Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"No Other Name": A Muddle Knowledge Perspective on the Exclusivity of Salvation Through Christ

I recently argued that only Calvinism can logically support the proposition that we are saved by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone.

Victor Reppert has countered this claim by appealing to William Lane Craig’s Molinist alternative. See here:


And here:


I will therefore offer a running commentary on the article adduced by Dr. Reppert.

“The conviction of the New Testament writers was that there is no salvation apart from Jesus.”

This is ambiguous. It can either mean:

i) Christ is the only Savior, simpliciter.


ii) Christ, as the only Savior, will save all those and only those who believe in him.

Throughout his article, Craig oscillates between these two propositions. But they are hardly interchangeable.

Moving along:

“But with the so-called ‘Expansion of Europe’ during the three centuries of exploration and discovery from 1450 to 1750, the situation changed radically.{6} It was now seen that far from being the universal religion, Christianity was confined to a small comer of the globe. This realization had a two-fold impact upon people's religious thinking: (i) it tended toward the relativization of religious beliefs. Since each religious system was historically and geographically limited, it seemed incredible that any of them should be regarded as universally true. It seemed that the only religion which could make a universal claim upon mankind would be a sort of general religion of nature. (ii) It tended to make Christianity's claim to exclusivity appear unjustly narrow and cruel. If salvation was only through faith in Christ, then the majority of the human race was condemned to eternal damnation, since they had not so much as even heard of Christ. Again, only a natural religion available to all men seemed consistent with a fair and loving God.”

Here Craig is making a historical observation without necessarily stating his own position. But it’s still worth commenting upon.

The exclusive claims of Scripture were not framed in ignorance of the alternatives. To the contrary, they were framed in explicit contrast to the alternatives.

Both the OT and the NT were revealed in a religiously pluralistic culture.

In the same vein, Craig also quotes something from John Hick, under whom he studied:


For understood literally the Son of God, God the Son, God-incarnate language implies that God can be adequately known and responded to only through Jesus; and the whole religious life of mankind, beyond the stream of Judaic-Christian faith is thus by implication excluded as lying outside the sphere of salvation. This implication did little positive harm so long as Christendom was a largely autonomous civilization with only relatively marginal interaction with the rest of mankind. But with the clash between the Christian and Muslim worlds, and then on an ever-broadening front with European colonization through the earth, the literal understanding of the mythological language of Christian discipleship has had a divisive effect upon the relations between that minority of human beings who live within the borders of the Christian tradition and that majority who live outside it and within other streams of religious life.

Transposed into theological terms, the problem which has come to the surface in the encounter of Christianity with the other world religions is this: If Jesus was literally God incarnate, and if it is by his death alone that men can be saved, and by their response to him alone that they can appropriate that salvation, then the only doorway to eternal life is Christian faith. It would follow from this that the large majority of the human race so far have not been saved. But is it credible that the loving God and Father of all men has decreed that only those born within one particular thread of human history shall be saved?{11}


This is not representative of Craig’s own position. But I’ll comment on it anyway:

There are several problems with Hick’s contention:

i) As noted above, both OT and NT Jews were very conversant with the phenomenon of religious pluralism. That was, indeed, a perennial threat to the integrity of their own religious affiliation.

ii) The fact that the Incarnation may be divisive is irrelevant to its veracity. Is Hick staking out the position that nothing true can be divisive?

iii) Related to (ii), the divisive consequences of the Incarnation are irrelevant to the correct interpretation of NT Christological claims.

Hick is superimposing his own viewpoint onto the perspective of the NT writers. The fact that he is tolerant (as he defines tolerance) doesn’t mean they were tolerant.

And the further fact that the Incarnation might be divisive doesn’t mean that they ever intended their claims to be mythopoetic rather than literal.

iv) Hick can only justify his religious pluralism by treating “God” as ineffable or inscrutable.

But in that event, Hick forfeits the right to invoke the loving fatherhood of God.

