XFiles: Heartless apologetics

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 7: “What About Suffering?”)

The more I read William Lane Craig, the more respect I have for the sheer deviousness of his approach. We’ve already looked at how he pulls a philosophical bait-and-switch scam in order to substitute the problem of suffering for the far less tractable problem of evil. And now that we’re considering just the limited question of how suffering seems to contradict the Christian idea of a loving God, he pulls another trick on the unsuspecting believers in his audience.

The approach he’s going to take is to claim that suffering is merely an emotional reaction of people who reject God. Many Christians, however, feel the same way. Even though they don’t reject God, they feel that human suffering poses a problem for their Christian faith. So Craig does something psychologically very clever: he begins this part of his book with two long, highly-detailed stories of children suffering horrible, lingering deaths due to natural disasters. He takes great pains to induce a powerful emotional reaction in his readers, and then he begins his argument that the problem of suffering is an emotional problem rather than an intellectual one, while their thoughts are still being overpowered by their emotions.

I’ve got to admit, scruples aside, that is one ingenious approach.

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XFiles: The Problem of Honesty

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 7: “What About Suffering?”)

One of the biggest problems for Christian apologetics is what to do with the problem of evil. God is supposedly all-good, all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving. What’s more, He is also supposed to be the only truly self-existent Being. Everything else that exists was either created directly by God, or by a chain of cause-and-effect whose First Cause is ultimately God.

That’s a problem, because the world abounds in what Christians refer to as sin and evil, which should not be there. If the only self-existent Being is a perfectly good and loving Almighty God, then only good things should result from His deliberate and sovereign actions, even indirectly. No necessity can constrain God except those which are inherent in His nature, and thus if God’s nature does not require evil, then there can be no necessity that evil exist. As an almighty God He should be capable of creating a world without evil, and as a loving God He should want to do so. Thus, the existence of such a God necessarily implies the absence of evil, which contradicts what we see in real life.

William Lane Craig attempts to address this problem with an approach that is both subtle and profoundly deceptive: instead of directly confronting the contradictions raised by the existence of evil, he re-frames the debate into one where the only question is whether God’s existence is incompatible with human suffering. Since there are at least some circumstances where “no pain, no gain” is a valid observation, this re-definition stacks the deck in his favor, and leaves him with an easy out. The uncritical reader is then left with the feeling that Craig has dealt with the ancient Problem of Evil, when in fact all he’s done is a simple bait-and-switch.
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Craig vs. Craig on “objective morality”

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 6: “Can We Be Good Without God?”)

Remember those “objective” moral values that are the foundation of Craig’s moral argument for God? Turns out he does not actually believe they exist either.

What does it mean to say, for example, that the moral value justice just exists? It’s hard to make sense of this. It’s easy to understand what it means to say that some person is just, but it’s bewildering when someone says that in the absence of any people justice itself exists. Moral values seem to be properties of persons, and it’s hard to understand how justice can exist as an abstraction.

Nor do objective moral duties exist either.

Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that moral values like justice, loyalty, mercy, forbearance, and the like just exist. How does that result in any moral obligations for me? Why would I have a moral duty to be, say, merciful? Who or what lays such an obligation on me?

Exactly. Moral duties, like moral values, exist in the minds of those to whom they apply. They are subjective, not objective. Craig is refuting his own argument.

To be fair, Craig thinks he’s refuting what he calls “atheistic moral platonism,” but as you can see above, he’s actually talking about moral values that exist objectively, i.e. moral values whose existence does not depend on and/or consist of someone’s perception of them. As I’ve been pointing out all along, this idea is literally nonsense, and now I think we can fairly say that Craig knows it. And yet the first premise of his argument is, “If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist,” followed by the second premise, “Objective moral values and duties do exist.” But if that’s all nonsense, then where does that leave Craig’s argument from morality?

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