Tag Archives: William Lane Craig

Analyzing Christopher Hitchens’ case against God

UPDATE: My play-by-play transcript of the April 4, 2009 debate at Biola is here.

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In preparation for the upcoming debate between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens, I thought that I would go over his opening statement from a previous debate to see what we can expect from him. I used his opening speech from his debate with Frank Turek. The audio from that debate is here, at Brian Auten’s Apologetics 315 site.

Now the important thing to remember about a generic debate on whether GOD EXISTS is that there should be no mention of any particular God, such as the Christian God, and no mention of the history of any particular religion. All arguments that assume specific theological or moral doctrines or specific religious history are irrelevant to a debate on generic theism.

The question to be debated is: does a God who created and designed the universe, who has all the traditional properties of God, such as omniscience, omnipotence, omni-benevolence, etc. exist? That is the question being debated in a “Does God Exist?” debate.

Frank Turek’s case for theism:

Frank Turek made 4 relevant arguments for theism, each of which alone would support his conclusion, that God exists:

  • the origin of time, space, matter and energy out of nothing
  • the fine-tuning of the physical constants to support the minimum requirements for life of any kind
  • the origin of the biological information in the first self-replicating organism
  • objective, prescriptive moral rules need to be grounded by the designer of the universe

And he also listed 4 features of the universe that are more consistent with theism than atheism (= materialism).

  • non-material minds that allow rationality that would be impossible on materialism/determinism
  • the mathematical structure of the universe and its intelligibility to the scientific method
  • free will, which is required for moral responsibility and moral choices, requires a non-material mind/soul
  • our first person experience of consciousness is best explained by a non-material mind/soul

Hitchens’ case against theism

To counter, Hitchens has to argue against God using arguments in one of two forms:

  1. The concept of God is logically self-contradictory
  2. An objective feature of the world is inconsistent with the attributes of God

The claim that God does not exist is a claim to know something about God, namely, that he does not exist. This claim requires the speaker to bear a burden of proof. In a debate on “Does God Exist?”, Hitchens must deny that God exists. Let me be clear: Hitchens must defeat the arguments for the claim that God exists, and then defend the claim that God does not exist, and support that claim using arguments and evidence.

Hitchens makes 2 basic claims:

  • There are no good reasons to believe that theism is true
  • There are good reasons to believe atheism is true

So far so good. But what are his good reasons for atheism?

  1. I personally don’t like Christianity, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I personally don’t like Catholicism getting rid of limbo
    – Premise: I personally don’t like Hell
    – Premise: I personally don’t like some episodes in church history
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  2. The plurality of religions means that no religious claims can be correct, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: There are lots of religions
    – Premise: The religions all disagree in their truth claims about the external world
    – Conclusion: No religion’s claims can be correct, therefore God doesn’t exist
  3. I believe in one less God than you, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: You disbelieve in every God I do, except one
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  4. Religious people are stupid and evil, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Religious people are ignorant
    – Premise: Religious people are fearful
    – Premise: Religious people are servile
    – Premise: Religious people are masochistic
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  5. Evolution explains how life progressed from single cell to today’s bio-diversity, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Modern theists like Turek believe in Paley’s argument, and argued it in this debate
    – Premise: Paley’s argument was refuted by evolution
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  6. God wouldn’t have made the universe this way, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: If God exists, then he would have made the universe my way
    – Premise: The heat death of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The extinction of species wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The size of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The amount of open space wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The large number of stars wasn’t done my way
    – Premise: The age of the universe wasn’t done my way
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  7. Religion makes people do things that I don’t like, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Some religions do suicide bombing
    – Premise: Some religions do child abuse
    – Premise: Some religions do genital mutilation
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  8. If you speak a sentence, I can repeat the same words as you said, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: Anything that you say is good, I can say is good too
    – Premise: Anything that you say is bad, I can say is bad too
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  9. Atheists are morally superior to religious people, therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I act in a way that is consistent with my personal, arbitrary moral preferences
    – Premise: You don’t act in a way that is consistent with my personal, arbitrary moral preferences
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  10. If I believe in God, I would have to submit to an authority
    – Premise: If I believe in God, then I can’t do whatever I want
    – Premise: But I want to do whatever I want
    – Conclusion: God doesn’t exist
  11. I don’t like certain Christian doctrines, therefore arguments for God from science fail and therefore God doesn’t exist
    – Premise: I don’t like the atonement
    – Premise: I don’t like the virgin birth
    – Premise: I don’t like the incarnation
    – Premise: I don’t like original sin
    – Premise: I don’t like the resurrection
    – Conclusion: Arguments that are built on recent discoveries from the progress of science like the big bang, fine-tuning, origin of life, etc. are incorrect, and therefore God doesn’t exist

