May 20th 2004, 03:54 PM #1
Common arguments of Dr. William Lane Craig
2. Now in this debate it seems that there are two basic questions that we need to ask ourselves:
(I.) Are there any good reasons to think that God does not exist?And
(II.): Are there good reasons to think that God does exist?3. Now with respect to the first question, I'll leave it up to you to present the reasons why you think that God does not exist. Atheist philosophers have tried for centuries to disprove the existence of God. But no one has ever been able to come up with a convincing argument. So rather than attack straw men at this point, I'll just wait to hear your answer to the following question: What good reasons are there to think that God does not exist?
4. So let's move on, then, to that second question: Are there good reasons to think that God does exist? I'm going to present five reasons why I think that God exists. Whole books have been written on each one of these, so all I can present here is a brief sketch of each argument and then go into more detail as you respond to them. These reasons are independent of one another, so that if even one of them is sound, it furnishes good grounds for believing that God exists. Taken together, they constitute a powerful cumulative case that God exists.
5. 1: God makes sense of the origin of the universe. Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from? Why everything exists instead of just nothing? Typically atheists have said that the universe is eternal, and that's all. But surely this doesn't make sense. Just think about it for a minute. If the universe never began to exist, then that means that the number of events in the past history of the universe is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the idea of an actually infinite number of things leads to self–contradictions. For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically, you get self–contradictory answers. This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of this century states, "The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea."
But that entails that since past events are not just ideas, but are real, the number of past events must be finite. Therefore, the series of past events can't just go back forever. Rather the universe must have begun to exist.
6. This conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. The astrophysical evidence indicates that the universe began to exist in a great explosion called the "Big Bang" about 15 billion years ago. Physical space and time were created in that event, as well as all the matter and energy in the universe. Therefore, as Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle points out, the Big Bang Theory requires the creation of the universe from nothing. This is because, as you go back in time, you reach a point in time at which, in Hoyle's words, the universe was "shrunk down to nothing at all." Thus, what the Big Bang model requires is that the universe began to exist and was created out of nothing.
7. Now this tends to be very awkward for the atheist. For as Anthony Kenny of Oxford University urges, "A proponent of the Big Bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the universe came from nothing and by nothing."
8. But surely that doesn't make sense! Out of nothing, nothing comes. So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause which brought the universe into being. And from the very nature of the case, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe. It must be uncaused because there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. It must be timeless and therefore changeless––at least without the universe––because it created time. Because it also created space, it must transcend space as well and therefore be immaterial, not physical.
9. Moreover, I would argue, it must also be personal. For how else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal effect like the universe? If the cause were an impersonal set of sufficient conditions, then the cause could never exist without the effect. If the sufficient conditions were timelessly present, then the effect would be timelessly present as well. The only way for the cause to be timeless but for the effect to begin in time is if the cause is a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time without any prior determining conditions. And, thus, we are brought, not merely to the transcendent cause of the universe, but to its personal Creator.
10. Isn't it incredible that the Big Bang theory thus fits in with what the Christian theist has always believed: that in the beginning God created the universe? Now I put it to you, which do you think makes more sense: that the Christian theist is right or that the universe just popped into being, uncaused, out of nothing? I, at least, have no trouble assessing these alternatives.
11. 2: God makes sense of the complex order in the universe. During the last 30 years, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a delicate and complex balance of initial conditions simply given in the Big Bang itself. We now know that life–prohibiting universes are vastly more probable than any life–permitting universe like ours. How much more probable?
12. Well, the answer is that the chances that the universe should be life–permitting are so infinitesimal as to be incomprehensible and incalculable. For example, Stephen Hawking has estimated that if the rate of the universe's expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have re–collapsed into a hot fireball. P.C.W. Davies has calculated that the odds against the initial conditions being suitable for star formation (without which planets could not exist) is one followed by a thousand billion billion zeroes, at least. [He also] estimates that a change in the strength of gravity or of the weak force by only one part in 10 raised to the 100th power would have prevented a life–permitting universe. There are around 50 such constants and quantities present in the Big Bang which must be fine–tuned in this way if the universe is to permit life. And it's not just each quantity which must be finely tuned; their ratios to each other must also be exquisitely finely tuned. So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers.
