Good evening! I want to begin by expressing my thanks to ASUW and Campus Crusade for Christ for inviting me to participate in this important debate.
In tonight's debate I'm going to be defending two basic contentions: First of all, that there's no good reason to think that atheism is true and, secondly, that there are good reasons to think that theism is true.
I. There are no good reasons to think
that atheism is true.
So let's look at my first major contention together, that there are no good reasons to think that atheism is true. Atheism, or the claim that there is no God, is just as much a claim to know something as is theism, the claim that God does exist. Therefore, if the atheist is to prove his view, he must do more than say, "There's no good evidence for God's existence." He must present positive evidence against God's existence. Atheist philosophers have tried for centuries to disprove the existence of God, but no one has been able to come up with a convincing argument. So rather than attack straw men at this point, I'll just wait to hear Dr. Washington's answer to the following question: "What is the evidence that atheism is true?"
II. There are good reasons to think
that theism is true.
So let's turn, then, to my second basic contention, that there are good reasons to think that theism is true. Now I'm not claiming that I can prove that God exists with some sort of mathematical certainty. I'm certainly not going to be able to convince you against your will. I'm just saying that the evidence makes it plausible that God exists, that on balance theism is more probable than atheism. Let me present six reasons why I think it's plausible that God exists.1 We'll start with the most abstract and gradually get more concrete.
The Argument from Abstract Objects
1. God provides the best explanation for the existence of abstract entities.2 In addition to tangible, concrete objects like people and trees and chairs, philosophers have noticed that there also appear to be abstract objects, things like numbers, propositions, sets, and properties. These things have a sort of conceptual reality, rather like ideas in your mind. And yet it's obvious that they're not just ideas in any human mind. So what is the metaphysical foundation of such abstract entities? The theist has a plausible answer to that question. They are grounded in the mind of God. Alvin Plantinga, one of America's foremost philosophers, explains:
It seems plausible to think of numbers as dependent upon or even constituted by intellectual activity. But there are too many of them to arise as a result of human intellectual activity. We should therefore think of them as... the concepts of an unlimited mind: a divine mind.3
At the most abstract level, then, theism provides a plausible, metaphysical foundation for the existence of abstract objects. And that's the first reason why I think it's plausible to believe in God.
The Cosmological Argument
2. God provides the best explanation for why the universe exists instead of nothing.4 Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from, why anything at all exists, instead of just nothing? Well, typically atheists have said that the universe is 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 past events 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 actually exists in reality.
David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of this century, states, "The infinite is no where 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...."5 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 can't go back forever; rather the universe must have begun to exist.
This conclusion has been confirmed by a series of remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. The astrophysical evidence indicates the universe began to exist in a cataclysmic explosion known as 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, as you go back in time, you reach a point at which, in Hoyle's words, the universe was "shrunk down to nothing at all."6 Thus, what the Big Bang model requires is that the universe began to exist and was created out of nothing.
No, this tends to be very awkward for the atheist. As Anthony Kenny of Oxford University says, "A proponent of the Big Bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that....the universe came by nothing and from nothing."7 But that's a pretty hard pill to swallow! Out of nothing, nothing comes. So why does the universe exist? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause that brought the universe into being. From the very nature of the case, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe. Isn't it incredible that the Big Bang theory confirms what the Christian theist has always believed, that "In the beginning, God created the universe"?
Now I simply put it to you: which is more plausible?---That the Christian theist is right, or that the universe just popped into existence, uncaused, out of nothing? I, at least, don't have any trouble assessing these probabilities.
The Teleological Argument
3. God provides the best explanation for the complex order in the universe.8 During the last thirty years, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicately balanced set of initial conditions simply given in the Big Bang itself. We now know that life-prohibiting universes are vastly more probable than life-permitting universes like ours. How much more probable? Well, before I give you an estimation, let me just give you some numbers to give you a feel for the odds. The number of seconds in the history of the universe is about 1018, that's ten followed by eighteen zeros. The number of subatomic particles in the entire universe is about 1080.
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 on the order of one chance out of 1010(123), a number which is so inconceivable that to call it astronomical would be a wild understatement!9
Robert Jastrow, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has called this the most powerful evidence for the existence of God " ever to come out of science."10 Once again, the view that Christian theists have always held, that there is an intelligent designer of the Cosmos, seems to me to be much more plausible than the atheistic interpretation of chance.
The Moral Argument
4. God provides the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values in the world.11 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.12
But in order to deny God's existence, Mackie therefore denied that objective values exist. He wrote, "It is easy to explain this moral sense as a natural product of biological and social evolution."13Professor 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. I appreciate that when somebody says, `Love thy neighbor as thyself,' they think they are referring above and beyond themselves.... Nevertheless,... such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction,... and any deeper meaning is illusory....14
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'm not claiming that we must. Nor is the question, "Can we recognize objective moral values without believing in God?" I think that we can. Rather, the question is, "If God does not exist, do objective moral values exist?" Like Mackie and Ruse, I just don't see any reason to think that in the absence of God, the morality evolved by homo sapiens is objective. 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 a 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.
[faint applause, then laughter]
On the atheistic view, some action, say, rape, may not be socially advantageous and so in the course of human evolution has become taboo. But that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really wrong. On the atheistic view, if you can escape the social consequences, there's nothing really wrong with your raping someone. Thus, without God there is no absolute right and wrong which imposes itself on our conscience.
But the fact is that objective moral values do exist, and we all know it. There's no more reason to deny the objective existence of moral values than to deny the objective reality of the physical world. Actions like rape, torture, and child abuse aren't just socially unacceptable behavior. They're moral abominations. Even Ruse himself admits, "The man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says two plus two equals five."15 Some things are really wrong. Similarly, love, equality, 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.
The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth
5. God provides the best explanation for the historical facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.16 The historical person Jesus of Nazareth was a remarkable individual. New Testament critics have reached something of a consensus that the historical Jesus came on the scene with an unprecedented sense of divine authority, the authority to stand and speak in God's place. That's why the Jewish leadership instigated his crucifixion on the charge of blasphemy. He claimed that in himself the Kingdom of God had come and as visible demonstrations of this fact, he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms.
But the supreme confirmation of his claim was his resurrection from the dead. If Jesus did rise from the dead, then it would seem that we have a divine miracle on our hands, and thus indirect evidence for the existence of God. Now there are three main historical facts that support the resurrection of Jesus: the empty tomb, Jesus' appearances alive after his death, and the very origin of Christian faith. Let me look very briefly at each one of these.
The Empty Tomb
First, the evidence indicates that Jesus' tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers on Sunday morning. According to Jacob Kremer, an Austrian scholar who has specialized in the study of the resurrection, "by far most scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the Biblical statements about the empty tomb."17 And he lists twenty-eight prominent scholars in support. I can think of at least sixteen more that he neglected to mention. According to the New Testament critic D. H. Van Daalen, "It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds. Those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions."18
Jesus' Appearances after His Death
Secondly, the evidence indicates that on separate occasions, different individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death. According to the late Norman Perrin of the University of Chicago, "The more we investigate the traditions with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear on which they are based."19 These appearances were bodily and physical and were witnessed not only by believers, but also by skeptics, unbelievers, and even enemies.
The Origin of the Christian Faith
Thirdly, the very origin of the Christian faith implies the reality of the resurrection. We all know that Christianity sprang into being in the middle of the first century. Where did it come from? Why did it arise? Well, all scholars agree that Christianity came into being because the original disciples believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and they proclaimed this message everywhere that they went. But where in the world did they come up with that outlandish belief?
If you deny that Jesus really did rise from the dead, then you've got to explain the origin of the disciples' belief either in terms of Jewish influences or Christian influences. Obviously, it couldn't have come from Christian influences for the simple reason that there wasn't any Christianity yet! But neither can it be explained from the side of Jewish influences because the Jewish concept of resurrection was radically different than Jesus' resurrection. As the reknowned New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias puts it, "Nowhere does one find in the literature [of ancient Judaism] anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus."20 The most plausible explanation of the origin of the disciples' belief, therefore, is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.
Attempts to explain away these three great facts, like "the disciples stole the body," or "Jesus wasn't really dead," have been universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. The simple fact is that there just is no plausible, naturalistic explanation of these facts. And therefore it seems to me that the Christian is amply justified in believing that Jesus rose from the dead and was who he claimed to be. But that entails that God exists.
The Experience of God
6. God can be immediately known and experienced.21 This isn't really an argument for God's existence, rather it's the claim that you can know 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.22
Now if this is the case, arguments for God can actually distract our attention from God Himself. If you are sincerely seeking God, if this is not an intellectual game, then God will make His existence evident to you. The Bible promises, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8). We mustn't so concentrate on the arguments that we fail to hear the inner voice of God to our own hearts. For those who listen, God becomes an immediate reality in their lives.
So in conclusion, then, we've yet to see any arguments to show that God does not exist, and we have seen six reasons to think that God does exist. Together these constitute a powerful, cumulative case for the existence of God. If we are to believe atheism instead, then Dr. Washington is first going to have to tear down all six of the reasons that I've presented in favor of God's existence and then in their place erect a case of his own in favor of atheism. Unless and until he does that, I hope that we can agree that theism is the more plausible world view.
In my first speech I said that I would defend two contentions: First, that there's no good reason to think that atheism is true; second, that there are good reasons to believe that theism is true. Let's look now at the arguments presented by Dr. Washington in favor of atheism to see if there any good reasons to persuade us to become atheists.
