Questions From FacebookJune 15, 2014 Time: 23:17
Sometimes we'll ask for questions from our Facebook friends for our podcasts. Today's questions include, "Does Molinism allow a person to boast?", and , "Does Evolution require an A-Theory of time?
Questions From Facebook
Kevin Harris: Dr. Craig, Reasonable Faith is on Facebook, so everybody is invited to come by and give us a like. In fact, we’ve got a lot of people who’ve joined.
Dr. Craig: It has just been astonishing the growth in that Reasonable Faith Facebook page. I saw that we recently passed 60,000.
Kevin Harris: You’ve done a lot of fun things on there. You’ve had a few contests on there – you gave away a sweater.
Dr. Craig: [laughter] We auctioned it off. The Moral Compass.
Kevin Harris: Yeah, the famous sweater; and some things like that.
Dr. Craig: We had a turtle naming contest! Newton!
Kevin Harris: Those were really funny names – they all had philosophical implications. It was pretty funny. We’ll get some questions from time to time on the Reasonable Faith Facebook page.
Dr. Craig: Yes, and I should say to our Facebook friends that while I do peruse the site, this isn’t a site that I use to answer questions. That is the function of the Question of the Week. So please don’t be disappointed if you send in some especially difficult question that would require a thoughtful response, and I don’t respond to it. I just don’t use Facebook for that kind of purpose. It is more for social networking and getting information out.
Kevin Harris: Send your question via the usual route through our website ReasonableFaith.org. But from time to time when we record podcasts I will put up on Facebook, “Hey, do you have any last minute questions that you would like to ask?” We have a few of these. Someone asks, “Will Dr. Craig ever write a comprehensive systematic theology book as a favor to us all?”
Dr. Craig: Jan wants me to do this. It would be a daunting project to write a philosophical systematic theology. I think there would be great value in this. The closest thing that I have to this would be the transcripts of my Defenders class. If you will look at those transcripts, you will have a complete survey of Christian systematic theology from Doctrine of Revelation through Doctrine of the Last Things. Although that is on a popular level, nevertheless it will give my views and arguments for the doctrines that I think are true and that I defend.
Kevin Harris: For anyone who is not familiar with the term “systematic theology,” what do we mean by that?
Dr. Craig: Systematic theology is best contrasted with biblical theology. Biblical theology would simply be a faithful exegesis of the New Testament or Old Testament writings. For example, you might say, “What is Paul’s doctrine of justification?” And you might say, “How does that contrast with what James has to say about justification?” Or you might talk about John’s concept or doctrine of truth. These would be examples of biblical theology. But then systematic theology will take the data of biblical theology and in conversation with the best sources of secular knowledge will try to produce a synoptic worldview in which we present a Christian perspective on the world, systematizing what Christians believe about these great subjects like the existence and nature of God, the nature of man, problem of sin, the nature of salvation, Jesus Christ, and so forth. So that would be a kind of systematic articulation of a Christian world and life view drawing upon both biblical data and then the best of secular knowledge.
Kevin Harris: “What are the differences between Thomas Aquinas’ view of human freedom compared to Molina’s viewpoints?”
Dr. Craig: The difference is most clearly understood by saying that Aquinas thinks that God moves the human will to choose what it does. So if you choose A, God has moved your will to choose A, whereas on Molina’s view, God works along with your will to produce the action A. Molina compares it to two men pulling a boat out of the water up onto the shore. Each man is tugging at his own rope. It is not as though one man pulls the other man with a rope attached around his waist and then the other man pulls the boat by a rope that he has. The ropes are independent and they work simultaneously as the two men together pull the boat up on the shore. Molina would call this concurrence – God concurs with the human will in producing its effects, whereas Aquinas thought God actually moves the human will to produce its effects. So the claim of Molinists is that this Thomistic view is really a thinly veiled determinism.
This objection to Molinism keeps me awake at night. If Molinism is true then it seems that those who are saved can boast that they were more open-minded, or in some sense better, than those who are damned. This is because they can look down on the people in hell and say to them, “Yes, I was saved by grace. I did not earn this in any way. It was a debt that God paid, not me. But I, at least, was open-minded enough to leave God the option of arranging a feasible world in which I responded to him. Whereas you were so closed-minded, stubborn, and resistant that you didn’t even leave that possibility open for God. God knew by his middle knowledge what we would have done in given situations and there was something about me which meant I left salvific options open for God that you did not. If only you down there in hell had been just that little bit more open-minded and potentially receptive; if only you’d been just a little more like me.” The Calvinist by contrast can truly say that they did nothing and it was all down to God. I’m a Molinist and I think Calvinists have more problems, but nonetheless this seems to be the biggest problem for Molinism.
Dr. Craig: I think it is worth emphasizing that Calvinism has more problems. Calvinism can say, “Yes, it is all down to God” but then that means that it is God who determines that some people should go to hell and some should go to heaven. It seems contrary to what the Scripture says that God desires all persons to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. One of the reasons, I think the principal reason, I am not a Calvinist is because it seems to me there is only one thing that could get in the way of God’s desire for universal salvation being achieved, and that would be the human will – human freedom. God allots to human beings the freedom to irrevocably separate themselves from him forever. So God is not to be blamed for the lost. They are to be blamed themselves because they suppress and reject God’s grace and every effort to save them.
