The Craig-Jesseph Debate
Does God Exist?

Dr. Craig's Second Rebuttal

I. Reasons for Atheism

First, have we been given any good reason tonight to think that atheism is true? Dr. Jesseph, again, reiterates his two arguments.

Theistic Pluralism

First, he says that if you hold to the Christian concept of God, you must disagree with any other point of view that contradicts it. And I say that is simply a point of logic -- so what? He says, "Well, then you ought to think that Christianity is equally deluded." Well, that doesn't follow at all. If you have good reasons for believing that the Christian concept of God is veridical, or corresponds to reality, then you would be crazy to think that you are equally wrong with the views that contradict it. So the question is again, do we have those good reasons?

Problem of Evil

Secondly, he says, "The problem of evil precludes the existence of God," and I challenged him to prove that it is necessarily true that if God is all powerful, He can create any world that He wants and if God is all good, He would create a world without suffering and evil. I don't think he can provide any sort of proof that either one of those assumptions is necessarily true.

He misinterpreted the argument to say that I am saying that free will is a compensation for suffering in the world, and that leads to the response that God is a sadist. Not at all! What I am simply saying is that God's aims in this life, in this world, are for a maximum number of people to come to know God and His salvation as fully as possible. And it is possible that that would not be achieved in a world that did not involve as much suffering and evil as this world does. Far from being counter-intuitive, I find that very plausible. In fact, I have recently done a study, using a missions handbook, of nations of the world in which there has been intense suffering, and what I found over and over again is that it is in precisely those nations that evangelical Christianity is experiencing its most rapid and sustained growth. For example, to give one illustration: El Salvador. Patrick Johnstone in Operation World writes,

The twelve year civil war, earthquakes, and the collapse of the price of coffee, the country's main export, impoverished the nation. Over 80% live in dire poverty. An astonishing spiritual harvest has been gathered from all strata of society in the midst of the hate and bitterness of war.{1}

In 1960, evangelicals were 2.3% of the population, but today are around 20%. That could be repeated in China, the Philippines, Ethiopia. It is remarkable how in areas where there is intense suffering there is also this flourishing of belief in evangelical Christianity. And it is very possible that in a world utterly free of suffering and pain, or diminished pain and suffering, that there would not be as many people come to know God and His salvation as in this world. Now I appreciate that to those of you who are non-Christians that may seem like it is not worth it. But if you really understand what eternal life is -- to know God forever and have eternal life with Him --, this is the most glorious and wonderful thing that could be achieved! I would simply submit that in God's economy a world that involves suffering and evil, but brings the maximum number of people to the deeper knowledge of Him and His salvation, is worth it.

II. Reasons for Theism

Secondly, are there good reasons, then, to think that theism is true?

Cosmological Argument

(1) I presented first the argument based on the origin of the universe. Dr. Jesseph now responds, "Well, you could introduce anything as the cause of the Big Bang." I am afraid not. Because the Big Bang is the origin of physical space and time themselves, you can have no physical cause of the Big Bang. Quentin Smith, an atheist philosopher, admits

it belongs analytically to the concept of the cosmological singularity that it is not the effect of prior physical events. The definition of singularity entails that it is impossible to extend the space-time manifold beyond the singularity. This effectively rules out the idea that the singularity is an effect of some prior natural process.{2}

If there is a cause of the Big Bang, it must be non-physical, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, changeless, and enormously powerful, as I have argued. It can't be just anything.

Dr. Jesseph says, "Well, maybe Stephen Hawking's model will avoid the origin of the universe." Hawking's model avoids the origin of the universe only by positing imaginary time in the earliest stage of the universe. Two problems with that are, however: (i) it is physically unintelligible. As Sir Arthur Edington said, "It can scarcely be regarded as more than an analytical device" which "certainly do[es] not correspond to any physical reality."{3} (ii) Using imaginary numbers for the time coordinate in Hawking's model turns time into space, and that is just bad metaphysics. Time is ordered by relations of earlier than and later than among the elements of time. There is nothing even remotely like those relations among the elements of space. So the model can only be understood as a mathematical formalism that does not correspond to reality. Hawking admits that when you put real numbers back in for the time coordinate, the singularity reappears and so does the origin to the universe.{4}

Finally, Dr. Jesseph says, "Well, I don't see any non-physical causes working in the world." On the contrary, our first and most intimate acquaintance with causes is with our own volitions, by which we cause things like the raising of my arm. I would submit that we are intimately acquainted with non-physical causes insofar as our minds -- not our brains now, but our minds, which are not non-physical, conscious entities -- bring about physical effects at our discretion, when we will to do them. Similarly, God can will to produce an effect in the universe.

Teleological Argument

(2) What about the complex order in the universe? Dr. Jesseph reiterates the point about inflationary models, but I simply underscore the fact that for the universe to undergo inflation it requires an enormous amount of fine tuning. But secondly, in any case, there isn't any evidence for the inflationary model. It is pure speculation. There is no evidence that suggests the universe actually went through such a period.

Dr. Jesseph says, "Does God make the world more rational if you posit Him?" Yes, in the same way that an intelligent designer makes sense of the artifacts that the archaeologist has found or the presence of the skyscraper in the desert or why the thumb is over the moth hole. Similarly, intelligent design makes sense of the initial conditions of the universe.

He finally asserts, "Well, God is just incomprehensible." Not at all! The theological attribute of God's incomprehensibility means you, being a finite person, can't comprehend all of God, but what you can comprehend of God is certainly rationally comprehensible. He is a concrete entity that actually exists.

Moral Argument

(3) What about objective moral values? Dr. Jesseph says, "Well, why should God's commands give a reason for doing something moral?" Very simply this: Because God's very nature is the Good. He is by nature holy, just, loving, compassionate, and so forth, and this nature issues forth necessarily in divine commands, which then become for us our moral duties. So God provides a reason why it is wrong to inflict pain on other persons; but atheism doesn't provide any reason because on atheism we are just animals, and the rule of the jungle is Survival of the Fittest. An ethic of compassion cannot be generated out of a philosophy of atheism.

Experience of God

(4) Finally, remember my point about God's being known and experienced. In the absence of good reasons to doubt one's experience of God, there isn't any reason to give it up and become an atheist. We are in our rational rights to go on believing that God exists, even in the absence of any arguments for God simply because God is a living and personal reality that can be known in our lives today.


{1} Patrick Johnstone, Operation World, 5th ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1993), pp. 207-208.

{2} Quentin Smith, "The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe," in William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), p. 120.

{3} Arthur Eddington, Space, Time, and Gravitation (rep. ed.: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 48, 181.

{4} Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, with an Introduction by Carl Sagan (New York: Bantam Books, 1988), pp. 138-139.

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