Archive for the ‘William Lane Craig’ Category

Craig’s Dilemma – Escape for Aseity, but Hello Grounding Objection

May 12, 2014

William Lane Craig says he doesn’t think aseity is threatened by middle knowledge, because he is an anti-realist with respect to abstract objects including possible worlds.  In other words, he views possible worlds as non-existent.  Thus, God’s middle knowledge is not dependent on something outside himself.

While that’s an understandable response, it runs smack into the grounding objection (discussed in more detail here).  By definition, middle knowledge is neither based on God’s nature (or else it would be natural knowledge) nor based on God’s volition (or else it would be free knowledge).

So, either what is called middle knowledge is based on something in God himself (in which case it is really free or natural knowledge, and there is no middle knowledge as such) or middle knowledge is based on something outside God (in which case we have the aseity problem).  It does not seem possible that grounds could be something that is outside God but that doesn’t exist, since – by definition – nothing meets that definition.



Rebuttal to Craig’s Denial of the Historicity of the Guard Account

June 25, 2013

The Bible declares:

Matthew 27:62-66
Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.”
Pilate said unto them, “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.” So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

Matthew 28:2-4 & 11-15
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

But William Lane Craig says, in response to the question “were there guards at the tomb”:

Well now this is a question that I think is probably best left out of the program, because the vast, vast majority of New Testament scholars would regard Matthew’s guard story as unhistorical. I can hardly think of anybody who would defend the historicity of the guard at the tomb story. And the main reasons for that are two:
One is because it’s only found in Matthew and it seems very odd that if there were a Roman guard or even a Jewish guard at the tomb that Mark wouldn’t know about it and that there wouldn’t be any mention of it.
The other reason is that nobody seemed to understand Jesus’ resurrection predictions. The disciples – who heard them most often – had not an inkling of what he meant and yet somehow the Jewish authorities were supposed to have heard of these predictions and understood them so well that they were able to set a guard around the tomb. And again, that doesn’t seem to make sense.
So, most scholars regard the guard at the tomb story as a legend or a Matthean invention that isn’t really historical.
Fortunately, this is of little significance for the empty tomb of Jesus, because the guard was mainly employed in Christian apologetics to disprove the conspiracy theory that the disciples stole the body. But no modern historian or New Testament scholar would defend a conspiracy theory, because it’s evident when you read the pages of the New Testament that these people sincerely believed in what they said. So, the conspiracy theory is dead, even in the absence of a guard at the tomb.
The true significance of the guard at the tomb story is that it shows that even the opponents of the earliest Christians did not deny the empty tomb, but rather involved themselves in a hopeless series of absurdities trying to explain it away by saying that the disciples had stolen the body. And that’s the real significance of Matthew’s guard at the tomb story.

This shows part of the soft underbelly of William Lane Craig’s excessive reliance on scholarship over revelation. The text itself treats the account as historical. There are no signals in the text that the account is mythical or parabolic. Indeed, the theory that the “vast, vast majority of New Testament scholars” would be adopting here is one that says that the text has its origins in the will of man rather than in the inspiration of the Spirit.

Let’s consider the two reasons that Craig gives. The first reason is Mark’s omission of the account. This is hardly a compelling reason. After all, while Matthew includes the vast majority of the material found in Mark, Mark contains less than three quarters of the material found in Matthew. Mark is simply a significantly shorter gospel. The guard at the tomb story, while significant to the conspiracy story and consequently to Matthew’s apparently Jewish primary audience, is not a central aspect of the resurrection account. It’s not only absent from Mark but also from Luke and John.

In this way it is similar to Matthew’s account of the temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27) that Jesus miraculously paid for himself and Peter with the help of a fish. That account likewise is not found in Mark, Luke, or John, and likewise is of particular interest to Matthew’s presumably Jewish primary audience.

