William Lane Craig answers a distressed reader: “If ISIS’s god were mine, should I do what he says?”

September 19, 2014 • 10:49 am

Sometimes the mask slips just a little on Sophisticated Theologians™—or, in the case of William Lane Craig, Slick Theologians.  In this case it happened when Craig was forced to answer the question, one not often taken up by theologians, of how they know their god is the RIGHT God.

It came in the form of a letter posted by an anonymous reader from the UK on Craig’s website Reasonable Faith. The question formed half of a post called “If ISIS’s God were real, would I be obliged to follow him?” (The other half is Craig’s answer.) A distressed follower of Craig’s wrote in asking what would happen if  a) the follower conformed to Craig’s “Divine Command Theory” (DCT), which says that what is moral is what God dictates, and b) the real god turned out to be not the God of Christianity, but the Muslim god Allah whose dictates are followed by ISIS. The distressed acolyte had two concerns:

Well, recently, an atheist flipped this question around and asked me “If the Islamic State were true (by which he means, if the specific type of Allah that IS believe in, existed) then likewise, would you become an IS member?”

Now, my gut reaction is to say no. I would not follow a God whom I find so horrendous as to condone rape, mass murder and forced conversion such as we’re seeing happen right now in the Middle East.

Two problems arise, however:

Firstly, if I say this, the atheist can simply reply, “exactly! And now I’m sure you’re aware how I feel too. Even if your Christian God existed, I would not follow him, because I find certain things about his morality horrendous and objectionable”. This would seem a conversation stopper.

But, secondly, there seems an even greater problem:

From my understanding of Divine Command Theory (DCT), it seems the response I ought to give, is “yes, under such circumstances I should become an IS member”. After all, if moral ontology is ultimately based in the character of God, then if the real God who existed after all was the IS God, and not the Christian God, then I would have no intellectual alternative other than to bite the bullet and treat his character as the paradigm of Moral Goodness. Rape etc really would be good, if their God existed, and if the principle of DCT applies.

It goes on and on, but that’s the gist of it. The writer really did perceive a serious problem with the DCT.

Craig quickly stepped in, however, with two qualifications of the DCT. But first he says this, which is almost funny:

Anonymous, I can’t help but observe that you seem to be emotionally caught up in this objection. I think the first thing that needs to be done, then, is to try to disentangle your emotions from the philosophical issues at stake here. Then you will be able to think more clear-headedly about the arguments.

Actually, if you read the letter, it’s not very emotional; it’s just concerned.  And here’s the meat of Craig’s response.

1. You’ve got the wrong Divine Command Theory. Craig distinguishes between the “voluntarist” DCT, in which you have to do what God says because what is moral consists precisely and only of what God tells you to do, regardless of how you feel about it:

On voluntaristic theories God’s commands are based upon His free will alone. He arbitrarily chooses what values are good or bad and what our obligations and prohibitions are. It seems to me that the voluntarist has no choice but to bite the bullet, as you say, and affirm that had God so chosen, then we would be obligated to engage in rape, mass murder, and forced conversion.

But Craig says that very few DCT adherents actually buy into that form of DCT. No, they accept another form of Divine Command Theory, the non-voluntarist one. Here Craig pulls his bait-and-switch:

Most divine command theorists are non-voluntarists who hold that moral values are not grounded in God’s will but in His nature. Moral duties are grounded in His will or commands; but moral values are prior to His will, since God’s own nature is not something invented by God. Since His will is not independent of His nature but must express His nature, it is logically impossible for Him to issue certain sorts of commands. In order to do so, He would have to have a different nature, which is logically impossible.

What that means is that there is a set of moral goods that antedate God, though they’re said to inhere in his nature. So how do we know what God’s nature is? The only way is to see if he tells us to do what strikes us as moral. But how can you test that?

The only way I know is to see if God’s commands in Scripture comport with what we see as moral. And they very clearly don’t. We are all aware of the horrors that God commands in the Old Testament, including genocide, stoning of adulterers, killing of those who work on the Sabbath or curse their parents, and so on and so on. . .  And that doesn’t include the genocides that God regularly orders up—genocides in which innocent women and children are slaughtered along with everyone else.

And yet Craig himself seemed in at least one case to hold to the voluntarist view of the DCT: when he justified God’s order to slaughter the Canaanites, including women and children. Craig thought that was perfectly moral because God ordered it and God’s ways aren’t our ways. As Craig said in his monstrous justification:

But God has no such prohibition [the prohibition not to take an innocent life]. He can give and take life as He chooses.  We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as “playing God.”  Human authorities  arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God.  God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second.  If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative.

What that implies is that God has the right to take the lives of the Canaanites when He sees fit.  How long they live and when they die is up to Him.

So the problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives.  The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them.  Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder?  No, it’s not.  Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder.  The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.

On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

If that’s not voluntaristic DCT, I don’t know what is. It basically says that God’s commands ARE the arbiter of right and wrong. So Craig is either a hypocrite or a weasel, one who basically accepts the Euthyphro theory but imputes right and wrong to “God’s nature,” conveniently comporting with people’s innate views of right and wrong. I could go on, but there’s another interesting question for Craig: “How do you know that ISIS’s Allah is the wrong God?” Craig’s answer is funny.

