What William Lane Craig is Right About

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 14, 2009 in William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig is a famous Christian philosopher and debater. I reviewed all his debates with atheists over here, and criticized his political and moral ideas here.

The reason I like to interact with his work is that he and I agree on so much. It’s easy for me critique him because we play by the same rules: logic and evidence.

Now, I think he’s a bit sneaky when it comes to logic and evidence, but here’s the thing: at least I can call him on it, appealing to the rules of logic and evidence that we agree on. Not so with somebody like, oh, Ray Comfort – who wouldn’t know a logic textbook if it smacked him in the face. (Say, that sounds tempting!)

The other thing I must point out is that his atheist opponents are often just as illogical as Craig. Seriously. Listen to the atheists in his debates. Especially when they talk about morality, for example.

In this post I want to celebrate what Craig and I (currently) agree about. I do this for two reasons:

1. So you can correct me if you think I’m wrong.

2. So atheists can stop wasting time by disagreeing with Craig even when he’s right, and focus on where he’s wrong.

So here’s my list of what William Lane Craig is right about:

  • Christian philosophy has experienced a renaissance, and has contributed to genuine progress in philosophy. The first half of 20th century philosophy was dominated by Russell and Ayer. Religion was considered nonsense, and had almost no intellectual defense. By 1966, Time asked “Is God Dead?” The very next year, Plantinga published God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God. Since then, Swinburne, Alston, Craig, MacIntyre, and others joined Plantinga in leading a renaissance of serious Christian thought. Atheist philosopher Quentin Smith says naturalists have been resting on their laurels in the face of so many “intelligent and talented theists entering academia today.” Moreover, these philosophers have not just revived dead arguments, but actually contributed to the progress of philosophy. Plantinga basically killed the logical problem of evil, and also revised Anselm’s silly ontological argument in a form that is actually difficult to rebut. Craig’s recent defense of the Kalam argument utilizes the latest in cosmological science and the philosophy of mathematics. As Craig says, Christian philosophers once again “have a seat at the table.”
  • Evolution doesn’t invalidate Christianity. Unfortunately, Craig carries some misunderstandings and misgivings about biological evolution, but we agree that evolution doesn’t invalidate Christianity any more than the germ theory of disease or the Big Bang theory of cosmic evolution. Evolution does contribute to the basic argument for naturalism, that natural explanations have always replaced supernatural ones. And it contradicts what most Jews and Christians have believed that God had revealed to them. But it need not invalidate Christianity as long as one is willing to reinterpret Christian “revelation” to fit new evidence.
  • Biblical errancy doesn’t invalidate Christianity. In his podcast on Biblical inerrancy, Craig says that though he accepts the dogma of Biblical inerrancy, it would not invalidate Christianity if errors in the Bible were proven. (Which, I think they obviously have been.) Instead, it would merely show that the Bible is a flawed human attempt to understand God. I think all the flaws in the Bible go to show that Judaism and Christianity are ancient, barbaric, flawed human creations and not creations of an all-powerful, all-wise God, but errors in the Bible certainly don’t prove that God doesn’t exist or that Christianity is false.
  • The case for the Resurrection doesn’t depend on inerrancy or even the general reliability of the gospels. The case for the Resurrection of Jesus is stronger than any case that could be made for other ancient miracle claims (that I know of). The number and quality of the sources is much greater. And the case for the Resurrection is a historical one that can be made without appeals to Christian doctrine. The case can be made using either of two competing (and widely accepted) approaches to historical method: (1) the Bayesian path (which Craig rejects, but with which others have argued persuasively) and (2) the argument to the best explanation (ala McCullagh), which is the strategy used by Craig, Licona, and others.
  • Abstract objects don’t exist. Though Craig used to argue that the existence of abstract objects was evidence for God (through a weird version of conceptualism; see his debates with Tooley and Washington), he now leans towards the idea that abstract objects do not exist: nominalism. That helps him avoid a powerful argument against God, and strengthens his Kalam argument (if abstract objects don’t exist, it’s more plausible to say that actual infinities can’t exist, and therefore that the universe began to exist in the finite past).
  • Atheistic politics don’t have a good track record. State atheism has been pretty awful: Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s Communist China, Communist Albania, and North Korea are the major representatives, and if anything they rivaled the bloodshed and oppression of the religious regimes of the past. In contrast, secularism has a superb track record. (But I can’t tell if Craig supports secularism or not. In many places he defends the separation of church and state, and in other places he calls secularism an “impending danger.” My hunch is that he warns of secularism before church audiences, but applauds secularism before secular audiences.)
  • If atheists think certain things are truly right and wrong, they can’t just say that “Rape just is wrong, and we all know it.” Craig often argues that without God, there are no objective moral values. Atheists respond by saying that it’s just obvious some things are right and wrong, or that the good is that which minimizes harm, or something. But they never give an account of why we should minimize harm rather than, say, maximize happiness or sustain complexity or collect marbles. (Of course, Craig’s argument that moral values exist with God is just as dumb: “Moral values exist, and I think we all know it. Also, I have defined morality as being synonymous with God’s nature, so therefore moral values are grounded in God’s nature.”)

What did I miss? What else is Craig right about?

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Teleprompter March 14, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Great summary. I love that your analysis is generally even-handed, and also usually enlightening. I think Anselm and Cartesian make this website even better, because of the quality of the dialogue. But you are doing a very good job.

I’m not sure if Craig knows what the word “secularism” really means. A lot of people confuse “godless” and “secular”, or perceive that they are synonyms? Secularism is the separation of church and state, right?

Then why do Craig and others have such a problem with it? Perhaps Craig defines secularism as a larger cultural trend above and beyond mere separation of church and state – less religion in public life and in our culture – that he perceives as a negative outcome for society. I think there is confusion over what exactly secularism is, and I wish people could quit getting their definitions tangled up.

I am curious – how strong exactly do you feel that the historical case for the Resurrection is? I presume that since you’re an atheist, you feel that it has weaknesses. Could you write about your opinion of this?

