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.

Dr. Craig's Closing Statement

1. In my closing statement, I'd like to shift gears a little bit and look at that fifth reason I gave for believing in God, that God can be immediately known and experienced.  Dr. Curley shared with you personally a little bit about his own spiritual journey.  And as I read what he shared, it struck me that, at exactly the same age, I was moving in the opposite direction.  I wasn't raised in a Christian home or a church–going family.  But when I became a teenager, I began to ask the big questions in life: "Why am I here?" "Where am I going?"  And in the search for answers, I began to attend a large local church in our community.  But instead of answers, all I found there was a social country club where the dues were a dollar a week in the offering plate, and the other high school students, who claimed to be such good Christians on Sunday, lived for their real God the rest of the week, which was popularity.  And this really bothered me because I felt so empty inside.  And yet I was living, externally at least, a more moral life than most of them were.  And this deeply bothered me.  I thought: "They're all hypocrites; they're just phonies!"  And I began to become very alienated, very bitter and angry, toward people because of their phoniness.

2. Well, I walked into my German class one day and sat down behind a girl who is one of these types––you know––that is always so happy that it just makes you sick! (Laughter)  I tapped her on the shoulder, and she turned around, and I said to her:  "Sandy, what are you always so happy about for anyway?"  And she said:  "Well, Bill, it's because I know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior."  And I said: "Well, I go to church."  And she said: "Well, Bill, that's not enough.  You've got to have him really living in your heart."  And I said: "Well, what would he want to do a thing like that for!"  And she said: "Because he loves you, Bill!"  And that just hit me like a ton of bricks.  Here I was so filled with anger and bitterness, and she said there was someone who really loved me.  And who was it, but the God of the universe!  And that thought just staggered me.

3. Well, to make a long story short, during the next six months I read the New Testament from cover to cover.  I was arrested by the person of Jesus, and I could not throw him out along with the church and the hypocrisy I saw there.  There was an authenticity, a ring of truth, about him that I didn't see in the lives of those who claimed to be his followers.  And I met other Christians in the high school.  I didn't know that people like this existed.  They seemed to be in touch with a higher plane of reality that I didn't know was there.  And I wanted that for my own life.  Well, after about six months of intense searching, I just came to the end of myself and I just cried out to God, and I experienced the sort of spiritual rebirth within.  It was as though someone turned on the light.  I felt an infusion of joy, and God became an immediate reality in my life, a reality which has never left me as I've walked with him day by day, year by year, over the last 30 years.  And I believe that you can find God in that same way, as an immediate and personal reality in your life.

4. Now somebody might say, " Well, Bill, you're just delusory; that's just psychological, your experience."  But in the absence of any good reasons to think Christian theism is false, I don't see any reason to regard my experience as delusory.  And I don't think we've heard any good reasons in the debate tonight to think Christian theism is false.  Basically, it's boiled down to Nelson Pike's article against divine foreknowledge and human freedom, an article which has been endlessly refuted in the literature, including by Alvin Plantinga in his book God, Freedom, and Evil.{1}  Pike thinks that "the ability to do otherwise" means you can erase God's past belief. But it doesn't.  It means that you have the ability to act in such a way such that if you were to act in that way, God would have believed differently.  Pike never understood the counterfactual involved.  So we don't have any reason to think Christian theism is false.

5. Moreover, we've got good reasons to think Christian theism is true:

The Origin of the Universe.  It's true most scientists may not draw the metaphysical or theological implications.  But as Albert Einstein once observed:  "The man of science is a poor philosopher."  I think that the metaphysician, the philosopher, certainly recognizes that out of nothing, nothing comes and that, therefore, there must be a supernatural cause of the universe.

6. As for the Complex Order in the Universe, this is easy to explain:  Just alter things like the force of gravity or the neutron–proton mass ratio infinitesimally, and it makes matter impossible; it makes planets impossible; it makes a universe impossible.  So we are balanced on a knife's edge which is literally incomprehensible in its delicacy and balance.  This is best explained as a result of intelligent design.

7. As for Objective Moral Values, I admit that atheists can often live moral lives and think rape is wrong.  But my point, as you remember, was that apart from God there isn't any objective reason for regarding human beings as the locus of value.  They're just advanced primates, and animals don't have morality.

8. We've never talked about the life, death, or resurrection of Jesus.  So, basically, what I'm suggesting is that there are good reasons to think that my experience of Christ and God that I had as a 16–year old was not delusory.  It was real.  And I believe that if you seek for this, if you seek for God, you will meet Him, too.  He could change your life in the same way that He changed mine.  Thank you.


{1}Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1974); see also my The Only Wise God (rep. ed.: Eugene, Or.:  Wipf & Stock, 2000).

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