2. Allah isn’t the right God because he’s not all-loving! Yes, that’s right. While Yahweh is clearly all-loving (right!), the Qur’an shows that Allah is not. And, according to the Ontological Argument, God must logically be all-loving. Oh, and there must be just one of those gods. No polytheism!  My emphasis in the following:

But then, Anonymous, you begin to muddy the waters by bringing in epistemic considerations, which are not relevant to the truth or coherence of divine command theory. You ask, “What if, epistemically, I’d been mistaken and had the wrong God, what would the implications be of the DCT principle?It is logically impossible that there be any other God. So if you were mistaken and believed in the wrong God, you would be a Muslim or a Hindu or a polytheist or what have you; but there wouldn’t be another God. Remember: on perfect being theology, God is a maximally great being, a being which is worthy of worship. Lesser beings are not “Gods” at all. In fact, in my debates with Muslim theologians, this is one of the arguments I use against the Islamic conception of God: that Allah cannot be the greatest conceivable being because he is not all-loving and therefore cannot be God.

And there you have it. Craig says that “Anonymous” is not even obliged to answer the question because there is no possibility that the right God is ISIS’s God, nor that the REAL God, i.e., Craig’s God, would order someone to engage in acts like beheading and stoning (right!).

Is only Craig’s god “all-loving”? And if He is so damn loving, why did he order the massacre of the Canaanites, man, woman, and child, as well as the massacres of many others? Why did he order she-bears to kill the group of kids who made fun of Elisha’s bald head? The questions go on forever. The fact is that Craig’s God, at least in the Old Testament (which Craig holds as correct), is a horrible bully and miscreant.

And things aren’t so cool in the New Testament, either. There’s that Hell thing, for instance. No all-loving being would fry someone forever for trivial “sins.” Further, why hasn’t Craig forsaken his wife and kids, as Jesus said he should?

This is Sophisticated Theology™ at its finest and funniest. It involves one positing not only a God, but a special kind of God, through logic alone, and in the face of empirical evidence. But there’s more! It also involves a tortuous logical twist so that that God (again, in the face of logic) just happens to have the exact kind of moral nature that corresponds to our own morality. The Right God could never order bears to kill kids for making fun of someone’s depilated pate. The thing is, though, He did!

craig-smiling
“And if you buy my Divine Command Theory, I have some real estate in Florida I’d like to sell you.”

 

 

 

156 thoughts on “William Lane Craig answers a distressed reader: “If ISIS’s god were mine, should I do what he says?”

  1. “Since God’s own nature is not something invented by God. Since His will is not independent of His nature but must express His nature, it is logically impossible for Him to issue certain sorts of commands.”

    So Craig is saying that God doesn’t have free will?

    1. An omniscient god certainly doesn’t have free will.

      Then toss omnipotent into the god pot, like Craig undoubtedly does, and we have logically inconsistent god soup on our hands.

    2. But original sin requires that Adam and Eve had free will. Since then, have humans had free will, according to Sop.Theo?

      1. But if free will exists then prophecy cannot exist and much of the christian religion is based on the idea that the messiah fulfilled prophecies. It has to be one or the other, free will or prophecy.

    3. Craig loves prime mover/first cause types of arguments. I wonder why his god hypothesis of some cosmic intelligence simply existing with a predefined nature, is less possible, than a spontaneous universe with a nature that ultimate defines the possibilities of all that follows?

      1. ‘”Since His will is not independent of His nature but must express His nature, it is logically impossible for Him to issue certain sorts of commands.” So Craig is saying that God doesn’t have free will?’

        If so, then the creator of free will doesn’t have free will. And if moral values are grounded in God’s nature but not his will, then I suppose he didn’t have to think about moral values, they were just there. Which is good, as apparently he doesn’t have any free will anyway so he couldn’t consciously think about them.

        This reminds me of the old puzzler:
        “Can God create a rock so heavy that it’s beyond his power to move it?”

    4. Ya, right. And what exactly does it mean to say ““Since God’s own nature is not something invented by God”?
      Is this an under the table way of saying God could have originally had no nature at all. So then for him to “invent” his nature he would have to rely on what exactly? What resources and understanding would go into deciding what went into that Godly nature? This is so bizarre, Craig must be using it as a mechanism of obfuscation.
      I think he means God always existed with a certain nature and will. The way the world works is a reflection of that nature and will, warts and all. Why didn’t he just say it.

  2. Despite his pretense to being a ‘rational believer,’ I always get the sense that Craig is a closet presuppositionalist (‘my god is true – debate ends!’), given the way he simply ignores points of argument and rebuttal. So when he writes “it is logically impossible that there be any other God,” which of course is nonsense, what he really wants to say is ‘there is no other god – debate ends!’ But then the mask would fall away, and nobody would invite him to any public debates or lecture tours.

    1. he has admitted he is a presuppositionalist. All you have to do is hear him talk about his LOL’ISH “Inner Witness” for which he “knows” christianity to be true. Yet this same inner witness apparently only speaks to him. Its a religiously racist spirit from what we can tell.