General comments about Hitchens’ case:

  • The form of all of these arguments is logically invalid. The conclusions do not follow from the premises using the laws of logic, such as modus ponens and modus tollens.

Specific comments about each argument:

  • Argument 1 tries to disprove God by arguing from Hitchens’ personal preferences about specific Christian doctrines. Christian doctrines are irrelevant to a debate about generic theism. And there is no reason why God should be bound by the personal, subjective preferences of one man. In fact, the concept of God entails that his unchanging nature is the standard of good and evil. So, this argument doesn’t disprove God, it’s just a statement of personal, subjective preference.
  • Argument 2: Just because there are different truth claims made by different groups, doesn’t mean no one is correct. Mormons believe that matter existed eternally, and Jews believe it was created out of nothing. The big bang theory shows that the Mormons are wrong and the Jews are right.
  • Argument 3: First of all, the debate is a about a generic Creator and Designer, not any particular religious conception of God. So the argument is irrelevant. Moreover, Christians reject Zeus, for example, because Zeus is supposed to exist in time and space, and therefore could not be the cause of the beginning of time and space.
  • Argument 4: This is just the ad hominem fallacy. Hitchens is attacking the character of the theist, but that doesn’t show theism is false.
  • Argument 5: This argument can be granted for the sake of argument, even though it’s debatable. The point is that it is irrelevant, since it doesn’t refute any of Turek’s actual scientific arguments like the big bang, the fine-tuning of the physical constants, the origin of information in the simplest living cell.
  • Argument 6: Again, there is no reason to think that God should be bound by Hitchens’ personal opinion of how God should operate.
  • Argument 7: This is the ad hominem fallacy again. The good behavior of religious believers is not a premise in any of Turek’s FOUR arguments for theism. Therefore, Hitchens’ point is irrelevant to the debate.
  • Argument 8: The fact that the atheist can parrot moral claims is not the issue. Being able to speak English words is not what grounds objective, prescriptive morality. The issue is the ontology of moral rules, the requirement of free will in order to have moral responsibility and moral choices, ultimate significance of moral actions, and the rationality of self-sacrificial moral actions.
  • Argument 9: This is just the ad hominem fallacy again.
  • Argument 10: This is not argument so much as it reveals that the real reason Hitchens is an atheist is emotional. One might even say infantile.
  • Argument 11: Again, these specific Christian doctrines are irrelevant to a debate about generic theism. And Hitchen’s subjective, personal preferences about Christian doctrine certainly do not undermine the objective scientific support for the premises in Turek’s 3 scientific arguments.

So, in short, Hitchens lost the debate. A talking parakeet who could only say the 3 premises of the Kalam argument over and over, in a squeaky high-pitched voice, would have defeated him. Atheists and agnostics can do a lot better. That is, if the purpose of the debate is to win and not to just hurl insults at people on the other side.

Worst. Debater. Ever.

Here are some posts on defending Christianity: the big bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the irrationality of morality on atheism, debates on morality, the irrationality of moral judgements against God on atheism, the hiddenness of God, the problem of evil, religious pluralism, the problem of the unevangelized and how to defend the resurrection without assuming that the Bible is generally reliable.

UPDATE: On Hot Air, I noticed that legions of British atheists are signing up to be de-baptized. Probably fans of Hitchens and his “I woudn’t have done it that way” case against God. As well, Hot Air is covering a story that scientologists and atheists are uniting. Because, you know, they are both science-based.

William Lane Craig vs Richard Carrier debate audio

Full audio of the debate at Northwest Missouri State University is here at Apologetics 315, (where else?).

Here’s a little blurb about the debate:

Two well-known American philosophers, Dr. Richard Carrier and Dr. William Lane Craig, will debate the question “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, at Northwest’s Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts (formerly the Performing Arts Center).