I hope I am not asking too many questions, but could you also specify how Platinga deals with the Problem of Evil? Thanks.

Keep up the good work.

  (Quote)

Anselm March 14, 2009 at 8:28 pm

I appreciate Teleprompter’s kind words about my comments. I reiterate here what I said in my latest comment on the D’souza debate post below–this blog is the best atheist blog on the internet and is a credit to civil discourse. Luke should be commended.

  (Quote)

lukeprog March 14, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Teleprompter,

Thanks. I hope my blog attracts more people like cartesian and Anselm, who have indeed provided some quality dialogue, which is ongoing.

As for the Resurrection, I haven’t studied historical method as much as philosophical method, but I certainly have thoughts on the topic. Some of them are revealed in my interview with Mike Licona. I think the case for the Resurrection is much weaker than the strongest theistic philosophical arguments (perhaps, the Kalam and Modal Perfection arguments). The difficulty of the Resurrection arguments are that, unlike logical arguments, they involve literally thousands of facts that each require probabilistic reasoning. If we were to plug Kalam into Bayes’ Theoreom and a Resurrection argument into Bayes’ Theorem, the Resurrection argument – if reasonably “complete” – would be perhaps a thousand or ten thousand times more complex.

I think an important work on the subject will be published this year or next: Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus Christ.

As for Plantinga, Wikipedia has you covered.

I’d love to cover ALL these topics in upcoming posts, but I have so many topics I suppose it will take years for me to get to some of them. My series on refuting Craig’s arguments itself will probably end up as long as a book, which will take a long time. I don’t get paid for any of this! :)

And Anselm,

Thanks again for the kind words. Bring your friends; I enjoy this kind of discussion.

  (Quote)

Teleprompter March 14, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Lukeprog,

Thanks for the thoughts and the outreach from Wikipedia.

Don’t misunderstand – I am very much looking forward to the rest of your WLC series.

I wonder if anyone has considered the possible contradiction between Platinga’s notion that if evolution is true our senses may be unreliable (and so naturalism is self-defeated), and his emphasis on external justification (presumably from our senses)?

If God used evolution to make us into His image, then wouldn’t our unreliable senses not be fully trusted to obtain external justification which is drawn from our senses (which Platinga claims to be unreliable)?

If our senses really are unreliable (and I think to a great extent, they are – which is a good observation from Platinga), wouldn’t that apply to both naturalism and religion?

  (Quote)

lukeprog March 14, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Teleprompter,

Plantinga says it’s unlikely we would evolve reliable senses WITHOUT the intervention of God. Plantinga therefore claims that only under theism (and specifically, that God intervened in human evolution) do we have any reason to believe our senses are reliable. So, under theism external justification is valid, but under naturalism (atheism) it is not.

Elsewhere, Plantinga also argues that God has programmed us with a 6th sense, the sensus divinitatus, through which we have direct perception of God.

No contradiction in any of that, just lots of silliness. :)

  (Quote)

Teleprompter March 14, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Silliness indeed.

The sensus divinatus apparently keeps being overridden by cultural norms and societal trends. Too bad.

And the contention that reliable senses cannot be evolved? I’m not even sure what to make of that claim. At surface, it seems like so much ignorance of evolution.

Then again, I still think our senses are not as reliable as they could be – especially as we are supposed to be preprogrammed to understand an exterior perception. Then again, if it were a 6th sense it wouldn’t necessarily be as unreliable as the other five senses — but still, there are a surplus of examples to rebut this sensus divinatus claim: to show how unreliable our perception of the “spiritual” really is.

Has Platinga shown that we even have an effective sensus divinatus? Has he shown that we couldn’t evolve generally reliable senses without divine intervention? It doesn’t seem that he has.

By the way, I apologize for drawing this thread off topic. You don’t have to respond to these comments any more if you think they are leading too much into the wilderness.

  (Quote)

lukeprog March 15, 2009 at 5:59 am

Yes, Plantinga argues for an accurate sensus divinitatus, and especially for his claim that we couldn’t evolve reliable senses without divine intervention, but I’m not at all convinced by his arguments!

  (Quote)

eheffa March 24, 2009 at 7:52 pm

I'm sorry if I misunderstand Craig, but without the anonymously authored Canonical & Gnostic Gospels, how would we have any meaningful “Resurrection Story”? There are after all, no other sources for this supposed history. There are no other credible third party sources that attest to this miraculous event.

I think the Historicists have a hard time establishing the historical existence of a real flesh & blood “Jesus of Nazareth” let alone, provide evidence for a “real Resurrection”.

Craig may be sincere but his probability equations & attempts to estimate the probability of a real resurrection are really only so much hot air. (He comes across to me like one of those veggiematic salesmen at a state fair… all smooth practiced hype & style but no real substance.) As they say in scientific labs or when you do statistical analysis: “Garbage in – Garbage out”. If the Gospels are not reliable, you have no resurrection story. The Gospels are not reliable history; therefore, the resurrection is not a reliable history either.

Craig, like CS Lewis, has remarkably strong rhetorical skills, but the presuppositions he depends on are not credible.

-evan

  (Quote)

lukeprog March 24, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Yup, testimony is all we have as evidence for the miracles of Jesus. “Hearsay upon hearsay”, as Tom Paine wrote. Not sufficient to demonstrate a magical resurrection, that's for sure!

But then, ancient testimony is all we have for a great deal of historical knowledge. Testimony is some kind of evidence, even if it's very poor evidence – especially for establishing the truth of a miracle.

  (Quote)

anselm March 25, 2009 at 5:42 am

I believe the point you are missing is that historians can regard different portions of the Gospels and Paul's letters as having greater or lesser reliability according to secular historiographical standards widely-accepted in the profession, e.g., multiple attestation the criterion of dissimilarity, the criterion of embarrassment, etc. That is why the majority of scholars accept the minimal facts Craig refers to in his debates (crucifixion/burial, empty tomb, appearances to disciples, etc), while rejecting other portions of the Gospels. Craig believes the resurrection can be shown to be the best explanation of the minimal facts already accepted by most skeptical scholars.

