William Lane Craig v. Louise Antony: "Is God Necessary for Morality?"

I think Dr. Antony's opening statement brilliantly and succinctly summarizes the best criticisms of Dr. Craig's position. It's a good debate.

Is God Necessary for Morality? Part 1 of 2 from The Veritas Forum on Vimeo.

Is God Necessary for Morality? Part 2 of 2 from The Veritas Forum on Vimeo.


MC said...

Her opening statement is a fantastic elucidation of moral naturalism and counter Craig's claims very well. I swoon when someone evokes the Euthyphro Dilemma and frown at the impotent, goal-post-moving, "Divine nature" appeal. In his 1997 essay "Atheism, Christian Theism, and Rape," Michael Martin says:

"[A]ppealing to God's character only postpones the problem since the dilemma can be reformulated in terms of His character. Is God's character the way it is because it is good or is God's character good simply because it is God's character? Is there an independent standard of good or does God's character set the standard? If God's character is the way it is because it is good, then there is an independent standard of goodness by which to evaluate God's character. For example, suppose God condemns rape because of His just and merciful character. His character is just and merciful because mercy and justice are good."

Be sure to check out her essay in the anthology in which she also edited: "Philosophers Without Gods" (2007)

Supplemented by the ultra-famous philosopher of science, Phililp Kitcher, David Lewis's essay "Divine Evil" is also very good.

MC said...

Time and time again, in so many debates I've seen and read with him, Craig uses an obnoxious debater's tactic in his opening statements of setting up a criteria for his disputant to rise up to, and then, in his rebuttal, accuses him/her of failing to address "his assignment," and thus, has made a weak case. It allows him to dictate the debate within the debate. He is a powerful rhetorician, but, in light of philosophical dialogue, it makes him look like a complete sophist and demagogue. Though materialism and determinism do not permit moral relativism, note that Craig sets up a strawman and puts words, thoughts, and beliefs into his debater's before s/he speaks when he assumes that all naturalists are materialists and/or determinists.

The Euthyphro Dilemma still holds if the "is" of "God is Good" is the "'Is' of Predication" and not the "'Is' of Identity".

If the latter, then the phrase "God is Good" is simply an empty tautology--little more than assertion--akin to "Good is Good" or "God is God". What little difference an 'o' makes, eh?

Defenders of divine command theory who evoke the "Divine Nature" objection to the Euthyphro Dilemma commit do just this: apart from being called "Begging the Question," it is mainly called the "Fallacy of Equivocation."

They--Divine Command Theorists who evoke the "Divine Nature" or "Character appeal" of God's Goodness--shift the meaning of the word 'Good' in the sentence "God is good", from the "'Is' of Predication", to the "'Is' of identity."

The Euthyphro Dilemma still holds, as Martin shows in the quote above, if the 'Good' of "God is Good" is understood as a predicate of God and not an identity relation, as Craig et al. would construe or apparently "collapse" the dilemma.


Scott said...

Here's an interesting hypothetical question.

If, for the sake of argument, we assume that God, being omnipotent, could will himself out of existence, would morality simply cease to exist?

Because, if God is a being which exists in an independent and separate form and his nature *is* goodness, his absence would have a signifcant impact on morality.

Either things that God had deemed good would become ambiguous due to the lack of God's existence or things that God commanded would remain good after his departure.

Could one say that God, at one time, thought something was good, therefore it is good?

normajean said...

Bill is sweet!

normajean said...

M, the problem with your objection is that it expects language to express content perfectly. It doesn't.

MC said...


"Pulling a Wittgenstein" on me, though interesting, is a particularly desperate move; a pot-shot, drive-by comment to counter or essentially neuter my whole argument.

I don't think you'd want to do that, if I was you. Your objection--viz. that reference is impossible--is broad enough to really be applied to any argument in metaphysics. Actually, in the history of philosophy, such an objection has been.

If such an objection is worthy of being used, then it applies universally, and puts your hero and all other theologians out of a job (yes, I know, philosophers too!). What then, is to be said concerning the referent of prayer, or even the words of the Bible? Are you really willing to cut your own head off in order to "take me down with you", too?

In the philosophy of mathematics and language, reference--particularly to (unexemplified) universals or "immaterial", abstract objects--is a very hot topic and has produced a huge body of controversial (and fascinating) literature (cf. Crispin Wright, Paul Benacerraf et al.)

Nonetheless, I take your response amounts to little more than "The Nuclear Option" in philosophical argumentation, one very akin to, and similar in motivation, by some to declare "Oh well, everything is relative anyway!" by disputants that have little by way of objection.

Instead of just denying the possibility or relevance of metaphysics (if you think about it, it is rather self-refuting, in a way like the Positivist's Criteria of Meaning), perhaps you could offer me something more substantial to work with.

My argument still stands, Euthyphro's Dilemma still holds and therefore Divine Command Theory is still invalid.


Bar L. said...

This was really good, thanks.

I was on a project with W.L. Craig, it was answering the top 50 objections to Christianity. I should dig that thing out just to see what was on it. At the time I was so impressed by all the big name apologists I got to work with. Now...not so much.

normajean said...

M, how does an examination of possible entailments validate Euthyphro? I'm not nor have I ever been much impressed with the pop objection. Flush

Inqoinf said...

I am a simple man with a simple answer. If God dictated Morality then what Humans accept as moral would not change. Fundy Christians once abhorred Elvis but now feel like his music is okay to listen to but not Tool or, sometimes, even Hardcore Christian music. I admit there are some "Old Fashioned" churches that believe you should only listen to hymns but they are few and far between. The fact is that most Christians choose what parts of the Bible that fall in line with what they want to believe and ignore others that do not. According to the Bible (1Tim, 1 Corinth) women shouldn't teach in the Church and should cover their heads when they pray. The fact is no one obeys these rules anymore and they make excuses as to why they don't. I've even been told that the Bible is a living word and changes with time, bumpkis!

normajean said...

M, who said reference is impossible? What I’m suggesting is that moral semantics needn’t be a stopping point. As Craig wisely said, “you needn’t worry about what it means to say “God is good”, since unless we have a concept of the Good outside of God, this doesn’t seem to amount to much.” Peace

Yoo said...

Considering that most people indeed have a concept of good outside of any god, Craig's statement seems to be rather unwise to me ...

Jonathan MS Pearce said...

granted that crig's god is true. it does not follow, as craig suggests, that we are obligated to 'do good' just because god is good in nature. it is still a form of the euthrypro. ther is no such thing as an obligation without a conditional consequence. ie we are obliged to do good if we don't want to go to hell. it becomes a divine command again. the only way out i can see for a theist to talk about moral obligation is:
if i want to be good, i am obliged to be / do good. which ends up being tautologous. so just because god is good in nature does in no way oblige me by duty to be good (in a 'just because' sense).

i can simply say 'so what, god'. it only becomes an obligation if i put the ending 'if i don't want to go to hell' on it.