05 / 06
birds birds

“Is There Evidence for God?”

May 2016

William Lane Craig vs. Kevin Scharp

The Veritas Forum, Ohio State University, USA - February 2016

Dr. Craig - Presentation

Dr. Craig: Thank you! I’m grateful to the Veritas Forum for the invitation to participate in tonight’s dialogue, and I’d also like to thank Kevin Scharp for his willingness to join in.

We’re here to discuss whether there is evidence for God. I think that there is. In fact, I’m convinced that God’s existence best explains a wide range of the data of human experience. Let me mention briefly six.

1. God is the best explanation why anything at all exists. This is the most fundamental question of philosophy. Suppose you were hiking through the woods and found a ball lying on the ground. You would naturally wonder how it came to be there. If your hiking buddy said to you, “Forget about it! It just exists inexplicably!”, you would think that he was either joking or else just wanted you to keep moving. No one would take seriously the idea that the ball just exists without any explanation. Why not? Because the ball is contingent in its existence. It can exist, but it doesn’t have to exist.

So what makes the ball different from, say, unicorns, which can exist but do not exist? Very simply, there is something that explains the ball’s existence, typically a causal explanation. Now, notice that merely increasing the size of the ball, even until it becomes coextensive with the universe, does nothing to provide or remove the need for an explanation of its existence. So, what is the explanation of the universe, where by “the universe” I mean all of spacetime reality?

The explanation of the universe can be found only in a transcendent reality beyond the universe, beyond space and time, which is metaphysically necessary in its existence. Now, there’s only one way I can think of to get a contingent entity like the universe from a necessarily existing cause, and that is if the cause is a personal agent who can freely choose to create a contingent reality. It therefore follows that the best explanation of the existence of the contingent universe is a transcendent personal being, which is what everybody means by “God.”

We can summarize this reasoning as follows:

1. Every contingent thing has an explanation of its existence.

2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is a transcendent, personal being.

3. The universe is a contingent thing.

4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence.

5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is a transcendent, personal being (which is what everybody means by “God.”)

2. God is the best explanation of the origin of the universe. Atheists have typically held that the universe never had a beginning, but is just eternal in the past. But we now have pretty strong evidence that the universe is not eternal in the past, but had an absolute beginning a finite time ago. In 2003, 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 infinite in the past, but must have a past spacetime boundary. Because we don’t yet have a quantum theory of gravity, we can’t provide a physical description of the first split-second of the universe. But any sort of quantum physical state which may have characterized the early universe cannot be eternal in the past because it is unstable and so must have had an absolute beginning. Even if our universe is just a part of a so-called “multiverse” composed of many universes, the multiverse itself must have had an absolute beginning. [1]

Of course, highly speculative scenarios like loop quantum gravity models, string models, even closed time-like curves have been proposed to try to avoid this absolute beginning. These models are fraught with problems. But the bottom line is that none of these theories, even if true, succeeds in restoring an eternal past. According to Vilenkin, none of these scenarios can actually be past-eternal. He concluded, “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.” [2]

But then the inevitable question arises: Why did the universe come into being? What brought the universe into existence? There must have been a transcendent cause which brought the universe into being.

We can summarize our argument as follows:

1. The universe began to exist.

2. If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a transcendent cause.

3. Therefore, the universe has a transcendent cause.

By the very nature of the case, that cause must be a timeless, spaceless, immaterial being. Now, there are only two types of things that could possibly fit that description. Either an abstract object like a number or else an unembodied mind or consciousness. But abstract objects don’t stand in causal relations. The number seven, for example, has no effect upon anything. Therefore, the cause of the universe is plausibly an unembodied mind. And thus, we’re brought not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe, but to its personal creator.

3. God is the best explanation of the applicability of mathematics to the physical world. Philosophers and scientists have puzzled over what physicist Eugene Wigner called “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.” [3] How is it that a theorist like Peter Higgs can sit down at his desk and by poring over mathematical equations predict the existence of a fundamental particle, which 30 years later, after investing millions of dollars and thousands of man hours, experimentalists are finally able to detect? Mathematics is the language of nature. But how is this to be explained? If mathematical objects are abstract entities causally isolated from the universe, then the applicability of mathematics to the physical world is, in the words of the philosopher of mathematics Mary Leng, “a happy coincidence.” [4]

On the other hand, if mathematical objects are just useful fictions, then how is it that nature is written in the language of these fictions? The naturalist has no explanation for the uncanny applicability of mathematics to the physical world. By contrast, the theist has a ready explanation. When God created the universe, he designed it on the mathematical structure which he had in mind.

We can summarize this argument as follows:

1. If God did not exist, the applicability of mathematics would be a happy coincidence.

2. The applicability of mathematics is not a happy coincidence.

3. Therefore, God exists.

4. God is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life. In recent decades, scientists have been stunned by the discovery that the initial conditions of the big bang were fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life with a precision and delicacy that literally defy human comprehension. There are three live explanatory options for this extraordinary fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance, or design.

Physical necessity is not, however, a plausible explanation because the finely tuned constants and quantities are independent of the laws of nature. Therefore, they are not physically necessary.

So, could the fine-tuning be due to chance? The problem with this explanation is that the odds of a life-permitting universe governed by our laws of nature are just so infinitesimal that they cannot be reasonably faced. [5] Therefore, proponents of chance have been forced to postulate the existence of a world ensemble of other universes, preferably infinite in number and randomly ordered, so that life-permitting universes would appear by chance somewhere in the ensemble.

Not only is this hypothesis, to borrow Richard Dawkins’ phrase, an “unparsimonious extravagance,” [6] but it faces an insuperable obstacle. By far, most of the observable universes in a world ensemble would be worlds in which a single brain fluctuates into existence out of the vacuum and observes its otherwise empty world. Worlds like that are simply incomprehensibly more plenteous in the world ensemble than worlds like ours. Thus, if our world were just a random member of a world ensemble, we ought to be having observations like that. Since we don’t, that strongly disconfirms the world ensemble hypothesis. So, chance is also not a good explanation.

It follows that design is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe. Thus, the fine-tuning of the universe constitutes evidence for a cosmic designer:

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.

2. The fine-tuning of the universe is not due to physical necessity or chance.

3. Therefore, the fine-tuning of the universe is due to design.

5. God is the best explanation of objective moral values and duties in the world. In moral experience, we apprehend a realm of moral values and duties which impose themselves upon us as objectively binding and true. For example, we all recognize that it’s wrong to walk into an elementary school with an automatic weapon and shoot little boys and girls and their teachers. On a naturalistic view, however, there’s nothing really wrong with that. Moral values are just the subjective byproducts of biological evolution and social conditioning. In Richard Dawkins' words, “There is at bottom . . . no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference. . . . We are machines for propagating DNA. . . . It is every living object’s sole reason for being.” [7]

By contrast, the theist grounds objective moral values in God and our moral duties in his commands. The theist thus has the explanatory resources which the atheist lacks to ground objective moral values and duties. Hence, we may argue:

1. Objective moral values and duties exist.

2. But if God did not exist, objective moral values and duties would not exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

So, if you think that there are at least some things that are really good or evil, you should take a serious look at theism.

