Sunday, March 23, 2014

Should Peter go to the mission field?

Like freewill theists generally, William Lane Craig espouses the omnibenevolence of God. He thinks God does as much as he can to save as many sinners as he can. There are, however, at least two (maybe three) prima facie inconsistencies in that position. 

To begin with, if God wants to save everyone, why doesn't he save everyone? Wouldn't universalism be a better match for omnibenevolence? 

The stock response is that God can't make free agents choose. To be truly free is to have the freedom to do otherwise. However, Craig rejects that definition of freewill:

So what does it mean to have free will? Some thinkers have said that it is the ability in causally identical situations to choose either A or not-A. It seems to me, however, that this so-called Principle of Alternative Possibilities is not a necessary condition of willing freely. I’m persuaded by illustrations like that given by Harry Frankfurt to show that freedom does not require the ability to choose other than as one does. Imagine a man whose brain has been secretly implanted with electrodes by a mad scientist. The scientist, being an Obama supporter, decides that he will activate the electrodes to make the man vote for Obama if the man goes into the polling booth to vote for Romney. On the other hand, if the man chooses to vote for Obama, then the scientist will not activate the electrodes. Suppose, then, the man goes into the polling booth and presses the button to vote for Obama. In such a case it seems that the man freely votes for Obama. Yet it was not within his power to do anything different!

But Craig has another card up his sleeve:

God’s natural knowledge is His knowledge of all necessary truths. By means of it God knows what is the full range of possible worlds, or as you put it, worlds that are intrinsically possible. He knows, for example, that in some possible world Peter freely denies Christ three times and that in another possible world Peter freely affirms Christ under identical circumstances, for both are possible. 
God’s middle knowledge is His knowledge of all contingently true conditional propositions in the subjunctive mood, including propositions about creaturely free actions. For example, logically prior to His creative decree, God knew that if Peter were in circumstances C, he would freely deny Christ three times. Such subjunctive conditionals are often called counterfactuals. These counterfactuals serve to delimit the range of possible worlds to worlds which are feasible for God to actualize. For example, there is an intrinsically possible world in which Peter freely affirms Christ in precisely the same circumstances in which he in fact denied him; but given the counterfactual truth that if Peter were in precisely those circumstances he would freely deny Christ, then the possible world in which Peter freely affirms Christ in those circumstances is not feasible for God. 
So there are worlds which are intrinsically possible but which God, given the counterfactuals that happen to be true, is not capable of actualizing and which are therefore, in Flint’s terminology, infeasible for God. Notice that because counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are contingently true, which worlds are feasible for God and which are infeasible is also a contingent matter. It all depends on how creatures would freely behave in various circumstances, which is beyond God’s control. 
Alvin Plantinga was the first contemporary philosopher to apply this scheme to the problem of evil. In response to J. L. Mackie’s claim that since a world in which everyone always chooses to do the morally right thing is intrinsically possible, an omnipotent God should be able to create it, Plantinga pointed out that for all we know such a world may not be feasible for God. Indeed, for all we know, all the worlds which are feasible for God and which involve as much good as the actual world also involve as much evil. Hence, although a world with as much good as the actual world but with less or no evil in it may be intrinsically possible, it may not be within God’s power to create such a world. Hence, God cannot be indicted for not having created such a world.
One question is whether Craig's appeal to infeasible worlds is consistent with his rejecting the principle of alternate possibilities. 
But there's another issue. How can he square God's omnibenevolence with the fate of those who never heard the gospel? Craig thinks he has a solution to that conundrum as well:
If God knew that you would not go to the tribe, He would have placed in the tribe only persons afflicted with transworld damnation; but if He knew that you would go to the tribe, He would have placed other persons in the tribe who would have accepted the gospel.

According to Craig, there are possible worlds in which every unreached person would have disbelieved the gospel if given the chance. God instantiates one of these worlds. Even though they never got to hear the gospel, their fate is consistent with God's universal salvific provision and will, since they would have blown the opportunity. 

But given his distinction between possible and feasible worlds, is there any presumption that there are one or more feasible worlds in which every unreached person would have disbelieved the gospel if given the chance? 

1 comment:

  1. One reason (Calvinist) Greg Koukl rejects W.L. Craig's version of Molinism is that Craig believes that God elects worlds (or the world), not individuals. Even though the Bible doesn't teaching the election of worlds. Also, Calvinists argue that a good exegetical case for individual election of persons can be made from Scripture.

    Anyone think that's a bad objection?

    BTW, Craig is dubious regarding the reality of a multiverse.