05 / 06
birds birds birds

The Best of Reasonable Faith 1

August 30, 2009     Time: 00:57:13
The Best of Reasonable Faith 1


Conversation with William Lane Craig.

Transcript The Best of Reasonable Faith 1


Kevin Harris: You are about to hear why so many people around the world are discovering Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. Dr. Craig’s signature book Reasonable Faith is now the name of his podcast, available at The name says it all – faith in Christ can be reasonable faith. Just hearing this has opened the minds and hearts of a multitude of skeptics, atheists, persons of other faiths, and even Christians. It has brought them to the work and insights of Dr. Craig. Dr. Craig is one of the most prominent Christian philosophers and apologists living today. The growing library of podcasts, debates, articles, and audio of his well-attended Defenders class is receiving responses from all over the globe. So engage your mind and take notes. Here is a compilation of some of the best of Dr. William Lane Craig.

Kevin Harris: This debate took place at the University of Massachusetts that we are going to discuss. I wouldn’t imagine that would be a very conservative university.

Dr. Craig: [laughter] No. In fact, this is a bastion of New England liberalism. In Amherst, where the university is, the city flies the UN flag on the flagpole in Amherst.

Kevin Harris: Wow.

Dr. Craig: Yeah. So that kind of gives you an indication of where they are politically.

Kevin Harris: The title of the debate was “Is God Necessary for Morality?” and it was with Dr. Louise Antony. [1] Atheist, agnostic?

Dr. Craig: I think it would be fair to say she’s an atheist. She was a Catholic student and in college lost her faith sadly through the study of philosophy. She came along, I think, really before the great revolution in Christian philosophy had taken place or had just begun to take place. But through her study of philosophy she lost her faith in God and now takes an atheist line and has become a fairly aggressive critic of theism.

Kevin Harris: This was a second encounter of sorts with her in that the book “God and Ethics” she is a respondent to your debate with the humanist philosopher Paul Kurtz.

Dr. Craig: That’s right. In this debate “God and Ethics” which Robert Garcia and Nathan King are editing, they have the debate with Paul Kurtz on “Goodness Without God is Good Enough” – that was the topic – reprinted. [2] Then they solicited comments from philosophers around the country from a variety of perspectives. They got Professor Antony to be one of those representing the atheist perspective defending the view that we can be good without God; that you don’t need God in order to have objective moral goodness. So that is the line that she takes in her essay in response to the book.

Kevin Harris: You presented three challenges to any atheist who, like Professor Antony, wants to cling to objective morality and the absence of God. Often this is exactly the case. They want their objective morality but God is not allowed as an explanation for objective morality.

Dr. Craig: That’s right. In fact, I think probably listeners to Reasonable Faith would be surprised to hear that most atheistic professors are not relativists or pluralists. They believe in absolute moral values and objective moral values. They are realists when it comes to morality. The idea that everybody is relativistic and doesn’t hold to moral values is really quite mistaken. Most atheist philosophers are moral realists who believe in objective moral values and duties. This is what she holds to. She gave up her Catholic faith but she continues to hold to the humanistic values that Christianity believes in. [3]

Kevin Harris: One thing I want to clear up from the outset. Often it sounds like we say, “If there is no God, there is no basis for objective morality, therefore, even if there is no God, we must pretend as if there is.” That is not what we are arguing.

Dr. Craig: Oh, not at all.

Kevin Harris: What are we arguing then?

Dr. Craig: I think we are arguing that if there is no God then everything is permitted, basically. Now that doesn’t mean that atheists are immoral people or that they don’t live good and decent lives. Quite the contrary, I think they do typically try to live fairly decent lives. So one isn’t indicting them as being immoral people. That is not the argument. The argument is that if there isn’t any God then neither they nor we have lives that are of any ultimate moral significance, everything is permitted, and morality is just an expression of personal taste or social convention.

Kevin Harris: There seems to be an aspect of it that says since you and I both seem to recognize, in fact we do recognize, that there are some things that are really wrong and some things that are really right, what best accounts for that? That seems to be it.

Dr. Craig: I think that is the issue.

Kevin Harris: We’ve already got a moral foot in the door.

Dr. Craig: Right!

Kevin Harris: We already kind of know. OK, what’s the explanation of that?

Dr. Craig: Yeah. That is right. I think for most atheist philosophers, that is correct. Now that wouldn’t be true for the relativist or the nihilist who denies there are any values, but for a person like Antony and most of the other philosophers that I have debated, you would be correct. We both agree that there are objective moral values and duties – things that we ought to do and things we ought not to do and that this is objective and real, not just illusory. And the question is: what best explains these moral oughts and the difference between right and wrong?

Kevin Harris: Reading an account of this – by the way, you can find it at, just go to the May newsletter at – in her opening speech, she didn’t really address these issues that we are talking about here. Instead, she tended to go on the offensive and say that moral values cannot depend on God.

