Does God Exist? William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens (introduction and opening speeches)

Rereading the front of my copy of “God is not great: how religion poisons everything” by the late Christopher Hitchens couldn’t be more satisfying, as in the bottom there’s an addition by popular evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. “If you’re a Christian apologist, and you’re invited to debate Christopher Hitchens, decline.” Now, obviously these alone wouldn’t bring about in me such cause for to chuckle, rather I’m satisfied by the wider context which has played out after having read “the new atheists” write so condescendingly with regards to their Christian neighbours. Dawkins, who advised Christians to avoid debate about their faith, proscribed silence not because Christopher’s case was so perfectly constructed, but rather because atheists don’t wish to (or even can’t) defend their belief in our being in a godless universe. “the default position” which atheists insist to being atheism, for listening to many of the bullies and intellectual featherweights which atheists deem their champions, isn’t actually atheism, it’s cowardice.

Thankfully not everyone was so frightened by Dawkins’ sermonizing, instead, world-class philosopher and Christian apologist William Lane Craig took the chance to debate Hitchens as an opportunity to invite both their opponent and others to the Christian faith community. Despite believers being told to pipe down and “decline” an invitation to speak on their hope in Christ, speakers like Bill Craig aren’t simply accepting the challenge, they’re utterly blowing their competition out of the water. The great irony came far later however, when, after having thoroughly dismantled the dry wit of Mr. Hitchens, Dr. Craig was asked to debate Mr. Dawkins, and surely, Dawkins wouldn’t decline, would they? Not after having promoted free inquiry, denounced the inability to defend one’s position, in addition to insisting believers have no intellectual ground to stand upon. Let’s find out. . .



Well, thanks for that, Mr. Dawkins. In fact, for fans of the Guardian newspaper, writer Polly Toynbee was featured in the above video, they threw their hat into the ring as a substitute Dawkins, apparently without first looking into who Dr. Craig was. Although having made their rash decision, they must have Googled their would be debate opponent, after which she promptly removed herself from the debate also! No wonder the new atheists and their sympathizers have garnered a reputation for being cowardly bullies. In short, if you are an apologist for atheism, and you’re invited to debate an educated Christian about God, decline. Returning again to Christopher Hitchens, who after having debated Dr. Craig said, to paraphrase: “I never knew believers had arguments like this.” The famous Hitchens Craig debate took place in 2009, and for Christians who haven’t yet watched their conversation, it comes highly recommended.

― T. C. M



Does God Exist?

William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens

Biola University , La Mirada, California, – April 4, 2009

Good evening, and welcome to Biola University. My name is Craig Hazen, and I’m the Director of the Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics here. And I’m honored to be the host tonight to get things started. Although the gym is packed with nearly 3000 people—and it looks like you are stuffed in here pretty well—and my condolences to those of you who’ve already been sitting an hour and have another couple of hours to go. Hang in there! Hang in there! But you are not the only ones watching. There are thousands of people in other venues on this campus. Not only that, there are people in overflow sites across the country and around the world. We have people in 30 states in 4 different countries watching this, and a special greeting to all of you who are watching across campus and in places such as Stockholm and Sri Lanka. I hope you really enjoy this.

A special greeting to some distinguished guests tonight: William Lane Craig’s wife, Jan, is here. Jan, it’s good to see you. Betsy Hewitt is here. My wife Karen Hazen is here. Dr. Barry Corey, the University President is here. Yes, we’ve got distinguished philosophers all over the place: Doug Geivett, J. P. Moreland—Hi, Hope!—his wife. Good. All right. We’re thrilled all of you could come. Well, this event was initiated by the Associated Students of Biola University, and it makes sense that A.S. President, Eric Weaver, should give a quick welcome on behalf of the student body. Eric, come on up.

Weaver: Good evening everyone. Biola is a one-hundred-year-old Christian University, which desires to wrestle with big questions in an honest and open way. In my senior year, my A.S. colleague, Mark Keith, and I thought we should sponsor a blockbuster event that pursues the biggest question of all: Is it reasonable to believe that God exists? A proposal was presented to the Senate, and the student body heartily agreed. So we invited two acclaimed academic leaders in this area: William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens. And along with the wonderful people from the Apologetics Program, we’re thrilled to see it on display tonight. On behalf of the students of Biola, I hope you really enjoy this event. Thank you.

Hazen: Thank you for representing the students, Eric. You are a senior—how is that job search going in this economy? Is that going well? Well, we will give you some help. Oh no, our career services on Biola: first rank! Thank you. Well, the students got this going. But there is one other important sponsor, and that is the program that I direct: the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics. If you like wrestling with the big questions: the existence of God, evidence for the resurrection, the problem of evil, the historical reliability of the Bible, reconciling science and faith, this really is a degree program for you. And if you are watching at a distance and you are thinking I can’t do it because you don’t live in southern California, that’s not the case. We have this amazing distance learning program, and it’s really open to anybody. And you don’t need to relocate to Southern California, although it was a very nice day today. You might want to consider it, although they’ve just taxed us into oblivion, so you may want to reconsider that. If you want to find out about these programs, check out Biola.edu: B-I-O-L-A.E-D-U and go to the Christian Apologetics page on that site. Well, how is this all going to work tonight? It’s pretty straightforward. In fact, your handy-dandy program will tell you what’s going on right up at the top inside panel. The Program numbers 1 through 8. It will guide you through what’s taking place every step of the way during the debate. So take a look at that.

Toward the end, we will have some time for questions, but as you notice, there is no microphone sitting up in the aisles. We are going to throw it open to the students—we have a student section up there. Bravo! Students of all stripes! Now, it’s your job tonight to think of some tough questions. And I expect you to actually vet them; that is, you may have learned in school that there is no such thing as a dumb question. That is not true! O.K. Not to intimidate you, but check it out. Do peer review. If you come up with a question, run it by the person next to you on either side, and let’s see how it goes. So we will throw it open for some Q&A time, and our thoughtful moderator will make sure it goes well. All right.

Well, when we are done tonight, there is one other thing you need to be considering and that is getting outside of this building to the pavilion right outside here and several places along the walkway to pick up the featured books tonight. One is God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens and another one is Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig, these are the featured books. Pick them up, and you can actually have them signed. To have them signed, just walk out this building and look for all the lights. And there are some tables out there, and our distinguished debaters will be out there signing books and answering your toughest questions right there at the table—I’m sure. If you have got a lot of books at home—in fact, you own a book so you don’t need another one—perhaps you can buy some DVDs or CDs of some dynamite debates and lectures that Bill Craig has done around the world. These are first ranked materials, and our Apologetics Program is actually the center point for getting all of these. So if you want to get them tonight, they’ve got wonderful special deals. Check out the red flyer in your brochure, and that will tell you the scoop. You can even pre-order tonight’s debate, if you’d like to get a copy of it. If it’s something you want to share with a lot of people, you can: pre-order it tonight, fill out the form, take it to the table, and they will move you right through.

Well, we’re delighted to have Mr. Hitchens here on campus, but we realized that we theists certainly have the home court advantage. I mean being in the basketball court, that makes a lot of sense. After all, it’s a Christian University, and [it] even says, “All . . . Glory to God” or something above the bleachers there. So, clearly this is a home court advantage for the theists. And I imagine the crowd here is over two-thirds Evangelical Christians, although I’m thrilled to see the atheists and agnostics community turn out wearing t-shirts. I love that! Yeah, absolutely, yeah [to members of the audience]! I was lecturing at the University of South Florida a few weeks ago, and the entire atheist club came outwearing t-shirts. And we had the best time ever, so I expect the same tonight. Well, since we have the home court advantage, those of you who are theists—believers in God—please let’s be polite to Christopher Hitchens. He is known to say a provocative thing or two. So if you could practice your polite golf clap [demonstrates a golf clap]. All right? Let’s practice it. Practice that. No shouting. No hooting. There will be plenty of opportunity for it, but let’s restrain ourselves. And those of you who are from the atheist and agnostic community, again, no shouting, no hooting, no hollering. In fact Mr. Hitchens, I can guarantee, doesn’t really need a lot of help. I just saw a video of him debating four prominent Evangelical theists in Dallas, and it really wasn’t fair. We needed more theists on the panel. So I think he will do just fine. But we’re grateful for him to come to sort of . . . what, the pit of opposition at Biola University! But we’re grateful to really open up the doors and run through these big, important questions. And if the debate is not resolved at the end, this is a basketball court for goodness sakes, we will lower the hoops, we will turn up the lights and we will let them go one-on-one. Yes, I hear Chris has game, so we will see how that goes.

