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philosophy

William Lane Craig vs. Stephen Law- Thoughts and Links

Recently, William Lane Craig debated Stephen Law on the topic “Does God exist?” Remember the topic as I review the debate.

Craig 1

William Lane Craig presented a different set of arguments from his normal 5. This time, he argued the cosmological and moral arguments along with the argument from the resurrection. My guess is that the short time allowed was the reason for this change of strategy. Craig argued that actual infinites cannot exist in reality. He pointed out that transfinite math simply does not allow addition or subtraction of infinity, because it is absurd, but in the real world, if an infinite did exist, nothing could prevent it from having things added or taken away. Thus, Craig concluded, there cannot be an infinite past.

He then briefly outlined the empirical case for a finite past, citing Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin’s paper which shows that every model of the universe’s past must account for entropy, and therefore must be finite. I don’t want to get sidetracked from my review of the debate here, but so many people seem to either ignore or miss the point of this argument. It’s not that entropy only disallows an infinite universe that is one state, rather, entropy disallows an infinite past for oscillating universe models, bubble universes, and any other types of strategies people have tried to raise in order to rebut cosmological arguments. I recently got an e-mail in which someone said I’m being dishonest by only referencing the Big Bang as evidence for a finite universe, when there may have been previous universes. Well that’s simply wrong, even if there were previous universes, they would have to take entropy into account. If the past is infinite, all the energy available for the generation of universes would have been used up.

Anyway, Craig went on to argue the moral argument: If objective moral values exist, then God exists. They do, so God does. A great point Craig made is that any argument against the existence of objective moral values must rely upon premises which aren’t as plausible as the objective morals themselves. That’s an excellent point that many tend to ignore.

As far as the resurrection is concerned, Craig presented the “three facts” argument. He pointed out that three facts are agreed upon throughout scholarship on the topic: that the tomb was found empty, different individuals saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, the disciples’ belief in Jesus resurrection despite having every predisposition to the contrary. These facts, argued Craig, are best explained by Jesus’ resurrection.

Law 1

Law began by arguing about animal suffering. He said that the extraordinary amount of suffering which is experienced by animals every day is such that it can weigh against the existence of God. He noted that some people dismiss this as “merely animals” but argued, “I wonder if they’d say the same thing if I took a red hot poker to their… cat.” Note how Law distorted his original argument, however. Certainly, I’d be extraordinarily angry with Stephen Law if he took a hot poker to my cat (I don’t have one any more but I used to). But the reason would be because Law is a moral agent. He is capable of knowing what he’s doing, and would clearly have to be sadistic in order to do such an action. If, however, an eagle came and carried my cat away, I would be extremely upset, but I would not accuse the eagle of having done a morally wrong action, because the eagle is not a moral agent. Yet Law used that very emotional image of himself–a moral agent–as an analogy for animal suffering. There’s clearly a major issue with such an argument.

Law went on to argue that there’s no reason to think that the God whose existence Craig is arguing for is not an evil god. Here I think Law had some decent points… for arguing against bare theism, but not against Christianity (see “Analysis” below). He argued that for certain theodicies, there can be parallel arguments constructed for an evil god. He also noted that Craig’s arguments could work just as well for an evil god (a notable exception would be the moral argument, more on that later… and it’s pretty hard to see how the resurrection would fit into his ‘evil god’ scenario). Law also argued that if the good in the world refutes an evil god, the evil in the world should refute a good God. Law didn’t do anything to rebut Craig’s arguments for the existence of God.

Craig 2

Craig quickly attacked Law’s appeal to emotion with animal suffering. He noted that it was very much anthropopathism to assume that animals had the same response to suffering as humans. In fact, he went on to note three hierarchies of suffering, and pointed out that animals do not have the capacity to be aware of the fact that they are suffering. So despite the suffering of animals, they are not even aware of that fact–something which Craig credited to God’s mercy. Animal suffering, he argued, is also necessary for a number of reasons, one of which is the stability of ecosystems. Without predation, all life on earth would be wiped out. Thus, it is fair to say that animal suffering fits into the divine plan.

Craig countered Law’s argument about the ‘evil god’ by noting that the moral argument specifically rebuts Law’s assertions. Not only that, but Law was arguing against a kind of theism which does not exist. Christians don’t survey the world and conclude God is good, rather, they believe God is good because that’s the type of being God is, necessarily.

Craig presented a number of reasons for thinking a good God would allow evil, which would therefore discount the rebutting evidence of evil. He also agreed with Law that looking at the world alone would lead to a draw, but that, as already noted, the moral argument and the type of being God is would defeat an ‘evil god’ scenario.

Law 2

Law argued that Craig had made a straw man of his position by saying that theism is not inductive. Then he went on to argue that the moral argument is the only one Craig can rely on to establish the goodness of God. He cited Swinburne as a Christian who did not believe objective morality relies on God. He ended his second segment by arguing that surely there is enough evil in the world to make the existence of God improbable.

Craig 3

Craig noted that Law has a strange kind of atheism which grants the existence of God but attacks the character. He pointed out that Law had still not rebutted any of his arguments, but focused merely on the character of God. He also pointed out that appealing to Swinburne was a mere appeal to authority and that he could cite a number of atheistic philosophers who agreed with his premises.

Law 3

Law argued that there are no objective moral values (curious, considering the citations Craig read in the debate). He then attempted to rebut the argument from the resurrection by citing an instance where a number of people believed they saw a UFO when it was really the planet Venus.

Craig Conclusion

Craig once more noted that Law had yet to rebut any of his arguments and that Law persisted in maintaining a strange atheism in which God exists, but may or may not be good. He noted that Law’s attempt to rebut the resurrection did not take into account the religio-historical context of that event and that all claims of experience must be measured by objective criteria, which the resurrection passes. He concluded that because his arguments stood undefeated, God exists.

Law Conclusion

Law basically said “why not believe in an evil god?” and argued that Craig still did not justify objective morals.

Analysis

Law came in with a pretty interesting argument which was unfortunately not the topic of the debate. I think it would be really interesting to see Law vs. Craig on a topic like “Is God good?” His arguments had some weight, but I think Craig did an excellent job rebutting them while remaining on track. Law essentially ignored the cosmological argument and put the topic of the debate aside in favor of arguing about whether God is good. As far as the topic of the debate goes, it’s clear that Craig established the existence of God. In fact, Law was essentially granting that point (in the Q&A he argued that it is not the case that because he didn’t rebut the arguments, he agrees God exists… but it is important to note that he did not rebut the arguments so, on the face of it, it seems that the arguments stand unchallenged). As far as Law’s good points go, I think he had the best points I’ve seen an atheist raise in a debate with Craig so far, but Craig was able to adequately rebut them while sustaining his primary argument: that God exists.

Finally, on the “evil god” hypothesis: Law failed to realize that the concept of “greatest possible being” is central to Christian theism and did not take that into account. Craig perfectly illustrated this when he acknowledged that a “creator” on its own cannot be shown to be good or evil, but went on to point out that that doesn’t affect Christian theism, which holds that God is the greatest possible being. Law was, in a sense, arguing against “bare theism,” which is, as he points out, incoherent. Yet Craig was arguing to establish the Christian God–the greatest conceivable being. Law’s arguments therefore seem to only underscore the coherence of Christian theism, by demonstrating that only with a correct concept of God can theism be coherent.

[The following section in brackets added after the post was up and had several comments.]

