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Questions on Christ's Resurrected Body, Transworld Damnation, and the Word of God

March 01, 2021


Dr. Craig answers questions on where Christ's body is before his second coming, Molinism as related to Transworld Damnation, and what is meant by 'the Word of God'.

KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, we have some questions for you that have been sent into Reasonable Faith. But I have a question for you. I want to ask about your book on Adam and Eve that you’ve completed. When is the publishing date for that?

DR. CRAIG: It is supposed to be out by around September.

KEVIN HARRIS: We have to wait that long?

DR. CRAIG: Oh, it is so slow. The publishing process is just like molasses in February. I have completed proofreading the galley proofs, and now they have to add in the figures. There are about 45 illustrations in this book, and those need to be added now into the proofs. Then I need to go through those again and proofread them over again and then finally it'll go to the printing stage. So it's a slow process.

KEVIN HARRIS: By the way, Bill, if you have the Alabama Baptists on your side, you're doing OK!

DR. CRAIG: Oh, man! You know, when I heard that they wanted to interview me about Adam and Eve, I thought, “This sounds like it could really be inflammatory.” And, to my shock, they were just very open to the proposal that I was making that Adam lived around 750,000 years ago and might have been a member of the species Heidelberg Man and was the ancestor of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. I think Christians are a lot, lot more open-minded than what many people make them out to be.

KEVIN HARRIS: Yes. And it was very rewarding. Matthew Burford, Alabama Baptist Board, interviewed you and just really commended your work. He talked about how you've influenced him and strengthened him. And that trickles down to the young people [...] which he was big on as well. You can see that podcast on YouTube.[1] That was a good interview. We'll look forward to September, and if it moves up, we'll let everybody know. Here's a question from Facebook:

Dr. Craig, how do you explain the fact that God – or belief in God – seems so optional in the modern life? I struggle to reconcile the importance and greatness of God with the fact that people can live a normal life without him.

DR. CRAIG: I think it's probably due to the comforts afforded by modern society. Our physical needs are met. Entertainment abounds in music, television, movies, and sports. So it's easy to inoculate yourself against the deep questions about the meaning of my existence and my own death and the implications that my death will have some day. So I suspect that it's just a symptom of modern society that, I think it was Neil Postman said, we are entertaining ourselves to death.

KEVIN HARRIS: Yeah, “amusing ourselves to death.”

DR. CRAIG: Ah, is that what it was? OK.

KEVIN HARRIS: I think that's it. Do you think some of it is just perhaps God's common grace? What is it known as? His common grace that extends to all people.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, sure. Fair enough. That's right. Every person enjoys a certain measure of health and prosperity and friendship and love. These are part of the common grace of life. Jesus said that God makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends his rain on the just and the unjust. So even those who are opposed to God and unbelievers enjoy many of God's blessings in this life.

KEVIN HARRIS: Sure. But I certainly agree that we can distract ourselves with all the technology today. One particular atheist that you debated – an atheist philosopher – even said, “Hey, there's drugs to distract yourself from the problems of life.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah. Alex Rosenberg. Alex Rosenberg made just the most remarkable statement. He is a materialist. He doesn't believe that there is any self distinct from the brain, and so he literally believes “I do not exist.” There is no “I.” There's just this physical tissue, this glob of fat, in the cranium – the brain – and the nerves and the synapses connected to it. As a materialist, he says if you are depressed about the meaninglessness of life and despair over death and so forth there's always Prozac. Just take drugs and your brain will then produce better thoughts, better feelings. At least he's consistent!

KEVIN HARRIS: Start thinking about death, pop a valium! This next question:

What is theism claiming? Is it claiming that God exists like animals, plants, rocks, buildings, and cars? Or is theism claiming that God exists in reality like numbers, letters, symbols, thoughts, feelings, largeness, smallness, etc.?