Well let’s get to it. It’s my pleasure to introduce our moderator of the debate tonight, and he’ll get this party started. Hugh Hewitt, yes Hugh Hewitt. Hugh is a law professor and broadcast journalist whose nationally syndicated radio show is heard in more than one hundred and twenty cities across the United States every weekday by more than two million listeners. Not only locally, this program is heard on KRLA, which is 870 AM, and it goes from three to six—great program. In fact, I think it’s one of the most important, smartest, fast-paced news and issues program on the airwaves today, so check that out. If you live in our outlying regions, check HughHewitt.com to find out where he is broadcasting or podcasting. Professor Hewitt is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School. He has been teaching Constitutional Law at Chapman University Law School since it opened in 1995. He was a frequent guest on all the big cable news networks. And he has written for the most important newspapers in the country. He has received three Emmys for his groundbreaking television work and is the author of eight books including two bestsellers. Professor Hewitt served for nearly six years in the Reagan administration in a variety of posts including Assistant Counsel in the White House and special assistant to two Attorney Generals. Don’t miss his daily blog at hughhewitt.com. He has always been so very generous with his time toward events like these at Biola, and we are deeply grateful for his help here tonight. Join me in welcoming our moderator, Professor Hugh Hewitt.

Moderator: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Number one, please turn off your cellphones; I repeat, please turn off your cellphones. Number two, gentlemen to the extent that any of you have jackets that are still on, please as Ronald Reagan once used to say, “Feel free to just throw them on the floor. It is a little bit warm in here.” Our guests, by virtue of this crowd, it is obvious needs no introduction. I am not going to waste time then on elaborate introductions. I just wish to thank them both for being willing to participate in this most important of conversations.

It is the best of times—it is the best of times for those who like to argue about God in the public square, largely because of the rise of new atheists such as Mr. Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, my friend William Lobdell and others who have once again put [at] the center of the public stage the question of whether or not God does exist and whether or not Jesus Christ is His son. And it is up to people like William Lane Craig—prolific author, much beloved professor—here to enter into that conversation in a way that’s both persuasive and winsome. And so without further ado, allow me to welcome up Vanity Fair columnist, prolific author, my friend, and champion of freedom, Christopher Hitchens. And from this extraordinary lighthouse institution, another prolific author and apologist, a scholar extraordinaire who, like Mr. Hitchens, has his Ph.D. from a wonderful English University, Professor William Lane Craig. Please, Professor.

It’s a very structured debate according to classical lines until the questions at the end. We begin with an opening argument [of] twenty minutes to Professor Craig—Professor.


William Lane Craig – Opening Speech

Good evening! I am very excited to be participating in this debate tonight. Jan and I used to sit in those very bleachers right over there watching our son John run up and down this court as a forward on the Biola Eagles, and so I feel like I’m playing on the home court tonight.

And I want to commend Mr. Hitchens for his willingness to come into this den of lambs and to defend his views tonight. On the other hand, if I know Biola students, I suspect that a good many of you, when you came in tonight, said to yourself, “I’m going to check my own views at the door, and I’m going to assess the arguments as objectively as possible.” I welcome that challenge.

You see the question of God’s existence is of interest not only to religion but also to philosophy. Now Mr. Hitchens has made it clear that he despises and disdains religion, but presumably he is not so contemptuous of philosophy. Therefore, as a professional philosopher, I’m going to approach tonight’s question philosophically from the standpoint of reason and argument. I’m convinced that there are better arguments for theism than for atheism. So in tonight’s debate I’m going to defend two basic contentions: First, that there’s no good argument that atheism is true, and secondly, that there are good arguments that theism is true.

Now, notice carefully the circumscribed limits of those contentions. We’re not here tonight to debate the social impact of religion, or Old Testament ethics, or biblical inerrancy—all interesting and important topics, no doubt, but not the subject of tonight’s debate, which is the existence of God.

Consider then my first contention, that there’s no good argument that atheism is true. Atheists have tried for centuries to disprove the existence of God, but no one’s ever been able to come up with a successful argument. So rather than attack straw men at this point, I’ll just wait to hear Mr. Hitchens present his arguments against God’s existence, and then I will respond to them in my next speech. In the meantime, let’s turn to my second main contention that there are good arguments that theism is true. On your program insert, I outline some of those arguments.

  1. The Cosmological Argument

The question of why anything at all exists is the most profound question of philosophy. The philosopher Derek Parfit says, “No question is more sublime than why there is a universe: why there is anything rather than nothing.”[1] Typically, atheists have answered this question by saying that the universe is just eternal and uncaused, but there are good reasons, both philosophically and scientifically, to think that the universe began to exist. Philosophically, the idea of an infinite past seems absurd. Just think about it, if the universe never began to exist that means that the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. But mathematicians recognize that the existence of an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions. For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically you get self-contradictory answers. This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality.

David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician of the twentieth 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.”[2] 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 can’t go back forever. Rather, the universe must have begun to exist.

This conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. In one of the most startling developments of modern science, we now have pretty strong evidence that the universe is not eternal in the past but had an absolute beginning about thirteen 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; for all matter and energy, even physical space and time themselves, came 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.”[3]

Now, this puts the atheist in a very awkward position. As Anthony Kenny of Oxford University urges, “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.”[4]

But surely that doesn’t make sense. Out of nothing, nothing comes. So why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause which brought the universe into being.

Now as the cause of space and time, this being must be an uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial being of unfathomable power. Moreover, it must be personal as well. Why? Because the cause must be beyond space and time, therefore it cannot be physical or material. Now, there are only two kinds of things that fit that description: either an abstract object, like numbers, or else a personal mind. But abstract objects can’t cause anything. Therefore, it follows that the cause of the universe is a transcendent, intelligent mind. Thus, the cosmological argument gives us a personal creator of the universe.

  1. The Teleological Argument

In recent decades, scientists have been stunned by the discovery that the initial conditions of the Big Bang were fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent life with a precision and delicacy that literally defy human comprehension. This fine-tuning is of two sorts. First, when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, you find appearing in them certain constants, like the gravitational constant. These constants are not determined by the laws of nature. The laws of nature are consistent with a wide range of values for these constants. Second, in addition to these constants, there are certain arbitrary quantities put in as initial conditions on which the laws of nature operate; for example, the amount of entropy or the balance between matter and anti-matter in the universe.

Now, all of these constants and quantities fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of life permitting values. Were these constants or quantities to be altered by less than a hair’s breadth, the balance would be destroyed and life would not exist. To give just one example, the atomic weak force, if it were altered by as little as one part out of 10100, would not have permitted a life-permitting universe.

Now, there are three possible explanations of this remarkable fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance or design. Now it can’t be due to physical necessity because the constants and quantities are independent of the laws of nature. In fact, string theory predicts that there are around 10 to the 500th power different possible universes consistent with nature’s laws. So could the fine-tuning be due to chance? Well, the problem with this alternative is that the odds against the fine-tunings occurring by accident are so incomprehensibly great that they cannot be reasonably faced. The probability that all the constants and quantities would fall by chance alone into the infinitesimal life-permitting range is vanishingly small. We now know that life-prohibiting universes are vastly more probable than any life-permitting universe. So if the universe were the product of chance, the odds are overwhelming that it would be life prohibiting.

In order to rescue the alternative of chance, its proponents have therefore been forced to resort to a radical metaphysical hypothesis; namely, that there exists an infinite number of randomly ordered, undetectable universes composing a sort of world ensemble or multiverse of which our universe is but a part. Somewhere in this infinite world ensemble, finely-tuned universes will appear by chance alone, and we happen to be one such world. Now wholly apart from the fact that there’s no independent evidence that such a world ensemble even exists, the hypothesis faces a devastating objection, namely, if our universe is just a random member of an infinite world ensemble then it is overwhelmingly more probable that we should be observing a much different universe than what we in fact observe. Roger Penrose has calculated that it is inconceivably more probable that our solar system should suddenly form through a random collision of particles than that a finely-tuned universe should exist. Penrose calls it “utter chicken feed”[5] by comparison. So, if our universe were just a random member of a world ensemble, it is inconceivably more probable that we should be observing an orderly region no larger than our solar system. Observable universes like those are simply much more plenteous in the world ensemble than finely-tuned worlds like ours, and therefore ought to be observed by us. Since we do not have such observations, that fact strongly disconfirms the multiverse hypothesis. On atheism, at least, then it is highly probable that there is no world ensemble.