Dr. Craig: Right. Hers was a clever strategy I thought, as a debater. I had claimed in my opening speech that as an atheist who believes in objective morality, she needs to give us an explanation of objective moral values, objective moral duties, and moral accountability. All of these are part of an adequate ethic or morality – values, duties, accountability. So my challenge to her was: show us, as an atheist, how you can give an account for objective moral values, duties, and accountability. Well, she didn’t really want to do that. I don’t think she is confident that she has an account of those things on an atheist view. She believes in objective moral values and duties but she doesn’t really have, as you say, an explanation for this. So, her strategy instead was to go on the offense and say moral values cannot depend on God. They have to be independent of God. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if I, as an atheist, can give a positive account of them. We know that they cannot depend upon God even if I can’t give any explanation. So what that meant was her whole case hinged on this argument that moral values cannot depend on God. Because if that argument goes, then you see she is obligated to give a positive explanation of value, duty, accountability on an atheistic view.

Kevin Harris: Was this a classic move toward Euthyphro’s Dilemma?

Dr. Craig: It was.

Kevin Harris: What you did, as you’ve done so often, is just address the alternative – the third alternative – that splits the horns of the Euthyphro Dilemma.

Dr. Craig: Exactly. She was claiming that moral values have to be independent of God because otherwise you face this dilemma: is something good because God wills it, or does God will something because it is good? If you say that something is good just because God wills it, then it is arbitrary. He could have willed that we eat our children. Then we would have been morally obligated to cannibalize our children. That seems crazy.

Kevin Harris: She actually used that example.

Dr. Craig: I think she did, yes. She said on the other hand if you say that God wills something because it is good then the good is independent of God which contradicts my position and shows her position is right. Therefore, she said you face this dilemma that either the good is independent of God or the good becomes arbitrary. And either one is incompatible with moral values being dependent upon God. [4]

Kevin Harris: If The Good is independent of God, you can bypass God and just try to discover The Good.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, exactly. So what I tried to explain to the students is the difference between a real dilemma and a false dilemma. In a real dilemma, you have only two choices – A or not-A. There isn’t any third alternative. A or not-A. Because they are contradictories to each other. That is a real dilemma. In a false dilemma, you are given two choices A or B. The immediately question arises, why A or B? Why not C? Or D? Or some other alternative? So I said what the Euthyphro’s Dilemma presents us is a false dilemma because these are not in fact contradictories – they are not A or not-A. I said there is a third alternative – namely, God wills something because he is good. That is to say, God’s own nature determines what is good and evil. His own nature is the paradigm of moral goodness. This nature then expresses itself toward us in the form of divine commandments which constitute our moral duties. You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you shall not steal, you shall not murder, and so forth. Therefore, the dilemma is a false one, and moral values and duties can be grounded in God. So she would have to show that this is impossible. That the theory that I offer is somehow incoherent or impossible, and she really wasn’t able to do that.

Kevin Harris: She got a kind of a personal zinger in on you when she said, “I wonder Dr. Craig if you have any friends.”

[Start of audio clip]

I am worried for Dr. Craig. I wonder if he has any friends.

[End of audio clip]

Dr. Craig: Yeah, that remark came in the context of my claim that if there is no God then there really are no objective moral values, and therefore there is nothing wrong with causing suffering to other people. She said it is wrong to cause other people to suffer and I said I agree with that, certainly that is wrong. But I can’t see why that would be wrong on atheism. On naturalism, we are just animals and animals cause suffering to one another all the time. I can’t see any reason to think on atheism why it would be wrong for people to cause suffering to other people. It was at that point she shot back, “I wonder if you have any friends!” I just smiled in response. It got quite a rouse out of the audience. I think some of the audience felt sorry for me because later in the Q&A time, some of the people in the question line got up and assured me, “Dr. Craig, you do have some friends. I want you to know.” [laughter] But it was interesting. She couldn’t really respond to the argument. She just kind of gave this ad hominem zinger back instead.

Kevin Harris: Something happened at the end of the debate. She honestly kind of confessed that there are some drawbacks to atheism.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, this was a remarkable closing statement that I would love for people to listen to because it is so poignant. She said, “I want to confess honestly that there are costs of giving up belief in God as I did and that there are some heavy prices that atheists have to pay.” One of them was that there is no confidence that goodness will win out in the end. She said, “If you are a theist, you believe that the story has a happy ending.” But she says, “If you are an atheist, there is no reason at all to believe that the ending will be happy and that humanity will not ultimately just destroy itself and that evil will win out.”

Kevin Harris: There is no redemption.

