05 / 06
bird bird

Reasons to Believe We Have a Reasonable Faith

Todd Wagner interviews William Lane Craig

Time : 00:48:53

William Lane Craig at Watermark Community Church, gives his common arguments for God's existence: the contingency, cosmological, teleological, fine-tuning, moral argument, and evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.


TODD WAGNER: What a great song just to invite you this morning to consider what if! If you already know the God that has caught you, not by surprise, but by grace this morning, just to be further equipped and encouraged that that God is there and he is real, we have a great privilege to have with us someone that I’ve learned from for years and just this morning had a chance to meet personally. We’ve talked on the phone several times now but just this morning I got to shake his hand and personally thank him for the way he’s built into my life.

Dr. Craig has written more books on this topic than you have read – close to fifty. I was asking him this morning – his author page on Amazon has almost fifty listed. He says it’s just above thirty and I go, “Bro, you’ve forgotten how many books you’ve written!” I want to tell you the rest of my life I will be learning from Dr. Craig. I am glad to learn from him this morning. He is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in California. He has graduate degrees at several universities around our country and world. He studied in England, he studied in Munich, he studied in Brussels. He is one of the brightest minds in the world today and specifically he is a great gift to those of us who cannot always entertain some of the discussions that he can and we can learn from him.

Would you warmly welcome with me Dr. William Lane Craig.

You sit over there; I think they want you on that side. He even threw on his cowboy boots for us this morning, how about that!

He lives in Atlanta now with his wife and has a website called I say that to you because I want to make sure you know that that is a resource that is incredibly rich for you. You can go to and you can see videos of his past debates with some of the world’s leading atheists (the ones that have the courage to debate him), you can read numerous articles, listen to constant podcasts – several of which he recorded this weekend – and I would highly encourage you to put as one of your favorites and to use that resource consistently even as I do.

Dr. Craig, we will tell them more about resources of yours that we’ve made available, but let’s just start with this. There are a number of books that have crashed onto the scene with the neo-Atheists – the New Atheists. It is a radical evangelistic atheist; they are not just willing to sit back and say there is no god. They feel like it is their duty to help you understand there is no God. Richard Dawkins, most famous among them, wrote the book The God Delusion. So let’s just start this morning with a response to that book The God Delusion and arguments for the intellectual defensibility of belief in the character, nature, and existence of God.

DR. CRAIG: OK, very good. Let me begin just by saying how delighted I am to have the opportunity to be with folks here at Watermark this morning. I am in town, as you said, for purposes of recording podcasts for Reasonable Faith but being here this weekend gives me the opportunity to share this Sunday morning with you. So I am grateful for that.

When I read The God Delusion, I was very interested in the early chapters on the existence of God because I wanted to see how Dawkins would respond to the principal arguments for God’s existence that I know are defended by many eminent philosophers today. I must say I was shocked and rather disappointed by the superficiality of his critique and analysis. The fact is that he didn’t deal with many of the strongest arguments for God’s existence and those that he did deal with he dealt with in a very superficial manner. I think it is important to understand why this is. Professor Dawkins is a professional biologist. He is an expert in his area of specialization. But he is not a philosopher. So when he speaks to philosophical concerns, like arguments for God’s existence, his opinion have no more value than the opinion of an untutored layman. He is a layman when it comes to these and it shows in the kind of criticisms he offers. And I think unfortunately in our culture certain people have a certain cache because of their prominence, perhaps in their field of specialization, but we need to realize when they get outside of that field they really have no expertise in these other areas at all.

TODD WAGNER: Plus he’s English and they always sound smart. [laughter]

DR. CRAIG: They do! If you have a British accent, you just sound intelligent, don’t you. [laughter]

TODD WAGNER: So, in his book, he goes through and you say he just gives very elementary arguments against the existence of God. Why don’t we walk through what you would share in response to him. I know a number of folks have tried to get Dawkins to get up and discuss with you and debate and he has been as of yet unwilling.

DR. CRAIG: Yes, that is right. He is resolute in his refusal to do this. He says that a debate with me might look good on my resume but it wouldn’t look good on his. [1]

TODD WAGNER: So let’s just walk through maybe a primer. It won’t seem like a primer if this is the first time you’ve looked at some of this. But the best arguments for the existence of God.

DR. CRAIG: All right. I think there are quite a number of good arguments for God’s existence. Arguments that make it reasonable to believe that a transcendent creator and designer of the universe exists who is the locus and source of absolute moral values. Let me just outline a few of these arguments.