The fine-tuning of the universe is therefore plausibly due neither to physical necessity nor to chance.

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

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

It therefore follows logically that the best explanation is design.
3. Therefore, it is due to design

Thus, the teleological argument gives us an intelligent designer of the cosmos.

  1. The Moral Argument.

If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. By objective moral values, I mean moral values which are valid and binding whether we believe in them or not. Many theists and atheists agree that if God does not exist then moral values are not objective in this way. Michael Ruse, a noted philosopher of science, explains:

The position of the modern evolutionist is that . . . morality is a biological adaptation, no less than our hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when someone 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.[6]

Like Professor Ruse, I just don’t see any reason to think that in the absence of God, the morality which has emerged among these imperfectly evolved primates we call Homo sapiens is objective. And here Mr. Hitchens seems to agree with me. He says moral values are just “innate predispositions,”[7] ingrained into us by evolution. Such predispositions, he says, are “inevitable” for “any animal . . . endowed with . . . social instincts.”[8] On the atheistic view, then, an action like rape is not socially advantageous, and so in the course of human development has become taboo. But that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really morally wrong. On the atheistic view, there’s nothing really wrong with raping someone.

But the problem is that objective values do exist and deep down we all know it. In moral experience, we apprehend a realm of objective moral goods and evils. Actions like rape, cruelty, and child abuse aren’t just socially unacceptable behavior. They are moral abominations. Some things, at least, are really wrong. Similarly, love, equality, and self-sacrifice are really good, but then it follows logically and necessarily that God exists.

  1. The Resurrection of Jesus.

The historical person Jesus of Nazareth was a remarkable individual. 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 God’s place. He claimed that in Himself 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 was His resurrection from the dead. If Jesus did rise from the dead, then it would seem that we have a divine miracle on our hands and thus evidence for the existence of God.

Now most people probably think that the resurrection of Jesus is something you just believe in, by faith or not, but there are actually three established facts recognized by the majority of New Testament historians today, which I believe are best explained by the resurrection of Jesus.

Fact #1: On the Sunday after His crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of His women followers. According to Jacob Kremer, an Austrian specialist, “By far most scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb.”[9]

Fact #2: On separate occasions, different individuals in groups experienced appearances of Jesus alive after his death. According to the prominent New Testament critic Gerd Lüdemann, “It may be taken as historically certain that the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”[10] These appearances were witnessed not only by believers, but also by unbelievers, skeptics, and even enemies.

Fact #3: The original disciples suddenly came to believe in the resurrection of Jesus despite having every predisposition to the contrary. Jews had no belief in a dying, much less rising, Messiah. And Jewish beliefs about the afterlife prohibited anyone’s rising from the dead before the resurrection at the end of the world. Nevertheless, the original disciples came to believe so strongly that God had raised Jesus from the dead that they were willing to die for the truth of that belief. N.T. Wright, an eminent New Testament scholar, concludes, “That is why, as a historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.”[11]

Attempts to explain away these three great facts—like the disciples stole the body or Jesus wasn’t really dead—have been universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. The simple fact is that there just is no plausible, naturalistic explanation of these facts. And therefore it seems to me the Christian is amply justified in believing that Jesus rose from the dead and was who he claimed to be. But that entails that God exists.

  1. The Immediate Experience of God.

This isn’t really an argument for God’s existence; rather it’s the claim that you can know that God exists wholly apart from argument simply by immediately experiencing him. Philosophers call beliefs like these properly basic beliefs. They aren’t based on other beliefs; rather they are part of the foundation of a person’s system of beliefs. Other properly basic beliefs include the belief in the reality of the external world, the belief in the existence of the past, and the presence of other minds like your own. When you think about it, none of these beliefs can be proven. But although these sorts of beliefs are basic for us, that doesn’t mean they are arbitrary. Rather, they are grounded in the sense that they are formed in the context of certain experiences. In the experiential context of seeing and hearing and feeling things, I naturally form the belief in a world of physical objects. And thus my beliefs are not arbitrary, but appropriately grounded in experience. They are not merely basic but properly basic. In the same way, belief in God is, for those who know him, a properly basic belief grounded in our experience of God.

Now, if this is right, there is a danger that arguments for God’s existence could actually distract your attention from God himself. If you are sincerely seeking God, then God will make his existence evident to you. We must not so concentrate on the external arguments that we fail to hear the inner voice of God speaking to our own hearts. For those who listen, God becomes an immediate reality in their lives.

So, in conclusion then, we’ve seen five good arguments to think that God exists. If Mr. Hitchens wants us to believe instead that God does not exist, then he must first tear down all five of the arguments that I presented, and then in their place erect a case of his own to prove that God does not exist. Unless and until he does that, I think that theism is the more plausible worldview.


Christopher Hitchens – Opening Speech

Well, am I audible? Am I audible to all? Yes. Well, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades, friends, thanks for coming out—as Senator Larry Craig actually did say at his press conference. Thank you, Mr. Hewitt and Dr. Craig, for being among the very many—very, very many—Christians who have so generously and hospitably and warmly taken me up on the challenge I issued when I started my little book tour, and welcomed me to your places to have this most important of all discussions. I can’t express my gratitude enough. And thanks to the very nice young ladies who I ran into at The Elephant Bar this afternoon where I hadn’t expected a posse of Biola students to be on staff, but where I thought, “God, they’re everywhere now!”

Now, what I have discovered in voyaging around this country and others in this debate—and debating with Hindus, with Muslims, with Jews, with Christians of all stripes—is that the arguments are all essentially the same for belief in the supernatural, for belief in faith, for belief in God, but that there are very interesting and noteworthy discrepancies between them. And one that I want to call attention to, at the beginning of this evening, is between those like my friend Doug Wilson—with whom I’ve now done a book of argument about Christian apologetics—who would call himself a presuppositionalist. In other words, for whom really it’s only necessary to discover the workings of God’s will in the cosmos and to assume that the truth of Christianity is already proven. And what are called, they include Dr. Craig with great honor and respect in this, the evidentialists.

Now, I want to begin by saying that this distinction strikes me first as a very charming distinction, and second as false, or perhaps as a distinction without a difference. Well, why do I say charming? Because I think it’s rather sweet that people of faith also think they ought to have some evidence. And I think it is progress of a kind. After all, if we had been having this debate in the mid-nineteenth century, Professor Craig or his equivalent would have known little or probably nothing about the laws of physics and biology, maybe even less than I know now, which is to say quite a lot in its way. And they would have grounded themselves—or he would have grounded himself—on faith, on Scripture, on revelation, on the prospect of salvation, on the means of grace, and the hope of glory, and perhaps on Paley’s natural theology.

Paley, who had the same rooms, or had had the same rooms later occupied by Charles Darwin in Cambridge—with his watchmaker theory of design that I know I don’t have to expound to you, but which briefly suggests that if an aborigine is walking along a beach and finds a gold watch ticking, he knows not what it is for or where it came from or who made it. But he knows it is not a rock. He knows it is not a vegetable. He knows it must have had a designer. The Paley analogy held for most Christians for many years because they were willing to make the assumption that we were mechanisms, and that therefore, there must be a watchmaker.

But now that it has been—here’s where the presuppositionalist-versus-evidentialist dichotomy begins to kick in—now it has been rather painstakingly and elaborately demonstrated to the satisfaction of most people—I don’t want to just use arguments from authority—but it’s not very much contested any more, that we are not designed as creatures, but that we evolved by a rather laborious combination of random mutation and natural selection into the species that we are today. It is, of course, open to the faithful to say that all this was—now that they come to know it, now that it becomes available to everybody, now that they think about it, and now that they’ve stopped opposing it or trying to ban it—then they can say, ah, actually, on second thought, the evolution was all part of the design.

Well, as you will recognize, ladies and gentlemen, there are some arguments I can’t be expected to refute or rebut because there’s no way around that argument. I mean, if everything—including evolution, which isn’t a design—is nonetheless part of a divine design, then all the advantage goes to the person who’s willing to believe that. That cannot be disproved. But it does seem to me a very poor, very weak argument because the test of a good argument is that it is falsifiable not that it’s unfalsifiable. So this I would therefore—this tactic or this style of argument which we’ve had some evidence of this evening—I would rebaptize, or might I dare say I would rechristen it as retrospective evidentialism. In other words, everything can, in due time—if you have enough faith—be made to fit.

