The Evidence for God
William Lane Craig lectures at Imperial College, London
Imperial College, London, United Kingdom – October 18, 2011
William Lane Craig was invited by the undergraduate Christian Union at Imperial College, London to give a lunch-time lecture on "The Evidence for God". Dr. Craig presented seven arguments and then invited questions from the student audience. The lecture was web streamed at the time. This is a high definition film recording of the event which includes the previously unseen Q&A session.
INTRODUCTION: We are very privileged to have with us this afternoon Dr. William Lane Craig. He is a renowned philosopher who is in England for just 10 days. He is touring, debating, and lecturing around the area. William Lane Craig did his PhD in philosophy in England, and then he completed a doctorate in theology in Germany. This double doctorate has equipped him to become one the world’s leading defenders of historical Christianity. And he has a particular interest in the philosophy of science, and he has published more than 30 books and over 200 academic papers. His most recent book is On Guard and that is on sale today and on the Internet and in this book he goes through some of the arguments and he explains them and expands upon them like he is going to be doing today but in a more thorough fashion. His key work is called Reasonable Faith and that is also on sale today and on the internet and that is the book that he is most well known for. He has debated many contemporary atheists including Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Peter Atkins, and most recently Stephen Law. Much of his public work and the topic of most of his debates is the evidence for the existence of God. Normally in his debates he only has half an hour or twenty minutes to present his arguments so we have asked him to talk to us today on those arguments and to expand those arguments so that we can evaluate them for ourselves and decide where we stand on the issues. And so without any further ado I would like to welcome Professor William Lane Craig to come talk to us about the evidence for the existence of God.
DR. CRAIG: Thank you very much. I am delighted to have the invitation to speak on the evidence for God here at Imperial College and thank you for coming.
As a springboard for our discussion today I’d like you to ask yourselves the question: Is the material world all there is? The view that there is nothing apart from the material world goes by a number of different names: materialism, physicalism, naturalism, would be a few. David Armstrong, a prominent naturalist philosopher, characterizes naturalism in the following way – naturalism is “the doctrine that reality consists of nothing but a single all-embracing spacio-temporal system.” According to this view then, all that exists is the contents of time and space. And the question then before us is, is that true? Is there nothing but the physical objects existing in time and space? Well, today I want to look at some reasons that suggest that this is not the case. I believe that there are certain aspects of reality that we encounter in our experience of the world that serve, as it were, as signposts of transcendence – pointing beyond the natural world to its ground in a transcendent reality. And apart from some overriding reason to think that naturalism is true, I think we have got to be open to the existence of such a transcendent reality. We cannot justifiably close our minds in advance to the existence of such a transcendent reality. As Hamlet put it, “There may be more things on heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” And today I want to sketch, briefly, seven aspects of the world to suggest that there are indeed more things on heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in naturalistic philosophy. Now whole books have been written on each of these so what I will present is a brief summary of each argument.
1. Contingency Argument
Why anything at all exists. This is the deepest question of philosophy. Why is there something rather than nothing? This mystery, which according to Aristotle, lay at the very root of philosophy, is one which even thoughtful naturalists can avoid. Derek Parfit, for example, agrees, “No question is more sublime than why there is a Universe: why there is anything rather than nothing.” Now experience teaches that:
1. Everything that exists has an explanation if its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
This principle seems quite plausible, at least more so than its contradictory. Imagine that you were walking through the woods and you found a translucent ball lying on the forest floor. You would find the claim quite bizarre that the ball exists there with literally no explanation. And merely increasing the size of the ball, even until it becomes coextensive with the cosmos, would do nothing to eliminate the need for, or to provide an explanation of, its existence. According to this first principle, then, everything that exists is one of either two types. The first type is anything that exists necessarily, by its own nature. Examples? Well, many mathematicians believe that numbers, sets, and other abstract objects exist in this way. If such entities exist, they just exist necessarily, without any cause of their being. The other type is anything that has an external cause of its existence. Examples? Mountains, planets, people, galaxies – they have causes outside themselves which explain why they exist.
Now, it is obvious that,
2. The universe exists.
It therefore follows logically that the universe has an explanation of its existence.
So what sort of explanation could the universe have? Well it seems plausible that
3. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is an external, transcendent, personal cause.
Why? Because the cause of the universe must be greater than the universe. Think of the universe, all of space and time. So the cause of the universe must be beyond space and time. Therefore, it cannot be physical or material. Now there are only two kinds of things that could possibly fit that description, either: an abstract object (like a number), or an intelligent mind (that is to say, an unembodied consciousness). But abstract objects can’t cause anything. The number 7, for example, has no effect upon anything. And therefore it follows that,
4. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is an external, transcendent, personal cause.
That is to say, there exists an unembodied mind which created the universe, which is what most people have traditionally meant by the word “God.” So it seems to me that this is a sound argument for thinking that the explanation of why anything at all exists is to be found in a personal, transcendent mind which is necessary it its existence and which is the cause of the contingent universe.
