A few weeks ago at Auckland University, New Zealand, William Lane Craig debated Bill Cooke on “Is Belief In God a Delusion?” I hope you’ll view the debate. I have just a few points from it to highlight.
Dr. Craig had the opening statement and offered reasons to believe there is a God. Dr. Cooke’s approaches included giving emotional reasons to be repelled by belief in God, including some rather irrelevant political shots; questioning whether we really know what we mean when we say the word “God,” and trying “to show that Dr. Craig’s notion of God is not the only God in town.”
It seemed to me that he really unlocked his central worldview later in the debate when he insisted he was not trying to undermine Dr. Craig’s faith at all. He said he was happy for Dr. Craig’s Christian faith, but “it doesn’t wash” to claim that “my projection of God upon the universe is the true one.”
So in essence, his view seems to be that it’s fine to believe in God, as long as you don’t do icky things with it like make a big deal about morality; but don’t assume that you know what you mean by “God,” or that you have any reason to believe your view connects with any reality whatsoever. Keep your beliefs, but keep them to yourself. Remember they are not just to be disconnected from society, they’re actually disconnected from all reality. Above all, don’t think of your truth as being objectively or exclusively true. This, Dr. Cooke says later, is a “wiser, more humble view of God,” less likely to build barriers between people.
Dr. Craig’s defense was primarily to take the offense: there are real reasons to believe we know true things about the true God. Dr. Cooke really offered no rebuttal to those arguments. He appealed to a number of (generally liberal) Christian theologians who would disagree with the idea of “proving God.” More context here would have been helpful. Dr. Craig does not generally try to prove God exists. He speaks of having “good grounds for belief in God” (my emphasis). The actual proof he attempts is this: that God is a better explanation for various phenomena than the alternatives.
I’ll say that again in a different way: Dr. Craig’s general approach, not just here but elsewhere, is to say that for things like the beginning of the universe, the universe’s fine-tuning for life, the historical accounts of Jesus, the near-universally recognized fact of objective morality, and so on, God is the best explanation. His arguments are not intended to prove God exists; they are intended to show that God is a better explanation for these things than other options are.
I myself do not think God’s existence can be proven, but I do think we can demonstrate that God is the best explanation for these kinds of things. Still I know that even if such a proof—that God is the best explanation—succeeds completely, one could still opt against believing in God; but then one would be rejecting the better explanation and choosing some lesser one. If you want to do that, it’s certainly your prerogative.
I hope that distinction is clear: the difference between proving God and proving that God is a better explanation.
Now, admittedly there are theologians who say that answers to the question of God can’t be known at all, especially by rational/evidential means. God simply cannot be known, or if he can, not by any rational faculties. Dr. Craig’s response is simple. I’ll paraphrase: say what you will, the arguments point to God.
For my part, I would add that theologians who doubt we can know anything at all about God are committing the wrong-God fallacy (a version of the straw man). It is an argument against a God that Dr. Craig doesn’t believe in himself: a God who cannot make himself known to his creation, an incompetent God. I’m sure Dr. Craig would be quite content to have such a God’s existence disproved, or the concept shown to be meaningless. But the God he believes in, and that I believe in, is a God who is not less capable of communication than you and I are. You and I can speak to each other. God, who is greater than we are, can speak to us too. What’s complicated about that?
Liberal Christians theologians are often inclined to say that in some sense or other, God is love. Pity their poor God, then, who is all love, yet who cannot connect relationally with us whom he loves. He would be like the young man mooning over the picture of some unattainable woman. All emotion, but no relationship. In God’s case, the failure would be entirely his. That’s rather an odd view to take of him, isn’t it?
I know there are issues relating to God’s other-ness, his transcendence, and the like. He is not like us. That does not make him less competent than us, however. He made us in his image, so there is certainly something of himself he could share with us: personality, mind, volition, emotion, and so on–including the ability to relate and to communicate. He was even able to take human form in Christ and reveal himself in that most human-relevant manner.
I strongly encourage you to watch the debate and hear the interchange for yourself.