The debate is being hosted by the Philosophy Club, a student organization that serves as the local chapter of Phi Sigma Tau, a national honor society whose mission is to promote academic excellence in philosophical study.

Admission to the debate is free, and the event is open to the public.

Carrier is a historian and author best known for his Internet writings on “The Secular Web,” which he edited for several years. A noted advocate of metaphysical naturalism, he has published articles on elements of naturalist and atheist philosophy and frequently writes and speaks in defense of naturalism as a world view. Carrier was featured in the documentary film, “The God Who Wasn’t There,” in which he questions the historicity of Jesus.

Craig, who maintains the “Reasonable Faith” Web site, is a theologian, New Testament historian and Christian apologist. He writes and lectures widely on issues related to the philosophy of religion, the historical Jesus, the coherence of the Christian world view and natural theology. The author of more than 30 books, Craig has served as a research professor of philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, Calif., since 1994.

The debate will be moderated by Dr. Janice Brandon-Falcone, professor of history at Northwest, and should last about two hours. Each scholar will make a 20-minute opening statement to be followed 12-minute rebuttals, eight-minute counter-rebuttals and five-minute closing statements. Afterward, both speakers will take questions from the audience.

UPDATE: Richard Carrier’s reflections on the debate are here. I have to tell you, I was telling my one of non-Christian co-workers about this debate and I was really worried about what Carrier was going to do to Craig. My friends and I watched Carrier in the Carrier-Licona debate, and Carrier either won or tied. But this time, as Carrier admits, Craig got the better of him – due to sound preparation. As a sponsor of Bill Craig, and also of his web site, Reasonable Faith, let me just say: We dodged a bullet here. The audience was of typical size for Craig debate, at about 1000 people.

Apologetics 315 lists the 16 best apologetics podcasts

The list of podcasts is here.

Here are the ones I listen to:

1. Reasonable Faith – William Lane Craig
3. Unbelievable?
6. Defenders Podcast – William Lane Craig
11. Intelligent Design the Future

But there are a bunch of new ones I had never heard of in his list. Check it out!

And let me just plug a podcast that is not related to Christian apologetics: the Investors Business Daily podcast (RSS link). This is by far the best podcast available on issues ranging from economics, to foreign policy to social policy. I highly recommend this podcast.

What about those who never heard of Jesus?

One of the most difficult questions for Christians to answer, especially when posed by adherents of other religions, is the question of what happens to those who have never heard of Jesus? In this post, I will explain how progress in the field of philosophy of religion has given us a possible (and Biblical) solution to this thorny question.

First, Christianity teaches that humans are in a natural state of rebellion against God. We don’t want to know about him, and we don’t want him to have any say in what we are doing. We just want to appropriate all the gifts he’s given us, do whatever we want with them, and then have eternal bliss after we die. We want to do whatever we want and then be forgiven, later.

Along comes Jesus, who, through his sinless life and his death on the cross, heals that rift of rebellion between an all-good God and rebellious man. Now we have a real understanding of the fact that God is real, that he has power over death, and that he has very specific ideas on what we should be doing. If we accept Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and follow his teachings, we can avoid the penalty of our rebellion.

The only problem is that in order to appropriate that free gift of reconciliation, people need to actually know about Jesus. And there are some people in the world who have not even heard of him. Is it fair that these other people will be sent to eternal separation from God, just because they happened to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Enter William Lane Craig to save the day. His solution is that God orders the world in such a way that anyone who would freely choose to acknowledge Jesus and appropriate his teachings in their decision-making will be given eternal life. God knows in advance who would respond, and chooses their time and place of birth, and he supplies them with the amount of evidence they need.

And this agrees with what the Bible teaches. The apostle Paul says this in his apologetic on Mars Hill in Acts 17:22-31:

22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.
23 “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘  N D ‘ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;
25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,
27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’
29 “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,
31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

In this research paper, Craig explains in detail how God foreknows how people will choose in every set of circumstances, and how God uses that knowledge to get everyone where they need to be without violating their free will. God wants the best for everybody, and has ordered to whole universe in order to give each of us our best opportunity for eternal life.

Here is a summary of the  what is in his paper:

The conviction of the New Testament writers was that there is no salvation apart from Jesus. This orthodox doctrine is widely rejected today because God’s condemnation of persons in other world religions seems incompatible with various attributes of God.