Now, does this mean that the believer in this case who is saved can look down on those who are lost? Well, I think you need to keep in mind that it is in the actual world – it may be true in the actual world – that you are open to God’s salvation. But there are plenty of possible worlds in which you were not open. So I don’t think that the believer who is saved will have any sort of boast about how good he is, and if only these people had been like him. I think on the contrary, he will be very thankful that he was saved and will not ascribe this to any goodness in himself.
In any case, the important thing is – and this questioner recognizes this – is that a positive response to the Gospel doesn’t count as any kind of a meritorious work. And that is the really key point here. It is not salvation by works because it is a non-meritorious faith that responds to God’s grace.
Jesus’ punishment – why is Jesus not still being punished right now? If every human being is supposed to get an eternity of hell as punishment – that is an infinity of hell – then how did Jesus take on that punishment in only a few hours or days at most? After all, Dr. Craig knows how absurd things can get when you try to turn potential infinites into actual infinites. But here we are trying to make them finite.
Dr. Craig: Right, touché. I think that probably most theologians would answer this question by saying that the dignity of Christ’s person as the second person of the Trinity makes his punishment for sins sufficient. It doesn’t need to endure for infinite time because we are talking here about a person of infinite dignity. The one infinity sort of cancels out the other. I think that does make sense. Christ, in virtue of his divinity, has this sort of infinite dignity which makes his punishment worth the punishment that was merited by the whole world for eternity.
Kevin Harris: “Why do some Christians continue to hold on to a belief in a young earth and universe?”
Dr. Craig: I think it is because they interpret Genesis 1 literally to describe a six-day consecutive 24-hour creation week. Since they believe this is the inspired Word of God and therefore true, it trumps anything that empirical science might tell us, and therefore they hold on to this belief.
Kevin Harris: “How does a triune God enjoy relationships in the community of the Godhead when there are no surprises or anything new to be learned?”
Dr. Craig: Right. Well, I have addressed this in my published work in a way that at least satisfies me. I use the analogy of two lovers who sit simply staring into each others’ eyes silently looking at each other in love. We often will say they were lost in that timeless moment. I think that is an apt description of the timeless love relationship between the persons of the Trinity. There isn’t anything that the Son has that the Father doesn’t have or doesn’t know. Nothing that the Father knows that isn’t already communicated to the Son. So there would be no surprises. There would simply be a complete adoration and appreciation of the worth and the beauty and the value of the other. The classic Christian doctrine of perichoresis I think helps understand this. This is the doctrine that there is a complete inter-penetration of the three persons of the Trinity. What the Father wills, the Son and the Spirit also will. What the Father loves, the Spirit and the Son also love. What the Father knows, the Spirit and the Son also know. So there is this kind of transparency to one another in this timeless love relationship that doesn’t require surprises or novelty in order to be a full appreciation and love of each member of the Trinity.
Kevin Harris: This is a good question. It also has these elements of anthropomorphism in it, Bill. We, as humans, have nerve endings and limited vision. We are located in space. We have barriers to one another in our relationships. We only try. Sometimes it is hit and miss; even in our most intimate moments things can go wrong. The phone can ring! So we are limited by our brain chemistry and our physical bodies and in our attempts to achieve what the Godhead has.
Dr. Craig: I think that is a good point, Kevin. Even though we use these means to communicate with each other, they are in a very real sense also barriers to communication because they set up boundaries between us, and there cannot be that inter-penetration of our minds in an immediate way because we are bounded physical beings that have to communicate via signals and other sorts of things.
Recently I have been reading many internet objections to the kalam by those affirming the B-Theory of time – the view that all moments of time are equally real. I appreciate Dr. Craig’s philosophical objections to it, but it recently occurred to me that perhaps there is a scientific objection to the B-Theory as well, namely, I think evolutionary biologists might have some strong objections against it. For instance, if evolution is simply explained as change over time, and there really isn’t any change or dynamic time on the B-Theory, wouldn’t biologists reject it? Evolution absolutely requires a sequence of events. Examples: mutations, survival, reproduction, and the order is important. I would be very interested to hear how B-Theorists get around this. According to an evolutionary biologist at the local university who is a friend of mine, the A-Theory is necessary for evolution to occur. It cannot simply be written off as an illusion because monkeys existed in the block at the same time as the single-celled ancestor. Evolution is what is then written off as an illusion. This wouldn’t be a problem for a theistic B-Theorist, however the atheist who wants to hold to a B-Theory to escape the kalam’s conclusion is faced with rejecting evolution – the Holy Grail of atheism. What do you think? Am I missing something?
