Questions From All Over the World Part 1

Questions From All Over the World Part 1

Dr. Craig fields questions sent to him from all over the globe, including topics such as the Atonement, a Christian view of work, free will, evolution, and how to deal with doubt.


Transcript Questions From All Over the World, Part 1

KEVIN HARRIS: We are about to start a series on questions from all over the world. Welcome to Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. It's Kevin Harris. We really run the gamut on these questions. You are going to get a variety of questions that we get. We are struck by how they come from everywhere all over the globe. We have some questions on the atonement, a Christian view of work, free will, evolution, how to deal with doubt. That's just scratching the surface as Dr. Craig interacts with these questions in the next several podcasts. So stay close; be sure that you check in often at ReasonableFaith.org and see what's going on. As always you can donate. You can help us in this ministry with your prayers and with your financial support to keep this ministry thriving and reaching all over the world like God is graciously allowing it to do. Thank you so much. Now let's get to some questions that you've been asking on Reasonable Faith!

This question is from the USA. It says,

Dr. Craig, Thank you for your defense of the Gospel and in the existence of God. It has helped me to defend what I believe so much. Your resources on Reasonable Faith have helped me immensely as I went through an introductory philosophy class where my professor was skeptical about God's existence. I've been pondering on this question and can't find an answer. Other religions, and even some cults, deny the deity of Christ like Jehovah's Witnesses. I know that because of sin we as humans are under God's wrath and are destined to an eternal punishment away from God if we don't put our faith in Christ. If Jesus was not divine (even though the Bible is clear he was) could him then being a finite created being satisfy the wrath of God if he was sinless but not divine? I would love to be able to understand this because it would be helpful in witnessing to people who deny the deity of Christ. Thanks. From Lewis.

CRAIG: This question about the efficacy of the atonement is one that is commonly discussed by Christian theologians. The burden of St. Anselm's famous treatise, Why God Became Man, is that no human being, even a sinless human being, could satisfy for the sins of humanity before God. Christ had to be divine in order to satisfy the demands of divine justice. I think that that is intuitively plausible when you think about it. Think of all the sins committed by all the people in the history of the world not only past and present but future. How could anyone satisfy the demands of God's justice unless he were a divine person and therefore of infinite worth and his sacrifice of infinite value. So the deity of Christ, Anselm argued and I think most theologians would agree with him, is necessary in order for the atonement to be efficacious.

KEVIN HARRIS: Another question from the USA:

Hello, Dr. Craig. I've been struggling as a believer, wrongly I presume, with what I think has been an influence of reading a lot of material on existentialism. For example, what purpose or meaning is there in work? I know basically I need to work to survive, but is there inherent value in work because of who God is? Is it simply a social contract? (All the existentialist/nihilists are saying “amen.”) To have goals and feel satisfaction in working, especially in light of eternity? Thank you. Cody from the USA.

CRAIG: Although this is not an area on which I have worked, there is a Christian theology of work, and I think that having a Christian perspective is what gives to work its eternal significance and meaning. He needs to keep in mind that these existentialists and nihilists are coming at this from an atheistic perspective in which there is no eternal value or purpose in the work that we do. Indeed, as a non-Christian, I have to say that I felt deeply the meaninglessness and purposelessness of everything in my life. But the great difference that becoming a Christian made for me was that now suddenly the things that I was called upon to do by God were invested with an eternal significance and meaning because these were tasks assigned by God. What did Adam do in the Garden? God gave him work to do – to till the Garden, care for the Earth, and so forth. Work is a divinely sanctioned activity that is given to us by God and therefore imbued with tremendous meaning. As Christians we believe that we each have a vocation that is given to us by God and therefore something of eternal and profound significance.[1] I think the difference in your attitude toward work is one of the most marked differences between an atheistic and a Christian theistic perspective.

KEVIN HARRIS: Work is a blessing. It really is.

CRAIG: Yes.

KEVIN HARRIS: All you have to do is be out of work for a while. Even if you were financially secure. People who have won the lottery or had a big windfall or inherited a bunch of money still said that life is not as pleasant if you don't have work. Life is not as meaningful. Just quickly, because you touched on that and so does he, I guess a common misconception then is that we're going to go to heaven and then lounge in rest – rest meaning we can just chill; take a nap for all eternity.