One would be the contingency argument for God’s existence. This argument basically goes like this:

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or else in some external cause.

2. The universe exists.

So from those first two premises it follows that the universe has an explanation for its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or else in some sort of an external cause.

3. The best explanation for the existence of the universe is a personal, transcendent mind.

From which it therefore follows that,

4. A personal, transcendent cause of the universe exists.

That is just an outline of the argument. In order to flesh it out and defend each premise you’d have to do more work.

This is one of the most popular and oldest arguments for the existence of God in Western philosophy. And I was shocked; in Dawkins book he doesn’t even talk about this argument. He just completely ignores it. Yet I think this is a very good argument for thinking that there is a personal, transcendent cause of the universe that explains its existence.

TODD WAGNER: So when you talk about a transcendent, personal cause – just explain that to us briefly.

DR. CRAIG: The idea here is that everything that exists has some kind of explanation why it exists. Either it exists by a necessity of its own nature – what would be an example of that? Well, many philosophers think that mathematical objects exist in this way. Things like numbers, sets, and other mathematical objects. If these things exist they don’t have causes of their existence; they simply exist by a necessity of their own nature. It is impossible for them not to exist. Other things are contingent in their existence. That is to say, they have external causes for why they exist, that explain why they exist. Examples would be things like mountains and people and trees and chairs and galaxies. These have external causes. The point is that everything that exists has an explanation why it exists either in an external cause or in some sort of necessity of its own nature. So that is what we mean when we talk about an explanation of something’s existence. The argument is that since the universe doesn’t exist by a necessity of its own nature – the universe is not a necessary being like a mathematical object – it must have an explanation in an external cause. This cause would have to be something that is beyond the universe and therefore beyond space, beyond time, beyond matter and energy; a non-physical, immaterial spiritual entity which has brought the universe into being. The only thing that we know that could fit that kind of description would be an unembodied mind, a consciousness, a sort of transcendent consciousness without a body that brought space, time, and all of its contents into existence.

TODD WAGNER: OK, so you are moving now into the argument from creation – the cosmological argument – a little bit in a sense that we are saying now this uncaused cause, this thing that didn’t have to be here is here. So talk about the second argument that I know you present which is the cosmological argument.

DR. CRAIG: Right. It is closely related to this argument. The first argument – the contingency argument – doesn’t presuppose that the universe had a beginning. The universe could have always been there for all this argument cares. But it is saying that since anything that exists has an explanation, there must be an explanation for why, say, an eternal universe exists rather than just nothing. That would be found in, as I say, a transcendent cause.

Now the second argument – the cosmological argument – focuses on the beginning of the universe. It goes something like this:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

Things don’t just pop into being from nothing.

2. The universe began to exist.

This is supported by both philosophical arguments and contemporary science. [2] From that it follows,

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Again, this leads then to a transcendent being beyond space, beyond time, beyond matter and energy who has brought the universe into being.

TODD WAGNER: This is why, I guess, the recent discussions about the beginning of the universe, even the idea of a Big Bang, was such a big deal because it did say that this universe that is here has not been eternal; it does have a beginning.

DR. CRAIG: This is the remarkable thing about what happened during the 20th century. As a result of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and its application to the universe as a whole, scientists discovered that the universe is not infinite in the past. It is not eternal going back in time. It had a beginning which is an absolute beginning, not only of our universe but of all matter and energy, of physical space and time themselves. Therefore, as I say, it points to a transcendent cause beyond the Big Bang, beyond the universe.

TODD WAGNER: OK, now playing the role of the skeptic. OK, the universe had a beginning, we are fine with that. But the beginning was so – I can’t say infinitely long ago – but let’s say immeasurably long ago that I am going to argue that maybe through time and through chance and random events that we’ve brought about this fine-tuned universe that we have which gets into the third argument.

DR. CRAIG: That is the third argument. If we stick to the second one, it is not immeasurable in the past. It is about 13.7 billion years ago, a finite time, and it wasn’t as though there were random events occurring in time. There was no time! Time and space come into being at the moment at which the universe begins. There were no events prior to the Big Bang. It represents the absolute origin of space, time, matter, and energy. So that skeptic’s gambit just doesn’t work. It contradicts the model.

TODD WAGNER: And so, just to clarify, when you even talk about the 13.7 billion years ago, you are not even talking there about Genesis 1, you are talking about if you go back and you lay normal, physical properties and normal processes and we work that through history, it would look like it’s 13.7 billion years ago.