Analysis reveals the real problem to involve certain counterfactuals of freedom, e.g., why did not God create a world in which all people would freely believe in Christ and be saved? Such questions presuppose that God possesses middle knowledge. But it can be shown that no inconsistency exists between God’s having middle knowledge and certain persons’ being damned; on the contrary, it can be positively shown that these two notions are compatible.

Go read this paper and equip yourself to answer this common question!

And now I want to close by making a general point. There are two kinds of people in the world. The first kind encounters problems, like the hiddenness of God, or the problem of evil, the problem of Cookie monster objections (thanks, Truthbomb!), or religious pluralism, and they respond by leveraging that problem in order to justify rejecting God and going their own way.

Even uninformed Christians read books like “The Da Vinci Code”, and avoid the arguments and evidence that would defeat the objections raised by that book. Why? They want to be lazy, or to fit in, or to pursue pleasure apart from God. This is because if we don’t know that God is real for certain then we won’t feel rationally compelled to be good. And that’s why many Christians go out of their way not to find out the truth about these thorny problems.

And doubts also relieve us of the burden of evangelizing. Uninformed Christians know that their doubts give them freedom to keep silent about God, so they can get along with non-Christians. They think that keeping the truth about God to themselves, and not being ready and available to answer questions, is loving. But it’s really just selfishness. It doesn’t help non-Christians to keep the truth from them.

So why do some Christians hide the truth from others? It’s because they really do not believe that God will exclude people based on their beliefs about Him, even though Jesus says so in many places. Deep down, we believe that God’s purpose for humans is to be happy. When Christians don’t try to find answers to difficult questions like religious pluralism, they end up softening the Bible’s exclusive claims based on their emotions.

This is not what ambassadors are supposed to do – we are not free to make up our own doctrines and then lie to people in order to be happy and popular.

The second group is willing to spend time and effort to assess whether science, history, philosophy, etc.  support Christianity. This kind of person is willing to go where the evidence leads. They don’t jump on doubts and use them to justify disobedience. They are willing to be public (i.e. – “divisive”) about their faith and put God first, above worldly goals, like popularity.

The whole point of life is for God to draw people to himself in a two-way relationship. He reveals himself a little, and we respond and pursue him. How about you? Do you want to know for certain whether God is real? Are you willing to give up everything to follow him? Or would you rather he just keep out of your busy life and your subjective purposes in the world?

UPDATE: A related post over at Tough Questions Answered on whether Jesus is required to be rightly related to God and to get eternal life.

William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate LIVE FEED

UPDATE: My play-by-play transcript of the April 4, 2009 debate at Biola is here.

Got this in e-mail from Biola University, regarding the upcoming William Lane Craig vs Christoper Hitchens debate.

YOU MUST ACT FAST—to set up a viewing site for your church, Bible study, family, or neighborhood! Debate takes place on Saturday, April 4.

The “Does God Exist” Debate is almost completely sold out at Biola University . Nearly 4,000 people will be seeing it live. But the demand is tremendous from all over the world to view this debate as it happens between one of the finest Christian philosophers alive today, Dr. William Lane Craig, and Christopher Hitchens, who is one of the most outspoken atheists in a century.

Live Broadcast:

  • Saturday, April 4
    7:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time (10:30 pm Eastern)

Re-broadcasts:

  • Sunday, April 5
    4:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time (7:00 pm Eastern)
  • Wednesday, April 8
    5:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time (8:00 pm Eastern)

Deadline for sign up:
Monday, March 30, 11:59 pm PDT.

HOW DO I SIGN UP?
1) Just log on to the registration web site: http://www.apologeticsevents.com/debate
2) Agree to the terms, pay the viewing fee, and receive a code to log into the broadcast
3) Use your equipment to put it on a nice monitor, screen, or projector, invite everyone at your church, and enjoy!

Look here for more information, FAQ, and pricing information ($98):
http://www.apologeticsevents.com/debate

If anyone’s church is hosting a feed, please post a comment below.

UPDATE: I analyze Hitchens’ case against God here, from his debate against Frank Turek.

UPDATE: Audio and video from a  panel discussion with Hitchens, Craig, etc. is linked here.

UPDATE: Information about live-blogging of the debate is here.