I. No good reasons to think
that atheism is true
The Argument from Harm
First, there is the argument from harm. Basically he's saying that the propositions that God exists and that Harm exists are logically inconsistent that somehow it is logically impossible for both be true at the same time. Now they're not explicitly contradictory. Therefore, if they are to be logically incompatible with each other, you have to bring out the hidden assumptions or premises that would show these to be logically impossible. And Dr. Washington says that there are two such premises: First,if God is all-good, then He would want to create a world with no suffering; secondly, if God is all-powerful, He could prevent all suffering in the world, and therefore there should be no harm.23 Notice that in order to prove that God and harm are logically incompatible with each other, Dr. Washington has to show that both of these propositions are necessarily true. I don't think that he can do that.
First of all, if God is all-good, is it necessarily true that He would want to create a world with no suffering? I don't think this is necessarily true. It could be that if God were to create a world of free creatures in which He intervened every time to rescue us from harm, this would be a world in which rational behavior was completely impossible. It would lead to total irresponsibility, total irrationality in our actions. It would mean that you could drive as fast as you wanted on the highway, you could drink or eat any substance you wanted to, you could do anything to another person, you could act anyway you want, and nothing harmful would ever ensue as a consequence. I think that when you think about this, clearly it would make rational behavior completely impossible. So if God creates a world that operates according to certain natural laws, then the fire that warms us will also be the fire that burns us, and it may well be the case that an all-good God would want to create a world governed by natural law, which includes the possibility of harm.
Of course it's also possible, as the Christian believes, that there's an afterlife, in which God will compensate us for the harms that we have borne if we have borne these in courage, faith, and trust in Him. Every immoral act will be punished. So, if you put that into the equation, I think it makes it clear that it is not necessarily true that an all-good God would have to create a world in which there is no harm.
Secondly, if God is all-powerful, can He in fact create a world of free creatures in which no harm occurs? I think this is clearly not necessarily true. Given human freedom, God cannot guarantee how people are going to use that freedom. And if He intervenes every time to prevent people from choosing evil, then we turn into puppets or marionettes. So if God is going to create a world of significantly free moral agents, He has to allow them to make choices for evil, and therefore it may not be within God's power to create a world of free creatures in which evil does not exist. Therefore, I don't think Dr. Washington has been able to prove either of these premises to be necessarily true. And therefore he hasn't been able to prove that harm and God are logically incompatible.
And in fact this is very widely recognized by philosophers today. Peter Van Inwagen of the University of Syracuse reports in the Philosophical Perspectives of 1991, "It used to be widely held that evil was incompatible with the existence of God: that no possible world contained both God and evil. So far as I am able tell, this thesis is no longer defended."24 Similarly, William Alston, a prominent philosopher, says, "It is now acknowledged on (almost) all sides that the logical argument [from evil] is bankrupt."25 So I don't think anyone has been able to show a logical incompatibility between God and harm.
In fact, we can actually prove that these are logically consistent by adding a third premise, namely, that God has a morally sufficient reason to permit harm. As long as that proposition is even possible, it shows that harm and God are logically compatible with each other. So Dr. Washington would have to show that it is logically impossible for God to have morally sufficient reasons for permitting harm, and I'm very skeptical that he can do that.26
Timelessness of God
Well, what about his second argument, that if God is timeless He is an abstract object and cannot be causally involved with the world? This argument, I think, is just logically fallacious. The reasoning seems to be something like this:
- God is timeless.
- Abstract objects are timeless.
- Therefore, God is an abstract object.
And that's just as logically fallacious as saying:
- Dogs are mammals.
- Cats are mammals.
- Therefore, dogs are cats.
It's just logically fallacious to reason that way. God can be timeless because He does not change. If, as I argued in my first speech, the cause of the universe is changeless, then He would be timeless. But that doesn't mean He's an abstract object. It would simply mean He's changeless, and so there would be no before or after in God's experience beyond the Big Bang, beyond the creation of the world.
II. Good Reasons to think
that theism is true
So I don't think that either of these arguments are persuasive arguments to compel us to become atheists. Now what about the six arguments that I gave on behalf of theism?
The Argument from Abstract Objects
The first one was an argument from abstract objects; namely, we know about things like numbers, propositions, and sets. And yet these can't just be a product of the human intellect. These are too many of them. They therefore must exist in a divine mind. Dr. Washington hasn't said anything about that argument yet.
The Cosmological Argument
What about the argument concerning the origin of the universe? He grants my two premises, that whatever begins to exist has a cause, and that the universe began to exist. He grants the conclusion, that there was a cause of the universe. But he says, "Why think that it has the properties of God?" Well, I tried to answer that a bit in my first speech. Since this cause has to transcend space and time, it cannot be any physical object. It cannot be any material object. It cannot be any spatial or temporal object. It has to be a being which is timeless, immaterial, spaceless, and therefore changeless, and enormously powerful in order to bring the universe into existence.
He says, "But is it omniscient and omni-benevolent?" The omniscience of God is given in my first argument based on abstract objects. An omniscient mind would have to exist to contain all of these abstract objects and propositions. Also my third argument based on the complex order of the univeres gives you a personal being. Remember I'm giving a cumulative argument here.
The omni-benevolence of God is given in my fourth argument, that God is the source of all objective moral values. He is the locus and embodiment of absolute goodness. So when you consider my cumulative case, yes, you do get the attributes of God.
In fact, I would argue simply from the nature of the case that this being would have to be a personal Creator. Think of it this way.27 How can you get a temporal effect that begins to exist from an eternal cause? If the cause is eternal, why isn't the effect also eternal?
Let me give you an analogy. Suppose the cause of water's freezing is the temperature's being below zero degrees centigrade. If the temperature were below zero degrees eternally, then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity. It would be impossible for the temperature to be below zero from eternity, and yet the water just began to freeze only fifteen billion years ago. How can you have an eternal cause but a temporal effect?
The only answer to this dilemma, I think, is if the cause is a personal agent endowed with free will, who can eternally and freely will to create an effect in time. So it seems to me that from the very nature of the case this cause of the origin of the universe must be a personal being--- indeed, an omniscient being, in view of the first argument based on abstract objects.
The Teleological Argument
My third argument was that this being must be an intelligent designer of the universe, based on the complex order in the world. Dr. Washington says, "Look, it's improbable that anybody would win a lottery, but somebody has to win." The analogy is that any universe is improbable, but there has to be some universe. I don't think this is analogous at all to what I'm saying. In the case of the universe, as opposed to the lottery, the outcome is specified, and that's what makes the difference.28 I'm saying that life-permitting universes are vastly improbable compared to the whole array of possible universes, and this does cry out for an explanation.
To give you an analogy: Suppose the lottery was always won by somebody with Mafia connections. [moderator laughs] You wouldn't just say in that case, [audience laughter], "Well, look, somebody had to win, and anybody is equally improbable." No, you see you've specified the probability, and it is extremely improbable that people with Mafia connections always win. You would, if you were smart, suspect some hanky-panky going on.
Similarly, when you look at the array of possible universes, practically none of them are life-permitting. And only this tiny, tiny, infinitesimal segment is a life-permitting universe such as ours. Indeed, I think, in this case it isn't silly to think that there is something going on behind the scenes, that this did not arise by chance alone, but that there is a divine intelligence, a cosmic intelligence, which ordered the universe.
The Moral Argument
The argument from objective moral values, which I think is one of the most powerful arguments for God, hasn't been yet addressed.
The Resurrection of Jesus and the Experience of God
What about the historical facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? Dr. Washington says, "Craig believes it is rational to believe in the resurrection, even if there is no evidence for it." Of course! I think this is perfectly rational. On the basis of my experience of Christ as a living reality today, I know he's risen from the dead. And that would be true, even if I lived, say, in Kyrgyzstan, where I never had the opportunity to look at the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, and I never had a New Testament, and I only heard a missionary broadcast on a short-wave radio. I would still be rational on the basis of my experience to believe in the resurrection, even if I didn't have the chance to look at the evidence for it.
Let me give you an analogy.29 Suppose you are accused of a crime that you know you didn't commit, and all the evidence stands against you. Are you obliged to believe that you're guilty because the evidence stands against you? Not at all; you know better. You know you're innocent, even if others think that you may be guilty. Similarly, for the person who has an immediate experience of God, such as I described in my sixth argument, who knows God as a personal, living reality in his life, such a person can know that God exists, even if he's not a philosopher and doesn't understand all of these arguments, and so forth. God can be immediately known and experienced, Christ can be immediately known and experienced in your life today, and that is true even if you've never had the chance to examine the evidence.
But, of course, I do think there's good evidence for the resurrection---for the empty tomb, the appearances, the origin of the Christian way---and that hasn't been yet addressed by Dr. Washington in tonight's debate.
So, on balance, when you weigh the evidence, I think the evidence is clearly on the side of theism and therefore think that theism is the more rational world view.
To answer very directly the question of why we're here: we're here to consider the evidence for and against the existence of God and for each one of us to make up his mind on the basis of what we think is the most plausible.30
I. No good reasons to think
that atheism is true
The Argument from Harm
Now I argued that there is no good reason to think atheism is true. First, what about the argument from harm? Now, to be blunt, what Dr. Washington did in his last speech was basically an appeal to your emotions.31 He read a very dramatic and horrifying account of a viral disease. But it didn't address the philosophical questions. We all admit this is horrible. We all admit there are horrendous evils in the world. But that doesn't address the question: is it necessarily true that an all-good God would create a world in which there is no harm? I suggested that you couldn't have a world without any harm in it, if you wanted rational behavior to be possible.
He says, "Oh, this would be fun!" I think that's the kind of reaction a college sophomore initially has. You know, I can drink and booze it up, do anything I want. But when you think about it for a while, you see that it would be absolutely impossible to behave rationally in a world that didn't operate according to natural laws. What that means is that it would lead to complete immaturity on our part, not responsibility. We would be like coddled, spoiled children, not mature, responsible, rational adults.
