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05 / 06

Top 3 questions University of Florida students are asking God

William Lane Craig responds to University of Florida students

Time : 01:05:21

William Lane Craig spoke to a crowd of a few hundred University of Florida students on the top three questions about God. Several weeks prior, the Crusade students surveyed around 1,000 students on what one question they would ask God. The top three responses were, in order, (1) the meaning and purpose of life, (2) the problem of suffering, and (3) the existence of God. Afterward Dr. Craig answered questions for 45 minutes.

Transcript

INTRODUCTION: The following is an address by Dr. William Lane Craig at the University of Florida during The One Question Event. His speech is a response to over 1,000 surveys done on the UF campus asking the question, “If you could ask God one question, what would you ask?” The top three questions were the subject of his speech. Those questions are as follows:

· How do we know God exists?

· Why is there pain and suffering in our world?

· What is my purpose in life?

Following the address, Dr. Craig takes questions from the audience before concluding. This presentation is copyrighted by Dr. William Lane Craig.

Dr. Craig: The existence of God makes a tremendous difference for mankind. For if God does not exist then man and the universe are ultimately doomed to death. Man, like all biological organisms, has to die. And his life, compared to the infinite stretch of time, is but an infinitesimal moment, it is just a brief spark that appears in the blackness and then vanishes forever. Compared to the infinite stretch of time man’s life is just the twinkling of an eye, and yet this is all the existence that he will ever know.

I remember vividly the first time that my father told me as a boy that someday I would die. Somehow as a child the thought had just never occurred to me. And when he told me, I remember I was filled with fear and an unbearable sadness. And though he tried repeatedly to reassure me that this was a long way off, somehow that just didn’t seem to matter. The fact was that I was going to die and cease to exist, and that thought just overwhelmed me. And I think that, although we grow to be used to this fact as we become older, nevertheless the child’s insight remains a valid one. As the French existentialist Sartre once put it, whether it is an hour or a year makes no difference once you have lost eternity.

And the universe, too, faces a peculiar death of its own. Scientists tell us that the universe is expanding and as it does so everything in it grows colder and colder as its energy is used up. Eventually all of the stars will burn out and all matter will collapse into dead stars and black holes. There will be no light, there will be no heat, there will be no life, only the corpses of dead stars and galaxies expanding into the endless darkness in the infinite recesses of space; a universe in ruins. This is not science fiction, this will happen. Death is written throughout the structure of the universe, so not only is each individual person doomed, the entire universe is doomed to extinction. There is no escape, there is no hope.

And what is the consequence of this? Well it means that life itself becomes absurd. It means that the life that we do have is without ultimate meaning, value, or purpose. Let me say a word about each one of those.

First, if each individual person passes out of existence when he dies then what ultimate significance can be given to his life? Now it might be said that his life was significant because it effected others or influenced the course of history, but that shows only a relative significance to his life not an ultimate significance. Certainly his life might be important relative to certain other events, but what is the significance of influencing any of those events. If all of the events are ultimately meaningless then there can be no importance in influencing any of them. Ultimately it makes no difference. All of our important projects and purposes in this life become merely petty and trivial pursuits, like shifting deck chairs on the Titanic. And thus the contributions of the scientists to the advancement of human knowledge, the researches of the doctor to alleviate pain and suffering, the efforts of the diplomat to secure peace in the world, the efforts of good people everywhere to better the lot of the human race, in the end all of these come to nothing. They don’t make one bit of difference, not one bit. [1]

And because our lives are ultimately meaningless, the activities that we fill our lives with are also ultimately meaningless. The long hours spent in study here at the university, our friendships, our jobs, our hobbies, out interests, all of these are, in the final analysis, ultimately meaningless. This is the horror of modern man: because he ends in nothing he ultimately is nothing.

Not only that, but without God life would have no ultimate value. If life ends at the grave then ultimately it makes no difference whether you have lived as a Joseph Stalin or as a Mother Teresa. Since your destiny is ultimately unrelated to your behavior you may as well just live as you please. As the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky put it: “If there is no immortality then all things are permitted.” In fact, you might as well just live totally for self, no one holds you accountable, indeed it would be foolish to do anything else since life is too short to jeopardize it by acting out of anything but pure self-interest.

But the problem becomes even worse, for regardless of immortality, if there is no God then there can be no objective standards of right and wrong, good and evil. All we are confronted with, in Jean-Paul Sartre’s words, is the bare valueless fact of existence. Moral values on an atheistic philosophy are either just expressions of personal taste, like having a preference for vanilla rather than chocolate ice cream, or else they are just personal and culturally relative values that have developed as a result of socio-biological evolution and conditioning. In the words of one humanist philosopher, the moral principles that govern our behavior are rooted in habit, custom, feeling, and fashion.

So in a world without God, who is to say whose moral values are right and whose are wrong? Who is to judge, who is to set himself as the authority for good and evil, right and wrong? In a world without God there is no objective right and wrong, good and evil, but only our culturally and personally relative subjective judgments. But think of what that means. That means that it is impossible to condemn war, oppression, crime, cruelty, hatred, as evil, nor can you praise brotherhood, love, charity, sacrifice, and equality as good. For in a universe without God, good and evil do not exist, there is only the bare valueless fact of existence and there is no one to say that you are right and I am wrong.

