Friday, July 20, 2018

Searching hearts and minds

The middle knowledge solution is not, however, a good one, for the simple reason that a person cannot be condemned for something he has never done. For example, had I been born in Nazi Germany, maybe I would have become a member of the Hitlerjugend and committed atrocities.  But God will never judge me for such crimes because I never actually committed them! We can be judged guilty only of wrongs we have actually done.

So (not to mention the fact that those who die in infancy might reject Christ under some circumstances and accept him under others) the fundamental point is that they cannot be condemned for something they never do. 

i) Unfortunately, Craig makes no effort to justify his claim. He stipulates that "a person cannot be condemned for something he has never done." Does he think that's self-evident? He that why he doesn't bother to defend his claim?

ii) One oversight is his failure to distinguish between sins and crimes. People aren't generally punished for crimes they didn't commit–although they can be charged with conspiracy to commit a felony. But that's different from sins. And mundane penology serves a different purpose than eschatological justice. Penology is more pragmatic. Keeping crime at manageable levels so that social life is possible. It's not about perfect justice. 

iii) Suppose I plan to rob a 7/11, beat up the cashier–for sadistic pleasure–then shoot him to death. I walk to the 7/11 with a concealed handgun, but when I see a police car in the parking lot, I change my plans.

So I didn't commit a crime. But surely my plan was sinful, even if, due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to call it off at the last moment. Am I not blameworthy for evil intentions? Is the distinction between moral innocence and guilt just a matter of being at a particular place a minute sooner or a minute later? Isn't that a hopelessly shallow view of culpability? 

iv) Scripture says God reads hearts and minds (Ps 7:9; 139:23; Jer 11:20; 17:10; 20:12; Ezk 11:5; Rev 2:23). And it sometimes says that in a judicial context. Doesn't that cover sinful plans and intentions? Indeed, isn't the point to judge the underly source of evil actions? To judge the moral condition of the heart? 

The reason sinners would do certain things if given the opportunity is due to an evil heart. If they thought they could get away with it, they'd do it. But isn't that blameworthy? 

That's why people can be outwardly decent but inwardly rotten. And that's why God reads hearts and minds. That qualifies him to be the eschatological judge. His verdict isn't limited to appearances, but goes to character. A psychopath can be very charming, but that's deceptive. 


  1. I wonder what he would say to the charge that his reasoning is Pelagian, as it does not view humanity as condemned in Adam, but only for the individual sins committed by the person. A non-federal headship view is problematic, as God condemns lots of infants, children, wives, cattle, etc. for the sins of a federal head.

  2. That’s weird. WLC/Moreland wrote the following in their revised edition of Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview:

    “The force of this objection [against Christ’s being punished for our sins] depends on the probability that if the doctrine of imputation is true, then we should have some experience of such a transfer in human affairs. But why think that? The proponent of penal substitution might plausibly respond that our want of such experience is hardly surprising, since imputation of sins or guilt is a uniquely divine act. Arguably, only God as supreme Lawgiver, Judge, and Ruler is in a position to impute the sins and guilt of one person to another. But are we utterly bereft of analogies to imputation? We think not.”

    They go on to give analogies in civil law of “vicarious liability”. He gives a good defense of penal substitutionary atonement, which includes a defense of the imputation of our sins to Christ, but now denies the possibility of someone’s being punished for the sin of another? Maybe I’m missing something. I know he goes on to say that any such objection assumes a metaethical contrary to his preferred divine command theory. Perhaps that sort of imputation of guilt between merely human parties is illicit. But God himself does not have moral obligations insofar as he does not issue commands to himself, and thus he could take on a human nature and give himself sacrificially (so long as that sort of thing is consistent with his nature). Or so argues WLC. I agree with him there, but the only difference I can see is that it’s the God-man Jesus having the sin imputed to him rather than another mere man. Is that the only difference? In either case, there’s still the similarity of God being the one doing the imputing, so I still don’t understand WLC’s objection in that article.

  3. I think your objection can be countered by simply adding to “they never do” “they never intend to do” in Craig’s last sentence. As infants lack moral awareness (see Deuteronomy 1:39, Isaiah 7:16), they are not only not able to do evil acts, but also not able to intend to do evil acts.

  4. Lol, I can't believe no one mentioned Romans 9 yet!

    Romans 9:11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand:

    12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”

    13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

    14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!

    God can even destine people whether they "actually" did anything good OR bad, before they're even BORN, no less, and that he is not unjust to do so! So why couldn't God pre-emptively condemn an infant? I don't see why he couldn't if unborn babies are fair-game.

    I think James White is right. Craig is a very nice, very smart man. But he is a FRIGHTENING theologian. lol When he gets down to brass tacks, it's like we're not even talking to a Christian anymore.