Why I Secretly Root For the Atheists in Debates…

But, what are those premises? Well, the atheist seems to be assuming two things:

“(1) If God is omnipotent then he can create any world that he desires”


“(2) If God is omnibenevolent then he prefers a world without evil over a world with evil”

The atheist reasons that: since God is omnipotent he could create a world without evil, and since he is omnibenevolent he would prefer a world without evil, therefore if God exists, evil cannot exist.

Dr. Craig goes on to explain that this version of the problem of evil, based on logical incoherence, has been “seriously undermined” by the incisive critique of the Notre Dame philosopher Alvin Plantinga and has fallen out of disfavor among academic philosophers. He points out that Plantinga has demonstrated that the atheist must show that both of the critical assumptions (1) and (2) are necessarily true in order for the argument to be logically valid. But, Plantinga argues, if it is even possible that human beings have free will then (1) and (2) are not necessarily true.

This is what Analytic Philosophy does best: Break down arguments into their underlying premises… and then demonstrates what must or must not be true in order for an argument to be logically valid.

Okay, I thought, pretty slick. But now the Atheist team is going to bring in one of their Big Guns – an Oxford philosopher, trained in the same logical jujitsu as Dr. Craig. Surely he’s about to meet his match. Then Grayling spoke. To my astonishment, he was even more meandering and non sequitur than Sam Harris, albeit with slightly better manners.

Grayling: Um, let me just begin with a remark about the tsunami which, as you know, killed several hundred thousand people – among them small children and elderly people – a great majority of them were not Christians – they were people of other faiths and all faiths – I suppose – and of no faith. So I suppose one would need an assumption to the effect that the deity, if, he/she or it caused it or countenanced it or wasn’t able to stop it, nevertheless it would have – in some sense – to be the same deity for all those people, and if there is a greater good envisaged in the event then it would have to be one that, um, is somehow captured in very different forms in these different faiths. And I leave that point hanging in the air because I think it’s something that we need to bring up a bit later on – remembering that there was a competition between the faiths! After all, a Christian will tell you that that the founder of that religion said “I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father but by me,” which seems rather bad news for very many of the people who were swept away by that grave wave.

Once again, the Atheist declines to actually address the topic at hand and simply and quickly changes the subject – in this case, to the multiplicity of religions on earth.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was by this whole performance.

That’s because there is a part of me that finds airtight logical arguments inherently unpersuasive. Faith, to me, is bigger than logic, bigger than reason. Proving the existence of God from logical arguments seems to me a lot like proving that I love my wife from logical arguments: the very exercise seems a bit inappropriate or even somewhat demeaning. I can imagine approaching my wife and, instead of giving her roses and a box of chocolates on St. Valentine’s Day, proposing the following argument:

A. All men who give their wives presents love them.

B. I give you presents.

C. Therefore, I love you.

If that was how I proved my love for my wife, offering her airtight logical demonstrations, I don’t think I would have been married for very long. (go to Page 5)

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Robert Hutchinson studied philosophy as an undergraduate, moved to Israel to study Hebrew and earned an M.A. degree in Biblical studies. He is the author, most recently, of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible. He blogs at RobertHutchinson.com.

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