Thursday, January 09, 2014

Craig v. Helm

I'm going to comment on some of Craig's answers in a recent debate with Paul Helm. This summary is my point of reference:
I will grant at the outset that Helm didn't have an answer for how to reconcile predestination with human culpability. I don't think his failure on that score is a big deal. For one thing, I do think better answers are available–this is an issue I've often discussed. And I think the Bible teaches predestination, so whether or not we have a good answer to that objection, it is nevertheless true that predestination is consistent with human culpability. That's a revealed truth. 
Since I'm a Calvinist, I'm going to pick on Craig. 
Craig: God has knowledge of what would happen under any set of circumstances 
Craig: God has knowledge of everything that COULD happen, and he has knowledge of everything that WILL happen
Calvinism also affirms God's foreknowledge and counterfactual knowledge. In principle, this has two grounds:
i) Possible worlds refer to God's ability to imagine alternate possibilities. It's not in the first instance about what we could do differently, but about what God can conceive. 
ii) Alternate possibilities involve alternate possible decrees. God could predestine a different outcome. But he chose not to.
Craig: God knows what each person freely choose to do in any set of circumstances and he can place people in times and places where he is able to achieve his ends without violating creaturely freedom and creaturely responsibility 
Craig: Molinism provides an answer to the problem of why not all people have heard the gospel, because by using middle knowledge he is able to know who would respond to the gospel if they heard it and he places those people in the times and places where they will hear it
I'm not clear on what Craig envisions. He makes it sound as if humans are discrete, self-contained units who can be moved around in time and place. That God could move the same individual further into the future, or the past, or relocate him to a different birthplace.  
If that's what Craig has in mind, then his claim is incoherent. Every individual is a link in a causal chain of events leading up to his existence. For him to exist at a particular time and place in the present requires a specific series of past events. To take an obvious example, he wouldn't exist without his parents, grandparents, great-grandparents,  &c. Likewise, he can't preexist his parents. 
So every human being belongs to a set of human beings. You can just move individuals forward, backward, or elsewhere. You'd have to move the entire set around, which requires additional adjustments to the past. 
Craig: The Bible affirms the strong view of free will, when it says that in certain circumstances people can freely choose to do other than they do
At least in the summary, Craig doesn't cite any prooftexts. I'd simply point out that quoting passages which refer to divergent courses of action falls well short of Craig's claim, for Calvinism doesn't deny alternate timelines. But in Calvinism, God is the source and agent of alternate timelines. 
Craig: I take at face value the passages of the Bible where it says that God wants all persons to be saved 
Craig: When the Bible says that God wants ALL persons to be saved (2 Pet 3:9), the Bible means that God wants ALL persons to be saved 
Craig: So either universalism is true OR there is something that stops all from being saved outside of God
Craig fails to exegete his prooftext. But as Richard Bauckham documented 30 years ago, in his classic commentary, that doesn't have reference to all people. Rather, that's confined to the Chosen People: 
God's patience with his own people, delaying the final judgment to give them the opportunity of repentance…for in Jewish thought it was usually for the sake of the repentance of his own people that God delayed judgment. Jude, 2 Peter (Word 1983), 312-13.
The NT counterpart would be the church, or new covenant community. 
Craig: There is Biblical support for (Acts 17:27) God choosing the times and places where people will live SO THAT they will be led by him and be able to respond to his leading
Except that Craig is making a far more specific claim. That doesn't prove that humans have libertarian freedom, or that God had relocate the same individual from one place to another, from one century to another, while leaving everything else intact. 
Craig: Actually, this text is no problem for Molinists because the first link in the chain is foreknowledge, which, if it incorporates middle knowledge, is no problem for Molinists 
Craig: What God is electing in Romans 8 is a specific group of people that he knows in advance of creating the universe will freely respond to his drawing them to him 
Craig: In Acts 4:27-28, it is talking about God’s foreknowledge, which involves and incorporates knowledge of what any individual would freely choose if placed in those circumstances
Craig is assuming that proginosko means "foreknowledge." But many scholars regard proginosko as an idiom for prior choice, not prior knowledge. It's a carryover from OT covenantal usage to NT Greek (like a Septuagintal loanword). Rom 8:29 ought to be rendered: 
For those God chose beforehand he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son
Craig is free to disagree, but if so, he needs to present an argument to the contrary. 
Craig: The problem with that is that the Bible clearly teaches that God has a genuine will that all will be saved and he makes a genuine offer of salvation to all people
That begs the question of what constitutes a "genuine offer."
Craig: God will not exercise any divine coercion to force people to go to Heaven against their own will
That's a tiresome caricature of monergistic grace. 
Helm: But if a person is in circumstances X and they are free, then why don’t they choose something that isn’t what God can foresee 
Craig: In identical circumstances, a person has the freedom to choose, and God doesn’t determine what they choose, he just foreknows what they choose 
Helm: How can God foreknow what people will freely do if people have this strong view of freedom that allows them to do anything? God would not know what people can freely do if they really are free 
Craig: God has knowledge of what his creatures would freely do in any set of circumstances, he has knowledge of subjunctive statements 
Craig: The Scripture is filled with statements that show that God has this knowledge of what people would do in other circumstances (e.g. – 2 Cor 2:8) 
Helm: I am not denying that the Bible is full of subjunctive statements, but if humans have real libertarian free will, then God cannot know what they will do 
Craig: I think God does preordain everything, Molinism has a strong sense of divine sovereignty BUT the foreordaining is done with the knowledge of what humans would do in any circumstances, so that what God ordains achieves his ends, but without violating creaturely free will
Craig never addressed the challenge. Yet many distinguished philosophers think libertarian freedom is either incompatible with divine foreknowledge or at least admit they don't have a solution to the logical and metaphysical tension, viz. David Bartholomew, David Basinger, John Martin Fischer, William Hasker, Nelson Pike, Alan Rhoda, Richard Swinburne, Patrick Todd, Peter van Inwagen, Keith Ward, Dallas Willard, Nicholas Wolterstoff, Linda Zagzebski, Dean Zimmerman,  So that's not something Craig is entitled to posit or gloss over. 


  1. Craig said:
    ...because by using middle knowledge he is able to know who would respond to the gospel if they heard it and he places those people in the times and places where they will hear it

    In addition to what Steve said, an obvious objection would be, "Why assume that they would certainly accept or reject Christianity regardless of where and when they were providentially placed instead of assuming that THE VERY TIME AND LOCATION they were providentially placed itself could be the determining factor in whether they would accept or not?" Craig's response seems to be an ad hoc preference which he doesn't seem to be able to argue for from Scripture. It's a logical possibility more than a Scripturally derived or based inference. He also admits that at this point he's not explaining Molina's view but his own additional view connected to middle knowledge.

    Steve wrote:
    At least in the summary, Craig doesn't cite any prooftexts.

    Steve, I listened to the discussion and Craig cited 1 Cor. 10:13. But you and Paul have dealt with that passage numerous times in response to Arminians.

    For the readers of this blog, a more entertaining dialogue is the one that took place between Michael Horton and Roger Olson HERE.
    Horton was strong theologically, but unfortunately weaker philosophically.

  2. You might also consider looking at Craig's handling of the Greek in Eph. 2. Although he knows that "faith" is fem. and "this" is neut., he seemed to ignore some of the relevant issues about that that, say, Dan Wallace raises in GGBB.

    1. As one commentator explains, "In Paul's thinking, faith is not something that people offer to God and with which God's grace then cooperates to save them. Rather, faith is aligned with grace, and both faith and grace stand over against anything that human beings can offer God," F. Thielman, Ephesians (Baker 2010), 143.