2. Cosmological Argument
The origin of the universe. Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from? Was there a beginning to the universe, or does it just go back and back forever? Typically, naturalists have said that the universe is just eternal and uncaused and that’s all. But there are good reasons, both philosophical and scientific, to doubt that this is the case.
Philosophically, the idea of an infinite past is very problematic. Think about it, if the universe never had a beginning that means that the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. But the existence of an actually infinite number of things leads to metaphysical absurdities. To give one example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically you get self-contradictory answers. For example, if you had an infinite number of coins, numbered 1, 2, 3, and so on to infinity, and I took away all the odd numbered coins, how many coins would you have left? Well, you would still have all the even numbered coins, right?, or an infinity of coins. So infinity minus infinity is infinity. But now suppose instead that I took away all of the coins numbered greater than three. Now how many coins would you have left? Well, just three. So infinity minus infinity is three. And yet in each case I took away an identical number of coins from an identical number of coins and came up with contradictory results. In fact, you can get any answer when you subtract infinity from infinity, from zero to infinity. And for that reason, inverse operations like subtraction and division are simply prohibited in transfinite arithmetic. But that convention does not apply to the real world; you can give away whatever coins you want. This shows, I think, that infinity is just a concept or an idea in the mind, nothing something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, who was perhaps the greatest mathematician of the 20th century states, “The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. . . . The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea.” 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 and back forever, rather the universe must have begun to exist.
This purely philosophical conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. In one of the most startling developments of modern science we now have pretty strong evidence that the universe is not eternal in the past but had an absolute beginning a finite time ago. For all matter and energy, even physical space and time themselves, came into being at a point in the finite past. As the physicists P. C. W. Davies says,
The coming into being of the universe, as discussed in modern science . . . is not just a matter of imposing some sort of organization . . . upon a previous incoherent state, but literally the coming-into-being of all physical things from nothing.
Now, of course alternative theories have been proposed over the years to try to avoid this absolute beginning. But none of these theories has commended itself to the majority of the scientific community. In fact, in the year 2003, three cosmologists, Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin, were able to prove that any universe which is on average in a state of cosmic expansion throughout its history cannot be eternal in the past but must have a past spacetime boundary. This theorem applies not only to the standard model, but also to semi-classical quantum gravity models, inflationary models of the universe, and higher dimensional brane cosmologies. Vilenkin pulls no punches. He writes,
It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men, and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.
That problem was nicely captured by Anthony Kenny of Oxford University when he he wrote, “A proponent of [the Big Bang] theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that . . . the universe came from nothing and by nothing.” But surely that doesn’t make sense. For such a conclusion is, in the words of the German philosopher of science Bernulf Kanitscheider, “in head-on collision” with the most successful ontological commitment in the history of science, namely, the metaphysical principle that out of nothing, nothing comes.
So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause which brought the universe into being. We can summarize the argument thus far as follows:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Given the truth of the two premises, the conclusion necessarily follows.
Now what sort of cause is this? Well, from the very nature of the case, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe. It must be uncaused because we’ve seen there cannot be an infinite regress of causes, so we must come to an absolutely first uncaused cause. It must be timeless and therefore changeless, at least without the universe, because it created time. Because it also created space it must transcend space as well and therefore be immaterial and not physical. Moreover I would argue this cause must also plausibly be personal. For, ask yourself, how else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal effect with a beginning, like the universe. If the cause were just a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions then the cause could never exist without its effect. Once the sufficient conditions are given then the effect must be given as well. For example, suppose the cause of water’s freezing is the temperature’s being below zero degrees centigrade. If the temperature were below zero degrees from eternity past, then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity. It would be impossible for the water just to begin to freeze a finite time ago. So if the cause is permanently present its effect must be permanently present as well. The only way for the cause to be timeless and for its effect to begin a finite time ago is for the cause to be a personal agent endowed with freedom of the will and who therefore has the ability to spontaneously create a new effect without any antecedent determining conditions. For example, a man who has been sitting from eternity could freely will to stand up, and thus we would have an effect with a beginning arise from an eternal cause. And thus we are brought not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe but to its personal creator.
3. Teleological Argument
The fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life. During the last 50 years or so scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions which are simply given in the Big Bang itself. Scientists once thought that, whatever the initial conditions of the universe might have been, eventually life like ours might evolve somewhere in the cosmos. But we now know that intelligent life is, in fact, balanced on a knife's edge of incomprehensible fineness. The existence of intelligent life anywhere in the cosmos depends upon a conspiracy of initial conditions simply given in the Big Bang itself which must be fine tuned to a degree that is literally incomprehensible and incalculable. This fine-tuning is of two sorts. First, when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, you find appearing in them certain constants, like the gravitational constant. These constants are not determined by the laws of nature. The laws of nature are consistent with a wide range of values for these constants. Second, in addition to these constants, there are certain arbitrary quantities which are just put in as initial conditions on which the laws of nature operate, for example, the amount of entropy in the early universe. Now, all of these constants and quantities fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of life permitting values. Were these constants and quantities to be altered by less than a hair’s breadth the balance would be destroyed and life would not exist.