  (Quote)

eheffa March 25, 2009 at 7:02 am

I am no historian, but I have been an interested reader in this question.

When I was still a Christian, I set about to look for the historical evidence for the fundamentals of my faith with the determination that if the data was not supportive that I would have to revise my beliefs accordingly. I eventually concluded that unlike the Craig & others who cling tenaciously & (I think) disingenuously to any little data point they can, no matter how much distortion & assumption is involved, the Gospel story is a man-made fabrication. What were these “Gospel” writings? Are they meant to be biographical history or testimony? Can they be considered to be reliable accounts in any historical sense? Perhaps at best they have allowed a certain amount of embellishment of the words & deeds of one charismatic preacher amongst the many in that era & time, but they could also be allegorical fiction meant to illustrate or historicize the object of worship of one of the Logos Christ cults like that preached by the authors “Paul”.

If the Gospel of Mark is Midrash; allegorical recycling of OT themes into modern settings, which by all appearances it is and the other Gospels are simply re-writes of the same ideas with their own political & religious objectives, then there are no “multiple attestations”.

We really have no good data to establish the existence of a real historical Jesus and his supposed witnesses to this remarkable event.

When do the first third party references to these supposed primary sources (anonymous, undated works as they are) appear? Not until mid second century. There are not even any reliable third party references to “Christians” or their ilk until Pliny the Younger's reference in ~110 CE. (BTW: Isn't it interesting how much more solid our evidence for the existence of a person like Pliny the Younger is than for the supposed founder of the One True Faith?)(Tacitus' reference to Nero & the Christians may well be a later forgery.) Contemporary Historians of the time who took a keen interest in the Palestine region like Josephus or Philo of Alexandria are remarkably silent in mentioning this vibrant, disruptive & rapidly growing Christian sect let alone the person of Jesus Christ. ( The Testimonium Flavium is not credible.) The public persecutions by the established Jewish authorities as per the Book of Acts, simply fail to attract the attention of any historians of the time despite the tiny minutiae they are otherwise interested in…

The criteria of embarrassment is bogus, when you, like Paul, glory in the “shame of the cross”.

I am open to correction, (unlike Craig & his apologist kin who will believe even if the evidence ultimately fails them) but I see no good evidence to support the existence of this Jesus of Nazareth let alone his miraculous resurrection from the dead.

I think many Skeptical Scholars are all too ready to accept a wide range of unsupported Christian presuppositions when they consider these questions. The anonymous & undated Gospels are not historical sources. Take those away & what have you got?

…Not much…certainly not enough to make this case.

Cheers.

-evan

  (Quote)

SH March 26, 2009 at 10:35 pm

I like your site, your posts and insights but on this topic, I'm lost on a couple of things, can you clarify further the following two points?
1. Biblical errancy doesn’t invalidate Christianity
No, errors in the bible don't prove god doesn't exist but it does prove Christianity and it's doctrines are on very shaky ground. I'm not sure if I understand what “Christianity is false” mean. If the bible is not inerrant then the christian doctrines have no real basis, it's just man-made, that would make Christianity a false belief. Or do you mean something else?
2. The case for the Resurrection doesn’t depend on inerrancy or even the general reliability of the gospels.
I know of no other sources beside the bible that gives an account of the resurrection, in fact Craig himself uses only the bible in his arguments. What other sources do we have? I like to know.

  (Quote)

lukeprog March 26, 2009 at 11:49 pm

1. It is quite possible that God exists, he sent Jesus to atone for our sins, etc. and that all these books that were later collected (while others were rejected) by the early church are human creations that reflect many different theologies. In fact, if I ever became convinced of the truth of Christianity, this is almost certainly the view I would take, given the incredible number of contradictions and differing views of the many authors of the library we call the “Bible.”

2. You don't need documents to be generally reliable to mine historical data from them with historical-critical methods, as Craig repeatedly explains in his talks and writings. This is true of many ancient sources, ancient and modern.

  (Quote)

SH March 27, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Thank you for your quick reply.

1. It is quite possible god exists, and he made Muhammad his prophet. It is also possible that god exists, and he enables a Russell's teapot to revolve around the sun. Millions of things are logically possible, but where are the evidence? Are the evidence strong enough to be beyond a reasonable doubt? Biblical errancy may not invalidate Christianity, but it does make it unbelieveable.
2. Data mined from unreliable historical documents cannot be more reliable than the document itself. Compared to other historical figures, if Jesus has more data to support he is historical doesn't mean he IS historical, it just means he is more likely to exist than others. 30% compare to 15 and 20% is still 30%. Many evangelists, and Craig, use this trick all the time.

Thank you once again.

  (Quote)

anselm March 28, 2009 at 8:08 am

“Biblical errancy may not invalidate Christianity, but it does make it unbelieveable.”

If an historical document must be error-free to have any credibility, then historiography is impossible and all ancient history becomes “unbelievable.” Historians should then close up shop and go home. Surely you see that is absurd?

“Are the evidence strong enough to be beyond a reasonable doubt?”

Who said “beyond a reasonable doubt” was the correct standard of evidence? In a civil trial, the standard is “more likely than not.”

“Data mined from unreliable historical documents cannot be more reliable than the document itself.”

The “document” does not have a holistic “reliability” (according to the secular standards of historiography, as opposed to the theological doctrine of “inerrancy.”) Different portions of the document can have varying reliability based on historical-critical analysis.

  (Quote)

lukeprog March 28, 2009 at 8:27 am

1. Oh, I agree! But Christianity is unbelievable for such a host of reasons, adding Biblical errancy hardly matters.

2. I guess I just disagree with your statement that data mined from historical documents can't be more reliable than the document itself, as does every historian I've ever read. Read up on historical method if you like.