6. God can be personally known and experienced. 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 personally experiencing him. Philosophers call beliefs like this “properly basic beliefs.” They aren’t based on some other beliefs; rather, they’re part of the foundation of a person’s system of beliefs. Other properly basic beliefs would be belief in the reality of the external world or the reality of the past. When you think about it, neither of these beliefs can be proved on the basis of evidence. 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, or memory traces in our brains of events we never really experienced? How could you prove that you’re not a brain in a vat of chemicals being stimulated with electrodes by some mad scientist to believe that you’re sitting here in this auditorium listening to this lecture?

Although these sorts of beliefs are basic for us, that doesn’t mean that they’re arbitrary. Rather, they are grounded in the sense that they’re 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 are certain physical objects which I am sensing. Thus, my basic beliefs are not arbitrary but appropriately grounded in experience. [8] There may be no way to prove such beliefs, and yet it is perfectly rational to hold them. You’d have to be crazy to think that you’re a brain in a vat or that the world was created five minutes ago! Such beliefs are thus not merely basic but properly basic.

In the same way, belief in God can be for those who seek him a properly basic belief grounded in our experience of God. Hence, we may argue:

1. Beliefs which are appropriately grounded may be rationally accepted as basic beliefs, not grounded on argument.

2. Belief that God exists is appropriately grounded.

3. Therefore, belief that God exists can be rationally accepted as a basic belief, not grounded on argument.

If this is right, then there’s a danger that arguments for God could actually distract your attention from God himself. The Bible promises, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). We mustn’t so concentrate on the external arguments that we fail to hear the inner voice of God speaking to our own hearts. For those who listen, God becomes an immediate reality in their lives.

[Audience applause]

Dr. Scharp - Presentation

Dr. Scharp: Good evening, friends! Thanks to the sponsors of tonight’s event for inviting me, and thanks to Professor Craig for participating and thanks to all of you for coming out!

So, Professor Craig went first and got to give his case for theism. Going second, I’m now expected to present my position, argue it, and dismantle his, so I better get going. I call the position “21st century atheism.” Why 21st century? Because I think we’ve learned some important lessons in the 20th century about philosophy of religion, and it’s time to take advantage of those insights.


Next, let’s define the position first. We should be formulating theism and atheism in terms of confidence levels from zero percent to 100 percent, not in terms of belief. Confidence levels are much more precise. For example, if forced to answer who would be the next president, I would probably say Hillary Clinton. But I’m only at about 51 percent confidence on that, so there’s no way that I would say sincerely, “Hillary is going to win” in normal circumstances. A certain level of confidence is required in order to count as a belief. We should formulate theism and atheism in terms of specific gods and religions. The terms “theist about X” and “atheist about X” should be primary. And then you can define general theism and general atheism in terms of those.

We also need to distinguish between weak religious views and strong religious views. A weak religious view is greater than 50 percent confidence. A strong religious view is high enough to count as knowledge or outright belief. So, using these points, we can map out the various options.


Next [referring to slide], on the left, we see views on whether some god exists. Here I’ve put in the threshold for belief at 80 percent, but that’s just an example. Saying that it’s more probable than not that some god exists means that you only need to show greater than 50 percent confidence. But saying that we know or believe that some god exists requires a higher confidence level.


Next [referring to slide], top and the bottom indicate strong positions. The top, strong theism; the bottom, strong atheism.


Next [referring to slide], the middle positions are in between, and they are weak. Just above the 50 percent we have weak theism; just below 50 percent, weak atheism.


Next [referring to slide]. Now on the right we have the same kind of options but instead of being about whether there are any gods at all, they’re about whether capital “G” God, the Christian God, exists. And now, back to both frameworks.


Here we have 21st century atheism depicted on the previous framework as the red X on the left and the red X on the right. The left X indicates that it’s more probable than not that there are no gods at all. The right X indicates that there is no Christian God, and that’s a high confidence claim. You can imagine a bunch of frameworks, just like the one on the right, for other sorts of gods, like Zeus or Thor or what have you. And the X is going to be in the same place in each case.


Okay, so 21st century atheism is a fairly simple theory, and the primary argument for it is fairly simple as well. I call it the confidence argument. For any familiar god, including capital “G” God, the evidence is always either in ancient history or someplace where there are few witnesses, or it’s based on someone’s private experience. [9]

Also, the evidence for it conflicts with our best scientific theories in biology, chemistry, and physics, and we should have way more confidence in those scientific theories than in any existing evidence for any familiar god. The confidence argument should give us high enough confidence to say god does not exist, Zeus does not exist, Thor does not exist, and so on. What about our confidence for the claim there are no gods at all? Any god that supposedly intervenes in the world in any familiar way is going to be undermined by the confidence argument. And we have no reason to believe in gods that do not intervene in the world at all, because they don’t need them to explain anything. So, there’s no reason to think that they do exist, and there’s very weak reason to believe they do not exist. Therefore, it’s more probable than not that there are no gods. But this confidence isn’t high enough to count as knowledge or outright belief.


Next [referring to slide]. That’s my position and my arguments for it. It’s important to note though, that 21st century atheism has nothing to do with the following views:

No strong general [atheism] [10]: That would require arguing for high confidence against the existence of all conceivable gods, even those that might want to deceive us about all the evidence, like Descartes’ evil deceiver. Defending strong general atheism is, in my view, a sucker’s bet.

No reductive naturalism: I have no patience with the claim that everything can be reductively explained in terms of science, and it’s completely independent of 21st century atheism.

I’ve not argued that religion has bad consequences.

I’ve not implied that theists are stupid. Professor Craig might be the smartest person in the room for all I know.

I’ve not argued that miracles are impossible, only that all the evidence we have for them does not override or even come close to our evidence for scientific theories that conflict with the supposed miracle.


Now I want to develop a new kind of criticism of arguments for theism and for Christianity. I call it the appeal to divine psychology. You might have noticed I didn’t use the problem of evil in my arguments here at all. That’s because contemporary Christian philosophers of religion, to their great credit, have largely dismantled the problem of evil. In essence, the theist points out that we should have no confidence at all in understanding God’s global plans, or how the evil we see might be outweighed by some more important part of the plan. Then the argument turns into a fight about divine psychology.

By divine psychology, I mean what God would do, what God would believe, what God would want, what plans God would have, or what reasons God would have. Arguing with a theist about divine psychology is like arguing with a little kid about his imaginary tea party, and all the parents in the room know that you don’t win that argument. No one seems to have realized that the point can be generalized to show that an entire category of arguments is unacceptable. That entire category I call “appeals to divine psychology,” and it includes many of the theist's favorite arguments as well. Abandoning divine psychology cuts both ways, but it cuts the theist deeper. In particular, cosmological arguments, teleological arguments, explanatory arguments, and miracle arguments all make appeals to divine psychology. The Christian might claim that appeals to divine psychology are just fine, but the theist can’t have it both ways. If we allow claims about God’s psychology, then the problem of evil comes roaring right back, and you don’t want that.

Now we need to turn to the arguments for theism and for Christianity in particular. Because my discussion partner is Professor Craig, I’ll be focusing on his work in what follows. In assessing his arguments, I will talk as I would to any other professional philosopher whose system I’ve managed to work my way into. That is, I don’t pull punches, but I also never attack character, so it isn’t personal. Professor Craig knows this; I know this; I’m saying it for the benefit of the audience. In part, because I respect the guy. He’s got some great philosophical skills, he’s a talented system builder, which I admire, and he’s done a tremendous service to the atheist movement by trouncing most of our heroes and raising the bar on both sides. [Audience laughter] I’m serious! That’s a major benefit, a major thing that we can say thank you for.


