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Questions on Traversing an Infinite, Adam and Eve, and Theistic Personalism

June 28, 2021


The unusual concepts of infinity come up often! Dr. Craig also answers issues with the historical Adam and Eve, and Theistic Personalism.

KEVIN HARRIS: Bill, this is the fun part where we get to put you in the hot seat and get you answering some questions. Always go to the archives of the Question of the Week.[1] If you are a regular listener or viewer of Reasonable Faith and the podcast, more than likely your question will be there, at least some form of it. But we do like to interact with these. We’ll take the first question here from Clarence in the United States. He says,

Thank you Dr. Craig. Thank you for your hard work to bless and equip the church. I frequent your podcast often, and have enjoyed listening to your work over the years. My question is concerning the second premise in the kalam cosmological argument – the premise “The universe began to exist.” In defense of this premise you have argued greatly. I have one objection to your defense. You have said that it is impossible for the universe to consist of an infinite number of past events because if it did we would never be able to arrive at the present moment. However, isn't it possible that we never do arrive at the present moment? It seems to me like the present moment is infinitely fleeting. The moment it becomes the present, it simultaneously becomes the past as the precipice of time pierces on. Is it possible that the present moment is not a metric of dividing infinity? Is it possible that the future extends into the infinite potential and because of that infinite potential we never arrive at a static state or a present moment? Thank you. I hope to learn more from you about the nature of time and infinity.

I was laughing there because that's such a good question, and we have discussed it.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah. And I would commend to Clarence my book Time and Eternity if he hopes to learn more about the nature of time and infinity. Now, I certainly think that we do not arrive at a static state. So that's a red herring. And I would agree that the present moment is not a metric concept. It doesn't have a measure. But we can easily solve that by being more specific by talking about the present minute or the present year or the present session of Congress, and certainly those things do become present. The present minute has obviously arrived because I am existing right now at this present minute and experiencing it. So I think that you cannot evade the argument by saying that the present never arrives.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. This is a similar question.

Hello, Dr. Craig. I'm a young Christian with an interest in apologetics. Thank you for all your work. You mentioned that traversing an infinity and ending at a point (presumably the current day) is absurd. However, many Thomists object. They respond that if one selects any event in the past the succession of events between that event and the present is finite, even if it were on an infinite number line. The succession between any particular past point and the present is still finite. Hence, the idea of traveling an infinite seems removed along with the absurdity. Is there a good answer to this? Thank you and God bless. Joe in the United States.

DR. CRAIG: Well, yes, Joe, there is a great answer to it, and I have answered this objection a number of times in my published work. This objection commits the so-called fallacy of composition. The fallacy of composition is saying that because every particular part of something has a property therefore the entire thing has that property. And that's fallacious. For example, every particular part of an elephant might be light in weight but it doesn't follow that the whole elephant is light in weight. So reasoning by composition is a fallacy, and this objection commits that fallacy. What it says is that because every part of the past is traversable therefore the entire past is traversable, and that doesn't follow. Just because every finite part of the past to the present is traversable doesn't mean that the whole infinite past is traversable. An easy way to see this is by his example of the number line. We can think of the series of past events as being numbered by the negative numbers with 0 being the present moment. So 0 at the present, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5, and so on to infinity. Now, the distance from every negative number to 0 is a finite distance. There is no number in the negative number series that is infinitely distant from zero. Each number in the negative number series is only a finite distance from zero. But that doesn't imply that therefore the whole distance is finite. On the contrary, it's infinite. So the fact that you can traverse every finite segment of the past does not imply that therefore the whole infinite past is traversable.

KEVIN HARRIS: Is he correct that this is something that Thomists would adhere to?

DR. CRAIG: I didn't want to say anything about that, but I've never heard any Thomist make this objection. I've seen this objection from J. L. Mackie and certain other secular thinkers; maybe John Howard Sobel might have offered this objection. But I've never heard a Thomist say this. It’s clearly fallacious.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. Next question.