  (Quote)

scribbler March 28, 2009 at 4:44 pm

What is Craig wrong about?

  (Quote)

SH March 28, 2009 at 9:39 pm

anselm>
Haha, how could somebody mean something like that :). No, I don't mean to need historical evidence to be error free, I don't think there are, but just reliable enough to be believeable, that's all.

lukeprog>
Without reading anything on historical method and without meaning any disrespect, data mined from historical documents needs to be corroborated with other data EXTERNAL to that document in order to strengthen it's reliability. If that's what you mean then we're really on the same page, if not I guess I'm still a little lost. :)

Thanks!

  (Quote)

lukeprog March 28, 2009 at 9:54 pm

It certainly helps to have actual artifacts that can corroborate claims of testimony! Unfortunately, we have none re: Jesus, except for a few basic things like the existence of Pontius Pilate during that time.

But this does not mean that we can come to no historical conclusions at all based on otherwise unreliable documents. For example, if we have 10 absurdly mythical and untrustworthy (but original) documents written in 10 totally different parts of the world with no conceivable contact between the authors, and they all record that on a certain day the sun went black, that is fairly compelling evidence that the sun went black that day, even if we have no external sources and even though our documents are incredible unreliable.

  (Quote)

kilopapa March 29, 2009 at 1:26 am

Luke said…”the case for the Resurrection is a historical one that can be made without appeals to Christian doctrine.” I think this misses something important. What is the nature of the resurrection of the early Christians? Richard Carrier,among others, has made a strong case that the resurrection in Pauls epistles is not the resuscitation of a mortal body that the later Gosples describe but visionary experiences similar to Pauls road to Demascus conversion story found in Acts and alluded to by Paul himself . Visionary experiences from a superstitious, ancient culture is a very different event than a corpse that walks out of a tomb and sits down to dinner and drinks with a few friends. How can you determine the “nature” of the resurrection without appealing to the Christian writings of that time?

  (Quote)

lukeprog March 29, 2009 at 8:05 am

Christian writings are the only evidence we have about the resurrection, so even Richard Carrier appeals to them to say that historically it is likely that the resurrection was of such-and-such a nature. I'm not saying the case for a historical resurrection succeeds – I'm saying that a historical case does not necessarily depend on thoroughly reliable documents.

  (Quote)

SH March 29, 2009 at 5:15 pm

OK, so we're talking about the same thing from different angles. Lay people tend to talk about what's believeable, historians like to talk about what is possible, even though they don't believe it. Takes a while to clear that up.

Case closed for me, thanks!

  (Quote)

jonc April 8, 2009 at 10:13 am

Glad to see someone is focusing on a point by point analysis of WLC’s 20 years old cummulative case for God’s existence.  It’s not like it hasn’t been available for critique for a long long time.  Maybe the next guy to debate him (you perhaps) will come prepared.  All good sites, such as this one should always welcome honest intellectual exchange.  Truth will out as they say.

  (Quote)

Thomas April 24, 2009 at 9:17 am

I would suggest there is one ‘miracle’ that is probably the strongest of all miracle claims by any religion: the national revelation at Mt. Sinai. No other group has claimed that millions of people – an entire nation – heard their creator speak to them and survive. The resurrection, however, has variations in other faiths and is not unique in that sense. Of course, Christianity believes in the Mt. Sinai revelation, so it doesn’t disprove them, but puts things in context.

  (Quote)

Deist Novice May 19, 2009 at 2:15 pm

I am a relative novice at all of this but I have listened to several of Craig’s debates. I found it interesting that he gave up the Biblical inerrancy point when he faced Bart Erhman. I got the feeling that he felt like he couldn’t match Erman’s firepower on that subject.

But what I find most troubling, is Craig’s and other apologists reliance on I Corinthians 15 as some sort of connecting point to the much later written gospels. First of all, I agree with Doherty’s assessment of Paul that he was almost writing a Gnostic gospel and that his “Christ Jesus” never walked this Earth. But Craig and others use the “buried” and “risen” language to confirm the gospel “empty tomb” account and also to backdate the story to within a few years of the alleged actual event. Furthermore it seems they twist Paul’s metaphorical lanaguage about the “seed” changing form which to me clearly connotes “spiritual resurrection” to a confirmation of whole body resurrection.

I entirely agree with your assessment of Mark but would add that some mythicists have postulated that it is actually based on one of Homer’s works (Illiad??).

I would like your opinion on any of that and would also like your opinion on the kind of preparation a  budding Deist or Atheist should undertake before they take on friends or relatives that feel strongly the other way. Good website and I will probably download most of your debates before it all said and done.

  (Quote)

Ranzo June 4, 2009 at 5:27 pm

an atheist is just somebody who agrees with all religious people when they say about each others gods and religions that they are false and wrong. there is not much to debate about. craig only appears to win because he makes atheist debaters debate on his premise.  sam harris had the best line: ” so there is a personal god and he occasionally writes books. he doesnt produce films, he doesnt code software…”

  (Quote)

Wildreamz June 23, 2009 at 9:56 pm

“If atheists think certain things are truly right and wrong, they can’t just say that “Rape just is wrong, and we all know it.””
Just like to add that this point is right in itself it does nothing to improve the credibility of God. I don’t even believe that most atheist believes in that.
The fact is simply that there isn’t, such thing as a truely “objective morality”. All forms of morality is subjected to subjective view points. Nothing in this world is inherently “right” or “wrong”. With or without the existence of God.
Unless you define “morals” as “whatever God says”, a moral code which I personally reject. Just because God endores certain atrocities doesn’t make them “right” per se.
Seems like Craig likes to give lots of irrelevant non-points as distractions.

  (Quote)

Greg Stokley August 27, 2009 at 12:08 am

I found the issue which deals with ethics interesting. Ah yes, the “brute fact” scenario. Atheists are claimed to be forced into saying that certain things are just right or wrong without being able to give a naturalistic reason.

