On William Lane Craig’s defense of the Canaanite slaughter (Part 1)
The other day I was catching up on some of William Lane Craig’s “Reasonable Faith” podcasts when I came across his podcast on “Richard Dawkins and driving out the Canaanites.” In the podcast Craig is aiming to offer a response to Dawkins’ critique of Craig’s defense of the Joshua genocide. As you will recall, when Craig visited the UK in 2011 his invitation to debate Dawkins was rebuffed on the pretense that Dawkins would not deign to debate a defender of genocide.
I discuss Dawkins’ position in my article “Why Dawkins says he won’t debate Craig” and argue in that article and two follow-up articles (available here and here) that Dawkins’ reasoning is spurious and is little more than an unconvincing means to avoid ending up on the same stage as Craig. This fits in neatly with Dawkins’ typical modus operandi of debating irenic churchmen rather than academics in philosophy of religion. I don’t blame Dawkins for wanting to avoid debating Craig who is by any measure a worldclass debater. What irks me is that he cloaks his cowardice in a faux moral indignation.
But now our attention shifts from Dawkins to Craig and his response in this podcast. The fact that Craig has made so many stellar contributions in philosophy and apologetics from the Kalam cosmological argument to the philosophy of time to the concept of truth makes his defense of the Canaanite genocide all the more awful. (Consider it the contrast effect at work.) This issue doesn’t just have a limited interest with the problems and inconsistencies of Craig’s own position. It also reflects a real Achilles heal in contemporary conservative Christian apologetics. We are in many respects in a golden age of apologetics with many arguments attaining new levels of sophistication and novelty. This makes the efforts of apologists like Craig and Paul Copan to defend the biblical genocides look all the worse by comparison. As I observe in The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver, and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails, these apologists often tend to mislead people and misrepresent the arguments ((InterVarsity Press, 2012), 143).
Here’s the problem. When you offer defenses of the indefensible you provide people with a pretense to dismiss your genuinely strong arguments. And the Craig-Dawkins provides a great example of this. Consequently, I will offer a critique of Craig’s podcast as a ground to challenge Craig and other Christian apologists to abandon these insufferably weak arguments in defense of genocide and thereby to remove an unnecessary stumbling block to the consideration of their genuinely strong arguments.