William Lane Craig Debates Bill Cooke on the Existence of God

The other 11 episodes can be found right there.


John W. Loftus said...

These 12 episodes are all linked together here.

John W. Loftus said...

Poor Craig, debating an opponent who dismisses all of his arguments because of the problem of religious diversity, who merely pointed out the way Craig's theistic conception of God originated from a polytheistic tribal god in the earlier portions of the OT. Poor Craig, trying to claim he's not specifically defending the Christian conception of God, but who turns around and uses the resurrection of Jesus as evidence that God exists. Poor Craig, claiming the word "atheist" does not apply to what he thinks of the other gods and goddesses, as if that answers Cooke's "page 341" objection.

Craig can claim victory in debates such as these, as he and his followers will do, but Cooke is right on. Craig is defending a lost cause.

Evan said...

John you're absolutely right. The Christians we see here and all those that I have met almost never investigate non-Christian religions. Those who do frequently convert (in my experience) but often they trade gullibility for Jesus into gullibility for something else.

The apologetic technique Craig uses is finely tuned for Western audience that come from culturally Christian backgrounds.

Ty said...

I got halfway through before the episodes were pulled from You Tube. However, it was enough for me to find both sides uninspiring. What is this pandering of not calling belief in God a delusion? Human invention or not, it is delusion. I gave up my theistic beliefs because people were willing to make me uncomfortable with the absurdity of my beliefs. I understand being polite, but Cooke took it too far in my opinion, and Craig rightly hammered him on it. I did like how Cooke began to point out how the Hebrew god evolved, but he under developed the argument.

As for Craig, his view concedes that scriptures are not the literal word of God (Theistic Evolution instead of the 6 day creation); therefore, his notion that NT Scripture on Jesus is literal is invalid because, like the OT story of creation, it too may be figurative or metaphor.

Morality comes from God? How many genocides (including innocent babies and children) did God take credit for or order in the OT. Dawkins does a terrific job at explaining how objective morality (a human invention, just like God) evolved.

One thing that made me happy though is at least Craig realizes that the Universe is not 6000 years old.

Damien said...

I'd say Cooke shouldn't have shown up for a debate if he just wanted to give an opening statement and be done with it. Not that his statements weren't good ones, but I think Craig took him to school and made him look like he had no substance to his argument because he wouldn't stand up for it or knock Craig's down.

I think he could have taken 2 minutes out of his time to say the following:

1. Nobody yet knows about the conditions of the universe before the singularity, and indeed many agree we cannot know. To say that a supernatural being had to have created our universe because of what happened at the Big Bang supposes that you understand better than anyone else the rules which are followed, if any, on the creation of universes or their possible intrinsic value of being uncreated. In other words: God of the gaps.

2. Your argument for the fine tuning of the universe supposes that you again have knowledge of how universes are created or of their intrinsic values which is impossible to know at this point and would likely remain impossible unless we had knowledge of other universes to compare ours to.

3. Your argument of objective moral truths is unsubstantiated and even flies in the face of evidence to the contrary about the evolved characteristics of ethics. You don't have any support for this argument other than the intuition of the audience and your expectance of them to feel the need to corroborate your argument as to not feel dehumanized. It has no bearing on the existence of God.

4. The three facts you present about Jesus say absolutely nothing about the truth of his resurrection or divinity. You say that 75% of relevant scholars agree with these facts but decline to mention that a majority of them hold to the theological belief that Jesus rose from the dead, if you are quoting the source I believe you are. These facts may pose interesting questions, but any answers you come to are not going to be suppored by historical data.

5. Your personal experience means nothing. Hindus have personal experiences. People have experiences of being abducted by aliens. Ex-Christians have had the same experiences you probably have and now see that they were most likely just exercising their confirmation bias and fooling themselves into believing something that wasn't true.

The End

I find that Craig's arguments heavily rely on the unwillingness of his audience to actually read about cosmology or think further than what Craig is telling them. I think that's one of the reasons he quotes an authoritative source every time he makes a claim, as to persuade people that if they go look things up they'll only find what he did. As if he's saving them the trouble.

Anyway, Cooke could have done better.

Ty said...

