Does God Exist?


Saturday night atheist author Christopher Hitchens (god is Not Great and Is Christianity Good for the World?), pictured on the right, and theology professor and author Dr. William Lane Craig (Reasonable Faith), on the left, met in a formal debate of the question, Does God exist? The two-and-a-half hour interchange took place at Biola University in La Mirada, CA. And I had the privilege, thanks to fellow blogger, Mike Duran (who also posted on the event), of attending. For those of you interested in a brief, fairly objective overview, I suggest you read the front page article that appeared in the Whittier Daily News this morning.

Demand for good seats was high. I stood in line for over two hours, then sat another hour waiting for the debate to begin, but the time was well worth it. Actually this was the first formal debate I’ve every attended, and it was a good one.

After opening remarks by the host (including a caution against raucous or rancorous audience response—a caution wonderfully observed) and the introduction of moderator Hugh Hewitt and of the two participants, the debate began with opening arguments. As I recall, Dr. Craig and Mr. Hitchens each spoke for twenty minutes.

Round two consisted of rebuttals followed by cross examinations in which each debater had a set number of questions to put to the other. Round four consisted of a response to the points made during the cross examination, followed by closing arguments. The debate ended with several students asking questions which both men answered. Afterward they participated in a book signing.

So what did they actually say?

Dr. Craig spoke first and presented five arguments for the existence of God based on deductive reasoning (if point A is true, that leads logically to point B. If B is true, then logically C). As he explained, in order to dispute the logical conclusion of such an argument, a person would necessarily have to disprove the premise.

His first argument was cosmological. He stated that whatever begins to exist has a cause and reasoned from this premise to the existence of God.

His second argument was teleological, or the argument for the existence of God from the evidence of order. In pointing out the incredibly small margin of error that allows for life on this planet, Dr. Craig stated that, if the universe was in fact a result of chance or of some law of nature, there should be observable evidence of an ensemble of finely-tuned worlds such as our own.

I couldn’t help but think that much of space exploration may be driven by the desire of atheistic scientists (not all scientists are atheists) to find just such evidence, much as there used to be a determined hunt for the missing link to prove evolution.

But back to the debate. Dr. Craig’s third argument centered on morals. The premise he reasoned from is this: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. His position reminds me of Mike Duran’s post more than a year ago about atheists and thanksgiving. If God does not exist, then moral values do not exist, so what prompts an atheist to be thankful?

The natural conclusion of a-morality is that whatever a person does is right, therefore one act is no more heinous or virtuous than another. Lions are not accused of murder or pedo-cide, not branded as cannibals because they may eat their young. They are what they are and there is no good or evil attached to their actions. So too should be the truth about Man, if God did not exist. But, of course, it is not the truth about Man. Atheists as much as Christians or Hindus or Jews believe there are virtuous acts and attitudes as well as heinous ones. In fact, on many points nearly all groups, religious or otherwise, agree.

Dr. Craig’s fourth argument surprised me. He stated that the resurrection of Jesus is proof of God’s existence. I had thought that such a miraculous event wouldn’t be convincing to an atheist, but Dr. Craig reasoned from historically verifiable positions:

There are three established facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazareth: the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of his disciples’ belief in his resurrection.

Dr. Craig’s final evidence for the existence of God was “The Immediate Experience of God.” If a rational, non-delusional person claims he experiences God, his experience validates his belief if said belief does not rest solely on the experience but is grounded in other rational argument.

Well, obviously I have more to write about this event. Tomorrow I’ll give some of the things I gleaned from Mr. Hitchens’s side of the debate.

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