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Questions on the Canaanites, Molinism, and Genesis

December 22, 2019     Time: 17:03
Questions on the  Canaanites, Molinism, and Genesis


Dr. Craig answers questions on whether the Canaanites were give ample warning before their destruction, Molinism, the historicity of Genesis, and Islam.

KEVIN HARRIS: Several questions, Dr. Craig. This question from Clements of Nigeria.

I just read your article on the justification for Israel’s extermination of the Canaanites on the basis of their wickedness. While I subscribe to the fact that God has supreme authority and prerogative to issue such an extermination order, it is still a bother to me given the fact that (1) Israel’s choice as God’s people was not their making, but God’s. Such privilege was not given to other nations knowing what was at stake. In other words, Israel was good simply because God chose her. It speaks of favoritism and partiality which are contrary to love which God epitomizes. And (2) there was no record that any messenger was sent to alert and warn the Canaanites of the impending judgment as God did to Nineva. I will appreciate your insights to clarify these gray areas. Thank you.

DR. CRAIG: Thanks, Clements for your question. I don’t see any problem with God’s election of the nation of Israel as a means of fulfilling the original plans that he had for Adam and Eve which were forfeited as a result of their Fall. Old Testament commentators generally agree that the theme of the Pentateuch is how God promises to Abraham and his descendants the blessings that were originally intended to be bestowed upon mankind through Adam and Eve but were forfeited as a result of their Fall. In other words, Israel is not the endgame here. Israel is merely the means by which God will bring about universal blessing upon mankind. So I see no problem with favoritism or partiality, as you put it. God has simply selecting Israel as his chosen means by which he will bless the world. And you are quite right in saying there is no record of any messenger that was sent to alert and warn the Canaanites. But we do know that God delayed the judgment upon them for four hundred years while he allowed his own people to languish in Egypt. That gives no grounds for thinking that God did not provide ample warnings or means by which the Canaanite tribes could repent and align themselves with God’s will. So this is essentially an argument from silence, and therefore I think carries little force.

KEVIN HARRIS: It kind of implies it – four hundred years he has given them. It kind of implies that he has given them ample time and ample warning.

DR. CRAIG: I would think so. It just isn’t described because the interest of the narrator is in Israel in Egypt and what they are doing and suffering, not back in Canaan. But God has a plan for them as well. In the same way that he did later warn Nineveh, we would expect that there would be warnings and opportunities given to the Canaanites, too, even if they are not recorded.

KEVIN HARRIS: Question from Alistair in the United Kingdom:

Dear Dr. Craig, I’ve only just recently been converted to Christ. Along with some inspirational figures here in the UK, I’m very much indebted to you for this transformation. I therefore would like to thank you sincerely before I proceed with my question. I am very much an amateur on theological matters.

DR. CRAIG: I want to interrupt just to say, congratulations, Alistair, for your newfound faith in Christ, and we just rejoice with you in this new life that has begun!


I’ve only recently come across Molinism when I began to look at your work a bit more closely. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding the deeper theology, but I have a fundamental problem with Molinism. As far as I can tell, with Molinism, in order to achieve his desired outcome God constantly has to change circumstances in order to fit human free will and the way through his middle knowledge he knows which choices will be made under these given circumstances. Surely this makes him a tinkerer beholden to the capricious natures of individual human beings. As such, does Molinism not entail that God is essentially a slave to human free will?

DR. CRAIG: I don't think that Alistair has correctly understood the middle knowledge model because God's middle knowledge is something that guides his selection of a world which will include the past, the present, and the future at any point. So we can conceive of God as existing timelessly without creation but with middle knowledge of all of the different feasible worlds that are available for him to actualize, and then he chooses to actualize one of these. The remarkable thing about Molinism is that, far from making God a tinkerer, it almost runs the danger of making God look like the absentee landlord like the God of deism because he has set up everything in advance and there just isn't any need to intervene further. Now, fortunately Molinism doesn't preclude divine interventions. God knows what would happen, for example, if he were to raise Jesus from the dead and how that would make Christianity explode across the Roman Empire. So God can intervene to affect the circumstances, but he knows how things would change if he were to do so. So all of this is under God's sovereign decree logically prior to his creation of a world. Does Molinism entail that God is essentially a slave to human free will? I think obviously not because God could have chosen to create no human beings – to create nothing at all, in fact. So the fact that there exists human beings with free will is itself a choice freely made by God. He has freely chosen to create a world of free creatures.

KEVIN HARRIS: Next question from Patrick in the United States.

Dr. Craig. I am really enjoying Defenders podcast. If I wasn't teaching in my church, I would drive up to attend. A few questions from last week's topic of application of the mytho-historical genre pointed toward a more fundamental question. Are these passages rooted in historical events, and if the answer were some but not all, how to tell? For example, Abraham – did he exist, and did he have a meal with Yahweh? Did Moses exist and see the angel of Yahweh in a burning bush? And did Jacob wrestle with Yahweh by a river? In all cases I am assuming real, are true, to men correspondence with reality. I picked those because they happen to intersect with an area of interest of mine regarding how to think about the spiritual realm, and these show intersection with our space-time reality. I am quite sure the post-class dialogue was lively based on questions from past podcast episodes. It's good to have our doctrine pressure-tested from time to time. Your class is very fortunate to have you as a guide in their growth.