I just had a thought. You could take all of Craig's arguments (except Jesus) and substitute his idea of God for a completely different one, and have the same conclusion. Let's say that instead of God, we argue that superstring theory posits that a invisible network links our universe and matter/energy in it together (something like this is actually theorized). Matter/enegry is "laid" on top of this network, or the network holds matter/energy togther. I theorize that this network, not material or physical in the sense we know, basically acts as a computer, designed to run the "software" we can matter energy. Like a real computer, this Superstring Theory computer does not make decisions of its own. Its is just designed to run the software (matter/energy) without instability. Therefore, it sets the various variables to work harmouniously; thus, ultimately leading to us as a product of it successfully running its software. So, it is not God, but this immaterial Superstring computer that is responsible for our creation and objective morals.

This bastardized Superstring Theory is no more far fetched than Craig's idea of God, and I can offer his exact same proofs to support my claims.

But I can hear the objections already?

Q: Who made this immaterial computer that runs the software we can energy?

A: I have faith that this computer has existed eternally.

Q: Science proves you're full of shit.

A: This computer, known through my personal experience, is outstide of scientific understanding. It can only be known through faith.

Q: Occam's razor suggests that your computer is an unnecessary component and only adds confusion in our understanding of how we came to be. Why then should I believe in your computer?

A: Pascal's wager. However, the reason you all don't believe me is because the computer has hardened your hearts and blinded you because of your unbelief. Yet, the computer's Random Access Memory (RAM) witnessess to your RAM that what I'm telling you is true. By the way, this computer is a triple core, SINGLE processor. 3 in 1 baby.

IBM was the computer's old covenant with man.

Intel is the new convenant.

Don't be mislead by pagan offshoots, such as Windows PCs. Apple PCs are of the One True Computer. Windows PCists are going to hell. AMDists are like Jehovah's witnesses, and only have the appearance of being part of the One True Computer.

Okay, no more nonsense. I better pray to the spagetti noodle monster for forgiveness.

paulj said...

What was Craig's argument that God is personal? Something about the universe being made by something non-material. There are only two non-material things: abstract numbers and minds. Therefore God must be a non-material mind, and hence 'personal'?

His logical jumps are mind boggling.


Brian said...

Full MP3 Audio of the William Lane Craig vs Bill Cooke debate can be found here.

GordonBlood said...

Damien, two issues concerning natural theology. First, most everyone is now pretty sure that regardless of the initial conditions before the singularity (some no longer even posit such an entity) the universe still had to have a beginning. That doesnt prove God's existence, but at that point you either have to say that the universe began from nothing or that it was created by something. Both are amazing truth statements. Concerning the fine-tuning of the universe, again, most everyone who has written on the subject is in agreement that the only two reasonable explanations are a collossal multiverse or a designer. The question is not, then, who can PROVE their claim, the question is which one provides the best explanation of the available data. Of course that is something that will be decided not just by reason but by aesthetics, personal opinion etc. It seems to me the whole "evolution of Hebrew religion" approach is simply flawed, if (and im saying if) God revealed himself in a polytheistic context it should not surprise us that we only see vague forms of monotheism (monolatory) in the early periods. In fact it has few implications for all but the issue of Jesus' resurrection, other people came up with monotheism before the Jews did and many people independently came up with the notion afterwards. One can be a full-fledged and committed theist without being of any major religious inclination.

GordonBlood said...

Oh, one last thing. Ty, concerning your first post about delusion, read "The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism" by William Rowe. It is one of the best defences of the problem of evil around, which im sure you'l enjoy, but it will also blow out of the water your notion that all Christians are deluded. Of course, you seem to think that true objective morality can be formed by an evolved primate, which seems to me a fantastically ludicrous hypothesis. (Just to be clear, I do believe in evolution)

Ty said...


Actually I do not believe that true objective morality evolved into primates, rather I believe it evolved into homosapiens. I further believe that our genetic ancestors, from whom we evovled, had primitive forms of this morality in place. While modern primates are not the same species humans evolved from (they are there own product of evolution), by studying their behaviors one can see a simple, yet reasonably effective ethical system in place, that suits that species continued survival anyway.