      1. Well, I don’t know why he bothers using words like ‘logic,’ then.
        One of the problems with listening to debates with fundamentalists is that they aren’t really debates; the scientist or the atheist thinker gives a lecture, and the fundamentalist gives a sermon. (But I listen to a lot of these, because I usually learn something from the scientist or the atheist.)

    2. ‘closet presuppositionalist’ is what I call fireside Christian. These are Christians who in public claim that we may not be able to answer ‘complex’ questions regarding the veracity of a Muslim God version 3.6.28 or Christian God version 2.4.17771. But in private, fireside, with their brethren, they know their faith and their God and their version of elysium are the right ones, version 1.x

    3. And I love his Kalam dodge in the Cosmological Argument:

      Conclusion: God exists
      [One of the] Premise[s]: God has always existed.

      See what he did there?

      That’s about as presuppositionalist as one can get, seems to me.

    4. Craig believes that the Holy Spirit has communicated directly with him, and nothing could gainsay that knowledge, so I guess even if reason showed that there was no God, he would still believe. He talks a little about it here.

      http://tinyurl.com/lhmv6wp

      To be clear, I think he’s convinced by his own arguments that his faith is reasonable *too*, else he wouldn’t call his mission Reasonable Faith!

      It’s not, though.

  3. In fact, in my debates with Muslim theologians, this is one of the arguments I use against the Islamic conception of God:…

    After I steal their Kalam argument…

    1. and this so called jesus is anything but “all loving” . The same fool said “no one comes to the father but through me”… He has no love for anybody that rejects the so called “good news” as fabricated myth in a historical setting. If you reject this offer then he sends you to hell lol

  4. “He can give and take life as He chooses. We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as “playing God.””

    Exactly. And God also says “Oh” a lot, which we recognise when we say “Oh God, what kind of imbecile argues backwards like that and expects to be taken seriously in any forum beyond kindergarten?”

    1. Obedience to such a God [i.e., the vengeful, despotic God depicted in the pages of the Hebrew Bible] would not be morally virtuous; it would be, at best, prudent. One does not owe allegiance to another being simply because that being is stronger. And it does not matter if the being in question is responsible for your very existence. No one thinks that an abused child is morally obliged to obey an abusive parent, simply because the parent gave the child life. Parents do not own their children, and their right to expect obedience is contingent upon their being benevolent and competent trustees of the child’s own welfare.

      Louise Antony

  5. So Craig is either a hypocrite or a weasel

    I think he is both.

    When Craig writes

    Moral duties are grounded in His will or commands; but moral values are prior to His will, since God’s own nature is not something invented by God

    are we not right to ask him who invented god’s own nature for in his view it clearly precedes his god.

      1. “Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals… except the weasel.” –Homer Simpson

    1. Remember our previous discussion on meta-atheism? If he genuinely believed all this double-talk wouldn’t be necessary.
      What he’s trying to do is convince others, and through that convince himself (or just make a career out of it, who knows).

      1. Does Craig secretly doubt? Now, there’s an interesting question
        I doubt it (although I am inclined to think he needs to “just make a career out of it”); nonetheless, one wonders of these fundamentalists, that they ‘protest too much.’

    2. makagutu: You beat me to it. If something invented god’s nature, then it existed before, and presumably, independently of god. It’s gods all the way down (or turtles, take your pick)!

  6. An extremely simple and effective ontological argument I found on SkepticInk can be used to easily refute any one particular god and is great at disproving Christian, Jewish or Islamic gods using the same basic deductive logic:

    1. God is the greatest conceivable being.
    2. I can conceive of a greater being than Yahweh.
    3. Therefore, Yahweh is not God.

    1. I can guess the responses: “You think you can conceive of a being greater than Yahweh only because do not have a true understanding of Yahweh.”

      But it sounds like a nice sharp stick with which I can poke believers for fun. So thanks!

      1. Or that other person may not have a true understanding of a greater being than Yahweh.

        For that matter, who is that other person to say that her understanding of Yahweh is the correct one.

      2. I’ve already heard that response. What ensues is a nice exchange over what exactly makes a “greatest conceivable being.” During that time you can show either that great making properties exist independently of god or that the whole idea of a greatest conceivable being is absurd.

    2. I think the big problem with the ontological argument is the second bit, not the first. I.e., the claim that the greatest being must be one that exists because existence is greater than nonexistence. Lot’s of problems there. But one obvious one is that this is merely a human judgement call, a human value. If someone things a fictional god is cooler an greater than a nonficitional god, what are you going to say to them? That they are personally valuing fiction incorrectly?

      1. Oh, there’s plenty wrong with the first part, too.

        Putting aside the problem of defining what constitutes “greatness”, as jblilie wrote below, and as Ben is fond of pointing out, *conceiving* of a greatest anything is impossible. In the real world a best version of something may exist, but it’s the conceiving part that brings it down. You can always conceive of adding greatness. Just like you can always conceive of adding 1.