13. There is no physical reason why these constants and quantities should posses the values they do. The one–time agnostic physicist P.C. W. Davies comments, "Through my scientific work I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact." Similarly, Fred Hoyle remarks, "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super–intellect has monkeyed with physics." Robert Jastrow, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, calls this the most powerful evidence for the existence of God ever to come out of science.
14. So, once again, the view that Christian theists have always held, that there is an intelligent Designer of the universe, seems to make much more sense than the atheistic interpretation that the universe, when it popped into being, uncaused, out of nothing, just happened to be, by chance, fine–tuned for intelligent life with an incomprehensible precision and delicacy.
15. 3: God makes sense of objective moral values in the world. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Many theists and atheists alike concur on this point. For example, the late J. L. Mackie of Oxford University, one of the most influential atheists of our time, admitted: "If...there are...objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus, we have a defensible argument from morality to the existence of God." But in order to avoid God's existence, Mackie therefore denied that objective moral values exist. He wrote, "It is easy to explain this moral sense as a natural product of biological and social evolution."
16. Professor Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at the University of Guelph, agrees. He explains:
Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself,' they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction...and any deeper meaning is illusory.Friedrich Nietzsche, the great atheist of the last century who proclaimed the death of God, understood that the death of God meant the destruction of all meaning and value in life.
I think that Friedrich Nietzsche was right.
17. But we've got to be very careful here. The question here is not: Must we believe in God in order to live moral lives? I'm not claiming that we must. Nor is the question: can we recognize objective moral values without believing in God? I think we can.
18. Rather the question is: If God does not exist, do objective moral values exist? Like Mackie and Ruse, I just don't see any reason to think that in the absence of God, the morality evolved by homo sapiens is objective. After all, if there is no God, then what's so special about human beings? They're just accidental by–products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. On the atheistic view, some action, say, rape, may not be socially advantageous, and so in the course of human development has become taboo. But that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really wrong. On the atheistic view, there's nothing really wrong with your raping someone. Thus, without God there is no absolute right and wrong which imposes itself on our conscience.
19. But the problem is that objective moral values do exist, and deep down we all know it. There's no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of the physical world. Actions like rape, torture, and child abuse aren't just socially unacceptable behavior––they're moral abominations. Some things, at least, are really wrong. Similarly, love, equality, and self–sacrifice are really good. But if objective values cannot exist without God, and objective values do exist, then it follows logically and inescapably that God exists.
20. 4: God makes sense of the historical facts concerning the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, was a remarkable individual. New Testament critics have reached something of a consensus that the historical Jesus came on the scene with an unprecedented sense of divine authority, the authority to stand and speak in God's place. That's why the Jewish leadership instigated his crucifixion for the charge of blasphemy. He claimed that in himself the Kingdom of God had come, and as visible demonstrations of this fact, he carried out a ministry of miracle–working and exorcisms. But the supreme confirmation of his claim was his resurrection from the dead. If Jesus did rise from the dead, then it would seem that we have a divine miracle on our hands and, thus, evidence for the existence of God.
21. Now most people would think that the resurrection of Jesus is just something you believe in by faith or not. But, in fact, there are three established facts, recognized by the majority of New Testament historians today, which I believe support the resurrection of Jesus: the empty tomb; Jesus' post–mortem appearances; and the origin of the disciples' belief in his resurrection. Let me say a word about each one of these.
22. Fact # 1: On the Sunday following his crucifixion, Jesus' tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers. According to Jacob Kremer, an Austrian scholar who has specialized in the study of the resurrection, "By far most scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the Biblical statements about the empty tomb." According to the New Testament critic, D.H. van Daalen, it is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.
23. Fact # 2: On separate occasions different individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death. According to the prominent, skeptical German New Testament critic Gerd Ludemann, "It may be taken as historically certain that...the disciples had experiences after Jesus' death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ." These appearances were witnessed not only by believers, but also by unbelievers, skeptics, and even enemies.
24. Fact # 3: The original disciples suddenly came to believe in the resurrection of Jesus despite having every predisposition to the contrary. Jews had no belief in a dying, much less a rising, Messiah, and Jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone's rising from the dead prior to the end of the world. Luke Johnson, a New Testament scholar at Emory University, muses, "Some sort of powerful, transformative experience is required to generate the sort of movement earliest Christianity was..." N. T. Wright, an eminent British scholar, concludes, "That is why, as an historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him."