Moreover, I said, it may be that God does not have the ability to create a world without harm because of human freedom. And Dr. Washington agrees with that point. So he's willing to allow, now, the horrible evils in the world that human freedom perpetrates.
But he says, "What about natural evils?" Well, again, I said many of these result from natural laws. For example, earthquakes: if God eliminated all earthquakes, you would have to have a world where you didn't have any plate tectonics because that's what causes earthquakes. But without plate tectonics, the continents would all erode into the oceans, and there would be literally no life on earth. So these natural laws that cause harm are in many ways essential to our existence. Indeed, I've seen statements from biologists that even certain diseases and viruses contribute to the total ecosystem in ways that we do not even understand, of which we have no inkling. So it's easy to imagine plucking something out that we find harmful, but we don't even have any conception of the ramifications which that might have on the total world order.
In fact, I said, so long as it's even possible that God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing harm, the propositions that God exists and Harm exists are compatible. And Dr. Washington hasn't addressed that. He's only shown how evil certain things are. But he hasn't shown that God couldn't have morally sufficient reasons to permit it.
For example, maybe there are reasons that emerge later in history. Maybe God's reasons for permitting suffering in a particular case might not emerge until centuries later, maybe in another country. How do we know? There could be a ripple effect sent through history, where God's morally sufficient reason might not emerge until later.
Or it may be that there is no other natural system possible for God, which has these goods in it, but which doesn't also have comparable evils in it. How do we know?
Maybe only in a world that has gratuitous natural evil in it would people seek for God, and find God, and trust in Him. In a world without gratuitous natural evil, perhaps people would not have an incentive to seek God and trust Him.
All of these are possible. All of these and more could be God's morally sufficient reasons for permitting harm. And unless Dr. Washington can show this is logically impossible, there's simply no incompatibility between God and harm.
And remember the point I made about compensation in the afterlife. On the Christian view, the joy of knowing God for eternity, for infinite future time, so far outstrips what we suffer in this life, that no matter what you suffer, when you look back on it from heaven, you would say, "It was worth it! I would do it again to attain this sort of joy, this sort of glory, this sort of fulfillment!" So that compensation has to be put into the equation as well.
So I think, in short, that we haven't seen any logically, demonstrable incompatibility between God and harm.
Timelessness of God
What about God's being an abstract object? Dr. Washington asks here, "If God is not an abstract object or a material object, then what is He?" God is, in short, an unembodied mind. We are embodied minds; God is an unembodied mind.32 And prior to, or rather beyond the existence of, the Big Bang, God existed in a changeless and timeless state.
II. Good Reasons to think
that theism is true
The Argument from Abstract Objects
Now what about the reasons to think that God does exist? First, the argument from abstract objects: Dr. Washington seems to say that you can construct abstract objects by counting. The problem with that suggestion is that there are numbers that no one has ever yet counted, numbers that no one has ever yet even discovered. There are properties that no human mind has ever discovered. So these simply cannot be the product of human intellection. They have to be grounded in an omniscient mind and, in fact, a divine mind.
The Cosmological Argument
He drops the point about the origin of the universe. I think that we have seen that the attributes of God are given by the very nature of the cause of the universe, which he admits exists.
The Teleological Argument
Third, the complex order of the universe: Dr. Washington didn't come back on my analogy of the lottery where the probability is specified, which shows that there needs to be intelligent designer.
The Moral Argument
As for objective moral values, Dr. Washington proposes the Euthyphro dilemma, that either the good is what God wills, or else whatever God wills is good. I would say that this is a false dilemma. You split the horns of the dilemma by saying that the good is the very nature of God and that the commands of God flow necessarily out of His moral nature. Because God is just, He commands things that are for us just. So the good is neither arbitrary, nor is it something outside and above God. Rather the good is the moral nature of God Himself, which is expressed necessarily in His moral commands, which become for us our moral duties.33
Notice, however, that Dr. Washington has never denied the premises of the argument. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. He admits that moral values do exist. It follows therefore logically and inescapably that God exists. If you don't deny the premises, you can't deny the conclusion.
The Resurrection of Jesus
As far as the historical facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are concerned, I'd just invite you to consider this historically. This isn't just something you take by faith. You can investigate these New Testament documents, using the ordinary canons of historiography. And I think you'll find that you can establish to a good degree of credibility facts like the empty tomb, the appearances of Jesus, and the origin of the Christian Way. There isn't any plausible naturalistic explanation for these facts, apart from the resurrection of Jesus.
The Experience of God
Finally, God can be immediately known and experienced. Dr. Washington says that this is not evidence relevant to the debate. I could not disagree more. I think this is very critical to the debate. One of the most important reasons, probably the most important reason, that people believe in God is because of their religious experience. To say that religious experience is irrelevant to question of the existence of God, I think, is just ignoring one of the most important questions. The question is, "Should I trust my religious experience?" Unless I see some good reason to think that my experience is delusory, or psychologically induced, or something, I will trust my experience; and I have an experience of God as a living reality. I believe that this is a reality that you can experience as well; and on the basis of that reality, it's rational to believe that God exists.
So in sum, I think we've got six good reasons to believe that God exists. We have inconclusive reasons for atheism. So I think, on balance, that the probability stands on the side of Christian theism.
I. No good reasons to think
that atheism is true
The choice before us tonight is whether atheism or theism is more plausibly true. I've tried to argue tonight that there are no good reasons to think that atheism is true. And basically what it's come down to in the last speech is the problem of harm. The question is: if God is all-good, is it logically possible that He could create a world involving harm? If God is all-powerful, is it logically possible that He couldn't create a world of free creatures in which there is no harm? It seems to me that Dr. Washington has not been able to demonstrate either of the two premises that are essential to his argument to show that God and harm are logically incompatible.
He says, "Well, it wouldn't be so bad to have a world in which there were no natural laws and you could do whatever you want." I'll simply rest my case in saying that that is logically incompatible with moral maturity, with maturity and responsibility and agency. And I think it is logically possible that God might choose to prefer a world in which moral maturity and responsibility are goods He wants to achieve. And as long as that's logically possible, it follows there's no incompatibility between God and harm.
What about God's having morally sufficient reasons for permitting the harm in the world? I gave a number of suggestions why God might have such reasons. Dr. Washington says, "This is capitulatory." It's not at all capitulatory.34 What I'm saying is that we're not in a good position to assess with confidence the probability of whether God could have a morally sufficient reason for permitting any specific evil. Let me give you an example from science: chaos theory. In chaos theory, it's been shown that even the flutter of a butterfly's wings could set in motion forces that would result in a hurricane over the Atlantic, and yet no one observing that butterfly would be able to predict that outcome. Similarly, when we see, say, the murder of an innocent man, we have no idea of what ripple effect that might send through history, how God's morally sufficient reason for permitting that might not emerge until later. We're simply not in a good position to assess that kind of probability.35
Dr. Washington says, "Well, look, but would you do evil, would you lynch someone, to prevent harm?" I'm not saying that. I'm saying that God allows harm to occur, which He will compensate for in the afterlife, in order to achieve certain greater goods, like moral maturity and human freedom.36 As long as that's even logically possible, it follows that God and harm are not incompatible.
Let me share just one last thought. What is the atheist's alternative? On the atheist's alternative, we are locked in a world with gratuitous and unredeemed evil, with absolutely no hope.37 It seems to me that God is in fact the only answer to the problem of evil because He redeems us from evil. He gives us moral cleansing and forgiveness from the evils we commit. And He offers us an afterlife of unspeakable joy and happiness for eternity, in fellowship with Him, the source of infinite goodness and love. God is ultimately the only solution to the problem of harm.
II. Good reasons to think
that theism is true
Now what about the good reasons to think that theism is true?
The Argument from Abstract Objects
First, you need God as a foundation for the abstract objects that exist, and they can't be merely human constructions.38
The Cosmological Argument
Second, you need God to explain the origin of the universe. Dr. Washington has admitted there has to be a cause of the universe. And I think I showed convincingly that it has the essential attributes of God: timelessness and spacelessness, immateriality, and personality.39
The Teleological Argument
Third, the complex order of the universe requires a designer. Dr. Washington says, "But you don't know that there is a being out there arranging the conditions." The argument is for such a being.40 It's saying that there are two alternatives: chance or intelligent design. And you would have to be crazy to think that this happened by chance, given the odds against a life-permitting universe. Therefore, it follows that design is the more plausible of the two explanations. I don't see how anybody can deny that design is more plausible than chance, given the astronomical odds against these initial conditions.
The Moral Argument
Fourth, objective moral values. I argued that they're rooted in the nature of God Himself and that His moral commands flow necessarily from His divine nature.41
The Resurrection of Jesus
Fifth, the historical facts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. You wouldn't believe in the silly sort of miracle that Dr. Washington imagined because it has no religio-historical context of any significance. But the resurrection of Jesus is different in that it occurs in the context of Jesus' own unparalleled life and teachings and, particularly, his claim to be the absolute revelation and divine son of God. In that context, Jesus'resurrection makes good sense as God's vindication of those claims for which Jesus was convicted for blasphemy. So I think that in the case of Jesus you've got good evidence. Dr. Washington never denied the empty tomb, the appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith.42
The Experience of God
Sixth, God can be immediately known and experienced. I wasn't raised a Christian. I became a Christian in high school as a teenager and found God to be a living reality in my life. I want to challenge you, when you leave this debate, to go home and ask yourself, "Could there really be a God who loves me, who revealed Himself in Christ, who could change my life?" I believe that He could do that for you, just as He did it for me. Thank you!