        1. In short, theology hasn’t substantially advanced since the time of Plato, who had serious problems with the concepts of infinity, special pleading, and idealism. Every single “sophisticated” theological “argument” is perfectly valid within the context of Platonism…and has every bit as much bearing on reality as Plato’s four-element chemistry (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water).

          Cheers,

          b&

          1. I would think that Plato’s realm of ideals is actually the foundation of the dualism that underlies the dogma of the church. The atomists and epicureans had no utility until the modern era.
            Pass the wine.

          2. Actually, Zalta and Oppenheimer show (via computer, actually) the ontological argument has a rather simple model (in the sense of model theory). Unfortunately, I don’t think theists want to worship the platonic number 0 (or 1; depends on whether you consider the less than relation on natural numbers to be the relation to use or the greater than; both work.)

            So theology advances by showing that traditional arguments are really *bad* 😉

    3. Yes, it’s like the biggest number “conundrum” small kids like: The biggest number is X! (Googolplex or whatever).

      Nope: Your number +1.

      In this case, your God minus the Holocaust, for instance.

    4. This is very poor argument and does not at all follow any form of ontological argument.

      I can show the absurdity by changing God and Yahweh to Tallest building and “The Burj Khalifa”

      1. Tallest building is the tallest conceivable building.

      2. I can conceive of a tallest building than The Burj Khalifa.

      3. Therefore, The Burj Khalifa is not the tallest building.

      I follow your structure and yet come to a conclusion which is false.

      Another problem is that it mixes epistemology with ontology. It is mixes who is God and what is God.

      Ontological argument is about what is God while Judaism or Christianity is about who is God. So, Jews and Christian will say that Yahweh is the being that is the greatest conceivable being, while Muslim say Allah is the greatest conceivable being &c.

      Christians, Jews, Muslim and other monotheistic religion differ in epistemological claim on who is God but not on ontological claim, what is God.

      1. You only come to a conclusion which is false because you’ve assumed your definition that the tallest building is the tallest conceivable building. What you’ve done is demonstrate that your premise in 1) is false.
        That is, “The tallest building is the tallest conceivable building” is false, assuming you have evidence showing (3), that the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building. Fine, that’s acceptable.

        Now apply it in the same way to the original post. “God is the greatest conceivable being” is false assuming you have evidence that Yahweh is God. However, the argument for God includes both the definition that God is the greatest conceivable being and that he is Yahweh. This argument demonstrates that either Yahweh is God and not the greatest conceivable being or that God is the greatest conceivable being, but not Yahweh.

        Likewise, you have shown that the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building but not the tallest conceivable building or that the tallest building is the tallest conceivable building, but not the Burj Khalifa.

        A third logically plausible scenario is that God is neither the greatest conceivable being nor Yahweh (likewise with the Burj Khalifa and tallest building/conceivable building).

        In any event, this argument is fine for demonstrating that Craig can’t have things both ways, that God is both the greatest conceivable being and Yahweh at the same time (assuming the burden of proof is satisfied to demonstrate a greater conceivable being than Yahweh which then goes down the road of having Craig show that he’s not just begging the question by defining greatest conceivable being as a being with the attributes of Yahweh). And this all goes back to the basic point that you can argue just about anything with logic, but at some point you need to provide some evidence.

        1. But that is not in any sense Anselm’s ontological argument. More over it is possible to formulate ontological argument that does not rest on the assumption that God per defition is greatest conceivable being. Example modal logical, using S5, forms of ontological arguments just does that.

  7. Yes, Craig has a number of funny sophisticated replies. For example, what about Craig’s sophisticated (well, kind of) challenges to evolutionary theory?

    For example, he claims that our moral judgments and our aesthetic judgments are “anomalies” that “Darwinists” just explain away creatively.

    As part of the challenge, he implies there is no selective advantage to being attracted to young beautiful women as opposed to young women – i.e., in that context, he’s implicitly holding that on “Darwinism”, it would be more likely that men would be equally attracted to any two young women as long as they are equally fertile (or are so as far as the man in question can tell), regardless of whether she’s beautiful.

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/our-grasp-of-objective-moral-values

    1. Being fertile is not the only desirable quality in a mate for a male human. She should also be free of inherited ailments and strong enough to bring up a child. It seems likely that insofar as “beauty” = “conforming to the human norm” it would correlate with those attributes.

      1. Also, sexual selection. Traits that seem arbitrary, that are neutral or even deleterious for survival, may nevertheless be advantageous solely because they are preferred by potential mates.

    2. I’m sure the problem with this has been pointed out to him many, many times: physical attractiveness is one of our evolved psychological “smell tests” for reproductive fitness.

      I’m also sure he will continue to claim this point.

      1. He will continue to make that and other points about evolution. But maybe if this blog or another blog with many readers dedicated a couple of posts to debunk Craig’s blunders on evolution, he would be somewhat less inclined to use that sort of claim. Or not, but the debunking might be useful nonetheless.

        1. Oh yes, the debunking is useful, necessary, even. The thing that pushed me over the line was disco eying the online atheist community and the arguments they make.