Now there are only three possibilities for explaining the presence of this remarkable fine-tuning of the universe.
1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
The first alternative holds that there is some unknown theory of everything, or TOE, that would explain the way the universe is – it had to be that way. And there was really no chance, or little chance, of the universe’s not being life permitting. By contrast, the second alternative states that the fine-tuning is due entirely to chance – it is just by accident that the universe is life permitting and we are the lucky beneficiaries. The third alternative rejects both of these explanations in favor of an intelligent mind behind the cosmos who designed the universe to permit life. And the question is, which of these alternatives is the most plausible?
Well, the first alternative – physical necessity – seems extraordinarily implausible because, as we’ve seen, the constants and quantities are independent of the laws of nature. The laws of nature are consistent with a wide range of values for these constants and quantities. For example, the most promising candidate for a TOE today – superstring theory or M-theory – allows for a cosmic landscape of around ten to the five hundredth power different possible universes governed by the present laws of nature, so that it does nothing to explain the observed values of the constants and quantities and to render them physically necessary.
So what about the second alternative, that the fine-tuning of the universe is due to chance? Well, the problem with this alternative is that the odds against the universe's being life permitting are incomprehensibly great that they cannot reasonably be faced. Even though there will be a large number of life permitting universes lying within the cosmic landscape, nevertheless the proportion of life permitting worlds will be so unfathomably tiny compared to the landscape as a whole that a dart thrown randomly at the cosmic landscape would have no meaningful chance of striking a life permitting world. So, in order to rescue the hypothesis of chance, its proponents have therefore been forced to adopt the extraordinary hypothesis that there exists an infinite number of randomly ordered parallel universes, undetectable by us, composing a sort of world ensemble or multiverse in which finely tuned universes will appear simply by chance alone. And we happen to be in one such world. There are, however, at least two major failings with the world ensemble hypothesis. First, there is no evidence that such a world ensemble exists. No one knows if there are other universes at all, much less that they are randomly ordered and infinite in number. Moreover recall that Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin proved that any universe which is in a state of continuous cosmic expansion cannot be infinite in the past. Their theorem applies to the multiverse as well. Therefore, since its past is finite, only a finite number of universes may have been generated by now, so there is no guarantee at all that a finely tuned universe would have appeared anywhere in the ensemble. Secondly and more fundamentally, if our universe is just a random member of an infinite world ensemble then it is overwhelmingly more probable that we should be observing a much different universe than what we in fact observe. Roger Penrose has calculated that it is inconceivably more probable that our solar system should suddenly form in an instant through the random collision of particles then that a finely tuned universe should exist. In fact, Penrose calls it “utter chicken feed” by comparison. So, if our universe were just a random member of a world ensemble it is inconceivably more probable that we should be observing an island of order no larger than our solar system. For there are far more observable universes in the world ensemble in which our solar system comes to be, instantaneously through the accidental collision of particles then universes which are finely tuned for the existence of embodied observers like ourselves. Or again, if the universe were just a random member of a world ensemble then we ought to be observing highly extraordinary events like horses popping into and going out of being through the random collision of particles since such things are vastly more probable than the existence of a finely tuned universe – of all of nature’s constants and quantities falling by chance alone into the infinitesimal life permitting range. Observable universes like those, with the horses popping into and out of being, are vastly more plenteous in the world ensemble than ours and therefore ought to be observed by us. And since we do not have such observations, Penrose argues, that fact strongly disconfirms the world ensemble hypothesis. On naturalism, at least, therefore I think it is highly improbable that such a world ensemble exists.
It seems then, premise (2) – that the fine-tuning is not due to physical necessity or chance – from which it follows logically, therefore it is due to design. And thus this argument gives us a cosmic designer of the universe.
4. Moral Argument
Objective moral values and duties in the world. If naturalism is true, then objective moral values and duties do not exist. Now to say that there are objective moral values is to say that something is good or evil, right or wrong, independently of whether people believe in it or not. It is to say, for example, that Nazi antisemitism was wrong even though the Nazis who carried out the holocaust thought that it was right, and it would have still been wrong even if the Nazis has won World War II, and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everyone who disagreed with them so that everyone thought that the Holocaust was right. And the claim is that, in the absence of God, moral values and duties are not objective in that sense.
1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties 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 atheist philosophers 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.” But instead of inferring to God’s existence, Mackie, chose instead to deny that objective moral values exist. He wrote, “It is easy to explain this moral sense as a natural product of biological and social evolution.” Michael Ruse, who is an agnostic philosopher of science 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.