Well, try this on for size:

Human beings are a species of biological life just as much as any other species of life. Humans evolved, just like all other organisms, by successfully adapting to their environments by genetic mutation and the biological process of natural selection where genetic traits that provide better survival capabilities survive at a higher rate than traits that provide less survival capabilities.

This principle continues up through the evolution of an advanced nervous system, especially the brain and its functions. Humans evolved the neurological ability to conceive of concepts that constitute ethical rules which increase the specie’s survival rate. Therefore, ethical principles such as rules against murder, assault, theft, etc. are concepts that an advanced neural system (i.e. the human brain) can develop that increases the chance of survival of those groups within the species that have and use that capability.

That is the “objective” yet naturalistic basis for human morality. Humans naturally develop and follow moral principles because they are “hard wired” by biological evolution into thinking and acting with moral principles being involved as part of a survival strategy.
So, for example, murder isn’t wrong just because that’s the way things are. It’s wrong because the human brain evolved to comprehend the biological benefits of not going around killing others without just cause.

So, you my ask, why then do some individuals violate the moral rules? The answer, in brief, is that when a species develops the neurological sophistication of being able to formalize basic biological rules for successful survival, that species also has the neurological sophistication that can allow some individuals to try and think up ways to “beat the system” by selectively breaking the rules without getting caught.

Evolution appears to have developed a greater biological urge to follow the rules than break them because that provides the best odds for the greatest number of members of the species surviving and thriving.

I hope this info provides some food for thought to any of you folks who have never been able to understand the naturalistic viewpoint regarding the origin of human morality.

  (Quote)

John September 1, 2009 at 11:03 am

Im a Christian
I have only read this article so I dont know what else you have said but I can appreciate your tone. I have heard so many Christians spew out nonsense that I sometimes question why God made us so stupid. In his defense, Christ, did praise the father that he chose the weak to reveal his message to.
Thats doesnt mean the intelligent are left out(my IQ is in the top 5 %)–what it means is that the more God has given you the more prideful you can become and the less you feel you need him. The rich are a good example also.
But as important it is for Christians to point out illogical arguments of Christians–the same goes for atheists. You know its a huge red flag when the opposition cant even agree on obvious truth and common sense.
Many Christians dont even understand why they believe. Many seem to think that we’re investigators. They gathered just enough clues to make a decision. The problem with this is once you are able to prove one of those facts false–they no longer have enough to support their brilliant conclusion–so they scratch and claw.
The Bible is clear…God reveals Christ to the mind  (Matt 16:17). You need to hear the message and ask God..but it is God who puts the fact in your mind. I could no more unbelieve in Christ than deny my own name. It takes humility to ask–and this is why its difficult. God is concerned with faith in Christ–that he will save us–not with our opinions on Genesis or evolution. When Christians fail to see this they are left open to all kinds of faulty conclusions, weak faith, and endless arguments.
Im not liberal Christain either. I dont deny miracles. The laws of Physics, to God, are no more binding than they are for us when we Dream. Its not like I have to think real hard to make something appear in my dreams. But I dont deny evidence or knowledge that is beyond obvious.
 

  (Quote)

Steve Maitzen February 5, 2010 at 5:12 am

Let me echo others’ praise for your excellent blog, which I discovered only recently. I have a couple of comments about your endorsement of two of Craig’s positions.

1. On abstract objects. (a) In his post at “Reasonable Faith,” Craig says, “Christian theology requires us to say that everything that exists apart from God was created by God (John 1:3).” But here’s what John 1:3 says in the KJV: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” I’ve always thought it was cool that the KJV, RSV, and others include the three words at the end of that sentence, as if to qualify what comes before: all *made* things were made by God, which of course doesn’t imply that there are no *unmade* things, God being chief among them. The verse allows for the existence of unmade things (and it doesn’t restrict that class to God alone), so I think Craig needs some other theological basis for rejecting abstract objects. Curiously, the New Living Translation has “He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make,” which isn’t implied by the other translations and is inconsistent with theism anyway, according to which God exists but clearly wasn’t made by God. (b) Even if numbers should turn out to be dispensable, that wouldn’t spell the end of abstract objects. What about basic logical principles such as the law of noncontradiction (LNC)? What could it even mean to say that LNC is a fiction or that somehow we made LNC true? What could it even mean to say that God made LNC that LNC owes its truth to God? If those statements are meaningful, if they have content that implies some things and rules out other things, then all of them presuppose the logically prior truth of LNC, the very law whose truth they’re trying to explain. So there’s a transcendental argument that LNC is independent of anything else, including God. No reductive or eliminative explanation of LNC is even intelligible.

2. Craig’s objection to the “groundlessness” of morality in an atheistic world. Here I’d recommend reading Erik Wielenberg’s article “In Defense of Non-Natural, Non-Theistic Moral Realism,” Faith and Philosophy 26 (2009): 23-41. Wielenberg rightly challenges a hidden premise in Craig’s argument, namely, that ethical truth must *come from* from somewhere outside the domain of ethics. He shows that his theistic opponents — Craig, R. M. Adams, and J. P. Moreland — in fact reject that premise themselves.

(I also think Craig is wrong whenever he talks about “ultimate meaning or purpose,” but that’s a post for another time.)

Cheers.

  (Quote)

lukeprog February 5, 2010 at 8:49 am

Maitzen,

Thanks for the kind words.

Craig has actually said that his wrestling with these problems of absolute creation were the most serious threat to his Christian faith ever, so you’re definitely on to something there.

Yup, Wielenberg’s article is good. I’ll be quoting it in another upcoming post on Linville’s formulation of the moral argument. The point is that if we let ourselves get away with supernatural moral properties grounded in an extremely ad-hoc creature totally unlike everything else we know of, why not just posit the existence of non-natural moral properties themselves and be done with it?

  (Quote)

David Cobb July 9, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Just wanted you to know, I am a believer, “lurking” and learning and appreciating the civil and intellectual debate. I am a mathematician, but unfortunately have never done any course work in Boolean algebra or formal logic and thus I am picking up on it as I read and learn online. I will “pipe in” when (if) I feel that I have something intelligent and cogent to contribute. Thanks for the civil discourse. In the interest of full disclosure, I do often read Craig and Kreeft.