[I’d like to point out more explicitly why Law’s argument doesn’t work. The reason is  because his concept of ‘god’ is incoherent. Theism claims that God is the greatest possible being. But Law is arguing that this being could be evil. Each of his arguments about the evil god were designed to argue that God ‘could be’ evil. But then Law would have to assert that evil is a property such that it makes beings great. I don’t see how he could argue this. He’d have to first argue the ontological reality of evil–which would establish the existence of objective morality and thus back up Craig’s moral argument. Then he’d have to argue that evil is, in fact, a property. Finally, he’d have to establish that evil is a great-making property. I don’t see any way he could possibly do this, and the burden of proof is definitely upon him to show these concepts are coherent. Unless and until he does that, his arguments are simply incoherent.]

Links

Stephen Law, his evil god, and radical skepticism– I analyze Stephen Law’s evil god challenge further and conclude that it entails radical skepticism.

http://www.premier.org.uk/unbelievable– follow the rest of Craig’s tour through England.

Download the debate at Apologetics 315.

Check out more analysis of the debate at Thinking Matters.

Was Stephen Law Guilty of a Bait and Switch? 

An analysis of Law’s argument for an “evil god.”

Doug Geivett writes about “The Missing Ontological Argument” and Law’s misunderstanding of theism.

SDG.

——

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

43 thoughts on “William Lane Craig vs. Stephen Law- Thoughts and Links

  1. As to an evil god, there is Satan.

    Now I don’t need any evidence to confirm that there is the Lord God Almighty, because at 2:30 am Monday, May 16, 1983 I had my one and only Biblical kind of open-eyed vision.

    As a newish Christian aged 40 years, I was amazed at what took place in the bedroom of my house in north London, whilst lying next to my sleeping wife. One moment I was looking at the curtains when suddenly the curtains were no more and I was looking at a huge white screen. Yet everything else in the bedroom was as normal. Then I saw what I thought was a wilderness/desert where was located a ‘hi-tech’ tent like structure made up of four interlocking circular tents on a 10 x 10 meter base. I was told telepathically this measurement.

    After maybe two minutes, Satan appeared and looked at me. He seemed about my age, grey in colour, hairless, a handsome face with chiselled features with his arms folded across his naked chest.

    I was then told not to wake my wife or children and lay in bed until 6 am, with that he vanished and the curtains ‘returned’. So 3.5 hours later I jumped up and woke everyone and went into another room to my drawing board, where, with the help of my daughter, scribbled down what I had seen concerning the tent apparition.

    Thus, having such a dramatic event happen to me, I certainly believe in the Lord God Almighty because I had come face to face with the Adversary.

    JohnDM

    Posted by John D. Miller | October 20, 2011, 1:08 PM
  2. Nice review JW. I still haven’t seen Craig’s last two debates, mainly because of who he debated, but I really wanna see/hear this one.

    Posted by Austin Gravley | October 20, 2011, 1:28 PM
  3. I left this debate wondering if Stephen Law truly is an atheist, as Dr. Craig stated, why on Earth would one concede to the existence of God just to attack his character? wasn’t the debate about the existence of God? Law then puts his foot in his mouth in his last rebuttal when he states objective moral values do NOT exist, so how exactly is his earlier critique of moral complaints effective against the character of God if it’s nothing more than an emotional opinion?

    How exactly can one cling to denying objective morals and then make moral complaints about God as if there is an absolute moral standard? All and all, Law is admitting that his criticism is nothing more than a subjective moral complaint, while this complaint is standing firmly with it’s feet planted in mid-air.

    This is just a big no-no, if one is going to deny objective moral facts then how on Earth are you credible to use a moral complaint on God as if it “means something” when you admit that there are no objective morals. The whole argument evaporates and becomes nothing more than strict emotional opinions.

    Questions to Stephen Law:

    What makes something Evil, if there are no objective morals? Branding a cat? why?

    What exactly is Stephen Laws views on morality, he seemed to be all over the place? Does morality even exist or is it just an illusion just to aid our survival?

    Why would God be immoral under your (what seems to be) relative moral stance, and is your moral stance consistent with your moral views about yourself? Is it fair to compare God’s morality to your own as if it is truly analogous?

    *Law conceded to God’s existence now the question is*:

    Is God above the creation or is the creation above God in regards to foundations of morality?

    Is it the nature of humans that determine what is right or wrong or is it the nature of God?

    Lastly Doesn’t this seem like Law is ultimately arguing for personal preference of how God should act?

    Posted by Cornell | October 20, 2011, 6:59 PM
  4. J.W.,

    I think your analysis is flawed, for the reasons I’ve been pointing out to Randal Rauser in the comments of this blog post of his: http://randalrauser.com/2011/10/was-stephen-law-guilty-of-a-bait-and-switch/

    Posted by Landon Hedrick | October 20, 2011, 9:50 PM
    • Your critiques are leveled against specific aspects of deity, such as omnipotence, as opposed to the existence of God. The topic of the debate was whether God exists. The KCA in conjunction with the moral argument and the argument from the resurrection established that God exists, so Craig clearly won the debate. Your critiques are leveled against things which were not the topic.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 20, 2011, 11:02 PM
      • I’m afraid you may not have read my comments carefully enough. The question of the existence of God is precisely the question of whether there is a person who is omnipotent, omniscient, maximally good, etc. The argument from evil concludes that such a being does not exist. It does not conclude that God must lack one of these properties. These are some of God’s essential attributes, and as such, God cannot lack them in any world in which he exists, at least according to the traditional view. Thus, to claim that Law was trying to change the subject of the debate to “Is God good?” is to misunderstand the nature of the argument, and the nature of debates about the existence of God more generally.

        Just to be clear about this, do you think that omnipotence, omniscience, and/or maximal goodness are mere contingent properties of God, rather than essential properties? If so, take it up with Craig, since he thinks God has these attributes essentially.

        In general, I’m less impressed with the kalam cosmological argument than you are. But set that aside. Your point is that Law didn’t do anything to undermine the argument, even if he could have. And this, you think, establishes that God exists. Unfortunately, Law’s comments in the debate seemed to go over your head (and Craig’s!). The argument purports to establish that there was a personal creator of the universe, not that God (as traditionally defined–and as defined by Craig) exists. Craig’s complaint that it’s a strange form of atheism that admits of such a creator is misguided, precisely because it still *is* compatible with atheism, regardless of whatever qualms he may have about it. To deny this is to reject precisely the rhetoric we always hear from the Intelligent Design crowd: “The arguments don’t prove God, they just prove an intelligent designer!” Yet here we have Craig turning around to insist that it must be God after all. Uh huh. (In any case, the conceptual analysis he does at the end of that argument doesn’t establish that God created the universe.)

        As for the moral argument, Law did address that. Craig’s argument is notoriously bad, and Law pointed that out during the debate. He could have made it a little more clear, but he did hit the nail on the head in my opinion. The resurrection argument is something Law aimed to undermine, and he did raise some serious considerations to oppose the argument, but my take is that such an argument requires a lot more unpacking from both sides, so it’s not very helpful to use in such a short debate.

        But one issue is whether or not Craig’s arguments all work. I won’t argue about that here, since the best venue for that is in the philosophy journals, and if I have contributions to make to that debate I’ll try to do so there. (I happen to be convinced that Craig’s arguments don’t work.) Another issue is whether or not the argument from evil purports to disprove the existence of God, or only purports to disprove some limited subset of the many different possible theistic views. Even Craig would concede that if the argument is sound, it disproves the existence of God. You seem to want to claim that the argument would only prove that God is not good. Thus, your disagreement here is with Craig. I say more about this in the comments to Randal Rauser’s blog.