Thirdly, there would be no ultimate purpose to life if God does not exist. If death stands with open arms at the end of life’s trail then to what end has life been? What is the goal of life? Is it just for nothing? Is there no purpose at all for the human race? And what of the universe, is it utterly pointless? If its destiny is a cold grave in the recesses of outer space then I think the answer is yes, it is pointless, there is no goal, no purpose for which the universe exists. The litter of a dead universe will just go on expanding forever and ever without end. And what of man, is there no purpose at all for the existence of the human race, or will it just peter out someday, lost in the oblivion of an indifferent universe? The English writer H. G. Wells foresaw such a prospect. In his novel The Time Machine Wells’ describes how his time traveler journeys far into the future to discover the ultimate destiny of mankind. All he finds is a dead earth, except for a few lichens and moss, orbiting a gigantic red sun. The only sounds are the rush of the wind and the gentle ripple of the sea. Writes Wells,

Beyond these lifeless sounds the world was silent. Silent? It would be hard to convey the stillness of it. All the sounds of man, the bleating of sheep, the cries of birds, the hum of insects, the stir that makes the background of our lives – all that was over. [2]

And so Wells’ time traveler returned. [3] But to what? To merely an earlier point on the same purposeless rush toward oblivion. When as a non-Christian I first read Wells’ book, I thought, “No, no! It can't end this way!” But this is reality in a universe without God. It will end that way, like it or not. I am reminded of the words of T. S. Eliot in his poem The Hollow Men, “This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” [4]

But even more than that, if life did not end in death, still without God life would be without ultimate purpose, for man and the universe would then be simple accidents of chance, thrust into existence for no reason whatsoever. Without God, the universe is the result of a cosmic accident, a freak explosion. There is no reason for why the universe exists. And as for humankind, well man is just a freak of nature, the blind product of matter plus time plus chance. There is no purpose in life for the human species anymore than there is for a species of insect or rodent, for both are just the result of the blind interaction of chance and necessity. As Richard Dawkins puts it so powerfully, “there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference. . . . We are machines for propagating DNA. . . . It is every living object’s sole reason for being.” [5]  So if God does not exist that means that man and the universe exist to no purpose, since the end of everything is death, and that they came to be for no purpose, since there is no reason for which they came into being but are blind products of chance and necessity. In short life is ultimately without purpose.

So I hope you begin to understand the gravity of the alternatives before us. If God does exists then there is hope for meaning, value, and purpose in life. But if God does not exist then all we are left with is despair. As one writer has aptly put it, if God is dead then man is dead, too.

Unfortunately I find that the mass of people, and in particular most students, don’t realize this fact. They have never thought through atheism to its logical conclusions, and so they just go on as though nothing had changed. I am reminded of the story told by the 19th German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche of the madman who in the early morning hours burst into the marketplace, lantern in hand, crying, “I seek God! I seek God!” Since many of those standing about did not believe in God, he provoked much laughter. “Is he hiding? Maybe God has gone on a voyage or emigrated!” Thus they yelled and laughed. Then, writes Nietzsche, the madman turned in their midst and pierced them with his eyes,

“Whither is God?” he cried, “I shall tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? . . . God is dead. . . . And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves?” [6]

The crowd stared at the madman in astonishment and silence. At last he smashed his lantern to the ground. “I have come too early,” he said. “This tremendous event is still on its way – it has not yet reached the ears of man.” You see, people did not truly comprehend what they had done in killing God. But Nietzsche predicted that someday people would realize the logical consequences of atheism; and this would usher in an age of nihilism – that is to say, the destruction of all meaning and value in life. [7]

I find that most people still do not reflect upon the consequences of atheism and so, like the crowd in Nietzsche’s marketplace, go happily on their way. But when we realize, as did Nietzsche, the consequences of what atheism implies, then I think his question presses hard upon us: how should we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves?

Well, it seems to me that this dilemma which faces modern man can only be effectively met if we challenge the atheism of modernity and maintain that, in fact, God does exist and that therefore life does have value, meaning, and purpose. And therefore we are brought to the question of whether or not there are any good reasons to think that God does not exist, as is the presupposition of modernity.

Well, that brings me to the second question that you put before me concerning the problem of evil and suffering. I think many people would say, well, the evil and the suffering in the world make it impossible to think that God exists. Given the amount of evil in world, God cannot exist and therefore we are caught in this human predicament that I have just described.

Well, I think the difficulty with this argument is, that there is no explicit contradiction between saying God exists and evil exists. After all, one statement is not the negation of the other, they are not contradictories. So if the atheist is claiming that these are inconsistent with each other – that you cannot affirm both – he must be saying that these are somehow implicitly contradictory with each other because they are not explicitly inconsistent. But in that case the atheist must be assuming some sort of hidden premises that would bring out this contradiction and make is explicit. Well, what are those hidden premises, those hidden assumptions? It seems to me that there are two in number.

