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Questions on Nothingness, Free Will, and Miracles

May 17, 2021


Dr Craig answers questions on the definition of 'nothing', whether God can take away our free will, and the nature of Christ's miracles.

KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, we are going to pull you away from your writing for a little bit (you’ve been busy with that) to answer some questions that some people have sent in. As always, look through the archives at, the Question of the Week, and you will find a real treasure chest there of questions and answers. This one from the United States says,

Hi, Dr. Craig. I'm a former philosophy theology student now in the law field. I've been impressed with your rhetorical and philosophical rigor for many years. Your kalam argument presupposes that the word concept “nothing” in its philosophical but not colloquial meaning actually makes sense. For example, the subpremise, “something cannot come from nothing” supports the premise that if the universe began to exist it has a cause of its beginning. I think, however, that nothing is an impossible concept, and it is a word that doesn't make any sense. You can see a book by Dr. Waghorn of Blackfriars for convincing in-depth analysis of the impossibility of defining nothing in its philosophical sense.

I do want to stop right there because we've spent plenty of podcast time defining what you mean by “nothing.”

DR. CRAIG: Yes. And it's so critical. I think what Noah correctly senses is that if you use the word “nothing” as a singular term referring to something then it is incoherent. It makes no sense at all. It has been the source of puns and jokes since time immemorial. But I think what Noah doesn't understand is that properly understood the term “nothing” is not a term of reference. Rather, it is a quantifier word. It is a term of universal negation which simply means “not anything.” There's a whole series of quantifier words of negation in English like this. For example, “no one” means “not anyone,” “no place” means “not any place,” “never” means “not ever.” Used as a quantifier word, it's unobjectionable to say that something cannot come into being from nothing means that it's impossible that something should come into being not from anything – that something can only come into being from something else that already exists. So as long as we understand the word “nothing” properly in the way philosophical logicians use it, namely as a universal term of negation, there's no problem whatsoever in its coherence or its use.

KEVIN HARRIS: The crux of his question are the last few sentences. He said, “Let's just assume then that nothing is an impossible concept and that it is impossible for nothing to be at all” and things like this. He said, “Even if that were true, would this then defeat the kalam's first premise?

DR. CRAIG: No, because the support for the first premise doesn't refer to nothing in terms of being a term of reference. It's merely a universal quantifier of a negation. It is to say that the universe came into being but only from something – there had to be something which brought the universe into being. It could not have come from not anything.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. This next question is also from the United States. It says,

Hi, Dr. Craig. Can there be a possible world where nothing exists? If so, wouldn't that mean a necessary being would not exist in such a world either, and therefore not truly necessary? On such a view, a world of non-being is possible however if a necessary being exists then there should be no possible world where it does not exist, meaning a world of non-being is impossible. How do we square these two things?

DR. CRAIG: I agree with Kumar that there is no possible world where nothing exists. A possible world in which there is nothing (that is to say, not anything) is an impossibility because God is a metaphysically necessary being and therefore he exists in all possible worlds. So the answer to Leibniz's question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” is, as Leibniz saw, that there is a metaphysically necessary being that exists and therefore it is impossible that there be nothing – that there not be anything. Could there be a possible world where not anything exists? No, in every possible world something exists, namely at least God who is metaphysically necessary. So, as Leibniz says, when we ask, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” it's because there is a metaphysically necessary being and therefore the existence of nothing is impossible. It's impossible that there should not be anything.

KEVIN HARRIS: Next question.

Hello, Dr. Craig. From what I've heard about Molinism and free will, it seems that people are inclined to immediately assume that the state of the human will does not change. If they have libertarian free will they have it from the start and they will continue to have it in the future. The same goes for those other kinds of free will. Is there anything that prevents us from thinking that God can give or take away free will at any point in time. I think it's essential because thinking that God can take away our libertarian free will seems to return to God the kind of sovereignty that the Calvinist believes. If God knew the free act could have stopped it but gave his consent, couldn't we still consider it God's will? Consent seems to be a willful act to me.

Do you want to stop there?

