Does God Exist?

William Lane Craig vs. Douglas M. Jesseph

North Carolina State University, North Carolina, United States – 1998

Douglas M. Jesseph – Opening Arguments

Go here to open a new window and view Douglas M. Jesseph's portion of the debate on an external website (

William Lane Craig – Opening Arguments

Thank you and good evening!

In tonight's debate, I am going to defend two basic contentions: (I)There are no good reasons to think that atheism is true and (II)There are good reasons to think that theism is true.

I. Reasons for Atheism

Let's look, then, at that first major contention, that there no good reasons to think that atheism is true. Immediately I have to disagree with Dr. Jesseph's definition of atheism. He says, "Atheism is the claim that there is no rational justification for belief in God." That is not atheism. That is agnosticism, which holds that you don't know whether God exists or not. Atheism is the claim that God does not exist. That is a claim to knowledge and therefore demands justification. This is most evident by the simple fact that many Christian theologians believe in God by faith and do not hold that there are any rational proofs for the existence of God -- for example Karl Barth. But nobody, by any stretch of the imagination, could call Karl Barth an atheist. So Dr. Jesseph has to carry his arguments against the existence of God if he is to prove atheism.

Now he presents three arguments for atheism.

Principle of Conservatism

(1) I will agree that when more familiar forms of explanation are available,then we should prefer those. But he has got to show that there arethese more familiar forms of explanation available for the facts that Iwill be discussing, and I don't think that there are. He says that you can't test God as an explanation. You can run tests to verify God's existence. As we will see, certain beliefs or predictions have been verified by the evidence, and I think, therefore, this constitutes a verification of the theistic hypothesis.

Theistic Pluralism

(2) His second argument is that if you hold to one view of deity, that must deny alternative deities. Well, that is only logically necessary. If a certain concept of God is shown to correspond to reality, then, of course, contradictory concepts do not correspond to reality. But that is no argument against any concept of God or the existence of God.

Problem of Evil

(3) Thirdly, he asked, "Isn't evil inconsistent with God's existence?"I think not. There is no contradiction between the two statements "God exists" and "Evil exists." Now Dr. Jesseph will try to show a contradiction by supplying some additional premises. He says, "If God is all powerful, He can create any world that He wants. And if He is all good, He would want to create a world without evil." The problem is that neither of those additional premises is necessarily true. Consider the premise that if God is all powerful, He can create any world that He wants. If God chooses to create a world involving free creatures,then He cannot guarantee that they will always do what is right. It is logically impossible to make someone freely do something. And so what Dr. Jesseph would have to prove to carry this objection is that there is a possible world of free creatures which God could create which has as much good as this world does, but without the same amount of evil. Now how could he possibly prove such a thing? I couldn't even imagine how you would go about proving this.

What about the other premise, that if God is all good, then He would want to create a world with no suffering? Now certainly I agree that God wants the best for us. But we mustn't assume that the best for us simply means happiness in this life. According to the Christian view of God, the purpose of life is the knowledge of God; and many evils which one suffers in life might be utterly gratuitous with respect to producing happiness, but might not be gratuitous with respect with producing a deeper knowledge of God. Dr. Jesseph, to carry the objection, would have to show that there is a possible world with less suffering and natural evil than this one that also achieves the same amount of the knowledge of God and of God's salvation as this one. Now how could he possibly prove such a thing? I couldn't even imagine.

And that is why the logical problem of evil which he has proposed here has been rejected by the majority of philosophers today. So I don't think that any of his three arguments constitute good grounds for affirming atheism.

II. Reasons for Theism

Now are there good grounds for believing that God does exist? I believe there are, and I want to present four of them in tonight's debate.

Cosmological Argument

(1) God makes sense of the origin of the universe.

Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from? Why everything exists instead of just nothing at all? Well, typically, atheists have said that the universe is just eternal, and that's all. But surely this is unreasonable. Just think about it for a minute. If the universe never had a beginning, then that means that the number of events in the history of the universe going into the past is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the idea of an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions. For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically, you get self-contradictory answers.

