Craig–Taylor Debate:
Is the Basis for Morality Natural or Supernatural?

First Rebuttal
Richard Taylor

I had not met the Reverend Mr. Craig until a couple of hours ago, and I must say right off I am pleased by his eloquence. I am more than flattered by the fact that he has read my book—and with some care. As I listened, however, I couldn’t help thinking of a remark that someone made—and I don’t want this to be taken in the wrong way—that the devil can quote Scripture to his own ends. I’m not comparing my distinguished opponent to the devil, but I am suggesting that as he combed through my book, he did pick out those things that he could use to his own ends and left out the positive elements which I think are there. However, the book hasn’t had a great sale. I’m not going to get rich by it, and I’m glad that one person has read it with care. Reverend Mr. Craig did not address himself to the points that I made, understandably, because he hadn’t heard them until a moment ago. So I don’t hold that against him. My points, I think, do stand.

Early on, he said God’s holy nature provides us with standards of something or other—I wasn’t able to get the rest of the sentence. I don’t think that means much. Even if you grant God’s holy nature—and it does sound indeed good, and it’s what one hears in church—God’s holy standards, and people nod, and you might find this in a hymn. I submit it doesn’t really tell you much, if you’re faced with a decision like whether to get a divorce, whether to tell your boss off, how to treat your children. This doesn’t tell you much. What would tell you something is the sort of kindness, the sort of warmth—human warmth—that you have derived from a civilized culture over many generations.

Somewhere in his comments I think he attributed to me a thesis of atheism, and this is—I must set the record straight—not true. I am not an atheist; I believe in God. Once when I was giving a public lecture, one of the members of the audience said, "Do you believe in God?" It had nothing to do with what I was talking about, but he wanted to know the answer, and I replied quite truthfully, "It’s the only thing I believe in." But I do not believe anything that the Reverend Mr. Craig just said.

He used the expression "just convention." Well, let’s not minimize our human nature. "Just convention, just human" doesn’t mean therefore "contemptible." I have an enormous regard for human beings, and perhaps you got it from some of the quotations from my books, from the book that the Reverend quoted. I have an enormous regard for people who think, who are brave, who are courageous, who face problems, who wrestle with them, who keep their chins high, who have a sense of nobility, and who deal with them. And don’t prattle about the weak and humble and how they are no better than these others. That sounds nice to the weak and the humble, but it isn’t true. Don’t minimize our human capacities. "Just conventions!" The conventions that have come down to us from the Greeks, yes, from the Judeo–Christian tradition, from the long experience of our American democracy, our free society—these conventions are not contemptible. And if the Reverend Mr. Craig says, as he did, that if life ends at the grave, it makes no difference whether you live as a saint or as a devil—yes, it does make a difference. It’s makes a difference to what kind of a person you are.

Now you can do two things: you can say, "I want to look good to my fellow human beings." That’s not too bad. You can say, "I want to look good in God’s eyes," and then slavishly concoct some notion of God’s holy nature [tape unintelligible]. Or you can say, "I want to look good as a human being," and that is not a bad ideal. That is not a bad ideal for a teacher, for a parent, for a husband, for a wife, for anybody: to look good to myself as a human being. No. He will say, "But where is your standard?" He submits, as a standard, God’s holy nature. Do you need that? I don’t need it, you don’t need it. It doesn’t tell me anything. Where will we find God’s holy nature? By listening to clergymen? The clergyman, you learn, is sleeping with the women in his choir! How are you going to see him? You listen to the self–proclaimed Vicar of Christ? But will he tell you God’s holy nature who condemns anything having to do with sex, someone who knows nothing about human sexuality from any experience he could have possibly have ever had?. This is God’s holy nature? Where does it come from? Enunciations from some, I have to say, self–proclaimed voice!

Now I noticed that my distinguished opponent did not address himself to the first question: can we be moral without God? The question seems sophomoric. It answers itself, as I said. It is an empirical question. You don’t have to be a philosopher. Look around you! Look at the people you respect for their decency, for their honesty, for their loyalty, for the way they raise their children, for their service to human beings. They don’t all believe in God. Some have no such belief at all. Most of the people I know do not. The question answers itself. No, you do not. Look around to those who claim this standard. Look at those who most clearly claim this standard. Ask yourself first: Do they do any better than the rest of us? Don’t seem to! Those who proclaim it most loudly, who are elevated for their preaching, on the whole, do it least well.

Mr. Craig said it doesn’t matter what values you choose: If there’s not an objective right and wrong, it doesn’t matter what values you choose. There is an objective good and evil. Human beings are all capable of suffering. Human beings are capable of fear, of insecurity. They’re also capable of love. They’re capable of being hurt. From this fact, which is objective—I mean, no one would deny that, no one would dream of it—from this arise certain rules, which human beings are perfectly capable of discerning, which virtually everyone in this room has discerned, by himself, with the guidance of his parents and the guidance of his culture, not with the guidance of any God.

Just one more point: The Greeks, whom I admire, from whose ethics I drew my own life’s ideals, had no priesthood. They had gods, but their gods laid down no moral laws. There were defects in Greek culture. It was an ancient culture; but there were also glories in Greek culture, and our own culture is derived from it. Virtually everything that is good is derived from it. They didn’t need a law–giving God to achieve their great purpose. And that is [tape unintelligible].

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