Back to Craig:

“According to the New Testament, God does not want anyone to perish, but desires that all persons repent and be saved and come to know the truth (2 Peter 3.9; 1 Timothy 2.4).”

I disagree with Craig’s interpretation. His appeal to 1 Tim 2:4 commits the intensional fallacy by equating the sense of the universal quantifier with its referent.

His appeal to 2 Pet 3:9 fails to take into account the observation of Bauckham that “the author remains close to his Jewish source, for in Jewish thought it was usually for the sake of the repentance of his own people that God delayed judgment,” 2 Peter, Jude (Word 1983), 313.

Along the same lines, Craig’s case is also prized on divine “omnibenevolence.” But Paul Helm has written a provocative article in which he argues that the idea of divine omnibenevolence is incoherent inasmuch as it treats human beings as if they were discrete units rather than social creatures. Cf.

"Can God Love the World?" Nothing Greater, Nothing Better: Theological Essays on the Love of God, K. Vanhoozer, ed. (Eerdmans 2001), chap. 8.

Continuing with Craig:

“Those who make a well-informed and free decision to reject Christ are self-condemned, since they repudiate God's unique sacrifice for sin.”

Here’s another problem. Throughout this article, Craig uses the adjective “free” without defining his terms. But this is a key issue. For there’s a basic difference between a compatibilist and a libertarian definition of free agency.

Here’s a contrast between one definition and another:


According to compatibilists, we do have free will. They propound a sense of the word 'free' according to which free will is compatible with determinism, even though determinism is the view that the history of the universe is fixed in such a way that nothing can happen otherwise than it does because everything that happens is necessitated by what has already gone before (see Determinism And indeterminism).

Suppose tomorrow is a national holiday. You are considering what to do. You can climb a mountain or read Lao Tse. You can mend your bicycle or go to the zoo. At this moment you are reading the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. You are free to go on reading or stop now. You have started on this sentence, but you don't have to... finish it.

In this situation, as so often in life, you have a number of options. Nothing forces your hand. It seems natural to say that you are entirely free to choose what to do. And, given that nothing hinders you, it seems natural to say that you act entirely freely when you actually do (or try to do) what you have decided to do.

Compatibilists claim that this is the right thing to say. They believe that to have free will, to be a free agent, to be free in choice and action, is simply to be free from constraints of certain sorts. Freedom is a matter of not being physically or psychologically forced or compelled to do what one does. Your character, personality, preferences, and general motivational set may be entirely determined by events for which you are in no way responsible (by your genetic inheritance, upbringing, subsequent experience, and so on). But you do not have to be in control of any of these things in order to have compatibilist freedom. They do not constrain or compel you, because compatibilist freedom is just a matter of being able to choose and act in the way one prefers or thinks best given how one is. As its name declares, it is compatible with determinism. It is compatible with determinism even though it follows from determinism that every aspect of your character, and everything you will ever do, was already inevitable before you were born.

If determinism does not count as a constraint or compulsion, what does? Compatibilists standardly take it that freedom can be limited by such things as imprisonment, by a gun at one's head, or a threat to the life of one's children, or a psychological obsession and so on.

It is arguable, however, that compatibilist freedom is something one continues to possess undiminished so long as one can choose or act in any way at all. One continues to possess it in any situation in which one is not actually panicked, or literally compelled to do what one does, in such a way that it is not clear that one can still be said to choose or act at all (as when one presses a button, because one's finger is actually forced down on the button).

All circumstances limit one's options in some way. It is true that some circumstances limit one's options much more drastically than others; but it does not follow that one is not free to choose in those circumstances. Only literal compulsion, panic, or uncontrollable impulse really removes one's freedom to choose, and to (try to) do what one most wants to do given one's character or personality. Even when one's finger is being forced down on the button, one can still act freely in resisting the pressure, and in many other ways.

Most of us are free to choose throughout our waking lives, according to the compatibilist conception of freedom. We are free to choose between the options that we perceive to be open to us. (Sometimes we would rather not face options, but are unable to avoid awareness of the fact that we do face them.) One has options even when one is in chains, or falling through space. Even if one is completely paralysed, one is still free in so far as one is free to choose to think about one thing rather than another. Sartre (1948 ) observed that there is a sense in which we are 'condemned' to freedom, not free not to be free.