I’ve managed to take a look at Professor Craig’s entire system. Here it is [referring to slide]. Here’s what we have. I think all the major arguments are here that Professor Craig has either advocated or proposed over the years. It’s divided into arguments for theism in general at the top and for Christianity in particular at the bottom. Recall, he just gave the contingency argument, the kalam argument, the mathematical applicability argument, the fine-tuning argument, the moral argument, and the experience argument. Four arguments from the top, two arguments from the bottom, that’s the six he just gave.


Next [referring to slide]. In this table Professor Craig’s arguments are on the left and some major problems are on the top.


Next [referring to slide]. We can see first a previously unknown problem that affects the entire system. I call it the weakness problem. It’s sort of highlighted in blue up there. Professor Craig has routinely defended the arguments for theism by saying that he only needs to convince you that the premises are more plausible than not. But it should be obvious that it takes more than 51 percent confidence for knowledge or outright belief. [11]


Look back at the earlier framework for illustration. Here’s what Professor Craig argues for. These are the way his arguments are presented.


Next [referring to slide], these are the conclusions that he draws from them. Go back [referring to slide], those are the way he defends his premises, and again forward [referring to slide], those are the conclusions.

So, ultimately, he’s been defending his arguments as if he advocates weak theism, but he’s been advertising his view as if it’s strong theism. So, the weakness problem is that his arguments are far weaker than they need to be to support his very strong conclusions. Therefore, no one should take any of these arguments seriously until they are completely redefended from the ground up to match the standard Professor Craig has set for himself. Otherwise, he could backpedal and opt for weak theism, but either way the entire system needs to be reworked.

While there are plenty of interesting things to say, I don’t really need to do anymore to undermine the entire system of arguments with the exception of the experience argument at the bottom. It doesn’t have any Xs at all, but don’t let that fool you. That just makes it very different from the other ones.


I do want to emphasize a couple of points. Look at the divine psychology objection. The problem affects a lot of the arguments up here. And it’s not going to affect the moral argument, but every one, except for moral and experience of the ones that he presented, it’s there.


Next, think about explanation. Professor Craig routinely formulates his arguments as inferences to the best explanation. I don’t know if you noticed that, but every single one of the first five arguments were formulated as inferences to the best explanation tonight. However, he admits that it’s almost impossible to determine what God would do or plan at all.

For example, if we think of God alone existing all by himself, then there’s no way to infer that God would even create the universe. Professor Craig freely admits that the God hypothesis doesn’t make any predictions, but it also makes no retrodictions. A retrodiction is like a prediction, but it’s predicting something that we already know about, like the existence of the universe. The God hypothesis offers no predictions, no retrodictions, and as such, it’s a terrible explanation.


Moral argument: The first premise states that if God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist either. In arguing for this premise, Professor Craig just assumes that the atheist has to explain all morality in terms of evolutionary theory. He said it again tonight. But that is so completely wrong that you can’t know anything about the whole history of ethics over the last century if you espouse that. There are literally dozens of theories of moral values and moral duties that are objective, not naturalist, and make no appeal to gods. For example, G. E. Moore, Sir William David Ross, Christine Korsgaard, Thomas Scanlon, Derek Parfit, Philippa Foot, David Enoch, Russ Shafer-Landau, Rosalind Hursthouse, John McDowell, Jonathan Dancy, H. A. Prichard, Roger Crisp, Joseph Raz, Jean Hampton, and Rey Wedgwood. That’s just a few. Therefore, until he’s refuted every single one of these theories, he needs to stop using the moral argument. The lesson for everybody else: Stop assuming that atheists cannot accept that there aren’t objective moral values. All it demonstrates is that you know nothing about ethics.


Next [referring to slide]. Finally, Professor Craig makes a big deal of his knowledge of cosmology, and he uses it in the kalam argument and the fine-tuning arguments, both arguments that you saw tonight. However, he rejects evolutionary theory and with it contemporary biology, in favor of intelligent design, which is the idea that biological species developed by God’s guidance. But it doesn’t make sense to claim to be an expert on cosmology and at the same time reject evolution. That’s just cherry picking.

Does he think there’s a magic dividing line between biology and chemistry? How do you think the fine-tuning argument even works? Those calculations are about biochemistry, and that’s the basis for evolutionary theory and biology. At this point, we understand life well enough that if you reject evolutionary theory, it’s pretty easy to trace out how you would have to reject chemistry and ultimately physics as well. So, Professor Craig, from one philosopher to another, please drop intelligent design. I would like to have a stronger opponent than that. It does nothing to help you, and it makes you look like you’re more scared of evolutionary theory than Richard Dawkins is scared of you, and we both know that’s pretty scared. [Audience laughter]

We don’t need to go through much more, partly because, for the apologist, these arguments are just smoke and mirrors anyway, and, as we’ll see, their fate has no impact on the apologist’s belief that God exists. The real heart of this system is the experience argument. We’ll turn to that.


Professor Craig claims that even if all the other arguments for God’s existence were shown to be worthless, that would have absolutely zero impact on his belief that God exists. That’s because his own religious experience tells him that he knows God exists, independently of any argument or evidence. [12] He makes two appeals to justify this radical thesis. First, the belief that God exists is a basic belief, because it’s like a perceptual belief. And second, that his religious experience is an intrinsic defeater defeater. This means that his experience is so powerful that it undermines any reason one might have to doubt it. So, according to Professor Craig, his religious experience is so powerful it allows him to know God exists, it can never be reasonably doubted, and he doesn’t have to provide any arguments for it at all. You’ve got to hand it to the guy, he knows where his weak spot is.

The fact is, religious experiences do not fit well into basic structure because they don’t act like perceptual experiences at all. Perceptual experiences are backed up by other evidence, including biology. Not so for religious experience. And in addition, we’ve got very good reason to think that there are no intrinsic defeater defeaters, because any experience can be misleading. Indeed, we can stimulate a person’s brain in certain ways and cause them to have very powerful religious experiences, even though they aren’t experiencing anything. If Professor Craig’s experience was truly an intrinsic defeater defeater, it would have to defeat all of neuroscience that potentially undermines it, and that’s absurd. Subjective experiences, even really, really, really, really powerful ones, are just that—subjective. All by themselves, they don’t allow us to know anything objective.


By far the biggest problem with the experience argument is that it’s supposed to justify being an apologist, which is how Professor Craig identifies. The apologist is concerned first and foremost with defending the belief that God exists. There’s never an attempt to figure out whether it’s true that God exists, and the apologist is completely opposed to even considering that God might not exist. I am ready to become a Christian tonight, but Professor Craig, because he’s an apologist, has decided to put becoming an atheist completely out of the question. The apologist puts this belief that God exists completely out of bounds for critical thinking. Being an apologist is seriously irrational. First of all, putting any belief completely out of bounds for critical thinking is irrational. How irrational? Well, we have lots of great theories of rationality and critical thinking, but none of them can even model the apologist’s irrationality.

For example, you might be able to come close if you stipulate that the belief in God has to be 100 percent confidence. But Professor Craig emphatically denies that. So, he’s suggesting that we should take a belief that isn’t even certain and put it out of bounds for critical thinking. Our best theories of rationality can account for a lot of kinds of irrationality, but the apologist’s irrationality is so extreme that it can’t even be modeled at all. Being an apologist is off the charts irrational.

