Sunday, February 25, 2018

The divine juggler

In the same presentation, Craig makes two claims back-to-back:

What I point out is that the objector seems to be assuming a couple of hidden assumptions. He is assuming first of all that if God is all-powerful then he can create just any world that he wants...It is logically impossible to make someone do something freely. That is as logically impossible as making a married bachelor or a round square. You cannot make someone do something freely. What that means is that if God creates a world of free creatures he cannot guarantee how they will all choose. In particular, he cannot guarantee that they would all freely receive Christ and accept his salvation. It may be that in any world of free creatures that God could create, at least some of them would freely reject his grace and be lost.

And moreover he has so ordered the world that those who never hear the Gospel and are lost are only people who would not have believed in the Gospel and been saved even if they had heard it. In other words, anyone who would have believed the Gospel and been saved if he heard it, is born at a time and place in history where he does hear it. What that would mean, Kevin, is that no one could stand before God on the Judgment Day and say, “All right God, I rejected your revelation in nature and conscience, but if only I’d heard the Gospel, then I would have been saved.” And God will say to him, “No, I knew that even if you had heard the Gospel, you would not have received it. Therefore my judgment of you on the basis of your response to nature and conscience is neither unloving nor unjust.” I think that what I said at first by showing that those assumptions are false takes the sting out of it.

This is a positive proof that it is entirely consistent to affirm that God is all-powerful and all-loving and yet some people never hear the Gospel and are lost. So if my scenario is even possible, it shows that those truths are entirely consistent.

That explanation suffers from several basic problems:

i) On the one hand he stresses God's limitations. God is stymied by human freedom. God can only choose from the feasible worlds that happen to be at his disposal. He has no control over what those worlds contain. As Craig said recently, God might be dealt "a very lousy hand". 

ii) But Craig then does an about-face and asserts that God has such an abundance of viable options that he can arrange things so that "those who never hear the Gospel and are lost are only people who would not have believed in the Gospel and been saved even if they had heard it."  But that's playing both sides of the fence, for (ii) is in tension with (i). Given (i), there's no presumption that God has that option. If anything, the odds are against it. 

iii) In addition, you can't just scramble the chronology of human lives. Human individuals don't exist as discrete units, in isolation to what came before. Rather, human beings are links in geological chains. The same human can't be born at a different time without somehow shifting the entire family tree to which he belongs, by moving it forward or backward. To relocate one human in time, you must relocate an entire historical sequence of intervening events. And Craig implies that God did that repeatedly. But that twists the causal linearity of history into a pretzel. 


  1. If I were going to push on the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom to answer the problem about those who never heard the Gospel, I'd take a very different line of approach: If God knew that a person would respond if given a chance to hear, and if God could not (by gentle nudging or whatever) induce any missionary to go to the person or anyone to put the message in a place where he would find it, God would send him a special revelation, dreams, etc. There are lots of such cases, esp. in the Muslim world.

    1. That's certainly more parsimonious than Craig's labyrinthine metaphysics.

  2. To say that God is ever stymied by ANYTHING in this universe of his creation is to take a very low view of just how amazing God is. We have difficulty enough just apprehending (or comprehending) a being that consists of three persons, so to assume we could even begin to understand his thoughts, his actions, his capabilities is almost asinine. I appreciate that WLC is trying to tie together some difficult loose ends (from our limited perspective) but scripture very clearly makes a point of telling us HIS ways are not our ways. His rebuke of JOB about where he was when the stars sang and the sons of God shouted for joy, gives lie to the futility of human reasoning when trying to understand the thoughts, actions and motivations of a tripartite deity. We are left undone in his presence.