Of course one may well not be able to do everything one wants - one may want to fly unassisted, vapourize every gun in the United States by an act of thought, or house all those who sleep on the streets of Calcutta by the end of the month. But few have supposed that free will, or free agency, is a matter of being able to do everything one wants. That is one possible view of what it is to be free; but according to the compatibilists, free will is simply a matter of having genuine options and opportunities for action, and being able to choose between them according to what one wants or thinks best.


Those who want to secure the conclusion that we are free agents do well to adopt a compatibilist theory of freedom, for determinism is unfalsifiable, and may be true. (Contemporary physics gives us no more reason to suppose that determinism is false than to suppose that it is true - though this is contested; for further discussion see Determinism and indeterminism .) Many, however, think that the compatibilist account of things does not even touch the real problem of free will. They believe that all compatibilist theories of freedom are patently inadequate.

What is it, they say, to define freedom in such a way that it is compatible with determinism? It is to define it in such a way that a creature can be a free agent even if all its actions throughout its life are determined to happen as they do by events that have taken place before it is born: so that there is a clear sense in which it could not at any point in its life have done otherwise than it did. This, they say, is certainly not free will. More importantly, it is not a sufficient basis for true moral responsibility. One cannot possibly be truly or ultimately morally responsible for what one does if everything one does is ultimately a deterministic outcome of events that took place before one was born; or (more generally) a deterministic outcome of events for whose occurrence one is in no way ultimately responsible.


“By ‘libertarian freedom’ is mean freedom such that the agent who makes a choice is really able, under exactly the same circumstances, to choose something different from the thing that is in fact chosen. The choices in question, then, are not causally determined to occur as they do; libertarian freedom is inherently indeterministic. This means that there is nothing whatever that predetermines which choice will be made, until the creature is actually placed in the situation and makes the decision,” (W. Hasker), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, M. Peterson & R. VanArragon, eds. (Blackwell 2004), 219.


For further discussion, cf.

R. Kane, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (Oxford 2002)



As we shall see, Craig apparently combines a Wesleyan version of grace with a libertarian version of freewill.

Prevenient/sufficient grace restores the fallen will to a state of libertarian freedom.

Another basic failing of Craig’s article is that he assumes a libertarian version of action theory without ever defending it.

Moving along:

“By spurning God's prevenient grace and the solicitation of His Spirit, they shut out God's mercy and seal their own destiny.”

On a related note, Craig is assuming rather than defending a Wesleyan theory of grace. But this is open to challenge. Cf.

T. Schreiner, “Does Scripture Teach Prevenient Grace in the Wesleyan Sense?” T. Schreiner & B. Ware, eds. Still Sovereign (Baker 2000), 229-46.

Craig can only salvage sola gratia by defining grace as resistible and ineffectual.


“They, therefore, and not God, are responsible for their condemnation, and God deeply mourns their loss.”

Perhaps this is a semantic distinction, but Craig seems to use “responsible” as synonymous with “blameworthy.”

I, however, would distinguish the two. God is responsible for everything that happens, although he’s not solely responsible, and he blameless for whatever happens.

“One could maintain that God graciously applies to such persons the benefits of Christ's atoning death without their conscious knowledge thereof on the basis of their response to the light of general revelation and the truth that they do have.”

Yes, that theoretical option is available, but it comes at a cost:

i) Craig can only salvage solus Christus by sacrificing sola fide. This would confirm my assertion of an internal relation between Reformed particularism and the Reformational soli.

ii) Is it Scriptural to dump sole fide?

Moving along:

“Even as He did in the case of Old Testament figures like Job who were outside the covenant of Israel.{12}”

A problem with this sort of appeal is that Job and other OT saints of Gentilic extraction were not saved by general revelation, but by special revelation. They came to a saving knowledge of the true God via their contact with the covenant community.