When discussing the case of Ryan Bell, the pastor who tried atheism for a year and lost his faith, Professor Craig freely admits that any Christian who allows Christianity to be subject to critical thinking just like any other belief is probably going to end up an atheist. That’s Professor Craig’s own stated view. The greatest Christian apologist of the last half-century is convinced that if the Christian gives the belief that God exists a fair shake in the process of rational belief revision, then the belief that God exists is going to lose. Let that sink in for a second. [13]


Finally, why should we care about any of this? Well, it has a huge impact on social issues. In particular, apologetics tends to creep into related beliefs and lead to arbitrary hatefulness. For example, Professor Craig campaigns against same-sex marriage and the right for same-sex couples to adopt. To try to undermine some perfectly great parents’ right to have kids is a personal disgrace, and moreover, it’s not supported by anything in the Bible or entailed by anything that is. Of course, there’s no outcry about single people adopting kids, nor is there an outcry about rich people adopting kids, even though greed is mentioned right along with homosexuality in 1 Corinthians and is emphasized over and over throughout the New Testament. When Professor Craig cites evidence for his view, he focuses exclusively on the four studies that suggest some problems for kids from same-sex households. Conveniently, he ignores the over 70 studies concluding that there are no problems specific to kids from same-sex households. Professor Craig, don’t forget, you can always change your mind. Thank you!

[Audience applause]

Questions & Answers - Moderated Dialogue

Moderator: Okay, thank you very much! So, the next part of our evening together is a moderated dialogue where I am the moderator. [Audience laughter] I think we have about 20 minutes or so of this, and then we’re going to move to an audience question and answer period after that. [14] So, I guess I’d like to start off in kind of a general way. Since you both listened to the other person give their presentations, and maybe I’ll start with Dr. Craig because Kevin had an opportunity to respond to some of what you said. But if you had a question, having listened to Dr. Scharp just now, would you want to get us started with a particular kind of question?

Dr. Craig: Sure! Well, thank you for that very robustious response! I think that the YouTube video of this event will repay close study, since this was like drinking from a fire hose tonight. [Audience laughter] This will be valuable for people in the future, I think. I do have a question about something you said that rather puzzled me.

Dr. Scharp: Sure.

Dr. Craig: You characterized weak theism as having a greater than 50 percent confidence level.

Dr. Scharp: Right.

Dr. Craig And then talked about how I draw stronger conclusions than that. I think this was the so-called weakness problem, that I draw stronger conclusions from arguments whose premises, I say, are simply more plausible than their contradictories.

Dr. Scharp: That’s right.

Dr. Craig: Now, the way I understand this, Kevin, is that what I was trying to do is to set minimum thresholds for reasonable theistic belief --

Dr. Scharp: Good.

Dr. Craig: -- and the idea there was that in a deductive argument, if the conjunction of the premises is more plausible than not, then that suffices for what you said, a weak theism, a confidence in theism.

Dr. Scharp: Right.

Dr. Craig: Now, I myself think that those premises are far more plausible than not.

Dr. Scharp: Good.

Dr. Craig: But that’s just meant to set a minimum threshold to get somebody like yourself into the kingdom.

[Audience laughter]

Dr. Scharp: Yeah, that’s what you should be doing.

Dr. Craig: So, it seems to me there really isn’t a weakness problem there.

Dr. Scharp: I don’t get in the kingdom unless I believe, right?

Dr. Craig: Right, so I want to set the threshold low.

Dr. Scharp: Fifty-one percent is not enough for belief. Belief requires higher confidence than that.

Dr. Craig: Ah, okay, then I misunderstood what you were saying. I thought you were saying that a confidence level of 51 percent would be enough for having a weak theistic belief.

Dr. Scharp: No, weak theism. So, thinking that theism is more probable than not—but that doesn’t justify you in saying I believe God exists or I know God exists. That’s what you want.

Dr. Craig: Okay, then I misunderstood what you were saying. Now, suppose I have a confidence in the premises of these arguments that leads me to think that the conclusion is true. If the logic is valid and I think that the premises taken together are more plausible than not, then it follows that the conclusion is true. So why would I not believe the conclusion?

Dr. Scharp: Yes, good! So this is, I think, a good example of why the debate shouldn’t be cast in terms of belief. Right? You said, “I think the conclusion is true.” You believe the conclusion is true.

Dr. Craig: Fine.

Dr. Scharp: But instead, it makes more sense to cast them in terms of confidence levels. If you have 51 percent on all of your confidence levels for the premises of the argument and it’s a deductive argument, then your conclusion isn’t going to end up somehow being 70 or 80 percent confidence, right?

Dr. Craig: Well, all those probability levels for the premises do is set a minimum level for the probability of the conclusion in a deductive argument, and it could be much higher.

Dr. Scharp: So, let me try to rephrase: Your minimum level needs to be much higher in order to get your conclusion to convince somebody to believe that God exists, as opposed to just say, I think it’s more probable than not. Those are different.

Dr. Craig: Well, it puzzles me. If you think it’s more probable than not, if you think this is more probably true than false, I would guess I would say that is enough for belief.

Dr. Scharp: Yeah, not according to contemporary epistemology, and the Bayesianism that you yourself have used frequently to formulate probability claims and so forth. Fifty-one percent, that’s super variable, it goes up and down. Think about the Hillary example I just gave. I’m at 51 percent for Hillary winning, right?

Dr. Craig: Yeah.

Dr. Scharp: Does that mean I believe Hillary’s going to win? No.

Dr. Craig: Well, I suppose that is going to depend on how much confidence you think is required for belief.

Dr. Scharp: I agree, it does. Yeah.

Dr. Craig: Do you have a threshold of how much confidence is required to believe something?

Dr. Scharp: Yeah, in my example I put it at 80. You could put it at 70 if you want, somewhere in there. It’s going to be context dependent to some extent, depending on the topic at hand, but it’s surely not 51.

Dr. Craig: That sounds like you just plucked that out of the air.

[Audience laughter]

Dr. Scharp: I did! It’s just an example, but it’s got to be way higher than 51 percent, or at least considerably higher than that for a belief.

Dr. Craig: All right; [to moderator] well, that was the question I wanted to address. [15]

Dr. Scharp: So, just as a recommendation for when you think about this in the future, I would look at work on confidence levels and outright belief and knowledge and see exactly whether you can argue that 51 percent is good enough for belief. I would expect that would be your move next time.

Moderator: Can I just ask about that? I take it that part of what Dr. Craig’s question is, is if I have, say, a 51 percent confidence level in some proposition and that’s greater than my confidence level in the negation of that proposition—

Dr. Scharp: Which would be at 49.

[Audience laughter]

Moderator: —then the question is belief or not belief isn’t “haven’t I done enough” in terms of a conversation like this or a debate like this to show that in terms of this evidence for God, or some reason to believe in the existence of God, isn’t that enough for these kinds of purposes?

Dr. Scharp: Professor Craig wants to say that he knows God exists, and he wants to say that these arguments should entitle a person, if they accept these arguments as good arguments, to know that God exists.

Dr. Craig: But I never made any claims about the level of confidence that one has in God.

Dr. Scharp: I know, you should have been. This is something to have been thinking about.

Dr. Craig: I’m not sure that’s true though, Kevin. I’m not even sure how one could measure that. I mean, theists must be all over the map in terms of their degree of confidence.

Dr. Scharp: I agree.

Dr. Craig: Some people like Kierkegaard or others have held to theistic beliefs despite great doubts and great existential Angst—

Dr. Scharp: Absolutely!