First of all, the atheist assumes that if God is all-powerful then he can create any world that he wants. If God is all-powerful then he could create any world that he wants, and therefore he could create a world without any sin or evil. He could create a world of free creatures who always do the right thing. Secondly, the atheist seems to presuppose that if God is all good then he would want to create a world without evil. If God is all good then surely he would want to create a world in which there is no evil. And therefore given that God is all-powerful and all-good, it follows that he both could and would create a world without evil, and that contradicts the fact that evil exist. And therefore God does not exist.

So this does seem to be the logic of the atheist’s reasoning in this regard. The problem is, I think, is that the atheist has taken on an enormous burden of proof in presupposing those two hidden assumption. I don’t think the atheist can proof that either of those assumption is true, and in fact it seems to me that they are both plausibly false.

Look at the first assumption with me for a moment. If God is all-powerful can he create just any world he wants as the atheist assumes? Well, I think not. You see, if God desires to create a world of free creatures, persons endowed with freedom of the will, then he cannot guarantee that they will always do what is right. It is logically impossible to make someone freely choose something. That is as logically impossible as making a square circle or a married bachelor. And being all-powerful does not mean the ability to bring about logical impossibilities or logical contradictions. And therefore God’s being all-powerful does not mean that he can create just any possible world that you can conceive of. It may very well be the case that in any worlds that involve free creatures and which have as much good as this world has those worlds would also have as much evil as this world has. So what the atheist would have to prove to make his argument go through, is that there is a possible world of free creatures which God could have created which has as much good in it as this world does, but has less evil. And I think, as you can see, there is simply no way to prove such a thing; that’s just pure speculation. [8]

The atheist has simply shouldered here a burden of proof that I think is unsustainable. There is no way to prove that such a world is available to God. So, on that ground alone, I think that the argument from evil is an unsound argument.

But what about that second hidden assumption that the atheist makes? Namely, that if God is all-good he would want to create a world without evil. Is that also true? Well, again, I am skeptical that that is necessarily true. Now certainly if God exists and is all-loving then he does want the best for us. But what does “the best” mean? We just sort of naturally assume that if God exists then that means that his goal for human life is to create a comfortable environment for his human pets – a sort of nice little terrarium in which we can live and flourish and have happiness in this life. If God exists then his purpose is to create an environment in which we can have a happy life. But on Christian theism at least, on the Christian view of God, that is false. The purpose of life is not happiness as such in this life. Rather it is to come to know God in a personal way; the purpose of life is the knowledge of God. And many evils occur in life which may be utterly pointless with respect to the goal of producing human happiness in this life, but they may not be pointless with regard to producing a deeper knowledge of God. It is possible, and in fact I think not at all implausible, that only in a world suffused with natural and moral evils that the optimal number of persons would freely come to know God and his salvation and so find eternal life. So what the atheist would have to prove to carry his argument is that there is another possible world which God could have created in which this much knowledge of God and his salvation is achieved but with less evil. And, again, that is pure conjecture. There is absolutely no way to prove such a speculation. It is impossible to prove these things. And therefore, again, it seems to me, that the logical problem of evil simply cannot be put through.

Now that is not to say that the problem of evil and suffering is not a tremendous emotional obstacle to belief in God. Certainly I think the suffering and evil in the world presents a great emotional obstacle to belief in God. But as philosophers we are called upon not to say how we feel about something, but what we think about it. And when I think rigorously about this problem, it seems to me that it is based upon assumptions which simply cannot be proven, they are purely conjectural, and indeed are quite plausibly false. Peter van Inwagen, a prominent philosopher on the contemporary scene, writes, “It used to be widely held that evil . . . was incompatible with the existence of God: that no possible world contained both God and evil. So far as I am able to tell, this thesis is no longer defended.” [9]So I think it has become widely recognized how difficult it is to carry any sort of intellectual argument from evil against the existence of God.

Well, that at least holds out, then, the real possibility that God might exist in contradiction to the presupposition of modernity. But are there any positive reasons to believe that God exists? Well, I think that there are. Now whole books have been written on each one of these but I want to sketch briefly five reasons tonight that I think make it plausible to think that, in fact, God does exist.

The first of these arguments is called the cosmological argument, and it goes something like this. Things that begin to exist have causes – things don’t just pop into being uncaused out of nothing. Something cannot come out of nothing. If something begins to exist there must be a cause which brings it into existence. No one here tonight is worried that while you are here listening to this lecture a horse may pop into being uncaused out of nothing in your dorm room right now, and is there defiling the carpet as we speak. Things that come into existence have causes. So the first premises is:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

Now apply that to the universe. [10] What would be the cause of the universe? Well, typically atheists have said that the universe doesn’t need a cause because the universe never began to exist, the universe is just eternal and uncaused, and that is all. But I think that this is dubious for at least two reasons. And here let’s bring up the second premise:

2. The universe began to exist.

I think there are good grounds, both philosophically and scientifically, for thinking that in fact the universe did begin to exist. First, philosophically, if the universe never had a beginning then that means that the series of past events in the history of the universe just goes back and back and back without beginning, so that the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the existence of an actually infinite numbers of things leads to self-contradictions. For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well mathematically you get self-contradictory answers. For example, if you subtract all of the even numbers from all of the natural numbers, you have all of the odd numbers left over – so infinity minus infinity is infinity. But if you subtract all of the numbers greater than four from the natural numbers then you have only four numbers left, 0, 1, 2, 3, is all that is left. So infinity minus infinity is four. In fact you can get any answer from zero to infinity for the problem infinity minus infinity. It leads to self-contradictions. So I think what this shows is that infinity is simply a concept in your mind, not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, who was perhaps the greatest mathematician of the 20th century, wrote, “The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. . . . The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea.” [11] But that entails that since past events are not just ideas but are real, the number of past events must be finite. Therefore the series of past events cannot just go back and back forever; rather, the universe must have begun to exist.

Now this purely philosophical conclusion has received dramatic confirmation from discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. In one of the most startling developments of contemporary science we now have pretty strong evidence that the universe is not eternal in the past, but had an absolute beginning about 13.7 billion years ago in a cataclysmic event known as the Big Bang. What makes the Big Bang so startling is that it represents the origin of the universe from literally nothing. This is because all matter and energy, even physical space and time themselves, come into being at the Big Bang. As the physicist P. C. W. Davies explains,

The coming into being of the universe, as discussed in modern science . . . is not just a matter of imposing some sort of organization . . . upon a previous incoherent state, but literally the coming-into-being of all physical things from nothing. [12]

Now, of course, alternative theories have been offered down over the years in order to avoid the absolute beginning predicted by the standard Big Bang theory but none of these alternative has commended itself to the scientific community as more plausible than the Big Bang model. In fact, in the year 2003 Arvind Borde, Alexander Vilenkin, and Alan Guth, three eminent cosmologists, were able to prove that any universe which has on the average been expanding throughout its history cannot be eternal in the past but must have an absolute beginning. [13] Vilenkin pulls no punches. He writes,

It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men, and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning. [14]

And that problem, I think, was nicely captured by Sir Anthony Kenny of Oxford University [15] He wrote, “A proponent of [the Big Bang] theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that . . . the universe came from nothing and by nothing.” [16] But surely that doesn't make sense; as the first premise states, out of nothing nothing comes. So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? There must have been a cause which brought it into being. So it follows from premises (1) and (2) that (3), our conclusion:

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Given the truth of the two premises the conclusion follows with logical necessity. What this means is that there must be a transcendent cause beyond the universe which brought all of physical reality, space, and time into existence. Now, by the very nature of the case, this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, immaterial being which created the universe. It has to be uncaused because we’ve seen there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. It must be timeless, and therefore changeless, because it created time. Because it also created space it therefore must transcend space as well and therefore must be immaterial and nonphysical.

Moreover, I would argue, it must also be personal. For there are only two types of entity that can fit the description that I just gave of a timeless, spaceless, immaterial being. Either an unembodied mind, a personal consciousness; or else an abstract object like numbers or sets or other mathematical entities. But abstract objects like numbers do not stand in causal relationships, as this being does. Therefore it follows that the origin of the universe must be due to a transcendent person mind which brought the universe into being a finite time ago.

Thus we are brought, not merely to the cause of the universe, but to its transcendent personal creator. So if you agree with the first two premises then the conclusion follows logically that there must be a creator of the universe.

Let’s go to our next argument. In this next argument, I am going to argue that the existence of God makes sense of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.

Over the last 40 years or so, scientists have been stunned by the discovery that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a conspiracy of initial conditions of incomprehensible delicacy and precision that were simply given in the Big Bang itself. We now know that our existence is balanced on a knife’s edge of incomprehensible fineness. The existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex balance of constants and quantities which are simply given in the Big Bang such that if these constants or quantities were altered by less than a hair’s breadth, the balance would be upset and life could not exist. For example, the physicist P. C. W. Davies has calculated that a change in the strength of gravity or the atomic weak force by only one part out of ten to the one-hundredth power would have prevented a life-permitting universe. Or again, the value of the cosmological constant which drives the acceleration of the expanding universe has to be fine tuned to within one part out of ten to the one-hundred and twentieth power. Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of the universe’s initial low entropy condition – that is its thermodynamic state, its amount of disorder – this low entropy state obtaining at the beginning of the universe, the odds of that obtaining by chance alone are on the order of one chance out of ten to the power of ten to the power of one hundred and twenty three, a number which is so incomprehensible that to call it astronomical would be a wild understatement! And it is not just each constant and quantity which must be exquisitely fine tuned in this way. Their ratios to one another must also be exquisitely fine tuned so that improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers. [17]

Now there are only three possibilities for explaining this remarkable fine-tuning of the universe:

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

The first alternative, physical necessity, holds that there is some unknown theory of everything which would explain why these constants and quantities have the values they do. There was really no chance, or little chance, of the universe not being life-permitting. By contrast, the second alternative, chance, says that it is just an accident that the universe is life-permitting and we are the lucky beneficiaries. The third alternative says that the reason that the universe appears to be fine tuned for intelligent life is that in fact it was designed by a creative intelligence to be life-permitting. So the question before us is, which of these alternatives is the most plausible?