        Posted by Landon Hedrick | October 20, 2011, 11:33 PM
      • No, I got your point. You just overstate Law’s case. Craig rebutted the problem of evil. Law’s only other line of argument is that it’s possible God is evil. That is an attack on God’s character, not God’s existence.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 21, 2011, 6:38 AM
      • Interesting that you understood the argument to be claiming “that it’s possible God is evil.” Craig’s comment in his first rebuttal (that God, by definition, can’t be evil) is an indication that this way of describing the argument is really a loose way of talking. The question is not whether God could be evil (in the sense that Craig and other theists understand “God”) but whether the being proved by the kalam cosmological argument could be evil. And for all the kalam argument proves, as Craig confessed, the creator could be evil. But then the creator could be someone other than God, because if it’s an evil creator, then it’s not God (by definition).

        By the way, have you seen Craig’s debate with Shelly Kagan? Well worth watching, if you haven’t.

        Posted by Landon Hedrick | October 22, 2011, 12:27 AM
      • Here’s the difficulty. Let’s say two people were arguing about whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. Suppose that the one who argued that Jesus did rise argued similarly to Craig. But the person arguing against Jesus rising from the dead argued that it is broadly logically possible for the molecules in Jesus’ body to interact in such a way that rather than staying dead, it revivifies him. How would this count as evidence against Jesus rising from the dead? It simply wouldn’t.

        Similarly, Craig argued that God exists (in the abstract). Yet Law’s rebuttal was merely that maybe God’s character wasn’t quite right. Again, this doesn’t disprove God, it simply questions God’s character.

        You have been trying to apply the argument to the essence of God. On Christian theism, of course, God is good. But Law was not arguing that God is, in fact, evil. He only argued that the arguments Craig used could be equally to justify an evil God (and this is false too, because the Moral Argument and argument from Resurrection would be hard pressed to support an evil ‘god’). That would be like, in the resurrection debate, someone saying “Well, molecules could have arranged in such a way that Jesus did rise.” Well, okay, but that grants exactly what is at question: whether Jesus rose! Similarly, Law granted that God existed, but then argued “Well, the arguments could work for an evil god too!” As Craig pointed out, this is a strange kind of atheism-one in which the atheist grants God’s existence.

        As far as the Kagan debate, I’ve watched it and I’m unimpressed with Kagan’s reasoning as well. Social contracts boil down into relativism. As Craig pointed out, Kagan’s arguments don’t apply to the ontology of morality, but the sociology.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 22, 2011, 10:34 AM
      • J.W.,

        Your analogy is flawed, unfortunately. You seem to think that debates about the existence of God are really about whether or not there is a creator of the universe. If there is a creator, then God exists. And then we can worry about his moral character. This is the wrong way to look at things, from Craig’s own point of view. God is essentially maximally good, according to Craig. That means that if the creator is maximally good, it might be God. But if it’s not maximally good, then it isn’t God. So to assume that God’s existence is established (“in the abstract,” as you put it) by the kalam cosmological argument is a mistake.

        Posted by Landon Hedrick | October 23, 2011, 2:18 AM
      • Okay, I’m not going to keep going in circles here, but you’re essentially saying all that needs to be said about this debate, because you’ve pointed out “God is essentially maximally good, according to Craig.”

        Exactly. Now Law didn’t argue that God wasn’t good, other than the problem of evil which he dropped after Craig rebutted it in the first responses. His only argument was that, possibly, the kalam argument would allow for an evil God.

        Now you and he both assiduously ignore that the Moral Argument, which was one of Craig’s arguments, specifically points out that God is the basis of all moral ontology. And this, of course, means that God is indeed essentially good. So it seems Law and yourself both happily ignore those arguments which disprove your point and continue to press it only against the Kalam. Fine.

        The problem is the Kalam is only designed to establish a cause of the universe. Thus, when Law argues that “possibly, the creator of the universe is evil” he’s not countering this argument at all. But he is not countering the Moral argument either, because to do so he’d have to deny a premise, which he doesn’t (although later he denied that objective morals existed–contrary to what he had written, and with an argument which Craig rebutted).

        It seems you and Law both make the confusing error that theism stands or falls on one argument alone. Certainly, if all theists had was the kalam, there’d be no way to know whether God is good. Thankfully, theism doesn’t stand on that argument alone, but on the moral argument, resurrection, design, teleological, ontological, transcendental, etc., etc., arguments. As with many atheists, Law made the mistake of assuming that if he could find that one argument did not establish everything, he’d done all the work he needed to. As I point out in my post “Arguing for Deism?” the arguments are cumulative, and to treat them as otherwise is disingenuous. Thus, I don’t think your objections hold much weight at all. They definitely don’t do anything to the moral argument, which establishes God is good. And had Craig argued the ontological argument, Law and your own difficulties would be even more insurmountable.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 23, 2011, 9:19 AM
      • Before I respond to the rest of your comment, I want to point out that Law isn’t a hack philosopher. So when you say that if Craig had used the ontological argument, Law’s difficulties would have been even more insurmountable, I think you should keep in mind that there are responses to that argument that Law could have (and probably would have) utilized in the debate. So I’ll set that consideration aside.

        Now one of us, I think, needs to listen to the debate again. I certainly didn’t pick up on the notion that Law was abandoning the argument from evil after Craig’s first rebuttal. It seemed to me that this was on the table during the entire debate, and that Law rejected Craig’s responses to it as implausible. You may not have been convinced by Law on this point, but that doesn’t mean he dropped the argument.

        You’re granting, it seems, that the being proved by the kalam cosmological argument could be somebody other than God. Your complaint is that Law and I simply ignore the moral argument. I can assure you that I, at least, don’t ignore that argument. It’s an argument that’s been on my mind for years, and I’ve written a paper responding to Craig’s defense of it for a class in a philosophy graduate studies program. I, like Law, find the argument to be unimpressive. And I’ve been considering revisiting my paper and improving it for submission somewhere when I have time, assuming that my points aren’t already better said elsewhere–e.g. Wes Morriston’s paper “God and the Ontological Foundations of Morality” (forthcoming?) in Religious Studies, which I haven’t yet had the chance to read. (We’ll see if Craig responds to Morriston. If so, will that be his first paper published in a peer-reviewed journal defending the moral argument?)

        In any case, I haven’t ignored the moral argument. In the debate, Law didn’t spend a lot of time with this argument, but he didn’t ignore it either. If there are independent objections to this argument, then it can’t be relied upon for this “cumulative case” strategy you and Craig have in mind. And there are independent objections to the argument. Law pointed out one of them, which many of Craig’s opponents don’t notice: Craig hasn’t given sufficient justification for the first premise of the argument. Law could have gone through everything Craig said in defense of this premise, and explained why it didn’t suffice. But that, of course, would have taken up a lot more of his time. Given that Law rejected Craig’s defense of the first premise, did Craig ever get back around to explaining the reasons we should accept his claim that “If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist”?

        Law also said something else about this argument. He pointed out that even if we accept the controversial premise, utilizing the evidential argument from evil we get the result that objective moral values do not exist. I did not hear him say you what you claim he said (“he denied that objective morals existed”). I heard him say that there is reason to think that morality is objective, but that if Craig had a good argument for premise (1), then we’d have reason to deny premise (2)–namely, the evidential argument from evil.

        As for the argument for the resurrection, Law denied that the considerations listed by Craig give us good reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. He did talk a bit about this during the debate, so I’m assuming that you heard what he had to say.