Dr. Craig: That is the second point. The second price the atheist has to pay is that there is no redemption. She said if you’ve done something terribly wrong that you deeply regret and that you know was bad, there is nothing that can ever erase that or make it right again because there is no redemption on atheism. It is there forever. You can apologize, you can say you are sorry, but nothing can ever remove that stain.

Kevin Harris: You live with it until you die.

Dr. Craig: Yeah. It hit me powerfully about the blessings of a clear conscience, Kevin. I don’t know if you have ever – like I do – wake up in the night sometimes and can’t sleep and you just think. And how wonderful it is in moments like that to have a conscience that is clear instead of being plagued by something you’ve done wrong and for which there is no redemption of which you are guilty.  [5] It is that that the atheist has to face and live with. So that was a very poignant moment. It doesn’t prove atheism is false by any means, but I think it certainly does show that unless we have some kind of compelling reasons to become atheists why in the world would anybody find such a worldview attractive. It would seem to me that if the playing field were level, theism would be the much more attractive option to base your morality on and your view of the good on.

Kevin Harris: Dr. Craig, let’s discuss a debate that generated a lot of buzz. I think that the reason that this debate generated so much talk is because many people have been anticipating an exchange between you and an atheist named Richard Carrier. This was a debate on the resurrection. [6] A little background on Richard – we will give that here in just a moment – but, Bill, I want to ask you: why do you think there was a lot of talk about this particular debate? It was rather anticipated.

Dr. Craig: It really was. There was a lot of excitement going into the debate. I think it is because of Richard’s prominence in the whole Internet Infidel network. For many people, I think he was the sort of “Great White Hope” which was going to come along and really bring down the case for the resurrection of Jesus, who was going to defeat it soundly, and show its fallacies. So a lot of people were really pinning their hopes, I think, on Richard Carrier.

Kevin Harris: The Internet Infidels, also known as the Secular Web, is one of the first secular atheist-naturalistic websites and still very large – at one point I think it was number one as far as visitors there and interaction. They try to do a good job as far as presenting an atheistic or naturalistic point of view. A lot of material about you there – they interact with it. I will just concur with you. There was a lot of talk about this debate because of Richard Carrier. He has a lot of fans, and he calls them his fans.

Dr. Craig: Yes, I find that rather odd, but you are quite right. It is Richard Carrier fans that I find strange. I don’t think, for example, that I have fans. I have students, but not fans. I find that rather odd.

Kevin Harris: Whether he means that in a facetious way or he’s actually thanking his fans, I don’t know. But he does have a following. And from what I’ve been able to see, a rather young following. That is why one of the reasons I thought this debate was going to be important.

Dr. Craig: I felt that the debate went very well from the Christian point of view. I don’t think that Richard came to grips with any of the four facts that I presented on behalf of the resurrection. He tried to argue in terms of broad generalities rather than grappling with the specifics. Not only with those specific four facts but with the specific lines of evidence in support of each of these facts. Then with regard to naturalistic explanations, again, it would be very broad brushstrokes; like that the disciples were prone to hallucinations, and therefore Paul was schizophrenic, and Mary was a psychotic, and this explains everything. There was no detailed defense of these naturalistic explanations in terms of the criteria that I was using to assess them – such as explanatory scope, explanatory power, plausibility, degree of ad hoc-ness and so forth. So I felt there was a failure on his part to come to grips with specifics in an effective way. So I am hoping that as a result of this debate that many people who had great confidence in Richard Carrier’s attacks will think again and say, “Wait a minute. Maybe the evidence for this event is much more powerful than I thought. Maybe there is a reason why Richard Carrier finds himself amidst that minority of scholars who deny these facts.”

Kevin Harris: I might mention as well that Richard Carrier was a contributor to a book called The Empty Tomb. It was supposed to be the secular answer to all the evidence for the resurrection. What puzzles me is that Richard Carrier has studied you for a long time and written on you for a long time. He was very familiar with your four points. Yet, he just didn’t seem to address them. [7]

Dr. Craig: Yes, this is what shocked me as well, Kevin. I was anticipating that since my material has been out there for years that when Richard Carrier got up to speak in his opening address there would be a point for point parrying of the evidence that I laid out for my case. Instead, there were just generalities about the Gospels being myths rather than coming to grips with the four facts that I would present. In fact, the fact of the burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea was never even touched in the debate by Richard even though that was the first of my four facts that needed to be explained and the first of my lines of evidence in favor of the empty tomb. If the burial account is accurate, then the site of Jesus’ grave was known in Jerusalem to both Jew and Christian alike. It would be impossible for a movement founded on the belief in the resurrection of a dead man to arise and flourish in a city where the location of his body was public knowledge. Yet, Richard never engaged at all with the burial account and only later in the debate did he begin to engage with the empty tomb and the origin of the Christian faith and so forth.