25. Therefore, it seems to me, the Christian is amply justified in believing that Jesus rose from the dead and was who he claimed to be. But that entails that God exists.
26 5: God can be immediately known and experienced. This isn't really an argument for God's existence; rather it's the claim that you can know God exists wholly apart from arguments simply by immediately experiencing Him. This was the way people in the Bible knew God, as Professor John Hick explains:
God was known to them as a dynamic will interacting with their own wills, a sheer given reality, as inescapably to be reckoned with as a destructive storm and life–giving sunshine...To them God was not...an idea adopted by the mind, but an experiential reality which gave significance to their lives.Now if this is so, then there's a danger that proofs for God could actually distract our attention from God Himself. If you're sincerely seeking God, then God will make His existence evident to you. The Bible promises, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4. 8). We mustn't so concentrate on the proofs that we fail to hear the inner voice of God speaking to our own heart. For those who listen, God becomes an immediate reality in their lives.
27. So, in conclusion, we've yet to see any arguments to show that God does not exist, and we have seen five reasons to think that God does exist. And, therefore, I think that theism is the more plausible world–view.
May 20th 2004, 04:00 PM #2
As many of you know Dr. William Lane Craig is perhaps the top defender of Christianity in the world. Above I posted the opening speech he uses at most of his debates. Christians, I would like to know your honest opinions as to how sound you think the argument is. NON-Christians please tell me your opinion as to what you see wrong with it. Thank you.
May 20th 2004, 04:29 PM #3
First off I would say don't call him the greatest because it makes it seem as
though if you simply show his arguments are without merit then you've
completely disproven Christianity. There are plenty of individuals who
are extremely respected in their fields who through evidence became
Roman Historian Thomas Arnold
Textual Critic Brooke Foss Wescott
Legal Authority Simon Greenleaf
Lawyer Frank Morrison
literary genius C. S. Lewis and Lew Wallace
archaeologist William Ramsey
Different experts in different fields who all came to the conclusion that
Christianity is true. Now of course this doesn't PROVE christianity but I
think it is important to examine the reasons these guys became Christian
and not just look at Craig.God loves being Abraham's father,
God loves being David's father,
God loves being my father
So when someone asks "Who's ya daddy?" I say God.
May 20th 2004, 04:44 PM #4
(Fitting that I'm currently listening to "Nietzsche" by the Dandy Warhols )
1: God makes sense of the origin of the universe.
About the origin of the universe. It's difficult for me to discuss the issue, because I'm not an astronomer. Neither is Craig, of course. Craig is making two arguments I don't agree with.
First, he is using a philosophical axiom (nothing comes from nothing, something comes from something) as a description of the physical world. It's a philosophical argument for a scientific issue, and so is not as powerful as you and Craig think it is.
Secondly, he is just relying on a god of the gaps argument. We don't understand, so therefore God did it. How is Craig's argument any differant in principle from ancient civilizations that believed the corn god made their crops grow because they didn't understand germination?
11. 2: God makes sense of the complex order in the universe.
15. 3: God makes sense of objective moral values in the world.
Who says morals are objective? It seems like a non-sequitar. How can an abstract concept like morality be objective? We don't need a basis beyond personal taste to call an act evil or good. The only type of judgements we need an outside standard for are legal, and society creates that authority itself.
4: God makes sense of the historical facts concerning the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
The case for the resurrection is grossly overstated. Historians that insist the resurrection is firmly backed by scholarly research have a terribly plastic and artificial view of history and human behaviour. Arguments like "Jews didn't think like this!" really grate on my nerves. Why do we always assume that people in the past were less individualistic than we are today? There are as many strains of Christianity as there are Christians, and in the first century, there were as many strains of Judiasm as there was Jews. To build a case for such an extraordinary event around arguments that assume one understands the mind of a person 2000 years in the past, a mind only trasmitted to us through heavily ideological texts, is absurd.
5: God can be immediately known and experienced.
Not in my experience.
May 20th 2004, 04:44 PM #5Originally posted by salvationfound
May 20th 2004, 04:46 PM #6Originally posted by CombativeTheist
I heard Craig recently at Purdue. In my opinion, he soundly defeated Dr. Austin Deacy who presented an argument from the so called mystery/silence of God. Craig is a great guy and a class act.