DR. CRAIG: That is absolutely correct, Todd. There is a kind of cosmic time – that scientists call it or astronomers call it – that measures the duration of the universe. The universe is like a clock; I think its God’s clock. It measures the amount of time since the beginning and that is about 13.7 billions years according to current astronomy that is the time that the universe has existed. It’s just incredible to think that this has been discovered, but this is what contemporary cosmologists say.

TODD WAGNER: Even the skeptics would say that use Darwinian theory and evolution and things like that and they look at the fine-tuning which is a phrase that I know you use before. Let’s go to that.

DR. CRAIG: Well, the third argument is an argument for design based upon the fine-tuning of the universe for life. And it goes something like this:

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

2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

From which it follows logically,

3. Therefore, it is due to design.

TODD WAGNER: So explain number 2. In other words, the universe doesn’t have to be beautiful and ordered. Is that what that number 2 is?

DR. CRAIG: That’s correct. What scientists have discovered is that from the very moment of the Big Bang, the universe was fine-tuned with literally an incomprehensible precision and delicacy for the existence of intelligent life such that if these constants or quantities had been altered by less than a hair’s breadth life would have been impossible and there would be no life of any sort throughout the entire cosmos. The question is: how do you best explain this appearance of design? Physical necessity would say the universe has to be this way. It must be finely tuned. But that is extraordinarily implausible because, you see, these finely tuned constants and quantities that we are talking about are independent of the laws of nature. They are not determined by nature’s laws. They are just arbitrarily put in at the beginning inexplicably. So they are not physically necessary. Now somebody might say this is just due to chance, it’s just a lucky accident. But the problem with that alternative is that it has no appreciation of the fantastic odds that we are taking about here. For example, if the subatomic weak force had been altered by as little as one part out of 10100 – that is ten followed by one hundred zeroes – the universe would not have been life permitting. [3] There are a dozen or more of these kinds of constants and quantities, all of which have to fall into this exquisitely narrow range of life-permitting values in order for the universe to be life-permitting. So the idea that this happened just by chance is just infinitesimally probable.

TODD WAGNER: In fact, I think non-believing statisticians and philosophers have said there hasn’t been enough time in that 13.7 billions years for that type of chance to bring about the kind of order that we are seeing.

DR. CRAIG: To give you an idea of the numbers we are talking about. There have been only around 1017 seconds in the history of the universe. And now we are talking about odds like one out of 10100. This is just one parameter. There are, as I say, many of them.

TODD WAGNER: So, in this conversation, the argument from order is what you think is one of the strongest arguments for the existence of an intelligent designer of some kind.

DR. CRAIG: Yes, and it is not just I who think this. This is something that has become really all the rage in current cosmology. This subject of the fine-tuning of the universe. Scientists are baffled by this and those who want to resist design as the best explanation are, frankly, adopting fantastic metaphysical hypotheses to avoid this.

TODD WAGNER: One of the things they’ve come to is they say our universe is not old enough to explain this so they go to the multi-universe theory.

DR. CRAIG: Exactly.

TODD WAGNER: Explain the multi-universe theory.

DR. CRAIG: OK. The idea here is basically this. If the odds are too small that in one throw of the dice you would get a certain result, then what you postulate is many throws of the dice. The more times you throw the dice, the better your odds of getting a certain result. So the idea is that, in order for our universe to be explained by chance alone, what you do is you postulate an infinite number of other parallel universes which are undetectable to us – we have no knowledge of them, no way of detecting them but they are randomly ordered – all of the values of the constants and quantities appear somewhere in this world ensemble of universes and so by chance alone somewhere in the world ensemble a finely tuned universe like ours would exist. I think it is a compliment to the power of this design argument that otherwise sober scientists would resort to metaphysical hypotheses of this sort simply in order to avoid a divine designer.

TODD WAGNER: In fact, the movie Expelled has Richard Dawkins on it and in that movie Ben Stein is interviewing Dawkins and he kind of goes to this direction and even says to him, “So what is your explanation if it didn’t happen here?” And he goes back and I think he even refers to aliens that are in one of these universes that decided to bequeath some of that order here and in fact he pushes him a little bit on that and leans into it. It is an interesting watch if they want to rent the movie Expelled and see the person who says you are deluded if you believe in God tell you what he thinks you should believe in which is even more fantastic than the explanation of an uncaused cause creating order for the purposes of revealing himself.

Let’s go to another part of this argument – it’s the next one that you list which is the moral argument. That really gets into, I think, what is underneath a lot of why they think we are deluded if we believe in this God. Talk about this moral argument.

