Monday, December 16, 2013

I Wonder if You Remember Me

You may never realize the impact you have on someone else.

Dr. Craig,

I wonder if you remember me. I was the dorky looking fellow hoisting about the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology at the Xenos Center in Columbus, Ohio July 10 and July 11 of 2013. I asked you four questions over the course of those two days: one regarding the ontological argument, one regarding the contingency argument, one regarding the kalamcosmological argument, and one regarding God’s relation to the Good. You answered them masterfully. I regret only that I did not get to thank you for the meteoric influence you have had in my life. If you receive and read this, please let me know or have someone let me know.

Below reads my testimonial. You can publish it if you like. All that matters to me, however, is that you read it.


“Misery” is a unique variety of suffering to truly observe, and so I naturally remember the first time I witnessed it. During my second week of college my Catholic roommate and my “progressive” roommate had a brief discussion:

“So how do you feel about abortion?” the “progressive” inquired.

“I’m Catholic, so I don’t really support it.”

The “progressive” allowed a snide laugh.

“You actually believe in that stuff? God and all that? Ha! Oh wait, I’ll just stop now.”

The energy seemed to flush from the Catholic, and his face withered into something I can only describe as sharp, desperate misery.

My third roommate was also Catholic. He began to party with the “progressive.” One night a Catholic girl across the hall dragged his drunken form to our toilet so he could commence vomiting. A week later the girl asked whether he believed in God:


“What? Why not?”

“I don’t know. There’s just no reason to.”

A week later, he fell into depression.

I met the first Catholic (the “miserable” one) a year later for lunch. He was struggling ceaselessly with anxiety and despondency. He told me that he had become a resolute atheist. He asked me what I thought about God:

“I’m an agnostic,” I allowed tepidly.


“I haven’t found any good reason yet to believe it.”

“No, I mean, why not a full-blooded atheist?”

“I imagine there are probably some persuasive scholars on the theistic side.”

“Like who?”

“Swinburne… uh, and… what’s his name? Will Craig Lane [sic], I’ve heard he has some good—“

The newfound “full-blooded” atheist wrenched his face up with disgust.



“Stay away from that guy.”

And I did.


My professors adored me and divined that I would become a prodigious historian. I was not happy like I was as a young Catholic, but my skeptical reductionism had yielded for me success as an alienated, but thorough scholar. CNN, my professors, Nietzsche, Foucault, and popular cinema crushed my theistic intuitions into uncertain wisps of memory, and so I resolved to put the idea of God “on hold.” God became something of a curious amusement for me, a petrified abstraction among many, an unexamined metaphysical insight at best and a social pathology at worst. I was happy to evacuate such a peculiar bourgeois artifact from my past and hang it on the mantle. After all, according to three “basic” philosophy texts that I had read, metaphysics had become antiquated after the advance of science and God had been retired; Paul Tillach, it seemed, would be your best and only bet if you were interested in God.

And oh how my despair amused me! My past harassed me endlessly with whispers of intelligibility and meaning I knew could never resolve, the present lurched in and out of focus like oppressive geometry, and the future grew dark and arid with disease and death. I became violently sick often and would roam about sleepless for days.

“I’m just like Raskolnikov!” I mused feebly, “How modern! Or perhaps post-modern… no,existential is a safe bet...”

Three elements palliated this state of affairs: (1) A brief passage about Plantinga’s ontological argument in a small philosophy textbook that my sister bought me. (2) Someone lending me The Brothers Karamazov. (3) You, above all.


Little by little I began to analyze the question that I had indefinitely placed “on hold.” I began with Theism and Atheism of the Great Debates in Philosophy series (Jack Smart v. J. J. Haldane), but upon taking extensive notes, I scored the debate a draw. I then started watching online segments of Lawrence Kuhn’s Closer to Truth after work, but Kuhn always managed to neutralize the theists’ arguments. One night, I thought I would watch Kuhn interrogate that Craig character just to see how much of a charlatan he was. You defied all of my expectations. Not only did you manage to answer all of his questions exhaustively and tersely, but you anticipated his objections and actually rendered him speechless after you exposited the advent of Borde-Guth-Vilenkin. Speechless! I had never seen that before. You even seemed to urge him forward a bit out of pity (“… Well, it’s by no means an open and shut case,” you offered). I watched several more of your segments, and though I was not convinced of theism, I determined who could convince me of it if it was at all possible.

I consulted a blog entitled “Common Sense Atheism” that appraised you as the victor of every debate you had ever had about God (two other atheist blogs grudgingly admitted the same). The atheist blogger said that there were only seven debates that you may have lost: those against Sinnott-Armstrong in the book God?, Dacey, Stenger, Parsons, Kagan, Bradley, and Tobash. I bought the book God? and watched all but the Bradley and Tobash debates. Of these, the best debate indeed occurred in God?, and after extensive note-taking, I scored you the winner. I resisted the conclusion, as I figured I had not yet seen the best that the atheists had to offer and I scored you low on the Resurrection argument. For some reason, however, I couldn’t stay away; I watched you eviscerate Erhman, Hitchens, Harris, and Law. As my first year of graduate school wore on, I became a masterful debater and a concise presenter, for which I gained a considerable reputation. None of the “progressives,” self-proclaimed “anarchists,” or atheists suspected that a dreaded theist had conferred such skills to me!

I was confident Rosenberg would finally end your streak on February 1, as I heard he had been meticulously studying your tactics. I watched in shock as he immediately resorted toad hominem (he claimed you “do not listen” and always use the same arguments, despite the fact that you were using two new arguments, and then attacked the debate format as too “adversarial” to be productive), then brandished the old “uranium decay” and “Euthyphro” objections without at least acknowledging that you had addressed them before. My scoring system favored you in a landslide victory. I became a deist.

“It’s possible I could be a Christian,” I ruminated, “but it will take several years of extensive reading at least. I probably won’t convert, but at least the option is faintly open.”


On May 4, 2013 at 4:00 AM, I became a Christian. I do not know how to properly articulate what happened to me. I was working on my cultural anthropology readings when I felt a tide of realization. But it was not simply a realization; the intuition pulsed so strongly that it hatched into an encounter. Jesus reached out to me, and I could not contain my emotion. I never had believed such a thing would happen to me, and when others recounted such events, I felt nothing but incredulity. And there I was, finally reunited with the God I had spurned so bitterly nearly five years ago.

I attend graduate school in southern California. I called my Mom to tell her the good news. She recommended that she and I attend a Xenos apologetics event with her coworker (who is a member of that fellowship) during my Summer Break in Ohio. I vaguely alluded to you at the mention of apologetics, and my mom asked what your name was.

“William Lane Craig.”


“If I am ever on my death bed, and I can Skype with one person, that is the person with whom I would like to speak.”


And by complete coincidence you came to that conference during my brief stay in Columbus, Ohio.

And I never thanked you.

Thank you.


I hope someday I can meet you in person again. Until then, this is all I can offer you as an article of my gratitude. I hope that you have learned something new about the secular pressures we have to endure as young Westerners, and how consistently and grievously they rupture our lives. My story also yields some insights into the importance of the internet in reaching younger people, other skills one can adopt from observing your debates, and how one atheist can effortlessly de-convert any theist when the latter lacks good reasons to justify his belief.

I know I am not a good person. Like that peasant woman in Aloysha’s parable, I have so few onions to grasp on my precarious ascent toward salvation, if any at all. But there is time yet, and I have such an honorable model in you.

I know I owe Christ for hatching my heart, but I owe you for exacting the first crack in the shell.

Thank you again,


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