*When I refer to the writers at infidels.org as a "rogue group," I'm not saying they don't have some good thoughts or bring up good points. I simply mean that they aren't really scholars in the typical sense. Some of them are not professional philosophers, and some do not even hold doctorates.
May 20th 2004, 04:53 PM #7Secondly, he is just relying on a god of the gaps argument. We don't understand, so therefore God did it
May 20th 2004, 04:57 PM #8I think if you surfed around at infidels.org they might give a slightly different opinion!
May 20th 2004, 04:59 PM #9Originally posted by MikeWC
There is nothing wrong with using a philosophical argument for the origin of the universe. In fact, it is most necessary.
Originally posted by MikeWC
The fact that he is presenting solid arguments for a creative work rules out the charge that this is a "God of the gaps" argument. In fact, your charge begs the question because the philosophical point that Craig is making is that the universe, by its very nature, cannot have a physical cause. Maybe he is right. Maybe he is wrong. But it is clear that he is not appealing to a "God of the Gaps" type argumentation style.
May 20th 2004, 05:13 PM #10Secondly, he is just relying on a god of the gaps argument. We don't understand, so therefore God did it
May 20th 2004, 05:15 PM #11Originally posted by salvationfound
philosopher - Alvin Plantinga (who wrote a book destroying the deductive problem of evil and won a debate against atheist philosopher Anthony Flew)
philosopher - Peter Kreeft
philosopher - J.P. Moreland
lawyer - John Warwick Montgomery (Intimidatingly good! )
lawyer - Phillip Johnson
mathmatician - William Dembski
scholar - F.F. Bruce
scholar - N.T. Wright
scholar - Gary Habermas
thologian - R.C. Sproul
minister - Ravi Zacharias
apologist/philospher - Norman Geisler
astrophysist - Hugh Ross
Bio Chemist - Michael Behe
Biologist - Johnathan Wells
...and the list goes on and on...Romans 1:20 "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." - NKJV
May 20th 2004, 05:52 PM #12Originally posted by CombativeTheist
I think if you took a serious look into the work of the late Dr. Cornelius Van Til and the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen, I could be wrong, but you might discover a new favorite.
At any rate, I appreciate all the work of Dr. Craig, and if you go to my thread in the Christianity forum with the apologetics audio links, you'll find links to audio debates featuring Dr. Craig. I especially appreciate his work on the moral argument.Romans 1:20 "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." - NKJV
May 20th 2004, 07:47 PM #13Originally posted by MikeWC
writers of the Bible were liars, superstitious people, who like Paul had
hallucinations or were part of a fraud factory. Never before has a critic not
claimed it is possible Paul and the other authors of the Bible were telling the
truth and they weren't making stuff up.
Yep it is only the Christians who claim to know the mind of a person 2000
years ago.God loves being Abraham's father,
God loves being David's father,
God loves being my father
So when someone asks "Who's ya daddy?" I say God.
May 20th 2004, 08:02 PM #14
His opening strikes me as good, but saying But no one has ever been able to come up with a convincing argument [against the existence of God]. is getting a bit carried away - lots of people have been convinced by arguments!
God makes sense of the origin of the universe.
His argument for this is good, though when he tries to assert personality he seems to be over-extending himself...
Moreover, I would argue, it must also be personal. For how else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal effect like the universe? If the cause were an impersonal set of sufficient conditions, then the cause could never exist without the effect. If the sufficient conditions were timelessly present, then the effect would be timelessly present as well. The only way for the cause to be timeless but for the effect to begin in time is if the cause is a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time without any prior determining conditions. And, thus, we are brought, not merely to the transcendent cause of the universe, but to its personal Creator.
That's not really a very good argument. He confuses "timelessness" in order to rule out an impersonal cause, when really his argument doesn't acheive this at all.
For rhetorical purposes, his argument sounds good an convincing. But from the point of view of sound logic, he would be better to argue that the Christian conception of God provides an adequate explanation and explore a few pitfalls that alternative explanations might encounter and show how the "God model" avoids these parsimoniously. By trying to prove too much, he has ended up proving nothing at all.