Moreover, while the first half of the guard at the tomb account is in an easily separable pericope, the second half of the guard at the tomb account is woven into the account of the arrival of the women at the tomb, which is part that Craig would undoubtedly consider historical. Thus, the keepers of the tomb should also be regarded as historical.

The second reason that Craig gives is that the disciples did not understand Jesus’ resurrection predictions, and therefore it is unlikely that Jesus’ critics would have recalled these predictions. This analysis seems contrary to our common experience. Often, one’s harshest critics pay even more attention to one’s words than one’s own friends. Moreover, the disciples had a mistaken notion that Jesus first coming was to be like his second coming, in terms of being triumphant. They seemed not to accept his very clear predictions of his own death. By contrast, Jesus’ critics mocked his prediction of his death and accused him of paranoia (“The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?” John 7:20, for example).

Thus, the disciples were quick to overlook Jesus’ comments specifically predicting his resurrection. By contrast, Jesus’ critics hung on his every word. (“Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.” Luke 11:54) So, when they were thinking how to eliminate this movement, they were not depressed and in despair over Jesus’ death, but instead were focused on trying to stamp out the movement altogether.

Neither of Craig’s reasons, therefore, provide a compelling case for rejecting the historicity of the guard at the tomb account.

The clip from the John Ankerberg show can be seen in the embedded video, below.

By the way, Geisler got on Mike Licona’s case for denying the historicity of the mass Jerusalem resurrection account. Why hasn’t he criticized Craig for denying the historicity of the guard at the tomb accounts? In fact, William Lane Craig’s analysis of the account and its significance are significantly more harmful to the doctrine of inerrancy than Licona’s treatment of the mass resurrection as apocalyptic. Where is the consistency? Is Geisler simply unaware?


William Lane Craig – not a Molinist?

February 1, 2013

Terrance L. Tiessen (TLT) makes an argument that William Lane Craig (WLC) is not a Molinist. In summary, the argument is (1) a Molinist must hold to Libertarian Free Will (LFW) in the sense of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP); (2) WLC claims to hold to LFW but not in the sense of PAP; and thus by combining (1) and (2) WLC is not a Molinist.

(link to Tiessen’s post)

The material he quotes from WLC is remarkably similar to what a Calvinist might use as an objection to traditional Molinism. TLT quotes the following:

I’m persuaded that so long as an agent’s choice is not causally determined, it doesn’t matter if he can actually make a choice contrary to how he does choose. Suppose that God has decided to create you in a set of circumstances because He knew that in those circumstances you would make an undetermined choice to do A. Suppose further that had God instead known that if you were in those circumstances you would have made an undetermined choice to do not-A, then God would not have created you in those circumstances (maybe it would have loused up His providential plan!). In that case you do not have the ability in those circumstances to make the choice of not-A, but nevertheless your choice of A is, I think, clearly free, for it is causally unconstrained—it [is] you who determines that A will be done. So the ability to do otherwise is not a necessary condition of free choice.

That does look like an argument for compatible freedom, although – as TLT points out – WLC continues to self-identify as a Molinist (presumably because he does not like the idea of “determinism”).


William Lane Craig – If God’s Just a Player, Who is the House?

October 22, 2012

William Lane Craig wrote:

God doesn’t create such a choice for Himself. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him are outside His control. He has to play with the hand He has been dealt.


One of the objections to Molinism is precisely that it reduces God to playing the cards he has been dealt, rather than being the dealer. But then who is the dealer? The creature? And we’re back to the grounding objection (link to discussion of grounding objection).


Why Don’t These Arguments Persuade All the Atheists?

October 16, 2012

William Lane Craig gave an amusing but persuasive lecture in which he “Eastwooded” Richard Dawkins (embedded below). The argument rehashed arguments for the existence of God, such as the cosmological argument and the ontological argument.

Some of these, like the cosmological argument, are so airtight that one really wonders how some atheists continue to reject them. One possibility is that the arguments are too strong. Atheists think it can’t be that easy, and that they must be being tricked. There must, they think, be some flaw in the argument that just has not yet been appreciated.