Friedrich Nietzsche, the great 19th century atheist 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 have got to be very careful here. The question here is not: “must we believe in God in order to live moral lives?” I am not claiming that we must. Nor is the question: “can we recognize objective moral values without believing in God?” I certainly think that we can.
Rather, the question is: “If God does not exists, do objective moral values and duties exist?” And like Mackie and Ruse, I honestly don’t see any reason to think that, in the absence of God, human morality is objective. After all, given a naturalistic view, what is so special about human beings? They are just accidental byproducts of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal spec of dust called the planet earth, lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe, in which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. On the naturalistic view, some action, say rape, may not be socially advantageous and so in the course of human development it has become taboo; but that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is wrong. Such behavior goes on all the time in the animal kingdom. On the naturalistic view there is nothing really wrong with raping someone. Thus without God there is no absolute right and wrong which imposes itself on our conscience.
But the problem is premise (2):
2. Objective moral value and duties do exist.
In moral experience, we apprehend a realm of objective moral values and duties which impose themselves upon us. There is no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of the physical world The reasoning of Michael Ruse at best proves that our subjective perception of moral values has evolved. But if moral values are gradually discovered, rather than invented, then our gradual and fallible perception of the moral realm no more undermines the objectivity of that realm then our gradual and fallible perception of the physical world undermines the objectivity of that realm. Most of us recognize, I think, that in moral experience we do apprehend objective moral values and duties. Ruse himself confesses in another context, “The man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says, 2+2=5.” Some things at least are really wrong. Similarly, love, equality, tolerance, self-sacrifice are really good. But if objective moral values and duties cannot exist without God and objective moral values and duties do exist, then it follows logically and inescapably that:
3. Therefore, God exists.
And thus I think we have good moral grounds for affirming the existence of God.
5. Ontological Argument
The possibility of God’s existence. I have rarely shared this argument in a public lecture, not because I think it is unsound, but because it is so abstract that students are apt to either think it is a trick or not understand it. But I am going to go out on a limb and share it with you this afternoon. Now, in order to understand this argument, you need to understand what philosophers mean by possible worlds. A possible world is just a way the world might have been. It is just a complete description of reality. So a possible world is not a planet, or a universe, or any kind of concrete object; it is just a world description. The actual world is the description that is true. Other possible worlds are descriptions that are not in fact true, but which might have been true. To say that something exists in some possible world is to say that there is some possible description of reality which includes that entity in its description. To say that something exists in every possible world means that, no matter which description is true, the entity will be included in the description. For example, unicorns do not in fact exist. But there is some possible world in which unicorns exist. On the other hand, many mathematicians think that mathematical objects like numbers exist in every possible world.
Now, with that in mind, consider the ontological argument which was discovered in the year 1011 by the monk Anselm of Canterbury. God, Anselm observes, is by definition the greatest being conceivable. If you could conceive a being greater than God, then that would be God. So the very concept of God is of the greatest conceivable being – a maximally great being. So what would such a being be like? Well, he would be all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, and he would exist in every logically possible world. A being which lacked any of those properties would not be maximally great, we could conceive of something greater. But what that implies is that if God’s existence is even possible, then it follows that God must exist. For if a maximally great being exists in any possible world, he exists in all of them. That is part of what it means to be maximally great – to be all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing in every logically possible world. So if God’s existence is even possible then he exists in every logically possible world and therefore in the actual world. We can summarize this argument as follows:
1. It is possible that a maximally great being (aka God) exist.
2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
7. Therefore, God exists.
Now, it might surprise you to learn that steps 2-7 of this argument are relatively uncontroversial. Most philosophers by far would agree that if God’s existence is even possible, then God exists. So the whole question is premise (1): is God’s existence possible? Well, what do you think? The atheist has to maintain that it is impossible that God exists. He has to say that the concept of God is incoherent, like the concept of a married bachelor, or a square circle. But the problem is that the concept of God just doesn’t seem to be incoherent in that way. The idea of a being which is all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing in every logically possible world seems to be perfectly coherent. Moreover, as we have already seen, there are other arguments for God’s existence which at least suggest that it is possible that God exists. So I will simply leave it with you this afternoon. Do you think, as I do, that it is possible that God exists? If so then it follows logically that he does exist.
6. The Resurrection of Jesus
The historical facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The historical person Jesus of Nazareth was by all accounts a remarkable individual. New Testament historians have reached something of a consensus that the historical Jesus came on the scene with an unprecedented sense of divine authority, with the claim to stand and speak in the place of God himself. 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 exorcisms and miracle working. But certainly the supreme confirmation of his claim was his alleged resurrection from the dead. If Jesus really did rise from the dead, then it would seem that we have a divine miracle on our hands and, thus, evidence for the existence of God.