  (Quote)

Pedestal Table  October 20, 2010 at 10:15 am

would it be nice if you also have a girlfriend like Penny of The Big Bang Theory’“

  (Quote)

keatris November 1, 2010 at 6:03 am

Secularism is defined as :
n.
1 worldly spirit, views, or the like; esp., a system of doctrines and practices that disregards or rejects any form of religious faith and worship
2 the belief that religion and ecclesiastical affairs should not enter into the functions of the state, esp. into public education
(From English Websters New World dictionary Third college edition)

It seems obvious from this that seperation of church and state is when craig speaks of secularism as an “impending danger”, he is refering to 1. not 2.
It’s interesting that he doesn’t call the seperation of church and state “secularism”

  (Quote)

citizenghost November 29, 2010 at 4:51 am

I appreciate your approach here .

Finding points of agreement (what Craig is right about) makes for a good and level-headed starting point before identifying and then tackling any areas of disagreement. But while I would hate to charge you with being overly generous, I do think you’re mistaken in some of your assessments.

1. “Christian philosophy has experienced a renaissance, and has contributed to genuine progress in philosophy.”

That’s debatable. I’m not sure how one measures “progress in philosophy” when the influence of academic philosophy on thought, culture and ideas as a whole seems to be diminishing rather than growing.

2. “Evolution doesn’t invalidate Christianity”

It kind of does. Evolution is certainly at odds with any Orthodox view of Christianity. Why? Because Orthodox Christianity firmly rejects the notion of common descent and common descent is absolutely central to evolutionary biology. Indeed, this is even incorporated within the Doctrinal Statement of Craig’s Institution, Biola Univeristy. The Statement maintains that human beings could not have descended from less complex species but could only have emerged via a special act of divine creation. The attempt to reconcile Orthodox Christianity with evolution involves an unspoken rhetorical trick – “let’s pretend that evolution means something other than what evolutionary biologists say it means.” I don’t think that works. If you reject “common descent” you reject any modern understanding of evolution.

3. “The case for the Resurrection doesn’t depend on inerrancy or even the general reliability of the gospels.”

Sure it does. Even the Bayesian approach and the “argument from best explanation,” to which you refer, depend entirely on the Gospels for their underlying premises and factual accounts concerning the death of Jesus and the events which took place thereafter (i.e., the empty tomb etc.) There are no other sources.

4. “Atheistic politics don’t have a good track record.”

My only quibble here would be to question the meaning of “atheistic” politics. How could a single issue – the existence or non-existence of a divinity – inform a political system? It never has. Christopher Hitchens makes the valid point that North Korea, supposedly an atheist regime, is the most religious society the world has ever known. It’s not simply the case that “secularist” politics have a good track record whereas “atheist” politics do not. It’s that of the two, only “secularism” speaks to the relationship between religous belief and principles of governance. Atheism says nothing here.

Of course even Craig agrees that whether atheism or theism (in politics or anything else) is good for humanity doesn’t tell us the first thing about whether the underlying claims are true. So here, at least, is something Craig is right about.

  (Quote)

Steve Gray January 28, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Craig says: “Someone might try to avoid this problem by espousing a modified Platonism, according to which numbers were necessarily and eternally created by God. But then a problem of vicious circularity arises: explanatorily prior to God’s creating the number 3, wasn’t it the case that the number of persons in the Trinity was 3? Of course; but then the number 3 existed prior to God’s creating the number 3, which is impossible!”
The last thing I want to do is strengthen an argument of Craig’s, but he is confusing the abstraction “3,” whose “existence” is debatable, with an instantiation of three things. That is, counting the members of the “trinity,” as if there is such a thing, consists merely of putting those members into 1:1 correspondence with say the symbols A, B, and C. No problem. His problem goes much deeper than mere numbers, to the whole of the incoherent Christian dogma. Another problem is defining “exist,” which so far as I can see, he does not even try to do.

  (Quote)

Nightvid Cole February 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Plantinga is a nutjob born of a nutjob. The EAAN assumes that the probability of arriving at a combination of mutations corresponding to a brain which gives rise to true beliefs is much smaller than for a sequence of mutations leading to a brain giving rise to unreliable (but still consistent with good survival and reproduction) ones.

But the probability depends exponentially on the number of such mutations. Thus unless you can demonstrate that the number of mutations required for each type of brain are equal, the argument is pseudoscience, plain and simple. If anyone respects this kind of nonsense, meaningful philosophy is dead.

  (Quote)

Nightvid Cole February 27, 2011 at 8:29 am

The existence of an omnipotent, omniscient being who does everything possible to ensure that His beings have free will is a falsifiable hypothesis. And the existence of cognitive disorders such as Down’s Syndrome and schizophrenic delirium and neuro-degenerative ones such as infantile Tay-Sachs Disease without immediate supernatural intervention to cure them in fact falsifies.

Conclusion: God does not exist.

  (Quote)

Luke Muehlhauser February 27, 2011 at 9:30 am

Nightvid Cole,

Your comment points to the central dilemma of theism: If believers frame theism such that it predicts anything at all, then it is immediately falsified by a world that is not anything like what an omnipotent, all-good being would create. But if believers frame theism such that it makes no predictions, then I have as much reason to take it seriously as the gremlin theory of consciousness.