And you too, are all quite free to believe that a sentient creator deliberately, consciously put himself—a being—put himself or herself or itself to the trouble of going through huge epochs of birth and death of species, over eons of time, in which ninety-nine percent—in the course of which at least ninety-nine point nine percent—of all species, all life forms, ever to have appeared on earth have become extinct, as we nearly did as a species ourselves.

I invite you to look up the very alarming and beautiful and brilliant account by the National Geographic’s coordinator of the genome project. By the way, you should send in your little sample from the inside of you cheek and have your African ancestry traced. It’s absolutely fascinating to follow the mitochondrial DNA that we all have in common and that we have in common with other species, other primates, and other life forms, and find out where in Africa you came from.

But there came a time, probably about one hundred and eighty thousand years ago, when, due to a terrible climatic event, probably in Indonesia, an appalling global warming crisis occurred, and the estimate is that the number of humans in Africa went down to between forty and thirty thousand. This close, this close—think about fine-tuning—this close to joining every other species that had gone extinct. And that’s our Exodus story, is that somehow—we don’t know how because it’s not written in any Scripture, it’s not told in any book, it’s not part of any superstitious narrative, but somehow the escape from Africa to cooler latitudes was made. But that’s how close it was.

You have to be able to imagine that all this mass extinction and death and randomness is the will of a being. You are absolutely free to believe that if you wish. And all of this should happen so that one very imperfect race of evolved primates should have the opportunity to become Christians or to turn up at this gym tonight, that all of that was done with us in view. It is a curious kind of solipsism; it is a curious kind of self-centeredness. I was always brought up to believe that Christians were modest and humble, and comported themselves with due humility and this—there’s a certain arrogance to this assumption that all of this, all of this extraordinary development was all about us, and we were the intended and desired result. And everything else was in the discard. The tremendous wastefulness of it, the tremendous cruelty of it, the tremendous caprice of it, the tremendous tinkering and incompetence of it—never mind, at least we’re here and we can be people of faith.

It doesn’t work me. I have to simply say that. And I think there may be questions of psychology involved in this as well. Believe it if you can, I can’t stop you. Believe it if you like, you are welcome. It’s obviously impossible, as I said before, to disprove. And it equally, obviously helps you to believe it if, as we all are, you are in the happy position of knowing the outcome. In other words, we are here. But there’s a fallacy lurking in there somewhere too, is there not?

Now it’s often said—it was said tonight, and Dr. Craig said it in print—that atheists think they can prove the nonexistence of God. This, in fact, very slightly but crucially misrepresents what we’ve always said. And there’s nothing new about the New Atheists; it’s just we’re recent. There’s nothing particularly new. Dr. Victor Stenger, a great scientist, has written a book called The Failed Hypothesis, which he says he thinks that science can now license the claim that there definitely is no God. But he is unique in that, and I think very bold and courageous.

Here’s what we argue: We argue quite simply that there’s no plausible or convincing reason, certainly no evidential one, to believe that there is such an entity. And that all observable phenomena, including the cosmological one to which I’m coming, are explicable without the hypothesis. You don’t need the assumption. And this objection itself, our school falls into at least two perhaps three sections: there’s no such thing—no such word, though there should be—as adeism or as being an adeist, but if there was one I would say that is what I was.

I don’t believe that we are here as the result of a design, or that by making the appropriate propitiations and adopting the appropriate postures and following the appropriate rituals, we can overcome death. I don’t believe that, and for a priori reasons don’t. If there was such a force, which I cannot prove by definition that there was not, if there was an entity that was responsible for the beginning of the cosmos and that also happened to be busily engineering the very laborious product (production of life on our little planet), it still wouldn’t prove that this entity cared about us, answered prayers, cared what church we went to, or whether we went to one at all, cared who we had sex with or in what position or by what means, cared what we ate or on what day, cared whether we lived or died. There’s no reason at all why this entity isn’t completely indifferent to us. You cannot get from deism to theism except by a series of extraordinarily generous—to yourself—assumptions. The deist has all his work still ahead of him to show that it leads to revelation, to redemption, to salvation or to suspensions of the natural order; in which, hitherto, you’d be putting all of your faith—all your evidence is on scientific and natural evidence.

Or why not, for a change of pace and a change of taste, say, “Yes, but sometimes this same natural order, which is so miraculous in observation, no question about it, is so impressive in its favoring the conditions for life in some ways, but it is randomly suspended when miracles are required.” So with caprice and contempt these laws turn out to be not so important after all, as long as the truth of religion can be proved by their being rendered inoperative. This is having it both ways in the most promiscuous and exorbitant manner, in my submission.

Bear in mind also that these are not precisely the differences between Dr. Craig and myself, I mean, morally or intellectually equivalent claims. After all, Dr. Craig, to win this argument, has to believe and prove to a certainty. He is not just saying there might be a God because he has to say there must be one, otherwise we couldn’t be here and there couldn’t be morality. It’s not a contingency for him. I have to say that I appear as a skeptic who believes that doubt is the great engine (the great fuel of all inquiry, all discovery, and all innovation), and that I doubt these things.

The disadvantage, it seems to me, in the argument goes to the person who says, “No, I know. I know it. It must be true; it is true.” We’re too early in the study of physics and biology, it seems to me, to be dealing in certainties of that kind, especially when the stakes are so high. It seems to me, to put it in a condensed form: extraordinary claims—such as the existence of a Divine Power with a Son who cares enough to come and redeem us—extraordinary claims require truly extraordinary evidence. I don’t think any of the evidence we heard from Dr. Craig, brilliantly marshalled as it was, was extraordinary enough to justify the extreme claims that are being made and backed by it.

“Hypocrisy,” said La Rochefoucauld, “is the compliment that vice pays to virtue.”[12] Retrospective evidentialism strikes me in something of the same sort of light. It’s a concession made to the need for fact. Maybe we better have some evidence to go along with our faith, but look what Dr. Craig says in his book. He says—I’ll quote directly—he says, “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter.”[13] He adds not vice-versa, but a good editor, I think, would’ve told you, you don’t have to put the vice-versa in, it’s clear enough as it is. I’ll say it again, “Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence then it is the former, which must take precedence over the latter.” That’s not evidentialism, that’s just faith. It’s a priori belief. It’s rephrased in another edition. It says:

Therefore, the role of rational argumentation in knowing Christianity to be true is the role of a servant. A person knows Christianity is true because the Holy Spirit tells him it is true, and while argument and evidence can be used to support this conclusion, they cannot legitimately overrule it.[14]

Now, then he goes on to say:

The Bible says all men are without excuse. Even those who are given no . . . reason to believe and many persuasive reasons to disbelieve have no excuse, because the ultimate reason they do not believe is that they have deliberately rejected God’s Holy Spirit.[15]

That would have to be me. But you see where this lands you, ladies and gentlemen, with the Christian apologetic, you are told you are a miserable sinner who is without excuse, you have disappointed your God who made you, and you have been so ungrateful as to rebel. You are contemptible. You are wormlike. But you can take heart; the whole universe was designed with just you in mind. These two claims are not just mutually exclusive, but I think they are intended to compensate each other’s cruelty and, ultimately, absurdity. In other words, evidence is an occasional convenience.

“Seek, and ye shall find.”[16] I remember being told that in church many a time as a young lad. “Seek, and ye shall find.” I thought it was a sinister injunction because it’s all too likely to be true. We are pattern-seeking mammals and primates. If we can’t get good evidence, we will go for junk evidence. If we can’t get a real theory, we will go with a conspiracy theory. You see it all the time. Religion’s great strength is that it was the first of our attempts to explain reality, to make those patterns take some kind of form. It deserves credit. It was our first attempt at astronomy, our first attempt at cosmology; in some ways our first attempt at medicine, our first attempt at literature, our first attempt at philosophy. Good! While there was nothing else, it had many functional uses of that kind. Never mind that they didn’t know that germs caused disease, maybe evil spirits caused disease. Maybe disease is a punishment. Never mind that they believed in astrology rather than astronomy—even Thomas Aquinas believed in astrology. Never mind that they believed in devils. Never mind that things like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tidal waves were thought of as punishments, not as natural occurrences on the cooling crust of a planet. The pattern seeking has gone too far. And it’s gone, I think, much too far with what was, until recently, thought of as Christianity’s greatest failure, greatest of all failures: cosmology. The one thing Christianity knew nothing about and taught the most abject nonsense about. For most of its lifetime, Christianity taught that the earth itself was the center of the universe, and we had been given exclusive dominion as a species over it—could not have been more wrong!