Now most people would probably think that the resurrection of Jesus is something you just believe in by faith, or not. But in fact there are actually three established facts which are recognized by the majority of New Testament historians today which I believe are best explained by the resurrection of Jesus: the empty tomb, his postmortem appearances, and the origin of his disciples’ belief in his resurrection. Let me say just a very brief word about each of these.
Fact #1. Jesus’ tomb was in fact discovered empty by a group of his women followers on the Sunday morning after the crucifixion. According to Jacob Kramer, who is an Austrian specialist in this area, “By far most scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb.” According to D. H. Van Daalen, it is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so, he says, on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.
Fact #2. On separate occasions different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive after his death. According to Gerd Lüdemann, a prominent German New Testament critic, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus' death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” These appearances were witnessed not only by believers, but also by skeptics, unbelievers, and even enemies of the early Christian movement.
Fact #3. The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in the resurrection of Jesus despite every predisposition to the contrary. Think of the situation the disciples faced following Jesus’ crucifixion.
1. Their leader was dead, and Jewish Messianic expectations included no idea of a Messiah who, instead of triumphing over Israel's enemies, would be shamefully executed by them as a criminal.
2. Jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone's rising from the dead to glory and immortality before the general resurrection of the dead at the end of the world.
Nevertheless, the original disciples suddenly came to believe so strongly that God had raised Jesus from the dead that they were willing to die for the truth of that belief. Luke Johnson, who is a New Testament scholar at Emory University, states, “Some sort of powerful, transformative experience is required to generate the sort of movement earliest Christianity was.” N. T. Wright, who is an eminent British scholar, concludes, “That is why, as an historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.”
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 is just no plausible naturalistic explanation of these facts. And therefore it seems to me 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 exist. And we can summarize this argument as follows:
1. There are three established facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazareth: the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of his disciples’ belief in his resurrection.
2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.
3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.
4. Therefore, the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.
And thus, we have a good inductive argument for the existence of the God of Israel who was proclaimed and revealed through Jesus of Nazareth.
7. The Immediate Experience of God
Finally, the personal experience of God. Now this seventh point isn’t really an argument for God’s existence; rather it is the claim that you can know that God exists wholly apart from arguments simply by personally experiencing him. This was the way that people in the Bible knew God. As Professor John Hick of the University of Birmingham 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 an experiential reality which gave significance to their lives.
Philosophers call beliefs like this “properly basic beliefs.” They aren't based on some other beliefs; rather they are part of the foundation of a person’s system of beliefs. Other properly basic beliefs would be the belief in the reality of the past, the existence of the external world, and the presence of other minds like your own. When you think about it, none of these beliefs can be proved. How could you prove that the world was not created five minutes ago with built-in appearances of age like food in our stomachs from the breakfasts we never really ate and memory traces in our brains of events we never really experienced? How could you prove that you are not a brain in a vat being stimulated with electrodes by some mad scientist to believe that you are here listening to this lecture right now? How could you prove that the people sitting around you are not really androids who exhibit all the external behavior of persons with an interior life, when in reality they are soulless, robot-like entities?
Well, although these beliefs are basic for us it doesn’t mean that they are arbitrary. Rather they are grounded in the sense that the are formed in the context of certain experiences. In the experiential context of seeing and feeling and hearing things, I naturally form the belief that there is a world of physical objects around me. Thus, my basic beliefs are not arbitrary, but they are grounded in experience. There may be no way to prove such beliefs, but it is perfectly rational to hold them. If fact you would have to be crazy to think that you were really a brain in a vat or that the world was created five minutes ago. Such beliefs are not merely basic, they are properly basic.
Now, in exactly the same way, God is, for those who know him personally, a basic belief which is grounded in our experience of God.
We can summarize this consideration as follows:
1. Beliefs which are appropriately grounded may be rationally accepted as basic beliefs not grounded on argument.
2. Belief that the biblical God exists is appropriately grounded.
3. Therefore, belief that the biblical God exists may be rationally accepted as a basic belief not grounded on argument.
Now, if this is right, then there is a danger that arguments for the existence of God could actually distract one’s attention from God himself. We could become so focused on the external arguments that we fail to here the inner voice of God speaking to our own hearts. The Bible says, “draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). We must not so concentrate on the external proofs that we fail to hear the voice of God speaking to our own hearts. For those who do listen, God can become a personal reality in their lives.
So, in summary, we have seen seven features of the world around us that point beyond the world to its ground in a transcendent reality.
1) Why anything at all exists;
2) The origin of the universe;
3) The fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life;
4) The existence of objective moral values and duties in the world;
5) The very possibility of God’s existence;
6) The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; and
7) The immediate personal experience of God.
Is the material world all there is? Well, I think on the basis of the seven reasons I have presented we have a powerful cumulative case for thinking that the answer is “no.”
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Professor Craig for coming and sharing with us today. Just before we go, I was wondering. You have given us a lot to think about, you have given us these seven arguments, I was wondering if you wouldn't mind telling us which your favorite of these arguments is; which do you think is the most powerful of the seven?