Kevin Harris: It is my understanding that he really didn’t want to debate the resurrection when arrangements for this were being made.

Dr. Craig: That’s right. He said, “I’m not going to debate the resurrection of Jesus. What I want to debate is the historical reliability of the Gospels.” It seemed to me that that was just an unmanageable topic. I mean, imagine just trying to debate the single subject of the historical reliability of the Gospel of Luke. Just that topic alone. Then pull in the other synoptics, and then pull in John, and you can see you just have an impossible topic for a 90-minute debate. So I said, no, I want to focus on a specific event in the Gospels, namely, the resurrection of Jesus. Richard agreed, “All right, we’ll do that. We will talk about the resurrection.” Therefore, I was so surprised in his opening statement when he got up to speak and what did he do? He launched into a general attack upon the reliability of the Gospels claiming they are mythical and giving examples of things in the Gospels that he thought were just symbolical and not meant to be historical rather than coming to grips with the four facts that I claim undergird the inference to Jesus’ resurrection.

Kevin Harris: Looking over Richard Carrier’s material before the debate, do you get the impression that he thinks that Christ is not historical? That Jesus did not actually exist?

Dr. Craig: That is his most recent position. Much of his material was published before he came to this view of a purely mythical Jesus. So, for example, in one of his articles that he published criticizing me, he makes a statement that “few people would deny that there is a historical core concerning Jesus of Nazareth and the people and characters about him that can be profitably mined by the historian for genuine historical information about Jesus.” The point that I was making in the debate was that part of that historical core that is recognized by the majority of New Testament historians today are facts like the burial in the tomb, the discovery of the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances of Jesus, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection. Those are part of that historical core that Richard admits most scholars recognize. But now he has moved away from believing that even there is a historical core. He thinks it is all purely mythological and symbolical.

Kevin Harris: Many of us anticipated that Richard Carrier would talk about Paul’s view of the resurrection body. Did he go that direction?

Dr. Craig: No! He did not in the debate! This is the centerpiece of his argument in the book The Empty Tomb. It is interesting, Kevin, because listeners may not be aware of the fact that this is actually a very old strategy that is characteristic of mid-20th century Protestant liberalism with respect to the resurrection. Protestant liberals could not believe in the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus because it is a nature miracle, and liberal Protestants just couldn’t swallow miracles. So what they wanted to argue was that the resurrection of Jesus, though a real event, was a non-physical event. Jesus rose spiritually from the dead while his corpse rotted away in the tomb. The disciples then had spiritual, non-physical visions of Jesus. This enabled Protestant liberals to affirm the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection but denying the empty tomb and the physical postmortem appearances of Jesus. [8] The strategy of these Protestant liberals was to drive a wedge between Paul and the Gospels. The strategy was to say that Paul believed in a purely spiritual resurrection – not a physical resurrection –, and moreover that Paul’s information is the earliest we have and therefore represents primitive, original Christianity, and that the Gospels came along much later and represent a legendary later redacted theologically reflected kind of Christianity rather than the original Christian belief.

What has happened is that Carrier, from a naturalistic point of view, adopts this same strategy that these Protestant liberals adopted and tries to employ it to show that, in fact, Christianity is just a myth, that it really isn’t true at all. Jesus isn’t risen from the dead, and that as naturalists we should think that all of this is just legendary and mythological. But the strategy is the same as these liberals in the mid-20th century.

What he doesn’t recognize is that this traditional liberal strategy came under sustained and overwhelming criticism in the latter half of the 20th century so that today the wide majority of commentators on Paul’s theology agree, first of all, that when Paul talks about a spiritual body he is not talking about the substance of the body; he is talking about its orientation. The body is spiritual in the sense that we say the Bible is a spiritual book or Billy Graham is a spiritual man. We don’t mean that they are some sort of invisible, intangible, unextended thing made out of spirit. We are talking about the orientation or character of these things.

Kevin Harris: Yeah, you can pick the Bible up and your hand will not go through it. You can shake Billy Graham’s hand.

Dr. Craig: That’s right. He is not like Casper the Ghost which is the analogy that Richard used to describe Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection body – that it is like Casper the Ghost, which is just crazy.

Kevin Harris: He claims that Paul actually used language to indicate this? And he tries to go to 1 Corinthians 15 and show that Paul believed this?

Dr. Craig: Yes, he tries to use Paul’s expression “spiritual body” to interpret it that way. The problem is Paul uses the same language in the same letter – in 1 Corinthians – in chapter 2 to talk about the contrast between the natural man and the spiritual man. Obviously, by “the spiritual man” Paul doesn’t mean the immaterial, massless, unextended man. He is talking about people who are filled with the Holy Spirit and under the direction and control of God’s Spirit. The contrast between the natural man and the spiritual man is not one of substance but of orientation. The same is true of the contrast between the natural body and the spiritual body in 1 Corinthians 15. As I say, this is what most commentators think.