“If we take Scripture seriously, we must admit that the vast majority of persons in the world are condemned and will be forever lost, even if in some relatively rare cases a person might be saved through his response to the light that he has apart from special revelation.{13}”

Actually, there are Reformed postmils who deny this by combining a doctrine of universal infant salvation (in case of infant mortality) with a postmil eschatology.

However, I’m inclined to agree with Craig on this point.

Moving along:

“Now all of these questions appear, at least, to presuppose that certain counterfactuals of freedom concerning people's response to God's gracious initiatives are true, and the last two seem to presuppose that God's omniscience embraces a species of knowledge known as middle knowledge (scientia media). For if there are no true counterfactuals of freedom, it is not true that certain persons would receive Christ if they were to hear the gospel, nor can God be held responsible for the number of the lost if He lacks middle knowledge, for without such knowledge He could only guess in the moment logically prior to His decree to create the world how many and, indeed, whether any persons would freely receive Christ (or whether He would even send Christ!) and be saved. Let us assume, then, that some such counterfactuals are true and that God has middle knowledge.{14}”

One of the problems here is not with his appeal to counterfactuals, per se, but with the way he defines counterfactual freedom in libertarian terms.

Once again, he’s assuming what he needs to prove.

For example, a Calvinist could affirm the counterfactuals of freedom, but define freedom in compatibilist terms.

Likewise, a Calvinist could affirm the counterfactuals of freedom, but assign them then to the agency of God rather than the agency of man.

Craig is simply supposing that you need to index counterfactual freedom to the human will rather than the divine will.

No supporting argument is offered to warrant his presumption.

Counterfactual knowledge does not entail middle knowledge.

Moving along:

“In the first, unconditioned moment God knows all possibilia, not only all individual essences, but also all possible worlds. Molina calls such knowledge "natural knowledge" because the content of such knowledge is essential to God and in no way depends on the free decisions of His will. By means of His natural knowledge, then, God has knowledge of every contingent state of affairs which could possibly obtain and of what the exemplification of the individual essence of any free creature could freely choose to do in any such state of affairs that should be actual.”

Just as he fails to define “freedom,” Craig also fails to define a possible world. What is a possible world? What makes a possible world possible?

A Calvinist can affirm possible worlds without endorsing Craig’s ontology.

Craig seems to assume that a possible world is, in part, a scenario about what human agents could possibly do rather than a scenario about what God could possibly do.

But there are many different way of modeling possible worlds. For example:


If we are to be realists about alethic modal truths, then the natural question is: What makes modal propositions true? What are they true of? In general, an objectively true proposition must be true of some aspect of reality. One way of spelling out this intuition is to say that in order for a proposition to be true, it must have a truthmaker, something in virtue of which it is true. The truthmaker is something worldly, and for propositions about concreta, it is something concrete.

What, then, are the truthmakers of alethic modal claims? This question is deeply puzzling, since many alethic modal claims prima facie concern non-existent things such as unicorns. One proposed answer is that the truthmakers of alethic modal claims are possible worlds, and we have already seen that we have good reason to believe in possible worlds even apart from this. So this brings us to the second question: What are possible worlds?

In his paper in this volume, William Lycan discusses six approaches to the problem of how to make sense of talk of non-existent possibilia, grouped into two wide groups. The actualist accounts reject any non-actual entities, any entities not found in the actual world, and thus must provide an account of the truth of modal claims in terms of this-worldly actual entities. The concretist accounts, on the other hand, say that there are concrete non-actual entities, such as unicorns existing concretely in concrete physical worlds different from ours, which serve as the truthmakers of modal propositions.

Leibniz, who started the whole debate about possible worlds, argued that necessary truths, including modal truths such as that unicorns are possible, must exist somewhere. Finding Platonic entities too queer, he wanted to locate these truths as acts of thought or ideas in the mind of an omniscient, necessarily existent God who contemplates them. He then gave an account of possible worlds that matched this. A Leibnizian possible world is a maximally specific consistent thought in the mind of God of a way for the world to be.