Well, the first alternative, physical necessity, is, I think, extraordinarily implausible. There is just no physical reason why these constants and quantities have the values that they do. You see, these constants and quantities are independent of the laws of nature, and so there is nothing in the laws of nature that would determine why these constants have the values they do, or why the initial boundary conditions of the universe were what they were. There is nothing in science that could explain this. Moreover, even the theories that have been suggested for a kind of unified theory of everything do not predict a unique universe. The most promising candidate for a theory of everything today is superstring theory, or as it is called M-theory. But M-theory fails to uniquely predict our universe. In fact, it allows what is called a “cosmic landscape” of around ten to the five hundredth power different possible universes all consistent with our laws of nature but having different values for these constants and quantities so that it does not predict uniquely a life-permitting universe. On the contrary, the portion of the cosmic landscape that is life-permitting is virtually infinitesimal compared with the range of worlds that are life-prohibiting. So this first alternative flies clearly in the face of all the evidence we have from physics today.

What about the second alternative, that the fine-tuning is just due to chance? Well, the problem with this alternative is that the odds against the universe being life-permitting are just so incomprehensibly great that they cannot reasonably be faced. Even though there will be a large number of life-permitting universes in the cosmic landscape, the portion of the landscape that they occupy is so infinitesimal, so insignificant, that a random dart thrown at the landscape will, with an overwhelming probability, strike a life-prohibiting region. Therefore our life-permitting universe does cry out for some sort of explanation. It is simply beyond any reasonable odds to think that this could have happened by chance. Now much more could be said about this and we can talk about it if you care to in the Q & A time to follow, but in the interest of time I want to hurry on.

It seems to me then that:

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

From which it follows:

3. Therefore, it is due to design.

So again, given the truth of the two premises, which I think the scientific evidence clearly supports, it therefore follows that the fine-tuning of the universe is due to intelligent design. There is a creative intelligent designer who built the universe and designed the laws of nature with its constants and quantities so as to make it life-permitting.

Thirdly, the moral argument. I want to argue here that:

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

Now what do I mean by objective moral values? Well, by objective moral values I mean moral values which are valid and binding independent of whether anyone believes them or not. So, for example, to say that the Holocaust was objectively evil is to say that it was evil even though the Nazis who carried it out thought that it was good, and it would have still been evil even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in brainwashing or exterminating everybody who disagreed with them so that everyone thought the Holocaust was good. [18] That is what I mean by objective moral values.

And many atheists and theists alike agree that if God does not exist then moral values are not objective in that sense. For example, the late J. L. Mackie of Oxford University, one of the most influential atheists of our day, admitted, “If . . . there are . . . objective values, they make the existence of a God more probable than it would have been without them. Thus, we have a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a God.” [19] In order to avoid God’s existence, however, Mackie therefore denied that objective moral values exist. He said, “It is easy to explain this moral sense as a natural product of biological and social evolution.” [20] Michael Ruse, who is a prominent philosopher of science agrees. He writes,

Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says “love thy neighbor as thyself,” they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction . . . And any deeper meaning is illusory. [21]

As we saw, Friedrich Nietzsche predicted that with the death of God would come the realization of nihilism, that is to say the destruction of all meaning and value in life. And I think that Nietzsche was right.

Now it is very important that we be clear here. The issue here is not, “Must we believe in God in order to live moral lives?” That is not the question; there is no reason to think that atheists cannot live what we would normally characterize as good and decent lives. Nor is the question, “Can we recognize objective moral values without believing in God?” I certainly think that we can. You don’t need to believe in God in order to recognize that we ought to love our children rather than abuse them. Rather the question is, “If God does not exist, do objective moral values exist?” And like Mackie and Ruse I just don’t see any reason to think that in the absence of God the herd morality evolved by homo sapiens on this planet is objective. After all, on the atheistic view, what is so special about human beings? They are just accidental by-products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust, lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe, and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short period of time. On the atheistic view, some action, say rape, may not be socially advantageous and so in the course of human development it has become taboo in human society. But you see that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is morally wrong. On the atheistic view there is nothing really morally wrong with raping someone. Activity like this goes on all the time in the animal kingdom, and on the atheistic view that is all we are, just animals, relatively evolved primates. Without God, therefore, it seems to me there is no absolute right and wrong, good and evil, which imposes itself upon our conscience.

But the problem is:

2. Objective moral value do exist.

And I think deep down we all know it. There is no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of the physical world. Actions like cruelty, rape, child abuse, wife beating, discrimination, and so forth are not just socially unacceptable behavior, they are moral abominations. It seems to me that our moral experience puts us in touch with a realm of objectively existing moral values and there is no reason to doubt this. Ruse himself in another context admits, “The man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says, 2+2=5.” [22]  So even Ruse himself recognizes moral truths that are on a par with mathematical truths in terms of their logical necessity and self-evidence. So it seems to me that some things are really good and others are really evil. And if you agree with me that objective moral values exist then you will agree that:

3. Therefore God exists.

From the two premises it follows logically and inescapably that therefore God exists. And so therefore we have moral grounds for belief in God. [23]

Number four, God makes sense out of the historical facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The historical person Jesus of Nazareth was a remarkable individual. New Testament historians have reached something of a consensus that the historical Jesus came on the scene with an unprecedented sense of divine authority, the authority to stand and speak in the place of God himself. He claimed that in his own person the Kingdom of God had come and as visible demonstrations of this fact he carried out a ministry of miracle working and exorcisms. But the supreme confirmation of his claim, I think, was his resurrection from the dead. If Jesus really did rise from the dead then it would seem that we have a divine miracle on our hands, and thus evidence for the existence God.