Overall Assessment of 1:
At best, a potentially devastating argument. He argues it well initially but tries to prove too much and fails.
2: God makes sense of the complex order in the universe.
Here he gives rather a good summary of the modern design argument. He doesn't deal with any of the main objections (which, ultimately he would have to answer soundly if his argument was to stand), but this is a summary so I wouldn't expect him to. He skilfully avoids making those objections too obvious in his summary here.
Overall Assessment of 2:
This is only at best an average strength argument. But he argues it well.
3: God makes sense of objective moral values in the world.
I do not agree that God is needed for objective morality. The existence of God might well provide motivation for us to act morally, but morality itself can be defined without excessive difficulty, without reference to God.
His argument is entirely based on authority... and dubious claims to authority - though he quotes some atheist philosophers as denying objective morality, just as many would assert the truth of objective morality.
Overall Assessment of 3:
Incorrect argument. His logic is poor and he is barking up the wrong tree. BUT, this argument has emotional appeal and thus would be a good rhetorical tool - so it's useful (ironically) if you think the ends justify the means!
4: God makes sense of the historical facts concerning the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
This one is always difficult and dubious, and not an argument I personally like much. Atheists can come up with all sorts of inventive ways to make it not work, from denying Jesus' existence to asserting his disciples had hallucinations. The trouble is, even if you prove that it is probable or highly probable that various different things were the case, then your conclusion only actually has the (significantly lower) strength of the combined probabilities. eg If independent premises A, B, C, D, and E all have 90% chance of being correct, then some conclusion Z that follows from the premises only has a 60% chance of actually being true as a result of the argument. Reduce the premises' probability to 80% and your conclusion certainty reduces to 33% (note that this is not that it is 33% likely that the conclusion is true -that would wrong imply the conclusion is likely false-, but that it is 33% likely that the conclusion has been proven by the argument). I don't really fancy giving an argument only to conclude that I have shown that it is 33% probable that I have proven my conclusion!
Craig tries to avoid this by the extremely dodgy device of "historical fact". Instead of admitting that his various "historical facts" are just probable or high probable statements he assigns them a binary value of truth or falsity. Thus instead of concluding that it is about 30% probable that he has succeeded in proving the resurrection, he implies that he has proven the resurrection.
In actual fact, what he has shown is that the Christian model of the events best fits the available evidence. (assuming of course, that the reader is predisposed to consider a supernaturalistic explanation on par with a naturalistic explanation, something not a lot of atheists like doing, so here he is really trying to strengthen the faith of his Christian hearers I suppose) Now that is an okay argument, but again he's over-reaching.
Overall assessment of 4:
Average argument at best, he argues it logically very dubiously but rhetorically convincingly.
5: God can be immediately known and experienced.
Well, this is true, but he just asserts it and gives the hearer no reason to think its true. This is like a "well if I failed, perhaps you might succeed yourself" stopgap, not an argument. I was expecting something along the lines of "people throughout history have succeeded in experiencing God, thus it is likely he exists" - an actual argument rather than a non-argument. He could argue from human religious inclination, general human religious experience, general Christian experience, or specific christian experience... but he does none of that.
Assement of 5:
Could be worthwhile, but as it is, it's a waste of time.
Potentially he has one very powerful argument, one good one and two average ones.
In practice he has sacrificed logical power for rhetorical value (I suppose it's possible he doesn't know how to make them work logically). Out of 5 arguments attempted, he ends up making three average-to-bad arguments and 2 howlers. Two of his arguments he rescues rhetorically by making them sound more plausible and convincing than they logically are.
Overall grading: Could Do Significantly Better
For this reason, I do not hold Craig in the highest regard...
May 20th 2004, 08:29 PM #15Originally posted by Tercel
God Makes Sense of Objective Moral Values in the World
"If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. When I speak of objective moral values, I mean moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not. Thus, to say, for example, that the Holocaust was objectively wrong is to say that it was wrong even though the Nazis who carried it out thought it was right and that it would still have been wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everyone who disagreed with them. Now, if God does not exist, then moral values are not objective in this way.
