Wednesday, October 19, 2011

William Lane Craig vs. Stephen Law: Does God Exist?

Christian philosopher William Lane Craig debates atheist Stephen Law on the topic: Does God Exist? The debate was sponsored by Premier Christian Radio at Westminster Hall on October 17, 2011 for the WLC tour. Audio provided by Premier's Unbelievable podcast. Want to hear every audio debate by William Lane Craig? Check out the audio debate feed here.

Full Debate MP3 Audio here. (2hr 15min)


Anonymous said...

Was epic!!

JOJO JACOB said...

Craig creamed

David Bowers said...

My Initial reaction to the Dr Craig vs Dr Law debate; When will atheists give a detailed defense of their position instead of just rejecting Christian beliefs. Since most of Dr Law's augment was focused on the… character of God, I.e. evil vs good God, I am uncertain whether he is actually an atheist or an atheistic theologian. Lastly when one rejects something e.g. the resurrection of Jesus, it would be more convincing to evidence your research in this field of study and not to use a UFO illustration! Well done Dr Craig; a logical, concise and reasonable presentation for the existence of God.

Drew said...

I give Law credit for actually preparing for the debate. He gave an actual argument against the existence of God (evidential problem of evil) and even tried to dissolve Craig's defense against it. Law argued that if the evidential problem of evil doesn't undermine belief in God, then the problem of good does not undermine belief in an evil creator.

Dr. Craig then argued that the existence of good does not refute the existence of a perfectly evil creator. There are other arguments, such as the moral argument, which do that.

Law's entire case collapsed at that point, like a giant house of cards. He bet his entire case on the "evil god" argument, and when that failed, Law was out of ammo.

pgrocky3 said...

Dr. Craig did amazing as always. I liked the three points as opposed to the normal five. I felt it gave him more time to explain the three he selected. Stephen Law was way overmatched in this debate. His good God vs bad god argument would have been more substantial had he at least attempted to clash with Dr. Crags actual arguments. He basically conceded Dr. Crags arguments and then attempted to make Wlc prove Gods existence by his (laws) objection. While I thought Laws argument was interesting and somewhat novel to me, he utterly failed in attempting to disprove Theism or Christian Theism (Dr. Craigs God). All of Dr. Craigs arguments held up unflawed and practically untouched. Dr. Laws argument was falsified by the positive case for a good God presented in both the moral argument and the implications of the argument from The resurrection of Jesus. Great start to the UK tour. Great job Dr. Craig. Praise and glory be to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

Law contradicts himself so many times!

Anonymous said...

I actually think Stephen Law won. And I don't think Craig has ever lost a debate before.

The Atheist Missionary said...

David, Law was not arguing the affirmative case. Detailed defence of what position? Law's mission was to shed non-belief on the deity being propounded by Craig and he succeeded in a spectacular manner.

The Atheist Missionary said...

I left the following comment on Law's blog:

I just finished listening to this and I am truly flabbergasted. Stephen basically took aim with a single argument (and one that Craig must have known was coming) and Craig completely whiffed on it. The question is dastardly simple: why is an all-good god more likely than an all-evil god? The question did not evade the debate topic because virtually nobody believes in a triple-O being who is all-evil. So why is the existence of a triple-O being who is all-good not only more likely, but substantially more likely? Please, Craig defenders, help me out here. All I heard Craig say in response to the challenge was:

1. All-good is part of how he defines his god; and

2. There is no way to differentiate between an all-good god and the "anti-god" by observing the world.

Heck, Craig didn't even say that the Holy Spirit whispers "god is good" to him. Even I could have come up with that one.

Drew said...

Do you even know what "triple-o" even means?

So why is the existence of a triple-O being who is all-good not only more likely, but substantially more likely? Because all-good and omnibenevolent mean exactly the same thing.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Drew, the triple O was my mistake. The question is omnibenevolent or omnimalevolent.

Please answer the question. Craig couldn't and, better yet, admitted he couldn't. Why is an all-good god more likely than Law's all evil god? If your answer is simply "that's how I choose to define god" and "there is no way to tell by looking at the world", please say so.

mhssu said...

TAM, Craig's opening speech outlined his argument for the actual goodness of God- the moral argument, which, if successful, proves the existence of a ground of moral value who wills the good, prohibits evil, and is of supreme value. A moral argument just cannot be run for an evil god.

Law's "evil god" thing was only good for refuting inferences to God's goodness based on the quality of life in the world, which no theist advocates anyway.

That said, I think that Law did score a point where he said that Craig ought to have elaborated on the connection between morality and a God more.

pgrocky3 said...