CRAIG: It is not clear exactly whether God will have work for us to do in heaven but perhaps he will. What's significant about work, biblically speaking, is that it is not the result of the Fall. We should not think of work as part of the curse of sin. Rather Adam was given work to do prior to the Fall. So as you say, work is a blessing that God has given us. The Fall made Adam's work more difficult, but the notion of work – of a divine vocation – is a blessing from God that is not the result of sin but is part of the spiritual life.

KEVIN HARRIS: The new heavens and new Earth then – perhaps we will continue to explore God's universe in the new heavens and the new Earth?

CRAIG: We don't know but it wouldn't be surprising if there were work to do in the new heavens and new Earth.

KEVIN HARRIS: This question is from James:

Recently I have lost a good friend of mine in a car accident. I have heard you address the issue of death before. However, I've had one thing these last couple of days that has bugged my mind to death. Does God choose when you die? This issue has utmost importance to me as it seems to, if true, defy the idea of free will. It would seem to me that if God gave you free will but then decided you were to die by suicide would that not violate your free will? My question is mainly: (1) Does God choose the time of your death? (2) If so, how does him taking the consequences away from your free will be in itself a violation of free will?

CRAIG: I think that the questioner doesn't have a sufficiently nuanced understanding of divine providence or sovereignty over the affairs of the world. On a Molinist perspective, which I hold to, everything that happens in the world is under God's providence. Everything that occurs is either by God's will directly or by his permission including the time that you die. I think this is biblical. In the Psalms David says, In your book were all of the days that were appointed for me. So God knows exactly when you're going to die and what days he has allotted for you on this Earth. But that doesn't mean that he has chosen the time in such a way as to rob you of your free will which is what the questioner seems to think. He has an insufficiently nuanced account of divine providence where it is either up to you and your free will or else it's determined causally by God. Molinism provides us a middle way which says God knows how you would freely respond in various circumstances. So, for example, he knows that if you were in certain circumstances you would commit suicide or if you were in other circumstances you would die of cancer, and other circumstances you would be murdered. He knows all those things, and God has chosen which world to actualize. So in that sense God has chosen a world in which you will die at such-and-such a time and in such-and-such a way, but that isn't independent or negating of free will because he takes the free will of agents into account in deciding which world he's going to actualize. So it's a kind of both-and. I think that in one broad sense God has chosen the time of your death in that he has chosen which world is actual rather than some other world, but you can also (or other agents can also) be responsible for the time of your death because they're the ones who choose to commit suicide or murder or act recklessly and so forth.[2] God simply takes that into account in his providential planning of the world.

KEVIN HARRIS: You notice how difficult that sentence is that he asked: if God gave you free will but then decided you are going to die by suicide would that not violate your free will? You mentioned suicide twice . . .

CRAIG: Because he did.

KEVIN HARRIS: . . . and God's middle knowledge. But you see the problem with someone thinking that God will decide that you were going to die by suicide?

CRAIG: What he thinks that means is that God causes you to die by suicide – that he takes away your free will. On the perspective I'm suggesting, that is not the case. God decides to create a world in which he knows you will freely die by suicide, but that doesn't mean that he makes you do it.

KEVIN HARRIS: This next question:

Dr. Craig, As an Ohio State graduate student I was saddened to miss your debate at the Veritas Forum with Dr. Scharp. It was such a pleasure to see a debate where your opponent was generally cordial, engaged in the actual arguments, and most importantly brought up new arguments I hadn't heard before. At one point during the Q&A, I believe while discussing weak belief versus strong belief, Dr. Scharp asked what your next move would be. I see the move you made arguing correctly that probabilities are really difficult to flesh out with particularity and that Scharp's distinction between belief and things that were simply more likely than not was artificial. I also understand that you believe that these arguments are likely true with much higher than 50% probability, and that you are simply creating a bare minimum for others to adopt belief. Suppose, however, that one evaluates the evidence and concludes that there is a 51% chance that the following arguments are true – the kalam, the argument from contingency, the mathematical argument, the moral argument, and the fine-tuning argument. Those arguments would then each lead you to weak theism under Scharp's system.

CRAIG: I take it that what he is asking here is suppose (what I do not grant) that each of these arguments makes it only 51% probable that God exists. That is the scenario he is inviting us to imagine.

KEVIN HARRIS:

But collectively aren't these arguments much more? These arguments are largely independent from one another. If the premises of, say, the moral argument are true, they don't make the premises of the argument from contingency more likely to be true. Put differently, a God could create the universe without creating morality and a moral God could exist in a past eternal universe.