  (Quote)

Stephen Gray February 27, 2011 at 6:44 pm

The Kalam argument has fatal weaknesses. First, he says that “everything that begins to exist has a cause.” Why not “everything that exists has a cause?” The former seems to except God from having a cause but only at the expense of postulating an eternal God. So as usual God is given an exception to an otherwise (claimed) completely general rule. That is completely ad-hoc. Second, he argues not just for God but for the Christian one, which requires that God be “personal” so he can make decisions at a specific time. Why God would choose that time is not explained any more than the arbitrary-time natural cause is. Third, the Big Bang is now thought to not extrapolate all the way to t=0. Cosmologists now speculate about times t<0 and about infinite previous cycles. (Dark energy might or might not prohibit this.) Joseph Silk, Lee Smolin, and Martin Bojowald think the BB was not the beginning. Fourth, Craig's invoking Hilbert's Hotel as proof that physical infinities cannot exist is flawed because it takes infinite time to move all the guests, etc. Fifth, Craig's metaphysics depends on physics that is not certain. Sixth, naturalism is preferred to God as an explanation, because a God, especially a personal one, must have properties such as motives, abilities, goals,and some sort of consciousness, which without neurons is, so far as we know, impossible. Claiming God is a person requires establishing (actually speculating) the aforementioned properties of God, which is completely impossible. Kalam is a sophisticated argument from ignorance and solves nothing, but introduces more mysteries. It is entirely unsuccessful.
There are other arguments against Kalam which will be found in my (eventual) book called Critiquing Christianity.

  (Quote)

Nightvid Cole February 28, 2011 at 7:36 am

The Kalam argument also fails on the grounds that the dismissal of the Big Bounce is only made by assuming that the so-called generalized second law is valid even in quantum gravity. We don’t have evidence that this is true, so there….

  (Quote)

Geddy Friedman March 29, 2011 at 10:29 am

You forgot a major one, and I’m not sure if anyone else made this point because I haven’t read over the comments, but how about INFINITE REGRESS?

You cannot have an infinite regress of causes because that is logically incoherent with there ever being a present. Therefore, there must have been a first uncaused cause, be it called a God, Creator, or self-sufficient eternal mind, from which all of time, space, and matter began, thus certifying through logic alone that a transcendent being must have first existed alone outside the dimensions of time and space before all of creation, and is naturally the only one possible to be responsible for everything in the material universe that exists.

  (Quote)

sherlock July 12, 2011 at 1:37 am

I am curious about the idea that natural processes produced moral understanding by evolution. As I understand it would that be dubious? Since as pointed out that certain things have enhanced survival and therefore benefitted humanity in the area of ethics etc. Would it be sensible to think that non-rational forces beyond your control, pumping beliefs into people through this non-rational process could guarantee confidence in the results that follow? What if you believe certain things through this manner that are false for instance? Say, I believe that human beings have dignity and value, but they don’t. But because this enhances survival we believe this through this non-rational process. However this belief system is being pumped into a person beyond their control this would be an accidental belief. So, because atheism believes in naturalistic precesses then the atheist might only be accidentally right and the theists accidentally wrong which is not warranted knowledge. So their claims to knowledge and truth often as I understand it borough idea from theism. Also how could one be totally sure that they were not being systematically deceived by this non-rational process? It seems that theists are in the drivers seat. If God is ration, personal, self conscious then it seems a very streamlined approach to finding beliefs and knowledge that are reliable. If one takes W Provine seriously then no objective moral values could come through naturalism at all. Then how is it that atheists keep using theistic values in whatever fashion they to make their ideas work? I see atheists like funny T shirts perhaps they could make this one. “The truth is out there, Atheists were accidentally right. ”

  (Quote)

RedShift August 4, 2011 at 2:21 pm

If theists are defining moral evil as some action god would forbid (which I think is totally ridiculous definition of morality), then isn’t the concept of god enough for there to be the objective morality? We can always say rape is wrong because god would forbid rape, whether god actually exists or not. Doesn’t this make the moral argument for the existence of god totally absurd? Or am I missing something?

  (Quote)

David August 23, 2011 at 6:28 am

As a Christian, may I add that Craig is right when he claims that one doesn’t need to believe in God in order to be a moral person? I know that’s not one that most atheists have trouble with, but it should definitely be on the list.

  (Quote)

Nightvid Cole August 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I am curious about the idea that natural processes produced moral understanding by evolution. As I understand it would that be dubious? Since as pointed out that certain things have enhanced survival and therefore benefitted humanity in the area of ethics etc. Would it be sensible to think that non-rational forces beyond your control, pumping beliefs into people through this non-rational process could guarantee confidence in the results that follow? What if you believe certain things through this manner that are false for instance? Say, I believe that human beings have dignity and value, but they don’t. But because this enhances survival we believe this through this non-rational process. However this belief system is being pumped into a person beyond their control this would be an accidental belief. So, because atheism believes in naturalistic precesses then the atheist might only be accidentally right and the theists accidentally wrong which is not warranted knowledge. So their claims to knowledge and truth often as I understand it borough idea from theism. Also how could one be totally sure that they were not being systematically deceived by this non-rational process? It seems that theists are in the drivers seat. If God is ration, personal, self conscious then it seems a very streamlined approach to finding beliefs and knowledge that are reliable. If one takes W Provine seriously then no objective moral values could come through naturalism at all. Then how is it that atheists keep using theistic values in whatever fashion they to make their ideas work? I see atheists like funny T shirts perhaps they could make this one. “The truth is out there, Atheists were accidentally right. ”

Yeah, so if your parents had sex without explicitly wanting a child, then you were here by accident, and by your “logic” your reasoning cannot be trusted.
This argument is absurd…

  (Quote)

Trevor LeFiles August 30, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I think it is interesting at the least to say about the new models for the mechanisms for natural selection, and I must say that taken into account of all these “new hypothesis”, it serves me well when I say that the mechanism to evolution is of much debate, and speculation the very real time of me writing this. While I hold that natural selection is indeed more than a theory it is not incompatible for or against the Old Christians (Catholics) as even the pope himself holds that evolution is more than a theory. Theories as such are replaced by other theories every day and such the philosophical approach to evolution and Darwin’s theory of evolution is very much confused with in this long debate with many atheists I have been corrected in the past that Evolution can be for survival in terms of “what ever helps that organism to pass on off spring”, and while I disagree with this very very barbaric mechanism for life, I do conclude that “what ever ” it is, must be not entirely understood by scientists as of now. So I condemn whether or not evolution recommended as a “cure all” theory for animals is enough as it is to persuade me to accept it at the moment. GO WHERE THE EVIDENCE GOES.
Thank You.