I would add that those arguments are valuable, but they are not enough. Acknowledging that God exists and created the world is not enough to escape God’s wrath. One must repent of one’s sins and trust in the Son of God for salvation from sin.

Craig’s good, but incomplete, presentation is embedded below:


William Lane Craig vs. Sam Harris Debate "Does Good Come From God?"

April 9, 2011

William Lane Craig recently handily defeated Sam Harris in a debate titled, “Does Good Come From God?” (link to debate) Mr. Harris provided a very limited attempt to ground an atheistic morality in his opening speech. After that, virtually all of his arguments were simply either anti-theistic or simply anti-Christian. Those arguments were pretty clearly off the topic. In fact, they were demonstrated to be off topic in Sam Harris’ own response to the very first audience question.

Mr. Harris’ defeat was partly due to his approach of being unable to present any grounding for atheistic morality. Partly Mr. Harris’ defeat was ensured by Prof. Craig’s avoidance of reliance on the premise “God exists.”

Mr. Harris’ defeat was also partly due to the fact that his attempt to ground morality involved a significant and obvious category error. Mr. Harris argued that the worst possible world would be one in which all sentient beings suffered a maximum amount for a maximum duration. He argued that this “worst case” provides an objective reference point from which morality can be judged. However, that is not a maximally immoral universe, just a maximally unpleasant (for sentient beings) universe.

Prof. Craig pointed out this problem and Mr. Harris’ response was extremely weak. He tried to argue that Prof. Craig has to grant Mr. Harris’ premise because hell (the realm of the immoral) involves suffering and consequently the aim of mankind is to seek the pleasure of heaven as opposed to the misery of hell. However, this simply confuses the reward/punishment in a particular system with the means by which it is accomplished.

Moreover, for the atheist, this life does not provide heaven/hell-like reward/punishment. Often a person who causes great suffering receives little suffering himself in this life. Moreover, there is no obvious correlation (in this life) between reducing overall suffering and obtaining reward.

Therefore, as Prof. Craig pointed out repeatedly, while an atheist may have morals, he has no foundation for them. He cannot give a reasoned account of his morals. He may think that the Holocaust is dreadful, but he cannot give you an authoritative answer to the question, “Says who!” in response to his moral condemnation.

Mr. Harris didn’t do himself any favors by essentially accusing Christians of being psychopaths (and then saying he wasn’t doing that — and then doing it again). However, Mr. Harris delivered his speech in a very calm and measured tone, and maintained his cool despite some fairly solid hits he was taking from Prof. Craig.


R. Scott Clark Responds to Molinism

April 28, 2010

I am glad to report that R. Scott Clark provided a fairly concise response to Molinism on his blog (link to response). Enjoy!



RSC is getting some heat for characterizing MK this way:

According to MK, God knows all the contingencies which could be actualized in the world by persons with free will but he doesn’t know which one will be actualized in the world because he has determined to allow humans to exercise their free will to choose these contingencies.

I understand the basis for the criticism. The criticism is that now, at the present time, Molinism (notice that I say “Molinism” not “middle knowledge”) does claim that God knows what world the free agents will choose. Unless I’ve missed RSC’s point, the criticism misses the mark.

Middle Knowledge isn’t relevant at the present time. Middle Knowledge is only relevant prior to God’s decree, and prior to God’s decree God does not know which possible world his free creatures *will* actualize, though God does know (within the framework of Molinism) what worlds the free creatures *would* contingently actualize under various imagined (by God) conditions.

Now, I agree with RSC that he could have been more precise – and furthermore I’ve seen that RSC has conceded that WLC’s definition of Molinism is a reasonable one. However, if folks are going to police him for precision, they need to be precise themselves.

More to the point, the substance of the criticism of Molinism remains untouched. Notwithstanding a little imprecision (and the fact that not enough Turretin and too much Voetius were used :grin:), I thought the post was a concise capsule of the issues.


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