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William Lane Craig vs. Antony Flew

Today I listened to a debate between William Lane Craig and Antony Flew on the existence of God. In this debate Craig opens with 5 arguments for the existence of God. When Flew steps up to present his argument against the theistic arguments, he instead fumbles around and rambles on as if he doesn’t know where to go with his response. He constantly laments that he doesn’t have time to refute those arguments, given by Craig, while at the same time he points his attacks against doctrines of the scriptures which he doesn’t like.

Craig recognized that Flew tried to argue three main points.

The first point Flew argued or tried to bring up against God was that if God was omnipotent, then he would control all things within his universe. In other words, God would be able to create a world in which everyone will do exactly what God wants them to do.

Craig here drops the ball and argues that God created a world that contained creatures that have libertarian freewill (1). Craig told Flew that he was a Molinist or one who believes in Molinism. Molinism was a view developed by Luis Molina over and against the Thomist’s view of grace and compatibilistic freewill (2). In other words Craig believes that man is free to either accept God or not to accept God and that God does not bend the will in order to bring about his desired purposes. Craig even takes 2 Peter 3:9 out of context in order to try and prove his point.

In Flew’s rebuttal against this, Flew quoted from Augustine, Calvin, Martin Luther and the scriptures to prove that the Bible teaches that man does not have freewill. If Craig confesses to be Christian and to follow the God of the Bible, then he must admit that if God exist, then man cannot be free. Of course, Craig drops the ball on this whole point here and maintains his position that man is free and God does not control the actions of freewill creatures. (What is ironic is that the atheist is quoting scripture and interpreting it rightly against the theist).

The second argument of Flew is that the doctrine of God’s love and justice are not compatible with the doctrine of Hell because the punishment is not proportionate to the crime committed.

Craig showed that if Flew’s arguments were true then all he did was disprove the doctrine of Hell, but did not disprove that God exist. Craig also stated that if the punishment of Hell was for finite sins committed in this life, then he would be right, men should not have to suffer eternally. But Craig dismantles this argument by showing that sinful men will infinitely sin  by continuing to reject God while in Hell for eternity and that sinning against and rejecting one’s Creator is a crime that deserves infinite punishment.

Finally in Flew’s third argument he was against bodiless persons. Flew never really developed an argument against bodiless persons, but instead asserted that bodiless persons could not exist. Craig showed that Flew’s argument here was not valid.

In conclusion, Antony Flew basically stuttered and mumbled and didn’t really know which way to go in order to refute Craig’s arguments for God’s existence.

You can listen to the debate here.

This debate took place in 1998.

Antony Flew was a renown atheist most of his life, but in the last years leading up to his death he recanted his atheism. You can find that here.

1. This is called Libertarian free will, that a person is equally able to make choices between options independent of pressures or constraints from external or internal causes. 

2. Compatibilist free will holds that a person can choose only that which is consistent with his nature. Therefore, for example, a person who is a slave to sin (Rom. 6:14-20) and cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14) would not be able to choose God of his own free will because his free will doesn’t have the capacity to contradict his nature.

 

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