        So here’s the situation as Law envisioned it. Craig presented the kalam cosmological argument, the moral argument, and the argument for the resurrection of Jesus. Law rejected the moral argument and the argument for the resurrection for the reasons he gave, and he also offered an argument for atheism–the evidential argument from evil. He introduced the “Evil God Challenge” to show why the responses to the argument from evil do not work. Now the complaint can’t be that he didn’t say anything about the moral argument, because he did. The complaint can’t be that he didn’t say anything about the argument for the resurrection, because he did. The only complaint can be that he didn’t say anything about the kalam cosmological argument, because he really did leave that argument alone. (You might also complain that he didn’t do a good job of rejecting those other arguments, but that’s a different matter. It’s not as if he didn’t even address them.)

        Craig’s complaint in the debate was that Law didn’t say anything about kalam. You seem to have the same complaint in your analysis of the debate. You suggested that Law was thereby conceding the existence of God and arguing about whether or not God is good. This is incorrect. Since the only argument Law didn’t respond to was kalam, and since that argument doesn’t establish that God (as traditionally defined, and as defined by Craig) exists, it follows that, at best, Law was conceding for the sake of argument that a creator exists. That’s not the same as conceding that God exists, by your own admission, and Craig’s.

        In order to respond to the last part of your comment, it will help to quote it in full:

        “It seems you and Law both make the confusing error that theism stands or falls on one argument alone. Certainly, if all theists had was the kalam, there’d be no way to know whether God is good. Thankfully, theism doesn’t stand on that argument alone, but on the moral argument, resurrection, design, teleological, ontological, transcendental, etc., etc., arguments. As with many atheists, Law made the mistake of assuming that if he could find that one argument did not establish everything, he’d done all the work he needed to. As I point out in my post “Arguing for Deism?” the arguments are cumulative, and to treat them as otherwise is disingenuous. Thus, I don’t think your objections hold much weight at all. They definitely don’t do anything to the moral argument, which establishes God is good. And had Craig argued the ontological argument, Law and your own difficulties would be even more insurmountable.”

        I’ve already said my piece about the ontological argument and the moral argument. But hopefully now you can see why Law and I were not making the “confusing error” that you accuse us of. We were focusing on the kalam cosmological argument because that’s the only one that Law ignored during the debate. Certainly it doesn’t make much sense for you to now bring up these various other arguments (“design, teleological, ontological, transcendental, etc.”), since Craig didn’t use them in the debate. The complaint can’t be that Law didn’t address those arguments. He only addressed the arguments that Craig actually used which were relevant to proving theism. Since kalam alone cannot prove theism, Law didn’t need to address it.

        Posted by Landon Hedrick | October 23, 2011, 10:47 AM
      • We’re going in circles, so I’ll change the explanation. Law grants the universe is caused. As I (and Craig) have argued, that grants many of the central points of theism. Atheists who agree there is a transcendent cause of the universe are strange atheists indeed.

        Again, all Law argues against is the character of that cause. You wrote, ” Since kalam alone cannot prove theism, Law didn’t need to address it.”

        Again, the Kalam does establish a cause of the universe. That’s one of the central tenants of theism. Law left it unrefuted and only attacks the character of said cause.

        You say you aren’t making the “confusing error” but you are apparently assuming that if an argument is to work for theism, it must establish all of theism all at once.

        Regarding the Moral Argument, in order to deny the first premise Law would have to provide another basis for objective morals. All he did was say Swinburne says you don’t need God for objective morals. I don’t think I need to point out the error.

        Regarding the resurrection, Craig easily rebutted Law’s only attempt to critique it.

        I really don’t see what you or Law think you’re establishing. The fact remains that Law grants the universe is caused. That may not be Christian theism “all at once” but it certainly establishes several of the central theses of that belief. Law’s argument, furthermore, did not point to the existence of an evil god, it only argued that “Possibly, the god established by theistic arguments is evil.”

        You want to exclude other arguments for the sake of focusing on the debate. That’s fair. But note that Craig’s conception of God is as a perfect being–as you’ve noted, such a being would have the property of goodness essentially. In order to counter such a claim, Law would have to argue either that the being did not exist (and his argument from evil was his only attempt to do so–Craig soundly rebutted him–we may just disagree) or that the being is not, in fact, essentially good. But he only argued that the arguments used could, possibly, be analogously used for an evil god. Clearly that doesn’t do anything to rebut Craig.

        Finally, a new tangent: I charge that the concept of an “evil god” is itself incoherent, and so Law was arguing for an impossibility. God is the greatest possible being. Evil is not a great-making attribute. Therefore, an evil god cannot exist.

        Note that Law did nothing to attempt to establish that his concept of god is coherent. All he did was attempt to parody the arguments for the existence of God. But won’t do. If one wants to argue that the theistic arguments can establish an evil god, one must do all the groundwork theism has done to show the coherence of a good God. But Law doesn’t do this. He just thinks that making a parody of theistic arguments is enough. It’s not. He’s arguing for an incoherent concept, and one that is utterly foreign to theism. Again, consider the fact that theism holds God is the greatest possible being. Think about that claim. Law is then claiming “the greatest possible being [might be] evil.” But that’s contradictory. Thus, Law did nothing to rebut the theistic concept of God, nor to rebut the arguments in the debate.

        So in order for his argument to work, Law would have to show that the theistic concept of God is wrong, not by making parodies of the arguments for theism, but by showing the coherence of an evil god over and against the classical theistic concept.

        I therefore argue that Law’s concept of an “evil god” is incoherent. Such a being cannot exist.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 23, 2011, 8:00 PM
      • I updated the post in light of our great discussion. In the interest of intellectual integrity, I figured I’d make explicit the part I updated here: “Theism claims that God is the greatest possible being. But Law is arguing that this being could be evil. Each of his arguments about the evil god were designed to argue that God ‘could be’ evil. But then Law would have to assert that evil is a property such that it makes beings great. I don’t see how he could argue this. He’d have to first argue the ontological reality of evil–which would establish the existence of objective morality and thus back up Craig’s moral argument. Then he’d have to argue that evil is, in fact, a property. Finally, he’d have to establish that evil is a great-making property. I don’t see any way he could possibly do this, and the burden of proof is definitely upon him to show these concepts are coherent. Unless and until he does that, his arguments are simply incoherent.”

        This illustrates what I think is the greatest difficulty with Law’s arguments. He’s literally arguing for an incoherent concept without doing any of the metaphysical groundwork to establish it. Again, he’d have to argue that evil is a property, that it actually exists, and that it is great-making to be evil. I leave it to Law to establish this.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 23, 2011, 8:06 PM
      • J.W.,

        I’m sorry to say that you’re severely misunderstanding Law’s argument. It might help for you to read Law’s paper on this: “The Evil-God Challenge,” Religious Studies Vol. 46, No. 3 (pp. 353-373). (As a side note, it happens to be one of the top ten most-downloaded papers from Religious Studies in the past year.) I’ll do what I can to patch things up here, but I highly recommend reading the paper sometime. It’s certainly worth the time.

        One point you make, which is the same point that Craig made in the debate is this: “Atheists who agree there is a transcendent cause of the universe are strange atheists indeed.” Let me take just a moment to respond to this, because unfortunately you and Craig didn’t understand Law’s point on this, and I’ve done what I could (both here, and in the comments on Randal Rauser’s blog) to explain the point as well. As it happens, both Law and I reject the kalam cosmological argument. Law is unsure about what goes wrong in that argument, but I generally think Wes Morriston’s critiques are in the right neighborhood. (You can see Morriston’s papers for that, I won’t hash it all out here.) But the point is surely that Law did nothing to undermine the argument in the debate, and neither he nor I believe he really needed to in order to undermine the case for theism. Now the complaint is that, as an atheist who rejects the argument, Law really should have given reasons for his rejection. After all, what kind of an atheist believes that a supernatural person created the universe? (No naturalist could believe that, so such an atheist would have to believe in the supernatural.)