Dr. Craig: —and others may have a more confident and buoyant belief in God, and it doesn’t seem to me that there is any sort of non-arbitrary level that you could set to say this is required to be a theist.

Dr. Scharp: I’m not saying it’s required to be a theist; I’m saying it’s required for belief. I’m saying there’s a way that belief and confidence levels interact, and there’s a certain threshold that you need to reach in order to get to belief, and that you don’t appreciate in the way that you formulate your arguments.

Moderator: Because we only have about 15 more minutes here, let’s move on to another argument. One thing that Dr. Scharp mentioned that I thought was pretty interesting, just as somebody who follows these arguments only a little bit and don’t really work in this area, was this appeal to the divine psychology argument, and I was wondering what you thought about that and the way in which some of these arguments make claims about what God wants or what God plans, and at the same time it seems like we must have very little idea about what God’s psychology is like.

Dr. Craig: Right, and I would agree with that—that we wouldn’t know a whole lot about divine psychology, about what God would do under certain circumstances. But I don’t see that that plays a significant role in the kalam argument, for example, whose premises are very simple - that if the universe began to exist and if it did there must be a transcendent cause. I don’t see any role played in that argument by divine psychology.

Dr. Scharp: So far it doesn’t, with the way you just laid it out. But what you need to think about is, there are two issues. One is you formulate it mostly as an inference to the best explanation tonight, but usually you formulate it as a deductive argument.

Dr. Craig: Well, I did both tonight, didn’t I? I think the arguments can be formulated either way, inductively or deductively.

Dr. Scharp: Those are different kinds of arguments, and the kalam as an inductive argument is very different from the kalam as a deductive argument. I think you should keep it as a deductive argument. It works much better for you, because you don’t appeal to God as an explanatory device in that way.

Dr. Craig: So, are you saying that in the way I presented it tonight it isn’t vulnerable to your divine psychology objection?

Dr. Scharp: It is. I haven’t gotten to that yet. So, in the way that you lay out the premises, you say, There’s got to be something that caused the universe to come into being, and let’s call that thing God. Okay, great. Well, how would I know that God even would create the universe? If I don’t feel like I’m justified in believing that God would do that, then why would I be justified in naming whatever caused the universe God?

Dr. Craig: Yeah—well, I attempt to deduce some of the properties of the cause of the universe—

Dr. Scharp:Yes.

Dr. Craig: —and through such an analysis, what I derive is quite a striking number of theologically significant attributes – that this cause must be beginningless, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, enormously powerful, personal—

Dr. Scharp: [Agreeing throughout] That’s the best one.

Dr. Craig: —creator of the universe. Now that, I think, is a rich enough concept to be called God, apart from psychology.

Dr. Scharp: Great. Now, let’s think for a minute. Why think that that thing would create the universe? And if it wouldn’t, there’s no reason to call whatever caused the universe to exist God, even if it’s personal, even if it’s timeless.

Dr. Craig: It would be a personal creator of the universe. [16] Now, it would be a very strange form of atheism that admitted that there exists a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, enormously powerful, personal creator of the universe.

[Audience laughter]

Dr. Scharp: Yes.

Dr. Craig: Whether you call it God or not.

Dr. Scharp: I agree. I don’t agree with that part of the argument, I’m only pointing out a different problem with the entire thing.

Dr. Craig: Okay, I guess I just don’t see the problem.

[Audience laughter]

In the fine-tuning argument—

Dr. Scharp: Yeah, do the fine-tuning argument. This is another good case.

Dr. Craig: —there’s an element of psychology in that one. It says that the fine-tuning of the universe is more probable given theism than it is given naturalism.

Dr. Scharp: Good, that’s great.

Dr. Craig: And there it seems to me that all the theist needs to do is to show that it’s not improbable that God would want to create a finely-tuned universe. And that is surely going to be much, much more probable than, on naturalism, all of these constants and quantities' falling by accident into the life-permitting zone.

Dr. Scharp: Good. I’m not going to get sucked into that. Trying to have a discussion about what God would do or what he wouldn’t do or anything like that, that’s all divine psychology, and it’s all equally murky and unclear, and I don’t think we have any good reason to believe any of that stuff. So, if you want to push the fine-tuning argument, then what you need to do is say that the chances that God would create the universe are actually better than the chances that it was created randomly, given this fine-tuning.

Dr. Craig: Yeah.

Dr. Scharp: And you don’t do that.

Dr. Craig: Pardon me?

Dr. Scharp:You don’t argue that.

Dr. Craig: Well, I think I do—

Dr. Scharp: Well, let’s hear that. I want to hear that.

Dr. Craig: Robin Collins, in particular, does that in his formulations of the fine-tuning argument. What he argues is that the naturalist would have to show that there’s some sort of significant improbability in the designer's creating a finely-tuned universe. And the probability of these constants and quantities' falling into the life-permitting zone is so incomprehensible—

Dr. Scharp: I know, they’re very small. I get it.

Dr. Craig: —that the atheist could never demonstrate that it’s less probable than that that a designer would want to create a finely-tuned world.

Dr. Scharp: Why not? Why assume that? Why not actually do the calculation and show me how likely it is that God would create the universe. What’s the calculation? What’s the probability? Is it like 1:1010?

Dr. Craig: You can’t put numbers on this kind of—

Dr. Scharp: You can’t, I agree, you can’t. And that means you can’t conclude what you want to conclude from the fine-tuning.

Dr. Craig: What you could say is given an intelligent designer of the universe, it’s not improbable that he would finely-tune it for the existence of life.

Dr. Scharp: Justify that. Why think that it’s not improbable that God would create a universe at all?

Dr. Craig: You don’t have to show that it’s not improbable, but simply that the probabilities are not as low as all of these constants and quantities' falling by accident into the life-permitting zone, and that is so absurdly improbable that I think that it outstrips any sort of uncertainty with respect to saying that a designer of the universe would finely-tune the universe for agents.

Dr. Scharp: Excellent. So, why isn’t it absurdly improbable that God would create the universe?

Dr. Craig: It’s not absurdly improbable because God could have good reasons for doing that. He could want to create persons who could know him.

Dr. Scharp: He could, but that’s not the basis for trying to calculate a probability. He could have reasons, yes, but you need to justify that he does have reasons.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, but the burden of proof here is on the atheist to show that this is somehow less probable than the constants and quantities' falling into the life-permitting zone by accident, and the theist doesn’t need to show that it is probable, just to turn back the atheist's objections from divine psychology that this is highly, highly unlikely that a designer would want to do this. It seems to me that if a designer is good, he might very well want to create finite persons who could have a relationship with him.

Dr. Scharp: He might. As you’re fond of saying on your podcast, the burden of proof falls on the person making the assertion.

Moderator: Good, I want to move on to…

[Audience laughter]

…one more thing. This has been very good so far, but I’m just conscious of time.

Dr. Scharp: Do I get to ask my question?

Moderator: Yeah, if you would like to ask a question.

Dr. Scharp: So, Professor Craig, I wanted to ask you a question about love.

Dr. Craig: Love?

Dr. Scharp: Yeah, love. So, you’ve said that all Christians have a duty to love God and you know, certainly one of the essential aspects of God’s message is, If you love me and believe in me, you’re going to go to heaven, otherwise you’ll suffer eternal damnation in hell. [17] And if we just distill out the kind of core message there, it’s something like, Love me or I’m going to make you suffer. [Audience laughter] So, being a Christian is fundamentally, to put this sort of extortionist concept of love at the center of your life, it seems to me like kind of going through life with a gun to your head.

