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Questions on Numbers, Hatred in the Psalms, and God's Knowledge

May 31, 2021


Answers on the nature of numbers, hatred depicted in the Psalms, and whether God thinks or just knows.

KEVIN HARRIS: This question is from Tanner in the United States,

Hi, Dr. Craig. I want to thank you for all that you have done for the intellectual case of Christianity and for strengthening the faith of many including myself. I always use your work to answer my questions, and I am very grateful for the abundance of resources there on the Reasonable Faith website. It is on the website that I have come to watch the videos on Leibniz’ contingency argument and the kalam cosmological argument, part 2, philosophical. In the Leibniz video, it is suggested that numbers exist necessarily as “it is impossible for them not to exist.” While in the kalam video, it is suggested that numbers don’t exist at all when the objection of actual infinity and numbers is brought up. It seems that for one argument in support of the existence of God we hold that numbers exist, and in another we hold that they don't exist. Wouldn't the skeptic be able to say that there's a contradiction and therefore be able to cancel one of the arguments? I'm aware that you support the view that numbers don't exist as acknowledging the existence of numbers supports Platonism and suggest the existence of an actual infinity, but how can we justify saying the opposite – that numbers do exist in Leibniz's contingency argument? I'm sure I'm misunderstanding something, but could you explain to me what and perhaps tell me why numbers don't exist when they correspond so well with reality?

DR. CRAIG: I do think that Tanner has a misunderstanding. In the Leibnizian cosmological argument I do not claim that numbers exist. In fact, I think there are no such things as numbers. What I'm simply saying is that, for Platonists, numbers would be examples of something that exists by a necessity of its own nature. I'm trying to help viewers understand what it is to be a metaphysically necessary being. Now, in fact, I think that God is the only metaphysically necessary being, but to try to make this concept understandable I appeal to numbers as an example of what many people (namely, Platonists) think is a necessarily existing being. So the example is purely hypothetical. It's simply to help to get people to understand this distinction between something that exists necessarily and something that exists contingently. If numbers exist, they exist necessarily, not contingently. Now, in fact, I don't think that numbers exist, and in the kalam video one argues that even if they did they could not be the cause of the origin of the universe because numbers do not have any causal power. They are causally effete and therefore cannot explain the origin of the universe. So really in both cases one is talking purely hypothetically in speaking of numbers as necessary objects.

KEVIN HARRIS: Next question from Mexico,

Dear Dr. Craig, Thank you so much for your work for the Kingdom. You have been without exaggeration the greatest Christian intellectual influence in my life. I only wish that more of your work could be translated to Spanish so it can be available to non-English speaking Latin American pastors, theologians, and philosophers.

There's been some work in that area though, I think, in translation.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah. I wonder if he's aware of our Spanish Reasonable Faith website. We have a duplicate website in Spanish, and we also have Spanish Facebook. We've got our animated videos in Spanish. And then books as well have been published in Spanish. I think there may be more resources out there of which he's unaware.

KEVIN HARRIS: We will make sure that he gets that information replying to his email. He says,

I'm having trouble with Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, And His soul hates one who loves violence.” From the NASB. I looked on different versions and most of them said that God hates the violent. However, I'm having trouble reconciling that with Jesus’ mission, teaching, life and death, and the Scriptures in the New Testament that depict God as love and as loving the world and not desiring anyone to be lost. I remember your answer was that while the Qur’an states that Allah does not love the wicked, the Bible says God hates them. But the negation of love is not loving, so these are very different statements. It seems to me that you are implying that God can hate someone without being unloving to him, and I'm having trouble understanding that. Is the best answer available to the Muslim along the lines of: we have to interpret the Old Testament in light of the New, or we have to understand this passage in the light of the image of God as revealed in Christ, or even to question a literal understanding of this verse given that the Psalms are mostly poetry? Thank you for your answer.

DR. CRAIG: I think that he has really misunderstood what I say about this. I do not say anything like the Bible says that God hates them and loves them at the same time. Rather my view would be the very last view he mentions: that the Psalms are poetry and that in poetry one can express things that should not be taken literally like God hating the violent. I think that the Scripture makes very clear that God loves sinners and wants them to come to him, that he does not desire the destruction or the death of anyone, but that he wants all people to repent and be forgiven and to believe. So these poetic statements in the Psalms should not be invested with that kind of literality.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. This question is from Tom in the United States,

Dear Dr. Craig, The question is, “Does God think or just know”?

DR. CRAIG: Well, now, Kevin, I think we better go through this question from Tom one question at a time because it is so confused that I think we’re apt to get lost otherwise. So let's take it one question at a time.


God knows all. For how long has he known all?

DR. CRAIG: Well, since God is essentially omniscient or all-knowing he has known all from the very beginning of time. So God has always known everything.


If he has always known all, was there a time when he thought?

DR. CRAIG: Well, I think that we usually ascribe thoughts to God. We think that God has, I believe, a mental life, a sort of state or states of consciousness given that there are three persons in the Godhead. So I would be willing to say that, again, since the beginning of time God has been thinking. So, for example, he thinks that it is now 5:00 p.m Eastern Standard Time, and in another minute he will think that it is 5:01 Eastern Standard Time. So I'm quite happy to ascribe thoughts to God.


Then does time or lack thereof limit or demand the possibility of or necessitates thought?

DR. CRAIG: There I simply don't understand the question. I don't see how time could limit God's thinking except insofar as I just indicated – his thoughts would change over time and that God would always know what time it is if he's in time. “Does it demand the possibility of thought or necessitate thought?” I think that depends on if you think that God is personal and has states of consciousness. If he does then as time goes on God would have thoughts at different times.

KEVIN HARRIS: He wraps it up by saying,

Since God always was and will be and knows the beginning from the end, is thinking part of his property?

DR. CRAIG: I think what Tom means to ask there is: Is thinking an essential property of God? Is thinking essential to God? And that would be unrelated to the fact that God always was and will be. God may exist timelessly or exist timelessly without the creation where there is no time, and in such a state if God is a person I think we could also ascribe a changeless mental state to God. So I do not see that time plays any sort of a decisive role with respect to whether or not God has thoughts or is thinking. The question rather would be [about] the personhood of God. Is God a person in the rich psychological sense that we speak of one another as persons, namely self-conscious individuals who have a mental life? There I am inclined to think that God does have self-consciousness and therefore mental states and therefore is thinking whether he exists timelessly or in time.[1]


[1] Total Running Time: 11:22 (Copyright © 2021 William Lane Craig)