Many theists and atheists alike concur on this point. For example, Bertrand Russell observed:
Ethics arises from the pressures of the community on the individual. Man . . . does not always instinctively feel the desires which are useful to his herd. The herd, being anxious that the individual should act in its interests, has invented various devices for causing the individual’s interest to be in harmony with that of the herd. One of these . . . is morality.30
Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at the University of Guelph, agrees. He explains:
Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory.31
Friedrich Nietzsche, the great atheist of the last century who proclaimed the death of God, understood that the death of God meant the destruction of all meaning and value in life.
But we must be very careful here. The question here is not, “Must we believe in God in order to live moral lives?” I’m not claiming that we must. Nor is the question, “Can we recognize objective moral values without believing in God?” I think that we can. Nor is the question, “Can we formulate an adequate system of ethics without reference to God?” So long as we assume that human beings have objective moral value, the atheist could probably draft a moral code with which the theist would largely agree.
Rather, the question is, “If God does not exist, do objective moral values exist?” Like Russell and Ruse, I don’t see any reason to think that in the absence of God, the herd morality evolved by Homo sapiens is objective. After all, if there is no God, then what’s so special about human beings? They’re just accidental by-products of nature that have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe and that are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. According to the atheistic view, an action such as rape may not be socially advantageous, and so in the course of human development has become taboo, but such a view does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really wrong. It follows, therefore, that there’s nothing wrong with your raping someone. Thus, without God there is no absolute right and wrong that imposes itself on our conscience.
But the problem (as Francis Beckwith explains in chapter 1) is that objective values do exist, and deep down we all know it. There’s no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of the physical world. As John Healey, the executive director of Amnesty International wrote in a fund-raising letter, “I am writing you today because I think you share my profound belief that there are indeed some moral absolutes. When it comes to torture, to government-sanctioned murder, to ‘disappearances’—there are no lesser evils. These are outrages against all of us.”32 Actions such as rape and child abuse aren’t just socially unacceptable behavior—they’re moral abominations. Some things are really wrong. Similarly, love, equality, and self-sacrifice are really good. But if moral values cannot exist without God and moral values do exist, then it follows logically and inescapably that God exists.
We can summarize this argument as follows:
1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
2. Objective moral values do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.
Again, let us consider possible objections that might be raised against this argument. Some atheist philosophers, unwilling to bite the bullet and affirm that acts such as rape or the torture of a child are morally neutral actions, have tried to affirm objective moral values in the absence of God, thus in effect denying premise 1. Let’s call this alternative atheistic moral realism. Atheistic moral realists affirm that moral values and duties do exist in reality and are not dependent on evolution or human opinion, but they insist that they are also not grounded in God. Indeed, moral values have no further foundation. They just exist.
I must confess that this alternative strikes me as incomprehensible, an example of trying to have your cake and eat it too. What does it mean to say, for example, that the moral value justice just exists? I understand what it is for a person to be just, but I draw a complete blank when it is said that, in the absence of any people, justice itself exists. Moral values seem to exist as properties of persons, not as abstractions—or at any rate, I don’t know what it means for a moral value to exist as an abstraction. Atheistic moral realists, seeming to lack any adequate foundation in reality for moral values, just leave them floating in an unintelligible way.
Second, the nature of moral duty or obligation seems incompatible with atheistic moral realism. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that moral values do exist independently of God. Suppose that values such as mercy, justice, love, forbearance, and the like just exist. How does that result in any moral obligations for me? Why would I have a moral duty, say, to be merciful? Who or what lays such an obligation on me? As the ethicist Richard Taylor points out, “A duty is something that is owed. . . . But something can be owed only to some person or persons. There can be no such thing as duty in isolation.”33 God makes sense of moral obligation because his commands constitute for us our moral duties. Taylor writes:
Our moral obligations can . . . be understood as those that are imposed by God. . . . But what if this higher-than-human lawgiver is no longer taken into account? Does the concept of a moral obligation . . . still make sense? . . . The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone.34
As a nontheist, Taylor, therefore, thinks that we literally have no moral obligations, that there is no right or wrong. The atheistic moral realist rightly finds this abhorrent, but, as Taylor clearly sees, according to an atheistic view there simply is no ground for duty, even if moral values somehow exist.
Third, it is fantastically improbable that just the sort of creatures would emerge from the blind evolutionary process who correspond to the abstractly existing realm of moral values. This would be an utterly incredible coincidence. It is almost as though the moral realm knew that we were coming. It is far more plausible that both the natural realm and the moral realm are under the hegemony or authority of a divine designer and lawgiver than to think that these two entirely independent orders of reality just happened to mesh.