Now most people would say that the resurrection of Jesus is something you just believe in by faith, or not. But did you know that there are in fact three facts which are recognized today by the majority of New Testament historians which I think are best explained by the hypothesis of the resurrection of Jesus?

Fact #1 is that, on the Sunday morning following his crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was in fact found empty by a group of his women followers. Jacob Kremer, who is a prominent New Testament historian, says, “By far most scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb.” [24] So that in the opinion of most historians the fact of the empty tomb is historical and belongs to our portrait of the historical Jesus.

Fact #2, on separate occasions different individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death. According to Gerd Lüdemann, who is a prominent German critic of the resurrection, wrote, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” [25]

Fact #3, the original disciples suddenly came to believe in the resurrection of Jesus despite having every predisposition to the contrary. Think of the situation that the disciples faced following Jesus’ crucifixion. Number one, their leader was dead. And Jews had no idea of a Messiah who instead of triumphing over Israel’s enemies would be shameful executed by them as a criminal. Secondly, in Jewish belief no one rose from the dead prior to the resurrection at the end of the world and the judgment day. Nevertheless, it is an indisputable historical fact the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Luke Johnson, who is a New Testament scholar at Emery university, says, “Some sort of powerful, transformative experience is required to generate the sort of movement earliest Christianity was.” [26] N. T. Wright, a British scholar, says, “That is why, as an historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.” [27]

Attempts to explain away these three great facts – like the disciples stole the body, Jesus wasn’t really dead – have been universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. There just is no good naturalistic explanation of these facts. And so it seems to me that we have a good inductive argument for the resurrection of Jesus:

1. There are the three established facts.

2. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus form the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.

3. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.

4. Therefore, the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth exists.

And thus is seems to me that we have a good inductive argument for the God revealed by Jesus on the basis of his resurrection from the dead.

Finally, my fifth point, God can be immediately known and experienced. This isn’t really an argument for God’s existence; rather, this is the claim that you can know that God exists wholly apart from arguments by immediately experiencing him. This was the way that people in the Bible knew God. [28] As Professor John Hick explains,

God was known to them as a dynamic will interacting with their own wills, a sheer given reality, as inescapably to be reckoned with as destructive storm and life-giving sunshine . . . They did not think of God as an inferred entity but as an experienced reality. To them God was not . . . an idea adopted by the mind, but an experiential reality which gave significance to their lives. [29]

Now, if that is the case, then arguments for God’s existence could actually distract our attention from God himself. I believe that if you are sincerely seeking God then God will make his existence evident to you. In fact, the Bible promises, “draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” [30] We mustn't so focus on the external arguments that we fail to hear the inner voice of God speaking to our own hearts.

And if I might close on a very personal note. My own experience with God goes back to when I was 16 years old as a teenager in high school. I was raised in a non-Christian family, though it was a good and loving family, but we weren't a church going family. I was raised more or less without any sort of Christian instruction until I became a teenager. But as a teenager I began to ask these big question in life that we have talked about tonight. Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my existence? And in the search for answers I began to attend, all on my own, a church in our local community. But instead of answers, all I found was a sort of social country club where the dues were a dollar a week in the offering plate and the other high school students who pretended to be such good Christians on Sunday lived for their real god for the rest of the week, which was popularity. And this really bothered me because I thought, “Here I am so spiritually empty inside, and yet externally I am leading a better life than they are and they claim to be Christians! They are all just a bunch of hypocrites! They must be just as empty as I am inside but they are all putting on this false front, pretending to be something they are not.”

And so I began to become very angry and bitter toward the institutional church and the people in it. And soon this attitude spread toward others as well. As I looked at other people I though, they are all phonies, they are all fakes, everybody is holding up a plastic mask to the world while the real person is cowering down inside afraid to come out and be real. And so I grew very hateful and resentful toward other people. I said, “I don’t want anything to do with people. I don’t need people, I don’t want them.” And I threw myself into my books and my studies and I shunned relationships with other people. I was on my way, frankly, to becoming a very alienated young man.

And yet in moments of honesty and introspection, when I looked into my our heart, I knew that deep down inside I really did want to love and to be loved by others. And I realized in that moment that I was just as much of a hypocrite as they were. Because here I was pretending not to need people, to be so strong and independent, when deep down inside I knew that I really did need them and want them. And so that anger turned in upon myself for my own phoniness and hypocrisy. And I don’t know if you understand what this is like, but this kind of inner anger just eats away at your insides day after day after day making every day miserable, another day to get through.