        The point in response to this complaint is that it’s irrelevant. Even if a supernatural person created the universe, atheism could still be true. God’s existence is not established by this argument. Now you and Craig want to claim that he’s building a “cumulative case,” but surely you must see that a cumulative case for theism is only good if you have more to offer than the kalam cosmological argument. So Law gave his reasons for rejecting the other arguments, and he left this one alone. That means that the cumulative case is no longer a cumulative case. The case is reduced to the kalam cosmological argument. (This is, of course, on the assumption that Law’s critiques of the other two arguments were sufficient to undermine them. He thinks they were. If you disagree with him about that, that’s a different matter.) So even though Law doesn’t believe for a minute that a supernatural person created the universe, he isn’t forced to undermine the kalam argument in order to undermine Craig’s case for theism. As long as he deals with the other arguments, the case for theism isn’t established.

        By the way, let me just point out that the kalam cosmological argument doesn’t show that the creator is omnipotent, even if it’s sound. On your other blog post that you linked me to (“Arguing for Deism?”) you claim that “the cosmological argument illustrates omnipotence.” But it hasn’t been shown that omnipotence is required to bring the universe into existence, which is why Craig himself doesn’t claim that the creator had to be omnipotent on the basis of this argument. Likewise, you say “the teleological argument demonstrates omniscience and omnipotence,” but I don’t know why you think this either. Omniscience and omnipotence are not required of the designer.

        You wrote: “you are apparently assuming that if an argument is to work for theism, it must establish all of theism all at once.”

        I hope now you can see that I don’t actually assume this. I think that there are concerns to be raised regarding the cumulative case method that you and Craig favor, but I’m willing to set those aside. The fact is that once the moral argument and the argument for the resurrection are undermined, the kalam cosmological argument is the only thing left standing. And Law takes himself to have undermined those other arguments. If your complaint is that he’s not understanding how the cumulative case is supposed to work, you need to recognize the fact that he gives reasons for rejecting the other arguments, so that only one argument is left. And one argument doesn’t prove theism, at least if it’s the kalam cosmological argument. If your complaint is that Law didn’t give good enough reasons to reject those other arguments, then that’s a different issue altogether. I take it that we’re not arguing about that here.

        You’re wrong when you claim that “in order to deny the first premise [of the moral argument] Law would have to provide another basis for objective morals.” This is precisely the mistake that Craig makes in his defense of this argument. Craig is here presenting an argument for the existence of God. It’s not sufficient for him to state the premise and demand that those who reject it give a good reason for rejecting it (e.g. by outlining an alternative metaethical theory). It’s his argument for the existence of God. He has the burden of proving that the premise is true; his opponent doesn’t have the burden of proving that it’s false. That means that Law has no obligation to give an account of objective morality. Craig has an obligation to show that it’s impossible for there to be such an account that’s compatible with atheism. This is something Craig has never attempted to do. He does what you did here: Demand that the opponent prove the premise wrong. It’s a funny way of defending a philosophical argument.

        You’re right that Craig’s conception of God is as a perfect being, and that Law’s only argument against that was the evidential argument from evil. I won’t comment on whether or not the theistic response to that argument is adequate, since I’d like to do a lot more reading on the argument from evil before I come to any conclusions about it. But you might not have fully grasped the force of the “Evil God challenge” on this point. You wrote: “But he [i.e. Law] only argued that the arguments used could, possibly, be analogously used for an evil god. Clearly that doesn’t do anything to rebut Craig.”

        The Evil God challenge does two things. First, it helps support the argument from evil. Law wants to say we should reject the God hypothesis (which postulates a perfect being) because of all the suffering we encounter in the world. Theists respond with various lines of argument (usually theodicies). Law asks what we should think of the Evil God hypothesis. (The hypothesis that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, maximally evil being.) He thinks it will be generally agreed that we should reject this hypothesis on the grounds that it’s inconsistent with the argument from good–all of the good things we encounter in the world are sufficient to disprove this hypothesis. But we can defend the Evil God hypothesis with theodicies which parallel the ones that theists offer. Yet we still think that those aren’t sufficient to save the Evil God hypothesis from disconfirmation given the vast amount of good in the world. So we should similarly reject the God hypothesis.

        Second, it allows us to evaluate the arguments for God’s existence with an eye toward figuring out which arguments (or sets of arguments) really could prove theism. It does this by pointing out that many of the same arguments for the God hypothesis are also arguments for the Evil God hypothesis. But then it’s not much of a case for theism, since it’s equally consistent with atheism (the Evil God hypothesis is an atheistic viewpoint, according to Craig and others). So theists have to find a way of getting around both of these problems.

        Contrary to what you say, this does pose a problem for Craig. First, Craig is willing to bite the bullet regarding the Evil God hypothesis and the argument from good. He claims that the amount of good in the world is not sufficient to disprove such a view. Law rejects this move as implausible and desperate. Those who agree with Law’s intuition here will find that Craig’s skeptical position is untenable. Second, the Evil God challenge is even more powerful as a counter to Craig’s case for theism. Since as long as we can find good reasons to reject Craig’s moral argument and his argument for the resurrection, we’re only left with kalam, and this doesn’t support the God hypothesis more than it supports the Evil God hypothesis. So Craig is left floundering if his other arguments don’t hold up.

        Lastly, you wrote: “Finally, a new tangent: I charge that the concept of an “evil god” is itself incoherent, and so Law was arguing for an impossibility. God is the greatest possible being. Evil is not a great-making attribute. Therefore, an evil god cannot exist.”

        This point is moot, since Law was using “God” loosely when he coined the “Evil God challenge.” He’s just talking about a being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and maximally evil. Of course, given the traditional conception of God, this cannot be God. Law understands this quite well, I suspect, and it doesn’t affect his argument. He wasn’t arguing in the debate that God’s nature is a lot worse than theists imagine it to be (or that it might be, for all we know). He was arguing that God (as traditionally conceived) does not exist. Your objection just misunderstands him, I’m afraid. Now if you happen to think there’s some sort of incoherence in the concept of “Evil God” as Law actually understands it (i.e. an omnipotent, omniscient, and maximally evil being), then that would actually be relevant to his argument.

        Posted by Landon Hedrick | October 24, 2011, 1:06 AM
      • Thanks for the thoughtful (and lengthy) response. I doubt I could respond to everything point-by-point in a concise way, so I’ll just highlight a few difficulties.

        First, you continually brought me back to the point that Craig’s God (and mine) must be good, so arguments to the contrary are arguments against that God. But then with Law’s god, you wrote that he was “using ‘God’ loosely…”

        I don’t see how this does not beg the question. Either we’re talking about the concept of the God of classical theism–which entails greatest possible being theology, or we’re not. Law’s ‘god’ is a caricature, which rants against a god that no one argues exists. Not only that, but as I pointed out, the concept is indeed incoherent.

        Because of this fundamental incoherence in Law’s primary argument, the evil god, I reject the entire chain of reasoning. If a concept is incoherent, it doesn’t do anything to argue against those concepts it tries to discredit. Note that you presented yourself with a problem: you continually argued that one must defend theism as a whole, but then you allow Law to caricature theism and make up his own concept of god in order to counter theism. There is a fundamental inconsistency in the argument style which favors Law’s methodology.