These acts of thought are actual entities, then, and so Leibniz has an answer as to what possible worlds are. Moreover, one might argue that Leibniz’s account makes some progress with respect to the question of how it is that the entities which are possible worlds represent concrete things. Recall that one difficulty with the Platonic approach was that of picking out which relation between concrete things and propositions was to count as the relation of representation. If one takes the controversial view that our thoughts are innately representative, the Leibnizian account may get around this problem by saying that that relation between divine thoughts and concrete things counts as the relation of representation which is the relation produced by that faculty in God’s mind which is analogous to the faculty of intentionality in us, and we can perhaps point out which of our faculties is the faculty of intentionality by ostension. There are many difficulties here, including first of all the Leibnizian’s very controversial commitment to thoughts being innately representative or to a faculty of intentionality. But if we find appealing the intuition that we can have a better grasp of what thoughts are, even divine thoughts, than we can of Platonic entities, because thoughts are something that we after all have direct experiential knowledge of, then we might prefer the Leibnizian account.

However, this does not solve the main problem with the Platonic approach which was its failure to give an adequate account of what makes possibilities possible. The Leibnizian account does not help there at all, since those divine ideas that are singled out for being dubbed “worlds” are singled out in virtue of being consistent, that is possible. Their possibility is prior in the order of explanation to their being known by God to be possible (cf. Adams, 1994, p. 191). And so this approach is not relevantly different from singling out some collections of propositions for being dubbed “worlds” on the grounds of their being consistent. Positing a God who contemplates possible worlds as described above does not in any way help with Aristotelian intuitions about possibility being grounded in actuality, since, as far as the account goes, the thoughts could be just as causally inert as Platonic abstracta.

However…there is a natural way to combine this account with Leibniz’s, by identifying the Aristotelian first cause with Leibniz’s necessarily existent God. Then, one could have both possible worlds, namely certain thoughts in the mind of God, and an answer to the problem of what makes these worlds possible, namely God’s power for initiating a causal chain capable of leading to their existence. The God of this theory would not only be omniscient but also omnipotent, then.



On this general view, a possible world is a picturesque way of describing what-all God could possibly do, and not what the creature could possibly do.

God knows what the creature would do because he knows what he would do with the creature. So God’s counterfactual knowledge is a species of self-knowledge.

Continuing with Craig:

“In the second moment, God possesses knowledge of all true counterfactual propositions, including counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. That is to say, He knows what contingent states of affairs would obtain if certain antecedent states of affairs were to obtain; whereas by His natural knowledge God knew what any free creature could do in any set of circumstances, now in this second moment God knows what any free creature would do in any set of circumstances. This is not because the circumstances causally determine the creature's choice, but simply because this is how the creature would freely choose.”

i) One problem with this framework is that it’s either Platonic or viciously circular.

On the one hand, it looks like possibilities inhere in some autonomous, free-floating plenum. God is free to choose which possible world to instantiate, but the possibilities in and of themselves are ontologically independent of God.

Since I assume that Craig subscribes to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, he cannot very well affirm the existence of some coeternal substance or absolute alongside God.

If, on the other hand, the possibilities are constituted by the divine mind, a la Leibniz, then it’s viciously circular to say that God is choosing in accordance with what the human agent would do, for whatever properties the hypothetical agent would have are due to God’s mentally and freely assigning a certain set of properties to the hypothetical agent in the first place.

ii) Another problem with Craig’s construction is his failure to explain how God could know what a free agent would do if free agency is defined in libertarian terms.

At most, God would know every possible outcome.

iii) Related to (ii), to say that God knows what contingent states of affairs would obtain if certain antecedent states of affairs were to obtain is only cogent if the antecedent state of affairs is a sufficient condition of the subsequent outcome. But that would be deterministic (pace libertarianism).

iv) Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Craig’s framework is cogent, middle knowledge would be causally dependent on the creature (i.e. on what the creature would do). If so, then we must jettison divine aseity.