To the atheist missionary,
Our apprehension of moral values and duties would give us an experiential reason to believe God is good. We know the difference between right and wrong. We know we should do right, and as long as our faculties our working correctly our conscience condemns us when we do evil. Secondly the God revealed by Jesus of Nazareth is a loving Holy God who offers us eternal life and happiness. So if the argument for the ressurrection holds up we can logically deduce that's its more likely than not that God is good.

Law built a straw man out of his bad god and tried to force Craig to prove Gods existence using Laws unstable material. Craigs job was to posit an affirmative case for his Theistic view. He certainly did that. The problem of evil is not designed to prove Gods existence but to disprove it. As long as Craigs arguments held up (which they not only held up buy were hardly attacked) all Craig had to show was that the problem of evil or good for that matter does not disprove Gods existence. He certainly did that. In fact Laws own reasoning did that. 

Laws argument while interesting to think about was so weak it's hard to point out all of it's inadequacies. I've heard a great majority of Craigs debates and while he is normally the clear cut winner; this may have been the most one sided I've heard. I even feel Craig was to generous in his handling of the bad god argument. Instead of showing it's complete impotence in dealing with the subject of the debate he dignified it with logical responses. Maybe he was appreciative of the respect Law gave him by agreeing to debate when the other cowards backed out. I know the winner and looser of a debate such as this is a subjective decision, but I just don't see how anyone could have thought Law won.

Anonymous said...

@ Atheist Missionary - The debate topic was "Does God Exist?". To argue about what kind of God exists is to concede that you can't win the argument and the debate is over.

Not anonymous said...

@Atheist Missionary

As has been said above, the debate topic was "Does God Exist." The topic was not "Does the Christian God Exist", which is a different subject. If Law wanted to debate the latter, he should have agitated to get the topic changed before agreeing to the debate, rather than agreeing to one topic and debating another.

As for the "why not an evil God" question itself, the Christian gets his answer from special Revelation. Also, Craig was right to bring in the Moral Argument as a support, as well as to point to the fact that we can arrive at God's nature through the exploration of Natural Theology.

There are all kinds of reasons you can think of without too much effort. For one thing, if God is "evil", then he is not a very powerful God, because Good clearly trumps Evil in this world. There is lots of Evil in the world, for sure, but at their heart, people still, on the whole, enjoy living and their lives - even people in desperate circumstances or hard-to-live places. Evil is clearly the aberration, not the norm. Evil is the drop of black in the pure white bucket of paint, not the other way around. Otherwise, if God were truly "Evil", and looking to create people just to make them miserable, then people would decidedly not, on the whole, enjoy living, and glimpses of Good would exist only as a means to give people a measuring stick of something better as a comparison to see how crappy their lives are. It would be like a person showing a nice, warm steak to a starving man, then taking it away as a means of torture. But that's not what life is like for people as a whole. Again, we enjoy life, and evil seems to be the aberration for people, not then norm, in terms of how they view life.

Beyond that, there are a good number of people in this world who have very little evil in their lives. If God were truly "Evil", you could say there would be no people like that, right? Since God is "good", it's the other way around. Goodness and light are the default positions, mussed up by Evil, which exists because of the free will of people and then, with natural evils, as a means to bring maximum salvation or good to the rest of mankind.

Not anonymous said...

As an addendum, you could also say that the existence of free will presupposes a Good God, because he has given you choice and agency - he has made something yours.

An Evil God would be more likely to give you consciousness, but no free choice, and make you face Evil and misery without any of your own faculties available to deal with them.

Free Will, in many respects, points to a "Good God", not an Evil one.

Law's argument is easy to refute with just a bit of thought. But beyond that, it was completely off topic - "Does God Exist?" is a far different question than "What is God like?". And arguing for a God who DOES exist but is simply different in character than the person answering the debate topic in the affirmative believes not only says nothing about the topic at hand, but is clearly a trick meant to throw your opponent by making him answer questions he didn't prepare for due to it being completely off topic.

Johnny Boy said...

To put it in another way, if Craig lost to Stephens bad-god argument, then, at worst, we have a creator God whom we cannot prove to be either good or bad.

So, even if Craig wasn't able to address Stephen's argument --which he was quite clearly able to-- it's hardly a win for Stephen.

Yet, he goes on about how he "demolished" Craig over at his blog. The only thing he demolished by saying that was his credibility.

C Jones said...

Craig is a skilled and charismatic debator who, as usual, effortlessly succeeded in winning over the Christian faithful, willingly deaf to the logic of the counter argument. Philosopher though? No.

Brian said...

C Jones:
Have you read Craig's CV and list of publications?

ZAKI AMINU said...

If one has no OBJECTIVE concept of "goodness" - as is the case with atheists - it is IMPOSSIBLE for such a one to understand why Ultimate Reality - God - MUST be Pure Goodness! And why speculation about an "evil God" is utterly absurd.