DR. CRAIG: All right. The moral argument for God’s existence goes basically like this:

1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.

If there isn’t a God as your absolute standard, then everything becomes socio-culturally relative. Moral values are just ingrained patterns of behavior that have evolved through biological and social evolution. So if God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.

Some things are really wrong. Rape, torture of a little child, molestation, hatred, cruelty are really wrong. Similarly, love, generosity, self-sacrifice are really good. From these two premises it follows,

3. Therefore, God exists.

If objective moral values and duties cannot exist without God, and objective moral values and duties do exist as is evident in our moral experience, then it follows necessarily that God exists.

TODD WAGNER: So what would you say very quickly to somebody who says – and Hitchens says this – look, I don’t need the idea of God to make me good.  [4] Why do you insist that I have got to believe in God to be good?

DR. CRAIG: OK, this is a very wide spread confusion that you will encounter every time you share this argument. The argument is not that belief in God is necessary for morality. The argument is that God is necessary for morality. The existence of objective moral values and duties doesn’t depend upon your belief in them. They exist independently if they exist. The argument is that God is necessary as a foundation for objective moral values and duties. But if God exists and there are objective moral values and duties then they exist independently of whether you believe in them or not. In particular, they exist for the atheist because they don’t depend on whether the atheist believes in God or not. These are objective realities. So the argument is not that atheists are bad people or that they can’t live good and decent lives, or that in order to live a good life you have to believe in God. That is not the argument. The argument is that in order for objective, mind-independent moral values and duties to exist, you have to have a foundation in God.

TODD WAGNER: Isn’t that where the discussion goes? If you reject the idea of God and therefore reject even though I say there are some I don’t need God to be moral. But the question then becomes what is moral? I might have a list that doesn’t match up with yours. If we reject this foundation for morality and the foundation is just what I in my gut think is right because there are those that would say that for instance sexual morality is part of what you – because you have a foundation of theology and God belief – but I’m telling you that is repressive, it is puritanical and it’s unnecessary. So I still have a morality, it’s just my morality is different from yours because my base is different.

DR. CRAIG: Well, see, that person is affirming the first premise – if God does not exist then objective moral values don’t exist. It’s person relative – you have your code, I have my code. What he is really denying is the second premise – that objective moral values exist. He says they are person relative or person dependent. But notice what he says – that’s repressive, that is intolerant, that is wrong. He is affirming the objectivity of those moral values! Tolerance, open mindedness, fair play. So it is very, very difficult to deny the objectivity of moral values and duties because those who typically do so affirm the moral values of tolerance, open-mindedness, and so forth.

TODD WAGNER: One of the greatest dangers of this – and I think this is central to a lot of the discussions that we are going to have with our friends out there today – if people say don’t legislate your morality. Don’t tell me what I have to believe. How would you respond to somebody that says that.

DR. CRAIG: I would say that is not my purpose in this argument. I am not trying to legislate morality in this argument. What I am simply saying is that you and I share a number of moral values and duties that we both recognize; like the goodness of other people, the intrinsic value of human beings, we ought to love our children rather than torture and mutilate them. What I am offering you, my non-Christian friend, is an objective foundation for those moral values that we both share and recognize. On your view, you’ve got the right values by and large but you don’t have any foundation for them. They are just sort of floating in the air. So I am offering you something to make your worldview more effective and more consistent.

TODD WAGNER: So let’s just say I go, “OK, I don’t need your God to have this morality but let’s just say you are saying that morality does beg the existence of God and I grant you that.”

DR. CRAIG: Then you’ve just contradicted yourself.

TODD WAGNER: I’m saying there is a God that is there but let’s now make a transition. Why do I have to swallow this Christian God? Because this now is much really where I want to get. OK, you’ve convinced me there is a God. Some of the other arguments for God we will not get into right now – the ontological – but the Christian God.

DR. CRAIG: Right. What I’ve said so far is consistent with a sort of generic monotheism that Jews and Christians and Muslims would all be happy to affirm. That there is a creator and designer of the cosmos who is the source and locus of absolute moral value. The question is: which of these monotheisms is true, if any? What I would argue is that God has revealed himself decisively in the person of Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to be the Son of God and the absolute revelation of God and whose radical personal claims were publicly vindicated by God by raising him from the dead.

TODD WAGNER: So you are going to run right to the resurrection.

