Friday, January 23, 2015

Podcast of the Week (1/18-1/24, 2015) William Lane Craig on Neil deGrasse Tyson

If you don't subscribe to Reasonable Faith's podcasts, you should. William Lane Craig is one of the foremost Christian philosophers and a skilled debater. Also, one of his books is free on Amazon this week, go get it: On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision

In this episode, Craig gives commentary on a recent interview (on someone else's podcast) with physicist-atheist Neil deGrasse Tyson. You can just read the transcript at the link if you'd like.

Tyson: "Here’s the thing. Every time I talk about God with someone who is a believer, God is all-powerful, and all-knowing, and all-good. Right? Good is a big part of this. And then I look at all the ways Earth wants to kill us. You know, a tsunami takes out a quarter-million people. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Tornadoes. Floods. And I add all of that up. Either the God is not all-powerful or is not all-good. But it can’t really be both, given all the ways the universe wants to kill us."

The interviewer tries to call Tyson out on his position assuming moral superiority-- Tyson must be defining what "good" is:

"But don’t we define what is good and what is bad? So we see a tsunami wipe out a whole bunch of people and we’re as human beings going “Wow, that is bad” because we define what bad is. Maybe in God’s brain,eyes, whatever the hell, that is not bad?"

Craig points out the logical contradiction and how Tyson avoids the interviewer's question:
"(O)n the naturalist basis, what meaning is there to speak of good or bad with respect to these disasters? What Geivett points out is that when we say that these things are bad, we are saying they ought not to happen. These things ought not to be. But when you say that, you are presupposing there is a way things ought to be and this isn’t it. But if there is a way things ought to be, that means there is some sort of design plan for the universe and for the Earth that these things are or are not fulfilling. You can’t have a design plan unless you have a designer. So when the naturalist claims that these things are bad, that these things ought not to be, he is implicitly, I think, assuming there is some kind of a designer – some sort of a standard against which these things can be measured. I think that the interviewer is actually making a very good point here with respect to natural evil."

Tyson presents his experience with how Christians argue:
"if you are going to say God actually is good and a quarter-million people dying from an earthquake and a tsunami and other natural disasters and God presumably has control over that and God is good then we have to then say God works in 'mysterious ways.' People only say that when their understanding of God fails them."

Craig (naively, I think) thinks this is a straw man and that most Christians don't really argue like that. (Sadly, too many Christians really do argue this way which is why I think Craig is being naive). He makes the excellent point that Christians/theists should never give speculative reasons as to God's will when events occur:
"When something good happens, the theist doesn’t, I think, necessarily say, 'I know that God did it for this reason.' How do you know what reason he did it for? The reason might not emerge until hundreds of years from now through the reverberation this event sends through human history. We can be thankful for the good things that happen, but I don’t think any informed theist would be so presumptuous to think that we know all of the reasons for which God permits things to happen whether good or bad because these are simply beyond our scope of knowledge as finite creatures limited in time and space and in intelligence and insight."..,
So I would simply say that in going through life we don’t have the ability to make any kind of guesses about why things happen in the world. We are just not in a position to make those kind of judgments. Rather, our responsibility, I think, as the book of Job emphasizes, is to trust God and live faithfully for him through the circumstances that we go through. Maybe some day in heaven looking back we’ll see the reasons why good and bad things occurred, but while we are here in the midst of life, that knowledge is simply not within our grasp."

It's a reminder of Romans 8, God is in control and the message of the Bible is repeatedly that He is working His will even in what we see as unjust, cruel, and difficult circumstances. (See this post on a recent sermon on Joseph. We don't know the end of our personal story any more than he did when in prison.) This has profound implications for our mourning, our complaining, and our treatment of others.

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