DR. CRAIG: This is, I think, an ambiguously worded question. The things that he names at first (animals, plants, rocks, cars, and so forth) seem to be things that exist in reality. We don't think that those are illusory, where some of the things in the second list don't seem to have objective mind-independent existence. Things like largeness, smallness, feelings. I take it that the question is, “Does God objectively exist, or is God merely a subjective idea in people's minds?” And the answer for theism is clearly that God is an objective reality, a mind-independent reality. I like what Lawrence Krauss once said about reality. He said, “Reality is what is still there after you quit thinking about it.” And that's what God is. He’s real!

KEVIN HARRIS: I thought the question was right up your alley because he's kind of getting into concrete and abstract, isn't he?

DR. CRAIG: Well, I'm not sure. I wondered that. I think the question is poorly framed. Is he saying, “Is God a concrete object like animals, plants, rocks, and so forth, or is he an abstract object like numbers and symbols?” But then that wouldn't make sense for things like thoughts and feelings. Those aren't abstract objects. If that is the question then the answer would be God is a concrete reality, not just some sort of an abstract object. This is evident from the fact that abstract objects by definition are causally impotent; they have no causal powers and therefore no effect upon anything whereas God is a reality who has created the universe and has a causal impact upon the things that he has made. So if that's the question then God is a concrete reality not some sort of abstract entity.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. Next question from Robert in the United States.

Dr. Craig, I have what I expect is an odd question for you. Is there a biblical argument for the notion that where "word of God" is used in the Bible, it is referring to the Bible itself? The most popular examples are Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12. Note, this is not a question of arguments that the Bible is from God, or inspired. Unfortunately that's what all of the articles I have been able to find address in answer to the question “Why is the Bible the word of God.” The question is why does the term used in the Bible refer to the Bible itself in the context of those examples and given the context of the other uses of the phrase?

DR. CRAIG: I thought it was a good one, and therefore I chose it as one of my questions of the week. So for a fuller answer to this question, please have a look at our questions of the week and you'll see my answer to Robert.[2] But let me just say briefly here that it is impossible that when the Bible uses the phrase “the Word of God” that it is referring to the Bible for the simple reason that the Bible didn't exist before it was written or completed. So when Paul or others use the expression “the Word of God” they're not referring to the Bible because the Bible hadn't yet been completed. Now what you do find the phrase used for is the Old Testament. Jesus speaks of those to whom the Word of God came, quoting from the Psalms. So one use of “the Word of God” would be for the Hebrew Bible, that is to say, the Old Testament. And then in the New Testament the phrase “the Word of God” is usually used to designate the Gospel. So Paul, for example, writes to the Thessalonians that when they came to the Thessalonians preaching, the Thessalonians accepted their message as what it really is – not the word of men but as the Word of God. So the Gospel is the Word of God, and this is the way the expression is most often used in the New Testament.

KEVIN HARRIS: Question number three said:

Dr. Craig, I've greatly enjoyed your insights over the years, but I was recently concerned when I understood you to say that Jesus’ body does not function as a body between his ascension and his second coming. You said that it will “reincarnate” at that coming. While I understand that the intermediate state raises questions about how a body can remain a body, I think it would be better to assume it does. For the rest of us, our bodies decay while our spirits await the resurrection. But Scripture calls Christ “the first fruits of them that slept.” It would seem safer to me to hold that Christ in a mysterious way retains his resurrected body in which he will return one day for his own. Your thoughts? Walter, from the United States.

DR. CRAIG: I would say to Walter that's certainly an option for the Bible-believing Christian, but I don't see why Walter would say it's safer. On my view, Christ ascends into heaven taking with him his human nature and when he returns to the space-time universe he will return bodily and physically for his church. My hesitation about saying that Christ currently has a resurrection body during this intermediate state is twofold. First of all, that would imply that Jesus is a physical, spatially located object. A human body. Now, certainly I don't think we'd want to say that Jesus is somewhere in our universe like that. That's a sort of Mormon view of God that God is a sort of humanoid deity living on a planet somewhere in outer space. I certainly don't think we want to say that. So we'd have to say that Jesus has left our universe but that he inhabits some other kind of spatial reality in which his body exists. That's certainly possible, but then I think it's very difficult to understand how the disembodied souls of Christians that exist in the intermediate state prior to their resurrection could have fellowship with Christ. Paul says that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and he said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ for that is far better.” It's much easier for me to imagine that the saints in this disembodied intermediate state would be having communion with Jesus Christ in a similar unembodied state than that they are having fellowship with him in his embodied condition. I think it makes more sense to think that Christ is not currently embodied; that his human nature manifests itself as a body only when it is in space and time.

