Is it Reasonable to Believe that God is Good?

In his debate with William Lane Craig, Stephen Law raised the challenge of an evil-god: if we dismiss the existence of an evil-god because of the amount of good in the world, why shouldn’t we dismiss the existence of an all-good god based on the amount of evil in the world?

Edward Feser has written a good discussion of the merits and demerits of this challenge here.

(HT: Timmy H)

How Stephen Law Failed in His Debate with William Lane Craig

Several others have already offered their reviews of the recent Craig/Law debate (see Wintery Knight’s post, J.W. Wartick’s analysis, Randal Rauser’s comments, or Stephen Law’s own thoughts here) and so I’ll restrict my comments to Law’s debating strategy. In my opinion, his line of argument was totally inadequate to the task. Here’s a few reasons why:

1) He only gave the briefest and most perfunctory of treatment to the cosmological argument and the historical case for the resurrection, focusing almost exclusively on the moral argument and his own evidential argument from evil for the probability of atheism.

2) He didn’t understand what a cumulative argument is or how it works. It’s simple to understand really. Argument 1 gives reason to think there is a being with properties A B and C. Argument 2 gives reason to think there is a being with properties C, D and E. Argument 3 gives reason to thing there is a being with properties C, F, and G. The fact that argument 2 doesn’t give any reason to think that the being in question has property B is not an indictment of that argument, nor a weakness of the whole case.

3) These two failures, combined with the way he proceeded, meant he was really not on the atheistic side of the debate. The totality of his arguments (even if successful) allowed room for a type of theism, such as Deism.

4) His strategy of comparing the problem of evil for a good God with the problem of good for a ‘malevolent God’ (a ‘square circle’ makes just about as much sense – let’s say he meant ‘malevolent creator’) relies on Manichaeism, which is false if Christianity is true. Thus the Christian has no reason to entertain Law’s counterargument.

On the Christian view, there is no such THING as evil. Evil is rather a privation – an absence of a good that should be there. Evil is ontologically posterior to goodness, thus for there to be evil, there must be a good. Christians not only believe that God does good, but that God’s very nature is goodness itself. He IS the standard. But when evil and goodness is understood this way (and not as a Manichean would conceive of good and evil: as two forces opposing one another), you can see that there cannot be a evil being comparable to a good God. Such a being would have no being.

5) He was totally inconsistent in his use of mystery, allowing it to feature particularly in his own answer to the problem of the origin of the universe (and also in his explanation of the existence of objective moral values and his dismissal of the resurrection as the best explanation for the historical facts about Jesus and the disciples), but not allowing Craig to ostensibly have it in his answer to the problem of evil.

6) More to the point, Craig was not using mystery to answer the problem of evil. He was saying that it is not unreasonable to expect, given the nature of our situation (a transcendent God and human beings with cognitive limitations in time and space), that we would be unable to perceive God’s sufficient reasons for allowing evil. The atheist therefore is in no position to assess the probability of a good God allowing the evil he sees in the world. Thus, it was Laws that failed to carry his argument.

7) Finally, it was noticeable how Law mentioned in his first speech that he would respond to Craig’s arguments in his next rebuttal, but deferred responding to Craig’s arguments until his third speech. This only allowed Craig the opportunity to rebut Law’s counter-arguments in his closing remarks. If Law wasn’t so soft spoken and didn’t have all the appearances of a genuinely nice guy, I’d suggest this deferral was an intentionally underhanded debating trick. Whether or not this was the case, it was evident that Law, although he had done careful research beforehand (unlike so many of Craig’s interlocutors), could not respond effectively to Craig’s cosmological and historical arguments, as well as Craig’s own response to the problem of evil.


Audio from the Bradley v Flannagan Debate: Is God the Source of Morality?

This last Monday we were pleased to have a great crowd of over 400 at the debate between atheist philosopher, Raymond Bradley, and Christian philosopher and blogger, Matt Flannagan.

If you weren’t able to make it but are interested in listening to the exchange, the audio is now available:

to stream the audio – click here,

to download the file – click here (it is about 45 mb).

You can also read the opening statements on Matt’s blog (Ray’s opening statement is here and Matt’s is here).

We’re hoping to get video from the debate up on YouTube within the next few weeks but until then, be sure to let us know what you think of the debate in the comments.