How are we going to square the new cosmology, the fantastic new discoveries in physics, with the old dogmas? Well, one is the idea of this fine-tuning—about which I’ve only left myself three and a half minutes. I’ll have to refer some of this to later in the discussion. This is essentially another form of pattern seeking on the basis of extremely limited evidence.

Most physicists are very uncertain—as they have every right to be—in fact, I would say for physicists as they have the duty to be, at the moment, extremely uncertain about the spatio-temporal dimensions of the original episode: the Big Bang, as it’s sometimes called. We’re in the very, very early stages of this enquiry. We hardly know what we don’t know about the origins of the universe. We’re viewing it from an unimaginable distance, not just an unimaginable distance in space perched on a tiny rock on an extremely small suburb of a fairly minor galaxy, trying to look to discern our origins, but also at a very unbelievable distance in time. And we claim the right to say, “Ah, we can see the finger of God in this process.” It’s an extraordinarily arrogant assumption. It either deserves a Nobel Prize in physics—which it hasn’t yet got, I notice. I don’t know any physicist who believes these assumptions are necessary—or it deserves a charge of hubris. Let me make three tiny quick objections to it as it stands, and I’m no more a physicist than most of you are. I’ll make these lay objections.

One: Was there pre-existing material for this extra-spatio-temporal being to work with, or did he just will it into existence, the ex nihilo? Who designed the designer? Don’t you run the risk with the presumption of a god and a designer and an originator of asking, “Well, where does that come from? Where does that come from?” and locking yourself into an infinite regress? Why are there so many shooting stars, collapsed suns, failed galaxies we can see? We can see with the aid of a telescope, sometimes we can see with the naked eye the utter failure, the total destruction of gigantic, unimaginable sweeps of outer space. Is this fine-tuning, or is it extremely random, capricious, cruel, mysterious, and incompetent?

And have you thought of the nothingness that’s coming? We know we have something now, and we speculate about what it might have come from. And there’s a real question about ex nihilo, but nihilo is coming to us. In the night sky, you can already see the Andromeda galaxy; it’s heading straight for ours on a collision course. Is that part of a design? Was it fine-tuned to do that? We know that from the red light shift of the Hubble telescope, or rather Edwin Hubble’s original discovery, the universe is expanding away from itself at a tremendous rate. It was thought that rate would go down for Newtonian reasons. No, it’s recently been proved by Professor Lawrence Krauss the rate of expansion is increasing; everything’s exploding away even faster. Nothingness is certainly coming. Who designed that? That’s all if before these things happen, we don’t have the destruction of our own little solar system in which already there’s only one planet where anything like life can possibly be supported. All the other planets are too hot or too cold to support any life at all. And the sun is due to swell up, burn us to a crisp, boil our oceans, and die—as we’ve seen all the other suns do in the night sky. This is not fine-tuning, ladies and gentlemen. And if it’s the work of a designer, then there’s an indictment to which that designer may have to be subjected.

I’m out of time. I’m very grateful for your kindness and hospitality.

Thank you.

Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/does-god-exist-craig-vs-hitchens-apr-2009#ixzz4P7vxCJBF
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24 thoughts on “Does God Exist? William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens (introduction and opening speeches)

  1. Most interesting. It is my intention at some time in the future to post a reflection on how it comes to be that after carefully studying debates such as that between Hitchings and Craig, each side comes away convinced that the opposition has been crushed. What seems irrefutable logic to the one is regarded as missing the issue to the other. Some other factor must enter the equation — and what would that be?

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    • Maturity would honestly be the deciding factor in whether or not an atheist were willing to admit that their man was roundly beat. Although, I’d have to write, my friends on the opposite end of the faith divide are often so mature as to admit when their speaker fails him or herself, take Luke Muehlhauser from Common sense atheism for an example, they wrote: “The debate went exactly as I expected. Craig was flawless and unstoppable. Hitchens was rambling and incoherent, with the occasional rhetorical jab. Frankly, Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child.” Atheists in general, much like believers in general, simply called the debate for Dr. Craig, whereas the kind of internet infidels who write abuse to people they’ve never met online, and compose sweeping denouncements of everybody unlike themselves, they’re the people who aren’t really equipped to hold up their hands and admit to the obvious.

      In reality, it’s not a matter of taste as to whether or not Christopher Hitchens was roundly dismantled by Dr. Craig, it’s about maturity and having intellectual honesty with oneself. In all candour, there’d been a question agreed upon by both parties, the question being “Does God exist?” Now, one party, namely Dr. Craig, came prepared to discuss the question, they’d brought multiple points into discussion, whereas Mr. Hitchens simply mocked circumcision, attacked mother Theresa and generally avoided anything of substance with regards to the question. Intelligent atheists know what a non sequitur looks like, they know when they’re watching an unprepared person ramble and coast their way through a conversation they were patently unprepared for. Christopher Hitchens, for every ounce of wit, and for every wonderfully cutting retort, just wasn’t prepared for someone like Dr. Craig, so much so they even conceded their closing statement, choosing instead to not comment after Dr. Craig retold their touching story of coming to faith in the Lord.

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      • And yet I can assure you that I have come across posts where that same interview has been featured and there has been a unanimous group of commenters claiming that Hitchens made a complete idiot of Craig, and praising him for refusing to follow up ‘on such a lot of hogwash’ at the end. People seem to be differently wired on this topic.

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      • The real problem would be how Christopher Hitchens wasn’t equipped in terms of answering any of the arguments which Dr. Craig presented, to reply that they’re “hogwash” altogether should come with an explanation of why such arguments and views are in fact hogwash. To simply write hogwash, poppycock and balderdash without also offering a powerful rebuttal to overturn the points can be understood as merely the speaker’s childish contempt for Dr. Craig and their views, as opposed to being an actual criticism properly grounded in anything greater than their own distaste for Dr. Craig or God. By writing people are “wired” differently, isn’t that simply to write people have come to different conclusions, yet, that’s no surprise, for memorials to the Holocaust there’s a website dedicated to denying its reality, for everybody who points towards Mr. Obama’s birth certificate there’s an array of people, even people lined up around the block, who insist their president was born in Kenya, or somewhere else. Why personally do you find our coming to different conclusions an issue?

        For us to write, “Well, I’ve been on atheist forums, and there’s been unanimous agreement that Dr. Craig is an awful conman who doesn’t really believe the things he’s saying.” that only goes to show reasonable people probably shouldn’t visit atheist forums. It’s the nuanced view, the narrow gate, which lacks those unspoken presuppositions and outright biases which so harm proper discussion, and thus, discovery of truth. Where do you believe the truth lies, my friend? “What is truth?” As Pontius Pilate appeared to angrily have wondered aloud.

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  2. Very interesting post! Gonna have to watch that debate when I have time! I’m not all that enamoured by hitchens and Dawkins- because I find their approach religion childish and counter productive. Dawkins is alright when he sticks to science- but even then he’s always strawmanning the other side of the debate. I read their books recently and had so many problems with them- gonna have to do a review

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    • I’ve read both their landmark books, in the form of Hitchen’s “God is not great,” in addition to Richard Dawkins’ “The God delusion,” I’d been able to enjoy Christopher’s wit and Dawkins’ observations on biology, however, I’d find myself shaking my head when they’d attempt at interacting with what the books were intended to address, that being God. Dawkins, for example, spends no less than 8 pages mocking the famous Ontological argument, after which they’d quoted Russell in saying “It’s easier to just dismiss the ontological argument, rather than put one’s finger on what’s wrong with it.” To read emotive rage and dismissals for over 400 pages was really an effort.

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      • I agree- so much of it was focused on anger and vitriol. In my experience, and I’m not religious, but have had a religious education, much of what they based their arguments was wrong anyway. I can imagine it’s super frustrating for religious people to read, but it’s also surprisingly irritating if you’re not religious, because Dawkins, for instance, spends huge amounts of time attacking the wrong sorts of atheists and agnostics. And like you said- huge amounts of them are full of this emotive rage- and yet are dismissive of the other side of the debate. One part that really irritated me was the dismissal by Dawkins of Stalin’s atheism influencing him, whilst blaming religion Hitler! It was fairly intellectually dishonest, because it would be wrong say that removal of religious teachings, and what we now might even define as militant atheism, were central tenets of Marxism. After reading that, I began to notice more and more that Dawkins can, ironically, be an apologist for Marxism. And yes, I find him a bit dogmatic for an atheist. Sorry for the long rambling reply- this is just on my mind cos I read it recently!