Moving along:

“On Molina's view predestination is merely that aspect of providence pertaining to eternal salvation; it is the order and means by which God ensures that some free creature attains eternal life. Prior to the divine decree, God knows via His middle knowledge how any possible free creature would respond in any possible circumstances, which include the offer of certain gifts of prevenient grace which God might provide. In choosing a certain possible world, God commits Himself, out of His goodness, to offering various gifts of grace to every person which are sufficient for his salvation. Such grace is not intrinsically efficacious in that it of itself produces its effect; rather it is extrinsically efficacious in accomplishing its end in those who freely cooperate with it. God knows that many will freely reject His sufficient grace and be lost; but He knows that many others will assent to it, thereby rendering it efficacious in effecting their salvation. Given God's immutable decree to actualize a certain world, those whom God knew would respond to His grace are predestined to do so in the sense that it is absolutely certain that they will respond to and persevere in God's grace.”

On this semi-Pelagian view, God doesn’t actually save a single soul. Instead, resistible grace makes in possible for a sinner to be saved, while predestination instantiates a sinner who saves himself by submitting to resistible grace.

Other issues aside, Craig has made no effort to show that a Molinist version of predestination is the least bit Scriptural.

All we have here is a paper theory.

Moving along:

“Years ago when I first read Alvin Plantinga's basically Molinist formulation of the Free Will Defense against the problem of evil, it occurred to me that his reasoning might also help to resolve the problem of the exclusivity of salvation through Christ, and my own subsequent study of the notion of middle knowledge has convinced me that this is in fact so.{17}”

One of the primary problems with this section of Craig’s paper is that he’s juggling two different models of salvation.

On the one hand, he allows for the possibility of salvation apart from faith in Christ. On the other hand, he also has his Molinist solution.

But this is redundant. If a sinner can be saved by a positive response to general revelation, then Molinism is superfluous to “the soteriological problem of evil.”

After all, Craig goes on to say:

“Since Jesus and his work are historical in character, many persons as a result of historical and geographical accident will not be sufficiently well-informed concerning him and thus unable to respond to him in faith. Such persons who are not sufficiently well-informed about Christ's person and work will be judged on the basis of their response to general revelation and the light that they do have.”

If this were true, then Molinism would be a solution to a pseudoproblem. At most, Molinism is true—but useless.

Moving along:

“7. There is no world feasible for God in which all persons would freely receive Christ.”

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is true, Molinism only pushes the soteriological problem of evil back a step: why should there be “transworld damnation” in the first place?

Sinners need to be saved because they are sinners. Craig is presupposing the fall. But if Molinism offers a solution to the soteriological problem of evil, then it must also explain why there is a problem that needs to be solved.

Moving along:

“God in His providence has so arranged the world that as the gospel spread outward from its historical roots in first century Palestine, all who would respond to this gospel, were they to hear it, did and do hear it. Those who have only general revelation and do not respond to it would also not have responded to the gospel had they heard it. Hence, no one is lost because of lack of information due to historical or geographical accident.”

i) This is remarkably speculative. Why should anyone take it seriously?

No a single individual living in 1C India or China or Japan or Russia or Sub-Saharan Africa or North America or South America or Australia would have exercised his libertarian freedom to believe the gospel?

ii) Moreover, Craig’s position is incoherent. For he appears to say that there are some sinners who would respond favorably to natural revelation, but respond unfavorably to the gospel.

On the one hand, he says that no one who never had a chance to hear the gospel would have believed the gospel had he been given the opportunity.

On the other hand, he says that there are sinners who never heard the gospel, but they will be saved anyway because they lived up to the light they had (natural revelation).

Moving along:

“I think that it helps to put the proper perspective on Christian missions: it is our duty to proclaim the gospel to the whole world, trusting that God has so providentially ordered things that through us the good news will be brought to persons who God knew would respond if they heard it.”

Why is it our duty to proclaim the gospel to people who could be saved apart from the gospel?

