be... In other words, there is no real truth to be found in this form of reasoning.
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Dec 31, 2009