The other thing that most commentators came to recognize is that Paul believed in a transformation of the earthly body to the resurrection body. The way the resurrection comes to be is through a transformation of the remains of the earthly body, not an exchange of one body for another different, numerically non-identical body. Therefore, Paul most definitely would believe in the empty tomb. He would think the graves would be empty when the resurrection occurs.

But Richard, as I say, doesn’t take any cognizance whatsoever of this sustained criticism of the old Protestant liberalism which he, in effect, is still espousing.

Kevin Harris: Bill, this strategy of saying, “No, Paul believed, and the disciples believed, in a spiritual resurrection. The body did rot away in the tomb, it was a spiritual resurrection.” You still get somewhat of a resurrection there, but it erodes the case for Christ, it seems, in that they want to back you away from showing historical evidence.

Dr. Craig: It is more than that. I think what Richard would say to the Protestant liberal who claims, “Yes, I do believe in the resurrection. I believe he’s spiritually risen;” Richard will then use his naturalism to say, “Wait a minute – which is more probable? That there were hallucinations and maybe theft of the body or relocation of the body, or to believe that there is this immaterial, supernatural event that you talk about?” [9] He will say it is far more plausible and probable to think that these were just hallucinations or something of that sort.

Kevin Harris: In other words, if you can get people of faith, Christians, to accept that it was merely a spiritual resurrection – immaterial, non-corporeal resurrection – and Jesus’ body was rotting away in the tomb all along, you have taken them in a step away from the Christian faith.

Dr. Craig: Oh, yes, quite definitely. And Richard will then say you no longer have any reason then to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Why believe in this invisible, spiritual resurrection?

Kevin Harris: This is what is disturbing to me, Bill. Chase this for just a moment. I am afraid that many Christians sitting in our pews today don’t understand the bodily nature of Christ’s resurrection. They are happy to think that it was an immaterial, incorporeal body, and it was just kind of a specter of him. And they go to John 20 where Jesus said, “Don’t touch me because I am not yet ascended to the Father.” Misunderstanding that verse – which we will talk about at another time – misunderstanding that they will think you weren’t supposed to touch him because he is not material.

Dr. Craig: And that is absurd. John has the physical demonstrations of showing the hands and inviting Thomas to put his finger in the wounds, and Jesus eating fish with the disciples. Clearly, John believed in a physical resurrection body. In fact, it is unanimous in the Gospels. All of the Gospel appearance stories presuppose a physical, tangible, resurrection body of Jesus.

Kevin Harris: So our listeners need to understand that. Bodily resurrection.

Dr. Craig: Not just bodily, ironically enough, Kevin. Physical. A physical body, not some sort of ectoplasmic spiritual body, but a tangible, material, physical resurrection body in which Jesus rose.

Kevin Harris: A quick objection that I hear coming up. What about a person who is burned and there is nothing but ashes left, or there is a person lost at sea and there is just not anything left of that body? Is God going to be able, in all his power (which is ironic), to pull all those molecules back together?

Dr. Craig: The original Jewish belief in resurrection, interestingly enough, was not the resurrection of the flesh. Jews in their funerary practices would allow the body to decompose for a year until the flesh was rotted away. Then they would collect the bones and put them in boxes called ossuaries to be preserved for the resurrection. So actually in Jewish belief it was the bones that were the primary object of the resurrection. You see this used symbolically in Ezekiel 37 where the prophet is shown the valley of dry bones. [10] You remember? He says, “Will these bones live again?” And Ezekiel says, “Lord, thou knowest.” And then he has a vision of how the bones are assembled and clothed with sinews and then flesh and then they become alive. That is a Jewish picture of the resurrection. It is the bones that are the primary object. Now, the Jews in handling the case of Jewish martyrs where even the bones might be destroyed knew that God in his power could create a new body out of nothing for those who had all earthly remains destroyed. In that case, there are no remains of the body left and so God will create a new body for them simply out of nothing or out of anything. But so long as there were remains, particularly the bones, those would be the principal object of the resurrection.

Kevin Harris: Bill, we want to do a part 2 on this because we are about out of time. There is going to be a lot of evaluation and commentary that usually occurs after the debate. So we anticipate a lot of that. A lot of times we will wag and the blogosphere will be ablaze. We want to talk about some of the things that may occur. Let me mention this in closing. There will be some sour grapes, as well, I think, among those who just admit that Richard Carrier lost this debate, and that his arguments don’t stand up to the evidence for the resurrection. What do you say to those people who just want a grudge match?