KEVIN HARRIS: You’ve made an illustration there. You may be getting to this about the tuning fork in a vacuum?

DR. CRAIG: Yes. I wasn't going to get to it, but I'll share it since you mentioned it. Imagine a tuning fork that is placed inside of a vacuum jar. Even though the tuning fork is still vibrating, it won't manifest any sort of a hum – there won't be any sound. Why? Because the air isn't there as a medium to conduct the sound waves. There has not been any change in the tuning fork. It's still vibrating. But in the absence of a medium, there is no sound. Similarly, I would say Jesus still has a human nature but in the absence of a medium to manifest it it isn't exhibited as a body. But when Jesus returns to our space-time universe he enters the conditions in which his human nature will be manifested as a body just as that tuning fork would manifest its vibrations as sound if you were to introduce air into the vacuum jar.

KEVIN HARRIS: I've always remembered that illustration because the first time I heard you use it was at the University of North Texas. You and Darrell Bock and, I believe it was, Marcus Borg who you debated. When you used your illustration, the audience applauded.

DR. CRAIG: Oh, really?

KEVIN HARRIS: Yeah. Literally there was spontaneous applause when you did that. So apparently they were saying, “Hmm. Makes sense.”

DR. CRAIG: Good. The illustration made the point.

KEVIN HARRIS: But, anyway, I may have interrupted your flow of thought there.

DR. CRAIG: Not at all.

KEVIN HARRIS: Next question.

Hi, Dr. Craig. I heard that you're writing a book of systematic theology so I thought I would ask you this question. My question is about the nature of the ritual of circumcision. I’ve always defended the baptism of grown-up and willing believers only, arguing that children should not have religious rituals forced upon them when they have no understanding of the nature of such a ritual. Yet the Bible tells us that the Jews were to circumcise all male children. This is at odds with my own argument, so I must adhere to the Bible. But I was wondering: Have I possibly misunderstood the nature of circumcision? I admit that this will have no impact on my faith in the Lord Jesus, but I would welcome your response. God bless. Dennis in Norway.

DR. CRAIG: I would refer Dennis to our current series in my Defender's class where we're talking about the doctrine of the church. We have spent several weeks talking about the doctrine of baptism and in particular the practice of infant baptism. I pointed out that Reformed churches justify infant baptism precisely because of its analogy with circumcision. In the Old Testament, circumcision was a sign of being a member of the covenant, and it was performed on male infants. So they would say in the New Testament covenant the sign of the covenant is baptism, and this can similarly be administered to infants. What I argue in my Defender's lectures is that this is not analogous, that baptism is not the New Testament analog to circumcision. The circumcision that Paul talks about of Christ in Colossians is his crucifixion and death. In baptism we are united with Christ in his crucifixion and death. Baptism is always reserved for believers. So while circumcision might be imposed upon an infant, baptism should not, I think, be imposed upon infants apart from their will and consciousness because baptism is an expression of one's faith in Christ. It is the climax of one's conversion-initiation into the Christian faith and therefore requires a conscious decision of faith on the part of the candidate for baptism. So I do not agree with our Reformed brethren that baptism should be performed upon infants.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. Next question.

Dear Dr. Craig, I've been a long time supporter of your ministry and look forward to further partnering in your curriculum development for theologians by increasing my support.

DR. CRAIG: Thank you!