Question: Dr. Craig, I'm slightly puzzled. You said in the beginning of your argument that the universe cannot be infinite because it leads to logical contradictions, such as, "How can you have infinity minus infinity?", and I accepted your argument at that point. But then in my mind, God Himself cannot be infinite, yet you went on to say God is timeless and you can have infinite happiness in Heaven, so I was somewhat confused. So I basically ignored that you said that. And I said that God cannot be infinite, and I accepted that because it does seem like an impossibility to have infinity minus infinity. Okay, alright. But if he is not infinite, if he is not that, how then can he be explained, rather than nothing, in the case of the universe?
Dr. Craig: This is a good question that students often ask. When theists speak of the "infinity of God", they're not talking about a mathematical infinity. They're not talking about an infinite number of definite and discrete finite parts that make up a whole, like an infinite set. If you will, God's infinity is not a quantitative infinity; it's more like a qualitative infinity. It's a catch-all term meaning that God is morally perfect, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and so forth. But God is not made up of an actually infinite number of definite and discrete finite parts, so the notion of divine infinity isn't this idea of quantitative mathematical idea.
Moderator: Okay, a question over here for Dr. Washington.
Question: Dr. Washington, you say it's wrong to harm an individual for the greater good and used as an example a small black child who whistles at a white woman. Should we lynch the black boy for the greater good? I have two questions. One, isn't this the type of world we live in? Soldiers sacrifice themselves---they die for the greater good. A white man loses his job in reverse discrimination so a black man can get his job. [boosfrom the audience] And second, don't you appreciate the fact that you live in this world?
Dr. Washington: You asked me if I appreciate the fact I lived in a world in which Emmett Till was lynched in 1955? No I don't. Do I, am I happy to live in a world where soldiers may, under certain circumstances, give up their lives? Now note this is a soldier making the choice to give up his or her life for the greater good, not someone killing a soldier for the greater [good]. That's really crucial, okay. That's, that's the central point. You cannot make this decision for someone. You cannot kill somebody, okay, just to make other people happy, or to, you mentioned other people's happiness. Now in certain cases, you know, I'm not going to address your particular example that the question is about, but I want to say that in certain cases, you know you can ask people to make certain sacrifices. But the sort of sacrifices aren't the sort of ones people seem to be making all the time. Giving up their lives. You know, people are being killed for what could arguably be just "character building," if we accept the kind of arguments that Dr. Craig has been giving tonight. That kind of thing is wrong.
Moderator: Okay, a question over here.
Question: Dr. Craig, I have two brief logical points to bring up. First, on the problem of evil. It often seems to me that, not only does it work as stated, but...
Dr. Craig: Can you speak a little more distinctly? I'm having a little trouble understanding.
Question: Sorry. On the matter of the problem of evil, it seems to me that the free will defense really doesn't explain not only natural evil to humans, but even more poignantly, suffering which really has nothing to do with moral will, or even because of nature. It's living entities that don't even the possibility of free will, such as animals and children, particularly small babies.
Moderator: Your question?
Question: The question is, how do you reconcile this with the problem, the free will defense, since they don't have free will?
Dr. Craig: The free will defense is not meant to explain why these things occur. The free will defense is only meant to show that no logical incompatibility has been demonstrated between God and harm. When Plantinga proposed this defense, for example, he said, "Maybe all natural evil is the result of demons," so that all evil is really moral evil. Now that's an absurd hypothesis, but as long as it's logically possible, it shows there's no logical incompatibility between God and harm. Now with respect to natural evils or infant suffering, I already said it seems to me in a world operating according to natural law there would be the possibility of such evils and harms befalling us. But I don't see any logical incompatibility between that and God. C.S. Lewis once said, "What do people mean that if God is all-good, He won't allow any harm? Have they never been to a dentist?" Clearly, sometimes we do allow harm or pain in people's lives in order to achieve greater goods, and God may well do that. It may well be the case that in order to achieve this much good in the world, God had to allow this much gratuitous evil. Now I don't know that, but as long as that's even possible, there's no logical incompatibility between God and evil.
Moderator: Okay. A question over here for Dr. Washington.
Question: If you don't believe in the eyewitness accounts and the other evidence for the birth, life, death, resurrection, and purpose of Jesus Christ here on Earth, how do you propose to explain how and why the Christian religion was created, and why it has become so big, as of late?
Dr. Washington: I'm not a sociologist, okay. And I think that's a sociological question. One could ask that about many movements. Why did the Muslim religion become, be created, and spread so quickly? How did it happen in Buddhism? You know, Christianity did move very quickly in some ways and I think there are some explanations, you know, I'm told. Part of it is that these people really believed, okay. They sincerely believed in their god, and they proselytized. The Jewish religion was, was so against proselytizing they didn't have a lot of competition back then, okay. Here people who were very strong believers, very motivated, they went out to try to get converts. I think it's a very simple sociological explanation.
Moderator: A question for Dr. Craig.
Question: Dr. Craig, isn't it true that the Apostle Paul, who is the most prolific and earliest writer in the New Testament, contradicted your argument on the resurrection because he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:50 that "flesh and blood shall never inherit the kingdom of God"; that he did not believe in the empty tomb---he doesn't mention it anywhere in his writings---and as far as he's concerned there was none; and that he would totally disagree with you that Jesus was a resuscitated corpse who had to move a stone. Could you please respond to that?
Dr. Craig: Yes, with pleasure! [laughter] First of all, even if you say that Paul the Apostle believed in a spiritual, immaterial sort of body, that doesn't deny the resurrection. A good many scholars, for example, Pannenberg, under whom I studied, believe in the empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus, but believe that Jesus had an immaterial resurrection body. So your point about "flesh and blood" is irrelevant to the reality of the resurrection. That has to do with the materiality of Jesus' resurrection body. But in fact I think you're mistaken in your interpretation of that verse. The words, "flesh and blood" is a typical Semiticidiom meaning "mortal human nature." For example, Paul in Galatians 1:18 says that when he was converted on the Damascus road, "I did not confer with flesh and blood, but went away into Arabia." Paul's not talking about anatomy there. He's saying that this weak, mortal human nature cannot inherit the kingdom of God. And therefore the second half of that verse you quoted, in the context, goes on to say, "therefore the perishable must put on imperishability; the corruptible must become incorruptible." So that's not at all incompatible with the physicality of Jesus' resurrection body.
As for Paul and the empty tomb, I'm strongly persuaded that Paul actually does believe in the empty tomb and that he implies i, in two ways. (1) In 1 Corinthians 15 when he says Jesus "died, was buried, and was raised," that implies an empty tomb. For a first-century Jew, it would have been unthinkable to say that someone "died, was buried, and was raised", and yet his body lay in the grave. That would have been a contradiction in terms. (2) When Paul says that Jesus was raised "on the third day," that is probably a reference to the discovery of the empty tomb by the women followers of Jesus on Sunday morning. This dating of the resurrection thus refers to the empty tomb tradition. The tradition shows that Paul knows and believes in it. So I think that Paul actually gives very strong credibility to the tradition of the empty tomb.
Question: Yeah, I have a question that basically relates to the logic behind the harming one for the greater good. And just take a hypothetical situation where someone comes to you and says, "You either kill your parents and your family in this house here, or I'm going to kill all of them plus everybody that lives on the block." And I think that logically, one person would say, "Well, in this situation, killing these few people, harming the small number for the greater good, is in fact the right choice, and that is not an immoral choice to make."
Moderator: Your question?
Questioner: So my question is, how can you now basically use that and say that every case of this is wrong.
Dr. Washington: I wouldn't do it. [applause]
Question: One of the arguments was about this cosmic lottery with the chance of 10^123 about the outcome of our universe being the one where we can live in and that this apparently must have been stacked or guided by somebody to turn out to be this way. However, you brought up the argument that if Mafiosi were winning the lotto over and over again, then obviously somebody was pulling the strings, and nobody would doubt that. The cosmic lottery, in which the cosmos was created, was only played once. For all we know, however, from quantum physics and a few other areas of science there's also the possibility that, indeed, all possible outcomes of multiple choice events may indeed happen. So there, we may be the one universe where life is, and this 10^123 of other universes is indeed out there and exists, where life does not exist. What do you have to say about this?
Dr. Craig: The suggestion here, for those who aren't familiar with this, is that perhaps the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics is correct, that in fact our universe is just one of an infinite number of parallel universes to this one. And I guess my response to that would be, well, multiple in nature. First, I think that it is so metaphysically extravagant that theism looks modest by comparison. It has a bloated ontology of an infinite number of these worlds. Moreover, they have to be very specially orchestrated. It's not enough to just have an infinite number of them, but they have to be both infinite and randomly ordered in order to ensure that the proper results will come about. And I think it also creates extraordinary problems for personal identity, to talk about your counterpart in this other world. You exist in this other world, but then which one is the real you? It seems to me that there are all sorts of extraordinary problems with that, so that I in fact see just no reason to think that these sorts of parallel universes or worlds exist. I think theism is a much more plausible answer to the problem of the initial complex order in the universe.43
Question: I'm a Christian, and I have the Bible to tell me what's right and wrong, and I was just wondering--- well, I have two questions, but one was: how you think that we need to determine what's right and wrong in a society and if you think we should base our moral choices on our own intuition, and secondly, I live in a world with a lot of suffering and death, but I have hope in Jesus and in Heaven, and you live in that world, and I was just wondering what hope you had? [applause]
Dr. Washington: I think that's a great question. I think that's a really great question. I have lot of hope for this world. There's a lot of good in the world. There's a lot of bad, but there's definitely a lot of good, too. A lot of good people doing many, many good things. Many of these people doing many good things are atheists. And you ask, where do they get their moral values? I think it may vary, you know. Ultimately in some sense it comes back to them. But it may come from their community. It may come from their friends when they discuss things. It's not easy, you know. The fact that there's no easy answer where your ethical system comes from, doesn't mean, you know, that, that it's wrong, not to be able to open up a book. I think all of us struggle with ethical issues everyday, and I think that's part of what it is to be human.