Dr. Craig: I want to say emphatically that if Richard Carrier did lose this debate he did not lose it because of rhetorical tricks on my part. He lost it because his arguments were weak, and he could not respond effectively to the evidence. This debate was not won or lost on the basis of rhetoric or clever debating tactics. He simply did not come to grips with the evidence nor did he offer and sustain effective objections. So I just want to insist on the argumentative content of the debate. I think that there the Christian side clearly had the superior argument. [11]

Kevin Harris: Another recent debate that generated a lot of excitement was Dr. Craig’s encounter with journalist and prominent atheist spokesman Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens is the author of God is Not Good: How Religion Poisons Everything. Here are some highlights from that debate.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Now it’s been rather painstakingly and elaborately demonstrated to the satisfaction of most people – I don’t want to just use arguments from authority, but it is not very much contested anymore – that we are not designed as creatures but that we evolved by a rather laborious combination of random mutation and natural selection into the species that we are today. It is, of course, open to the faithful to say that all this was (now that they come to know it, now that it becomes available to everybody, now that they think about it, and now that they’ve stopped opposing it or trying to ban it) then they can say, ah, actually, on second thought, evolution was all part of the design. Well, as you will recognize, ladies and gentlemen, there are some arguments I can’t be expected to refute or rebut because there is no way around that argument. If everything, including evolution, which isn’t a design, is nonetheless part of a divine design then all the advantage goes to the person who is willing to believe that. That cannot be disproved. But it does seem to be a very poor, very weak argument because the test of a good argument is that it is falsifiable, not that it is unfalsifiable. . . . We argue quite simply that there is no plausible or convincing reason – certainly no evidential one – to believe that there is such an entity. All observable phenomena, including the cosmological one to which I’m coming, are explicable without the hypothesis. You don’t need the assumption.

Dr. Craig: You will remember that in my opening speech I said I would defend two basic contentions in tonight’s debate. First that there is no good argument that atheism is true. Now, far from being a point of contention tonight, as far as I understood Mr. Hitchen’s last speech, he would agree with that first statement. There is no good argument that atheism is true. He says, “I simply don’t have any positive reason to believe in God” but he doesn’t really give an argument against God’s existence. Indeed, he seems to suggest that is impossible. But notice that doesn’t prove atheism. That just leaves you with agnosticism; namely, you don’t know if there is a God or not. So, at best, you are left merely with agnosticism. We don’t see any good reason to think that atheism is true.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: I would re-baptize, or might I dare say, I would re-Christen it as retrospective evidentialism. In other words, everything can, in due time, if you have enough faith, be made to fit. You, too, are all quite free to believe that a sentient creator deliberately, consciously put himself – a being – put himself or herself or itself to the trouble of going through huge epochs of birth and death of species over eons of time in the course of which at least 99.9% of all species – all lifeforms – ever to have appeared on earth have become extinct.

Dr. Craig: Now he did make some remarks about the theory of evolution which at least insinuated that this was somehow incompatible with theism. I have two points to make about this. First, I think that the theory of biological evolution is simply irrelevant to the truth of Christian theism. Genesis 1 admits all manner of different interpretations and one is by no means committed to six day creationism. Howard Van Till, who is a professor at Calvin College writes,

. . .is the concept of special creation required of all persons who profess trust in the Creator-God revealed in Scripture? . . . most Christians in my acquaintance who are engaged in either scientific or biblical scholarship have concluded that the special creationist picture of the world’s formation is not a necessary component of Christian belief. [12]

Nor is this a retreat caused by modern science. St. Augustine in the AD 300s in his commentary on Genesis pointed out that the days don’t need to be taken literally nor need the creation be a few thousand years ago. Indeed, he suggested that God made the world with certain special potencies that would gradually unfold over time and develop. [13] This interpretation came 1,500 years before Darwin so that it is not forced retreat in the face of modern science.

So any doubts that I would have about the theory of biological evolution would be not biblical but rather scientific. Namely, what it imagines is fantastically improbable. Barrow and Tipler, two physicists in their book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, list ten steps in the course of human evolution each of which is so improbable that before it would occur the sun would have ceased to be a main sequence star and incinerated the earth. And they calculate the probability of the evolution of the human genome to be somewhere between four to the negative 180th power to the 110,000th power and four to the negative 360th power to the 110,000th power. So if evolution did occur on this planet it was literally a miracle and therefore evidence for the existence of God. So, I don’t think this is an argument for atheism. Quite the contrary, it really provides good grounds for thinking that God superintended the process of biological development.

