Questions on the Resurrection, Foreknowledge, and End Times

Questions on the Resurrection, Foreknowledge, and End Times

Dr. Craig fields questions about the women at Christ's tomb, divine foreknowledge, and the Second Coming of Christ


Transcript Questions on the Resurrection, Foreknowledge, and End Times

KEVIN HARRIS: Let’s put you in the hot seat, Dr. Craig, and get you to answer some questions from listeners. We just got this one in that says,

Dr. Craig, I just listened to Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ, and heard your arguments for the resurrection. I am just confused about one thing. When the women went to the tomb to anoint the body, since it was impossible for them to move the stone, how did they anticipate doing that? It seems implausible to me.

DR. CRAIG: It was common Jewish practice to anoint the body of the deceased with aromatic oils to offset the stench of decay. This could be done for up to three days after interment in the tomb. What the women were wanting to do was common Jewish funerary practices. I don’t think that we should underestimate the love and devotion of these women to Jesus that would lead them to do something that they had no idea of how they were going to get inside that tomb and do it. Maybe they hoped they would find some able-bodied men along the way or there that could move the stone for them. But they weren’t going to let that impossibility stand in the way of them trying to exercise their last devotions to Jesus.

KEVIN HARRIS:

Dear Dr. Craig, I am not a philosopher, so I might be missing something obvious. As I understand it, there are four ways that Christians look at God’s foreknowledge. 1. Determinism (Calvinist). 2. Molinism (Middle Knowledge). 3. Simple Foreknowledge. 4. Indeterminism (Open Theology). I am not convinced that determinism is truly Scriptural, and indeterminism seems obviously contradictory to Scripture. But why would Molinism be more scriptural than Simple Foreknowledge? Why cannot both be true? That is, God knows what we will freely choose without influencing our choices, but using it in his plans or by telling his people what to do and he knows us well enough that he will know what we will do in certain circumstances.

DR. CRAIG: I agree with him that determinism is implausible. I would not call so-called Openness indeterminism because Molinism and Simple Foreknowledge are indeterministic views as well. I would prefer to call this the No Foreknowledge view – that God is ignorant of the future. I think he is right. That is unscriptural. So his question is: why is Molinism more scriptural than simple foreknowledge of the future without middle knowledge? I think the major reasons for affirming middle knowledge would be philosophical and theological rather than just scriptural. But if I were to make a scriptural argument, I think I would say this. Scripture is filled with these counterfactual propositions that any verbal inspiration doctrine would require to be true. One of my favorites is, I think, 2 Corinthians 2:8 where Paul says of the crucifixion, None of the rulers of this age understood this for if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. That is a counterfactual of freedom. If they had understood this they would not have crucified Jesus. Anybody who believes in scriptural inspiration cannot say this is a truth value gap in Paul’s letter. He must say, This is a true statement. But then if it is true, God must know that statement. That is what omniscience entails. God cannot know this only posterior to his divine decree to create a world. Otherwise, it would be determined. In order for it to be indeterminate and free, he must know it logically prior to his decree to create a world. That is middle knowledge. I think that the presence of these counterfactual statements in Scripture itself gives us good reason for affirming a middle knowledge position.

When he asks, Why can’t both Molinism and Simple Foreknowledge be true?, the reason is because of the word “simple.” When the proponent of Simple Foreknowledge uses the word “simple” what he means is “only” - God has only foreknowledge, not middle knowledge. That is what excludes it. But if you drop the word “simple” then both can be true and are true.[1] If God has middle knowledge then that entails foreknowledge of the future. He will know the future. The questioner doesn’t quite get it right in the way he expresses it. What he should say is that God knows what we would do under any circumstances. Therefore he knows what we will do in the circumstances in which he has decreed to place us.

KEVIN HARRIS:

Hi, Dr. Craig. I am a huge fan of your work, particularly your debates. I know this may not be your area of study. I read the question of the week guidelines, but I am dying to know your position on the end times. I’ve been a believer in the pre-trib rapture for as long as I can remember. I’ve heard evidence on all views, and the evidence seems to point toward a pre-trib rapture for me. It would be great if you would in classic Dr. Craig debate style outline an argument or two for your position on the end times. I’d be extremely grateful to understand your view on this issue that seems taboo to talk about these days.

DR. CRAIG: I can’t obviously lay out an extended argument here, but what I can do is refer you to my Defenders lectures on this subject. In Defenders Series 2 (not Series 3), we discussed the doctrine of the last things. That will include a discussion of the rapture.[2] I, like you, started my Christian life believing in the rapture doctrine. But what I’ve come to find is that, in fact, this doctrine enjoys no scriptural support whatsoever! It is not just that it is under-attested. It is nowhere attested in Scripture that there is going to be this secret return of Christ in which he will rapture the church prior to the second coming of Christ. As I explain in my Defenders lectures, your departure point here should be Jesus’ Olivet Discourse about the signs of his return and the coming of the Son of Man. You will find nothing there about some sort of rapture of the church. The teachings of Paul with respect to the day of the Lord and the return of Christ are reiterations of the teaching of Jesus to the disciples. What Paul is talking about (for example in his Thessalonians correspondence) is the second coming of Christ, not some secret early return of Christ to snatch the church out of the world in the way that Tim LaHaye and other rapture doctrine proponents hold. The position I’ve enunciated here is the historic position of the Christian church.

KEVIN HARRIS: What would it be called? Amillennialism?

DR. CRAIG: No, no. It has nothing to do with the millennium. This is just the view that Christ will someday physically and bodily return to bring about his Kingdom and to judge the world.

KEVIN HARRIS: We like to put little labels on everything and names of everything.

