William Lane Craig vs. Stephen Law- Thoughts and Links

This was written nby my friend J.W. Wartick

Recently, William Lane Craig debated Stephen Law on the topic “Does God exist?” Remember the topic as I review the debate.

Craig 1

William Lane Craig presented a different set of arguments from his normal 5. This time, he argued the cosmological and moral arguments along with the argument from the resurrection. My guess is that the short time allowed was the reason for this change of strategy. Craig argued that actual infinites cannot exist in reality. He pointed out that transfinite math simply does not allow addition or subtraction of infinity, because it is absurd, but in the real world, if an infinite did exist, nothing could prevent it from having things added or taken away. Thus, Craig concluded, there cannot be an infinite past.

He then briefly outlined the empirical case for a finite past, citing Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin’s paper which shows that every model of the universe’s past must account for entropy, and therefore must be finite. I don’t want to get sidetracked from my review of the debate here, but so many people seem to either ignore or miss the point of this argument. It’s not that entropy only disallows an infinite universe that is one state, rather, entropy disallows an infinite past for oscillating universe models, bubble universes, and any other types of strategies people have tried to raise in order to rebut cosmological arguments. I recently got an e-mail in which someone said I’m being dishonest by only referencing the Big Bang as evidence for a finite universe, when there may have been previous universes. Well that’s simply wrong, even if there were previous universes, they would have to take entropy into account. If the past is infinite, all the energy available for the generation of universes would have been used up.

Anyway, Craig went on to argue the moral argument: If objective moral values exist, then God exists. They do, so God does. A great point Craig made is that any argument against the existence of objective moral values must rely upon premises which aren’t as plausible as the objective morals themselves. That’s an excellent point that many tend to ignore.

As far as the resurrection is concerned, Craig presented the “three facts” argument. He pointed out that three facts are agreed upon throughout scholarship on the topic: that the tomb was found empty, different individuals saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, the disciples’ belief in Jesus resurrection despite having every predisposition to the contrary. These facts, argued Craig, are best explained by Jesus’ resurrection.

Law 1

Law began by arguing about animal suffering. He said that the extraordinary amount of suffering which is experienced by animals every day is such that it can weigh against the existence of God. He noted that some people dismiss this as “merely animals” but argued, “I wonder if they’d say the same thing if I took a red hot poker to their… cat.” Note how Law distorted his original argument, however. Certainly, I’d be extraordinarily angry with Stephen Law if he took a hot poker to my cat (I don’t have one any more but I used to). But the reason would be because Law is a moral agent. He is capable of knowing what he’s doing, and would clearly have to be sadistic in order to do such an action. If, however, an eagle came and carried my cat away, I would be extremely upset, but I would not accuse the eagle of having done a morally wrong action, because the eagle is not a moral agent. Yet Law used that very emotional image of himself–a moral agent–as an analogy for animal suffering. There’s clearly a major issue with such an argument.

Law went on to argue that there’s no reason to think that the God whose existence Craig is arguing for is not an evil god. Here I think Law had some decent points… for arguing against bare theism, but not against Christianity (see “Analysis” below). He argued that for certain theodicies, there can be parallel arguments constructed for an evil god. He also noted that Craig’s arguments could work just as well for an evil god (a notable exception would be the moral argument, more on that later… and it’s pretty hard to see how the resurrection would fit into his ‘evil god’ scenario). Law also argued that if the good in the world refutes an evil god, the evil in the world should refute a good God. Law didn’t do anything to rebut Craig’s arguments for the existence of God.

Craig 2

Craig quickly attacked Law’s appeal to emotion with animal suffering. He noted that it was very much anthropopathism to assume that animals had the same response to suffering as humans. In fact, he went on to note three hierarchies of suffering, and pointed out that animals do not have the capacity to be aware of the fact that they are suffering. So despite the suffering of animals, they are not even aware of that fact–something which Craig credited to God’s mercy. Animal suffering, he argued, is also necessary for a number of reasons, one of which is the stability of ecosystems. Without predation, all life on earth would be wiped out. Thus, it is fair to say that animal suffering fits into the divine plan.

Craig countered Law’s argument about the ‘evil god’ by noting that the moral argument specifically rebuts Law’s assertions. Not only that, but Law was arguing against a kind of theism which does not exist. Christians don’t survey the world and conclude God is good, rather, they believe God is good because that’s the type of being God is, necessarily.

Craig presented a number of reasons for thinking a good God would allow evil, which would therefore discount the rebutting evidence of evil. He also agreed with Law that looking at the world alone would lead to a draw, but that, as already noted, the moral argument and the type of being God is would defeat an ‘evil god’ scenario.

Law 2

Law argued that Craig had made a straw man of his position by saying that theism is not inductive. Then he went on to argue that the moral argument is the only one Craig can rely on to establish the goodness of God. He cited Swinburne as a Christian who did not believe objective morality relies on God. He ended his second segment by arguing that surely there is enough evil in the world to make the existence of God improbable.

Craig 3

Craig noted that Law has a strange kind of atheism which grants the existence of God but attacks the character. He pointed out that Law had still not rebutted any of his arguments, but focused merely on the character of God. He also pointed out that appealing to Swinburne was a mere appeal to authority and that he could cite a number of atheistic philosophers who agreed with his premises.

To read on, click here


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