DR. CRAIG: Yes! [5]

TODD WAGNER: OK. So the resurrection – Paul had a point when he said (and so should you) if the resurrection didn’t happen we above all men are to be pity, we above all men are fools. So the resurrection event. Let’s walk through what you think are the best arguments for the resurrection of Jesus. Because if the resurrection event happened, it does seem to set him apart.

DR. CRAIG: Oh, it does. Clearly. As a result of my doctoral work on the historicity of the resurrection in Munich, I discovered that there are four facts which are acknowledged by the wide majority of New Testament historians today. I want to emphasis this. It is not just evangelical or conservative scholars that recognize these facts. This is the broad mainstream view of New Testament criticism today. These facts are:

1. Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.

2. This tomb was then discovered empty by a group of his women followers on the Sunday morning following the crucifixion.

3. Thereafter various individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

4. The origin of the Christian faith owes its existence to the belief of these early disciples that God had raised Jesus from the dead, a belief that they came to share sincerely and suddenly despite every predisposition to the contrary.

So the fact is how do you best explain these facts?

TODD WAGNER: Let me just interject here because my question is this: you are saying the historicity of that event is not a live discussion?

DR. CRAIG: It is a live discussion. I don’t want to say this is unanimous. But what I said is it is the majority view by far.

TODD WAGNER: What would you say about this event in antiquity and how it compares to other things that nobody has any issue with whether or not they believe Luther in the 1600s or taking it back further to the Caesars in BC Rome, that they existed and the acts of Marc Antony and all of that.

DR. CRAIG: Well, it is difficult to compare totally different events in terms of their evidential attestation. But N. T. Wright, a very prominent New Testament historian, in his book on the resurrection of Jesus, after about 700 pages of discussion, he says that in his professional opinion the empty tomb and the postmortem appearances of Jesus are so well attested as to be virtually undeniable and are comparable to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 or the reign of Augustus Caesar. [6] This is just astonishing that the evidence for the resurrection would be comparable to indisputable events like these.

TODD WAGNER: So somebody that says the only reliable testament to that is the New Testament, that would not be an informed position.

DR. CRAIG: Well, it is not that it is an uninformed position. It is that it is based upon a false presupposition and that is that the New Testament documents somehow shouldn’t count as historically reliable documents. That is simply a false presupposition. When New Testament scholars look at the New Testament, they aren’t treating it as a holy inspired book. They are treating it as what it originally was – just a bunch of separate documents (letters, biographies, and so forth) written in the Greek language, handed down out of the first century telling this remarkable story about Jesus of Nazareth. We have far more historical information about Jesus of Nazareth than we do for most major figures of antiquity.

TODD WAGNER: That is key because I think that is where folks go. They go, “You can’t believe those guys because they are part of the conspiracy.”

DR. CRAIG: Right. That is uninformed.

TODD WAGNER: It is uninformed. Give me your best fifteen seconds on why that is uninformed.

DR. CRAIG: Well, this used to be held back in the late 18th century among certain English deists and German rationalists. Basically it was exploded and rejected universally by scholars since then for a couple of reasons. One is that it is anachronistic. It reads the disciples’ situation through the rear view mirror of Christian history thinking that they would fake a resurrection so that Jesus could be the Messiah rather than putting yourself in the shoes of these disciples themselves. When you do that and look at what they faced from a perspective of a first century Jew, the crucifixion was a disaster for these men because Messiah was supposed to throw off the enemies of Israel and establish David’s throne in Jerusalem, not be humiliatingly executed by his enemies. Moreover there was no connection between being the Messiah and being raised from the dead. [7] The resurrection was a Jewish hope that would take place at the end of the world, not of an isolated individual in history. So the idea of a conspiracy is simply a failure to understand the mentality of a firs century Palestinian Jew. That would be one problem.

The other problem is that there is no doubting, when you read the New Testament, the sincerity of these men and women. They were ready to die for the truth.


DR. CRAIG: And many of them did die. So you cannot say that this was the result of some sort of deliberate hoax or conspiracy. There is no doubt when you read the pages of the New Testament, these people really believed this message.

TODD WAGNER: So go forward. The best explanation for the reason that these guys really believed it is because . . .

DR. CRAIG: Right, I think the hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” – which was their explanation, the one the eyewitnesses gave – is the best explanation. What I would do here is compare the resurrection hypothesis with alternative hypotheses like the conspiracy hypothesis, the wrong tomb hypothesis, the hallucination hypothesis, and you would assess these hypotheses using the standard criteria that historians use. I think what you will find is that the resurrection hypothesis has greater explanatory power, wider explanatory scope, greater plausibility, it is less ad hoc or contrived, and so on and so forth, and so emerges as the best explanation.