However, I believe that true objective morality is a human invention that improves as we evolve as a species. For example, slavery has only in recent history become known as an immoral practice. The treatment of women has continued to improve as well. From the point where it was once commonly accepted for women to be viewed as property to now, where we are headed toward equality. These are just two examples of how morality has evolved, but obviously there are thousands of examples. If God set objective morals in place, then humankind would have practiced these same standards for all of history.

I could not find the book you referred to, but I am going to pick up "God and the Problem of Evil" by Rowe.

GordonBlood said...

You are free to believe what you may about objective morality evolving, though I strongly disagree for reasons that you are most likely aware of. Actually if one believes that God allows mankind to discover moral truths (which is the theory that I believe in) than it actually fits quite neatly within an overall theistic conception of morality. So in effect I reject wholesale the notion that all morals would be the same throughout all time. I believe you are creating a fine piece of equivocation in the term "evolved". I agree with you that our treatment of women, abolishing of slavery etc is superior to prior activities. However, the question the moral objectivist acks is what makes said action "better" than another. At least this seems to me the question. The piece I referred to is a classic in philosophy and is actually an article (perhaps you were using an internet library search for books or whatnot).

Ty said...


You said, "the question the moral objectivist acks is what makes said action "better" than another." -- This is a wholly subjective statement and is indicative of the subjectiveness of what we are discussing.

Actually, I am probably unaware of your reasoning for believing morality does not evolve (or change). I believe, as history has shown, that morals are subject to change). My PhD is in Psychology, and I am a very recent deconvert from Christianity. I only have been recently reading everything on these matters that I can get my hands on.

So, God allows us to discover moral truths? Is God involved in helping us discover these moral truth? If so, how does God communicate to us? My position is that God does not communicate to us to define our morality. If he did, we would all be receiving the same messages of what is right and wrong. Yet, for the most part, no two people can entirely agree on what is moral or immoral (or there are at least 3 billion different views). The Bible has horrible morals practiced by both God and man, claiming those practices to be ordained by God, so clearly it is not the standard of "True Objective Morality." The phrase tre objective morality implies that morality is not subjective, and morality can be fully known. The problem with this view are your statements, "I agree with you that our treatment of women, abolishing of slavery etc is superior to prior activities. However, the question the moral objectivist acks is what makes said action "better" than another." Yes, who is to say that my morality, your morality, anyone's morality will not be replace in a few hundred years. This is epitomy of subjective. Morals are subject to opinion, to change, to circumstance, to new insight, etc.

So, if God has a list of true objective morals he wants us to follow, give me that list. I believe you cannot provide such a list because you do not know what those morals are and because with amount of scutiny your list will prove to be subjective.

GordonBlood said...

Morality cannot, by definition, be both subjective and objective. If it is subjective it exists only in opinion and has no more status that my liking the color red over the color blue. Concerning the bible I am well aware the bible certainly makes ethical claims that are questionable. I myself believe that every issue is seperate and thus has to be looked at in and of itself. For example, I would suggest that the stoning of homosexuals suggested in the Old Testament is a human response to God making clear (in whatever sense) that homosexual behaviour is immoral or unacceptable. Do I have any proof for such a claim? No, but believing that the word of God is not a book but a person (Christ) I believe that is a perfectly rational position to hold. This is of course a complicated topic and I dont pretend it can be blithely dismissed or answered away. With that said I would suggest that your very statements support my overall thesis. You describe certain events and rules in the bible as horrific, so am I to take it that they are simply horrific in your opinion? I trust you see where I am going here, though I have no doubt that such a discussion has appeared many times on DC.

"Morals are subject to opinion, to change, to circumstance, to new insight, etc."

Obviously I am fine with the idea that morals are subject to circumstance, new insight etc. But this sort of language does not rule out that those morals are aiming towards a higher and ultimately binding set of moral conditions. Let me allow for a test example. During the Spanish Inquisition the Spanish Priest Thomas De Torquemada led a movement that burned, maimed, and tortured thousands of human beings. This was done to the cheers of the great majority of society and increased the cohesion and unity of Spanish society overall. Was this action right? (I realize I am inviting someone to bring up in full spades the moral problem of evil, but I believe we are on another discussion at the moment).

GordonBlood said...