This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of this century states,

The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. … The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea.1

But that entails that, since past events are not just ideas in your mind, but are real, the number of past events must be finite. Therefore, the series of past events just can't go back forever. Rather the universe must have begun to exist.

This conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. The astrophysical evidence indicates that the universe began to exist in a great explosion called the "Big Bang" 15 billion years ago. Physical space and time were created in that event,as well as all the matter and energy in the universe. Therefore, as the Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle points out, the Big Bang Theory requires the creation of the universe from nothing. This is because if you go back in time, you reach a point, at which, in Hoyle's words, "the universe was shrunk down to nothing at all."2Thus, what the Big Bang model requires is that the universe began to exist and was created out of nothing. That is why you cannot agree with Dr. Jesseph when he says, "Why not believe that the universe is just eternal?"

Now this tends to be very awkward for the atheist. For as Anthony Kennyof Oxford University urges, "A proponent of the Big Bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that … the universe came from nothing and by nothing." 3

But surely that doesn't make sense. Out of nothing, nothing comes. So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause which brought the universe into being.

Now from the very nature of the case, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe. It must be uncaused because we have seen there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. It must be timeless, and therefore changeless, at least without the universe, because it created time. Because it also created space, it must transcend space as well and, therefore, must be immaterial, not physical. In other words, it has some of the central attributes of God which Professor Jesseph described at the beginning of his speech.

Notice that I am not saying that this Being existed before the Big Bang temporally. He is causally prior to the Big Bang, but not temporallyprior to the Big Bang.

Thus, the Big Bang Theory fits in with what the Christian theist has always believed, namely, that "In the beginning God created the universe."4Now I simply put it to you: Which makes more sense, that the Christian theist is right on this matter or that the universe just popped into being, uncaused, out of nothing? I, at least, don't have any trouble assessing these alternatives.

Teleological Argument

(2) God makes sense of the complex order in the universe.

During the last 30 years, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions simply given in the Big Bang itself. We now know that life-prohibiting universes are vastly more probable than any life-permitting universe like ours. How much more probable? Well, before I give you an estimation, let me give you some numbers to give you a feel for the odds. The number of seconds in the history of the universe is about 10 to the 18th power. The number of sub-atomic particles in the entire universe is about 10 to the 80th power. Now with those numbers in mind, consider the following: Donald Page, one of America's eminent cosmologists, has calculated the odds of our universe existing as being one chance out of 10 to the power of 10 to the 124th power, a number which is so inconceivable that to call it astronomical would be a wild understatement!5

Our discovery of the fine-tuning of the Big Bang for intelligent life is like someone trudging through the Sahara Desert and, rounding a sand dune, suddenly being confronted with a skyscraper the size of the Empire State Building! We would rightly dismiss as mad any suggestion that it just happened to come together there by chance. Similarly, we would find equally insane the idea that any arrangement of sand particles at that place would be improbable and therefore there is nothing here to be explained.

Again, it seems to me that the view that the Christian theist has always held, that there is an intelligent designer of the universe, seems much more plausible than the atheistic view that the universe, when it popped into being uncaused out of nothing, just happened to be, by chance, fine-tuned with an incomprehensible complexity and detail for the existence of intelligent life.

Now Dr. Jesseph raises four objections that I think can be easily dismissed.(i) The human body could have been better designed. I don't care to dispute the point. You can't deny the design of a watch because there could have been a better-running, more complex watch. (ii) Evolution accounts for the appearance of design in biological organisms. My argument concerns the initial conditions of the Big Bang on which evolution itself depends and therefore does nothing to refute my argument. (iii) Maybe there is more than one God or designer. Occam's Razor says that you do not postulate causes beyond necessity. One cause is enough. That suffices to explain the data. (iv) It is not a supernatural cause. I beg to differ. This is a cause of the design of the universe, of the origin of the universe with its initial conditions in the Big Bang. So it is clearly supernatural.

Moral Argument

(3) God makes sense of objective moral values in the world.