DR. CRAIG: Here is a label for you. This rapture doctrine was invented by a British fellow named Darby in, I think, the 1800s. This view could really be called Darbyism. It is a view that is confined to a narrow segment of Christianity that flows out of Darby and then the Scofield Reference Bible that picked up this view. It is very, very different from the historic position of the Christian church which is simply that Christ will someday personally and bodily return to this planet in this universe to establish his kingdom and judge the quick and the dead.

KEVIN HARRIS: Do you ever think about whether it will be in your lifetime?

DR. CRAIG: Oh, sure, we all think about that. But I don’t think that it will be based on the signs of the times, though I am cautious because when you look at the way in which Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophesies for the Messiah, he was so different from what people had been led to believe in terms of a Davidic king who would establish this messianic kingdom in Israel and command the respect of Jew and Gentile alike, that it makes me cautious to think that maybe the fulfillment of these end times prophecies might look very different than what we’ve been led to think.[3]

KEVIN HARRIS: The next question:

Dear Dr. Craig, I can’t thank you enough for all that you do. I’m just a simple truck driver who loves the Lord and I have struggled at times to share with unbelievers. That was until I read your book On Guard. Now I have so much more confidence when I’m talking with people at work or just around the neighborhood. I no longer hide from tough questions. I am still just a truck driver, and I continue to work hard at mastering all of the material in your book. Someone at my church once said to me, Why do you try to learn apologetics? I quickly realized that this person does not share his faith with many people.

DR. CRAIG: I just love this testimony. This is so great. Just an ordinary layman but studying, bettering himself, improving himself, and making himself a more effective witness for Christ. It is wonderful.

KEVIN HARRIS:

On to my question. When I am speaking with someone for the first time, I usually start off with the absurdity of life without God. I quickly go on to say that life would be meaningless and without purpose, to which they usually respond that they have their own subjective purpose. But my question is this: if we are nothing but chance and randomness and the mind is totally subject to natural causation, then I think it would follow that we really don’t have a point of view as Alex Rosenberg asserts. It would seem to me that any subjective purposes would also be an illusion as well since there would be no free will involved. It seems to me that when someone says that they make their own purpose, there is an assumption that we have free will. Am I missing something? Anyway, I hope I am not wasting your time with this question.

DR. CRAIG: Hardly! I think that he makes a very good point. Alex Rosenberg is a naturalist and a materialist who argues that there is no soul, there is no self, and therefore I quite literally do not exist and that this is all an illusion – this first-person point of view. My colleague J. P. Moreland works in mind-body questions. In revising Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (our jointly authored book) he has added a couple more chapters on the mind-body problem. J. P. seems to show fairly convincingly that on naturalism if there is no soul which is distinct from the body then there is no mental causation. The only causation would be from the brain states to mental states. There is no enduring self that endures from one moment to the next. And there is no freedom of the will because everything is determined by the brain states and the stimuli of those nerves. In which case it seems that he would be right and Rosenberg would be right that there really isn’t a self that I call “me.” This whole thing is just illusory.

KEVIN HARRIS:

Hi, Dr. Craig. Today I watched the argument video of “Does God Exist?” between you and Peter Millican.[4] I only have one question, and I feel that it is because it did not get answered as thoroughly as I expected it to by you. Peter mentions that we cannot rely on current physics because current physics is constantly changing. I assume part of your argument was relying on physics as support for the fine-tuned theory of creation. So my question is more: can you give me a better explanation of what your answer is to this? I need help understanding this. Any sort of answer or referral to another reading is perfectly fine. I just want to better understand.

DR. CRAIG: Before we go on to the next paragraph, let me just respond to this. The simple answer to the question is: we have no choice but to go on the basis of what our best scientific evidence indicates. Of course it is always possible that things could be revised in the future, but that is the very nature of science. I think the second thing that could be said is that the evidence in favor of both the beginning of the universe and that the fine-tuning of the universe is not due to physical necessity or chance is pretty good. Therefore the best explanation of the evidence is that the universe in fact did begin to exist and that the fine-tuning of the universe is not due to physical necessity or chance. Those conclusions don’t need to be certain or 100% proved. Science isn’t in the business of doing that sort of thing. We simply go on the basis of the best evidence that we have. In this case the evidence is pretty convincing.

KEVIN HARRIS: He concludes his question:

I am a young Christian and I am just scratching the surface of apologetics and defending my faith. So whenever I discover debates like this dealing with non-believers and atheists, I feel a deep sense of anxiety that my mind has a hard time dealing with.[5] I am not anywhere as educated as these philosophers are. Not to make it another drawn out question, but I am simply asking from my heart for a tip or suggestion – do you have a suggestion to a young Christian apologist dealing with this.

DR. CRAIG: This is a pastoral question. Yes, I would have a tip for this. I would encourage this listener to cultivate his spiritual life – his worship of God, his relationship with God. Because when that is strong and robust and intimate, this can help to quell the anxiety that one feels intellectually when you are confronted with these complex issues that are just overwhelming and that will take years of study to resolve. Fortunately, the basis of our faith and our confidence is not arguments and evidence. It is in a relationship with the living Lord himself. Therefore this underlines the importance of confession of sin, having a prayer life and devotional life, corporate worship, sharing one’s faith with others, Christian service, exercising your gifts within the body of the church. All of these spiritual disciplines are important to maintain a healthy spiritual life so that one isn’t hagridden by anxiety over these intellectual questions that are overwhelming especially for someone who is just beginning.

KEVIN HARRIS: More Q&A next time on Reasonable Faith.[6]



[1] 5:07

[2] These lectures can be found at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/s13 (accessed April 4, 2017).

[3] 9:57

[4] See http://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/craig-vs-millican-university-of-birmingham (accessed April 4, 2017).

[5] 15:06

[6] Total Running Time: 17:01 (Copyright © 2017 William Lane Craig)