          But Craig’s MO is simply to ignore any correction or refutation. It’s his primary debate technique. After his opponent has demonstrated something from his opening remarks to be wrong, even if in an inarguable way or a way that really doesn’t involve interpretation, Craig will repeat that point in his closing remarks or a rebuttal.

            1. Thanks for this post. I had assumed I was even more out of touch with hip terms than I already know myself to be. I was about to look up disco eyeing.

          1. You ain’t kiddin’. Sean Carroll not only pulled the rug out from under Craig’s idiotic use of the Borde-Guth-Valenkin Theorem by pointing out that it only says that classical spacetime must have a beginning but is silent on quantum spacetime, he had a Marshall McLuhan moment whereby he whipped out an email from Brad Guth that explicitly said as much and that, in so many words, Craig was smoking crack.

            Didn’t faze Craig one bit. I think he even told Sean that Sean clearly didn’t properly understand the BGV Theorem and what it said. Yes, that fucker really does have enough hubris to tell a leading cosmologist and university professor that he doesn’t understand quantum mechanics….

            b&

    3. Beauty is an approximation of fertility. Young, healthy, symmetrical people are generally more beautiful than old, ill, asymmetrical people. Beauty is not mainly an end in itself, it is a pointer to evolutionarily desirable qualities.

  8. As far as the “non-voluntarist” DCT, the distinction between God’s will and nature seems irrelevant. Couldn’t the questioner still ask the same question of God’s nature then? What if God’s nature were that of the ISIS God?

      1. It makes a lovely circle, doesn’t it? The vague term “nature” avoids calling good a quality or property of God, ’cause then you’d lose your substance dualism. God gets squishy without his substance dualism.

  9. Somewhere, there is a perfectly good used car lot without a salesman because William Lane Craig decided to go into theology instead. There is some first rate snake-oil selling going on there.

    1. I think that there’s more money in this than selling used cars.

      However, like the best salespeople, he absolutely believes in his product.

  10. “The Right God could never order bears to kill kids for making fun of someone’s depilated pate. The thing is, though, He did!”

    Here’s a theology PhD paper for someone — Were the bears acting morally?

    1. Same problem with the Pharoah in Exodus. God hardens the guy’s heart. If God slips you a divine mickey, who is at fault for the decision you then make?

  11. So Craig is either a hypocrite or a weasel, one who basically accepts the Euthyphro theory but imputes right and wrong to “God’s nature,” which handily corresponds to people’s innate views of right and wrong

    I’m going with weasel, because what he says about God’s nature seems to be an attempt to flip back and forth between the two horns of the Euthyphro dilemma. DCT as it is generally understood is clearly on the ‘pious is what is loved by the gods’ side, but then this part:

    moral values are prior to His will, since God’s own nature is not something invented by God. Since His will is not independent of His nature but must express His nature, it is logically impossible for Him to issue certain sorts of commands

    …is clearly on the ‘it is loved by the gods because it is pious’ side. “Prior to his will” sounds an awful lot like the definition of good or moral is something God can’t change (so, another problem with WLC’s characterization; it refutes the notion of omnipotence).

    He also seems to use the word ‘logically’ the way many people use the word ‘literally,’ purely for emphasis.

    1. If moral values are prior to gods will, i.e. they stand outside of god, then why do we need a god to determine what’s good or not? We can just go straight to those moral values and bypass god. WLC has just rendered god unnecessary.

  12. According to the Bible, nothing exists that God did not create. If God did not create his own nature, his nature doesn’t exist. Ipso facto, hocus pocus, no more God.

  13. “all-loving God”… who freaking DROWNED EVERYONE and then gave us a freaking rainbow to remember it.

    I feel like nobody else uses the word “epistemically” as much as Craig. I guess you have to sound smart when your content is, as near as makes no difference, nonsense.

  14. It’s interesting that Craig goes on to say “So when we recognize that the Muslim concept of God is defective, that recognition is based on our prior moral knowledge.”

    He’s in a way right about that: namely, the entity described in the Quran would not be the greatest conceivable being – assuming that that includes moral perfection -, and generally would not even be a morally good person.

    But then again, the atheist – or an agnostic, or anyone else – may make a relevantly point about Christianity, and raise a number of proper and decisive moral objections to Christianity – as well as to Islam.

    In particular, that includes the failure of any Christian theology – and similarly for Islam -, and then the atheist may go on to make – for example – a hiddenness argument against theism, or an argument from suffering, or a number of other arguments.

    Anonymous gets indirectly to that point when s/he says that the scenario that IS might be right is “outlandish” to imagine, but that Christians make a similar demand of atheists, Muslims, etc., to reject their moral assessments and in particular the ones “they” (apparently, Muslims and atheists) use to argue against “God” (perhaps, against the Christian version, since Muslims are included as the arguers). But Anonymous only goes as far as worrying about some special pleading on the part of Christians in terms of what to demand of others. That’s not a bad worry to have, but Anonymous fails to see the point that the scenario in which Christianity is true involves moral claims as far away from the truth as the scenario in which IS is right, considering both infinite Hell (accepted by Craig, so this is the version of Christianity we have in mind), and also the commands in the Old Testament. Moreover, other versions of Christianity do not avoid the problem by denying infinite Hell and accepting the New Testament (interpreted to avoid Hell), because even though they avoid the worst issue (i.e., Hell), the New Testament also refers back to the Old Testament, endorsing atrocious commands there (even if only as valid for the Israelites from the time of Moses, and up to the time of Jesus).