Moderator: Okay, thank you. [applause]
Question: My question is real simple. What I don't understand, and something that's always puzzled me about Christianity, is how the Bible can say a person could commit a hundred million crimes, they could be Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin, murder a hundred million people, they confess their crimes, they accept Jesus, you know, they do the whole Christian thing, and they get to go to Heaven. And you could have the most perfect, godly, wonderful man, who does wonderful things for society and saves millions of lives, but just because he's of a different religion, or he was never exposed to Christian doctrine, therefore he goes to Hell...
Dr. Craig: I don't think Christianity says that.
Questioner: It absolutely does! That's the whole basis of Christianity.
Dr. Craig: Well, I disagree. I think I know fairly well what it says, and [laughter, applause] in Romans chapters 1 and 2 in the New Testament Paul says that salvation is available to any person who responds to the light of nature and conscience, if he hasn't heard the Good News about Jesus Christ, say, a person living in North America during the Middle Ages, before missionaries came. If this person will respond to the witness of God in nature---he can see there's a Creator God, say---and he senses the moral law of God written on his heart, and he responds, Paul says in Romans chapter 2 in verse 7, God will give that person eternal life. Now that doesn't mean he's saved apart from Christ, but it would mean that he may not have a conscious knowledge of Christ, which is the basis of his salvation. He would be like a person in the Old Testament who was saved through Christ, even though he hadn't yet heard of Christ; he responded to the light that he had. So I think God gives sufficient grace or salvation to every person. God is fair and He's loving and He wants everyone to come to know Him and be saved.
God doesn't send people to Hell. People send themselves by rejecting God's grace, whether it's through witness of Scripture and the gospel, or it's through the witness of nature. So don't blame God for the fact that people reject Him. It's not because salvation is unavailable.
Questioner: So because they disagree, they're condemned to Hell?
Dr. Craig: Wait, wait, wait,---"So because they disagree," what?
Questioner: So because they disagree, they're condemned to Hell and eternal damnation? Basically, Adolph Hitler.. I mean think about it! If you disagree, then you're punished and sent to Hell.
Dr. Craig: No, no, no. It's not a matter of disagreeing. The idea is this: all human persons have broken God's moral law, this objective moral law that we've talked about in tonight's debate. And therefore they find themselves morally guilty before God, in need of His forgiveness, under His condemnation for what they have done, and God offers this forgiveness to people if they will accept it.
It's like someone on death row, and the governor offers him a pardon; if that person refuses that person, if that person rejects that grace, then God doesn't force Himself on that person.
Moderator: I'm going to have to hold it there. That's thirty seconds over time. A question for Dr. Washington... I'll give it to Dr. Washington.
Question: [hubbub] My questions will come in the form of comments. This microphone stand will dissipate with the concept that made this microphone stand will outlive longer than this microphone stand therefore the abstract concept is more real than the physical object involved and therefore by that, a, there is an, the existence of God is therefore on the basis of a concept because mere physicality cannot conceive of an actual infinite, cannot even conceive of a, of that, so therefore there would be one example as to a God. And to as anyone being innocent, if there is no God, there is no innocent, people on this planet. And talking about in-nocent Jesus Christ, innocent Son of God, was slaughtered for all of us.
Moderator: Your question?
Questioner: I said they were in the form of comments. He can now respond to the comments. [laughter]
Dr. Washington: He said all there is to say. [applause, laughter]
Questioner: You didn't answer! You did not answer!
Moderator: You didn't ask!
Questioner: I did ask. I did too ask. [strong applause, laughter] I said, [hubbub] ... rhetorically valid
Moderator: We have to operate in good faith. You made a comment. It was not a question. He doesn't have to answer.
Audience: Sit down!
Question: Okay, my question is a two-part question, in response to the argument from harm, your response to the argument from harm.
Dr. Craig: Yeah.
Questioner: You say that if no harm exists, no responsibility exists, therefore no rationality...
Dr. Craig: Now wait, wait, wait. I said that it's possible that in a world in which God intervenes so that there would be no harm this would result in moral irresponsibility and immaturity.
Questioner: Okay, but if you say that, if there, no harm existed, responsibility wouldn't necessarily have a negative or positive value, because if it was God's will, harmful consequences wouldn't come from a lack of responsibility. Happiness would exist regardless of success or failure, concepts which are measured by society's values.
Dr. Craig: Let me make it clear that I don't think God's purpose in life for us is to make us happy. So, sure, He could just make us all happy like the pigs wallowing in the mire, but I think that God's purpose for us as human beings is much higher than mere happiness. It has to do with things like maturity, responsibility, ...
Questioner: But where does the value on maturity and responsibility come from? Who's to say what's responsible and mature?
Dr. Craig: Well, it comes from God ultimately. That's the source of all objective moral values. But the point is that those kinds of things wouldn't be achieved in a world in which there were no consequences for actions, in which it made no difference what you choose. Doesn't that seem plausible to you?
Questioner: Well, it seems plausible that someone who doesn't believe in God can still be mature and responsible even though they don't go by the values that you claim.
Dr. Craig: Oh, sure they can! Remember I said that you don't need to believe in God in order to live what we would normally characterize as a good and decent life. But what I said is that in that case you don't have any foundation in your world view for those values that you affirm. Those values are just subjective and arbitrary. Why choose those values rather than any others? They're just arbitrary if there's no foundation for them. [applause]
Questioner: I didn't get to ask the second part of my question.
Moderator: Beg your pardon?
Questioner: I didn't get to ask the second part of my question.
Dr. Washington: She can have my thirty seconds.
Moderator: I yield to our gracious friend.
Questioner: Okay, the second part is in response to the earthquake statement you made. If God's will is the predominant and basically the only factor in world events, including natural disasters, if God could will that no earthquakes occur, if He has that much power, couldn't He also have the power to control the effects of erosion to preserve the world we live in, to keep us from harm? [applause]
Dr. Craig: Imagine what you're saying. It's so easy to say these things. But try to imagine what you're saying. You're saying now that we're going to have a world in which water falls on the mountains, but that they don't erode. Now what would that mean? I just...
Questioner: You're believing in all-mighty power, a God. If you can believe in God, why can't you believe that He can control these things?
Dr. Craig: Well, think about it. Think about what you're saying. Water would fall on the mountains, and they wouldn't erode. That would mean there wouldn't be any nutrients in the water that would be from the soil.
Dr. Craig: They wouldn't irrigate the land. The plants wouldn't grow. It's so easy, you see, to just say these things. But then what adjustments...
Questioner: But what about hydroponics? Plants don't always need water.
Dr. Craig: Excuse me. What?
Questioner: Hydroponics? Plants don't always need water. There's nutrients in other ways.
Dr. Craig: Now wait a minute. Hydroponics is growing plants in water.
Questioner: ... suspending it. You can grow it in sand. And also you stated that God has the power to control everything. If He can, then why can't He control that? He's the almighty power.
Dr. Craig: Because it may be possible that it is not within God's power to create a world operating according to natural laws which results in this much good without also having these harmful effects. Now it seems to me that's very plausible, because when you start mentally fiddling with this, it causes re-adjustments all the way down the line, until really these get beyond our scope of comprehension. We simply don't understand how these adjustments could be made without creating a world in which moral and rational behavior would be impossible. And I don't have to prove that. As long as that's even possible, it shows that there is no logical incompatibility between God and the harm that's in the world.
Moderator: These are very good questions. We are pushing the possibilities of the question and answer period. We're engaging in real dialogue.
Dr. Craig: I hope you don't mind.
Moderator: Oh, I'm having a great time, but I... [laughter] It is a dangerous thing when a rhetorician is watching the rules, so, a question over here.
Question: Hi, I have a first comment, and a comment by way of illustration, and then the question. And please support the departments that are being threatened.
Moderator: That is technically irrelevant, but somehow I'm moved..[applause]
Questioner: First, I don't know who the other speakers might have been, but I think you've had a very able opponent tonight. [strong applause] Don't take my thirty seconds! [laughter] Second, I've been to Armenia, and, with the smiles, the golden teeth will tell you they're a rich people. The Soviets built their apartments. Earthquakes do not kill people, falling objects kill people; and at that, indiscriminately, on whomever they may fall, not just poor people, I think. Okay, so the question is I think...
Dr. Washington: I want to ask a quick question. How many people died in the San Francisco earthquake? I think that was a 7.1. About 500,or something like that, okay. How many died in the Armenian earthquake? That was a 6.9. About 25,000. What's the big difference between the two. It's largely the structures in which people were living. Clearly the people in San Francisco had better housing. Even if you look at the San Francisco area, and look at what happened to it, we've got a lot of information about the Marina. Okay, these are houses that are basically built on a sand lot. These are rich people, and their houses got messed up.
But the other areas that really got messed up in the San Francisco earthquake were a lot of the old rooming houses were people lived. Or it was further south near Watsonville migrant works lived. These are the houses that collapsed. These are the people that are poor in relation to the rest of San Francisco. But the people in San Francisco are rich in comparison to the people in Armenia. That's part of the explanation of why their housing is better. That's why they didn't get hurt.
Questioner: I would attribute it to communism and Soviet construction. [laughter] You laugh, but people are forced to live in that housing.
Moderator: We've had a question.
Questioner: No, I haven't gotten to the question yet. People have been playing... Can I ask it?