Craig is trying to screw one half of one soteriology into the bolt of an alternative soteriology. The two halves don’t make a whole, because the screw belongs to one kit, and the bolt to another kit.


  1. Craig is trying to screw one half of one soteriology into the bolt of an alternative soteriology. The two halves don’t make a whole, because the screw belongs to one kit, and the bolt to another kit.

    Interesting observation Steve, that's why I left the faith. I mean, Craig has all his nuts and bolts mixed up. If even he doesn't know which is true, how can anyone? So, that's why I left TEDS and went to Ted's Bar & Grill instead...

  2. Isn't this really where you (and other Reformers) and he part ways?

    It might be objected that necessarily a loving God would not create persons who He knew would be damned as a concomitant of His creating persons who He knew would be saved. Given His middle knowledge of such a prospect, He should have refrained from creation altogether. But this objection does not strike me as true, much less necessarily so. It is possible that God loves all persons and desires their salvation and furnishes sufficient grace for the salvation of all; indeed, some of the lost may receive even greater gifts of prevenient grace than some of the saved. It is of their own free will that people reject the grace of God and are damned. Their damnation is the result of their own choice and is contrary to God's perfect will, which is that all persons be saved, and their previsioned obduracy should not be allowed to preclude God's creating persons who would freely respond to His grace and be saved. [emphasis mine]

    So long as he operates on the premise that 1 Tim 2:4 and 2 Pe 3:9 are general in scope, and you operate on the premise that it is not, I find it hard to see possible consilience.

    And yes, I know you theologians have "fancy words" for this sort of thing -- inclusivism/exclusivism, blah, blah...but I refuse to learn those words elsewise I may be mistaken for a theologian one day ;)

  3. It's in how he defines "free will." So, "yes and no" to your question.

    For him, freedom is libertarian. For us, its compatiblist.

    It's not just his view of 1 Tim and 2 Peter. There are plenty in the Reformed and Amyraldian camps that assert that very thing. That's a linguistic and contextual discussion.

    In addition, the Reformed agree. Men are morally responsible for their own choice if they reject the gospel when the hear it. It is only their love of evil that keeps them from believing. Ah, but didn't God decree that they not believe. Yes, He did, but (a) the Arminian stipulates to this as well because Arminianism includes a decree for the fall, and (b) decrees only render something certain as a necessary condition. The sufficient condition is men's unbelief, which arises not from a decree of God by which fresh evil is put into men to cause them not to believe, but it passes them over leaving them in their natural state. They could believe if they did not love their evil. Ultimately, then Craig conflates mercy and remunerative justice. Salvation becomes a response to God's grace, but God's grace is given to all men. Those who improve upon it receive it. That's not mercy, that's remunerative justice.

    So, for Craig, he's simply repeating his assertion that, for man to be a responsible moral agent, he must have libertarian freedom.

    However, that's problematic for him, because in his theory, God orders all the external counterfactuals (like circumstances) in order to guarantee a desired result. However, (a) not all men are saved, so God is not guaranteeing that result. We might ask why that is the case, does God value human freeom over human life? If so, doesn't that undercut the assertion that God loves all men? And (b) the whole system flies in the face of libertarianism. If circumstances are determinative, then the choice is no longer free in a libertarian sense. Molinism can work within a compatibilist framework through seconardary, indirect causes; indeed, in that sense, the Reformed tradition sees God as governing men by his direct power and at other times permission, but His governance is effectual whether He acts directly or indirectly.

  4. We might ask why that is the case, does God value human freeom over human life? If so, doesn't that undercut the assertion that God loves all men?

    Giving God a "morally justifiable" reason for the existence of evil, as all non-presups counter the PoE with, indeed is often the very first question you asked.

    And in answer to your second question -- God apparently loves Itself more than human beings.

  5. Daniel wrote:
    God apparently loves Itself more than human beings.

    Isn't this what God ought to do though?

    Think about it:

    1. God is the supreme being.

    2. The supreme being deserves the most love.

    3.: God deserves the most love

    4. The supereme being ought to love the most that which deserves the most love.

    5. God deserves the most love.

    6.: God ought to love Himself the most.

