“Because God Said So” – Answering the Arguments of William Lane Craig

20 Aug

Because God Said So …”: Answering the Moral Arguments of William Lane Craig through Natural Law Theory

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9n0lqWPaIuM
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqaHXKLRKzg&feature=player_embedded

I recently watched a number of uploaded debates on Youtube in which the Christian apologist William Lane Craig sparred with prominent secular thinkers on the nature of morality, the existence of God, and the Biblical Account of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Overall they weren’t really “bad” as debates go, but they could have been better.  Craig is a master-debater, and while his opponents did know their material, they were often at odds on how to best counter his arguments.

It’s very hard to effectively meet the ideas of a Christian apologist when said-apologist is also a master rhetorician who also knows how to best advance the position of his own philosophical arguments.  Regardless of that, I think Christopher Hitchens, Austin Dacey, Sam Harris, Louise Antony, and Bart Ehrman (among others) did a fine job in rising to the challenge of debating him.  Hats off to them for doing it!

Below are my responses to two of those programs:

(1) the debate with Louise Antony & (2) William Lane Craig versus Sam Harris.

The first is in reference to how Antony handled WLC’s take on Divine Command Theory viz-a-viz “goodness in itself” and of which I commented on the remarks page of the video; the second written as an open-letter to William Lane Craig (and submitted to his Reasonable Faith website) where I ask him to comment on the traditional theological definition of “evil as privation” and situate it in reference to Harris’ concepts.


Louise Antony did a stupendous job in meeting Craig on these issues of Divine Commandment morality versus pursuing the good in itself and for itself.  I enjoyed the way she drew out the logical consequences of Craig’s theories, even though she’s not a theist and no longer subscribes to the theology in question.  That she can reach back into her background as a former Catholic, and understand the philosophical implications of where divine command theory takes you versus the theory of ‘moral independence’, is outstanding and it’s what gave her an intellectual advantage in this debate.

Still, I’ve a couple of points on that.

I like her arguments, but I think her case could have been strengthened by arguing -> (1) Inherent “goodness” (goodness-in-itself) would have to be functional of God’s Existence or Being, (2) That a recognition of goodness-in-itself would not have to be predicated on Divine Command, merely on the basis of God’s Nature, and therefore, through that Nature, it projects onto the created natural order, and that (3) By virtue of that said reality, creatures can know that moral law objectively by innate natural sense irrespective of divine revelation or command & across all cultural contexts.

In other words, Natural Law theory is itself the perfect answer to Craig’s arguments in these debates.  It demonstrates that the pursuit of goodness-in-itself is both possible & achievable by human efforts, whether or not God made it known by actual commandments.

That’s she was advancing her points from an atheistic position makes no difference to this argument.  …

Merely the focus is moved from a Divine Being issuing rules (or giving rise to them by his very nature as pure Goodness-In-Itself or In-Himself) to the state of the natural order itself.  Because ‘law’ and ‘order’ exists in the universe, and human beings can discern and see the benefit of such principles in terms of how the world best operates and how human interactions can best reflect those principles in their societies, hence we have the moral responsibility to frame our ethics and our social codes on that objective foundation.

Pursuing the ‘good in itself’ and doing something good ‘because it is good’ makes better sense than doing it just because God-Said-So.  Cheers to Professor Antony for making this argument.

We do the good “for goodness sake”, not because the authority in question is “said to be good” or even “infinitely good.”


Dear Dr. Craig,

I watched your debate with Sam Harris with a great deal of interest.  Good exchange, and for the most part excellent for how you interacted with each others’ ideas.  I do have a lingering question, however; one that I hope you’ll address here in light of that debate.

If “evil” is defined as a “lack of a due good” then wouldn’t the “worst possible misery for everyone” be the quintessential privation of goodness in the practical, moral order of human society? … Put another way, in drawing on Natural Law theory and Thomistic-Augustian thought, wouldn’t Harris’ views on “well-being” and “misery” from THE MORAL LANDSCAPE be compatible with the traditional philosophy of “goodness” as the “fulfillment of due nature” in the moral order of human social existence, where the “good” in this instance means the “maximization of [personal and interpersonal] well-being”?

Just wondering, since the two models seem to fit-in well with one another, as well as being both functionalist and naturalistic in their orientation as ideas.

So, what I’m asking here is really twofold.  (1) Is there, then, any merit to Sam Harris’ position based on such reasoning [and in those terms as I outlined them above in the preceding paragraph of my letter here] & (2) What does this, therefore, say about the value of the above definitions of what the “good” is and what “evil” is? …

In other words, is there any merit to these ideas or are they in fact problematic?

I realize you’re not a [Catholic] theologian as such, nor perhaps a Thomist or Natural Law theorist for that matter, but if you could answer this question for me, on the basis of being a philosopher and a theistic moral philosopher in particular, I’d appreciate it. …

The heart of my point -> given your status as a proponent of Divine Command Theory and your critical appraisal of naturalistic approaches to moral thought, is there a naturalistic flaw to viewing “evil” as “privation”?

I look forward to your response.  Thank you.


One Response to ““Because God Said So” – Answering the Arguments of William Lane Craig”

  1. Luke Rondinaro September 11, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    (Import from Dianoeidos, 3/18/12)

    James says:

    Hello author, I’d like to see why you think Antony’s proposed consequences of ‘Divine-Command-Theory’ (DC) carry any weight.

    Also, you say the “Natural Law theory is itself the perfect answer to Craig… It demonstrates that the pursuit of goodness-in-itself is both possible & achievable by human efforts, whether or not God made it known by actual commandments.”

    I doesn’t seem any theist denies that, indeed there are biblical texts indicating that “God has written his moral law on our hearts,” whether theist or non-theist.

    Thus theists explicate our moral epistemology, not by “belief” in God, but by every person’s general apprehension of morality.

    So really what Craig was interested in and arguing for was the “foundation for the ontology of Morality,” not how we come to knowledge of them. DC, therefore just goes to answer the moral presciber for our moral prescriptions.

    I’d like to see what Craig’s response was.

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