What do academic philosophers think about God?

Well, they have different views…

 

So how about a debate?  Here’s a good one:

 

God?  A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist 

William Lane Craig  vs. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

(ed. by James P. Serba, pub. by Oxford Univ. Press, 2004)

 

[Not for everyone, though…For MORE push through the DOOR.]

 

[MORE]

 

This will show you how people paid to be smart go about making their case.

In some cases, putting everything they believe in on the line.

[In the red corner the Christian:  William Lane Craig  (PhD in philosophy, from U. of Birmingham, England; DTheol U of Munich, Germany; founder and director of Reasonable Faith Ministry in USA– www.reasonable faith.org)

[In the blue corner the atheist:  Walter Sinnott-Armstrong  (PhD in philosophy from Yale; professor at Duke)

 

These well-trained philosophers take each other seriously and they disagree strongly.  They use words you can understand.  If you want to see what they say, be prepared to “believe” (lose your faith), believe again, and repeat the process.  The book follows a standard debate format with six chapters: Craig makes a case for God, Sinnott-Armstrong rebuts it, Craig responds to S-A; then S-A makes a case for atheism, Craig rebuts it, and S-A concludes responding to Craig.

Some Notes:

3 observations about the risk and reward here:

1.  Becoming absolutely convinced of the logic of every point on one side or the other probably isn’t going to happen.  If it were, two intelligent men probably wouldn’t be putting everything they believed in on the line this way.  Though some points may sound simple, the issues are not. On both sides, the debaters will try to logically convince you.  Do they make sense or not?  If only two options compete, which makes better sense?  You decide.  You may put some new things to think about on your back burner.  You don’t have to understand everything at once.

Now let me generalize even more:

2.  There are three points many atheists find tough to handle:  (1)  It’s almost universally accepted today—by atheists as well as by many Christians—that the universe, including the three space dimensions and one time dimension, began about 13.7 billion years ago.  The issue here is “began,” not hard for Christians, more difficult for atheists to explain.  (2) Second, the matter and energy in/on the earth and the creatures on it are “extremely fine-tuned” in dozens of hard-to-explain ways to account for by a series of purposeless “accidents” alone. (3)  Third, there’s morality.  Although nearly everyone says some behaviors are “absolutely right” and other behaviors are “absolutely wrong,” what is the basis for such judgment?  And who is the “lawgiver”?  If Darwinism and ethical relativism is the main pressure behind decision-making, that’s scary to some atheists when making moral decisions.

3.  Two issues are especially thorny to Christians:  (1)  How could a good and all-powerful God allow harm, suffering, and disaster to come to innocent people, especially children?  How could God seem so unfair in his treatment of people—on earth, or in the hereafter? (2)  How can a person prove something that is metaphysical, such as the real existence of a personal God, his real interaction with people, and real miracles in nature or to people?  How can one rationally explain metaphysical things?

There are many smaller issues but these are the main ones.

Realize that it’s possible for intelligent, thinking people to make cases for these concerns, as well as against them.  There is, of course, a real explanation somewhere—whether we understand the details or not—that accounts for what is and what should be.

Even why I’m writing this.

As a warm-up, let me foreshadow the points each participant makes.

CRAIG’S POINTS:

 

Five Reasons God Exists  (Ch. 1)

1.  God Makes Sense of the Origin of the Universe.

(1)  Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

(2)  The universe began to exist.

(3)  Therefore the universe has a cause.

 

2.  God Makes Sense of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life. 

(1)  The fine-tuning of the universe is either due to law, chance, or design.

(2)  It is not due to law or chance.

(3)  Therefore, it is due to design.

 

3.  God Makes Sense of the Moral Values in the World.

(1)  If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

(2)  Objective moral values do exist.

(3)  Therefore God exists.

 

4.  God Makes Sense of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.

(1)  There are four established facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazareth…[he lists them].

(2)  The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is the best explanation of these facts.

(3)  The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” entails that God exists.

(4)  Therefore God exists.

 

5.  God Can Be Immediately Known and Experienced.

     [No systematic subpoints given.]

 

SINNOTT-ARMSTRONG’S POINTS

 Some Reasons to Believe that There Is No God  (Ch. 4)

 

Sinnott Armstrong’s focus takes issue with what he calls “Dubious Doctrines” about God that he calls “traditional,” suggesting that they may have originated after the beginning of Christianity although he won’t take issue with when they originated, though it was very early.  “When I refer to God, I will mean a being with these defining features” (listed below): He is

 

(a)  All-good  (God always does the best he can)

(b)  All-powerful (God can do anything that is logically possible)

(c)  All-knowing (God knows everything that is true)

(d)  Eternal  (God exists outside of time)

(e)  Effective  (God causes changes in time)

(f)  Personal  (God has a will and makes choices)

 

[It is not rational, Sinnott-Armstrong argues, to accept these traditional characteristics, so he rejects them.  He will do this by advancing three main points.]

 

1.  The Problem of Evil

 (1)  If there were an all-powerful and all-good God, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good.

(2)  There is lots of evil in the world.

(3)  Much of that evil is not logically necessary for any compensating good.

(4)  Therefore, there is no God who is all-powerful and all-good.

 

2.  The Problem of Action

 [Deals with the supposed problem of an eternal God being active within the time dimension that we experience.]

 

3.  The Argument from Ignorance

 [Leads to the conclusion that “neither arguments, nor experiences, nor miracles provide any good evidence for the existence of God.”]

 

4.  Conclusion

 [Essentially an expansion of this opening line of his fourth section:  “Taken together, my arguments lead to the conclusion that no traditional God exists.”]

This is a perfect book to put on a electronic reader.  Rarely mentioned is the satisfaction that can come from such an adventure.

 

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