  15. Wasn’t it a former student of Craig, John Loftus, who devised the Outsider Test for Faith ?

    This seems like the perfect time to apply it.

  16. O’l Billy Craig is a mighty man with a shovel to pile up so much bullshit so high and so thick in such a small space

  17. I had a deep philosophical thought experiment prepared with epistemic and ontological variables but decided to go old school Elijah the prophet instead.
    Let me introduce you to Bill Keller who issued a video challenge.

    “I will come to Iraq, Syria, any location you desire. We will each take an unblemished animal, cut that animal into pieces, put those pieces on wood, but not set fire to the wood. Once prepared, you have one hour’s time to call on Allah to rain down fire on your offering. If at the end of that hour Allah has still not answered your pleas, I will call upon the one true God of the Bible … not just to bring down fire on my offering, but yours as well.

    If your god Allah does not answer you … you will resign as the leader of ISIS. You will retire from your life of terror. You will encourage your followers to live in peace and I will be free to return to the United States.

    If your god Allah answers your pleas by fire [and] my God does not, I will renounce the Christian faith, and you’re free to kill me or do whatever you like.”

    Why can’t slick Willie entertain us like this every now and then?

    1. “a deep philosophical thought experiment prepared with epistemic and ontological variables”

      YOu must be WLC posting here under pseudonym!

  18. It is logically impossible that there be any other God

    I guess if we say it often enough then that makes it true. Somebody said it a million times, QED.

  19. I’m wondering what happened to the guys who tortured and killed Jesus… I mean, unknowingly, they were sock puppets for God’s great plan, and what they did was wrong, but if they hadn’t, Jesus would never have been crucified… so maybe what they did, was good?

    I’m so confused…

  20. So if Craig’s magic turtle is not what “invented [its] own nature”, what magic turtle came before and did the ‘invention’ thing? And so on.

    I’m sure it has been said before, but the best evidence that there is no magic agency is not found in nature but in society:

    The existence of Theologians™ whether Sophisticated™ or Slick™ is only necessary because magic agency has no Ground Of Evidence.

  21. “moral values are prior to His will, since God’s own nature is not something invented by God. Since His will is not independent of His nature but must express His nature, it is logically impossible for Him to issue certain sorts of commands.”

    So much for omnipotence. Heck, to channel Ben, it turns out that people a more powerful than this sort of god, since we can issue all sorts of “commands” that apparently Craig’s god can’t. Pol Pot, Jim Jones, William Calley — all more powerful that Craig’s god.

  22. The comparison to ISIS is not a far-fetched one at all. If you follow the Hebrew Bible as WLC does, you have to account not just for the massacres of Canaanites and Midianites, but also Jehu, the divinely anointed King of Israel from 841-814 B.C. Now that guy was a piece of work. Horrified by those ISIS beheadings? Then consider how Jehu cut off the heads of seventy of Ahab’s sons and grandsons after seizing power, heaping them up at the gates of Jezreel. He massacred the worshipers of Baal in their own worship hall after tricking them into gathering there. And 2 Kings 10:30 says God approved of his actions.

    Sometimes I think these points can be conveyed more powerfully via fiction. What might it have been like in the dark minds of those doing such outrages? What about the terror experienced by their victims? I wrote a short story along these lines last week called “Jehu’s Jihad”: http://blog.edsuom.com/p/jehus-jihad.html

  23. Well I see that only one God is permitted, and that God must be a good and just God, but why must we accept those assumptions?

    William Blake (1757-1827), mystical poet and artist, believe that there were (at least) two gods. The top god was good and just, as assumed, but it was a lower god, not especially good or just, the “Ancient of Days,” who was actually in control, if only for a while, of the unfortunate earth and all its inhabitants.

    Perhaps Allah is the less appealing “Ancient of Days,” and the Christian God is the higher, better, nicer God?

    I’m sure than all readers of this blog are very familiar with “The Urantia Book,” which posits innumerable levels of god, like a gigantic bureaucracy with a near-infinite cadre of middle management. According to this narration, Earth was formerly ruled by a God who rebelled, screwed up his domain, was “made redundant” as the British would say, and sent to prison. This was the god we call Satan. I think his replacement was Jesus (after he died, of course).

    I’m not making this stuff up!

    1. Blake was a brilliant poet – and something of of a crackpot. His wife was slightly retarded; they were practicing nudists, He would chase visitors off by waving a club.
      Probably not the best authority for a modernist theology.

    2. This sounds like a variation on Gnostic theology. This postulates a god who is incompetent and looks for a way back to the higher god who can save us from Earthly reality. It gets endlessly complicated with the high god emanating all sorts of lesser beings who eventually give rise to the Demiurge who created the Earth. It has the advantage of explaining why life can be so crappy, but at the cost of ever expanding lunacy.

