For years, William Lane Craig has repeated a bad argument that the existence of objective moral values entails the existence of God. He did it again yesterday:
— Reasonable Faith (@RFupdates) January 30, 2021
The problem is that premise 1 is false since there are non-theistic accounts of objective moral values such as Platonism. And Craig knows this, so what are we to think of this? Is he just being dishonest?
A short excerpt from Craig is found in his book On Guard. The version of the argument that he here defends including both objective moral values and duties. I am not taking issue with the point on objective moral duties here, but only with Craig’s argument that specifies objective moral values which is the most controversial aspect of his argument. With that in mind, Craig’s first point is the only one relevant for this conversation. Let’s take a look:
“First, atheistic moral platonism seems unintelligible. What does it mean to say, for example, that the moral value justice just exists? It’s hard to make sense of this. It’s easy to understand what it means to say that some person is just, but it’s bewildering when someone says that in the absence of any people justice itself exists. Moral values seem to be properties of persons, and it’s hard to understand how justice can exist as an abstraction.”
Craig makes two claims here. First, he claims very strongly that moral platonism seems to be “unintelligible”, i.e. incoherent. However, at the end of his comments, he says, more modestly, that it is simply “hard to understand”. That is the difference between “I can see that your position is not even a candidate for truth” and “I’m not sure what you mean.” And that’s a big difference. So which is it?
Regardless, moral Platonism is no more unintelligible/incoherent than the many attempts to ground objective moral values in a divine agent (e.g. divine conceptualism). And as for the more modest claim, are we really going to ignore all the positions that are “hard to understand”? Where do you suppose that approach would leave a raft of Christian claims like the doctrines of Trinity and incarnation?
To sum up, Craig’s defense of the first premise appears to be nothing more than special pleading.
*Note: An earlier version of this article wrongly attributed the excerpted passage to Amy Hall when it was, in fact, Amy Hall quoting Craig himself. That error has since been corrected.