DR. CRAIG: Yes. I think that is a good point to stop in his question. I wouldn't presume to say that God could never take away a person's free will. But I think that it would be impossible that God would ever compel someone to sin – to do moral evil. So morally evil acts could never be something that God has determined you to do. There must be significant human freedom in order to explain the existence of sin. Now, what he seems to suggest is that if God could take away libertarian free will then you would have this sort of Calvinist God that determines everything. Well, now, that doesn't follow. God's being able to take away free will doesn't imply that therefore he does, and to get Calvinism you have to say that God in fact doesn't give to creatures libertarian free will. Where he seems to touch on Molinism is his question, “If God knew the free act, could have stopped it, but gave it consent, then couldn't we still consider it to be God's will?” Here Molina distinguished between God's absolute will and God's permissive will. I think that sin, for example, is never God's absolute will. In any moral situation it is always God's absolute will that the creature should freely do the right thing. But given his middle knowledge, God knows that creatures will often sin in various circumstances, and he allows them to do so. That would be his permissive will. So, yes, there is a kind of permissive will or consent that God gives to libertarian free agents whereby he allows them to do things that contradict his absolute will for them. That obviously is not equivalent to some sort of divine determinism.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. He wraps up the question with really just kind of commentary. He says,

In the case of Molinism, I think I've seen something like this. God has to play the card he has been dealt. Let's use this and say that the card dealer is the free agent and the cards are the counterfactuals of his freedom. God can say that he could have influenced the agent's mind to deal cards that God wants, and if God says that he didn't need to do it he was still entirely in control by willful consent. It also seems more glorifying if he didn't need to influence their minds to execute his plan. He is that good at it.

DR. CRAIG: I think that the mistake that Virgil makes is where he says that God could have influenced the agent's mind to deal the cards that God wants. Molinism affirms libertarian freedom. Therefore God has no control over the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom that are true. He's got to play with the hand that he has been dealt. It is not true on Molinism that God could have influenced the cards that he's been dealt. Remember middle knowledge is logically prior to God's decree to create a world, and therefore they are not the result of God's will or decree. Now, what Virgil says that is correct is that God is still entirely in control by his willingly consenting to create certain creatures in certain circumstances and allow them to freely choose to do what they want to do. I think that is more glorifying to God than some sort of divine determinism where people are like puppets and God pulls the strings and makes them do what they do. On Molinism, people have genuine libertarian freedom to do whatever they want, but God is sovereign and ultimately in control in virtue of the fact that he is the one who chooses what persons to create and what circumstances to place them in knowing how they would then freely choose.

KEVIN HARRIS: That question was from the Philippines, by the way, Dr. Craig. I don't think a day goes by that we don't get a question on free will or Molinism. It's really sweeping the globe in the universe at large. This next question from the UK says,

Hi, sir. How are you? I've been watching your videos for some time on the subject of miracles and need some clarification on this matter. 1. Jesus performed miracles, as we know. Are these due to the supplications he made and it was for God to decide if they were fulfilled or not? Or 2. Did God grant this ability to Jesus to perform these miracles whenever he wanted to? 3. If it was not required for him to supplicate and this power was inside of him, does this go against the nature of God as this would mean this power is from other than God himself? I hope these questions do not cause a matter of confusion.

DR. CRAIG: This question from Shabazz in the United Kingdom is, I think, a matter of conjecture and speculation on which Christian theologians can differ. I have colleagues who think that Jesus did not in fact perform miracles through his own power but rather through the power of God or through the power of the Holy Spirit. They think that during the state of humiliation in which Christ was incarnate on the Earth prior to his resurrection, he gave up the use of his divine power for these sorts of miraculous actions and rather relied upon God. On the other hand one might say, no, no, God had given Jesus the ability to perform miracles whenever he wanted to and that Jesus did these by his own power. I don't have an opinion on this, and I don't think very much hangs on it. I would, though, say in answer to Shabazz's last question, if Jesus did have within himself the power to perform these miracles, this does not go against the nature of God. Shabazz says, “Would this mean that this power is from other than God himself?” No, because in Christian belief Jesus is God himself. He is the Second Person of the Trinity in a human nature. So if the divine Second Person of the Trinity performs miracles through his own power, this is in no way going against the nature of God because Jesus had two natures. He had a divine nature and a human nature. The question that Shabazz is raising, and I think which is a matter of speculation, is the degree to which Jesus employed the powers of his divine nature during his earthly sojourn on this planet.

KEVIN HARRIS: Bill, have you seen the TV series on the life of Christ – The Chosen? Have you seen that yet? Have you had a chance to?


KEVIN HARRIS: Well, first of all, you need to. You and Jan really need to watch that when you get a chance. I am very moved by it. They seem to try to have both sides there. When Jesus turns the water into wine (there are no spoilers here because we know what happens) he looks to the heavens and he prays and he yields to the Father, I guess (as this questioner asks). Then he reaches out and he reaches into the stone jar and pours the water with his hand and it has become wine. So it's kind of a combination. He prayed, but then he reaches his hand out. I like the way it's presented.

Let’s stop right there. Dr. Craig will answer some more questions on the next podcast. In the meantime, browse around As always, we appreciate your financial and prayerful support. You can give online at We’ll see you next time.[1]


[1] Total Running Time: 16:51 (Copyright © 2021 William Lane Craig)