TODD WAGNER: OK, wonderful. Anything else to the resurrection that you threw out?

DR. CRAIG: Well, just as I point out in premise 3, the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead entails that the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists from which it follows that therefore the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists. That is to say, the true God is the God revealed and proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth.

TODD WAGNER: Which then brings you back to your moralist – my conversation with me as a skeptic which says, therefore that God is the God to whom you are in account and whose morality you must be subject to.

DR. CRAIG: That is right. That does mean then that we can turn to the teachings of Jesus to tell us what God demands of us and what his moral nature is.

TODD WAGNER: OK. Let’s talk about the moral nature of God because this is the second great book that has rushed onto the world in the last four or five years. It is Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. This God that Jesus speaks of, this God that Jesus claims to be, lets unspeakable horrors exist. We know about the girl recently in California for 18 years was kept in a shed, and birthed two children who grew up in a shed, I can go on and on. It takes no creativity to list all of the horrors that we are consistently exposed to in the media today. And God is sovereign over that? You’ve got to be kidding me. If that God is God, then he is my devil, as has been famously said. So Hitchens is there to say not only is he immoral, he is irresponsible and asleep.

DR. CRAIG: Yes, I would respond to this by saying we need to draw some distinctions here concerning what philosophers have called the problem of evil or the problem of pain and suffering. I think there is a distinction, Todd, between this problem as an intellectual problem and this problem as an emotional problem. I think emotionally there is certainly no doubt that the evil and pain and suffering in the world occasion great doubt that God exists. But I have to say that when I consider the problem philosophically, as a purely intellectual problem, I think it is extraordinarily difficult for the atheist to mount a convincing argument that the evil and suffering in the world renders God’s existence either impossible or improbable.

TODD WAGNER: OK, lay that on us.

DR. CRAIG: There are different versions of the intellectual problem of evil. One is the logical version and basically what it says is that God and evil are logically incompatible with each other. They are like the immoveable object and the irresistible force – they can’t both exist. If one exists the other doesn’t exist, it can’t exist. And since evil obviously exists it follows that God cannot exist.

Now the problem with this argument is that there is no contradiction between saying God is all-powerful and all-loving and evil exists. There is no explicit contradiction there. So if the atheist is saying these are implicitly contradictory, he must be making some hidden assumptions that would bring out this contradiction and make it explicit. So the question is: what are those hidden assumptions that the atheist is making? It seems to me there are two. He is assuming:

1. If God is all-powerful, then he can create any world that he wants.

2. If God is all-good, he prefers to create a world without evil or without suffering.

Both of these hidden assumptions need to be necessarily true in order to show a contradiction between God’s existence and the evil in the world. [8] The problem is that neither of those assumptions appears to be necessarily true. For example, does God being all-powerful mean that he can create just any world that he wants? Well, not if he chooses to give creatures free will. It is logically impossible to make someone do something freely. That is as logically impossible as making an unmarried bachelor or square circle. So there may well be worlds that are impossible for God to create because in them the creatures would freely perpetrate evil and harm upon each other. If God wants a world to have significant moral agents in them who achieve moral goodness he may have to put up with a good deal of moral evil as well. So that first assumption is just not necessarily true.

TODD WAGNER: Let me just interject. So what you are basically saying is that because God is going to create a perfect and good creation, that perfect and good creation must have in it creatures that have the ability to do things that are good which includes love. In order to be able to love, you got to have the ability to choose to not love.

DR. CRAIG: That is exactly right. In order for there to be moral goodness in a world you’ve got to have more than robots or puppets; you’ve got to have free agents. And once you do that then things can get out of control in the sense that these agents can perpetrate evil and harm upon one another which God could prevent only by removing their freedom of the will, in which case he removes moral goodness as well.

TODD WAGNER: Which makes it an amoral world which is not a perfect world.

DR. CRAIG: Right. It would be a world without any sort of moral goodness. So it simply is not true that God being all-powerful means he can create any old world that he desires as the atheist seems to assume.

The second assumption I don’t think is necessarily true either. That is that if God is all-good, then he prefers a world without evil and suffering. We all know cases in which we permit evil and suffering to occur for some greater good that can be brought about. C. S. Lewis once remarked, I think very aptly, “What do people mean ‘I’m not afraid of God because I know that he is good.’ Have they never even been to the dentist?” Of course Lewis wrote that before Novocain was used when they drilled on your teeth. We know cases where we allow pain and suffering to occur for some sort of greater good. Every parent, I think, knows that fact. So that second assumption just isn’t true either.