Oh a list of morals. Well, being a Christian I think they were provided pretty easily, do unto others as you would have done to yourself. Many great moral thinkers have discovered similar teaching, which to me indicates that there is something quite interesting in this simple principle. Thats not to say that this can be understood without qualification (there are strange individuals who would love to have nails driven into their face or have the bottoms of their feet burnt) but the phrase is obviously not referring to such individuals. I am not at all suggesting that this little sentence can resolve all our ethical problems, I myself am still divided about certain ethical problems (the possibility of just war, abortion in certain contexts, etc). But I do believe that I am either right or wrong on these issues and that whatever I decide I am usually quite willing to admit that there is at least a fair amount that I am probly wrong about. I equally admit to not be nearly as studied in ethics as I wish to be, it is something I plan on focusing alot more on after summer break.

Ty said...


You wrote, "Obviously I am fine with the idea that morals are subject to circumstance, new insight etc."

Is that not the definition of subjective, at least in part?

But at the beginning you wrote, "Morality cannot, by definition, be both subjective and objective."

I have argued that morality is a human invention of thought, you're arguing that it "set of rules" given by God. Where do I find this set of rules?

GordonBlood said...

Just because some moral insight is discovered afresh based on a new encounter or experience does not mean it is therefore mired in subjectivity itself. It simply means that a certain agent has discovered something right that existed all along. The idea that morality is a set of rules is overly simplistic. I do believe that obviously certain actions being right or wrong are conditioned by certain contexts (for example, it is right for me to have sex with my wife but wrong for me to have sex with my daughter) but it is in those contexts that the question of right or wrong truly matters. If you are looking for a set of rules that will determine what is right and wrong in every one of those contexts, you are out of luck. If the Christian church taught that than you wouldnt find a single ethicist who was a Christian, and there are obviously many. However, I believe the ethical teaching of Christ provides us with a base to have a discussion about what truly is right, wrong, or neutral. But, like with so many issues, clear-cut approaches that are not subject to possible error are out of the question.

Evan said...

Just because some moral insight is discovered afresh based on a new encounter or experience does not mean it is therefore mired in subjectivity itself.

So are you suggesting people have a switch that can be turned on by a new encounter or experience that magically allows them to know that they have discovered a true moral principle? Or do the people who develop the new moral insight have to labor to convince others of the truth of it?

Because if you think there is a switch that turns on when someone perceives a new moral insight that is valid, I'd like to know how that works.

Otherwise, if you think people have to convince others through both labor and violent wars to come to their way of thinking ... I think that is necessarily subjective.

Ty said...


So, your argument so far has demonstrated that each human comes to different understandings of what God's objective moral truth is. That when they do come to realize the truth, no matter how long it has been practiced differently, it is simply a revelation of what has been true from the beginning, not a new truth. Given the fact that God's morality is SUBJECT to each individual's (or Christian's) thinking or abstract reasoning about given moral issues, then your case only goes to prove that each individual subjectively decides what they think is moral based on the information available to them. Even IF God is the moral law giver, each person interprets God's morality through their own psychological filter and each person comes to different conclusions. It is impossible for a person not make decisions outside of their own psychological filter. So, the only way that you can be right that morals are objective, at least in how we practice morality, is if God has away of communicating objective moral truth to us. You have refused to theorize on how God communicates his morality to us.

So, I will concede the entire debate to you if you can successfully explain how God has communicated his objective moral truth to us, or at least tell me how an individual can figure out what God's objective moral truth is.

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...


I agree that Cooke could have made more of an effort to address Craig's points, but I imagine that the reason he seemed apathetic in continuing the debate was because like us, he has seen and heard Dr. Craig's standard arguments over and over. He, like us, knew exactly what Dr. Craig would say before he stepped up to the lectern -- despite whatever Dr. Cooke might have said beforehand.

Consider Dr. Craig's closing statement -- I imagine many of us were able to quite accurately lip-synch Dr. Craig's statement that "With my closing time, I'd like to draw together some of the major threads of the debate..."

Dr. Craig notoriously utilizes a static format, bullies his opponent into chasing phantom arguments (his defining points, and his defining premises), and dismisses arguments against his position as not satisfying his subjective criteria.

The aspect of this debate which was the most enjoyable was the Q&A session (despite the temporary hijacking by an especially learned audience member). In it, Cooke was able to illustrate just how Craig uses the bible as both a literal and metaphorical construct, depending on his needs.