I recently attended your class on Molinism last October, and I've been enlightened and blessed immensely by my further study on this view of divine providence. I have a specific question regarding your view of transworld damnation which means that most individual human essences when given libertarian freedom would reject God in any possible world.

DR. CRAIG: May I interrupt, Kevin? I think we need to correct this immediately because he has incorrectly characterized the view and therefore the rest of the question is going to go off track unless we get this correct. The proposal of transworld damnation is not the doctrine that most individual human essences would reject God in any possible world. Not at all. The doctrine suggests that in any world feasible for God that anyone who is damned is someone who would have been damned in any feasible world in which God might have created him. This is a Molinist proposal that makes a clear distinction between possible worlds and feasible worlds. The idea is that those who are damned in the actual world would have been damned in any feasible world in which God might have created them. Therefore such persons cannot complain to God when they stand before him on the judgment seat and say to God, “Oh, but if only you had created another world then I would have believed! Then I would have been saved!” And God will say to them, “No, I knew that no matter which feasible world I created you would have rejected me and separated yourself from me forever.” Therefore your lot is your own doing, and you cannot use the excuse that you are the victim of bad luck.

KEVIN HARRIS: In light of that, I guess we could kind of skip down to the crux of the question. He brings up the Canaanite children and how he agrees. He says,

My fundamental question then is aimed at divine omnibenevolence. God could have arranged the death of those individual essences who suffer from transworld damnation prior to their age of accountability to be the means of their salvation.

DR. CRAIG: OK. Stop. Again, he's expressing misunderstandings and so the whole question is skewed. If God arranges for the death of someone prior to the age of accountability then that person does not suffer from transworld damnation. Right? Because he would be saved. So the question makes no sense at all to say that God will kill off those who suffer from transworld damnation before the age of accountability, because if they die before the age of accountability they don't have transworld damnation. This is this old fallacy of asking why doesn't God change the future – why doesn't he look into the future, see the way it will be, and then change things? And the answer is that the future is whatever will happen. You determine the future. You don't change the future. That's an incoherent notion. Let me say, as well, that this proposal of transworld damnation is actually intended to safeguard God's omnibenevolence. It's saying that God would not allow anybody to be lost because of bad luck – that he just happened to be born in this world in which he rejects Christ, but if he had been in another feasible world he might have been saved. The proposal is that that's not true. There aren't any people like that. Anyone who is actually damned would have been damned no matter which feasible world God created him in, and therefore he cannot complain that it's due to his bad luck. He has no one to blame but himself for his damnation.

KEVIN HARRIS: If the questioner will just make those adjustments that you just made, he'll be on the right trajectory for understanding this.

DR. CRAIG: Yes, I think so.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. Very good. Let's go to the next question then.

Dr. Craig, God bless you. I really appreciate all the work that you do. [This is from Nicaragua, by the way; Eddie in Nicaragua.] I've been studying the argument that starts from contingency and it really fascinates me, but towards something it seems that I cannot find an answer no matter how much I look for it. The universe is contingent, and one clue to that is that it had a beginning. There must be a cause of contingent things which does not have a cause. But could not a primary state of the universe be that being necessary and then cease to be? I can imagine a state of singularity whose parts are necessarily joined and then they cease to be. Is it possible for a primary state of the universe to be without cause and then cease to be and then give rise to contingency? I hope you can help me with this.

DR. CRAIG: The key in Eddie's question is this question: Couldn't a primary state of the universe be necessary and then cease to be? And the answer is no; that is incoherent. Anything that exists necessarily cannot cease to be or come into being. If it does then it's contingent, not necessary. So a necessary being must be eternal and incorruptible. It cannot cease to be. So if you want to imagine the initial state of the universe to be necessary in its existence, in the way, for example, that Graham Oppy proposes, then you cannot say that this is a state that ceases to be because if it does, it doesn’t exist metaphysically necessarily.

KEVIN HARRIS: Bill, stand by and we’ll answer some more questions on the next podcast. Right here!



[3]Total Running Time: 26:43 (Copyright © 2021 William Lane Craig)