DR. CRAIG: My doctoral work at the University of Birmingham was done on the second argument, the cosmological argument, based on the finitude of the past and the beginning of the universe. And I continue to find this to be such a powerful and engaging argument. And so, although I realize that it may not be the most existentially gripping argument, it is and remains for me the most important argument for God’s existence.
QUESTION: There have been prophets around the Middle East telling about God, so how come in China or Australia or other places in the world have there not been prophets saying the same thing, that there is only one God? Why is there only one place? God should influence all the people of the world rather than just one place.
DR. CRAIG: I’ll repeat the question for those who didn’t hear it. He points out that in the Middle East, in particularly the Jewish tradition, there have been prophets sent by God to communicate his message to mankind. Why aren’t there similar prophets sent by God in China or Latin America or some place of that sort. And I would answer the question from a biblical perspective in the following way. The New Testament says that God has both a general revelation of himself which is available to all mankind no matter where and when they live, and then there is a special revelation of God which is made to Israel and, through that tradition, culminating in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. God’s general revelation to all mankind is through nature and conscience, what comes to expression in the cosmological and moral arguments that I have discussed today. So that all persons everywhere at any time in history can know that there is a creator God of the universe and they can sense their moral responsibility to this person or being. And that general revelation is available everywhere. But God through his special revelation of Israel has sought to reveal himself in such a way, culminating in the person of Jesus, that this message would eventually then be proclaimed throughout the world and will be made available to all persons. But by the very nature of a historical revelation, this is a process that begins at a particular geographical locale and time, and then spreads throughout the world. And so you have a difference between general and special revelation.
FOLLOWUP: How does a person know there is only one God rather than several gods.
DR. CRAIG: Well I think through God’s revelation in nature you can sense that there is a creator of everything that exists and so I think monotheism would be the simpler default position. In fact, the New Testament says that people, refusing to recognize the creator of the universe, begin to worship objects that are made in the image of animals and beasts and human beings and so forth so that this kind of idolatry and polytheism really represents a kind of degeneration from refusing to accept the general revelation of the creator of the universe.
QUESTION: You said that only a finite number of multiverses would have been generated by now so you wouldn’t have every possibility. But is that not based on the idea that the multiverses are coming from somewhere with time. If there was no time before the universe, then they all exist, they don’t exist on the basis of starting now and ending.
DR. CRAIG: Well, on the contrary, I think what I indicated was that the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem applies not only to our universe, but it applies to the whole ensemble, the whole multiverse. It had to have an absolute beginning, so it has a finite age – it has only existed for a finite amount of time. And therefore the only way you could get an infinite number of universes in the ensemble would be if it is spatially infinite. But if these are generated say, a few at a time, then, given its finite past, there is no guarantee that there are an infinite number of these things.
FOLLOWUP: But I am talking about each universe is contained in itself; outside of our universe, then, for another universe, they are not in a spacetime, they exists independently, not in a spacetime, so they cannot start at a specific time or occupy a certain space.
DR. CRAIG: Well, that depends on what sort of multiverse model you adopt. What I am thinking about here would be the type of model that thinks of a sort of mother universe which is in expansion and is in a false vacuum state and there appear bubbles in it of true vacuum that peculate throughout this expanding false vacuum. So these are in a kind of wider realty. That is the most plausible and popular multiverse scenario that is scientifically out there today.
QUESTION: How do you objectively measure the morals that are objective. How do you know that you are not measuring a biological moral and you know that it is objective.
DR. CRAIG: Right, that is the support for the second premise, that objective moral values and duties exist, and what I would do here is simply appeal to your moral experience. Don’t you think, as you reflect on it, that certain things are genuinely evil, for example. Don’t you think that it is wrong to torture a little child for fun as opposed to loving that little child? Don’t you think that that is a more plausible account of your moral experience than just saying, well this is just a biological spin off of biological and social evolution? So it is kind of like belief in the external world of objects. This is a properly basic belief grounded in your experience, and unless you are given some sort of a defeater for it, you have got no reason to deny what experience teaches you – that in the one case there is a world of physical objects and in the other that there is an objective moral realm. So again I will leave it up to you, which do you think is more plausible? Do you think that there are objective moral values and duties? If you do than I think you should believe that God exists.
FOLLOWUP: Well I just argued that there is no distinguishing between them. And that just because you prefer to think that rape is objectively bad does not necessary mean that it is objectively bad and it is not because of biological and social advantages to thinking that.
DR. CRAIG: Well, I would just be repeating myself here, at this point. I see no reason to think such a thing and to deny what my moral experience tells me.
QUESTION: You mentioned a few times that God is good, but why couldn’t he be evil in the framework that you just presented to us.