Dr. Craig: Yeah --

Dr. Scharp: Or even better, maybe going through life with a gun to your soul.

Dr. Craig: Yeah --

Dr. Scharp: So, I want to ask you: How can you possibly think that’s love, or recommend this kind of relationship to other people?

Dr. Craig: Yeah, Kevin, I don’t think that. I think that’s a gross caricature of Christianity—

Dr. Scharp: Good. Say why.

Dr. Craig: —and if that’s what you think, it’s no wonder you would reject it.

[Audience laughter and applause]

Dr. Scharp: Good. Let me hear that.

Dr. Craig: What the Bible says is that because of our own freely chosen evil and moral wrongdoing, we find ourselves spiritually alienated from God and morally guilty before him, and culpable before him. But God loves us so much that he has sent his Son into the world as a sacrificial offering to bear the punishment for our wrongdoing, so that we might be forgiven and reconciled and come to know him and have eternal life, and it’s up to us whether we want to accept that grace or not.

Dr. Scharp: And if we don’t?

Dr. Craig: And those who refuse it, you see, they refuse his forgiveness, and so find themselves still in this state of spiritual alienation, culpability, and condemnation.

Dr. Scharp: They find themselves there.

Dr. Craig: And if they die in that state, they go into a state of eternal separation from God. But it’s not God who rejects them, it’s they who reject God.

Dr. Scharp: Yeah, but God is still saying, If you don’t love me and believe in me, you’re going to go to hell and suffer. Right? Is that wrong? I thought this was Christianity?

Dr. Craig: Yeah, that is wrong. What he’s saying is, You’re already morally guilty and culpable. You’re drowning! But I am going to save you if you will let me. But if you repulse me, if you push me away, then God has no choice.

Dr. Scharp: Oh, that’s so unfortunate for God, he has no choice but to condemn the unbelievers to hell!

Dr. Craig: Well, I mean, in one sense it is unfortunate.

Moderator: If I could just…I’m not sure that this—

Dr. Craig: I mean, the Bible says that God pleads with people to—

Moderator: This is a very interesting line of discussion, but I’m not sure that it really relates to either the arguments you laid out or the argument that you laid out.

Dr. Craig: No, it doesn’t.

Dr. Scharp: It does actually, because I think one of the major important issues for understanding Christianity is the concept of love and God’s love, and it does serve as evidence against Christianity to think that the concept of love here is not genuine love. That is a legitimate point.

Moderator: Okay.

[Audience laughter]

In our last couple of minutes, I wanted to ask one more question related to something that Dr. Scharp presented, and then there’s a question that I want to ask each of you to address to the audience. In some of what you presented, in one specific place, you said you’re not on board with a kind of reductive naturalism.

Dr. Scharp: That’s right.

Moderator: And I just wanted you to say a little bit more about that because sometimes when you see debates like this, there are these physicists or other people who are arguing really hard to basically prove that God doesn’t exist because God isn’t part of any sort of natural science or scientific explanation. And it seems like you’re backing away from a kind of strong naturalistic claim, but what does that really come to in terms of a discussion like this?

Dr. Scharp: I think those are terrible arguments. I think we have no reason to believe that everything can be reductively explained in terms of science, and one of Professor Craig’s main thrusts in his arguments is that moral values and duties cannot be reductively explained in terms of science, and I agree 100 percent with him. But the atheist is not saddled with that position, and instead can adopt a much more reasonable position that reductive naturalism is false and no part of atheism whatsoever. I think that’s just a terrible way for the atheist to go. There’s no reason to take on a gigantic explanatory burden when you don’t need to.

Moderator: So just for people out here, what is a non-reductive naturalism?

Dr. Scharp: So non-reductive naturalism would say there are moral values—they’re real, they’re objective, but you cannot explain them in terms of science.

Moderator: Okay, good.

Dr. Craig: My position would be, the theist has an explanatory ground for the objectivity of moral values and duties, which are not available to the atheist. For the atheist, he can certainly affirm these, but they’re just sort of hanging in the air. There isn’t any sort of explanatory ground for them, especially for moral duties. Why would we have a moral prohibition or obligation to do certain things if there is no moral lawgiver? [18] It seems to me that duty is very mysterious on an atheistic view.

Moderator: Sure, there are arguments in the history of moral philosophy, lots of arguments about moral duties that are objective that come from a secular background, right? And I’m sure you’re aware of those.

Dr. Craig: Of course, but that doesn’t mean that they’re adequate. It’s not enough just to list them. I mean, after all, they can’t all be right, because they’re mutually contradictory.

Dr. Scharp: But that aspect of them can be right. The not-reductive naturalist, objective, no appeal to God—that can be right.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, I’ve tried to deal with some of these. For example, what I call atheistic moral Platonism or humanism, which sees human flourishing as the good. And it seems to me that all of these ultimately prove to be explanatorily inadequate.

Moderator: I see. Okay. So, it’s not that they sort of don’t make any sense at all, it’s that ultimately you think they fail as moral theories for some specific reason.

Dr. Craig: Right, they’re explanatorily inadequate in that they don’t have a plausible and non-arbitrary grounding for moral value and duty, which the theist has. I mean, theism is a superior moral theory in terms of its grounding of these.

Moderator: Okay, good. Okay, so unfortunately we’re coming to the end of this time, but I have a last question that the Veritas Forum wanted me to ask of each of you, and it’s basically something the answer should be addressed, I think, to the audience, everyone here. So, it seems likely that each of you would agree that a university like Ohio State should be a place where people genuinely explore different ideas and weigh the evidences of various worldviews. And if we’re intellectually honest, people should be open to changing our belief systems if the evidence merits this change. Based on tonight, what would you challenge Ohio State students to do or to consider going forward? Would you like to start? [Motioning to Dr. Craig]

Dr. Craig: Sure, I would encourage students who are interested to begin to read some of the literature on this material, particularly from the standpoint of Christian theism. There’s a wealth of material available on our website And I would encourage students to avail themselves of the articles that are there. On YouTube there are many debates that you can listen to, as well as lectures. There’s a great wealth of material on all of these different arguments that I’ve shared tonight that’s available on the website. And you might think about taking some philosophy courses here at OSU in order to acquaint yourself more with this material.

Dr. Scharp: [Thumbs up]

[Audience laughter]

Moderator: Hear, hear! Good! Thank you. Dr. Scharp?

Dr. Scharp: Yeah, the advice I would have would be: Think critically. Subject your beliefs to critical scrutiny, and if they do not hold up, change them. By doing that, you end up crafting your own belief system that you can use to live your life in the 21st century instead of relying on borrowed beliefs from whoever raised you. In the case of Christianity, you’re relying on beliefs from the Iron Age. Thanks!

Moderator: Okay, thanks!

[Audience applause]

Moderator: All right, if you can hear me, I think we’re going to start the last portion of the evening with your audience questions. The first question that comes in to us is for each of the speakers. I’ll start with Dr. Scharp, but then also ask the question of Dr. Craig. Why do you care if someone holds your atheistic or theistic views?

Dr. Scharp: I don’t really care whether other people are atheists, but I do care about whether people think critically about the best way to behave as a human being, about the best way to organize ourselves into groups, the best way to have a government or an election or an economy and what have you. And I think that if you are pledging allegiance to a certain religious view without thinking critically about it, then that often leads you to say things that I think are rather arbitrary and rather unhelpful in these other situations. So, I’ve got nothing against someone who is a theist but willing to think critically about all of these other issues and in fact divorce the positions that they take on social issues from what might be prescribed by the church.