If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Many theists and atheists alike concur on this point. For example, the late J.L. Mackie of Oxford University, one of the most influential atheists of our time, admitted, "If … there … are objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus, we have … a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god. …"6 But in order to avoid God's existence, Mackie therefore denied that objective moral values exist. He wrote, "It is easy to explain this moral sense as a natural product of biological and social evolution."7Professor Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at the University of Guelph, agrees. He explains,

Morality is a biological adaptation, no less than are hands and feet and teeth. … Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, [ethics] is illusory. … Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction … and any deeper meaning is illusory.8

    Friedrich Nietzsche, the great atheist of the last century who proclaimed the death of God, understood that the death of God meant the destruction of all meaning and value in life. I think that Friedrich Nietzsche was right. But we've got to be very careful here. The question here is not:Must we believe in God in order to live moral lives? I am not claiming that we must. Nor is the question: Can we recognize objective moral values without believing in God? I certainly think that we can. Rather the question is: If God does not exist, do objective moral values exist?

    Like Mackie and Ruse, I must confess that I just don't see any reason to think that in the absence of God the morality evolved by Homo sapiensis objective. Dr. Jesseph's values are just obligations we owe to other people, but I don't see any reason in the absence of God to think that there are such obligations. After all, if there is no God, then what's so special about human beings? They're just accidental by-products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust called the planet Earth, lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe, and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time.

    On the atheistic view, some action, say, rape, may not be socially advantageous,and so in the course of human evolution, it has become taboo. But that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really wrong. On the atheistic view, apart from the social consequences, there is nothing really wrong with your raping someone. Thus, without God there isn't any absolute right and wrong that imposes itself on our conscience.

    But the problem is that such a view is so obviously false. Objective values do exist, and deep down we all know it. There is no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of the physical world. Actions like rape, torture, child abuse, and soforth, aren't just socially unacceptable behavior. They are moral abominations. Some things are really wrong. Similarly, love, equality, generosity, and self-sacrifice are really good. But if objective values cannot exist without God, and objective values do exist, then it follows logically and inescapably that God exists.

    Now does that mean that theists do the good out of fear, as Dr. Jesseph alleges? Not at all! I believe that as Christians, you do the good out of a loving response to your God and Father. It is because you love God so much, who gave Himself for you, who forgave your moral evils that you have committed in this life, that your natural response is one of love and obedience, to live a life that is holy and pleasing to Him. So it's not a matter of living out of fear.

    But notice that in his arguments, Dr. Jesseph never explained what the atheistic explanation of the origin of the universe was. He never gave any explanation for the complex order in the universe that is present in the initial conditions. And he never told us what is the foundation for objective moral values. In all of these ways, it seems to me, theism makes more sense than atheism.

    Experience of God

    (4) Finally, God can be immediately known and experienced.

    Now this isn't really an argument for God's existence. Rather it is the claim that you can know that God exists wholly apart from arguments simply by immediately experiencing Him. This was the way that people in the Bible knew God. As Professor John Hick explains,

    God was known to them as a dynamic will interacting with their own wills,a sheer given reality … as inescapably to be reckoned with as destructive storm and life-giving sunshine. … They did not think of God as an inferred entity, but as an experienced reality. … To them God was not … an idea adopted by the mind, but the experiential reality which gave significance to their lives.9

    Now if this is the case, then there is a danger that proofs for God could actually distract our attention from God Himself. If you are sincerely seeking God, then I believe that God will make His existence evident to you. The Bible promises, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."10 We mustn't so concentrate on the external proofs that we fail to hear the inner voice of God speaking to our own hearts. For those who listen, God becomes an immediate reality in their lives.

    Now Dr. Jesseph would dismiss this experience as being purely based on psychological factors and wish-fulfillment. But the point of the argument that I am giving here is that belief in God, when you experience Him and know Him, is a properly basic belief. It is like the belief in the existence of the external world. Sure, it's possible that there is no external world, that you are really a brain in a vat being stimulated with electrodes by a mad scientist to believe that you are here in this auditorium experiencing this lecture, when actually you are not. You are just a brain sitting in a vat of chemicals being stimulated to think that. But why believe such a hypothesis? Why doubt your experience of the external world? In the absence of good reasons to doubt that, you are within your rational rights in believing that experience to be veridical and genuine. Similarly, in the absence of any reasons to adopt atheism, why should I give up or deny my experience of the existence of God, which is so real and significant to me?


