Five Arguments for God

The Gospel Coalition have released the seventh article for their Christ on Campus Initiative, entitled “Five Arguments for God”. The essay is written by well-known apologist and Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, William Lane Craig. Weighing in at thirty pages, Craig’s article re-examines five arguments for the existence of God and particularly how these arguments hold up against the popular criticism of Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Craig writes:

“It’s perhaps something of a surprise that almost none of the so-called New Atheists has anything to say about arguments for God’s existence. Instead, they do tend to focus on the social effects of religion and question whether religious belief is good for society. One might justifiably doubt that the social impact of an idea for good or ill is an adequate measure of its truth, especially when there are reasons being offered to think that the idea in question really is true. Darwinism, for example, has certainly had at least some negative social influences, but that’s hardly grounds for thinking the theory to be false and simply ignoring the biological evidence in its favor.

Perhaps the New Atheists think that the traditional arguments for God’s existence are now passé and so no longer need refutation. If so, they are naïve. Over the last generation there has been a revival of interest among professional philosophers, whose business it is to think about difficult metaphysical questions, in arguments for the existence of God…

The New Atheists are blissfully ignorant of this ongoing revolution in Anglo-American philosophy. They are generally out of touch with cutting-edge work in this field. About the only New Atheist to interact with arguments for God’s existence is Richard Dawkins. In his book The God Delusion, which has become an international best-seller, Dawkins examines and offers refutations of many of the most important arguments for God. He deserves credit for taking the arguments seriously. But are his refutations cogent? Has Dawkins dealt a fatal blow to the arguments?

Well, let’s look at some of those arguments and see.”

The five arguments that Craig covers are:

1. the cosmological argument from contingency
2. the kalam cosmological argument based on the beginning of the universe
3. the moral argument based upon objective moral values and duties
4. the teleological argument from fine-tuning
5. the ontological argument from the possibility of God’s existence to his actuality

It is an excellent overview and along with the other articles (see our post on the CCI here) together offer valuable material for campus ministries (or anyone else).

The article can be read here or downloaded as a pdf.

18 replies
  1. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Lol. Yeah, true.

    I think it takes some disregard for modern empiricism to be a christian philosopher. None of the arguments ever have anything that could be regarded as [scientific] evidence (because there is none). They’re all ‘of-the-gaps’ and/or very obscure.
    I doubt that percentage will dissappear, but I doubt it’ll increase much either.

  2. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    I am not sure ‘Christian’ is at all relevant when you try to identify a divide between empiricism and philosophy.

    What should be more surprising is the apparent large numbers of theistic philosophers given the very nature of the Theism. An Absolute being with a purpose and standard, tends to invoke obedience rather than pondering. I think this is why the very large number of Christians that I know are far more concerned with trying to help other people, look after the poor, etc than form a rational naturalistic justification for the presence of an Absolute being. It is a kingdom more of action than talk. Yet I do see the benefit of rationally defending theism and am glad that there are Christian philosophers at all.

    Many an empirical experience of God exists. You are invited to taste and see that the Lord is good.

  3. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    “Professional philosophers” is too broad a category for that statistic to make a forceful point. Epistemologists, Ethicists, Metaphysicians, Philosophers of Science, Philosophers of History, etc., may know next to nothing about the Philosophy of Religion. Surveys I have seen on those who make Philosophy of Religion their speciality significantly favour theism over atheism.

    But surveys aside, I don’t see how these statistics are “highly relevant.”

  4. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Stuart,

    “Professional philosophers” is too broad a category………may know next to nothing about the Philosophy of Religion. Surveys I have seen on those who make Philosophy of Religion their speciality significantly favour theism over atheism.

    Hahaha! You aren’t serious are you? By this logic the ridiculously high proportion of evolution-supporters amongst the population of evolutionary anthropologists proves evolution. Lol.

  5. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    I am not sure ‘Christian’ is at all relevant when you try to identify a divide between empiricism and philosophy.

    Mmmn. From my perspective, I think that people who are more impressed with philosophy that is removed from science are more likely to be impressed by religion, which itself is removed from science/evidence/empiricism.

    It’s true though, I completely agree that the experiences of many people constitute much empirical evidence for a god. But of course, there are many, many attestations for quite different gods and for ghosts and aliens and star signs….. What IS empirically stupid is to claim that ones own experience – or one’s own religion’s advocates’ experiences – are somehow superior to others’. In fact, come to think of it, it’s probably pretty empirically stupid to heed personal (non-indisputable) experiences. So I’ll end this paragraph rescinding its opening sentence!

  6. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hahaha! You aren’t serious are you? By this logic the ridiculously high proportion of evolution-supporters amongst the population of evolutionary anthropologists proves evolution. Lol.

    I was anticipating a remark similar to this Other Simon, which is why I questioned that such a remark was “highly relevant” in the first place. I don’t see why it should be considered so.

    The assumption your comparison makes is that all philosophers of religion are theists, which is erroneous – the statistics show that just as they show that the majority of those who do specialize in the discipline are theists. I’m not suggesting this proves anything.

  7. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    No I don’t make that assumption. It is obvious, though, that a religious person who decides to become a philosopher is far more likely to become a philosopher of religion than a non-religious person who decides to become a philosopher.

    The philosophical ‘veracity’ of religion as measured by philosophers of religion is, therefore, highly compromised.

    Of all the subjects under the sun I can think of none which comes close to religion in that we recognise that non-experts (non-philosophers) should be listened to. There is no academic subject for which we give greater heedance – and rightly so – to the lay-person.