And I remember one day I was feeling particularly miserable and I walked into my high school German class, and I sat down behind a girl who was one of these types who is always so happy it just makes you sick! And I tapped her on the shoulder and she turned around and I said to her, “Sandy, what are you always so happy about anyway?” And she said, “Well, Bill, it is because I am saved.” And I said, “You are what?” And she said, “I know Jesus Christ as my personal savior.” And I said, “Well, I go to church.” And she said, “That is not enough, Bill. You have got to have him really living in your heart.” And I said, “Well, what would he want to do a thing like that for?” And she said, “Because he loves you, Bill.” And that just hit me like a ton of bricks. Here I was so filled with anger and hate inside, and she said there was someone who really loved me and who was it but the God of the universe! And that thought just staggered me. I had never thought of this before – that the God of the universe could love me, Bill Craig, that worm down there on that speck of dust called planet earth. And I just couldn’t take it in.

Well I went home that night and found a New Testament and began to read it. And I devoured it from cover to cover and as I did so I was absolutely captivated by the person of Jesus of Nazareth. [31] There was an authenticity about this man’s life that wasn’t characteristic of those people who claimed to be his followers in that local church I was going to. And there was a ring of truth about his words, a wisdom about them that I had never encountered before. And I realized then I couldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. As I read the New Testament I realized what my problem was: I was spiritually separated from God. That because of the moral evil in my own life, the wrong things that I had thought and said and done, that I was guilty before God and therefore spiritually separated from him. But that God has sent Jesus Christ his Son into the world to die on the cross in my place, to pay the death penalty for sin that I deserve and that, through claiming him as my savior and Lord, I could experience God’s love and forgiveness and that relationship with God that I was created to have could be restored through Christ. Sandy introduced me to other Christian students in the high school, and I had never met people like this. And, no matter what they said about Jesus, the thing that I could not deny was that they seemed to be in contact with a different plane of reality that I didn’t even dream existed, a reality that imparted a deep meaning and peace to their lives.

Well, to make a long story short, after about six months of the most intense soul searching that I had ever been through in my entire life, I finally just came to the end of my rope and one night just cried out to God. And as I did so I cried out all the anger and the bitterness that was inside of me, and I felt this tremendous infusion of joy like a balloon being blown up and blown up until it was ready to burst. And I rushed outside, I remember it was a warm September Midwestern evening, and you could see the milky way from horizon to horizon, and I looked up at the stars and I thought, “God! I have come to know God!” And that moment changed my whole life, because I had thought enough about this message during those six months to realize that if this were really the truth, if it were really the truth, then I could do nothing less than devote my entire life to sharing this message with mankind.

And that is basically why I am at the University of Florida tonight, because I love to share the truth of this message with students who are about the same age that I was approximately and are searching for answers to life’s deepest questions as well. So if you were to ask me, “Why do you believe that God exist?” I would point not only to the objective scientific, moral, philosophical, and historical evidence, but also to the reality of my immediate experience of God. For me the most important difference, I think, that Christ has made in my life was that he took me from despair and purposelessness to a life that is charged with meaning, infused with a deep, ultimate meaning which transcends even this life and spills over into eternal life. And if you have not yet experienced God in that same personal way yourself then I’d encourage you to do what I did. Pick up a New Testament, begin to read it, and ask yourself, “Could this really be the truth? Could there really be a God of the universe who loves me, who created me to know him, and who has sent his Son into the world that I might come into relationship with him?” I believe that the evidence solidly supports this view. This is a view that I think stands intellectually head and shoulders above any other view or -ism that you could hold to, and yet it also meets the needs of your deepest existential longings as well. And if you will begin to explore this as I did I believe that it can change your life in the same way that it changed mine.

=====

DISCUSSION

Moderator: We are now into the question and answer segment of the program. The way this works is, we have folks with microphones walking up and down the isles. If you have a question, raise your hand and when one of them spots you, he will go to you isle, and he will motion to you, and then you can come out to the isle and ask your question from there, so let’s go ahead and get started now.

Question: With respect to experience of God, just from your website I understand that you have some interesting views about how that occurs. Is it human free will, is it God’s election? There is sort of a middle ground, I understand, between Calvinism and Arminianism that maybe you can talk about a little bit. [32]

Dr. Craig: All right, well this is a very theological question that the fellow has asked here. One of the in-house debates that Christians have with each other is whether or not there is human freedom with respect to finding God in the way I described, or whether or not this is all predestined and predetermined. And my own view is that we have freedom to accept or to reject God, that we are not all predestined or predetermined to do what we do. But I hold that nevertheless God knows what we will freely choose, so that he is not surprised. It is not as though God’s plays dice with the universe, he knows how we will freely choose, but that doesn’t remove our freedom. And I think the way it works is like this: God knows what every person would freely do in any circumstances that God would place him in. And so knowing that you are placed in a certain set of circumstances, he knows exactly how you would freely choose and therefore knows what you would do. And in this way God can providentially order the world to bring the maximal number of people to himself freely but without removing human freedom.

Question: My question is, what do you think God thinks about all the division within Christianity?