People have been playing fast and loose with the words "evil", "bad," "immoral".
Moderator: Your question?
Questioner: The question is this. Traditionally, ethics have been grounded in a larger metaphysics. Do you have a metaphysics? Or what you mean when you say "evil"? You said you wouldn't do it, I've felt pain, I hurt. But can I talk about right and wrong? Can I talk about evil?
Dr. Washington: I think of course we can talk about right and wrong. I'm not quite sure what you're asking. If you're asking for a definition,...
Questioner: Yeah, what does that mean? What is it grounded in?
Dr. Washington: Well, I think ultimately you get to some fairly basic concepts, okay, if you start looking at definitions. Some concepts like truth. Some concepts like good. These are foundations of everything. Other things are built on these concepts; they're not built on something else. You can't define them in terms of others. But the fact that you can't define them doesn't mean we don't clearly know what they mean. Most people know what it is to say something is true, and I think people generally know what it is to say something's bad or evil. Definition is kind of a philosopher's game, largely irrelevant in life.
Moderator: Okay, question over here.
Question: Yes, Dr. Craig, in response to the argument from harm, you raised the free will defense. I'd like to illustrate by counter example and ask your response to that. Christian Heaven is a place, as you put it, of infinite joy, infinite glory, and infinite fulfillment, which is implicitly free of harm. Consequently it's possible for this omnipotent Christian God to create a world where that applies, and I would assume that Christians there are still exercising free will, I would assume. Why then wouldn't this omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent God merely create heaven and those beings who would pass the earthly test, and sidestep the painful testing ground and the punishment for the others, when an omniscient God would know in advance who eventually would make it in? [applause]
Dr. Craig: This is an excellent question that raises several important issues.
Moderator: All of which will be answered in two minutes. [laughter]
Dr. Craig: Ohhh. Okay! First of all, it's important to understand that Heaven itself is not a possible world. Heaven is the outcome of a possible world. There has to be this, as you put it, "proving ground," or, "valley of decision," or whatever you want to call it, that leads to Heaven. So in order to have this as the final state, there has to be this antecedent state leading up to it that would involve the kind of world in which we live, in which choices are made for or against God, and so forth.
Now you said, why couldn't God just forego that by just knowing via His omniscience what people would do, if they were created, and therefore put them into Heaven immediately? I don't think that would work because you cannot judge someone simply on the basis of what they would do under various circumstances. You have to judge them only on the basis of what they actually do. For example, if you were born under different circumstances, you might have done all sorts of horrible things. But it would be wrong for me to condemn you or judge you because of what you would have done under other circumstances.
Questioner: But that stricture is usually imposed mainly because of the fallibility of humans.
Dr. Craig: What stricture?
Questioner: If I judge you on what I think you would do.
Dr. Craig: Oh no, no, no. It has nothing to do with fallibility. It's saying that unless you actually commit a crime, you're not guilty of it -- that's all it's saying. I can't say that because if you had been created under a set of different circumstances, therefore you're guilty of stealing and you should be punished for that. You're only guilty of that which you actually do. It would be morally impossible for God to create people and send them to Heaven or Hell on the basis of what they would have done, rather than on the basis of what they actually do. So you have to have this "valley of decision" or "proving ground" first, and then the eternal state is the outcome of that.
And besides this, there is no single thing you would have done afterall. Under some circumstances, you would have placed your faith in God; under other circumstances you would not. So which ones are the basis for the decision? It has to be the actual circumstances.
Moderator: Two minutes. Alright, question over here.
Question: Dr., this is a question, that comes out of, it's an outgrowth of this conversation. It's actually a paradox I find myself in. With evolutionary theory and the idea that you're evolving, you know, we don't know exactly. Alongside with the accumulation of information and technology. We've got virtual reality. Not 100 years from now, or 1000 years from now, but perhaps 100,000 years from now, is there a possibility of us evolving into something what we presume now to be God-like?
Dr. Washington: Well I think what's interesting about the advent of culture, over the past 10,000 years or so, is that it took a lot of the pressure off of selection. You know, it's just not clear what's being selected for anymore. Before you could say that there's dangers in the environment and we respond to it, [hubbub] chance of reproducing and surviving. It's not clear what those things are in today's world. It's not clear what kind of things are being selected for. So I really have no idea, you know, what we'll look like in a thousand years. hope we look good, though.[laughter]
1 What follows are thumbnail sketches of various arguments for the existence of God. These necessarily short summaries are but the tip of an iceberg: whole books have been written on each one of these arguments. To assist especially earnest students, I'll list some suggested further reading for each one.
In light of Dr. Washington's comments in his opening speech about my quoting "people who have a lot of sophisticated abbreviations after their names," perhaps a word should be said here at the beginning about the nature of evidence. In addition to logical argument, "the sort of evidence that you might think under certain circumstances could be admitted into a court of law," in Dr. Washington's words, includes testimonial evidence. Although, as Dr. Washington rightly says, "we should never believe in a position because somebody famous holds it," nevertheless, as Wesley Salmon points out,
there are correct uses of authority and well as incorrect ones. It would be a sophomoric mistake to suppose that every appeal to authority is illegitimate, for the proper use of authority plays an indispensable role in the accumulation and application of knowledge (Wesley C. Salmon, Logic, Foundations of Philosophy Series [Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963], p.63).
Salmon goes on to explain that in order to count as evidence, the testimony must be from an honest and reliable authority on a matter in the person's field of expertise. "The appeal to a reliable authority is legitimate, for the testimony of a reliable authority is evidence for the conclusion" (Ibid., p. 64). Thus, while a Hollywood starlet's endorsement of a commercial product does not count as evidence, still the expert testimony of a DNA specialist concerning blood found at the scene of a crime does. When I quote recognized authorities like Hilbert, Page, Jeremias, and others concerning matters in their respective fields of expertise, this does count as expert testimony and, hence, evidence for the fact in question. The lack of expert testimony in support of Dr. Washington's assertions (e.g., his claim that people in the first century were especially credulous) is conspicuous.
2 Suggestions for further reading: Alvin Plantinga, "How to be an Anti-Realist," American Philosophical Association Proceedings and Addresses (1982): 47-70; Brian Leftow, "A Leibnizian Cosmological Argument," Philosophical Studies 57 (1989): 135-155; Quentin Smith, "The Conceptualist Argument for God's Existence," Faith and Philosophy 11 (1994):38-49.
3 Alvin Plantinga, "Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments," lecture presented at the 33rd Annual Philosophy Conference, Wheaton College, October 23-25, 1986.
4 Suggestions for further reading: William Lane Craig, The Kalam Cosmological Argument, Library of Philosophy and Religion (London: Macmillan, 1979); William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993; also several articles on this site.
5 David Hilbert, "Onthe Infinite," in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. Paul Benacerraf and Hilary Putnam (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), p. 151.
6 Fred Hoyle, Astronomy and Cosmology (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, 1975), p. 658.
7 Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas' Proofs of God's Existence (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), p. 66.
8 Suggestions for further reading: John Leslie, Universes (London: Routledge, 1989); John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986); see also various articles on this site by John Leslie and William Lane Craig.
9 See L. Stafford Betty and Bruce Cordell, "God and Modern Science: New Life for the Teleological Argument," International Philosophical Quarterly 27 (1987):416. Betty and Cordell actually report a smaller figure than Page's, which is based on calculations by Roger Penrose, "Time Asymmetry and Quantum Gravity," in Quantum Gravity 2, ed. C. J. Isham, R. Penrose, and D. W. Sciama (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), p. 249.
10 Robert Jastrow, "The Astronomer and God," in The Intellectuals Speak Out about God,ed. Roy Abraham Varghese (Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1984), p. 22.
11 Suggestions for further reading: J. P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen, "Does It Matter that God Exists?" in Does God Exist? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990), pp. 97-135; Robert Merrihew Adams, "Moral Arguments for Theistic Belief,"in Rationality and Religious Belief, ed. C. F. Delaney (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979), pp. 116-140; William R. Sorley, Moral Values and the Idea of God, 3d ed. (New York: Macmillan Co.,1930).
12 J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), pp. 115-116.
13 Ibid., pp. 117-118.
14 Michael Ruse, "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics," in The Darwinian Paradigm (London:Routledge, 1989), pp. 262, 268-269.
15 Michael Ruse, Darwinism Defended (London: Addison-Wesley, 1982), p. 275.
16 Suggestions for further reading: William Lane Craig, "Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? "in Jesus Under Fire, ed. J. P. Moreland and Michael Wilkins (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1995), pp. 141-176; William Lane Craig, Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 16 (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen,1989); see also various articles on this site.
17 Jacob Kremer, Die Osterevangelien--Geschichten um Geschichte (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977), pp. 49-50.
18 D. H. Van Daalen, The Real Resurrection (London: Collins, 1972), p. 41.
19 Norman Perrin, The Resurrection according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Philadelphia: Fortress,1974), p. 80.
20 Joachim Jeremias, "Dieälteste Schicht der Osterüberlieferung," in Resurrexit, ed. Edouard Dhanis (Rome: Editrice Libreria Vaticana, 1974), p. 194.
21 Suggestions for further reading: Alvin Plantinga, "Is Belief in God Rational?" in Rationality and Religious Belief, ed. C. F. Delaney (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979), pp. 7-27; Alvin Plantinga, "Reason and Belief in God," in Faith and Rationality, ed. Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press,1983), pp. 16-93; Alvin Plantinga, "Self-Profile," in Alvin Plantinga, ed. James E. Tomberlin and Peter Van Inwagen, Profiles 5 (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1985), pp. 55-64; see also the articles by Plantinga, "Theism, Atheism, and Rationality" and "Intellectual Sophistication and Basic Belief in God."