DR. CRAIG: Thank you very much, Patrick, for those kind words of encouragement. My study of the historical Adam is limited to the so-called primeval history, that is to say, the first eleven chapters of Genesis describing the prehistoric era up to the call of Abraham. So all of the examples that you mention are found in Genesis 12-50 and therefore do not fall within the parameters of my study. In order to prevent this from getting out of hand, I have to set limits if I'm to accomplish my goals, and the limit at chapter 12 is a natural literary break in the narrative. All commentators on Genesis recognize that Genesis falls into three basic sections. The first eleven chapters (which are the primeval history), and then the call of Abraham and the patriarchs, and then finally the short story of the life of Joseph. My concern is with the primeval history, and that's where I think the genre of mytho-history applies. These chapters exhibit, as I explained in class, etiological motifs; that is to say, they try to ground realities present to the Pentateuchal author and his society in primordial events. They deal with the great themes in ancient Near Eastern mythology such as creation, the origin of humanity and the animals, the Flood, and so forth. So my application of mytho-history is limited to those first eleven chapters.

KEVIN HARRIS: Final question today from Kyle, also in the States.

Dr. Craig, I’m grateful for your work. You're the main reason I am a Christian today. Now on to my question. I've often heard you and other apologists say things such as the God of Islam doesn't exist because the God of Islam isn't the God of Christianity. In fact, you've explicitly rejected Dr. Francis Beckwith's referential language argument by saying that the God of Islam does not share the same attributes as the God of Christianity. This logic would have to apply to Jews also. It seems you would be compelled to say that the God of the Jews is not the God of Christianity based on attributes. But I'm afraid that this slippery slope undercuts all classical apologetic arguments, for do any of them establish that the God of Christianity exists? Kalam? No. Contingency? No. Moral? No. Fine-tuning? No. Ontological? No. That God is not the God of Christianity which is the only God that exists according to what you and other apologists have argued. So therefore the God that exists as a result of the Kalam does not actually exist. But wait, once more, you've made the claim that the deductive conclusion of the Kalam is theologically neutral and that any monotheist (Muslim, Jew, and Christian specifically) can accept it. But that's not right because you don't believe the God of the Kalam exists. That God does not describe the God of Christianity. Moreover, you've said Muslims don't affirm the actual existence of God since Allah is not God.

A lot to that question.

DR. CRAIG: Yes. I think that Kyle has misunderstood my claim. The claim is not that the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are not the same God because they have different attributes. It's because they have incompatible attributes. The God of Islam is not all-good or all-loving. I've argued that the concept of God in Islam is morally defective and therefore this cannot be the Christian God. But obviously there can be incomplete descriptions of a person. I could give a description of you to someone that would be very incomplete and might be quite different than someone who gave a very detailed description of, say, your face or what you were wearing. There's no incompatibility between those different distinctions. So with regard to Judaism, I would say there's no incompatibility from the Christian point of view between the God described in the Old Testament and the God described in the New Testament. The God of the New Testament just is the God of the Old Testament. Paradoxically, however, I think it would be quite legitimate for a Jew from a Jewish perspective to deny that the Christian God is Yahweh – is the God of the Old Testament – because the Christian God is triune. He's three persons, not one person. And so from the Jewish point of view he might well regard Christianity as an aberration that is to be rejected in the same way that we would regard Islam as an aberration that is to be rejected. But from the Christian viewpoint the Jewish concept of God is simply incomplete. It's not incompatible. So when it comes to these theistic arguments, the God who is demonstrated by the Kalam cosmological argument, the contingency argument, the moral argument, the fine-tuning argument, and so forth is the same God that we believe in – the God of Christianity – but the description is incomplete. The Kalam argument doesn't tell us anything about his moral character. The fine-tuning argument tells us nothing about whether he has become incarnate in the person of Jesus. The contingency argument says nothing about his interaction with the history of Israel. So all of these theistic arguments, I think, are compatible with each other. And, as I've said, they're compatible with Islam, Judaism, and Christianity because all three of those great monotheistic faiths will affirm the existence of a creator and designer of the universe. The only exception would perhaps be the moral argument, and there, as I say, I've argued that the moral concept of God in Islam is morally defective so that I think there would be a problem with that one. But by and large what we have in these theistic arguments are generic descriptions of God which particular monotheisms will also embrace. So as long as there's no incompatibility, there isn't any problem.

KEVIN HARRIS: Do you know what he is talking about – Frank Beckwith’s referential argument?

DR. CRAIG: Yeah. Frank has defended the view that the God of Islam is the God of Christianity but perhaps under a false description. For example, I might say, “That man drinking a martini in the corner is really an undercover policeman.” Suppose that, in fact, he is not drinking a martini. It is just water in his glass. Then I have mis-described the man, but clearly that is the man I’m talking about even though I’ve referred to him under a false description. Now suppose there is another man in the corner drinking a martini. I’m not referring to him even though my description would fit him. I’m referring to the man who has the water in the glass, but I have referred to him under a false description. I think this is a very good argument for saying that you can refer to different things even though your descriptive reference is mistaken. So I regard the argument from reference as inconclusive. I prefer to say that the concept of God in Islam and Christianity is incompatible with each other. The God of Islam just is not morally perfect. He is not the greatest conceivable being, and therefore these beings are not the same.[1]


[1]           Total Running Time: 17:03 (Copyright © 2019 William Lane Craig)