Does God Exist? William Lane Craig's Second Rebuttal

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.

I.  Let's look again at Quentin's two arguments on behalf of atheism.

1.  The first one, you remember, was that God cannot be the Creator of the universe because at each time in the history of the universe there is an infinite regress of causes that does not terminate; and so God cannot be the cause of this. Now I asked Quentin, what are these causes that you're talking about? I was surprised to hear from him in his last speech that these causes just are the elementary particles and that he apparently thinks of these as standing in some sort of hierarchical causal relations. 

But surely that's incorrect. I mean, after all, if the universe is finite, then there will be a huge but finite number of elementary particles, and so ultimately you will have circular causation. And even if the universe were spatially infinite - which Quentin cannot prove, but which is what he would have to prove to show this regress is infinite - even then there's no reason to think that these causes are hierarchically arranged in the way that Quentin has suggested. So my skepticism about this first argument is simply to demand:  how does he know that there is such an infinite series? I don't think that there is an infinite series of hierarchically arranged causes.

But secondly, and, I think, more fundamentally, my contingency argument doesn't presuppose a beginning of the universe. We can still ask: why are there any elementary particles at all, rather than just nothing? Anything that exists has an explanation for why it exists, either in its own nature or in an external cause.  There's simply no reason in his theory why we should have this cluster of elementary particles in existence rather than non-being.  So we need to have a metaphysically necessary being which will explain why there is something rather than nothing.

2.  Secondly, as for his moral theory, Quentin claimed that in my critique, I was taking statements out of context.  I simply want to assure you that, as an honest philosopher who wants to offer serious critique, I would never do such a thing.  I have the quotations here with me, printed from Quentin's Internet site. For example, on the point about the serial killer's desires’ being bad, this is the quotation:

A serial killer has the desire to murder people; this desire (as is any desire) part of the killer's essence qua animal. Does it follow from perfectionism [Quentin's view] that it is good that he moves so as to satisfy this desire?{1}

He says,

We know how such objections should be answered: We consider the overall state of affairs, the killer murdering Jane, Bob, Beth, and Richard and recognize that this overall state of affairs is bad.{2}

But then he goes on to say, “One of its parts is good, the killer moving so as to satisfy his desires, but we can't imagine this part without the overall badness,” and so the killer's right, or good deed, is overridden.{3}  Again, I say that as a moral theory that is just morally flawed--to think that in and of itself the killer’s  murdering  people is intrinsically good.

I also argued that on his view people or persons are not good because goodness is a property of other properties or states of affairs; that it leads to a paralyzing relativism; and that it entails morally false statements.  I can again give you the quotations from the web site where he denies that friendship, knowledge, or anything else is intrinsically good, including love.{4}  And he certainly does think that plants and mountains and vegetables and carpet have moral rights, which I think is just clearly mistaken.

As for the foundation for moral duties, Quentin says, “Yes, David's obligation to become a chemist might be overridden.”  But I'm not talking about that.  In a situation where there aren't any overriding things to be balanced out, it's equally good for David to be a chemist or for him to be a doctor. Therefore, he has no moral obligation to do one or the other. (Or else, on Quentin's view, he has contradictory moral obligations, if moral obligations come simply from the goodness of a state.)  So I submit that Quentin has no basis for moral obligation in his theory.

And finally, as to the point about degrading people's moral worth, it's quite correct that Quentin does say that there are other ways of being the best possible person than by being knowledgeable.   But what remains true, as I said, is that he ranks people according to their value.  He degrades certain people morally by saying that they are less valuable than other people.   I submit that a better view is the Christian and theistic view that all persons are created equal and, as Thomas Jefferson said, are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable human rights.

But all that is beside the case in one sense because the main point is that Quentin’s view is arbitrary.  On atheism there is just no reason to think that a thing's developing its nature is identical with moral goodness.   That's the fundamental critique that I think I have to offer of his view.

II.  Now what about my four arguments?

1.  The contingency argument has never been addressed.  It asks, why is there anything rather than nothing?   The answer to that question, I think, has to be found in a metaphysically necessary being.

2.  The teleological argument.  Quentin didn't re-raise his points about probability.  When you consider that finite range of assumable values, it is enormously more probable that a non-designed universe would fall into the range of life-prohibiting universes.  There are vastly more life-prohibiting universes that obey our laws of nature than those that fall into the life-permitting range.  And, therefore, I think, this calls out for explanation.

3.  My moral argument, based upon the need for a foundation of objective moral values, hasn't really been refuted tonight, I think.  As Quentin seems to recognize in one context, if God doesn't exist, then moral values and duties are just a sort of herd morality that has evolved among homo sapiens to enable us to live together in society without killing each other off.  But there's no reason to think that these moral values and duties, on atheism, are objective.  But if you think that there really are objective moral values and duties, that things like love and tolerance and generosity and self-sacrifice are really goods, then I invite you to embrace theism.  Theism will give you a foundation for the common moral values that we both wish to affirm.

4.  And, finally, the cosmological argument does appeal to the beginning of the universe.  We have good grounds for thinking that the universe began to exist and that it needs to have some sort of a transcendant cause that brings it into being.  Atheism cannot account for that.  Atheism ultimately has to say that the universe just popped into existence, uncaused, out of absolutely nothing.  I submit to you that that is worse than magic.  I mean, at least in magic, when the magician pulls a rabbit out of the hat, you've got the hat!  --and you've got the magician!  But on atheism, the universe just pops into existence uncaused out of absolutely nothing.  I think that, again, that takes more faith to believe than theism.

So for all of these reasons, I think that the case for theism is far more compelling than the case for atheism.  And therefore I think that theism is, in fact, the more rational worldview. 


{1}Smith, Ethical and Religious Thought, p.

{2}Ibid., p. 



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