Dr. Craig: In order to understand this question, we need to have some understanding of these two competing theories of time that he is talking about, namely, the A-Theory of time and the B-Theory of time. The important difference between these two theories is that on the A-Theory temporal becoming is a real and objective feature of the world. That is to say, things really do come into existence, and then they go out of existence. This is not illusory. Things really come to be and pass away. By contrast, on the B-Theory, temporal becoming is a subjective illusion of human consciousness. In fact, everything in time, whether past, present, or future, are equally real. They all exist equally. The difference between past, present, and future is just an illusion of human consciousness. So on the B-Theory of time we are all subject to a tremendous delusion in thinking that things actually come to be and pass away and come to exist and go out of existence. In fact, they really do not. So that is the background to this question.
This is actually a pretty good question. My colleague Jim Sinclair would agree with this questioner on this. Jim has been pressing me for some time saying that on a B-Theory of time things don’t really evolve because intrinsic change doesn’t really occur in objects over time. The single-celled ancestor that exists billions of years ago is just as real and unchanging as the primates that exist billions of years later, and they don’t change either. To say that there is evolution over time just means that there are different organisms or different objects at different points in the time line. So evolution is change only in the sense that, say, a poker from the fireplace is pointed at one end and has a handle at the other end. The poker changes in the sense that as you go from one end to the other it changes from having a handle to being straight and narrow and then having a point and a hook on the other end. It is only in that sense that it changes. As a whole, the poker just exists and doesn’t change at all.
The objection here is on the B-Theory of time this undermines evolution because that isn’t genuine change, the argument would be. I guess your response to this objection, I think, will be a matter of whether or not you think that evolution requires this sort of change in order to be genuine evolution. The B-Theorist would say, no, evolution only requires change in the sense that the poker changes from one end to the other, or that as you look at a picture one end of the picture looks different than the other end of the picture. That is all that evolution means – there are different things over time. But, if you think that in order for things to literally evolve, that things need to change their intrinsic properties, then that doesn’t really occur on a B-Theory. This is actually a philosophical objection. I go into this in great length in discussing the B-Theory. On the B-Theory of time there really is no intrinsic change. Indeed, nothing actually endures from one moment of time to another. There are just different slices of things at different times. So on the B-Theory, I am literally not the same person who was here a second ago talking to you. That is literally a different person. I am a different object than that three dimensional slice that existed a second ago.
Kevin Harris: If you could convince a judge of that and say, “That was the old slice that robbed the bank. This new slice, I’d never rob a bank.”
Dr. Craig: This is one of the objections – an ethical objection – to the B-Theory of time, namely, that it makes moral praise and blame impossible. Because the person who is standing before the judge is literally not the same person as the one who committed the crime. So how can he be punished for what a different three-dimensional time slice did? This view raises serious metaphysical questions concerning intrinsic change and concerning moral responsibility – moral praise and blame. That is why this B-Theory is not to be embraced cavalierly. This is very serious and has profound implications.
Kevin Harris: By the way, the judge wouldn’t be the same judge either. “Well, I am going to condemn you – that was the old judge of the slice that would let you off!” [laughter]
Dr. Craig: So this theory does have these kinds of implications, and if you think that biological evolution requires that things change intrinsically over time then you should be an A-Theorist. I thought it was very interesting that his biologist colleague apparently thought that you are thereby committed to an A-Theory of time as a biologist who believes in intrinsic change of organisms.
Kevin Harris: On the B-Theory, Kevin Harris is in diapers somewhere, and then Kevin Harris is wearing Depends at the same time.
Dr. Craig: Wait a minute. It is not Kevin Harris because it is not the same thing. It may have the same name, just as there are different people named John Kennedy. But it is not you.
Kevin Harris: There is no continuity.
Dr. Craig: Right, there is no enduring over time. These are distinct objects. Remember, that is why Alex Rosenberg says, in my debate with him on naturalism, that there is no personal identity over time. You are not the same person who walked into the auditorium that evening. This is radical stuff.
Kevin Harris: In the same way that evolution would require this change over time, you grow up from a baby to a man, and that is a sort of evolution meaning change over time. Right?
Dr. Craig: Yes, that is right. On the B-Theory of time, that doesn’t really happen.
Kevin Harris: It’s an illusion?
Dr. Craig: Yes, I suppose you could say it’s an illusion of human consciousness that there is this sort of intrinsic change. What really exists are just three-dimensional slices of spacetime – some the infant slice, and others a toddler slice, and another one later on an adolescence slice, and then you the present slice. But these aren’t the same object. There is no identity over time. The reason they are not the same object is because of the principle of the indiscernibility of identicals. If A and B are identical, then A and B have to have all the same properties. If A has a property that B does not have then A and B are not identical. They are not the same object. Clearly, the infant has different properties than you do, and the single-celled organism has different properties than after it, say, evolved mitochondria. So these just aren’t the same. There is no continuity over time.
So I am rather puzzled – well, maybe I shouldn’t be puzzled. People are so eager to avoid the conclusion of the kalam cosmological argument, they will avert to this theory of time which has the most radical consequences imaginable. And I say if you want to do that you are welcome to it but you need to be cognizant of the high price tag you are going to pay.