So the Christian can be open to the evidence to follow it where it leads. By contrast, as Alvin Plantinga has said, for the naturalist, evolution is the only game in town. No matter how fantastic the odds, no matter how improbable, it has got to be true because there is no intelligent creator and designer. So in one sense you’ve got to feel a little sorry for the atheist. He can’t really follow the evidence where it leads. His presuppositions determine the outcome. By contrast, if there is a fine-tuner and creator of the universe, then already in the initial conditions of the Big Bang you have an elaborately designed universe that permits the evolution and existence of intelligent life. I think evolution simply layers on more improbability.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: You have to be able to imagine that all this mass extinction and death and randomness is the will of a being. You are absolutely free to believe that if you wish. All of this should happen so that one very imperfect race of evolved primates should have the opportunity to become Christians or to turn up at this gym tonight. That all of that was done with us in view. It is a curious kind of solipsism. It is a curious kind of self-centeredness. I was always brought up to believe that Christians were modest and humble and comported themselves with due humility. This, there is a certain arrogance to this assumption that all of this extraordinary development was all about us. We were the intended and designed result and everything else was in the discard. The tremendous wastefulness of it. The tremendous cruelty of it. The tremendous caprice of it. The tremendous tinkering and incompetence of it, nevermind. At least we are here. We can be people of faith.

Dr. Craig: Well now Mr. Hitchens says, “But why did God wait so long before he sent Christ? Human beings have existed for thousands of years on this planet before Christ’s coming.” Well, what's really crucial here is not the time involved, rather it’s the population of the world. The population reference bureau estimates that the number of people who have ever lived on this planet is about 105 billion people. Only 2% of them were born prior to the advent of Christ. Erik Kreps of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research says, “God's timing couldn't have been more perfect. Christ showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world’s population.” The Bible says in the fullness of time God sent forth his Son, and when Christ came the nation of Israel had been prepared, the Roman peace dominated the Mediterranean world, it was an age of literacy and learning. The stage was set for the advent of God’s Son into the world and think that in God’s providential plan for human history we see the wisdom of God in orchestrating the development of human life and then in bringing Christ into the world in the fullness of time. So I don’t see that there are any good grounds here for thinking that this provides reason for atheism.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Dr. Craig, to win this argument, has to believe and prove to a certainty. He is not just saying there might be a God. He has to say there must be one, otherwise, we couldn’t be here and there couldn’t be morality. It is not a contingency for him. I have to say that I appear as a skeptic who believes that doubt is the great engine, the great fuel, of all inquiry, all discovery, and all innovation.

Dr. Craig: Now, Mr. Hitchens says, “But you must prove this with certainty.” Not at all! I am not claiming these arguments demonstrate Christian theism with certainty. I am saying that this is the best explanation of the data when you compare it with other competing hypotheses. I think it is more probable than not. [14]

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: But look at what Dr. Craig says in his book. He says, I’ll quote directly, “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter.” That is not evidentialism. That is just faith. It is a priori belief. It is rephrased in another edition. It says, “Therefore, the role of rational argumentation in knowing Christianity to be true is the role of a servant. A person knows Christianity is true because the Holy Spirit tells him it is true, and while argument and evidence can be used to support this conclusion, they cannot legitimately overrule it.”

Dr. Craig: He quotes me as saying the Holy Spirit’s witness is the basis for knowing Christianity to be true. And I affirm that. I think the fundamental way in which we know Christianity is true is through the objective inner witness of God’s Holy Spirit – what I called the immediate knowledge of God himself in my fifth point. On the basis of that, we have a properly basic belief in the existence of God and the truth of Christianity. But when it comes to showing someone else that what we know through the witness of the Holy Spirit is true, here we appeal to argument and evidence as I’ve done tonight. The arguments and evidence that I’ve appealed to are largely deductive arguments. This isn’t retrospective evidentialism. These are deductive arguments. If the premises are true then you cannot deny the conclusion on pain of irrationality because the conclusions follow with logical necessity from the premises. So the only way to deny the conclusion is you’ve got to show me which of the premises are false.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: When the sun is due to swell up, burn us to a crisp, boil our oceans, and die as we’ve seen all the other suns do in the night sky. This is not fine-tuning, ladies and gentlemen. If it is the work of a designer, then there is an indictment to which that designer may have to be subjected.

Dr. Craig: Mr. Hitchens responds, “But we are headed toward nothingness. We are ultimately going to be doomed. Therefore, the universe is not designed.” Well, now, this is not a very powerful objection. The temporal duration of something is irrelevant to whether it has been designed. The products of human intelligence and engineering like computers and automobiles will eventually decay and cease to exist, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t designed. I think the real objection he is getting at here is why would God create mankind only to have it go extinct. But, of course, you see on the Christian view, that is false. That is an atheistic assumption. On the Christian view, life does not end at the grave, and God has given assurance of this by raising Jesus from the dead. So the objection simply has no purchase against Christian theism. So I think all of these arguments stand intact despite his refutation. We’ve seen no argument for atheism. So clearly the weight of the evidence falls on the side of the scale for Christian theism tonight.