22 John Hick, "Introduction,"in The Existence of God, ed. John Hick, Problems of Philosophy (NewYork: Macmillan Co., 1964), pp. 13-14.
23 Actually, Dr. Washington mentions three premisses:
1. If God is infinitely good, He desires to minimize suffering in this world.
2. If God is omniscient, He can figure out how to design a world that has no harm.
3. If God is omni-potent, God can implement a design of a world that has no harm.
His formulation of these premisses is faulty, however, for (1) is too weak to support the conclusion that if God exists, harm would not exist. For it might well be the case that while God desires to minimize suffering in this world, that desire is over-ridden by His desire, say, to create free persons who make rational, moral choices, or by His desire to minimize suffering in the after-life (i.e., to win the salvation of as many free persons as possible, which may only occur in a world involving suffering in this life). Thus, what Dr. Washington needs is a premiss like
1'. If God is infinitely good, He would implement a design of a world that has no harm.
Now in order to prove that God and harm cannot both exist, Dr. Washington must prove that (1'), (2), and (3) are all necessarily true. This is an enormously ambitious task; far from being necessarily true, I doubt that any of these premisses is even contingently true. And yet Dr. Washington gives no argument at all on behalf of (1'), (2), or (3); he just asserts them.
The fact is that philosophers have pretty much abandoned as futile the attempt to prove that God and evil are logically incompatible. As Plantinga observes,
Now, as opposed to twenty or twenty-five years ago, most atheologians 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 atheologians are giving up the incompatibility thesis and are now prepared to concede that there is no contradiction here: that's progress (Alvin Plantinga,"Tooley and Evil: A Reply," Australasian Journal of Philosophy60 : 74).
In his rebuttal Dr. Washington himself comes to concede that there is no such inconsistency, as he had alleged.
24 Peter Van Inwagen, "The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence,"Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 5: Philosophy of Religion,ed. James E. Tomberlin (Atascadero, Calif.: Ridgeview Publishing, 1991),p. 135.
25 William Alston, "The Inductive Argument from Evil and the Human Cognitive Condition," in Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 5: Philosophy of Religion,ed. James E. Tomberlin (Atascadero, Calif.: Ridgeview Publishing, 1991),p. 29. Both Alston and Van Inwagen recognize that the inductive argument from evil (which Dr. Washington's second version may be taken to represent) is still very much alive, though, in their view, no more successful than the logical argument from evil (Dr. Washington's first version).
26 For further reading on the problem of harm (or evil), see Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (New York: Harper Torchbook, 1974); Alvin Plantinga, "Self-Profile," in Alvin Plantinga, ed. James E. Tomberlin and PeterVan Inwagen, Profiles 5 (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1985), pp. 36-55; Marilyn McCord Adams, "Problem of Evil: More Advice to Christian Philosophers,"Faith and Philosophy 5 (1988): 121-143; see also the article by Alston in note 3. An excellent recent anthology is The Evidential Argument from Evil, ed. Daniel Howard-Snyder (Bloomington, Ind.: University of Indiana Press, 1996). For a popular level treatment see chapters four and five in my No Easy Answers (Chicago: Moody, 1990).
27 For an extended development of this reasoning, see my "Design and the Cosmological Argument,"in Mere Creation, ed. William Dembski (Downer's Grove, Ill: InterVarsity,forthcoming).
28 On the role of specified, small probabilities in everyday inferences to design, see William A. Dembski, "Redesigning Science," in Mere Creation.Compare John Leslie's notion of a "tidy explanation" in his Universes (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 9-10.
29 Borrowed from Alvin Plantinga,"The Foundations of Theism: a Reply," Faith and Philosophy3 (1986): 310-311.
30 Dr. Washington seems to have misunderstood both the meaning and significance of the cited quotation from my book. The meaning is that there are two avenues to a knowledge of the fact of the resurrection: historical and experiential. My pointis that even if, due to one's personal circumstances (e.g., lack of time, training, or opportunity), the historical avenue is closed, the experiential avenue is still open. The logic of the cited passage is perfectly valid: If there were no historical resurrection, then one could have no encounter with the Risen Lord today; but one can have an encounter with the Risen Lord today; therefore, there was a historical resurrection. The key premiss here is the second; this is in effect my sixth reason for believing that God exists. Until Dr. Washington refutes that sixth reason, my argument remains sound.
As to the significance of the passage, even if I were as blinkered and close-minded as Dr. Washington alleges, that does nothing to refute my arguments. For the arguments to be unsound, either (i) there must be a fallacy in the logic or (ii) one of the premisses must be false. There is no other means of escape. To reject the argument because I am thought to be close-minded is to argue ad hominem.
31 Re-reading Dr. Washington's first rebuttal, I now think that this was an unfair allegation on my part. No doubt the account he read was emotionally devastating, and no one can come away from such an account without a feeling of revulsion and horror. But his was more than just an emotional appeal; this version of the argument is interestingly different from the version he presented before.
The earlier version argued that the propositions God exists and Harm exists are logically incompatible. In order to show this, Dr. Washington had to show that certain premisses were necessarily true. I argued that he could not do this, and he now concedes that in order to have free creatures, "maybe God has to allow some evil in the world."
So now he turns to arguing instead that the propositions God exists and Gratuitous harm exists are logically incompatible. Gratuitous harm means harm that is not required to achieve some greater good, and it is assumed to be necessarily true that "God will not have any more harm in this world than is necessary for accomplishing these greater goods."But, Dr. Washington argues, there is gratuitous harm in the world, as is evident from a person's dying a hideous death as a result of a "hot" virus. Therefore, God does not exist.
We can summarize this new version of the argument from harm as follows:
1. If God exists, gratuitous harm does not exist.
2. Gratuitous harm does exist.
3. Therefore, God does not exist.
Now the most contentious premiss in this argument is (2). The first version of the argument from harm posed an essentially internal problem about the consistency of Christian theism, since the Christian is committed by his own theology to the truth of the propositions God exists andHarm exists. But the Christian is not committed to the truth of (2). How, then, will the atheist prove that the harm in the world is truly gratuitous? Here it must be admitted that Dr. Washington's appeal basically is emotional, for he never considers anything of the context of Monet's death: his relationship to God, the impact of his suffering on friends, on family, on the nursing staff in the hospital where he died, the wider impact his and others' deaths had on medical research, and soon. Dr. Washington says God could have reduced his suffering. Of course, but that is not the question; the question is whether God had a morally sufficient reason for permitting his suffering. I argue in this rebuttal that we're just not in a position to assert with any measure of confidence that apparently gratuitous harm really is gratuitous, and I give several reasons for our lack of confidence in this regard. Dr. Washington never shoulders the burden of proof to demonstrate that the harm in the world really is gratuitous, but, as we shall see, he shifts ground to yet a third argument in his next rebuttal.
Now in asking whether some observed harm really is gratuitous, the most important question to consider is--surprise!--whether God exists. The Christian will readily admit that much of the suffering in the world is apparently gratuitous, but he may insist that it is not really gratuitous precisely because God exists. That is, he may argue:
1. If God exists, gratuitous harm does not exist.
2. God exists.
3. Therefore, gratuitous harm does not exist.
Thus, premiss (1), which is the same in both the atheist and the Christian's arguments, is sort of like a see-saw. The conclusion that comes out of it will depend on which side has the greater weight. As D. Howard-Snyder points out, an argument from harm is a problem only for "the theist who finds all its premisses and inferences compelling and who has lousy grounds for believing theism"; but if one has more compelling grounds for theism, then the problem of harm "is not a problem" ( "Introduction,"in The Evidential Argument from Evil, ed. Daniel Howard-Snyder [Bloomington,Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1996], p xi). In the debate I presented six reasons for affirming that God exists, and Dr. Washington's responses to these were, I think we must admit, pretty thin. On the other hand, he gave no argument for thinking that harm such as Monet suffered was gratuitous and fails to respond to my several suggestions as to why we cannot confidently assert that God lacked morally sufficient reasons for permitting it. Thus, it seems to me both that Dr. Washington has failed to prove the crucial premiss of his argument, that Gratuitous harm exists,and also that we have good reasons for thinking that the harm which does exist is not really gratuitous, given my arguments for the existence of God.
Finally, we should ask whether premiss (1) itself is true. I suggested in the debate that it is possible that only in a world in which gratuitous natural evil exists would people seek and find God's salvation. Not only do I think this is possible; it seems to me quite plausible as well. The places in the world today where evangelical Christianity is growing at its fastest rates are precisely countries which have experienced great hardship and suffering, like El Salvador, Ethiopia, and China. (Read the accounts in Patrick Johnstone, Operation World [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1993].) The atheist might say that then the harm is not gratuitous after all: it serves the greater good of securing people's eternal salvation. All right, but then that makes it all the more difficult for the atheist to prove that truly gratuitous harm exists, for how could he possibly know what in God's providential plan of history does or does not contribute to the ultimate salvation of the greatest number of people?
32 Notice that Dr. Washington just assumes that minds do not exist, which is begging the question. It is plainly false that "all practicing philosophers" assume that there are only two types of things: material objects and abstract objects. For many philosophers (and scientists) accept the existence of minds and of God; moreover, there are fields, space, and time, none of which is a material or abstract object.
33 For further reading on this issue, see William Alston, "What Euthyphro Should Have Said,"in William Alston, Divine Nature and Human Language (Ithaca, N.Y.:Cornell University Press, 1989), pp. ; Thomas V. Morris, "Duty and Divine Goodness," and "The Necessity of God's Goodness,"in Anselmian Explorations (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987), pp. 26-69.
