Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dr. Craig Meets Dr. Zach

Kevin Harris, whom most of you will remember as the teacher of the "Faith and Reason" apologetics class at the First Baptist Church of Colleyville, has been working professionally with William Lane Craig for some time now as the host and producer of Dr. Craig's new podcast, "Reasonable Faith." Not surprisingly, this arrangment has brought Dr. Craig to Dallas for recording sessions, and he was kind enough to give a presentation to Kevin's class.

I was present at his invited talk, serving dual roles as the audio/visual recorder, as well as the unofficial atheist questioner. I'll provide a brief synopsis of his presentation, and include a few of the questions that I posed to him.

The topic was the Moral Argument for the Existence of God, which he formalizes thusly:

  1. If God does not exist, then there are no objective moral values and duties.

  2. There are objective moral values and duties.

  3. Therefore God exists.

The entirety of his presentation was concerned with establishing the veracity of the first two premises. He was careful to explicitly define the word "objective" as "independent of people's opinions," as well as to point out that he was not arguing that non-Christians or atheists could NOT be moral, only that their respective worldviews (presumably naturalism) was not consistent with the concept of objective values and duties. Craig claimed that naturalism teaches that only those entities which are required by scientific theories exist, and since no scientific theory requires the existence of objective morals, no naturalist can claim them. Further, although many atheists adopt a humanistic approach to ethics, this is foundationally premature, since its presupposition that human well-being is the fundamental moral value is arbitrary and implausible given a naturalistic worldview. Thus, humanistic atheists stubbornly insist in a moral reality that is contradicted by their metaphysics.

I was somewhat unsure of whether Dr. Craig's definition of objective moral values as independent of one's opinion was also mean to exclude the opinion of God, so I asked the following question:

Dr. Craig then, after eviscerating naturalism's claim to objective moral values, turned to defend theism's own claim to the very same. Citing Euthyphro's Dilemma, Craig argued that instead of being forced to choose between God's recognition of a higher morality or the arbitrary moral certitude of divine commands, Christians could be certain that God's own nature was the actual source of and standard for objective moral values. Thus, only by appealing to the very nature of a personal God can anyone justify the existence of such values.

I wondered if simply appealing to God's nature was sufficient to avoid the Dilemma entirely, so I asked the following question:

After having shown that while atheism could not justify the existence of objective moral values, but Christianity could. Dr. Craig then moved on to the second premise, which he had initially thought would be the most contentious, but actually turned out to be widely accepted, even by atheists.

Therefore, following from the truth of the first and second premise, we can accept the conclusion that God exists. According to Dr. Craig, this is the most effective argument for the existence of God against unbelievers, although his favorite argument remains the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Essentially, since one of the most fundemantal aspects of everyone's life is to be as objectively morally good as possible, we can be certain that there is a God.

However, I thought that there might yet be a problem with the ability of Christians to be certain in their interpretation of these objective moral values, and so I asked the following question:

After the presentation, Kevin introduced me to Dr. Craig and I got a chance to talk to him on a more individual basis. I had heard from John Loftus that at some point he had been asked what his response would be if he was taken back in time to 33 CE Palestine on Easter morning, and upon looking inside Joseph of Arimathea's tomb he found it to not be empty, but to still contain the decaying corpse of Jesus. According to this account, Dr. Craig had said that he would still hold true to his Christian faith, even in the face of this contradictory evidence. What he told me was slightly different- while acknowledging that an occupied tomb on Easter morning would be a refutation of his Christian faith, Dr. Craig argued that based on the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, he would be forced to conclude that the tomb was not actually Jesus', or that the corpse belonged to someone else, or another explanation that was not threatening to Christianity. Essentially, he claimed that his experience of the Holy Spirit was epistemologically primary, and any other empirical evidence shown to him would have to conform to that Chrisitan foundation.

Post a Comment


At 8/13/2007 9:54 AM, Blogger Godless Geek declaimed...

If he's certain that his god can overturn moral law, that his god does talk to people directly, and that he god has told people to murder their children in the past, then how can he say that his god didn't tell Andrea Yates to murder her children? He admitted that no one can truly know the will of his god, so it doesn't seem that it's his place to question her when she said that god spoke to her. It just doesn't seem internally consistent to me.

At 8/13/2007 11:38 AM, Blogger Marshall declaimed...

These people are very hard to argue with on the fly, because the way they word their questions presupposes certain assumptions that are sometimes hard to track down. Of course, the assumption here is that God's morality is the only possible morality, and it can only come from Him. Of course, this itself seems slightly contradictory--if God's morality must be as it is, surely there is some reason independent of God, requiring it to be so?

godless geek: If he's certain that his god can overturn moral law...
I don't believe this argument would hold up with Dr. Craig mainly because Craig already stated that we don't fully understand God's "morality." To say that God was overturning his law would be to presuppose that we already understand this. Perhaps he was overturning nothing, and the command he gave was specific to the situation and still upheld his version of morality--a version we still don't understand.