        Again, Law’s concept of an evil god doesn’t speak to the classical theistic concept of God as the greatest possible being. It is not only incoherent, but it is not God. As you yourself said, if God were evil, God is not God. Exactly! So Law’s concept isn’t a concept of God at all, it’s something he just made up.

        The second area of disagreement is whether Law actually did anything to counter the argument from resurrection or the moral argument. I don’t think he did. He had only very brief comments on either, and Craig promptly responded to both.

        Third, the implications of the Kalam. I think I’d be really hard pressed to find atheists who agree there is a transcendent cause to the universe. Once the “cause of the universe” is thought through, one realizes it must be at least extraordinarily powerful (it brought the universe into existence ex nihilo), transcendent (it is not itself part of the universe), and personal (it’s an agent–abstract objects can’t cause things). So an “atheist” who believed this would believe that the universe is caused by a personal, transcendent, and personal entity. I know I’d be really happy if all atheists believed this, it would make arguing for theism much simpler. This kind of atheism is “atheism [wink].” I hope that you, if an “atheist,” do believe in this causal agent. It gives us a great common ground.

        Finally, you’ve done nothing to establish that Law’s concept of an evil god is coherent. I have already charged that it is not. The reasoning behind it, you ignored. Law is misusing the title of “God.” As you yourself point out, it doesn’t match the God of classical theism, and so it is not “God” in a meaningful sense. Not only that, but I pointed out that if Law wants his argument taken seriously, he’d have to establish that “maximally evil” is indeed a great-making property in order to make it analogous to “maximally good.” I sincerely doubt that he can establish that being evil is great. Further, he’d have to argue the ontology of evil, in spite of his relativistic arguments in the debate. Also, I doubt that there is coherence to the concept of “maximally evil.” That’s more groundwork Law must do to establish the credibility of his argument.

        However, given that Law did none of this groundwork, I think it’s safe to utterly reject his incoherent concept. Not only does it caricature theism, but it’s fundamentally flawed. With the downfall of his incoherent argument, he is left with only his poorly developed problem of evil.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 24, 2011, 12:53 PM
      • J.W.,

        In this comment you seem to want to make four points. Let me state them and respond to them:

        (1) “Evil God” is incoherent, if we’re talking about the concept of the God of classical theism.

        Yes indeed! It is incoherent to suppose that the God of classical theism is evil, since it’s part of that being’s essence that he be maximally good. What you’re failing to understand is that Law wasn’t falling into this incoherence, which is pretty clear when you look at what he means by “Evil God.” (He explains it in his paper, so I understand that you might not have picked up on it if you haven’t read that paper yet. But then again, I thought I explained it pretty clearly in my last comment, to no avail.) By “Evil God” Law just means to be talking about an omnipotent, omniscient, maximally evil being. If the word “God” in the name is throwing you off, just re-name the concept. Call it “Evil Being” or “Evil Deity” or “Demon” or whatever. The name is unimportant. What’s important is that we’re talking about a being with those properties. If there’s something incoherent about such a being, it has to do with those properties not being compossible. It has nothing to do with this being inconsistent with the tenets of classical theism. Obviously it’s inconsistent with classical theism! That’s why it’s an atheistic position, as I’ve been saying.

        (2) Law didn’t undermine Craig’s moral argument or his argument for the resurrection.

        Let’s keep in mind that there are two distinct issues here: (i) Did Law successfully rebut Craig’s arguments?, and (ii) Did Law take himself to successfully rebut Craig’s arguments? I think the answer to (ii) is surely yes. This is important because it helps us to see his strategy in the debate. From his point of view, the only argument Craig gave which was left standing was the kalam cosmological argument, but that argument doesn’t establish theism, so Craig failed to establish theism. I hope that this, at least, is uncontroversial.

        As for (i), it’s an interesting question whether Law’s considerations were adequate to undermine Craig’s arguments. If they weren’t, then maybe Craig did prove theism after all during the debate. So let me ask you: When Law charged that Craig failed spectacularly to prove the conditional premise of his moral argument, what was Craig’s response? What considerations in the debate did Craig offer to demonstrate that “If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist”? Did he show that it’s more plausible to accept this premise than to deny it, and if so, how?

        (3) It’s a strange sort of atheist who believes that there’s a powerful, personal supernatural creator of the universe!

        Yes, it is. Law is not such an atheist (nor am I). But by refusing to address the argument in the debate, Law was not thereby conceding that he really believes there is such a being. He can grant this argument to Craig, refute the other two, and undermine Craig’s cumulative case that way. It’s like this: Suppose in a debate about the existence of God, the theist offers evidence for ghosts. Now, assuming that the atheist ignores this and successfully refutes everything else, will the theist’s case thereby be established? No. The theist might say: “Look, he didn’t even say anything about my evidence for ghosts. It’s a strange sort of atheist who believes in ghosts!” But don’t we agree that the atheist doesn’t need to address that evidence, if he can grant it and still prevent the theist from establishing theism? One strategy in debates is to grant your opponent things they argue for and see whether their conclusion is really established. Craig shouldn’t complain that Law didn’t address the kalam argument. He should be grateful. Law was willing to grant him that argument, to show that theism still has not been established by Craig in the debate. Craig’s complaint that this is a strange sort of atheist is irrelevant. (Not to mention it was a very smart move on Law’s part, since he didn’t have to waste time addressing the evidence for ghosts…er…the kalam argument. Craig knows how to make people look bad when they debate that particular argument, so it didn’t only save time, it saved a bunch of distractions.) I think the new standard in these debates with Craig should be to grant him kalam and fine-tuning, undermine the moral argument and the argument for the resurrection, and explain that he hasn’t established theism. Well, maybe that would take some of the fun out of it.

        (4) You haven’t shown that an omnipotent, omniscient, maximally evil being is coherent.

        You tell me how you establish that an omnipotent, omniscient, maximally good being is coherent, and I’ll get back to you.

        (Actually, your real complaint here is just the same as your complaint in the first point–namely, that it’s incoherent to suppose God could be maximally evil. I’ve already explained why that objection is misguided.)

        Posted by Landon Hedrick | October 24, 2011, 9:18 PM
      • Regarding 1)- If Law was arguing for “an omnipotent, omniscient, maximally evil being” then it is up to him to defend that concept. All he did was pose it as a possible parody, without any metaphysical groundwork.

        Regarding 2, i) Law’s only response to the first premise was simply that Swinburne denies it. Again, this hardly does anything to rebut the premise.

        Regarding 3) I don’t see how granting (or setting aside) a transcendent, personal, powerful creator of the universe does not provide powerful evidence for theism.

        Regarding 4) I’m shocked you used a tu quoque here. Surely we’re beyond such mud slinging. (No, YOU prove it!)

        I’ve provided positive reasons to think that Law’s concept is incoherent. I charged that omnimalevolence is, on the face of it, incoherent, with Matko, I agree that there is a distinct incoherence in the thought of an omniscient, infinitely wise being knowing the “good” and intentionally going against that. Further, Law hasn’t done the groundwork theists have done in showing that an omnibenevolent being is indeed coherent. For the coherence of the “evil god,” one would have to establish the coherence of evil as a ‘great making’ property. I trust you can see how disanalogous this makes Law’s concept.