    In conclusion, then, I don't think we have seen good reasons to show that God does not exist, and we have seen four reasons to think that God does exist. Together, these reasons constitute a powerful cumulative case for theism. If Dr. Jesseph wants us to believe atheism instead, then he has got to come back and tear down all four of the reasons for God's existence that I have given and then in their place erect a case of his own to show that God does not exist. Until and unless he does that, I think that we can conclude that theism is the more rational world view.

    Douglas M. Jesseph – Opening Arguments

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    William Lane Craig – First Rebuttal

    In this speech, I would like to review those two basic contentions that I have offered to defend tonight and see how they fared in light of Dr. Jesseph's criticisms.

    I. Reasons for Atheism

    First, is there any good reason to think that atheism is true?

    Theistic Pluralism

    Now Dr. Jesseph has reiterated that if you hold to a particular concept of God, this rules out the possibility of other Gods, and he finds this" unpleasant." I find that to simply be logically necessary. That is not an argument. If there is a concept of God that corresponds to reality, then obviously anything logically incompatible with that does not correspond to reality. That is not an argument against the existence of God.

    Problem of Evil

    Dr. Jesseph drops the point about the problem of evil. He didn't answer my allegation that he can't prove either of those two subsidiary premises; but to drive the point home, let me quote from Alvin Plantinga, one of America's leading philosophers on this problem. He says,

    Now, as opposed to twenty or twenty-five years ago, most [atheists] have conceded that in fact there isn't any inconsistency between the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good God and the existence of the evil the world contains. … It is heartening to see that the [atheists]are giving up the incompatibility thesis and are now prepared to concede that there is no contradiction here: that's progress. 11

    That is progress; and I think it means that we haven't been offered any good reason tonight to think that atheism is true.

    II. Reasons for Theism

    Now what about the reasons that I offered to show that theism is true?

    Cosmological Argument

    (1) First, I argued that God made sense out of the origin of the universe. Here Dr. Jesseph says, "The atheist doesn't need an explanation of the origin of the universe." But let me appeal to hisPrinciple of Conservatism. That states that you should not posit unusual explanations when usual ones will do the work. The trouble is, he doesn'thave any explanation here on an atheistic world view. Therefore, the principle justifies appealing to a supernatural cause. Remember what Anthony Kenny said: on the Big Bang model of the origin of the universe the atheist has to believe that the universe just came from nothing and bynothing, which I think is metaphysically absurd.

    Now Dr. Jesseph says, "But the Big Bang is terribly uncertain. We can't go on this basis." Two comments. (i) I gave a philosophical argument for the beginning of the universe, based on the impossibility of an actually infinite regress of events. That sustains the conclusion alone; the Big Bang merely provides empirical confirmation of that philosophical conclusion already reached. But (ii) I must say I find it rather hypocritical when atheists use the theory of biological evolution to try to trash the design argument and Christian belief in a Designer and a Creator, but then the minute that science begins to confirm the Christian hypothesis through the Big Bang theory, all of a sudden we hear these grave intonations about how uncertain the model is, how we cannot trust its predictions for the future, and so forth. That is simply talking out of both sides of your mouth. The fact is that on Dr. Jesseph's view, the atheist must reject the Big Bang theory, which is the paradigm model of modern cosmology, in order to sustain his atheism. Now if you are an atheist, I think that oughtto shake you up. That should make you very, very sober, I think, about what your world view is committing you to. By contrast, the Christian view, which predicted the origin of the universe long before it was ever discovered empirically, makes sense out of the origin of the universe and explains why it exists -- none of this hocus-pocus about something coming into being out of nothing without a cause.

    Teleological Argument

    (2) Now what about the complex order in the universe? Here Dr.Jesseph says, "The question is, are the initial conditions of the universe purposed by an intelligent designer for intelligent life?" That is, indeed, the question, I agree. But, he says, "You cannot predict the outcome of the Big Bang; therefore, it cannot be designed."I think this is just confused. The Big Bang singularity, the initial beginning point, is lawless, but in the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang the universe goes through several phase transitions, as they are called, in which these different cosmological quantities come out -- things like the relationship between the gravitational force and the weak force, between the mass of the proton and the mass of the neutron, and so forth. And what the atheist has to say is that the universe went through this series of phase-breaking transitions, and time after time after time, with an incomprehensible complexity and improbability, these conditions all fell out perfect for the sustenance and existence of intelligent life. It seems to me that that points to an explanation in design, not just chance.