Unfortunately for all parties involved, Cooke never took the opportunity to correct a fundamental flaw in Craig's debate tactic: the debate's topic was the consideration of the belief in god as delusional. This was not a debate concerning Christianity, or Theism in general. Hell, Craig could have argued for Deism, and still have satisfied the topic. Instead, he quickly drummed up the biblical account of Jesus life and death as evidence of a god, and he quoted Genesis 1:1, despite the fact that he doesn't believe the rest of the chapter.

If Cooke were to have pointed this fact out, and contrasted it against Craig's chosen viewpoint of (liberal) Christianity, he could easily have demonstrated the fallacy Craig commits when choosing a particular faith. The arguments regarding the existence of a deity are exactly analogous to the arguments for the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but neither is inherently false based on logic alone. The application of attributes and doctrines to either argument, as with Theism, is irrational at its core.

Anyway, entertaining as they are, it is nonetheless tiresome to watch Craig's debates, since he invariably trots out unfounded premises, makes grandiose claims which are equally unfounded, and draws conclusions on these as though they were necessarily true. His constant appeals to emotion, popularity, and authority, coupled with his non-stop special pleading and his ever-present question begging, mean that his arguments only satisfy the ignorant masses who presume the truth of his arguments.

Actually, I think that is incomplete... His arguments also have the uncanny ability to glaze certain Christian audiences, many of whom are biblical literalists, such that they can ignore Craig's literal apostacy, and claim victory despite the failures of his arguments. It is disgusting to see sympathetic audiences display such wanton ignorance.



Ty said...

I apologize, I just re-read your last post.

"The ethical teachings of Christ provides us with a base to have a discussion about what truly is right, wrong, or neutral. But, like with so many issues, clear-cut approaches that are not subject to possible error are out of the question."

Thus, highlighting the fact that there is no knowable objective truth that comes from God. Clearly what is claimed to have been taught by Christ that is bad you throw away, and what is good you keep. For example, if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. This moral guidline is not practiced and is just bad advice. You are going to argue that it is metaphorical and means to avoid that sin at all costs or something like that. However, the actual words are immoral. By creating confusing, Jesus has caused people to literraly cut their hands off because of what he said. If he meant something else, he should've said that instead of this. This is just one example of dumb things that are in the Bible. Read evilbible.com for many others.

You cherry-pick the Bible to match your own morality. The Christian says, "This is true in the Bible, but this isn't. God didn't really kill those people or commit mass murder. Even though God made "everything," he didn't make viruses. Sickness is caused by man's sin, which is God's punishment for man's sin. But innocent babies and children who get sick and die of sickness aren't being punished by God. They are sick because of the fall, and die because of man's sin." I find this whole train of thought illogical and abhorent.

If the Bible is not the literal word of God, then it is only man's idea of God. If it is man's idea of God, then it is a human invention. If morality comes from the Bible, then it too is human invention.

Actually, this will be my last post on the subject, will have to agree to disagree on this cause I don't think we'll ever establish a common ground that allows us to see things from a similar perspective.

ChristianJR4 said...

Stan the half truth teller said:

"I agree that Cooke could have made more of an effort to address Craig's points, but I imagine that the reason he seemed apathetic in continuing the debate was because like us, he has seen and heard Dr. Craig's standard arguments over and over."

What a ridiculous reason to not engage in debate. If he's heard of Dr. Craig's arguments then ALL THE MORE REASON to rebut them and show them for what he presumably thinks that they are. Dr. Bill Cooke went to a debate, therefore he should expect to actually debate and not say absurd things like "I'm not going to engage in a he said/she said squabble". Well, like it or not, that's what you do when you debate. If Dr. Bill Cooke didn't want to do that then he should have turned down his invitation to debate Dr. Craig. There are plenty of other people capable and willing to debate. Dr. Ray Bradley, who interestingly enough was at the debate would have been more than capable. He performed well against Craig in his debate with him on hell in 1994. He no doubt would have done well on responding to Craig's arguments, unlike Dr. Cooke. What a shame.

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

What a ridiculous reason to not engage in debate.

I agree. Given the evidence, however, I cannot posit a more plausible reason for Cooke's unwillingness to debate, when a debate was the engagement to which he had agreed.