        The power of his argument would lie in how closely his ‘evil god’ concept can analogue the God of classical theism. You yourself grant that Law doesn’t even bother to interact with classical theism, but simply makes up his own concept. Not only that, but this concept doesn’t meaningfully analogue the attributes of the God of classical theism. For, as you grant, classical theism holds God is a maximally great being. Law’s ‘evil god’ is not essentially maximally great, so it is not an analogy. His argument therefore fails, even if he could show his being was coherent. For it is simply not analogous to the God of classical theism. I find this point fairly simple, and devastating to Law’s argument. If his argument doesn’t meaningfully provide an analogy for the God of classical theism, then his argument, which was totally based on analogy, also fails. You’ve already granted that his analogy is weakened to the point that it doesn’t include the “greatest possible” concepts found in classical theism, so I trust I can be forgiven for not finding Law’s “analogy” very compelling.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 25, 2011, 4:39 PM
      • J.W.,

        (1) Law wasn’t arguing for “an omnipotent, omniscient, maximally evil being.” (Why would he argue for such a being when he clearly and unambiguously claims that there is no such being?) Your complaint was that “Evil God” (or call it whatever you like, the name is irrelevant) can’t be the God of traditional Christian theology, since the traditional concept of God is “the greatest possible being,” and evil is not a great-making property. And of course this is irrelevant, as I’ve been pointing out. Law just means to be talking about a being who is omnipotent, omniscient, and maximally evil.

        (2) Law himself denied the premise, he didn’t just mention that Swinburne denies it. He challenged Craig to offer reasons for thinking that the premise is true. Did Craig offer any reasons for thinking it’s true? What were they? (By the way, do you agree about what I said about the burden of proof here? It’s Craig’s burden to prove the premise, not his opponent’s burden to prove that it’s false.)

        (3) Let me re-state what you’ve said here by replacing “theism” with the concept that you have in mind: “I don’t see how granting (or setting aside) a transcendent, personal, powerful creator of the universe does not provide powerful evidence for the view that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and maximally good being.”

        Really? You don’t see it? It seems to me that if Craig is trying to prove that there’s an omnipotent, omniscient, and maximally good being, and all he’s established is that there’s a transcendent, personal, powerful creator of the universe, then he has “failed spectacularly” (to use Law’s phrase) to prove what he set out to prove.

        (4) Mud slinging? I’m just at a loss about what you’re expecting from Law here. Maybe you’re not sure whether “maximally evil” is a coherent notion, or whether such a property could be instantiated by a being that’s omnipotent and omniscient? In that case, it’s better to explicitly state what your worry is, and then Law can address it. If you have a good reason for thinking that the concept is incoherent, then you’ve got a response to Law (though I think he can reformulate his challenge in a way that will allow it to still play an important role). But if you’re just not sure whether the concept is incoherent, then it seems you don’t have a response to Law. He’s challenging theists to explain why belief in God is significantly more reasonable than belief in “Evil God.” I don’t see how claiming “I’m not sure whether or not an omnipotent, omniscient, maximally evil being is coherent” is going to suffice to show that belief in God is thereby significantly more reasonable.

        Now, the first consideration you raised regarding this was to point out that “Evil God” cannot be the God of traditional theism, since the latter is by definition the greatest possible being. This is entirely correct; it’s what I’ve said all along. But it doesn’t do anything to undermine Law’s case.

        Now you claim that “omnimalevolence” is incoherent, but I’m not sure why you believe this. I should note that Wes Morriston discusses this a little bit in his paper “The Evidential Argument from Goodness,” The Southern Journal of Philosophy Vol, XLII (2004). Maybe you think that an omniscient being would know all moral truths, and knowing the moral truths is sufficient to entail that you will act in accordance with what is morally right. Law responds to a similar challenge toward the end of his paper. One thing I would want to know is why we should think that knowing moral truths is sufficient to entail that you will act in accordance with what is morally right. Maybe instead the worry is that “Evil God” is supposed to be perfectly rational (maybe this falls out of omniscience?), and it would be irrational to do what you know is morally wrong. This claim has a particularly Kantian sound to it, and I take it that many philosophers would reject it.

        You wrote: “I agree that there is a distinct incoherence in the thought of an omniscient, infinitely wise being knowing the “good” and intentionally going against that.”

        This is a little different than the possibilities I was just considering, since I was talking about moral rightness and wrongness. This particular objection that you’re pressing is, I think, the objection that Law actually addresses in his paper. So you know where to find his response.

        You wrote: “The power of his argument would lie in how closely his ‘evil god’ concept can analogue the God of classical theism. You yourself grant that Law doesn’t even bother to interact with classical theism, but simply makes up his own concept. Not only that, but this concept doesn’t meaningfully analogue the attributes of the God of classical theism. For, as you grant, classical theism holds God is a maximally great being. Law’s ‘evil god’ is not essentially maximally great, so it is not an analogy.”

        I don’t see what the problem is here. First, I don’t see why you think that “Evil God” has to be closely analogous to the God of classical theism in order for there to be a challenge. But secondly, it baffles me that you’re denying that Evil God is at all analogous to God since God is “a maximally great being,” and Evil God is not. Look, Evil God is omnipotent and omniscient, just like God. He’s at least similar to God insofar as that goes. Where does he differ from God? Well, God is maximally good, and Evil God is maximally evil. If your complaint is that this makes them not analogous after all, then I don’t see how you can be satisfied. (What do you want Law to do, also stipulate that Evil God is maximally good? That would defeat the purpose of his thought experiment.)

        In any case, you’ll have to explain why Evil God has to be closely analogous to the God of traditional theism in order to pose any sort of problem. On the face of it, I don’t see why that would be so (assuming whatever strong sense of “closely analogous” you apparently have in mind).

        Posted by Landon Hedrick | October 25, 2011, 10:41 PM
      • Finally, a new tangent: I charge that the concept of an “evil god” is itself incoherent, and so Law was arguing for an impossibility. God is the greatest possible being. Evil is not a great-making attribute. Therefore, an evil god cannot exist.

        My take:

        A moral system is all about committing good acts and avoiding to commit bad acts. This isn’t done for its own sake but has a rational justification. Philosophers give arguments for their theory of correct morality. This also means that moral doing is intimately connected with rationality. It is irrational to know what good and bad are, and yet prefer bad over good. Such a transgression is only possible under ignorance of what good or bad is or serious deficiency of one’s cognitive faculties.

        An Evil God knows that he’s committing evil acts, but this also means that he knows what good acts are in relation to those evil acts. You can’t know what evil is without the good and vice versa; so Evil God knows what good and bad are, yet he prefers bad over good; but this is impossible. A supreme being is of infinite wisdom, knowledge, and prudence. It can’t prefer bad over good unless it is irrational, therefore not perfect, therefore not God.

        Posted by Matko Gjurašin | October 24, 2011, 2:40 PM
      • Thanks for your insightful comments throughout. I think you’ve hit it right on the head with that argument. It presents a positive case against the coherence of an evil god. Again, the onus is upon Law and his defenders to show the concept is coherent.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 24, 2011, 2:43 PM
      • That an omnimalevolent God is something incoherent also makes Law’s major claim that classical arguments for God’s existence can be used to support his existence baseless.

        Posted by Matko Gjurašin | October 24, 2011, 3:10 PM
  5. Here is something baffling. Law wrote on his blog that he set out to disprove the existence of “Craig’s God”. Craig’s God is obviously the God of Christianity, who is by definition omnibenevolent. Then what was the purposes of that exercise with that ridiculous Evil God argument?

    Posted by Matko Gjurašin | October 22, 2011, 7:34 PM
    • Right, that’s kind of the problem. If he’s arguing against Craig’s God, he would have to argue that God cannot be good. But all he argued is that the arguments Craig used could be used for an evil god (which they can’t, but that’s beside the point).