    Dr. Jesseph replies, "Well, it is only improbable relative to other universes." Now I am not sure what his point is here, but let me try to explain the probability.12Imagine that our universe is a red dot on a piece of paper. What you do is then alter infinitesimally some of the quantities that I described, like the neutron/proton mass ratio. That represents a new universe. If that universe is life-permitting, make it a red dot. If it is life-prohibiting, make it a blue dot. And then do it again, then do it again, then do it again. You know what you come up with? You come up with a sea of blue,with only a few pin points of red. That is what I mean when I say that it is incomprehensibly improbable that our universe should be fine-tuned in the way that it is for intelligent life.

    Dr. Jesseph says, "But improbabilities happen all the time. Any arrangement is improbable." Remember, that is like somebody trying to explain away the skyscraper in the desert by saying, "Any arrangement of sand particles at that place is equally improbable; therefore we don't have to explain the skyscraper." Not at all! It is highly improbable that there should be a life-permitting universe in existence given the initial conditions of the Big Bang. And this improbability, I believe, cries out for an explanation.

    Let me give you an illustration from John Leslie, the philosopher who has occupied himself most with these issues.13He gives the example of the dishonest silk merchant who shows us his roll of silk for us to buy, and it just so happens that his thumb is covering the moth hole in the silk. Now what would you say to somebody that says,"Well, that doesn't cry out for any explanation because any place on the cloth where the thumb might be placed is equally improbable and therefore there is no need to say why is it over the hole?" Obviously, its being over the hole rather than some other place cries out for somesort of explanation. There is an apparent explanation for that, namely, he is dishonest; he wants to conceal the flaw. Similarly, with respect to these initial conditions of the universe, there is an apparent explanation for this in intelligent design.

    We intuitively recognize this sort of complexity. Imagine an archaeologist digging in the earth and unearthing artifacts like things shaped like tomahawks and arrowheads and so forth, and he says, "Oh, egad, look how the processes of sedimentation and metamorphosis have produced these curious rocks!" Of course not! He implicitly sees that there is an apparent explanation for these. It would be idle for him to say, "Well, but any rock formation in that place would be equally improbable." There is an apparent explanation for the complexity that is there, namely intelligent design. Similarly, the unbelievable complexity in the initial conditions of the universe cries out for an explanation, which, I think, makes design a very plausible hypothesis.

    Now Dr. Jesseph would eliminate this design or these complex features by saying you can adopt an inflationary model of the universe. This doesn't get around the problem at all, because as John Leslie has shown, even the inflationary hypothesis requires an enormous degree of fine tuning in order to get the inflation started, so it just puts off the question one more step.14

    And, finally, I think, we get to the real point. Dr. Jesseph says, "God is incomprehensible, and so how can He explain anything?" But that's not the way God is to me. I am talking about a concrete reality, a designer and intelligent mind who created the universe, brought it into being, is the source of moral goodness and value. He is not incomprehensible except in the sense that we can't understand everything about Him; but He is a clearly defined entity that I postulate, just as a scientist might postulate the existence of quarks or strings or other high level entities in theoretical physics to explain certain phenomena. So I don't think we've seen any good explanation on the atheist view for the complex order in the initial conditions of the universe. Dr. Jesseph has to just say it is there by chance.

    Moral Argument

    (3) What about objective moral values in the world? Here Dr.Jesseph simply asks, "What are objective values?" Objective values are values that hold independently of whether anybody believes in them or not. That is what an objective value is, and I submit those can't exist unless there is God to ground them.