Moderator: Dr. Craig?

Dr. Craig: I believe that the ultimate purpose for which humanity was created was to be in relation with God. [19] God is the fulfillment of human existence. He is an incommensurable good, the locus of infinite value and love, and to know God and to be related to him forever is the end for which human beings were created. So, that’s why I think belief in God is so important – it is the first step toward coming into a relationship with God, experiencing his love, coming to know him and his forgiveness, and being in communion with God for eternity, which is a good than which no greater could be conceived.

Moderator: Okay. The second question is for Dr. Craig. It says, “Why does Dr. Craig believe the universe needs a reason for existing?”

Dr. Craig: Now, I’m not clear whether this is in reference to my contingency argument or the kalam argument. With respect to the kalam argument, I think it’s very clear why there would need to be a cause of the universe, because something can’t come out of nothing. If you think about it, that’s worse than magic, to say the universe just popped into being uncaused. So, clearly in that sense there would need to be a cause.

With respect to the first argument, the contingency argument, think again about the ball in the woods. The ball can exist but it doesn’t have to exist. So, what’s the difference between the ball and say, unicorns, which can exist but do not exist? The difference is that the ball has an explanation of its existence. And just making the ball bigger until it’s the size of the universe doesn’t do anything to remove the need for an explanation. The universe is just big, and the size of something doesn’t do anything to explain why it exists or to remove the need for an explanation.

Moderator: Okay. Dr. Scharp, third question. And this is picking up on where we were near the end of our last part. If God does not exist, how could there be absolute moral values?

Dr. Scharp: Well, there can be absolute moral values because they’re grounded in something other than God. For example, rationality or harm or any one of a number of different positions. And there’s lots of professional ethicists who are working on good theories of what makes good things good and bad things bad, what makes right things right and wrong things wrong, and there’s a ton of these theories that appeal to harm or rationality or what have you, and no appeal to God whatsoever. The values that these theories explain are objective, they’re independent of what anybody believes about them. They’re not the sort of thing that you would get by saying it’s a sort of herd mentality that arrives by evolution. That’s just not any part of these views. And so, there’s a perfectly good explanation for how moral values and duties exist, even in a godless world.

Moderator: Just as a follow up to that, is there anything added by the idea of having a lawgiver, which seemed to be one of the main points that Dr. Craig was—

Dr. Scharp: No, I don’t think so. I think that the existence of God is not a good explanation. It doesn’t predict anything, it doesn’t retrodict anything, it doesn’t explain anything. The existence of God doesn’t make the probability that there would be moral duties any higher.

Moderator: I’m going to keep trying to move along on these questions. It seems like you could both chime in on any of these questions, but since some of them are directed at just one or either, it seems it’s nice to try to get in as many as possible. So, I would always give you an opportunity to respond. Okay, “Professor Scharp has not presented much evidence for the non-existence of God. Does he have any to present?”

Dr. Scharp: I thought I gave a confidence argument. Who wrote that?

[Audience laughter]

I gave a whole argument about this. Think about the evidence that’s out there. Let’s take the Christian God and the evidence that’s out there is a bunch of ancient manuscripts, and if you’re going to say that God is the best explanation for those claims made in these ancient manuscripts, then you’re making a claim that conflicts with our best scientific theories in biology and chemistry and physics, and you should have much higher confidence—I don’t mean by a little bit, I mean by a mile—in those scientific theories than you do in any claim about what needs to be explained in some ancient manuscript.

That’s the argument. [20] It has to do with saying that you should have a higher confidence in our best scientific theories than in any existing evidence for any god. I can imagine better evidence for a god, but we don’t have anything like that right now. So, I’m not saying there’s no such thing as miracles, there’s no possibility that I would ever believe something supernatural. Of course, I could believe something like that. But given the evidence we have right now, you’re way better off believing in our best scientific theories.

Dr. Craig: One of the things that puzzled me that I wanted to address during our Q and A time is that my appeal has been precisely to our best scientific theories! I’m not proposing alternatives to standard big bang cosmology, fine-tuning of the universe, or the applicability of mathematics to the physical world. I don’t see any conflict here at all, because it is our best scientific theories that support some of the key premises in these theistic arguments.

Dr. Scharp: I dispute that, but those arguments that you’re pointing out are arguments for theism in general. They’re not arguments for Christianity.

Dr. Craig: Right! Which was the topic tonight, right? The topic was “Is There Evidence for God?”

Dr. Scharp: Is God capitalized in the title? I’ll bet it is. And that means that you’re talking about the Christian God there.

Dr. Craig: Oh, no, the—

Moderator: Let me jump in, because the very next question…

[Audience laughter]

…is, “Dr. Craig, if God exists, why the Christian God?”

Dr. Scharp: Well, all right, there you go.

Dr. Craig: The arguments that I presented tonight are arguments that are common property of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. They would be defended by, and have been defended historically by, persons in all of those great monotheistic traditions. The question of Christianity wasn’t on the table tonight. If I were asked to defend why I am not simply a monotheist but a Christian monotheist, then I would appeal to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. And ask ourselves, who was this first century Jew? What did he claim? What did he teach about himself? What do we know about him?

And I do think that the best historical evidence—and this is not superstition or things of that sort, we’re talking about serious historical Jesus scholarship—is that this man made radical personal claims about himself. And I think that the best explanation for the evidence concerning his ultimate fate is that God raised him from the dead in vindication of those claims and that therefore there’s quite good reason for being not simply a monotheist but a Christian monotheist.

Moderator: [To Dr. Scharp] This, I take, right, is the resurrection argument that you represented in your slide with the arguments?

Dr. Scharp: Right, yeah. And I think that an explanation for the four facts that you usually cite there for the basis of the resurrection argument . . . anything that’s going to be compatible with our best theories in biology, chemistry, and physics is going to be a better explanation than that. So, for example, aliens took the body doesn’t sound like a very good explanation to me, but it’s a way better explanation than resurrection because aliens are at least compatible with our best scientific theories.

Dr. Craig: Is that really what you’re going to appeal to?

[Audience laughter]

Dr. Scharp: It is! You’re really going to appeal to resurrection! Resurrection is incompatible --

Dr. Craig: But, surely, that’s not right. You know enough about the literature concerning the problem of miracles—

Dr. Scharp: I do, I absolutely do. What’s your move now?

Dr. Craig: —to realize that miracles are not incompatible with the laws of nature.

Dr. Scharp: Wrong! I disagree with that, and that is not right at all. Scientific theories do not have secret ceteris paribus clauses in front of them. No, they do not.

Dr. Craig: Well . . . .

Moderator: All right, the next question from the audience…

[Audience laughter]

I don’t think I’m doing anything funny half the time that you laugh.

[More audience laughter]

Dr. Scharp: [Smiling] There you go again.

Moderator: I think this must be for Dr. Scharp. “How is confidence level protected from bias or subjectivism? How does one measure confidence level beyond being confident or not confident?”

Dr. Scharp: Yeah, so confidence level is measured by your tendency to make various gambles using particular theories of rationality—decision theory, game theory, and so forth. And confidence levels are used throughout, well, philosophy, social sciences, all over the place, because they’re super helpful and they’re very precise. How are they not impacted by bias? They are! Of course they’re impacted by bias. Professor Craig is biased, I’m biased. You can’t but be biased, and the best that you can do is try to guard against cognitive biases the best way that you can, and that’s by thinking critically about your beliefs.

