Book Plunge: In God We Doubt Part 4

What happens when worldviews debate? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this chapter, Humphrys writes about an interaction between a Christian, William Lane Craig, and an atheist, Lewis Wolpert. It was a debate done in England and done to a packed house. Humphrys freely admits the reason for that was Craig. He also says most of the audience consisted of Christians.

So how does he describe Craig’s opening statement?

Craig had these arguments. The first is that God explains the origin of the universe in that whatever begins to exist had a cause and since the universe began to exist, it has a cause beyond it found in a personal God. Also, God fine-tunes the universe. Third, God makes sense of the reality of moral values. Fourth, the case for the resurrection of Jesus shows that Christianity is true. Fifth, God can be personally experienced. If you’ve seen Craig debate, you know all of these arguments already.

Now I have been paraphrasing, but when he gets to Wolpert’s response, I can easily quote him. This he says is the essence of Wolpert’s rebuttal:

It’s bunkum.
All of it.

He then says that of course, he said more with wit, but how can an atheist intellectually engage with a believer? This is an astounding claim. So Humphrys admits that five arguments are made and Wolpert’s response is just “It’s bunkum” and the problem is on the side of the believer?

For Humphrys, it boils down to one question.

“If God created the universe, what created God?”

Of course, if Humphrys had someone on like Edward Feser, he would find this question simple to dispense with. Naturally, Humphrys uses Dawkins’s quote about how complex the designer of the universe must be. All this assumes God is a material being composed of parts. As a strict holder of divine simplicity, I deny that outright. God’s very nature is to be and asking what made Him is like asking “What created existence?” It would have to be something that exists and then you get into a contradiction. Those looking to read Feser can go here. The second objection he deals with that is not serious is the one about “What caused God?” I will quote his final paragraph.

So, to ask “What caused God?” really amounts to asking “What caused the thing that cannot in principle have had a cause?”, or “What actualized the potentials in that thing which is pure actuality and thus never had any potentials of any sort needing to be actualized in the first place?”, or “What imparted a sufficient reason for existence to that thing which has its sufficient reason for existence within itself and did not derive it from something else?”  And none of these questions makes any sense.  Of course, the atheist might say that he isn’t convinced that the cosmological argument succeeds in showing that there really is something that could not in principle have had a cause, or that is purely actual, or that has a sufficient reason for its existence within itself.  He might even try to argue that there is some sort of hidden incoherence in these notions.  But merely to ask “What caused God?” – as if the defender of the cosmological argument had overlooked the most obvious of objections – simply misses the whole point.  A serious critic has to grapple with the details of the arguments.  He cannot short-circuit them with a single smart-ass question.  (If some anonymous doofus in a combox can think up such an objection, then you can be certain that Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz, et al. already thought of it too.)

Humphrys says that Craig and his followers dismiss the conundrum. I’m not defending Craig’s version of the cosmological argument, but it is not the classical one that was used by Aquinas and others. Theirs was not about the origin of the universe. We who use this one do not dismiss the question. We show why the question is a nonsense question. I suppose I can just easily say “But Humphrys and his followers dismiss any such interaction on those grounds and want to stick with what they think is a stumper.”

Along these lines, he also makes the case about Bertrand Russell’s teapot. I have already dealt with this here.

He then goes on to talk about Douglas Adams and says that when Adams put the words into God’s mouth that “I refuse to prove that I exist for proof denies faith and without faith I am nothing”, he got to the essence of religion.

It’s really embarrassing seeing what these people think is a powerful argument.

I challenge them to go back and see the word that was used in the time of Jesus, pistis, and show me where it was meant to be “Belief without evidence” and before they gleefully turn to Hebrews 11:1, nope. That’s not it. These people have bought into this false notion so long they’ve come to have “faith” in their idea of faith.

He then goes to Keith Ward who is a Christian and in response to his idea of God creating, asks why would God create the world if He already had everything for His happiness in Himself? Now you must understand that for an atheist, their fault with Christians is they ask questions and don’t do science to say “Let’s find out!” However, if you’re an atheist, you can just ask the question and the question alone is the defeater. Obviously, brilliant Humphrys has thought of a question that no one in 2,000 years of Christianity ever thought about.

The reply generally has been God’s desire to spread love beyond Himself. God created because creation is good and extending love is good and God wants to create other beings who will come into the joy that He has. It was said in the past, I think by the Celtics, that the Trinity has been in a dance of love for all eternity and mankind is made to join in the dance.

He then later says that if you are a Christian philosopher, don’t you already have the conclusion beforehand and find the arguments? This is simply a genetic fallacy. Even if that is the case, the arguments stand or fall. Could I not say to Humphrys “Don’t you already have the conclusion of Wolpert that it’s total bunkum and thus have the conclusion before the arguments? Sauce for the goose and all that.

He then goes on to say that something Craig said was foundational in his conversion was a smiling girl who got him to become a Christian. Naturally, Humphrys thinks Craig has stayed there. He has to after all. It can’t be the arguments. Gotta love atheist psychologizing. Craig’s arguments remain untouched. The man, on the other hand, has to be analyzed to find out why he’s really holding these positions.

I come back to what I said in the first part. Humphrys says someone with the mind of an inquisitive child can see past the arguments for God. Therefore, it must be a psychologizing thing. It’s too bad Humphrys doesn’t treat his skepticism the same way.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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