34 Rather than respond to my arguments that we are not in a position to judge confidently whether God could have morally sufficient reasons for permitting the harm we observe, Dr. Washington shifts to accusing God Himself of doing the evils so as to bring about a greater good. His last rebuttal also emphasizes the same accusation. This is an obvious caricature of the theistic position. God need not do the harm in order to have morally sufficient reasons for permitting harm to occur. To give an analogy: Think of the Allied commanders on D-Day who ordered a frontal assault against the German gun pit atop the Point-du-Hocon the cliffs of Normandy. They knew that they were sending many of those brave men to their deaths; but if the German guns were not taken out, the whole invasion might have been compromised, the war effort against Nazi Germany disastrously set back, the war prolonged, and countless more lives lost. For the sake of the greater good, they ordered the assault. They did not kill the American men--the German soldiers freely did that- -, but they allowed, even directed, the men to be in a situation in which they knew they would be killed. They had a morally sufficient reason for allowing this harm. The most significant difference between God's case and this analogy is that God has the ability to more than compensate those who make the sacrifice for the greater good.
Dr. Washington also caricatures the theistic position when he suggests in his last speech that on my view God allows the weak and the poor to suffer so that the rich can develop into moral beings. I cannot imagine how he can attribute this view to me. What I argued is that rational andmoral behavior requires a world that operates according to predictable natural laws, and that natural harm may be a by-product of such a law-like world, harm which God will more than compensate for in the after life. It is no part of my view that harm is meted out to some just so others may develop; on the contrary, if anything it is often those who suffer, not the coddled, who develop morally. It is interesting to observe that it is precisely in Latin America, Africa, and Asia that Christianity is growing at over twice the rate of population growth, whereas in the West it is moribund. What Dr. Washington's example really shows is how intertwined natural and moral evil are in this world. In a sinless world, natural evil would be vastly mitigated.
35 See William Alston, "The Inductive Problem of Evil and the Human Cognitive Condition," Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 5: Philosophy of Religion, ed. James E. Tomberlin (Atascadero, Calif.: Ridgeview Press, 1991), pp., who lists six limits on our cognitive capacities pertinent to assessing the probability that God could have a morally sufficient reason for permitting some evil. He concludes,
The judgments required by the probabilistic argument from evil are of a very special and enormously ambitious type, and our cognitive capacities are not equal to this one. We are simply not in a position to justifiably assert that God would have no sufficient reason for permitting evil. And if that is right, the probabilistic argument from evil is in no better shape than the late lamented logical argument from evil (Ibid., pp. 59,61).
36 In his final rebuttal Dr.Washington says that it is question-begging to argue for God's existence by assuming the reality of the afterlife. But, of course, that is not what I am doing. I give six reasons to believe that the Christian God exists, none of which assumes the reality of the afterlife. The mention of the afterlife arises only in response to the atheistic claim that harm is incompatible with God's existence or that gratuitous harm exists. My point is that neither of these claims is plausible if the Christian view of immortality is true.Dr. Washington needs to provide some reason to think that view is implausible. In favor of the Christian view is the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, which is the harbinger of our own resurrection.
37 Dostoyevsky's final answer to the problem of harm was that the atheistic alternative was unlivable. He showed in his novels that if God does not exist, then "all things are permitted," even the most terrible of atrocities. His atheist character Ivan Karamazov, quoted by Dr. Washington, finally finds it impossible to live within the framework of an atheistic worldview.
38 As I re-read the debate, I am struck by how weak Dr. Washington's response to this argument was. He only makes some vague gestures toward some sort of constructivism without showing how this accounts of the full range of abstract objects or answering my objection that there are numbers which no one has conceived. Perhaps he will address these issues more fully in his annotations; but then I shall have no opportunity to respond, since our annotations were prepared independently. I can only refer the reader to my suggestions for further reading.
39 Again, Dr. Washington's response to this argument, in my opinion one of the most compelling arguments for God, was virtually non-existent. He actually concedes both premisses and the conclusion and does not rebut my deduction of the principal divine attributes. Not knowing what he will say in his annotations, I have no recourse but to refer the reader to the suggested further reading.
40 Dr. Washington seems to have lost his way in the argument here. His lottery illustration was meant to show that improbability alone is not a proof of design. I agreed and argued that the probability in question also had to be specified in someway, as, e.g., if the lottery winners all had Mafia connections. In the same way the initial conditions of the universe are both inconceivably improbable and specified with respect to the production of intelligent life. That the design inference does not beg the question of the existence of an agent is evident in cases where we do not know and want to discover whether there are such agents, as in the search for a signal from extra-terrestrial intelligence or in an archaeological dig.
41 In his last rebuttal, to which I could not, of course, respond, Dr. Washington says that he does not admit my premiss that if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. But then he goes on to make the remarkable admission,"I don't have the answer to what explains objective moral truths." That is precisely the problem: atheism lacks the resources to account for the objective moral values which we all intuit. Richard Taylor, an eminent non-Christian philosopher, is especially forthright on this point. He says,
The idea of political or legal obligation is clear enough . . . . Similarly, the idea of an obligation higher than this, and referred to as moral obligation, is clear enough, provided reference to some law maker higher. . . than those of the state is understood. In other words, our moral obligations can . . . be understood as those that are imposed by God. This does give a clear sense to the claim that our moral obligations are more binding upon us than our political obligations . . . . But what if this higher-than-human law giver is no longer taken into account? Does the concept of a moral obligation . . . still make sense? . . . the concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone.
. . . The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine law giver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well (RichardTaylor, Ethics, Faith and Reason [Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: PrenticeHall, 1985] pp. 83-84, 2- 3).
So why does Dr. Washington resist God's being the source of moral values?--Apparently because of the Euthyphro Dilemma, which I in turn answered. Dr. Washington says in his last speech that he doesn't understand the solution I gave. I'm surprised at this, since it represents the classical theistic position and seems quite clear to me. If the reader shares Dr. Washington's perplexity, take a look at my suggestions for further reading.
42 Dr. Washington evinces no familiarity with the literature concerning the historicity of Jesus' empty tomb, post-mortem appearances, or the origin of the belief in Jesus's resurrection, all three of which are regarded as historical by the majority of critical scholars today. Rather his skepticism is rooted in a philosophical bias against miracles derived from Hume. What the reader may not realize is that philosophers generally recognize that Hume's argument against the identification of a miracle is fallacious. Hume assumed the principle: it is always more probable that the testimony to a miracle is false than that the miracle occurred. But this principle is wrong. The hypothesis that "God raised Jesus from the dead," for example, is not improbable with respect to either our background knowledge or the specific facts of the case. What is improbable is the hypothesis that "Jesus rose naturally from the dead." That hypothesis is fantastically improbable, given what we know of the necrosis of human cells. Hypotheses like the conspiracy theory, the apparent death theory, the legend theory, are all more probable than that. But they are not more probable than the hypothesis "God raised Jesus from the dead," unless you have independent grounds for thinking God's existence to be improbable (which, I've argued, we do not). Indeed, relative to the specific evidence of the case, the hypothesis "God raised Jesus from the dead" is more probable (or a better explanation) than hypotheses like conspiracy, apparent death, etc. Hume believed that the testimony for the laws of nature always counter balances or outweighs the testimony to a miracle. But this is incorrect, since the testimony to the laws of nature at best proves that people do not rise naturallyfrom the dead. That in no way contradicts the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead. Indeed, the Christian believes both these truths.
The reason we are skeptical about President Gerberding's flying around campus is that this is naturally impossible and there is nothing in the religio-historical context of the event to make us suspect that God would do such a thing. But, as I explained, it is radically different in the case of Jesus' resurrection, given his own unparalleled life and teaching.
Well, then, how good is the evidence for the facts of the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the origin of the disciples' belief in the resurrection? In his last rebuttal, Dr. Washington finally gets around to addressing that question. Notice that he does not say anything to dispute the fact of the empty tomb. Nor does he offer any refutation of the fact of Jesus' post-mortem appearances. Rather he directs all his attention to the question of the origin of the disciples' belief in the resurrection. He does not deny that the first disciples came sincerely to believe in Jesus' resurrection and were willing to go to their deaths for that belief. In my opening speech I argued that the disciples' belief cannot be explained in terms of either Christian influences or Jewish influences. I did not mention pagan influences because no informed scholar today would hold such a thing. This sort of explanation was popular back around the turn of the century in the so-called "History of Religions School." The movement soon collapsed, however, principally for two reasons: (i) The supposed parallels are spurious. In his important study The Post-Resurrection Appearance Stories of the Gospel Tradition (Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag,1975), John Alsup has examined all the alleged parallels to Jesus' resurrection and shown them to be apotheosis stories, disappearance stories, etc., not resurrection accounts. The myths of dying and rising gods like Osirisor Adonis, for example, concern merely seasonal symbols for the crop cycle--the plants dying in winter and coming back to life in the spring. (ii) There is no causal link to the disciples' belief. This is evident in Dr.Washington's own examples from ancient Mexico or Nepal. According to Gerhard Kittel, there is "no trace" of myths of dying and rising gods in first century Palestine (Gerhard Kittel, "Die Auferstehung Jesu,"Deutsche Theologie 4 : 159). Thus, no informed scholar would today argue that the original disciples came to believe that Jesus rose from the dead due to pagan influences. It is not surprising that as a philosopher Dr. Washington should be unfamiliar with the field of New Testament studies and historical Jesus research; but it is a shame that this sort of ignorance should be perpetuated among students.
43 I should add that the Many Worlds Interpretation turns out to be incoherent because the model lacks anything corresponding to the various numerical probabilities predictedby quantum theory, as pointed out Tim Maudlin, Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity, Aristotelian Society Series 13 (Oxford: Blackwell,1994), p. 5.