Therefore, the atheist has failed to show any sort of logical inconsistency between God and the existence of evil. In fact, we can actually show that these are consistent by adding a third proposition which I think is on the screen, namely:

God could not have created a world which had as much good as the actual world but with less evil and God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evil that exists.

As long as that is even possible it proves that God and evil are logically consistent. Therefore, I am very happy to be able to tell folks this morning that this logical version of the problem of evil is widely, almost unanimously, regarded today as resolved, even by atheist philosophers. They don’t press this problem anymore because they recognize that it is just impossible for the atheist to prove it is impossible for God and evil to coexist and it is very easy for the theist to offer an explanation or an account of how they might be possibly coexistent.

TODD WAGNER: In fact, when I was with you in downtown Dallas when you discussed this with Christopher Hitchens and while Hitchens was winsome and hilarious and gave lots of anecdotal stories, at the end of the day he could not argue against the existence of God and even acknowledged what about the Christian solution to evil?

DR. CRAIG: Yes, that was one thing that was surprising about Hitchens, wasn’t it? He had the honesty to admit that, yes, at the end of the day this argument really doesn’t go through. What it has, again, is simply emotional force. But you see as a philosopher I’m called upon, not to say how I feel about something, but what I think about it. And when you think about it . . .

TODD WAGNER: That’s when men get in trouble with their wives right there, you realize that? [laughter]

DR. CRAIG: Well, granted, but here we are not dealing with wives.

TODD WAGNER: Can I tell my wife I’m a philosopher, I’m not supposed to feel? Let me explain to you what you don’t understand. [laughter] I’ve tried that; that doesn’t work well.

DR. CRAIG: My wife has learned to argue logically with me.

TODD WAGNER: Goodness! All right. Yeah, Hitchens, I think he said, look, the Christian argument for evil is cogent, it’s coherent, if it was true. And then I loved the way you summarized that discussion – it wasn’t a debate because he didn’t come prepared. Do you remember what you said to him at the end of that?

DR. CRAIG: Well, I think I do. What do you remember? [laughter] [9]

TODD WAGNER: I think what you did is you basically said, Christopher – and I think you were going to be together with him shortly after that.

DR. CRAIG: Right, we had a debate scheduled at Biola University just two weeks after this panel discussion in Dallas.

TODD WAGNER: Right, and you said to him . . .?

DR. CRAIG: I said, after summarizing the arguments and his failure to refute them, he was seated to my left and I turned to him and I said, “So I hope Mr. Hitchens that when we meet in two weeks at Biola University you will have done substantially more study on these arguments so that you can discuss them in a more significant way.”

TODD WAGNER: Yeah, you basically undressed him. You basically said you just acknowledged that everything I’ve said is true. What you have has no real philosophical or intellectual support and I couldn’t even debate you.

DR. CRAIG: And the funny thing is he didn’t do that homework. He showed up unprepared at Biola as well.

TODD WAGNER: Because what Bill Maher does, what Christopher has done, you are right, they appeal to emotion, they use humor to distract.

DR. CRAIG: Ridicule is one of their most important weapons – satire and ridicule. And that will persuade people in a way that often argument will not because people unfortunately so often don’t think logically. They don’t know how to think logically. That is why I love that song that Sacha sung about “What if you go deeper than your simple minded friends and begin to poke holes in the logic.” You suddenly discover that all of this atheist rhetoric is just that – it is mere rhetoric and emotional appeals.

TODD WAGNER: Yeah, which sure helps me sleep well until I’m honest. It allows me in the public square, but laying at bed at night, I think the simple mindedness pierces our hearts and that is God keeping, reaching out, drawing you back and saying “Hey, consider me, away from the humor and away from the ridicule. I am there.” Two things just to wrap up, Dr. Craig. We could do this all day.

DR. CRAIG: I do want to say before we wrap up, we are just scratching the surface here, folks. I mean, this is just skating on the surface. If you want to go deeper, there are fantastic resources available on all of these arguments and fuller discussions that are available on the Internet that you can access.

TODD WAGNER: That is what I just want to say and I’ll inject this, too, because he did not ask us to have his books here. I said I want them here. Whenever we do this, rather than make you run out and purchase them, we get the books and just for today (if you want them) we sell them at our cost. In fact, we sell them a little less than our cost to make the number round. If you want to buy Dr. Craig’s book Reasonable Faith, those are available back there with some other resources to get you started. But let’s be honest, Reasonable Faith may not be the best first step.

