Posts Tagged ‘Lewis Wolpert’

“Who created God?” isn’t a meaningful question

December 3, 2013
William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig

I recently watched this debate between Christian apologist and philosopher William Lane Craig and a British biologist and outspoken atheist, Lewis Wolpert. If we score the debate as objectively as possible, then it’s hard to imagine anyone saying that Dr. Wolpert “won.” It’s disappointing how lazy Wolpert comes across—as if wit and sarcasm count for actual arguments.

And if you know Bill Craig, you know he was as square, earnest, and intellectually rigorous as always, God bless him. What did you expect? This is supposed to be an actual debate, not Prime Minister’s Question Time.

One philosophical point that Craig made several times—which neither the moderator nor Wolpert seemed to grasp at all—is that if we assume that God is who Christianity says he is, then it’s meaningless—indeed, a category mistake—to demand an answer to the question, “Who or what created God?”

Unlike all physical realities in the material universe, God isn’t the kind of thing that requires a creator or cause. This isn’t a sleight of hand or debater’s trick: Christian theology has always maintained that God is absolute, eternal, infinite, without beginning. As Dr. Craig argued, only things that have a beginning—like our universe, for instance—are contingent, which means their existence isn’t necessary, and so require a cause. If God is who Christians say he is, then he is necessary and therefore uncaused.

How convenient! the skeptic might reply: We Christians have insulated our faith from requiring an answer to the most demanding question.

Well, as Dr. Craig correctly points out, God isn’t the only thing in the universe that’s like that. Abstract realities like mathematics and logic are also absolute, non-contingent, uncaused, and necessary. Two plus two equals four, for instance, would be true whether or not the universe existed. Its truth doesn’t depend on anything else for its existence. God is more like that—although God is personal rather than abstract.

I don’t say this to prove that God exists, obviously. I’m only saying that if God exists, he’s like that kind of thing and not the other. Feel free not to believe in Christianity’s non-contingent God all you want, but don’t act indignant (as Dr. Wolpert does repeatedly) because you think we’re avoiding the question, “Who or what created God?” The question, according to Christian theology at least (as opposed to, say, Greek mythology), is only unanswerable because it’s meaningless.

I’ve touched on this idea before, or at least I’ve let David Bentley Hart do it for me.