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    • Thank you, Kamal. It’s nice to see both you and I are beginning by our first blogs. Are you perhaps Hindu in outlook? As it would be wonderful to have the Hindu perspective on some of these topics. I’ve just gotten through reading “The path of wisdom” by Swami Atmachaithanya myself, which was gifted to me by a friend, whereas I gave him a Bible bookmarked at the gospel of John.

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      • I am a woman and I don’t believe in religion at all though I am a Zoroastrian by birth, my religion is humanity and good must read motivational books by spiritual masters u get a lot of awakening. We r all one and every time our lord comes to tell us that he does not bring any religion he just comes to tell us that we r all one. Thanks for your lovely comments and keep on posting good works.

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  3. Thanks for following my blog. I listened to the entire debate and absolutely do not agree that WLC demolished CH. Nothing I heard shook my admiration for CH’s patience, wit, arguments and dedication. WLC was a skilled debater and did better than Tony Blair, who was taken apart by Hitchens in Toronto a few years ago, though Blair’s intelligence did not permit him to set up alleged historical “proof” that there was an open tomb or to argue that Islam is any more false than Christianity. CH, I believe, pulled some punches that would have offended a large audience of dedicated Christian believers much more than the broad-based Toronto audience. I feel a little duped into spending 2+ hours waiting to see if what you claim happened really did, but listening to Hitchens is never a waste of time.

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    • Well, Bob, insofar as debate goes, you and I simply have to follow the arguments. Consider it in a similar fashion to which you’d judge boxing matches, you’d go by punches thrown, landed and so on, now, you wouldn’t think to judge who won a bout based upon hairstyle, colour, twinkle in the eye. Similarly, Dr. Craig and Christopher had to formulate arguments, logically coherent arguments which would either continue answered or unanswered. Dr. Craig advanced relevant arguments with regards to the question “Does God exist?”, whereas Christopher simply didn’t. Atheists are happy to concede to Dr. Craig being comfortably victorious, believers agree, even Christopher himself appeared to have left the debate visibly disoriented and confused by how thorough and airtight their opponents case appeared.

      For example, after taking part in a panel discussion two weeks in advance of their debate with Dr. Craig, Hitchens noted: “I’m rather surprised at this new trend in Christianity of actually having facts and evidence to back up what you believe.” They believed, rather wrongly, that apologetics was something new or unknown to believing people in the Christian tradition, although that’s simply absurd, Dr. Craig replied “my goodness, had he never heard of C. S. Lewis?” Dr. Craig, believing Christopher well-read, especially so with regards to the Brits, thought surely Hitchens would have considered Lewis’ great tradition of literature. Concerning the panel discussion in addition, it’s conclusion was summarized, with which the audience had been treated to ten unanswered arguments in favour of theism, whereas for atheism, Christopher offered one objection, an objection which believers answered. Ten to none, in like fashion Dr. Craig vs. Christopher part two went no differently, how else can you describe such an event?

      With regards to Blair’s performance, although I have yet to watch, it’s unfortunate you’re describing a debate by which neither the historicity of Christ’s burial account, in addition to the demonstrable falseness of Islam, were explained thoroughly, because, as you’ll note in the Craig vs. Hitchens debate, only Craig was truly equipped for the task of proper historic studies (whereas Christopher largely used avoidance). There’s good reason for the above, as unbelievers ordinarily don’t write about historicity with regards to Christianity, that’s not to write Hitchens could have, instead I’d imagine they weren’t familiar with the evidence.

      An empty tomb, which you have touched upon, stands as an indisputable historic fact, as does Jesus’ lawful burial, mode of death and even who conducted their burial. Let’s review each together, my friend:

      The empty tomb stands as an undisputed fact due that women, namely Mary Magdalene, Salome and Mary the mother of James, were its chief witnesses. For you see, in ancient times, female testimony, legally speaking, was considered highly untrustworthy. Jewish writers would explain “May the word of God be BURNT, rather than come to women.” Such strong criticism. Yet, early literary accounts of the tomb depict women as making the initial discovery. The total lack of veneration of Jesus’ tomb also adds to the apparent emptiness of the tomb, in addition to early Jewish polemics against Christianity presupposing an empty tomb.

      Jesus’ burial and by whom they were buried also stands as an undisputed fact insofar as even harden atheists are concerned, since to name Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the hated Sanhedrin who sentenced Jesus to death, as responsible for giving Jesus an honourable burial, it’s once again the kind of detail which neither people before Christianity would like, nor would the church post Christ be content by such an uncomfortable tradition. Consider how bitterly divided believers in Christianity were with regards to members of the Sanhedrin, yet, smack dab in the middle of our earliest material concerning Jesus’ ministry, we’re met by a member of the Jewish high court who instead of being involved with their dastardly decision to crucify Jesus, rather takes loving care of Christ after their judicial murder at the hands of the Roman and Sanhedrin conspiracy. It’s early, it’s uncomfortable, it’s history.

      Lastly, although I’d very much enjoy you and I continuing our discussion, Jesus’ crucifixion stands an undeniable historic fact, being recorded by both believers and unbelievers, in earlier and later traditions, in addition to being yet another harmful element to the spread of early Christianity. In that, how demonstrably false Islam is can be shown by anybody, honestly, anybody. The Qur’an, Islam’s central holy book, claims the historic Jesus wasn’t crucified, which goes against everything written for the first seven hundred years after Jesus ministry. Likewise it’s narrative, coming over seven hundred years after Jesus’ public ministry, borrowed its account from clearly legendary stories written some two hundred to three hundred years after Jesus taught, stories in which Jesus can be found speaking and preaching merely minutes after being born! “Peace to upon me!” The Islamic baby Jesus proclaims from within their cradle. Hopefully any studied historian can discern these kinds of history to be wholly unreliable, instead the Islamic account is merely based upon legendary development coming far later than our finest historic data.

      You have shared how it was due to Tony Blair’s “intelligence” that it wouldn’t “permit” him to set up historical proof that there was an empty tomb, or to argue that Islam is any more false than Christianity. I’m curious as to what you mean by this statement. Are you meaning to write it’s a mark of stupidity to apply the historic method to our earliest documents concerning Jesus Christ, or that it’s an expression of an unintelligent mind for people to say that Islam clearly presents a poorer portrait of the historic Jesus than does the near thirty early sources which Christianity draws from?

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      • I followed because despite ways in which we might differ, I agree with you in that “Dialogue is a good thing. It just might save us.” Many of my dearest friends are so unlike me. There should be no pain or shame in you and I talking things out, bringing arguments to one another, then saying “My friend, this is really reaching me. What do you think?” Christ changed my life, He bound up every open wound and inarticulate thought of this young man who left his formal education with nothing to boast of. If ever I follow someone it’s because their views are interesting, they need the Lord, and I believe we’d have a lot to teach one another.

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      • Thank you for your respect and the time you have taken to openly engage.

        My page, On Meaning, and a post to which it links, Same Pot Different Glazing, are a good way to begin to understand me. You may appreciate, from reading these, that my views took decades of sincere caring and inquiry to form. I will not take a “sharp turn” now.

        You show a similar caring for the deeper things, which faculty may be the only worthy thing that humans possess. Its a pity that profundity is so rare in our species.

        Your personal commitment to what you believe is clear. I am similarly committed to my views and can empathize, having shared the same sort of zeal at times in my life.

        We are at different stages in our journeys. My time may be nearer its end and I am beginning to realize that it must be carefully allocated.

        By Blair’s “intelligence” I meant that, in listening to him, I sensed that he had a sensitive capacity that could appreciate another’s argument. There are many types of intelligence.

        Both our lives will have shown sincere dedication in trying to understand it all and make it, somehow, better.

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      • Never write never, Bob. I’d never intended on my life taking so unexpected and dramatic a turn as that which it eventually took, yet my heart was sincerely turned and my mind totally satisfied by the answers I’ve found. I’d like to ask that you’d indulge me one final time, for as much as I wish we’d be able to discuss on and on into the day, I’ve got to bring home the bacon, so to speak. 🙂 I’d like to leave you with an essay I’d first read while being unsure of my faith, even unsure of Christ, I’d appreciate you giving the same essay a read, or, if pressed for time, watch a lecture of the essay spoken by its original author. Hopefully you’ll use your valuable time to listen, consider, and return with a couple of thoughts on the material.

        http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-absurdity-of-life-without-god

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      • Please read Same Pot, Different Glazing when you get the time.