Dr. Craig: I think probably, and I am basing this on what it says in the Bible, is that although God values unity on the essentials. For example, belief in the deity of Christ, the humanity of Jesus, the existence of God, Christ’s death on the cross for our sins, his resurrection from the dead – I think those things are essential to being a Christian. If you deny those things then you have adopted some other religion. But on these issues like the one we just discussed – predestination vs. free will, or modes of baptism, or the presence of Christ’s body in the Last Supper or the Eucharist – I don’t think that these are of monumental importance myself, and I think that there are genuine open questions about these sorts of things. If these were terribly, terribly important then I think God would have made them very clear in his divine revelation to us in the Scripture, and many of these things are not clear which I think indicates that these are of secondary importance. And so all Christians, whether they are Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox, are unified on the essentials which are captured in the great creeds of Christendom, like the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian Statement. I think that these capture the essence of what C. S. Lewis nicely called “Mere Christianity.” But beyond that I think it is perfectly fine to have a diversity of opinion.

Question: In the beginning of your talk you compared atheism with Christianity or theism, and you said that if God doesn’t exist life would be meaningless and purposeless. An atheists would argue, why does life have to be meaningful? Why can’t it just be meaningless and purposeless, and you just live your life for either happiness or sadness and then just die and perish?

Dr. Craig: Well, I think that is what is true on atheism; on atheism, life is absurd and this is what people like Sartre, Camus, and others saw: that life is absurd if God does not exist. But here is my problem with that, and I can speak from experience, such a worldview is existentially unlivable. You cannot live consistently and happily within the framework of such a worldview. If you live consistently, you will be profoundly unhappy, you will be in despair. If you live happily, it will only be by being inconsistent with your worldview. You will find yourself, in fact, treating other people as though they really do have value, as though love really is a good thing and that evil is wrong, and you will find yourself affirming values. You will find yourself investing, unconsciously perhaps, your projects and purposes with an objective significance – that you really do think that it is meaningful and important to be, say, a doctor and alleviate suffering or to be a good family man and to raise your children properly, and so forth, I think that atheism is, frankly, simply unlivable, so that it presents this deep existential predicament for modern man. It is an unlivable worldview. And so that ought to arouse in our minds the question, “Well, how can I be so confident that atheism is true? Maybe it is false.” What good reason is there to think that atheism is true? And as I said, the main reason is the problem of evil, but I am not convinced the atheist can put that through in an intellectual way. And on the other side, I think there are quite good grounds for thinking that God exists and that we can, therefore, challenge the presupposition [that atheism is true]. [33]

  • [1]

    5:02

  • [2]

    H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (New York: Berkeley, 1957), chap. 11.

  • [3]

    10:00

  • [4]

    T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

  • [5]

    Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow (London: Allen Lane, 1998), cited in Lewis Wolpert, Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), p. 215. Unfortunately, Wolpert’s reference is mistaken. The quotation seems to be a pastiche from Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden: a Darwinian View of Life (New York: Basic Books, 1996), p. 133 and Richard Dawkins, "The Ultraviolet Garden," Lecture 4 of 7 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (1992), http://physicshead.blogspot.com/2007/01/richard-dawkins-lecture-4-ultraviolet.html (accessed August 10, 2013).

  • [6]

    Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Gay Science,” in The Portable Nietzsche, ed. and trans. W. Kaufmann (New York: Viking, 1954), p. 95.

  • [7]

    15:03

  • [8]

    20:04

  • [9]

    Peter van Inwagen, “The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence,” Philosophical Perspectives 5 (1991), p. 135.

  • [10]

     25:00

  • [11]

    David Hilbert, “On the Infinite,” in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hillary Putnam (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), pp. 139, 141.

  • [12]

    “In the Beginning: In Conversation with Paul Davies and Philip Adams” (January 17, 2002). http://www.abc.net.au/science/bigquestions/s460625.htm (accessed August 18, 2013).

  • [13]

    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0110012

  • [14]

    Alexander Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), p. 176.

  • [15]

    30:03

  • [16]

    Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Proofs of God’s Existence (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), p. 66.

  • [17]

    34:59

  • [18]

    40:06

  • [19]

    J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), pp. 115-16.

  • [20]

    Ibid., pp. 117-18.

  • [21]

    Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269.

  • [22]

    Michael Ruse, Darwinism Defended (London: Addison-Wesley, 1982), p. 275.

  • [23]

    45:10

  • [24]

    Jacob Kremer, Die Osterevangelien--Geschichten um Geschichte (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977), pp. 49-50.

  • [25]

    Gerd Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus?, trans. John Bowden (Louisville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), p. 8.

  • [26]

    Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 136.

  • [27]

    N. T. Wright, “The New Unimproved Jesus,” Christianity Today (September 13, 1993), p. 26.

  • [28]

    49:48

  • [29]

    John Hick, "Introduction," in The Existence of God, ed. with an Introduction by John Hick, Problems of Philosophy Series (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1964), pp. 13-14.

  • [30]

    James 4:8

  • [31]

    55:09

  • [32]

    1:00:05

  • [33]

    Total Running Time: 1:05:22 (Copyright 2013 © William Lane Craig)