    Naturally, as humans we have the idea that one ought not love oneself more than others. But this is precisely because, as humans, we are not the most deserving of love. In fact, we deserve love no more or less than any other person, and thus holding ourselves in such a selfish light is bad.

    However, if God loved anything else more than He loves Himself, He would have a warped love for He does not hold in the highest esteem that which is to be held in the highest esteem. Likewise, if we love anything else more than we love God, we have a warped love.

    None of this detracts from the fact that God does, in fact, love people He has created. Instead, it points out that God's love must first and primarily be selfish. His secondary love for us is contingent upon His first love for Himself.

  6. "I recently argued that only Calvinism can logically support the proposition that we are saved by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone."

    I think that you have it mixed up.

    It would be by grace alone through faith alone.


    This quote of yours made me giggle.

    Don't you mean that you are saved through faith that is not alone (apart from works)?

    How can it be faith alone if it is not alone apart from works?

    Therefore the Calvinist is not saved by faith alone, he is saved by faith in addition to works.

    But wait...

    Isn't he saved by election alone?

    or is it regeneration alone?

    Well, the Calvinist is definitely not in any position to logically support a proposition that he is saved by grace through faith alone.

    (Unless, of course he modifies what it means to be saved through faith alone.)

    The Calvinist not only wants to impregnate the concept of faith with all sorts of volitional activity, including, but not limited to, repentance, submission, and obedience:


    1) We are saved through faith
    2) Faith = obedience
    3) We are saved through obedience

    The Calvinist also must qualify final salvation based upon a perseverance in good works and faith.

    This is hardly "faith alone".

    The Calvinist, apparently, does not know what logic is.


  7. Oh, and as I've explained in the past, we are not saved by faith alone. Rather, we're justified by faith alone, but saved by grace alone.

    That's the standard Pauline formula.

  8. Antonio said...

    I think that you have it mixed up.

    It would be by grace alone through faith alone.


    Thanks, Antonio.

    I guess I must have mixed it up by reading your blog, where you use the preposition "through" with the noun "grace," as in:

    Acts 15:7,8, 10-11
    Peter rose up and said to them... “We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."


    Another strike against the cheap gracers.

  9. I see you didn't want to regard the touchy subject of the Traditionalist's maintanence of works for both preliminary and final salvation..

    What were you saying about Pauline formula?

    Rom 3:24
    24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

    Does Paul say justified by grace?

    It is interesting that the Traditionalist will be precise in his language when it serves him, as well as being ambiguous for the same.

    Again, the Calvinist is definitely not in any position to logically support a proposition that he is saved by grace through faith alone.

  10. Calvindude,

    I think your position is fairly nonsensical. Selfishness is antithetical to the principle of love, they are mutually exclusive actions. Do you imply that God's own self benefitted from the Creation (of man, universe, etc.)? Is God's glory greatened by creating things to recognize it, adore it, whatever? But that's the last I have to say about the subject.


    I've enjoyed the exchanges between Christians and Christians more than between atheists and Christians as of late.

  11. Selfishness is antithetical to the principle of love, they are mutually exclusive actions.

    This is a common (Kantian) definition/intuition, but I think it needs some defending.

  12. Antonio,

    You're singular counterexample doesn't disprove my statement about "standard" Pauline usage. Try looking up "standard" in the dictionary.

    More to the point, you're trying to change the subject. You originally framed the issue in terms of "salvation by faith."

    That's the formula in dispute.

    The only time Paul uses that phraseology is in Eph 2, and there he says that we were foreordained to perform good works, contrary to your antinomian position.

  13. Daniel Morgan said...


    I think your position is fairly nonsensical. Selfishness is antithetical to the principle of love, they are mutually exclusive actions.


    That's a pretty sweeping statement. Is Danny's affection for his wife antithetical to what he gets out of the relationship?

    (I'm not saying this is analogous to divine love.)

  14. Steve,

    I'm a fairly pure egoist.