    Compared to, say, what physicists think of gravity or what anthropologists think of language or what musical academics think of Bach – where we readily recognise that the opinion of experts is the best representation of the truth – this does not hold for religion; not only is the cross-section of religious academics compromised, but the public – validly – have far more ‘jurisdiction’ when it comes to religion.

    Anywho, this is how I would argue that while the opinion of experts in most areas really matters, it practically doesn’t matter at all with religion, and so religion is out to sea with all the crazy and insane things people believe the world over, while other topics are not.

  8. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Anywho, this is how I would argue that while the opinion of experts in most areas really matters, it practically doesn’t matter at all with religion, and so religion is out to sea with all the crazy and insane things people believe the world over, while other topics are not.

    In your opinion at least. You give no reason why we should take your opinion over that of someone who has taken great effort to study seriously religious thought and the philosophy of religion. It seems to me that distinguishing Philosophy of Religion apart from all other subjects is completely ad hoc.

  9. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    Stuart,

    Yes, exactly! in my opinion. That is my whole point here: that me and you and the third person on the left all have valid things to say about religion, but that this is not true of chemstry and history and linguistics etc.

    I can see that it seems ad-hoc, but I don’t think religion is alone on this. It’s not a black and white thing – it’s not that I think that for everything else we should defer to the academic field but for religion we should not. I think there is a grey-scale from, say, mathematics or physics all the way through to philosophy of religion or ethics. So, no I don’t think philosophy of religion is alone, it is just very far over at the ‘everybody-has-a-valid-opinion’ end. Along with things like ethics.

  10. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Down at the ‘everybody-has-a-valid-opinion’ end of the scale I also see those who believe that self-contradictions are tolerably mysterious instead of necessarily false.

  11. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    I take it you agree with me then. The opinion of philosophers of religion does not reflect the status of religion. The opinion of philosophers in general does reflect the status of philosophy.

  12. Andre
    Andre says:

    Some of the Christian philosophers I’ve been taking seriously recently, on various topics:

    David S Oderberg
    John G. Cottingham
    Nicholas Wolterstorff
    Robert P George
    Alvin Plantinga
    Victor Reppert
    Bill Vallicella
    JP Moreland

    and various others.

    Not just William Lane Craig.

    Look into the history of the philosophy of religion in recent decades. God is taken seriously now rather than e.g. simply dismissed as an incoherent concept, but that has not always been the case.

  13. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    The opinion of philosophers of religion does not reflect the status of religion. The opinion of philosophers in general does reflect the status of philosophy.

    Reflect the status??? I don’t know what your saying.

    So, no I don’t think philosophy of religion is alone, it is just very far over at the ‘everybody-has-a-valid-opinion’ end. Along with things like ethics.

    Thanks for the laugh. Would you like to revise this statement, or would you like to affirm it again?

    No I don’t make that assumption.

    Your illustration did.

    It is obvious, though, that a religious person who decides to become a philosopher is far more likely to become a philosopher of religion than a non-religious person who decides to become a philosopher.

    What study has shown you this? Or do you want to negate your strong empirical bent and accept that you can know things apart from sensory experience?

  14. Other Simon
    Other Simon says:

    I don’t see any substance here. For example, you’re now questioning “which study has shown this” despite the fact that you agreed earlier that the fact that many philosophers of religion are theists doesn’t prove anything. This is Bnonn’s technique, often. Without anything to argue, just question everything to make it look like you have an argument.
    I’ll just let my 10:10 post stand and wait till someone challenges it.

  15. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Other Simon,

    For example, you’re now questioning “which study has shown this” despite the fact that you agreed earlier that the fact that many philosophers of religion are theists doesn’t prove anything

    You’re making a claim that is very different to one previously made by me. Witness my claim…

    “Many philosophers of religion are theists.” and “This does not prove theism.”

    and your claim;

    “A religious person who decides to become a philosopher is far more likely to become a philosopher of religion than a non-religious person who decides to become a philosopher.”

    Very different. Now I was asking how you know this?

    I don’t see any substance here.

    Questions of clarification are not meant to be substantive. They are made because your comments lack clarity of wording and/or reasoning.

    I’ll just let my 10:10 post stand and wait till someone challenges it.

    Sometimes I think your statements are so outlandish. For instance, from your 10:10 comment…

    Of all the subjects under the sun I can think of none which comes close to religion in that we recognise that non-experts (non-philosophers) should be listened to.

    The claim made here is, “in religion we recognise that non-experts (non-philosophers) should be listened to.”

    That is blatantly false. First, why should I listen to a philosopher when learning about some particular religion? I might listen to a philosopher when I want to understand if a particular religion is internally inconsistent or practically unliveable, but if I want information on a particular religion I would ideally go to the source – an expert. And if I want a considered and rational opinion on what religious thought is validity (say for example, the existence of God) I would go to a Philosopher of Religion.

    Second, why would I seriously consider the opinion of a layman who has little or no affiliation on the particular religion on which s/he speaks? Or a layman on a topic of interest to the Philosopher of Religion. No one seriously considers the opinion of a three year old on what makes an healthy marriage. Why is religion considered among those things where everyone has a valid opinion? Not all opinions are valid.

  16. Rob
    Rob says:

    From memory, I have heard Bill Craig, quoting atheist Quentin Smith, say that 1/4 to 1/3 of professional philosophers (of religion?) in the USA are born-again Christians. I should like to confirm this. Anyone…?

  17. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Today perhaps one quarter to one third of philosophy professors are theists, and of that mostly orthodox Christians. [not a quote] Craig’s source is

    Quentin Smith, “The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism” Philo 4/2(2001): 3-4.

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