DR. CRAIG: Well, by definition, the concept of God is of a being that is worthy of worship. That is what it means to be God. And to be worthy of worship entails perfect goodness. Any being that was morally defective would not be worthy of worship. And that is why absolute goodness is part of a maximally great being, what it means to be maximally great. So if there is such a being, I think necessarily it has to be good. And the moral argument gives us grounds for thinking that there is such a being because we need some sort of transcendent foundation for objective moral values and duties and apart from God we are just lost in relativism.
QUESTION: If I was raised by a feral animal somewhere and I was not brought up by my parents in a society, I maybe would suggest that I wouldn’t have the moral compass that I do have. So I would say that it is a lot about your environment and the people you are around as well as biological, it is how we evolved. It is also on an individual basis about your upbringing, in my experience.
DR. CRAIG: Here we have to be very careful not to confuse moral epistemology with moral ontology. Moral epistemology asks the question, “How do you we come to know moral values and duties?” Moral ontology concerns, “Are there objectively such things?” And to think that because we come to know them through parental influence and societal conditioning that therefore they do not objectively exist is to commit what is called the genetic fallacy, which is trying to invalidate a point of view by showing how the person came to hold it. I might believe, for example, that the earth is round because I read it in a comic book. And that wouldn’t be very good justification but that wouldn’t mean that that belief is false. To think so would be to commit the genetic fallacy. So the questions you are raising about how you are raised and so forth are really quite irrelevant to moral ontology, which is what I am dealing with. And as I said in my talk, if moral values are gradually discovered rather than gradually invented then our gradual and fallible and conditioned apprehension of the moral realm just doesn’t do anything to undermine the objectivity of that realm and to think that it does would be to commit the genetic fallacy.
FOLLOWUP: OK, I think it was more that I was saying that I feel that maybe it is evidence for why it is not objective, that we could live in a world where we hadn’t arrived at this point, and I would say that was maybe evidence for it. But sorry my main question was that if Jesus preformed his miracles and that was evidence for a transcendent realm that is beyond our understanding, all the miracles seem to be grounded in their time, you know, he turned water into wine, but he never explained that everything in the universe was attracted to everything else. He never revealed any of the true elegance of the universe. He just kind of performed very grounded miracles that people at the time would find amazing, but not really truly amazing, you know what I mean?
DR. CRAIG: Well I don’t see any reason to think that Jesus of Nazareth should have been a natural scientist. He was a Jew and we need to recover the genuine portrait of this 1st century Palestinian Jewish man, and the miracles that he performed were part of a Jewish context. They were signs of the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom, and the kind of physical healing and exorcisms, the demonic exorcisms that he did, were symbolic of the moral and spiritual healing that his message brought. So the miracles were not just show pieces or wonders, they were visible demonstration of the advent of God’s Kingdom in his own person.
QUESTION: You probably won’t find this at all surprising but there is something that is puzzling me about the ontological argument. Basically it relies on there being great making properties. You need to appeal to those in order to make the argument work. Now I gather those are supposed to be objective in a sense; not just subjective things, but an actual objective measurement of what it is to be great to a certain degree. Now am I right in thinking that, in order to avoid the ontological argument being circular in saying that these great making properties could only exist because God exists, they would need to be grounded in something other than God to justify that there are such things as great making properties? Would they have to stand independently from God? Because, for example, in the moral argument you say that moral values and duties only exist if God exists, but of course, one of the great making properties is moral goodness – that is one of the categories. So I am just wondering, if you need to justify to somebody that there is such a thing as great making properties, do you need to do that independently of saying that they depend on God, if that makes sense?
DR. CRAIG: I don’t think so, in the same way that one wouldn’t need to appeal to God to justify premise two of the moral argument, that objective moral values and duties. That again is this confusion between epistemology and ontology. These properties might be grounded ontological in God, as you say. But epistemologically I think we can have access to these readily without believing in God. And we know, for example, that it is greater to be more powerful than to be weak and impotent. It is greater to be all-knowing than to be ignorant. It is greater to be morally perfect then morally flawed and evil. And you don’t need to believe in God, I think, to sense those differences.
FOLLOWUP: So all you need is just the awareness of, yes, there are great making properties, and then you just let the argument flow, you don’t need to worry about necessarily where the great making properties come from?
DR. CRAIG: No, because that is not part of the question.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Dr. Craig, really excellent arguments. This approach I think is very good at proving the existence of God and so on. I would like to suggest that, with these arguments, especially the ontological argument, this special case that you proposed, that you actually strike closer to the Muslim perspective on God, which is his absolute transcendence. So where you state, as Christians, that God becomes Jesus and lives on the earth; I would like to suggest that some of the attributes that you mentioned, in particular, all-knowing and all-powerful and other such properties, these do not sit well or there is a certain degree of irrationality in this assertion that he becomes incarnated in Jesus. So would you like to address this?