For better or for worse, however, Dr. Craig's standard approach to debates, his bullishness, and his rash dismissal of opposing arguments seems as though it would be discouraging for more prominent debaters, such that they might avoid a debate if he had already committed. At some point, his erstwhile opponents will inevitably deny him audience, not due to the strenght of his arguments, but due to the futility of engaging with someone so obstinate.

Anyway, as I said, the Q&A was more interesting than the debate itself, and again, that was due to the standard tactics of Craig, and the refusal to engage by Cooke. The audience in this debate seemed pretty sympathetic toward Cooke, so his reasons are all the more elusive.

Cooke's opening statement was, of course, quite good, but overall the debate was unimpressive. At least it spawns discussion (especially on dealing with Craig's liberal Christianity).


dvd said...

Cooke did lousy and I would be disappointed had I been there. He should have never signed up for the debate.

dvd said...

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller

I don't think that Cooke had a good point about Craig being arbitrary with how he decided what was metaphor in the Bible.

The issue, was about Hell and the language of "fire". Craig, has good reasons to suppose that the "fire" isn't literal for a number of reasons.

Firstly, "DEATH AND HELL" are said to be THROWN INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE! Quite obviously, metaphoric!

Letting the bible speak, if we head over to Isiah 34 we can see clear indications that this may in fact be metaphoric.

Isaiah 34 (clearly wild life will live in the land of 'burning sulfur'!)

9 Edom's streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur;her land will become blazing pitch!

10 It will not be quenched night and day; its smoke will rise forever. From generation to generation it will lie desolate;no one will ever pass through it again.

11 The desert owl and screech owl will possess it;the great owl and the raven will nest there.God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation.

12 Her nobles will have nothing there to be called a kingdom,all her princes will vanish away.

13 Thorns will overrun her citadels,nettles and brambles her strongholds.She will become a haunt for jackals a home for owls.

14 Desert creatures will meet with hyenas,and wild goats will bleat to each other;there the night creatures will also repose
and find for themselves places of rest.

15 The owl will nest there and lay eggs,she will hatch them, and care for her young under the shadow of her wings;
there also the falcons will gather,each with its mate.

There are also other passages;

James 3:6
The tongue is a fire, a world of evil. Placed among the parts of our bodies, the tongue contaminates the whole body and sets on fire the course of life, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Here according to James, people are already on "FIRE".

So I don't think Craig is being arbitrary, he is allowing other passages to speak and to give understanding.

I also, think it unfair of Bill to try and bring up such a point, since he knows full well that the Bible is such a large and complicated issue, to properly debate it would actually take YEARS.

Damien said...


As to the creation of the Universe, there are theories as to how it could have arose essentially out of nothing. Alan Guth's inflationary cosmological model with the addition of quantum tunneling is said to account for the emergence of particles and even spacetime itself without violating the laws of physics. He describes the universe as a "free lunch" and even theorizes ways to for human beings to create more universes. Science is slowly creeping on God, it seems, and lifting his finger off the "button" on the Big Bang.

As for fine tuning, the only options are not Goddidit or the Multiverse. Some might argue that natural constants are beautifully simple and an expression of the one true "Given". Something naturalistic that would take place of the imaginary God as the given. Anyway, Science has yet no real understanding of why our physical laws exist. Any idea put forth is a guess.

I would argue that God is the least likely, given his infinite complexity.

GordonBlood said...

Damien, have you read the book Universes by John Leslie? It basically obliterates the notion that the universe just being that way is a terrible, terrible, extremely rediculous explanation for the universes's fine-tuning. Pretty much everyone else agrees, subsequently. The notion that God is complex gets into pretty deep philosophical waters, yes God can do anything and knows everything (not even getting into the defininf those terms) but a mind is a very simple entity, lacking physical parts. The Universe, on the other hand, is composed of thousands of particles, atoms, interactions, fields etc. Concerning current cosmology, im pretty positive Guth's cosmological model was rejected a long time ago, even by himself. Inflation almost certainly happens, but there is no scientific agreement on what the exact nature of it is and most physicists are in agreement that whatever shape it takes you're going to have to have a beginning. Im not saying that its impossible the universe is infinite mind you. Im simply suggesting that people who argue so argue against the evidence currently available.