Moderator: Do you want to chime in on that one? [Referring to Dr. Craig]

Dr. Craig: Only that I share the questioner's skepticism about confidence levels. [21] I, at least with respect to theism, when I introspect into my own life, I’m not sure how I would assess the confidence level that I have. I mean, I’m staking my life on this.

Dr. Scharp: Agreed.

Dr. Craig: But I’m not sure what confidence level I have. I don’t know how to even answer a question like that.

Moderator: Can I follow up on that a little bit to say we’ve focused a lot on arguments and evidence and the kinds of reasons we can bring to bear either in favor or against the existence of God, but it does seem in just a sort of a layperson sense, it does seem a lot of what we’re doing is butting up against the limits of what we can really understand and reason. You know, when you start talking about things, about the beginning of the universe, for instance, or some kind of a transcendent cause and what that could even mean when it’s sort of outside of space and time, and I guess one way to pose this question would have to do with faith. Say, what’s the place of faith when we’re butting up against the limits of reason? Another way to put it would be to say, how much of this can we even be reasonably articulating either for or against, and how much of this is, I guess, essentially never going to be settled? Do either of you want to take on some version of that question?

Dr. Scharp: Do you want that one? [Referring to Dr. Craig]

Dr. Craig: Yeah . . . I think that we do have conceptual clarity about what we’re talking about. I mean, with respect to the beginning of the universe, contemporary cosmology is shot through with metaphysical and philosophical concepts. And so I do think we have a fairly clear grasp of these concepts. They are very strange and alien, I think, probably to the average person. But philosophers talk about things like God’s atemporality or his relationship to time, or divine aseity. I’m working on divine aseity and abstract objects right now. You can’t get something much more ethereal than that. And yet, I think we have good conceptual clarity about a lot of these questions, even though they’re very far removed from mundane affairs.

But I continue to come back to this strange question about belief and confidence. I believe that these premises are true. I believe that the conclusions to the arguments are true. But if you were to ask me about confidence, I just don’t have any sort of way of assessing that. I simply believe that the evidence points to the truth of these and that the conclusions are therefore true.

Dr. Scharp:: Good, but the way that you formulate them is you say that they’re more probable than not. So, you do think that your confidence level is higher than 50 percent with respect to the premises.

Dr. Craig: Yes.

Dr. Scharp: So you do have a way of assessing it.

Dr. Craig: Okay, but you said that that degree of confidence isn’t enough for belief.

Dr. Scharp: Yeah, you need a certain level of confidence for outright belief or knowledge.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, that’s what’s not clear to me. I don’t see why it needs to pass some threshold in order to believe, because I certainly do believe these premises, I do believe the conclusions, but I wouldn’t know how to put a figure on confidence. Am I 75 percent, am I 80 percent, am I 65? I wouldn’t even know how to answer a question like that.

Dr. Scharp: So, there’s more work to do then, perhaps. [Smiling]

Moderator: One last question. I know we’ve just gone over time. But it’s an important question, so I don’t want to fail to ask it. I’m going to move over to the podium as I ask it, because I have then some closing comments about what will happen afterwards. So, you’ve both presented arguments in favor of your view and against the view you disagree with. But when you think about your own view, is there any part of it that you personally struggle with the most, that you see as a potential failing in the view and that makes you worry about your own view? Is there something you worry about in your own view, or in the other person’s view that you think is onto something that makes you think?

Dr. Craig: Yeah, I had a worry about God’s relationship to abstract objects like numbers and propositions and possible worlds and things. It seemed to me that these were uncreated realities and were therefore incompatible with the existence of God because God is the creator of everything apart from himself. But over the last dozen years, I’ve been studying this problem and have come to some resolution of it, where I feel quite good about this. So this worry doesn’t bother me anymore.

Moderator: Because it is interesting, because the arguments do change over time—over the centuries, over the decades—the kinds of arguments that are offered. So, we do find that some arguments don’t work as well as others, and then we— [22]

Dr. Craig: I am constantly thinking about these things, reflecting on them. I want to second the importance of what Kevin Scharp said about critical thinking about your own beliefs. This is something that I am constantly engaged in doing as a philosopher, and I’ve changed my mind about a number of things in the process of doing so.

Moderator: Thanks! Dr. Scharp, is there something that personally worries you about your own view, or something in the opponent’s view that worries you?

Dr. Scharp: I’m not worried about the arguments for it or the cogency of the view or anything like that. But there are certain aspects of being an atheist that are unpleasant to some extent. But I think there’s also much to be happy about, so it’s not that there’s something that worries me about the position, about the theoretical position. It’s rather how do you go about living life as a human being who’s struggling just like you, and you to figure out how we should live and what we should do and what we should believe and all of those things. We’re all in the same boat there. And so I think that the worries I have are associated with that more than the sort of cogency of the view.

Moderator: Well, thank you both! So, we’ve reached the end of our time, and so I have just a closing statement about what’s coming next. What we want to do first is make note of a very important thing—that there are going to be doughnuts and coffee provided afterwards.

[Audience applause]

I think those must be the undergraduates clapping. So, if you would like to stick around and discuss any of this further with either of the speakers or with any members from our sponsoring organizations, they’re all going to be around. Dr. Craig and Dr. Scharp in particular will be at each end of the stage, and if your question was not asked during Q and A, you’re welcome to form a line and ask them a question. Please keep your questions brief. Be mindful that others are going to be waiting also to be asking their questions. So, finally, on behalf of the Veritas Forum and our sponsors, thank you very much for your attendance and participation and thank you to both of our speakers.

[Audience applause]

[Speakers standing and shaking hands] [23]

  • [1]


  • [2]

    Audrey Mithani and Alexander Vilenkin, “Did the universe have a beginning?” arXiv:1204.4658v1 [hep-th] 20 Apr 2012, p. 5); A.Vilenkin, cited in “Why physicists can't avoid a creation event,” by Lisa Grossman, New Scientist (January 11, 2012).

  • [3]

    "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences," in Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics 13/1 (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1960).

  • [4]

    Mary Leng, Mathematics and Reality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 239.

  • [5]


  • [6]

    Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), pp. 175-176.

  • [7]

    Cited in Lewis Wolpert, Six Impossible Things before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief (New York: Norton, 2006), 215. Unfortunately, Wolpert’s reference is mistaken. The quotation seems to be a pastiche from Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: Basic, 1996), 133, and Richard Dawkins, “The Ultraviolet Garden,” Lecture 4 of 7 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (1992),

  • [8]


  • [9]


  • [10]

    Dr. Scharp seems to misspeak here. He says “theism” but his slide shows “atheism” and in the context means “atheism.”

  • [11]


  • [12]


  • [13]

    [Note from the transcriber:] The references for this are unknown. There are two podcasts in which Dr. Craig discussed the Ryan Bell situation and in neither does Dr. Craig make the assertion that “any Christian who allows Christianity to be subject to critical thinking just like any other belief is probably going to end up an atheist.” The reader is encouraged to listen to those podcasts and read the transcripts to see for himself if this is really what Dr. Craig believes. See and (links accessed May 14, 2016).

  • [14]


  • [15]


  • [16]


  • [17]


  • [18]


  • [19]


  • [20]


  • [21]


  • [22]


  • [23]

    Total Running Time: 1:17:55