  (Quote)

Trevor LeFiles August 30, 2011 at 3:07 pm

What do you think of this ?

  (Quote)

Dark Destiny September 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Morality doesn’t come from God. Morality comes from society who then share it to their members just like parents teach their children how to lead a moral life. However it will still be up to each person to follow their parents/society or their own moral code. So even if you give a person a set of moral standards, that person may or may not agree to uphold it.

  (Quote)

Ted September 26, 2011 at 11:55 am

I am an atheist who doesn’t agree with most of this blog entry. On the first point, I agree with Stephen Hawking that Philosophy is dead and with Neil Degrasse Tyson that philosophy is irrelevant in the 21st Century. So any contribution to it’s progress makes sense to me but adds nothing of value to my world view. Christian Philosophers only exist because of the lack of evidence and thus they make up arguments as an end around Scientific findings disproving many of their previous claims. It’s really just word games.

Evolution does disprove Christianity. We are talking about a book that references another book with the Genesis account, which is why WLC himself even admits he is open to “progressive creationism”. You would have to disregard several thousand versus in the OT and the NT to think you can marry Evolution and Christianity. Evolution is responsible for the large exodus of Christianity around the world. It is one of Atheists shining examples of contrary evidence.

Others have corrected your points of State Atheism and Bible errancy but your point about Atheist arguing about Morals is almost juvenile. In every debate I have seen, I have never seen an Atheist say “we all know rape is wrong” and that is the end of their reasoning. It may happen but it’s not the norm. As someone posted above, there are many many many reasons to think morality is tied to evolution.

Frankly I found this to be very disappointing. I came across it while Googling evolution and I am sorry I did. I have very little respect for Philosophy for the same reasons most Scientists do, articles like this that try to impart false logic as ways to ascertain knowledge outside of historical record and scientific method.

  (Quote)

Joshua Farris October 14, 2011 at 3:25 am

I am not sure you made any arguments against Craig. I will take three and make some comments that are worth discussing. First on the issue of evolution. Craig is the only one who make sufficient distinctions between various positions on evolutionary theory and for that you should give him credit and discuss his ideas not simply pass him off. Just because one affirms evolutionary theory does not entail as it often is assumed in discussions that one affirms the continuity of all species among other issues. Often times people just throw around the term evolution as if it excludes God without much clear distinction being made. Second, with respect to the Bible and inerrancy, there is a book called Divine Discourse by Wolterstorff that shows a very coherent manner in which God can reveal himself by appropriating various texts that are transmitted through Church tradition without having to say that every jot and tittle is inerrant. Third, you bring up the issue of morality, the strength of Craig’s argument is that there is a being who is infinite and personal, which does make more sense of morality than Atheism. Atheism does not have a personal being it is unlikely that it affirms an infinite being. But, the conjunction of these two notions support morality as being some that is required of as we are beings-in-relationship.

  (Quote)

Stephen Gray November 8, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Craig is smart but not smart enough to understand that Christianity is daffy beyond comprehension. I don’t much care what he’s right about because he is doing great harm by convincing the weak-minded and Bible-addicted that there’s something to his wacky beliefs. For one tiny example, to state it rather simply, God sacrificed God to save God’s creation from God. That’s not just short of insane, it IS insane. It boggles me that anyone with an IQ in the 2-digit range or above can believe Christianity. A good recent example of no-limits anti-Christian ranting is Bugliosi’s book Divinity of Doubt, in which he, raised Catholic, lambasts Christianity probably more emphatically and incisively than Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, or Hitchens. For anyone except the most Bible-drunk, it’s a must-read.

  (Quote)

Stephen Gray November 8, 2011 at 10:27 pm

If theists are defining moral evil as some action god would forbid (which I think is totally ridiculous definition of morality), then isn’t the concept of god enough for there to be the objective morality? We can always say rape is wrong because god would forbid rape, whether god actually exists or not. Doesn’t this make the moral argument for the existence of god totally absurd? Or am I missing something?

No seriously thoughtful person can entertain the notion that Biblegod is an example of good morality. As depicted in the Old Testament, he is obviously a psychopathic sadist who should be locked in the violent ward, and as depicted in the NT, he condemns nonbelievers, even those who arrived at their conclusions by honest thought, to eternal condemnation. So if there were an Olympics of sadism, the OT god and the NT god would be in bitter competition for the top medals.

  (Quote)

JOCURI SLOT November 13, 2011 at 12:11 am

its firs date to this blog, its nice ! keep work…..

  (Quote)

JOCURI BARBI December 1, 2011 at 12:59 am

Can anybody help me?
i need help with preloader bar in wordpress!

  (Quote)

Peter II January 23, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Nightvid Cole,

If believers frame theism such that it predicts anything at all, then it is immediately falsified by a world that is not anything like what an omnipotent, all-good being would create.

What would it mean for a being to be omnipotent? What would it mean to be all-good? If a being were able to do anything possible that would seem to indicate having all of the power and thus that this being is all powerful or omnipotent. Without fully knowing what is and what is not possible, on what grounds can we measure the congruence of our observations with such a claim?
If a being is all-good, what does such a claim indicate? How can the moral merits and demerits of a being be measured if that being is fundamentally unlike a human being? Worse still, what if it is fundamentally unlike an organism?
What if a god were to have neither of these characteristics? Is it so inconceivable that a god would be indifferent, flawed or even evil? Is absolute power the only level of proficiency befitting a god? It seems odd to introduce a requirement that would disqualify most gods people have ever proposed even if they were demonstrated incontrovertibly to exist.

  (Quote)

Peter II January 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I apologize, that should have been addressed to Luke Muehlhauser. Still, its an open series of questions.

  (Quote)

Leave a Comment