    He says, "Well, what is special about human beings? I answer thatthey suffer pain." But what I want to know is why on an atheistic view is it wrong to inflict pain on organisms? Animals do it all the time to each other, and that's all we are on an atheistic view. Richard Taylor,the ethicist, imagines people living in a state of nature without moral laws. Suppose one person kills another one and takes his goods. Taylor says this:

    Such actions, though injurious to their victims, are no more … unjust,or immoral than they would be if done by one animal to another. A hawk that seizes a fish from the sea kills it, but does not murderit; and another hawk that seizes the fish from the talons of the first takes it, but does not steal it -- for none of these things is forbidden. And exactly the same considerations apply to the people weare imagining.15

    In a world without God, who is to say what is right and wrong? Who is to say that moral values exist? It seems to me that we would just be like these animals in the animal kingdom. But, as I think we both agree, this is obviously wrong. There are objective moral values that exist, and therefore it follows logically and inescapably that God exists.

    Experience of God

    (4) Finally, can God be known and experienced? Here, Dr. Jesseph asks, "Is this a reliable route to the truth? What about David Koresh?"In the case of David Koresh, we have good reasons to doubt the veridicality of his experiences -- for example, his fanciful hermeneutics and biblical exegesis, which are demonstrably false. So we would have good reasons to doubt that experience. But, in the absence of good arguments for atheism, I don't have any reason to doubt my experience of God, anymore than I have reasons to doubt my experience of the external world. Why should I give up my belief in the reality of the external world, in the absence of good reasons? And why should I give up my belief in God, who is a living and present reality to me, in the absence of good arguments for atheism? I can't see any good reason to.


    So, basically, I think what we have got tonight are good reasons, good suggestive pointers, to the existence of God as the creator, designer,and sustainer of the universe and the source of objective value, and wehave not got any good reason to give up our experience of God and become an atheist. So I am simply reluctant to adopt atheism. I don't see anygood reason to embrace atheism. It seems to me that it is more plausible to be a theist.

    Douglas M. Jesseph – First Rebuttal

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    William Lane Craig – Second Rebuttal

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

    Theistic Pluralism

    First, he says that if you hold to the Christian concept of God, youmust disagree with any other point of view that contradicts it. And I saythat is simply a point of logic -- so what? He says, "Well, then youought to think that Christianity is equally deluded." Well, that doesn'tfollow at all. If you have good reasons for believing that the Christianconcept of God is veridical, or corresponds to reality, then you wouldbe crazy to think that you are equally wrong with the views that contradictit. So the question is again, do we have those good reasons?

    Problem of Evil

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

    He misinterpreted the argument to say that I am saying that free willis a compensation for suffering in the world, and that leads to the responsethat God is a sadist. Not at all! What I am simply saying is that God'saims in this life, in this world, are for a maximum number of people tocome to know God and His salvation as fully as possible. And it is possiblethat that would not be achieved in a world that did not involve as muchsuffering and evil as this world does. Far from being counter-intuitive,I find that very plausible. In fact, I have recently done a study, usinga missions handbook, of nations of the world in which there has been intensesuffering, and what I found over and over again is that it is in preciselythose nations that evangelical Christianity is experiencing its most rapidand 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 priceof coffee, the country's main export, impoverished the nation. … Over 80%live in dire poverty. … An astonishing spiritual harvest has been gatheredfrom all strata of society in the midst of the hate and bitterness of war.16

    In 1960, evangelicals were 2.3% of the population, but today are around20%. That could be repeated in China, the Philippines, Ethiopia. It isremarkable how in areas where there is intense suffering there is alsothis flourishing of belief in evangelical Christianity. And it is verypossible that in a world utterly free of suffering and pain, or diminishedpain and suffering, that there would not be as many people come to knowGod and His salvation as in this world. Now I appreciate that to thoseof you who are non-Christians that may seem like it is not worth it. Butif you really understand what eternal life is -- to know God forever andhave eternal life with Him --, this is the most glorious and wonderfulthing that could be achieved! I would simply submit that in God's economya world that involves suffering and evil, but brings the maximum numberof 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 thecause of the Big Bang." I am afraid not. Because the Big Bang is theorigin of physical space and time themselves, you can have no physicalcause of the Big Bang. Quentin Smith, an atheist philosopher, admits

    it belongs analytically to the concept of the cosmological singularitythat it is not the effect of prior physical events. The definition of singularity… entails that it is impossible to extend the space-time manifoldbeyond the singularity. … This effectively rules out the idea that thesingularity is an effect of some prior natural process.17

