This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
I am a very open minded person and consider all possibilities. I am open to the possibility of a God and an afterlife. I am also open to the possibility that this God could be one who demands and expects that I obey and serve him or that I would be condemned to a horrible afterlife. I have been doing some open-minded research on the subject of life after death. As of right now, it doesn't matter what anyone says to me or what claims other people present to me in regards to God's character, if he is real or not, or if I am a blind sinner or not.
The reason why it doesn't matter to me is because, like I said, I am very open minded right now and am open to alternative explanations of the things people offer up here. I am a very wise open minded individual and I do not jump to any given conclusion based upon some things I read online or a holy book such as the Bible. There is so much more to look into and have an open mind to. Even things that sound very compelling cannot be trusted since there are plenty of things out there that sound compelling, but are actually not.
However, I have very little to no patience at all since I have no interest in doing research or in dedicating my life to a Christian or other religious lifestyle in order for God's presence to be known to me if he is real. That is no different than expecting me to dedicate my life to a certain career such as dentistry when I have no interest in that career. It is just an unfair and unrealistic expectation of me. If God is real and I really am a sinner who is in need of saving, then why can't God swoop into my mind right now and convince me he is real?
If it's because I am not worthy of a God who would be so frantic as to do all he could to convince me right here and now rather than expecting me to dedicate my life in trying to find him, then why did God even go through the trouble of inspiring a holy book or making a sacrifice for our sins? If he thought mankind was worthy of this and he so loved his human creations as to do this deed, then why can't he take it a step further and make his presence known to me right now considering I have no patience and no interest in seeking him out?
I have done what I could right now in trying to seek out the Lord if he is real and I am not going to do anymore because, like I said, I have no patience and no interest. But if God is real and I do meet him after I die and he says to me that I am a sinner who has one last chance to repent, then I would not be foolish. I would completely give myself unto the Lord right then and there. Any other way would result in a horrible afterlife of misery and there is no way I would choose that.
But considering the fact that I would have to dedicate my life in trying to seek out God and be convinced of his existence if he is real and considering the fact that there are so many people out there who have already done this with a truly open mind and heart and were still not convinced, then it is a waste of my time and I have no interest and no patience for this. As for those who were convinced in a reasonable time frame, then I have no way of knowing if their conviction was through a truly open mind or if they were close minded and just decided to believe God is real. This lack of knowing further makes my point here that it is all a waste of my time.
Dr. William Lane Craig’s Response
You’re unusually eager to assure us of your open-mindedness, Gabriel! I won’t dispute the point. But you need to understand that closed-mindedness is not the only obstacle to coming to a knowledge of the truth of Christianity. There is also apathy and laziness. An apathetic person could have a mind that is utterly agape, but since he doesn’t care, he won’t exercise his critical faculties to assess Christianity’s truth claims. Again, a person who is lazy just can’t bear to get off the intellectual couch in order to do the work of investigating Christianity. Your obstacle to faith seems to me to have more to do with apathy and laziness than with closed-mindedness (though appearances may be deceiving).
The key to your justification of your passivity is your statement: “I would have to dedicate my life in trying to seek out God and be convinced of his existence if he is real and considering the fact that there are so many people out there who have already done this with a truly open mind and heart and were still not convinced, then it is a waste of my time and I have no interest and no patience for this.” There are two claims here that I would challenge.
First is the assumption that you would have to dedicate your life to seeking God in order to be convinced. I see no reason to think that this is true. People who sincerely seek God usually come to a decision within a reasonably limited time. It took me about six months. How do you know how long it would take you?
Now you assure us that “I have done what I could right now in trying to seek out the Lord if he is real and I am not going to do anymore because, like I said, I have no patience and no interest.” That leads me to wonder what you have done. What books have you read? What debates have you watched? Have you read the Gospels? Have you sought God in prayer? What worship services have you attended? I can’t help but be sceptical about the earnestness of the effort you have made, especially given your admitted apathy and impatience.
Second is the inference that because others have diligently sought God and were not convinced, it is a waste of time for you to do so. This obviously does not follow. One could with equal justification argue that because others have diligently sought God and became convinced, it will be a profitable use of time for you, too. You have no grounds for your inference.
You respond to this point by saying, “As for those who were convinced in a reasonable time frame, then I have no way of knowing if their conviction was through a truly open mind or if they were close minded and just decided to believe God is real.” Oh, please! It is not only implausible but insulting to think that seekers like Lew Wallace and C. S. Lewis and Lee Strobel had their minds all made up and did not study the evidence with an open mind and an open heart. We have their detailed testimonies of how they came to faith, which provides good evidence of their genuine search for answers. Far more plausible, in fact, would be the claim that unbelievers who did not experience a change of mind but continued in their unbelief are the ones hampered by closed-mindedness!
I find your apathy incomprehensible, especially given your interest in life after death. If God is real, then He offers you an eternal life of unimaginable happiness. Isn’t that what you want? Yet you say you have no interest in doing research in order to find out if this is true!
You don’t seem to have any appreciation of what is at stake here, Gabriel. I have argued elsewhere that if God does not exist, then life is absurd, that is to say, ultimately meaningless, valueless, and purposeless. Moreover, that is a worldview which is incapable of being lived out consistently and happily. So one would think that, given that theism is an intellectually live option for thinking people today, an open-minded person like yourself would be quite concerned to look into the question of God’s existence, rather than uninterested and impatient.
You try to justify your indolence by saying, “If God is real and I really am a sinner who is in need of saving, then why can't God swoop into my mind right now and convince me he is real? . . . why can't he take it a step further and make his presence known to me right now considering I have no patience and no interest in seeking him out?” This is a classic case of blame-shifting. Blame God for your unbelief rather than your own apathy and laziness! What you fail to understand is that God is not particularly interested in getting you to believe that He is real. Rather He wants to build a loving relationship with you. That may well require an attitude of seeking and humility on your part, rather than demanding that God meet you on your terms. Just believing that God is real will not lead you to love Him.
I’d encourage you to read what I’ve written about the existential implications of theism/atheism (On Guard Student Edition). Of course, given your lack of interest and impatience, this may be a futile recommendation. But then again, why did you bother to write to me at all? Maybe you’re more troubled by these questions than you’re willing to let on—perhaps even to yourself.