April 14, 2016

Kevin Scharp's Divine Psychology Critique

So recently William Lane Craig participated in a "debate"1 with one Keven Scharp on the question of the existence of God. Scharp was one of the more solid opponents that I've seen Craig have. One, while his argument for Atheism wasn't an argument for God's non-existence, it wasn't just the standard Atheist special pleading either. Rather He made an argument for the rationality of the belief in the non-existence of God that reminds me somewhat of Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology, though I don't think as robust. Truly very engaging.

However, he also makes a rather interesting new counter-argument2 against the arguments for God's existence. This had to do with what he called "divine psychology". In this, he says that any argument that relies on our understanding or predicting God's reasons for doing something is inherently flawed because there is no way for us to know that. This is why, according to him, POE fails to critique theism. While I agree with him on POE anyway, he attempts to expand this same problem to the cosmological, teological, resurrection, and transcendental3 arguments.

However, I think this obviously fails. Well, I'm not sure if it is generally obvious, but it is obvious to me anyway. This is because the arguments do not assume that we know God's motives. Rather they argue back to certain attributes that a creator must have, and those attributes sound an awful lot like God. But we don't need to argue that God must have wanted to create the universe for such and such a reason in order for the argument to be successful. I remember Scharp once asked Craig, "Well, what evidence do we have that this God would even want to create the universe." I wanted to respond, "The fact that the universe exists!" I mean, seriously!

Here's an analogy for anyone who thinks that Scharp's argument is any good4: We all are aware that Stonehenge was made by people. We know this because of the clear signs of shaping of the rocks, their unnatural arrangement, and the design of the surrounding region. However, we have no clue as to their psychology. We don't know why they created Stonehenge, or even how it was used. But this doesn't prevent us from inferring that it had to have been made by some cause, or that it was designed. Indeed, how could it be anything else.

The same goes for these similar arguments for God. There is no appeal to God's plans or God's psychology in the arguments5. They don't conclude to Him due to His reasons, but due to His attributes. He may have created the world to have a relationship with humans. He may have created it to play skeetball. Who cares. That doesn't change the fact that the universe needed to have a creator who is an incorporeal, eternal, intelligent, transcendent, morally foundational, and personal being. The cause of the universe must have those attributes regardless of what His reasons were for creating the universe.
1 I say debate loosely here. There were no rebuttals or anything else like that. Simply two speeches, some clarifying questions for each other, and then a Q&A. There wasn't really any engagement with each others' arguments.

2 Not the weakness argument. That wasn't particularly interesting since it doesn't show an inherent weakness in the arguments themselves. It was more a criticism of Craig's description of how deductive arguments work. But that doesn't change the fact that if the premises are true, the conclusion necessarily follows.

3 The family of arguments to which the Moral Argument belongs. Though, ironically, he doesn't apply it to the Moral Argument.

4This technically only applies to the teological and transcendental argument, but the flaw it exposes protects the other arguments too if you think it through.

5 This also includes the resurrection argument, since we don't need to know why God would raise Christ from the dead to conclude that the historical evidence suggests that He was raised from the dead. However, with this argument we DO have sufficient reason to know God's psychology on the matter because Jesus TOLD us why, and self-disclosure is the basis of all psychology.

1 comment:

Phil K said...

Good points. I saw the same debate and thought several similar things. Scharp was definitely more interesting and engaging than Craig's typical opponents, but it seemed like most of Scharp's objections just missed the point of the arguments Craig gives.