My biggest problem with the whole thing is that he assumes god's morality is right, and anybody else's is wrong. I'm sure he would agree with God that Abraham should sacrifice his son. I find this appalling, and I would say it was strongly immoral to kill a helpless infant, whatever the reasons. I'm sure many would agree with me. But the people who agree with me are, of course, wrong, because we are disagreeing with God here, and his morality is the right one--right?

At 8/13/2007 2:51 PM, Blogger bpabbott declaimed...

hmmm ... if there is no objective evidence for the existence of god, they isn't the 1st point of Dr. Craig's 3 point proof a strawman?

At 8/13/2007 3:12 PM, Blogger Steven Carr declaimed...

Does William Lane Craig think that 1000-dollar bills have an objective value given to them by God?

If not, does he think they have no value?

Can something have real value if it has no value given to it by God?

If not, then can I have Craig's valueless dollar bills?

At 8/13/2007 3:16 PM, Blogger Steven Carr declaimed...

Here is William Lane Craig on why it is moral to stick a sword into the belly of an expectant woman.

Killing babies, children and expectant mothers

''Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.'

At 8/13/2007 3:31 PM, Blogger David B. Ellis declaimed...

The flaw in Dr. Craigs effort to meet the Euthyphro dilemma by appeal to God's eternal character rather than God's commands is so obvious I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned. To make this flaw obvious on has only to ask one simple question:

if objective moral rightness is determined by God's eternal character then would cruelty be right if God's eternal character were cruel rather than benevolent?

At 8/13/2007 3:44 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...


That's what I was getting at with my question. That is to say, if God's commandments are good because his nature is good, then could his nature have been different? I think it's entirely possible that this could be the case, but as Dr. Craig said, God has no choice but to be good. To me, this implicitly acknowledges that there is a standard of good to which God must adhere.

At 8/13/2007 3:46 PM, Blogger Steven Carr declaimed...

How can God's character imbue rape with wrongness?

How does the wrongness get from the character to the act?

The wrongness comes from the act, surely?

At 8/13/2007 5:45 PM, Blogger David B. Ellis declaimed...

To me, this implicitly acknowledges that there is a standard of good to which God must adhere.

Exactly. His approach to the problem does nothing to solve the euthyphro dilemma.

To my mind, the basis of morality has never seemed a problem for the atheist.

We find love of value, for example, because of the intrinsic nature of the experience of love itself.

It needs no external sanction. Divine or otherwise.

At 8/13/2007 8:08 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

I hate that "His nature" excuse that they try to use when Euthyphro comes up.

Xtians arent answering the question but merely pushing it back one level.

Watch, though, how easy it is to defeat it:

Atheist: Does God determine right and wrong or is it determined outside of Him?

Theist: Morality is a part of God nature!

Atheist: Ok, so does God determine his nature or is it determined outside of Him?

Theist: Nothing is determined outside of God, so obviously God determines his own nature, but he cannot change it or choose it.

Atheist: A determination which cannot be chosen or changed is no determination at all.

At 8/13/2007 10:46 PM, Blogger BlackSun declaimed...

His arguments are so circular and full of holes. I especially love the part about the resurrection.

He's basically admitting point blank he doesn't care about facts. But we knew that already.

At 8/14/2007 3:18 PM, Blogger Bill Snedden declaimed...

I wonder how Dr. Craig would have replied if you asked him if existence had an essential nature, and if so why couldn't morality be rooted in that nature?

It's clear (well, to me anyway) that if good is defined by God's nature and God is unable to change His nature, then good can exist irrespective of God's will. And if this is so, exactly why do we need "God" to instantiate "good"?

At 8/14/2007 4:36 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Bil Snedden FTW!

At 8/31/2007 1:55 PM, Blogger ron declaimed...

I am not a logician, but I am not sure in his basic syllogism, his conclusion follows his premise.
If not A then not B
If B
Then A

If his first premise is in error
(If no God then no morals) his conclusion doesn't necessarily follow.
For example, I there are no babies, then there are no diapers.
There are diapers,
Then there are babies.

This is in error on several counts.
Will someone respond to this for my own edification

At 10/10/2007 4:38 AM, Blogger Frank Walton declaimed...

John W. Loftus is a complete dumb ass. Apparently he got the same question from Mark Smith - my favorite blond. I write about him and the same question here.

Thanks for the video, Zach. You're a stand up guy. I just don't know what a guy with your intelligence is doing associating yourself with the (ir)Rational Response Squad.

At 10/11/2007 4:27 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Yeah, I had heard about that question from John. What I found interesting was that, even though Craig began his response by saying that he wouldn't still be a Christian, by then end of his response he'd added so many conditionals and modifiers that it was clear to me that he never meant that at all. It really amazed me- either he doesn't realize that he contradicts himself, or he's just being very sneaky.

Regarding the RRS, I've discussed my feelings for them on Apologia. Briefly, they're not perfect, but I think their general goal of bringing awareness of non-theists to the general public is a good one. Their methods may be lacking in tact from time to time, but that's not really their goal. That's fine with me- just because my goals are different from theirs, I don't feel the need to condemn them. We're just operating in different roles.



Create a Link

<< Home