Dr. Craig: This past week you may have seen that religious concerns became front and center in the debate over healthcare. Story coming out of Washington D. C. says,

Addressing a coalition of religious progressives this afternoon in a teleconference call, President Barack Obama denied that his health care plan will include abortion and asked members of different religious denominations to “knock on doors, talk to neighbors, spread the facts and speak the truth,” about his health care reform.

The conference held at 5 p.m. Eastern time, was sponsored by . . . a group of some 30 left-leaning religious organizations . . .

President Barack Obama began by calling health coverage for Americans “a core ethical and moral obligation.”

This “debate over health care goes to the heart of who we are as a people.” “I believe that nobody in America should be denied basic health care because he or she lacks health insurance,” the president said.

“I know that there's been a lot of misinformation in this debate and there are some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness,” Obama quipped, seeming to invoke the language of the Commandment. [15]

. . .

He also addressed issues of concern to elderly people, calling the notion that his proposed changes to the health care system would lead to so-called death panels “just an extraordinary lie.” The president added that, the idea that they would require federal funding for abortions or provide insurance for illegal aliens was not true and told callers the plan would not amount to a government takeover of health care . . .

“These are fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation and that is that we look out for one another,” he said. “That I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper and in the wealthiest nation on Earth right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call.” [16]

Obama’s conference call with more than two dozen faith leaders started a 40-day campaign of advertising, activism, prayer vigils and more by clergy who support the president’s health care reform ideas. [17]

In addition to the TV spot and next week’s conference call, the faith-based healthcare campaign—officially called “40 Days for Health Reform” [picking up on Rick Warren’s “40 Days of Purpose”] —will feature prayer meetings in scores of congressional districts and an effort to encourage clergy to sermonize on healthcare over the last weekend of August. [18]

So religious forces are being enlisted in the campaign for promoting the president’s healthcare reform proposes. As I thought about his remarks, two things occurred to me.

First, he certainly is correct in saying it is part of Christian ethics that we are our brother and sister’s keepers. We ought to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that we are to love our neighbors and care for those in need. But notice the unspoken assumption just taken for granted by the president that the means by which loving one’s neighbor is expressed is through government. It is through the government program that one fulfills the command to love one’s neighbor. Of course, that is a very debatable assumption. Why isn’t private means – the use of private enterprise – or charitable giving equally an expression of loving one’s neighbor. Indeed, this is the way in which usually these sorts of things are done. So the issue is not whether we are going to love our neighbors as we as Christians ought to. Rather the question is: is this more efficiently and effectively done through a massive government program or through the private sector and charity. Here I find it ironic that President Obama has sought to fund government healthcare by an overt attack upon private charity; namely, by limiting the tax deductible amount you can claim for donations to charity. He wants to fund the healthcare proposal by saying that Americans who make above 250,000 dollars cannot claim a certain amount for their gifts to charity, which will then discourage charitable giving and undermine these charities that help the poor and those needing financial assistance. This is, I think, a fundamental assumption that you see really is at issue here; whether this should be done through the government or through private sector and charity.

Secondly, I do think we need to ask ourselves a question: who is really bearing false witness about this? I don’t share the concerns that some pundits expressed about the president’s use of religious language in saying the opponents of this were bearing false witness, obviously an allusion to one of the Ten Commandments. It is a religious way or a polite way of saying these people are lying, that they are not telling the truth. The question then is: who is bearing false witness in this case? As those 19 Democratic senators recognized that I told you about a few weeks ago, unless abortion is specifically excluded from the healthcare bill, it is automatically going to be covered under reproductive healthcare. President Obama in previous statements during the campaign recognized this fact. [19] So the question is not “is abortion funding included in the bill by name?” Rather, the question is, “Are there precautions to exclude funding for abortions in the bill?” And you know what happened to that amendment proposed by those 19 Democratic senators. It was shot down. They would not allow that language into the bill, which I think shows clearly that the pro-choice advocates are thinking of this bill as something that would cover abortions.

As for the death panels, again, the question is not “does the legislation include specific provisions for panels that will determine your right to live or right to die?” That is not the issue. Rather, the issue is: is the government healthcare program going to become so overburdened, so overtaxed as it has been in places like Canada and other socialist societies, that it inevitably leads to rationing because there simply won’t be the resources to care for everybody that needs healthcare. In that case, when you have a kind of rationing, those who are less valuable to society are the ones who won’t get the care and the organ transplants, and the expensive treatment will be reserved for those who are younger.

So, again, it is not a matter of what is included in the language of the bill. It is what are the implications of this? I think it is far from clear, again, that those who fear these dangers and warn about them are in fact bearing false witness. In fact, on the contrary, I think these results are highly likely to result from this sort of government program.

Therefore, that ought to make us very cautious about embarking on this sort of wholesale reform of the finest healthcare system in the world in favor of a government run program over private sector initiatives and charitable initiatives. [20]