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 22, 2011, 7:54 PM
      • I’d add that even if one stays only on the level of natural theology (“bare theism” how you call it), with no addition of revelation, Law’s argument is null and void. An omniscient, omnipotent, and omnimalevolent being is a sheer logical impossibility. What he argues is nonsense.

        Posted by Matko Gjurašin | October 22, 2011, 8:43 PM
  6. Given the fact of unnecessary, undeserved suffering, an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent being is a sheer logical impossibility. What Craig argues is nonsense.

    There is no contradiction in reducing human suffering a little bit. If God could do this and does not, he is not all-loving.

    If we say that the amount of suffering in the world is already at the lowest possible level, and that any reduction would result in reducing the Greater Good, then we have to abandon intercessory prayer. God’s hands are tied; any change would be a deviation from perfection. It strains belief to say that God could create the universe but can’t reduce suffering even a little.

    We would also have to face the fact that humans are grist for God’s mill; in the world we observe, man is to God as goldfish are to men. If God uses us for his purposes, he violates Kant’s categorical imperative of not using humans as a means to an end. If we say God isn’t bound by such things, that’s just another way of saying God isn’t moral the way humans aspire to be. This would contradict Craig’s definition of God as maximally moral.

    An omnipotent being can reach any end via any logically possible means. Omnipotence obviates Greater Good arguments. Suffering would never be necessary for an omnipotent God for any reason. At minimum, he could accomplish at least some of his ends with a little less suffering than what we observe.

    Infinite future bliss doesn’t help, either. A child doesn’t have the sophistication to take comfort in an afterlife. Future reward doesn’t cancel present pain. If God could bring us to paradise with less suffering here on earth and does not, he is not maximally loving.

    Craig’s God could only exist in a universe without suffering, such as the Heaven we hear about. This earthly prelude can not be the work of an all-loving being. Some of us lead good lives. This only suggests that God plays favorites, but an all-loving God is ruled out.

    Posted by donsevers | October 22, 2011, 9:55 PM
    • Don, I’m honestly shocked by your intellectual dishonesty here. You’ve already conceded elsewhere on my site that the free will defense and a few other types of theodicy adequately resolve the problem of evil. You conceded this point in the comments here.

      I will not rehash those arguments, for I think I sufficiently outlined them there, and because you already conceded that this concept is not contradictory, I can’t help but marvel that you keep trying to raise this as a legitimate objection to the existence of God.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 22, 2011, 10:27 PM
      • >You’ve already conceded elsewhere

        No, I haven’t. Please be specific and I’ll clear it up.

        The free will defense doesn’t address natural suffering at all.

        Further, God doesn’t have to remove free will to reduce suffering. When the police intervene during a murder, do they remove the free will of the assailant? No. They intervene in a particular case. God could intervene in at least some cases of suffering without removing our free will. I protect my kids from harm, but they are not my puppets.

        Posted by donsevers | October 22, 2011, 10:41 PM
      • I wrote, on the page which I linked:

        Let “T” be “God is good”; let S be “There is suffering”; let P be “any proposition J.W. introduced which was intended to show that God may be unable to prevent suffering [any argument above]”; let R be “God has reduced suffering”

        Don’s claim is that :
        S⊃~◊T
        S
        ~◊T (modus ponens)

        My claim is that:
        ◊P⊃◊T
        ◊P
        ◊T (Modus ponens)

        In order to get around my argument, Don must demonstrate that ~◊T is the case, which would entail Don showing that ~◊P. It is not my job to prove that P, because I have only asserted that ◊P, a weaker statement.

        Note further, that Don has argued that I must show that R. But even if ~R, it does not follow that ~◊T, Don needs a further premise, namely,
        T⊃R

        I grant this premise. However, I have asserted that ◊R. I don’t have to show that R is the case in order to demonstrate that ◊R, in that case I would be demonstrating R, not ◊R.
        Follow that with the argument that
        ◊R⊃◊T
        ◊R
        ◊T (modus ponens)

        You wrote, in that same discussion,
        “His [my] argument only shows that an omnibenevolent, omnipotent god is not contradictory.”

        I see no reason to take this further. You keep rehashing the same arguments, on post after post, despite having conceded the points. You need to find new arguments or concede God’s existence, as you’ve already conceded your arguments about evil don’t establish what you’ve tried to establish.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | October 23, 2011, 9:07 AM
  7. Of course Jesus, the Son of God became evil, for the route to the Cross led Jesus to the root of all evil so to speak.

    JDM

    Posted by John D. Miller | October 23, 2011, 5:22 AM
  8. In the interest of fairness, I think it is a misrepresentation of Law to say that he argued that God, as traditionally conceived, could be evil. His point was that the Kalaam gives us no reason to believe God is good. The evil god challenge granted the conclusion of the Kalaam and then, I think, was meant to show that one can’t get very far, given the evidence. As law says himself, if you think an evil god is absurd or unlikely, why think a good god is coherent or likely. If I’m right in saying this, though, then Laws argument is simply a parody, a tarted up spaghetti monster objection. I don’t see how any spin on his “challenge” can actually make it sound like a good one.

    Posted by matt | October 23, 2011, 10:42 PM
  9. Am I missing something in the debate? Wasn’t Craig’s argument for the historicity of the resurrection part and parcel of an over-all argument for the goodness of God? I mean, If Jesus resurrected, then all the more reason we have to believe that God is how Jesus revealed Him to be –a good God.

    All Stephen did to try to rebut this was to allude to some people in one incident having mistakenly believed some shiny glowing thing to be some aliens. But, this would be a good rebuttal if, in this story, someone actually predicted aliens would appear on that given date, and that there will be shiny glowing things in the sky. One of the strengths of the case for the resurrection is that we not only have evidence for Jesus’s resurrection, we also have Jesus himself making outlandish claims of being the son of God and the messiah. So, in a significant sense, the resurrection validates everything Jesus said. I’m astonished why Stephen completely glossed over this one and annoyingly believed his alien analogy to be a sound one.

    Posted by Miguel | October 24, 2011, 10:39 AM
  10. I think it is fairly obvious that you must have been listening to a different debate, your straw-manning of Law is worse than Craig. Craig absolutely failed to rebut Laws evil god, and Law pointed that out numerous times. The “animal suffering is necessary for ecosystems” and “why can’t know that god doesn’t have a good reason to permit suffering” were both addressed by Law who showed that they are theodicies that can be switched to favor evil god. Also just because you ASSERT that god is the “greatest possible being” means nothing, you must argue in its favor, evil god could be the “worst possible being” the question, which Craig failed to answer, is why is one more reasonable than the other?
    BTW I was disappointed with laws rebuttals to Craig’s arguments, and overall, Craig probably came out on top ( as usual) but never the less, he failed to show why god is more reasonable than anti-god.

    Posted by Chris Wallis | November 9, 2011, 5:10 AM

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: How Stephen Law Failed in His Debate with William Lane Craig | Thinking Matters - October 20, 2011

  2. Pingback: William Lane Craig vs. Stephen Law- Thoughts and Links « Ratio Christi-Ohio State University - October 22, 2011

  3. Pingback: William Lane Craig vs. Peter Millican- Thoughts and Links « J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - October 27, 2011

  4. Pingback: William Lane Craig vs. Peter Millican- Thoughts and Links - November 2, 2011

  5. Pingback: Stephen Law, his evil god, and radical skepticism « J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - August 27, 2012

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