Carmen said...

PC Jones, What about the logic of the argument? If there is a logic of the atheist counter argument, isn´t there one of the deist logic argument? What makes the atheist logic better than the theist´s one? Aren´t the atheist willingly deaf to the logic of the theist´s argument? (just a little bit of your own atheistic relativism?)

bossmanham said...

Listening to the debate now. Evil God hypothesis is impossible if God is the greatest conceivable being.

bossmanham said...

In fact, the EGH is one of the worst arguments out there. Why do these supposed brilliant philosophers use it? They know that if God's essence were evil, then evil would in fact be good, since that's what morality would be based on. Really the EGH is just an exercise in arguing for a logical incoherence. There can't be an evil perfect being.

bossmanham said...

Wow. Law's arguments were spectacularly bad. Evil God Hypothesis doesn't prove anything, and is a practice in incoherence. He calls some of the most scrutinized and well thought out arguments for God "weak." He doesn't really argue against any of them. Dr. Law, however, did do much better than most atheists. Still stank up the joint.

Peter said...

I'm a bit confused by all those who keep saying that Law failed because the topic of the debate was "Does God exist?" and not "Does the Christian God exist?": Why does Craig get to use a Christian-specific argument then? Shouldn't you be telling him off and saying, "you can't use that argument, it only argues for a certain type of God and the debate question is 'Does God exist?'." If there is a god who created us but doesn't care about us that's pretty much as good as no god at all, because he won't ever have anything to do with us again. If all we have is a creator God that is a vast distance from the theism Craig wants to support. Craig has said himself in an interview for Closer to Truth (I think it was this one but I could be wrong, if its not then its one of the other interviews of him on the site he did not give too many) that the only God worthy of worship would be a perfect one, and so the only God worth considering the existence of for him would likely be a perfect one. He probably wouldn't call an entity that created us "God" if it wasn't perfect because God would need to be worthy of worship. So it would seem Craig would never just argue just for an affirmative response to "Does God Exist?" but would go farther to say what kind of God it was. Just some thoughts.
To Bossmanham: How can you tell that a God is bad or good if all you rely on is his essence to define morality? By what standard do you measure his essence, whether he is good or bad? His own? But that is circular. If you are arguing that an evil god couldn't exist because we would call whatever god that happened to exist good even if he was evil then that would seem not to show that an evil god could not exist but that your foundation for morality is flawed. For it is not a proper foundation of morality to simply say that what is good is whatever the god in a possible world's nature is.
I'd be interested to hear everyone's thoughts on my comments, and whether you think I've made a mistake in my reasoning (Which you probably do if you are a theist haha).

Billy Squibs said...


Please use paragraphs :(

OK, the contention is that God is the source of morality. In other words, objective moral truths such as "killing for pleasure is wrong" are determined by God's nature. If one accepts this - even in principle - then you don't have any moral authority to appeal to when you don't like the stuff God does because no moral authority can be conceived beyond God. It would be like stating that infinity +1 is bigger than infinity. Such a notion, at least to my mind, is non-sense.

If, however, you believe there is no God, and that we are arbiters of our own morality, then the only grounds you have to judge the morality of God is subjective morality. At this point you are effectively pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps.

In other words, I see two possible choices. (There may be more, of course.)

1) God exists and is by definition the source of morality. That we don't know this morality perfectly is besides the point.

2) If God does not exist (or it is assumed that he doesn't exist) then morality, like "rights", are subjective and dependent upon context - be it social, economic, cultural, temporal or whatever. What was considered moral yesterday might be considered immoral today. Similarly, what is considered moral today might be considered immoral tomorrow.

On this world view good and evil don't exist, only opinions. And if more atheists were actually consistent with the implications of their atheism we would see a lot more moral nihilists out there. What this would mean for society I don't know. I suspect there are quite a few people who function as such anyway.

machinephilosophy said...

Well, an atheist can have an objective concept of good in the sense that any kind of reasoned approach to reality as a whole necessarily assumes a good in the notion of intellectual propriety. In other words, a good is already assumed in the logical/illogical distinction that prefers logicality.

However, atheist thumpers still beg the question in assuming that an ultimate being must be good in order to exist, an assumption that remains unquestioned in the loop guru mentality among most atheists. The same type of thing is shared by both atheists and theists concerning background assumptions and meta-theoretic criteria.

Billy Squibs said...

Define good, machinephilosoph.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, while i was reading the comments i thought, "well, perhaps, finally, someone did a great job against Craig" it got me really curious about the debate.

But really, after listening to it, Law did a terrible job. Come on guys, he is as atheist as the Lich King.

machinephilosophy said...

