From International Philosophical Quarterly, 45:1, 2005. Review of
William Lane Craig and Antony Flew, Does God Exist? The Craig-Flew
Debate. Edited by Stan Wallace. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing
Company, 2003. Pp. 230.
July 20, 2011
Review of Does God Exist? The
James A. Sadowsky,
core of this book contains the edited tran-script of a debate on the
existence of God between William Lane Craig and Antony Flew. This
debate took place at the University of Wisconsin in the year 1998, the
fiftieth anniversary of the Russell-Copleston debate on the same
core is surrounded by eight chapters authored by writers who are well
known to those whose field is the philosophy of religion. Some of the
articles support Craig while the others support Flew. In this review I
shall concentrate on Flew and Craig. Suffice it to say that the other
chapters are well worth reading because their contents complement the
does Craig argue for the existence of God? He does so in several ways.
In the first place the world needs a cause because it began to be. It
began to be because otherwise we should find ourselves confronted by a
consummated infinity of past events, and a consummated infinity is
impossible. To say that you have a consummated infinity is to say that
no matter how many things you have, there is always one more thing.
This is different from the claim that no matter how many things you
have, you could have another but in fact do not have another.
That is what we mean by potentially infinite, or—better—infinitely
potential. We are talking about an infinite possibility, not the
possibility of something infinite. What, according to Craig, makes this
plausible is the absence of any serious argument for a consummated
infinity as well as the paradoxes that this notion entails. Several of
the contributors raise difficulties against Craig’s arguments. In my
opinion they are unsuccessful.
does not engage Craig’s argument. He concedes in fact that the universe
had a beginning. Instead he challenges the claim that the material
universe as a whole requires a cause, even though everything within it
needs a cause.
course, if by “universe” you mean “all that there is,” you cannot take
for granted that what we call the material universe is in fact
coextensive with the universe. For if there is a god, then that god is
an element of the universe. He would be, strictly speaking, not the
cause of the universe but of the rest of the universe. The universe,
understood as the sum total of reality, would not have a cause because
there is nothing outside of all that is. The real question is whether
the universe contains something that is not an effect. To say that
everything is an effect entails a consummated infinity.
makes much of the argument from fine tuning. In effect it says that it
is astounding that the world in its origin was so structured that life
could come into existence. If the original structure of the world had
been ever so slightly different, there would have been no such thing as
life. Therefore the world in its original structure is the work of an
world in its origin had been even slightly different, it would have
evolved into something different from our present world. Why does not
that particular result show that the original structure of that world
was designed to produce the final result? In other words, the argument
proves too much. It “proves” that any world would be the result of
design. This raises the question: What would an undesigned universe
look like? So, all the information about the complexity of life is
irrelevant. The argument is not empirical at all.
considers the doctrine of hell to be inconsistent with the goodness of
God. Craig rightly points out that theism as such does not entail the
existence of hell. Indeed, Flew himself recognizes that there are
theists such as Jehovah’s Witnesses who reject the doctrine of hell. In
fact, as Craig tells us, Flew caricatures the doctrine as it has been
understood by traditional theologians when he claims that it entails
God’s torturing people for all eternity. According to these theologians,
the pains of hell are self inflicted: they are the result of our willful
separation from God, and the conflict between it and our natural desire
for God. C. S. Lewis says that in the last analysis there are only two
classes of people: those who say to God “thy will be done” and those to
whom God says “thy will be done.”
claims that there would be nothing special about human beings if they
had not been created by God. This seems to be a form of the genetic
fallacy. Surely we have the qualities we have regardless of how we got
them. Imagine two humans: one created by God and the other not. What
would be the difference?
maintains that there would be no objective moral values if there were no
God. I take this to mean that nothing would be really right or wrong if
God did not exist. Ultimately this implies a divine command theory of
morality. Doing the right thing involves obeying the divine commands.
This raises the question: why are we obliged to obey the divine
commands? Because God commands us to obey them?
Craig wins some and Flew wins some.
book worth reading? My verdict is yes. If nothing else, it will show
the student that the question of God’s existence is a genuine