    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 avoidthe origin of the universe." Hawking's model avoids the origin ofthe universe only by positing imaginary time in the earliest stage of theuniverse. Two problems with that are, however: (i) it is physically unintelligible.As Sir Arthur Edington said, "It can scarcely be regarded as morethan an analytical device" which "certainly do[es] not correspondto any physical reality."18(ii) Using imaginary numbers for the time coordinate in Hawking's modelturns time into space, and that is just bad metaphysics. Time is orderedby relations of earlier than and later than among the elementsof time. There is nothing even remotely like those relations among theelements of space. So the model can only be understood as a mathematicalformalism that does not correspond to reality. Hawking admits that whenyou put real numbers back in for the time coordinate, the singularity reappearsand so does the origin to the universe.19

    Finally, Dr. Jesseph says, "Well, I don't see any non-physicalcauses working in the world." On the contrary, our first and mostintimate acquaintance with causes is with our own volitions, by which wecause things like the raising of my arm. I would submit that we are intimatelyacquainted with non-physical causes insofar as our minds -- not our brainsnow, but our minds, which are not non-physical, conscious entities -- bringabout 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. Jessephreiterates the point about inflationary models, but I simply underscorethe fact that for the universe to undergo inflation it requires an enormousamount of fine tuning. But secondly, in any case, there isn't any evidencefor the inflationary model. It is pure speculation. There is no evidencethat suggests the universe actually went through such a period.

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

    He finally asserts, "Well, God is just incomprehensible."Not at all! The theological attribute of God's incomprehensibility meansyou, being a finite person, can't comprehend all of God, but whatyou can comprehend of God is certainly rationally comprehensible. He isa 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 natureholy, just, loving, compassionate, and so forth, and this nature issuesforth necessarily in divine commands, which then become for us our moralduties. So God provides a reason why it is wrong to inflict pain on otherpersons; but atheism doesn't provide any reason because on atheism we arejust animals, and the rule of the jungle is Survival of the Fittest. Anethic 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, thereisn't any reason to give it up and become an atheist. We are in our rationalrights to go on believing that God exists, even in the absence of any argumentsfor God simply because God is a living and personal reality that can beknown in our lives today.

    Douglas M. Jesseph – Second Rebuttal

    Go here to open a new window and view Douglas M. Jesseph's portion of the debate on an external website (

    William Lane Craig – Third Rebuttal

    Well, this has really been an enjoyable debate!

    I. Reasons for Atheism

    Let's look at the first contention that I said I would defend, that there is no good reason to think atheism is true.

    Problem of Evil

    Basically, what it has boiled down to here is the problem of evil on the atheistic side. Does that provide adequate grounds for believing that God does not exist? What Dr. Jesseph says now in response to my final rebuttal is that God is compelling people to believe in Him. Not at all! I am not maintaining that God tortures people or anything of that sort. But I am saying that in a world in which there were no suffering, no evil, it is very possible that people would be spoiled, immature, and irresponsible and would not in fact seek God. If God can win people's salvation and a deeper knowledge of Himself by allowing suffering and evil in the world, then I think that it is certainly worth it, and those who are redeemed and are in eternity with God in heaven, looking back, will say, "I would go through it a million times over to know this joy and this bliss and this fulfillment!" So, when you look at it from God's perspective in eternity, I don't think that the evil in the world provides any sort of disproof of Christian theism.

    II. Reasons for Theism

    Now what about the claim that God does exist? Are there good reasons to think theism is true?

    Cosmological Argument

    First, the origin of the universe. Notice that Dr. Jesseph has not been able to supply any sort of explanation of the origin of the universe. He appeals to Stephen Hawking's use of imaginary numbers, saying this is common in physics. It is only an auxiliary mathematical device, a "mathematical trick" in physics -- for example, in quantum physics. It doesn't represent real quantities, and it can't be metaphysically correct because it turns time into space. He says, "Well, that's only if you believe in real tense." Now that is simply not the case. As long as you believe time's elements are ordered by earlier than and later than, you can't buy into Hawking's theory that time is just a dimension of space.