CRAIG: That's exactly right. He has discerned correctly the strategy I adopt of presenting a cumulative case for theism where the arguments are independent of one another and therefore the probabilities accumulate. The probabilities add together, and therefore the probability of theism on the cumulative case is much more than the probability of each individual argument. It's like a case of law where the prosecution will present a case for the guilt of the accused. Each individual piece of evidence may not be compelling. The fingerprint evidence, the testimony of an eyewitness, DNA evidence. That would be pretty compelling but you get the idea. It will be the cumulative force of the evidence rather than each individual piece that will lead the jury to say that beyond reasonable doubt the accused is guilty as charged.

KEVIN HARRIS: Unless you are OJ. We won't go there!

Here's the key. You only need one of these arguments to be true in order for belief in God to be warranted. If each argument has a 49% chance of being false then wouldn't we calculate the chances of all of them being false by multiplying .49 times .49 and so on? Wouldn't those five arguments have a 49% chance of being false imply that there's only a 2% chance of them all being false which will be well into Scharp's definition of strong theistic belief? In fact, even if someone concluded that each of these arguments has only a 13% chance of being true, it is still more likely than not that at least one of those arguments is true.

CRAIG: Let me just interject there. He is correct in what he is saying but his conclusion was wrong. If someone concluded that each of these arguments has only a 13% chance of being true or sound then instead of saying “It is still more likely than not that at least one of the arguments is true” he should have said “It's still more likely than not that God exists – that the overall conclusion is true.”[3] He's quite right. Tim McGrew, an excellent philosopher in dealing with probability theory at the University of Western Michigan, has published an article on this in Faith and Philosophy where he points out the power of the cumulative case, where it could be that in the case of these five arguments that I typically present (or seven in the Scharp debate) each one has, say, only a 13% probability that theism is true given that argument. And yet the cumulative force of the case would easily satisfy the demand of Scharp that this overall conclusion be highly probable. So he is quite right. That is the power of a cumulative case. You don't even need to present arguments that make it 51% probable that God exists. One could make it 23% probable that God exists, another 25%, another 15%, and yet the overall accumulative probability of the arguments would make it highly probable that God exists.

KEVIN HARRIS: He ends his question, “Live by the probability, die by the probability, saved by the probability.”

CRAIG: I love that conclusion! It is very nice. [laughter]

KEVIN HARRIS: Next question from Australia:

Hi, Dr. Craig. My question is about purpose and evolution. Often we hear supporters of evolution suggesting that the purpose or goal of our species is to survive or pass on our genes, etc. But how do we know this? We know humans exist. This is fact. And we know how the human body works. Evolution is not a thing nor is it personal [I think he means to say] thus I would think has no intent but rather is a description of a process and in this case how time and chance produce something. So my question is therefore how can evolutionists ascribe intent to an impersonal process?

CRAIG: The answer to his question is that evolutionists when speaking carefully do not ascribe intent to an impersonal process. They do not say, as he believes, that the purpose or goal of evolution is to survive or to pass on our genes. It may be the case that certain popularizers misspeak in saying something like that. But careful evolutionary theorists would not say that. The fact is that on the standard theory there just is no goal or purpose which guides the evolutionary process. Rather natural selection as Richard Dawkins so colorful puts it is a blind watchmaker. When you think of William Paley's famous illustration of finding the watch on the beach or on the heath and this would lead you to infer design as the best explanation Dawkins will say, no, natural selection is a watchmaker. It produces biological complexity but it's blind. It has no goal, no purpose, no intent. So our questioner is quite right in challenging evolutionists who would ascribe intent to the process of random mutation and natural selection.

KEVIN HARRIS: Do you think that sometimes they use language that doesn't really denote what is actually going on but they do it for illustrative purposes?

CRAIG: I am not sure whether that is the case. In my reading of evolutionary theory, they are pretty consistent in saying that there is no goal or purpose to the evolutionary process. So it makes me suspect that this may be our questioner's misunderstanding – that it is his misunderstanding rather than something that these evolutionary theorists actually say. Or it may be that, again, there are laypeople who have said this to our questioner and he has picked this up from folks who don't understand the theory frankly and who therefore misrepresent it.[4]

[1] 5:11

[2] 10:13

[3] 15:21

[4] Total Running Time: 19:36 (Copyright © 2017 William Lane Craig)

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