DR. CRAIG: Right, it is not a beginner’s book, it is more intermediate. That’s right.

TODD WAGNER: It is intermediate. He’s done works that are advanced but tell them the best resources – what would you say to the church to get in there, to be winsome, to be ready to give a sound answer when they are asked?

DR. CRAIG: If you are a beginner and want to learn more about how to defend your faith, I would say take a look at a book like Paul Little’s book Know Why You Believe or Lee Strobel’s books Case for the Creator and Case for Christ. These are excellent introductory books that are very substantive. They’ve got good content but they are written on a beginner’s level. There is also loads of free resources on our website that are available to anyone who would like to access them.

TODD WAGNER: Gang, it is not just your option. It is your Christian duty. I will never study the historicity of the resurrection at the University of Munich in Germany. But I do need to be conversant about the historical evidences for the resurrection of Christianity. It is the final apologetic apart from my own transformed life that I need to be fluent in. I hope that you are inspired by this man’s life work to get in the game and to realize that no matter how deep you dig there are sound answers. Use Dr. Craig as your resource to go with your intellectual friends. Christianity is intellectually defensible, yes?

DR. CRAIG: Absolutely. I think it stands head and shoulders above any other philosophy or -ism that you might care to hold.

TODD WAGNER: Give your two minutes to the person who is here – the skeptic. Make your appeal to their heart. We just beg the believer to get in the game, to be ready to give an answer. But what would you say to the person who needs to go beyond just their questions and walking away.

DR. CRAIG: The great American philosopher William James once made a very profound statement that I like in this regard. [10] He said, “We may be in the universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries. Seeing the books and hearing the conversation but having no inkling of the meaning of it all.” I think that the skeptic needs to ask himself: how do I know that I am not wrong? That I am like this dog or cat in a library filled with knowledge and with meaning and I simply don’t apprehend it. There are those who claim to have found this meaning and this source of existence. And they can offer intelligent, defensible arguments in support of this view. Therefore, I think you owe it to yourself to begin to look into it. If this message is the truth, if it is really the truth, then it is the greatest news ever announced. That the infinite God of the universe should love you and want you to be his personal friend. There can be no higher status that a human being can enjoy than that. So you owe it to yourself to look into it.

TODD WAGNER: If you are sick of being rabid, thick with fleas, scratching yourself, and licking yourself, and wondering why [laughter], you can’t get that in Munich right there, Dr. Craig. You gotta come to Dallas for that kind of logic. I want to tell you, I want to invite you in. And I want to tell you that there are people that have done that themselves and have had fleas and they have met the great healer and has called us to be something great. He has restored and is restoring the glory that we have lost.

So we are glad you are here and believe if you are in the game, get in it deeper. If you are here as a skeptic or a friend, we’ve got an entire team that dedicates themselves to and others – it is an apologetics team that wants to sit with you. We’ve got explore classes where you can step in and begin to discuss these things in a very safe environment. One of the reasons we started Watermark is because we wanted this to be a place where you can come and ask questions and not be seen as disrespectful or unintellectual. Great men ask great questions. Great women ask great questions. But wise men and women sit around to see if there are great answers. And we tell you there are. And I tell you to go get them, I tell you to learn them, and by the grace of God, respond to them fully. Let me pray for you and thank God for our morning.

Father, thank you for a chance to be together today. For a chance to gather with friends. I thank you for the giftedness of Dr. Craig, the way he has given his life to learning and not just to learning but to living. I thank you that his life is as defensible as the truths for which he speaks even as it should be. I thank you that he has spent as much time in sanctifying Christ as Lord in his life as he has filling his head up with learning. I pray we will follow his example this morning. I can say imitate him as he imitates Jesus Christ who spoke and reasoned with men but in his perfection also died for imperfect men. Lord, I pray that we will follow you and when we live in a way that is indefensible to a secular and finite mind that we would with gentleness and reverence be prepared to give an account for why it is we follow the King of Kings whose tomb is empty, who created us and died for us and provides us a way back to you. I pray that my friends here this morning would consider him and if they have considered him and called him King that they would follow him with all of their heart. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Make yourself available to those resources and have a great week of worship. We’ll see you. [11]

  • [1]


  • [2]


  • [3]


  • [4]


  • [5]


  • [6]

    N. T. Wright, Christian Origins and the Question of God, III: The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 710.

  • [7]


  • [8]


  • [9]


  • [10]


  • [11]

    Total Running Time: 48:54 (Copyright 2009 © William Lane Craig)