Does God Exist? William Lane Craig's Conclusion

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.

In my final speech, let me try to draw together some of the threads of this debate to see if we can come to any conclusions.  You remember that I said that we needed to compare the arguments against the existence of God with the arguments for the existence of God, to see which is the more compelling case.

I.  Now has Quentin given a compelling case for atheism tonight?  Well, personally I don't think so.

1.  He argued that God could not be the cause of the universe because there is this infinite regress of simultaneous causes in the elementary particles of the universe.  Now notice that this requires that the universe be spatially infinite.  If it's finite, then you do have circular causation.  He says the universe is spatially infinite because the expansion is accelerating.  I'm afraid that that's a non sequitur.  It is true that the expansion is probably accelerating, but that doesn't mean the geometry of space cannot be closed.  If you have a positive cosmological constant --a sort of anti-gravity force--, then you could have a universe which is geometrically closed, like the surface of a globe, but which will expand forever.

Now Quentin said, "Well, it could be potentially infinite in its expansion."  But that's not enough to avoid the problem of circular causation. Potentially infinite expansion will still give you only a finite number of elementary particles at any point in time, and so you'll have this circular causality.  In any case, I don't think that even having all these elementary particles’ being the cause of one another gives you the hierarchical regress that he's talking about.  This is totally gratuitous, and I don't see any reason to think there is such a hierarchical regress of causes at any point. So I don't think that the first argument is compelling.

2.  What about his moral argument?  Well, I think that here Quentin is clearly on the defensive.  Remember, this is supposed to be an argument for atheism.  He's supposed to be arguing that God cannot be a foundation of moral values.  I don't think he's shown how [this is impossible].  On the contrary, I think we've seen that his own moral theory is beset with difficulties--especially that it is completely arbitrary on atheism to identify moral goodness with the development of a thing's nature.  So I don't think we've seen compelling arguments for atheism. 

II.  What about the arguments for theism?

1.  Well, the contingency argument, I think, has really gone unrefuted tonight.  Why is there something rather than nothing?  There must be an explanation,  not for the beginning of the universe, but for why there is anything at all rather than nothing.  That can be found in a personal, metaphysically necessary being.

2.  As for the teleological argument, you've got only three choices here.  The fine-tuning is due to either chance, necessity, or design.  It's not due to necessity because these are contingent initial conditions, not required by the laws of nature.  It's probably not due to chance because the chances of this happening by accident alone are infinitesimal.  So design seems to be the best explanation for the observed fine-tuning.

3.  As for the moral argument, again, my difficulty here is that, quite honestly, even if I were not a Christian theist, I just don't see why on atheism you would think that human beings have objective, intrinsic moral values and duties.  Atheism just doesn't have the foundations for objective moral values and duties, which we all like to believe in deep down.  So what I'm offering to you tonight is a foundation for those moral values and duties that I think most <unintelligible> sense in God.

4.  Finally, the cosmological argument:  Whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore the universe has to have a cause. As I said, it cannot be this circular or imaginary hierarchical set of causes. There needs to be some sort of a transcendent being that brings the universe into existence.  So I think that we've got good grounds for believing that God exists.

Now let me close simply by saying this. Some of you are thinking, “Well, goodness, if believing in God is a matter of weighing all of these sorts of arguments, then how can anybody know whether God exists?  You'd have to be a philosopher or a scientist to figure out whether God exists!” In fact, I agree with you.  A loving God would not leave it up to us to figure out by our own ingenuity and cleverness whether or not he exists.  Rather a loving God would seek to reveal himself to us and draw us to himself.  And this is exactly what Christian theism teaches.  Jesus of Nazareth said, "If any man's will is to do God's will, then he will know whether my teaching is from God, or whether I am speaking on my own accord" (John 7.17). And Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit of God would be given by him to convict and draw persons into loving relationships with himself.

About thirty years ago I had a dramatic and personal conversion experience in which God became a living reality in my life.  If you were to ask me why I believe in God, I would point not only to these arguments, but even more fundamentally to the experiential reality of God in my own life, a reality that I believe you can find, if you'll search for him with an open mind and an open heart.

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