The Craig-Curley Debate: The Existence of the Christian God

Dr. William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife Jan and their two teenage children Charity and John. At the age of sixteen as a junior in high school, he first heard the message of the Christian gospel and yielded his life to Christ. Dr. Craig pursued his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College (B.A. 1971) and graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984). From 1980-86 he taught Philosophy of Religion at Trinity, during which time he and Jan started their family. In 1987 they moved to Brussels, Belgium, where Dr. Craig pursued research at the University of Louvain until 1994.

Introduction and Moderator's Remarks


My name is Brian Berkoff.  I'm a senior English major, and I'm also a resident advisor in East Quad.  And I'm involved with Campus Crusade for Christ.  This evening is sponsored by several groups on campus including:  Michigan Christian Grads, Campus Crusade for Christ, the Navigators, and Christian Leadership Ministries.  Tonight's format is simple; our two participants will debate the existence of the Christian God, which will be followed by a question and answer session.  At this time you can ask any questions that you have of either professor. Our hope is that you would find tonight thought–provoking and informative.  And our desire is for you to come to your own conclusion on issues such as the existence of God.  And our goal is to provide relevant programs that allow you to evaluate where you stand on such issues. 

We would appreciate your assistance by giving us feedback on the night by filling out the cards that you received as you came in.  There will be a five minute break after a half–hour of the question and answer time, at which time you will be able to fill out that card.  If you need to leave early for any reason, we would appreciate also if you could still fill out the card and drop it off in one of the buckets in the back.  We would appreciate it if you would hold all applause during the debate until the very end out of fairness to both of our participants.  Again, just out of fairness to our participants, we would appreciate it if you would hold all applause until that time.

Now I'd like to introduce our moderator for tonight Dr. Ron Larson.  Dr. Larson did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Minnesota. And he worked for 16 years for Bell Laboratories.  And he has been a professor here at the University of Michigan for the past year and one–half.  So help me welcome Dr. Larson. (Applause)

Moderator's Remarks

It's great to see all of you here!  Especially since the topic to be debated tonight will probably not find its way onto any of your mid–term exams.  So I'm very impressed by this turnout.  Despite the fact you're not going to be examined on this, this topic actually underlies much of what, or all of what, we do here at the University of Michigan, since, after all, we are here to pursue truth.  Now, while the two positions you hear debated tonight cannot both be true, both are probably more coherent than many other views, including the view that God exists but can be ignored.  Indeed, either God is the central fact of reality or [he] is a cosmic cipher, a delusion in people's minds.

Now for specificity, the God whose existence is to be debated this evening will be the Christian God.  But I think you will find that most of the issues that are dealt with in this debate are pertinent to conceptions of God that are found in other religions.

Taking the position that the Christian God does not exist will be Professor Edwin Curley. Professor Curley is working on an edition of the complete works of Spinoza, the first volume of which appeared in 1985 and the second volume of which is in progress.  He has also written two books on Spinoza and is working on a third.  He has written on various topics in 17th Century philosophy spanning:  metaphysics; epistemology; philosophy of religion; moral philosophy; and political philosophy; and dealing with the other major figures of the period, such as Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and Leibniz.  Currently, he is most interested in the history of social contract theory, the development of heterodox religious ideas in the early modern period, and the associated development of the ideal of religious toleration.  A past President of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association, he is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the recipient of fellowships from the NEH, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Humanities Center.

Taking the position that the Christian God does exist is William Lane Craig.  Dr. Craig has a BA in Communications, and an MA in both Philosophy of Religion and Church History. He has a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Birmingham, England, and in Theology from the University of Munich, Germany.  From 1987 until 1994, he pursued research at the University of Louvain in Brussels, Belgium.  And since his return to the United States, he has been a research professor at the Talbot School of Theology and maintains an active writing and speaking schedule.  He has authored over 80 books and articles including a 1993 book with Quentin Smith entitled Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology.

In other words, both of our speakers know their stuff, and you should listen to them! (laughter)

The format for this debate is as follows: Each speaker will have 20 minutes to present his opening statement, starting with Dr. Craig.  Following the opening statements there will be two rebuttal periods.  Each speaker will be allowed 12 minutes in the first rebuttal period and 8 minutes in the second.  Finally, there will be five minutes each for closing statements.  Now out of respect for both speakers, as was mentioned before, please avoid cat–calls, applause, etc., etc. (laughter) or other disturbances during the debate.  Following the 90 minute debate period, we'll give you, the audience, a chance to put questions of your own to the speakers.  So during the debate you may want to jot down or mentally note questions you might have.  Now the microphone on your left, over there, will be for those wishing to ask a question of Dr. Curley, while the microphone on the right will be for questions to Dr. Craig.  Now I'll explain the format for Q–and–A in more detail when the time comes.  Finally, following that, you can also express your opinion on the cards that you were handed when you entered.  So now we're set to start, and Dr. Craig, you have our attention.

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