Thus, it seems to me that atheistic moral realism is not a plausible view but is basically a halfway house for philosophers who don’t have the stomach for the moral nihilism or meaninglessness that their own atheism implies.
What, then, about premise 2: Objective moral values do exist? Some people, as we have seen, deny that objective moral values exist. I agree with them that if there is no God, then moral values are just the products of sociobiological evolution or expressions of personal taste. But I see no reason to believe that is the case. Those who think so seem to commit the genetic fallacy, which is an attempt to invalidate something by showing how it originated. For example, a socialist who tried to refute your belief in democratic government by saying, “The only reason you believe in democracy is that you were raised in a democratic society!” would be guilty of the genetic fallacy. Even if it were true that your belief is the result of cultural conditioning, that does absolutely nothing to show that your belief is false (think of people who have been culturally conditioned to believe that the earth is round!). The truth of an idea is not dependent on how that idea originated. It’s the same with moral values. If moral values are discovered rather than invented, then our gradual and fallible apprehension of the moral realm no more undermines the objective reality of that realm than our gradual, fallible apprehension of the physical world undermines the objective reality of the physical realm. We know objective moral values exist because we clearly apprehend some of them. The best way to show this is simply to describe moral situations in which we clearly see right and wrong: the abuse of a child, incest, rape, ethnic cleansing, racism, witch burning, the Inquisition, and so forth. If someone fails to see the objective moral truth about such matters, then he is simply morally handicapped, like a color-blind person who cannot tell the difference between red and green, and there’s no reason to think that his impairment should make us call into question what we see clearly.
From the truth of the two premises, the conclusion follows logically that, therefore, God exists. Many atheists have objected to basing moral values in God. Frequently a dilemma known as the Euthyphro Argument is presented: Either something is good because God commands it or else God commands something because it is good. If you say something is good because God commands it, this makes right and wrong arbitrary; God could have commanded that acts of hatred, brutality, cruelty, and so on be good, and then we would be morally obligated to do such things, which seems crazy. On the other hand, if God commands something because it is good, then the good is independent of God after all. Thus, morality can’t be based on God’s commands.
Plato himself saw the solution to this objection: You split the horns of the dilemma by formulating a third alternative, namely, God is the good. The good is the moral nature of God himself. That is to say, God is necessarily holy, loving, kind, just, and so on, and these attributes of God comprise the good. God’s moral character expresses itself toward us in the form of certain commandments, which become for us our moral duties. Hence, God’s commandments are not arbitrary but necessarily flow from his own nature. They are necessary expressions of the way God is.
The atheist might press, “But why think that God’s nature constitutes the good?” In one sense, the answer to that question is that there just isn’t anything else available. There has to be some explanatory ultimate, some stopping point, and we’ve seen that without God there are no objective moral values. Therefore, if there are objective moral values, they cannot be based in anything but God! In addition, however, God’s nature is an appropriate stopping point for the standard of goodness, for by definition, God is a being who is worthy of worship. When you think about what it means to worship someone, then it is evident that only a being who is the embodiment of all moral goodness is worthy to be worshiped.
Thus, God makes sense of ethics in a way that atheism cannot. In addition to the metaphysical and scientific arguments for God, therefore, we have a powerful moral argument for God. This moral argument also helps to solve the problem raised by the design argument concerning the moral character of the designer of the universe. We now see that moral evil in the world does not disprove God’s goodness; on the contrary, it actually proves it. We may argue:
1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
2. Evil exists.
3. Therefore, objective moral values exist (some things are truly evil).
4. Therefore, God exists.
Thus, evil paradoxically helps to prove God’s existence, since without God things would not be good or evil. Notice that this argument shows the compatibility of God and evil without giving a clue as to why God permits evil. That is a separate question that is addressed in chapter 14 by John S. Feinberg and has been addressed by many other theologians.35 But even in the absence of an answer to the why question, the present argument proves that evil does not call into question but actually requires God’s existence." -
Geisler, N. L., & Hoffman, P. K. (2001). Why I am a Christian : Leading thinkers explain why they believe (Page 74). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.Romans 1:20 "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." - NKJV
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