Careful thinkers actually notice the phrase "...good in the sense of...", which you didn't bother to pay attention to, as well as the spelling of my username. I'm surprised you didn't also say "Define goo."

Anyway, to require a definition (even though I defined good as the main point for my comment on the subject) is itself an example of assuming that the distinction between different terms is a good. In fact, intellectual goods are higher goods than moral good as traditionally construed, since without intellectual goods, moral good is indistinguishable from heartburn.

The Atheist Missionary said...

If there is a god who created us but doesn't care about us that's pretty much as good as no god at all, because he won't ever have anything to do with us again. Exactly.

With respect to the nihilistic implications of atheism, I posed the following question to Law prior to the debate:

Question: Christian author and theologian Tim Keller has written: "If the [Cosmic] Bench is truly empty, then the whole span of human civilization, even if it lasts a million years, will be just an infinitesimally brief spark in relation to the oceans of dead time that preceded it and will follow it. There will be no one around to remember it. Whether we are loving or cruel in the end would make no difference at all." How does an atheist avoid existential despair?

Here is Law's answer: Obviously, how I treat you now will make no difference to how the universe ends. That doesn’t show that it doesn’t matter how I treat you now. You matter because, while you may be a collection of atoms jiggling in the void, you’re not just that. You have hopes and fears. You can experience joy and suffering. You can also make plans, think about the consequences of your actions, and so on. Not even other animals can do that. The fact that the universe will end in heat death doesn’t reveal that these things don’t matter. The mere fact that something won’t last forever doesn’t entail it is of no value.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Acadia University philosopher Stephen Maitzen has written a thought provoking paper entitled "On God and Our Ultimate Purpose" which expands on the thought presented by Law in the final sentence of his above noted comment:

teetee said...

@Not anonymous

"Good clearly trumps Evil in this world"

You have not provided any arguments to support this assertion. Not that it really addresses Stephen Law's argument in the first place...

bossmanham said...


How can you tell that a God is bad or good if all you rely on is his essence to define morality?

Because as Craig made clear in the debate, knowing God is good is because of definition, not because of inductive observation.

It's no more circular than knowing why a triangle is triangular.

Billy Squibs said...

machinephilosophy, you are familiar with typographical errors, right? Disdainful retorts might make you feel better but I can only assume this means you aren't interested in discussion. Rather, it suggests that you are hear to tell us lesser mortals how it is.

I notice that instead of answering my question you largely ignored it. In fact, if we return briefly to your opening post you first assumed good to argue for good. A good that remained undefined even after your snooty reply. If you are going to use a words like "good" and "objective" then you better be prepared to define them. Otherwise it's all rather pointless.

But assuming you can manage to hold down the bile for as long as it takes to type a response - free from typos, of course - perhaps you can explain to me the difference(s) between an intellectual good and a moral good?

Furthermore, can you give me an example of a moral good that did not involve the intellect? Or, for that matter, an intellectual good that was not moral. An example of each might help me understand what manner of contradistinction you are trying to make.

Finally, can you explain to me how a concept of something can be objective? Concepts are things like symbols and ideas that are formed in the mind of an individual. Concepts aren't out there floating around, they reside in the brain. They aren't objective by any definition of the word.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Law responds to Craig.

Jared Karcher said...

Absolutely ridiculous. Law only questions the existence of a morally positive God, not whether or not he exists at all. And after all that, he mentions his BOOK?

Meanwhile, Craig is handing out every logical fallacy he can think of to gain popular support.

Who wins? Law's book.

Unknown said...

Simply describing arguments and then saying if God does not exist... how can you have (insert premise)is fantastically redundant.

just because having accepted a DEFINITION of God and it supporting a "logical" argument, does not nothing to prove (or provide evidence for) the existence of God. (I could define some supreme being with attributes to support the argument too, but I know that the "being" is an abstract concept, just like God)

to claim that for an argument to hold true God is neccessary is to make an argument from ignorance. No justifiable scientific alternative may exist for some arguments, but this does not provide evidence for God.

Show me real evidence, not that a description of a God fits within the parameters of an argument and i'll be theist tomorrow.

something does not exist until you provide physical/ recordable evidence for its existence.

Anonymous said...

"Finally, can you explain to me how a concept of something can be objective? Concepts are things like symbols and ideas that are formed in the mind of an individual. Concepts aren't out there floating around, they reside in the brain. They aren't objective by any definition of the word."

Are the laws of logic not objective, or at least used in describing every single thing that is objective?

Anonymous said...

Robert Seed,

You wrote: "something does not exist until you provide physical/ recordable evidence for its existence."

You render your claim void because it cannot be empirically proven. Your statement does not therefore exist and may be disregarded.

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