      1. “but at the cost of ever expanding lunacy.”
        The Greeks and Romans seemed to cover that crappy aspect of life as well. And look at the entertainment value!

  24. The most profound thing Craig ever said…I think it was at the end of a debate with Lawrence Krauss…
    The moderator asked Krauss what evidence would change your mind about the existence of God. Krauss said, if there was some credible physical evidence (I think he gave an example of God writing words in the pattern of stars or something like that) he (Krauss) would change his mind.
    The moderator asked Craig the same question. Craig answered…”nothing”.

  25. Craig:

    “…not grounded in God’s will but in His nature.”

    Of all the useless sophistry. There is no difference there. An agent wants what it is in that agent’s nature to want.

    The only thing Craig can say here is that if the god of IS was real then we simply wouldn’t find the beheading of infidels abhorrent. The fact that we do find at least some of the dictates of almost any god you’d care to name immoral is a good argument that those gods don’t exist.

  26. One of the best take-downs of Craig’s circular reasoning I have seen!

    While folks like Francis Collins & C.S. Lewis argue that our innate sense of morality is an argument for theism, Craig simply argues that theism is an indispensable foundation for morality. Now IMO the Collins/Lewis position is 100% in conflict with Divine Command theory, but Craig seems to slightly side-step it, by just saying God is a necessary [ontological foundation] for morality, but never quite saying with FC & CSL that our sense of morality is evidence FOR God. (Or have I missed something??)

    IMO the only theism compatible with the problem of evil is either a non-omnipotent pan(en)theistic god who is not in charge of in control of creation, or any kind of Gnosticism that holds that some defective fallen deity created this universe and Jesus’ God is different from the Old Testament deity.

    But isn’t atheism simpler??

    William Craig looked a lot better when either in middle school

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Lane_Craig#mediaviewer/File:WLC_Middle_School.jpeg

    or with a beard

    http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/50516_8432179933_5095_n.jpg

    In both cases that annoying excrement-consuming grin is missing.

    1. Now IMO the Collins/Lewis position is 100% in conflict with Divine Command theory, but Craig seems to slightly side-step it, by just saying God is a necessary [ontological foundation] for morality, but never quite saying with FC & CSL that our sense of morality is evidence FOR God. (Or have I missed something??)

      It seems you have missed something because Craig’s moral argument is one of his main arguments:

      1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
      2. Objective moral values do exist.
      3. Therefore God exists.

      His ‘evidence’ for 2 is that we just know it is true.

      Now since, “Most divine command theorists are non-voluntarists who hold that moral values are not grounded in God’s will but in His nature.”, it seems clear that my moral intuitions/values are grounded in God’s nature. Therefore, if I have the intuition that it is good to behead someone, then to do so would be a godly thing to do. So clearly there is no problem with the god of ISIS being the real god. Or something like that.

      BTW, here is my favorite picture of Craig.

      Okay, not really Craig, but the resemblance is kind of freaky.

  27. just another fool on the hill.. amusing, trying to squirm his way out of that but painful reading when he is lying to himself and the inquirer.

  28. Two amusing comments by Rosa Rubicondior at her blog on this same topic:

    “So morality is doing what God commands; nothing more and nothing less. Blind obedience is all it takes. And of course you can trust people like William Lane Craig to tell you what God is commanding you to do.”

    “Isn’t Christian apologetics handy when you get the hang of it and if you aren’t too bothered about truth or the effects of your arguments on other people and their victims just so long as the money keeps coming in?”

  29. Reblogged this on sirgb's Blog and commented:
    It’s ridiculous to anybody write an article like this in this century, and it is annoying to have people living in western societies that would rather spend their life in some other religious societies, in some other states governed by religious laws that fundamentally, profoundly differ from that of western civilisation. If there is a need it’s not our concern to interfere. People from that culture must organize and decide about the actions to protect their own members. Those who would like to live otherwise may go from our societies without return, those who want to stay let them stay, but just stop to disturb us with their God, because we have enough trouble with our own. If this differentiation would realize in short period of time, we would not having to waste time with arguing who’s God is a real and who’s is fake.

  30. In 1958, I was taking some graduate courses at the Univ of Calif, Berkley. One of my profs was an atheist who taught a philosophy of religion course (although, I was taking a different course from him). Nice fellow. Wish I could remember his name.

    Fast forward to the mid-90s. I’m cooling my heels in a small town library and run across a book written by my former prof (wish I could remember the title). The book was a refutation of (probably) all the popular arguments of his day for the existence of God.

    One of those arguments was the Ontological one. I especially liked one of his refutations in which he applied that argument to the existence of a perfect unicorn (there exists a unicorn than which none greater can be conceived). All the attributes of perfection, including the necessary attribute of existence, applied to this unicorn. Of course,as my former prof pointed out, unicorns are fictional.

  31. “It is logically impossible that there be any other God. So if you were mistaken and believed in the wrong God, you would be a Muslim or a Hindu or a polytheist or what have you; but there wouldn’t be another God.”

    And this is supposed to count as some sort of philosophical argument? I’m not a logician but I’d be embarrassed to make such an obviously absurd argument.