        Craig’s ideas on absurdity came through loud and clear in the debate and I have seen/heard them expressed before. I am humbly accepting of the apparent absurdity of the eventual burning of Mother Earth, but rail against any folk who do not fear the looming,increasingly probable nuclear annihilation of my children and grandchildren and the majority of other vertebrates because they are recklessly betting all their chips on having a better place to go – Heaven -after screwing up this one.

        Craig’s brilliant logic falls on its first premise: that life cannot be absurd.

        The idea of absurdity itself is, I believe, a human construct – part of what we have collected over the millennia during which we have evolved. We are more hubristic and, to me, less special than we think.

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  4. P.S. Do not take that comment on eschatological recklessness as meant for you. It rather expresses my own personal abhorrence for what some of the more extreme believers may allow to downplay the real, war-bred crises humans face right now, most of which are centred around domination and/or coming scarcities. There are dangers when we begin to believe that all life Earth was made for one species to use… and to abuse.

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    • Could you perhaps reference in what minute of the above video you found Dr. Craig cite an argument from the absurdity of life without God? Insofar as my memory goes, Dr. Craig explicitly referenced:

      1. The Cosmological Argument.
      2. The Teleological Argument.
      3. The Moral Argument (which may be from where you’re referencing).
      4. The Resurrection of Jesus.
      5. The Immediate Experience of God.

      Consider however even aside from our going without objective moral values and duties, to also be without meaning, value and purpose would be truly unlivable. For which I’ve often read both atheists and believers in God discuss atheism’s practical impossibility, as people cannot truly live happily and consistently as though their lives lacked purpose, meaning and value in an objective sense. Another example of how liveability often works, I’d recently read an excellent article on child psychology, an article which simply asked “Why do children reject [macro] evolution?” The article came away concluding because children are in a sense hardwired into viewing our world in light of purpose and design, for many, an evolutionary picture went directly against their commonsense interpretation of the facts. Are humanity not top of earth’s food chain, even by an evolutionary description of our origins, yet to embrace an outlook undergirded by evolution would mean to also accept we’ve evolved in such a way as to be more often than not predisposed to believing falsehood.

      Considering now your observation with regards to emotional intelligence, Bob. “a sensitive capacity” which could “appreciate” an argument being brought from another perspective (as so defined) wouldn’t appear very applicable to many popular atheist writers. My exchange against Colonialist would be an example of how most modern unbelievers “engage”, as they wrote, with regards to Christopher forfeiting their closing remarks: “I can assure you that I have come across posts where that same interview has been featured and there has been a unanimous group of commenters claiming that Hitchens made a complete idiot of Craig, and praising him for refusing to follow up ‘on such a lot of hogwash’ at the end.”

      Dr. Craig, insofar as I’ve read, truly appreciated their opponent, not merely having an interest in their views but genuine love for other people (not just people who agree with his religion). For which Dr. Craig studied and understood everything being shared before entering into anything resembling a debate format. Whereas Christopher Hitchens, as shown by their performance, their fan base and Colonialist, wouldn’t appreciate Dr. Craig’s arguments, due to which, despite having weeks of preparation beforehand, studied nothing of their opponent’s viewpoint. Just to read their flagship book on the subject of religion (God is not great) can explain the total lack of appreciation atheists in general appear to have for believers, as if the most articulate and seasoned examples of their atheist viewpoint wrote like so, how much worse the everyday atheist must be in comparison. Christopher titled certain chapters of their book “Is religion child abuse?”, “The nightmare of the Old Testament,” “Religion’s corrupt beginnings,” and “The evil of the New Testament exceeds the evil of the old.” Had they simply been appealing to their reader’s most cruel and insensitive side when they titled chapters so provocatively? In short, how could Dr. Craig lack intellectual sensitivity as opposed to Tony Blair, especially so when Dr. Craig, unlike Christopher, went so far as to research their opponent’s viewpoint.

      With regards to our above arguments, and having an opinion to such being accurate ways in which to describe our shared situation, your bother directed towards people who aren’t afraid, or are even desirous, of total annihilation, would be so understandable.

      Why however, many people would inquire of you, if, to briefly paraphrase, “it’s all gonna burn,” would anybody operating under the above assumptions truly care? Perhaps because evolutionary preprogramming causes an organism an illusion of “care,” and illusions of “humility,” even responsibility. Yet you’re also attributing our hubris to an assumption grounded in a very specific sort of evolutionary development being actual. Thus being our situation, supposedly, would mean neither party are truly responsible for these behaviours of theirs, rather, the situation would be simply a case of your preprogramming against their collective preprogramming. How mightily can materialistic evolutionists rage against an enemy of peace when peace itself carries no worth outside of their own fleeting preference, likewise, how outraged can people be over annihilation at the hand’s of terrorists when everything bends towards that very destination.

      Similarly humility would be “an invention,” although you describe yourself as humbly doing such and such. That insofar as I have read, is akin to some young man looking into an ornate vanity mirror, upon which they say to their yet pouting reflection: “I’m not vain, am I? ;)” The almost self congratulatory statement of having humility in a thing should be our first warning sign to something less than humble going on (wouldn’t you agree?)

      When you write Dr. Craig made an error in that he supposed life cannot be absurd, that’s to assert life truly being absurd, however, you’ve shared afterwards how absurdity itself isn’t actual, but rather an invention of minds. Bertrand Russell perhaps could illuminate how you’ve classed absurdity: “It will be seen that minds do not create truth or falsehood. They create beliefs, but when once the beliefs are created, the mind cannot make them true or false, except in the special case where they concern future things which are within the power of the believing person.”

      Hence absurdity, absurdity with regards to life, would appear to be by your definition an example of false belief, meaning belief which doesn’t conform to reality (implying its opposite with regards to reality, namely that life indeed is meaningful). Your messages nonetheless insist to life being without objective meaning, purpose and value. For you’ve shared “Craig’s brilliant logic falls on its first premise: that life cannot be absurd.” There’s no third option, but rather we’re met by a simple fork in the road, either life is absurd or infused by various properties. “The third option” a kind of monster of the loch position, meaning sometimes “sighted” but never truly witnessed, would be found in ideas such as zen Buddhism, yet as explained by Dr. Craig, they’re patently false.

      “Now under the influence of Eastern mysticism, many people today would deny that systematic consistency is a test for truth. They affirm that reality is ultimately illogical or that logical contradictions correspond to reality. They assert in Eastern thought the absolute or God or the real transcends the logical categories of human thought. They are apt to interpret the demand for logical consistency as a piece of Western imperialism which ought to be rejected along with other vestiges of colonialism. . . I am inclined to say frankly that such positions are crazy and unintelligible. To say that God is both good and not good in the same sense or that God neither exists nor does not exist is just incomprehensible to me. In our politically correct age, there is a tendency to vilify all that is Western and to exalt Eastern modes of thinking as at least equally valid if not superior to Western modes of thought. To assert that Eastern thought is seriously deficient in making such claims is to be a sort of epistemological bigot blinkered by the constraints of the logic-chopping Western-mind.”

      Francis Schaeffer goes further: “One day I was talking to a group of people in the room of a young South African in Cambridge University. Among others, there was present a young Indian who was Sikh background but a Hindu by religion. He started to speak strongly against Christianity, but did not really understand the problems of his own beliefs. So I said, ‘Am I not correct in saying that on the basis of your system, cruelty and non-cruelty are ultimately equal, that there is no intrinsic difference between them?’ He agreed. The student in whose room we met, who had clearly understood the implications of what the Sikh had admitted, picked up his kettle of boiling water with which he was about to make tea, and stood with it streaming over the Indian’s head. The man looked up and asked him what he was doing and he said, with a cold yet gentle finality, ‘There is no difference between cruelty and non-cruelty.’ Thereupon the Hindu walked out into the night.”

      In like fashion, for your message to read both “life is absurd” and “absurdity” is an invention, that would be just incomprehensible. Stanley Jaki really drove home your point in speak most plain: “To speak of purpose may seem, since Darwin, the most reprehensible procedure before the tribunal of science.” (hence absurdity). “Humble”, how you have described yourself (or perhaps merely your viewpoint), doesn’t appear to exist in an evolutionary picture of our universe, perhaps meaning the practical impossibility of being an atheist again raises its head. I’d like to share humility insofar as my Christian worldview would be concerned, as explained by Dr. James White.