    With respect to our own volitions being non-physical causes, he says,"Well, this is absurd. It is incomprehensible. Everything we do has a physical determining cause." Notice that that is an expression of the view of determinism, and I would say that determinism cannot be rationally affirmed because the decision to believe in determinism is then itself determined. It is not a rational choice. It is no more rational than getting a toothache. So determinism is incapable of rational affirmation. And I think that we do have an intuition of ourselves as non-physical causes. That doesn't "overthrow all of physics and so forth." It just means that you don't believe in materialism, which cannot be rationally affirmed anyway.

    Dr. Jesseph then says that the universe could have always existed even though it is finite in the past. Look, this is just a word game. To say it has always existed on that view means that at every time in the past that there is, the universe has existed. Granted; but it hasn't always existed in the sense that time is infinite in the past. There was definitely a beginning, and the universe came into existence out of nothing. And that cries out for an explanation, an explanation in a being that is uncaused, transcends time and space, and brought the universe into being.

    Teleological Argument

    (2) What about the complex order in the universe? Again Dr. Jesseph resorts to the inflationary model, but remember that I pointed out that even if that model is true -- and there is no evidence that it is -- it still requires fine-tuning in order for inflation to occur. So the atheistis making enormous faith commitments here with respect to the chance production of the initial conditions of the universe, as it pops into being uncaused out of nothing.

    Moral Argument

    (3) What about objective moral values? Well, it appears to me, according to my notes, Dr. Jesseph simply dropped this point. If God exists,then we have a foundation for the moral values that we both want to affirm and hold dear. If God does not exist, then there is no reason to believe in the objectivity of human moral values. They simply become the by-product of socio-biological evolution.

    Experience of God

    (4) Finally, what about the point that God can be known and experienced? Here I would like to challenge you personally to seek for God in your own experience. I wasn't raised in a Christian home, but when I became a teenager, I began to ask the "big questions" in life, about the meaning of my life, and so forth, and I began to read the New Testament. And as I did, I was captivated by the person of Jesus. I found there a reality and an authenticity that I had never discovered anywhere else. And, to make a long story short, I experienced a sort of spiritual rebirth in my life through which God became a living and ever-present reality with me. I believe you can find this reality as well, if you will seek it with an open mind and an open heart. So that would be my challenge that I want to leave with you tonight. When you go home tonight and you're lying inbed, think about it. Could there be a God who really exists, who wants to know me, and who wants me to know Him and to be His friend? It could change your life, just as it changed mine.


    1 David Hilbert, "On the Infinite," in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Introduction by Paul Banecerraf and Hilary Putnam (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall,1964), pp. 139, 141.

    2 Fred Hoyle, Astronomy and Cosmology (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1975), p. 658.

    3 Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas' Proofs of God's Existence (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), p. 66.

    4 Genesis 1:1.

    5 Donald Page, cited in L. Stafford Betty and Bruce Cordell, "God and Modern Science: New Life for the Teleological Argument," International Philosophical Quarterly27 (1987): 416. Betty and Cordell actually get the number too small.

    6 J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), pp. 115-16.

    7 Ibid., pp. 117-118.

    8 Michael Ruse, "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics," in The Darwinian Paradigm (London:Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269.

    9 John Hick, "Introduction,"in The Existence of God, ed. John Hick, Problems of Philosophy Series(New York: Macmillan Co., 1964), pp. 13-14.

    10 James 4:8.

    11 Alvin Plantinga, "Tooley and Evil: A Reply," Australasian Journal of Philosophy 60 (1981):74. I have substituted the more familiar "atheists" for Plantinga's self-coined "atheologians" for clarity's sake.

    12 The following illustration is drawn from John Barrow, The World within the World (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 216.

    13 John Leslie, Universes(London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 10, 121.

    14 Ibid., pp. 29-33.

    15 Richard Taylor, Ethics,Faith, and Reason (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985), p.14.

    16 Patrick Johnstone, OperationWorld, 5th ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1993), pp. 207-208.

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

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

    19 Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, with an Introduction by Carl Sagan (New York: BantamBooks, 1988), pp. 138-139.