uno itinere non potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum -- Q. Aurelius Symmachus, 384 C.E.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Keep Talking, William Lane Craig

By definition, an apologist presumably cares about changing minds. And the crown prince of Christian apologetics, William Lane Craig, clearly does as well. But even he knows that conservative Christians are fighting a "losing battle" against gay rights, and hearing the sophistry to which he and others will sink to defend their stance on what they call "biblical sexuality," it's no mystery why they are losing. That it also lays bare why apologetics in general is such an intellectually bankrupt endeavor is just an added bonus.

In a recent interview, Craig acknowledged that the "cultural attitudes towards homosexual activity have undergone a sea change in recent years," but he appears completely oblivious as to why. First off, note the shift: it's telling that conservative Christian rhetoric in recent years has all but abandoned the argument that "homosexuality is a choice" in favor of one that focuses on "homosexual behavior" or "homosexual activity," but it only makes their positions on the matter more asinine.

It's also puzzling, unless you understand that "biblical sexuality" is just the latest incarnation of biblical rationalization for one's prejudices, which is hardly a recent development. For while Craig notes that "homosexual orientation – that's largely out of your control from what homosexuals tell us," he goes on to reference "very shocking facts about the pathological and emotional damage that this lifestyle involves."

Of course, none of the professional associations that deal in "pathological and emotional damage," like the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, or the American Psychiatric Association, agree that they have any intrinsic links to being gay. So clearly Craig is not following the lead of mainstream scholarship on this issue any more than he does on any number of historical or biblical matters concerning Christianity.

But whatever their motivations, in ceding the "born gay" aspect of the debate, Craig and others will continue to find themselves painted into a losing corner. The apologist tried some of his trademark sophistry to find a way out of that corner, but it falls flat:

"You see that heterosexual single people who engage in premarital sexual intercourse are doing something just as wrong as homosexuals and yet I don't think that people would think that I have some sort of hatred or prejudice against single people, that would be absurd."

Craig is right about one thing: absurdity is certainly at work here. Obviously, a single heterosexual operating within the confines of Craig's worldview has one thing a gay or lesbian individual does not: the ability to look forward to a day on which he or she might join with another human being in a mutual companionship that most people find a central aspect of the human experience. Meanwhile, Craig and others apparently concede that (at least in their supernaturally causal understanding of the world) God does make people gay, but the Almighty then requires under threat of soul endangerment that said people forego that companionship for the entirety of their earthly lives.

A great many people find that not only cruel but asinine, hence Craig's losing battle. Rather, an increasing number of people know gay and lesbian couples who enjoy mutually devoted, lifelong relationships just like their heterosexual counterparts. It is this lived experience -- not some overweening "political correctness," as Craig would have you believe -- that has bankrupted the twisted, anti-Christian notion of a deity creating people with a love they are not allowed to express.

Yet this is the same methodology apologists use in their work writ large: the assertion of a predisposed idea coupled with a wholesale rejection of all evidence, experience, and common sense that would suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, on this score it amounts to more than just the intellectual sparring -- a sport Craig apparently thinks is specially appealing to men -- on which Craig makes his living, because it continues to deny a large portion of the population of the rights and privileges afforded to everyone else, without any truly rational basis.

But by all means, keep talking, William Lane Craig. The more your theological farce is on display for all to see, the sooner your losing battle will finally become a lost one.

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