      The hymns sung by the church have always told of the faith that is hers. People today rarely dwell on what these hymns really say, the early church however placed far more emphasis upon the content of her hymns. Fragments of the earliest “Hymnal” are found in the text of the New Testament. By which we are treated to tantalising glimpses at what the earliest Christians confessed in music, probably the longest song and certainly the most important is provided by the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Philippines 2:5-11 has been identified as the Carmen Christi, the hymn to Christ as god. Modern translations such as the NIV, NRSV, TSV and JB set this passage apart in poetic form to indicate the fact that most scholars see in this passage something other than straight prose or teaching. Instead what is found here may well be a section, maybe a verse or two, of an ancient Christian hymn. If, in fact, Paul is referring believers to a commonly known song, we can imagine the effect his words had. In our day it is common for a minister to incorporate a reference to a well-known and well loved hymn so as to make a strong point, many close the Sermon on the grace of God for example by saying “amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” The minister doesn’t need to tell us what hymn number he’s referring to, he doesn’t need to give us the name, just a line or two is enough. “I Once Was blind but now I see” is sufficient to bring to our minds the entire message contained within the song. I believe that is exactly what Paul is doing in the second chapter of his letter to the Philippians, verse 5 through 11 provide us with the Sermon illustration Paul wishes to use in these words, he takes off to the highest points of scriptural Revelation, speaking of great internal truths, yet he does so through the words of a familiar song.

      Paul explained “humility of mind,” by writing: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8 NIV.

      Could there be something to an outlook which says humankind’s war in favour of invented “human rights” isn’t how people should in true humility live, Rather, just as Christ, true humility of mind means being prepared to let loose certain inalienable rights in service to others. How wonderful an affirmation of humility would the above be? Christians this means are to look out for others rather than jealously guard their own rights and privileges. Can anyone hold to so lofty an ideal when people have no rights endowed, but rather, only power ensuring certain pleasures which life can afford the more powerful of the species.

      Christianity appears to be a firm foundation upon which human rights can truly be affirmed. Consider the following scientific data about the environment. As not only are you desirous of humility aside from an invention, as am I, but also you’ve shared your displeasure having witnessed in part, or at least believing in the inevitability of, both human and planetary destruction on a universal scale. Norman Geisler penned some excellent work in their “Christian ethics” material: Yearly a tropical forest the size of Scotland is destroyed on planet Earth. India alone has lost 85% of her original forests. Nearly 1/2 of forests in developing countries have been cut down in this century. Deforestation is a major cause of modern mass extinction of plant and animal species. Due to deforestation as many as 1 million species of plants and animals are to become extinct by the end of this century (the 20th century) The use of fluorocarbons is depleting the crucial ozone layer and threatening human health.

      Chemical wastes have entered the food chain and are found in human body fat. 77% of Americans and 90% of children are carrying more lead in their bodies than the Environmental Protection Agency says safe. 10000 people die every year from pesticide poisoning while 40000 become ill. One-third of all household garbage comes from food packaging material—the average American discards five pounds of trash per day.

      In view of this dangerous ecological situation, what are the Christian’s ethical responsibilities to the physical environment in which we live? What are the moral implications of pollution destroying flora and fauna? Is there any ethical obligation to preserve our water and air? And if so, what is it?

      OSC: When you shared: “There are dangers when we begin to believe that all life Earth was made for one species to use… and to abuse.” The emotional draw of such an example would be undeniable, however, intellectually speaking, I’m unsure as to whether any religion actually proscribes “abuse” of nature, an alternative, and presumably more correct interpretation of your message, would be to write religion creates in man “hubris,” excessive pride, which provides him justification for his wasteful neglect of Mother Earth. Yet if my earlier point was accurate, and religion, especially Christianity, doesn’t promote an abuse of the environment and other humans, but instead safeguards their intrinsic worth, then its only by suppressing religious duties that highly unchristian people have managed to abuse their positions of power. For the sake of contrast, atheism offers no answer or responsibility when people destroy our environment. Imagine again our above questions posed to an atheist:

      1. What are the atheist’s ethical responsibilities to the physical environment in which we live? (None).

      2. What are the moral implications of pollution destroying flora and fauna? (None).

      3. Is there any ethical obligation to preserve our water and air? (No).

      Under your view, my friend, there simply are no ethical duties in man. Both you and I aren’t truly discussing the violation of “inalienable rights,” in addition to preserving our earth. Our situation would be very much to the contrary, rather people would be discussing herd politics and an expression of group think, one which in essence were neither deserving or undeserving of being conformed to, neither would such a lifestyle as that which destroyed the environment be unjustified or even justifiable, for in the materialist’s world, their concrete jungle, there’s no issue of a collection of some particles being morally right while other particle arrangements are morally wrong, rather whatever is simply is. Could Christianity provide a better answer:

      Since God is the upholder and operator of the Natural World necessary to sustain life,  ecological interference with his operation is a creaturely presumption with serious ethical implications.

      The world is under covenant with God. When Noah emerged from the ark after God had destroyed the World by water, God made a covenant with “all living creatures” (Gen. 9:16). The Covenant was not made simply with humans, but with “every living creature” (v. 12). God said, “This is the sign of the Covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come” (v. 12). When the rainbow appeared in the sky, “I will show my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (v. 15). God, the owner of all living things, has made a covenant with them never to destroy them by water again.

      It is in this context that we can speak of treating animals with respect. First of all, since every creature is under covenant with God, we have an obligation to preserve each kind God created. Each one is a special creation and has its own special place. He feeds “the birds of the air” (Matt. 6:26). Although God gave animals for food in this very Covenant (Gen. 9:3), nevertheless, humans have no right to abuse animals. In fact, Proverbs says “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel” (Prov. 12:10). God even notices every sparrow that falls to the ground (Matt. 10:29). Thus we should not only preserve every living thing God has created, but we should also provide for them and protect them. Mankind is the keeper of the environment. God is the creator and the owner of the world, but man is the Keeper. When God created humans in his image, he commanded them: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the Earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves on the ground.” (Gen. 1:28). Also, God “took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). From these verses we can observe at least three basic obligations to our environment: to multiply and fill it; to subdue it and rule over it; and to work it and take care of it.

      To justifiably condemn hatred and destruction, defend life as possessing intrinsic meaning, value and purpose, they’re certainly our shared desire, and one decisively satisfied by Jesus as God’s unalterable word to humanity. Perhaps you yourself could answer my following question, Bob, as in light of history I believe it an important one, who was Jesus?

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  5. If you had read my post Same Pot, Different Glazing, as I asked you to do, you wouldn’t be asking me who I think Jesus was – or wasn’t. I must now focus on other things. Let’s reconnect in, say, about 10 years, if I’m still alive and Armageddon hasn’t happened first.

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    • I’ve actually read your post, Bob. I’m asking that you might write your views for me in the form of a conversation, as opposed to a lecture. When I wrote on the historic grounds for affirming Jesus’ burial, crucifixion and the discovery of their empty tomb, you remained silent on the matter, instead writing something simply to the effect of “Well written reply.” Does it not appear that your understanding on historicity is lacking?

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      • “Well written reply” complimented your stellar ability to use language. It did not mean agreement, but, again I’m moving on… so much to do, and diminishing time. All the best, T.C.M.

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      • That’s understandable, nor would I assumed upon your behalf you’re in agreement in total, nonetheless, to again discuss intellectual sensitivity, I’ve asked that you share with me your criticisms or viewpoint with regards to Christ. When you write about time being short, I’ve had to smile, as it’s something I’ve heard from friends and workmates in person, to which I reply I’ve got eternity, not saying so because it’s on account of my desires, but because I’m of the mind that Christians, truly indwelt by the Holy Spirit, have already passed from death into life. Eternal life isn’t a distant promise, but free and immediate, if you can truly trust your life to Christ. The thief on the cross didn’t have long to go himself, my friend. I have time for you, if you permit me likewise.

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    • I understand and have valued your feedback, moreover, as you’ve pointed towards sensitivity concerning other viewpoints, that’s often how I too try and interact, due to which I’ve tried not to assume any more on your behalf than what would simply impel our conversation further. I’ve asked you to share, in the context of our discussion, how you feel about the historic person Jesus, and as ever, I’ll do my best to reply as charitably as I’m able, if you decide you’re open to such an open discussion of course.

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