    (In fact I doubt whether Allah is any bigger asshole than Yahweh; just that, at the moment, ISIS are being bigger assholes than any current Xtian group).

  32. The whole subject of this discussion is pointless: there’s no point in discussing the ‘nature’ and will of a being which is hypothetical and in whom it is illogical to believe. NOTHING follows from that.

    Craig reminds me of a barrister to whom it is vital to win the legal argument even though he knows his client is guilty. Pseudo logical Gobbledegook. There is cognitive dissonance there: public prestige at the price of fundamental dishonesty.

    Ethical values are NOT absolute and DO NOT come from religion, which simply formalises them POST FACTUM. That is a question of anthroplogical observation, not deductive logic (or illogic as we see from Craig).

    Typical “Jesuit”: proposes a complex unintelligible argument which does not make sense, then tells you that you must not eat meat on Friday. The mistake is to engage with him in the first place.

  33. To use (my understanding of) WLC’s “logic”:

    A god which is limited by its nature is less perfect than a god which is not so limited. Thus, WLC’s God is voluntarist.

    A god which is limited to a single ‘godness’ is less perfect than one which is not so limited. Thus, WLC’s god must be (capable of being) WLC’s God and IS’s Allah, simultaneously (as well as any and all other gods conceived or yet to be conceived of).

  34. Ralf Cudworth (1731) put the following argument against the Divine Command Theory of morals.

    — If the Divine Command Theory is correct, then, if God were to command that we torture an innocent child to
    death, this command would make torturing an innocent child to death morally right.

    — It is not true that, if God were to command that we torture an innocent child to death, this command would
    make torturing an innocent child to death morally right.

    Therefore, the Divine Command Theory is incorrect.

    Philip Quinn (2000: 70–71) answers that the Divine Command Theory does indeed entail that torturing an innocent
    child to death would be made morally right by God’s commanding it. But Quinn goes on to maintain that Cudworth’s objection is not a refutation of the Divine Command Theory. Quinn accepts the conditional ‘if God were to command that we torture an innocent child to death, this command would make torturing an innocent child to death morally right’.

    But Quinn holds that what makes the conditional acceptable is that the antecedent is never true, since there is no
    possible world in which God commands such a thing. (If the antecedent is never true, then there is no instance in which the antecedent is true and the consequent false.)

    Why does Quinn think there is no possible world in which God commands that we torture an innocent child to death?

    According to Quinn, there is a feature of God’s nature that would keep Him from ever commanding someone to torture a child to death. Quinn claims that God is inherently and necessarily just and so His justice would prevent any such command.

    I cannot see how Quinn’s reply can be correct if, as is usually thought, the Divine Command Theory is espoused as an
    exhaustive account of moral requirements. Consider this argument (which I believe could as easily be run in terms of
    moral reasons rather than in terms of moral requirements).

    Premiss 1: The Divine Command Theory is correct that all moral requirements derive from God’s commands.

    Premiss 2: If all moral requirements derive from God’s commands, then the requirements cannot exist until the
    commands exist.

    Conclusion 1: Before God made any commands, there were no moral requirements.

    Quinn accepts that even before God made any commands there were requirements of justice (inherent in God’s nature)
    that constrained what God could command.

    So now we seem to have this argument:

    Conclusion 1: Before God made any commands, there were no moral requirements.

    Premiss 3: Even before God made any commands, there were requirements of justice constraining His commands.

    Conclusion 2: Requirements of justice were not moral requirements.

    Clearly, however, requirements of justice are moral requirements. If they are moral requirements, then presumably they also were moral requirements (and will continue to be). Conclusion 2 therefore seems false.

    Since the logic of the above argument is valid, then if the argument’s conclusion is false, at least one of the argument’s
    premisses must be false. Premiss 2 cannot plausibly be denied. To reject Premiss 1 is to abandon the Divine Command
    Theory.
    So is Premiss 3 the one to reject?
    According to Quinn, even before God makes His first command, His inherent justice would keep Him from making
    unjust commands. To reject Premiss 3 is to abandon Quinn’s defence of the Divine Command Theory against Cudworth’s objection. But not to abandon this defence of the Divine Command Theory commits us to the implausible view that requirements of justice are not moral requirements.

    From Brad Hooker’s paper “Cudworth and Quinn”

    1. Quinn accepts the conditional ‘if God were to command that we torture an innocent child to death, this command would make torturing an innocent child to death morally right’.

      But Quinn holds that what makes the conditional acceptable is that the antecedent is never true, since there is no
      possible world in which God commands such a thing.

      Tell that to the Canaanites. Or to all the Egyptian first-born.

      1. The problem is that WLC (and other theologians) will waffle between something like an arbitrary “god” and one version of the god of the bible (howerver understood) as it suits them.

    2. The god that WLC worships ordered the killing of Canaanites and this included women with child. It can be argued that this god has issued such a command and going by proponents of DCT, this was morally right. It is no longer a question of if god, but when god did.. that’s my two cents. Maybe I misunderstand

  35. Wouldn’t a maximally perfect god always make maximally perfect decisions? If so, how come he screws up so often in the old testament?

Leave a Reply