DR. CRAIG: Yes. That is a very interesting question, and I think that what Muslim theology has failed to understand about the doctrine of the incarnation is the doctrine of the two natures of Christ. As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is one person, but that he has both a divine nature and a human nature. And in his divine nature he is omnipotent, all-knowing, timeless, spaceless, or whatever. It is his human nature that is like ours that is spatially located, weak, limited in power and so forth. And therefore these limitation on his human nature have simply no effect whatsoever on his divine nature. Indeed, I would think a being is greater who has the ability to take on a human nature and be incarnate as a human being. Now where my critic of the Muslim concept of God would come in at this point is that I think that the Muslim concept of God is not the greatest conceivable being. I would, and I have, criticized the Muslim concept of God precisely because it isn’t the greatest concept. In what way would I say that? I think the greatest conceivable being would be an all-loving being. His love would be unconditional, impartial, and universal. And this is the kind of love that Jesus revealed of our heavenly Father. By contrast, the God of the Qur’an is partial, his love is conditional – you have to earn it – and it is not universal, he does not love sinners. Over and over again the Qur’an says that God loves not the unbelievers, he loves not the sinners, he loves not the hard-necked, he only love believers. And so for that reason I couldn’t be a Muslim; I think the concept of God is Islam is morally inadequate.
FOLLOWUP: First of all, going back to the initial points on Jesus. I would suggest that there is an aspect of pagan idolatry is saying that there is a man because of the fact that any other polytheist could say that this idol that he is worshiping is as much of a representation of God’s temporal and physical reality as his transcendent reality, any polytheist could argue that. Now regarding the second point, that God does not love so and so, and God does not love so and so, I would like to suggest that, this is an important aspect of this realm in which we live, which is the temporal life, which, once this ends there is the day of judgment, which you also believe in. I would like to say that, since we both believe in the day of judgment, then it becomes irrelevant if you say that God must love everyone, because on what criteria is God judging people on? It is the criteria of their obedience to him and their servitude towards him. See, in the Qur’an, we say that God’s mercy envelopes everyone. We don’t say that his love envelopes everyone, we say that he loves certain slaves of his, but his mercy and his justice prevail over everyone. And there are other attributes, there ate 99 attributes in total, and these need to be understood in their full context, then you realize that this is truly the most supreme living, everlasting, the one, the vanquisher, the absolutely merciful, and he who is subtly gentle with his slaves, and the original creator, and other attributes. I could go on through the other attributes, but you need to understand the full context and then you realize that this is truly the being who is our creator and worthy of worship.
DR. CRAIG: I guess I just don’t agree. I specialized in Islam as one of my side areas at the University of Munich when I did my theological studies. And it seems to me that it is vitally important, and a huge difference between the God of the New Testament who loves sinners and loves unbelievers, and even those who are under his judgment – he loves them. Whereas the God of the Qur’an has no love for sinner, the Qur’an says this over and over again. And his mercy is only extended to those who seek him and do what it required. His mercy means that he will give you what you have earned, that God can be depended upon to give you what you have earned plus a bonus on judgment day.
MODERATOR: I am afraid we need to start getting the room packed up, if you want to continue this discussion, feel free to, but thank you very much, again, Dr. Craig for coming to speak to us and thank you all for coming.
 William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010).
 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008).
 David Armstrong, “Naturalism, Materialism, and First Philosophy,” Philosophia 8, no. 2-3 (1978): p. 261.
 Derek Parfit, "Why Anything? Why This?" London Review of Books 20/2 (January 22, 1998), p.24.
 David Hilbert, “On the Infinite,” in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hillary Putnam (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), pp. 139, 141.
 ABC Science Online, "The Big Questions: In the Beginning," Interview of Paul Davies by Phillip Adams, http://aca.mq.edu.au/pdavies.html, as quoted on ReasonableFaith.org at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-exist-1 (accessed August 3, 2013).
 Alex Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), p. 176.
 Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), p. 66.
 Bernulf Kanitscheider, “Does Physical Cosmology Transcend the Limits of Naturalistic Reasoning?” in Studies on Mario Bunge's “Treatise,” ed. P. Weingartner and G. J. W. Doen (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1990), p. 344.
 See Roger Penrose, The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe (New York: Knopf, 2005), 762–65.
 J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), pp. 115-16.
 Ibid., pp. 117-18
 Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269.
 Michael Ruse, Darwinism Defended (London: Addison-Wesley, 1982), p. 275.
 Jacob Kremer, Die Osterevangelien--Geschichten um Geschichte (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977), pp. 49-50.
 Gerd Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus?, trans. John Bowden (Louisville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), p. 8.
 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 136.
 N. T. Wright, “The New Unimproved Jesus,” Christianity Today (September 13, 1993), p. 26.
 John Hick, "Introduction," in The Existence of God, ed. with an Introduction by John Hick, Problems of Philosophy Series (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1964), pp. 13-14.
 Total Running Time: 1:11:24 (Copyright © 2013 William Lane Craig)