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Questions About God's Aseity and the Resurrection

February 04, 2019     Time: 10:21


Dr. Craig fields questions about a complex aspect of God's nature and evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.

KEVIN HARRIS: This is a letter from Chris:

Dr. Craig, Hello! I’m a Roman Catholic who is very interested in your recent work on aseity. In fact, I think your anti-realism can be much more amenable to divine simplicity than some may think.

DR. CRAIG: Let me pause at that point and say I agree with him! You see, if you don’t believe that there are abstract objects like properties, for example, then you don’t think that things are metaphysically composed. They might have physical properties – like arms and legs and cells and skeleton and so forth – but they're not composed of things like a substance and accidents or other sorts of metaphysical entities because these sorts of abstract entities don't exist. Therefore, you could say that things are metaphysically simple in that way, and, in fact, that is what I think. I don't think things have ontological or metaphysical constituents. It seems to me that they are simple in that sense. But that's still a far cry from the full-blown doctrine of simplicity as it plays a role in Thomism where God's essence is the act of being or the act of existing, and God is conceived to be pure actuality. That's a concept of simplicity that’s very radical and goes far beyond this more modest position which I would defend – that things do not have metaphysical components or constituents.


My question has to do with the seemingly incompatibility between (A) God's being the sole ultimate reality, and (B) the fact that possibilities seem to face him necessarily. Let me spell this problem out. If God creates possibilities freely, he still could have refrained from creating them, in which case they were still possibly created. Therefore, these possibilities as such are necessarily possible since they could possibly exist even if God does not create them. But then God necessarily stands in a causally creative relation to said possibilities. How then is he the sole ultimate reality? It seems the concept of an ase being is incoherent seeing as one must necessarily posit at least this relation – the relation of possibly creating between that thing that could be created and that which could create it.

DR. CRAIG: OK, let's pause there and try to untangle this problem. The problem of divine aseity concerns God's self-existence. Is God the only uncreated thing? Is he the only self-existent being? That is a position that I defend and argue for. In particular, I argue that so-called abstract objects plausibly do not exist. These abstract objects would include not only things like mathematical entities (like numbers and sets, propositions and properties), they would also include possible worlds. I don't think there are any such things as possible worlds, and therefore, on my view, it's not true that God faces these sorts of possibilities. They don't exist. These things are not real. I am an anti-realist about possible worlds as well as these other sorts of abstracta. Rather, what he seems to be raising is a different problem, and that is God's control over necessary truths. There are certain necessary truths like “whatever is red is colored.” It would seem God couldn't have done anything about that to make it otherwise. This is a challenge not to God's aseity but to his sovereignty. That is to say, does God's sovereignty require him to have control over necessary truths so that he could have made it false that red is a color or that no mammals are reptiles or that two plus two equals four? The view that I’ve defended is that a robust concept of omnipotence does not require us to say that God has control over necessary truths. I don't think that that is any infringement of his omnipotence, and indeed I think it leads to incoherence to talk about God's being able to change the truth value of a necessary truth because the minute you start saying “able” you're using the language of possibility. You're using language of possibility to say that God could have made something necessary to be false. But then that's within the framework of possibility. There's always this sort of root or fundamental possibility that isn't the result of God's will. So this is a discussion that is independent and different from the aseity discussion. If Chris here is really interested in pursuing this (and Chris seems to be a very intelligent fellow who might want to), I'd suggest looking at Brian Leftow’s book, God and Necessity. This is a huge, recently published book in which Leftow discusses this problem of divine sovereignty and God's relationship to necessary truths. Although Leftow defends a view in which he thinks God does have control over many necessary truths, at the end of the day Leftow recognizes that you cannot make God sovereign or have control over all necessary truths. There will be certain necessary truths that are just rooted in the nature of God rather than in his will over which God doesn't have control. But that's an independent question from the aseity question. However you come down on the sovereignty question, nevertheless there's no incoherence in saying that God is the only self-existent uncreated reality.

KEVIN HARRIS: Next question:

Hi, Dr. Craig. My question is: does there exist non-Christian sources that refer to the Jewish claim that the guards fell asleep while watching Jesus’ tomb. One of your previous posts argues for the presence of guards, but I think it only cited Christian sources to show that Jewish leaders made up the story of guards falling asleep. I know Christian sources are valuable, but do non-Christian sources (for example, Jewish sources) exist to make the evidence more compelling?

DR. CRAIG: There is no independent testimony concerning the guard at the tomb other than a reference in the early church father Justin Martyr where, in his Dialogue with Trypho (a Jew), Justin refers to the Jewish allegation regarding the guards at the tomb and Jesus being a deceiver. But, no, I think the reader doesn't appreciate the paucity of sources from the first century concerning these times and the life of Jesus. So the question will be the reliability of the New Testament documents and the Gospel of Matthew in particular for whether or not there was a guard posted at the tomb of Jesus.

KEVIN HARRIS: Final question from Lebanon. Bernard in Lebanon says,

Greetings, Dr. Craig. What makes Jesus’ resurrection unique, and what distinguishes his resurrection from the rest of the resurrections that happened in the Old Testament, knowing that Jesus was not only self-resurrected (John 2:19) but the Father (Acts 3:26) and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11) also participated in his resurrection?

DR. CRAIG: I would say the answer to that question, Bernard, is that in Jewish thinking Jesus raising people from the dead (preeminently Lazarus, but also Jairus’ daughter and certain others) are what we should call revivifications, not resurrections. In Jewish thinking the resurrection was always to glory and immortality. It wasn't just returning to the earthly life. Resurrection is to a state of immortal and glorious existence. Therefore, these persons whom Jesus brought back to life were revived. They were brought back to the earthly life, but they would die again. They weren't transformed into immortal glorious resurrection bodies. Lazarus would someday eventually die again. So when we make the distinction between a revivification and a resurrection, you can see clearly the uniqueness of Jesus’ resurrection to glory and immortality.[1]


[1]           Total Running Time: 10:20 (Copyright © 2019 William Lane Craig)