Dr. Craig, God is agape love, a love of the will. However, if God is love, wouldn't this mean he has no choice to love? Love is what he'll do as a matter of nature despite his free will thus defeating the point of love. Doesn't divine freedom mean it isn't possible for God to be real love?

DR. CRAIG: Well, I don't think so. It seems to me that so long as God is not causally constrained by factors outside himself that his choices are free even if they are necessary. So I do think that God is by his very nature love. He doesn't make up his own nature by his free will. He is loving by his very nature. But there's nothing incompatible with God's being by nature loving and God's loving people freely so long as he's free from causal constraint.

KEVIN HARRIS: OK. Next question from Justin in the U.S.,

Dr. Craig, I noticed that you have a new book coming out this year. In the description of the book it mentions about how you believe that Adam was of the Homo heidelbergensis species of humans. Can you please explain to me how various types of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens can co-exist in the Genesis narrative and not into the atheistic scientific evolutionary theories?

DR. CRAIG: I'm not sure what Justin means by his last phrase “not into the atheistic scientific evolutionary theories.” What I want to show is that there isn't any inconsistency between affirming a historical Adam and atheistic scientific evolutionary theories. And the way I do this is by identifying Adam with Homo heidelbergensis which is the stem species for Neanderthals, Homo sapiens and Denisovans which are different species of human beings that are all fully human and exhibit modern cognitive behaviors that have been preserved in the archaeological record. In that way one shows that there's just no inconsistency between the Genesis commitment to a primordial human pair from whom all of humanity is descended and modern scientific evolutionary theory. The key here is to see Adam and Eve as the ancestors not just of Homo sapiens but of all of these different human species.

KEVIN HARRIS: Next question:

Hello, Dr. Craig. I've been blessed by your ministry for years and have been positively shaped not just by your ministry but by your character, your gentleness, humility, and knowledge and confidence in the Lord. It’s a model for Christians everywhere.

Bill, I'm always going to include those things because I know it makes you feel good. So I will do so.

My question has to do with discussing your proposal of neo-Apollinarianism; namely, have you considered another name for it? For many who study church history, if they hear the name of a famous heretic then a view that references them seems to shut the door immediately. While the name makes sense for how it has evolved from the original view, it also can be a hindrance to people truly contemplating a valid proposal. By way of example, if Hitler contributed an idea that was rejected and then a person modified it yet called it neo-Hitlerism, that person's proposal will likely be dismissed by the average person even if it is 100% accurate. Blessings, and I look forward to your upcoming systematic theology.

That's another Kevin in the United States.

DR. CRAIG: I had to smile at this because it makes me on a par with neo-Nazis! I thought that putting the prefix “neo-” in front of “Apollinarianism” would be enough to alert the reader that I'm not holding to the original view that was condemned as a heresy but to a revision of the view that eliminates the objectionable elements and makes it acceptable. But I take Kevin's point here as a good one. It can just so offend people that they think of you for example as a neo-Nazi or something and don't even want to look at the proposal. So if he's got a different name for it, I'm open to it. I just had never thought of having a different name. I figured as long as I explained it well and showed that it wasn't the original view that was condemned that people would not object to it.

KEVIN HARRIS: Next question is from Athanasius in the United States.

Thank you so much for your work, Dr. Craig. I understand that you are a theistic personalist. I guess I have a few questions on two separate but related topics. Number one: I have not been able to really find much information on personalism. What advantages does it give over classical theism? And then, number two: when it comes to divine simplicity I've been trying to find an answer to the modal collapse objection, and it seems from my level both sides of the debate don't win as there are issues on both ends. What do you think of the debate?

DR. CRAIG: Thank you, Athanasius, for this question. Let me say in response to the first question that I am not a theistic personalist. Theistic personalism is a word that is coined by contemporary Thomists who want to characterize only Thomists as classical theists and they write everybody else out of the family of classical theism. They invented this label “theistic personalism” to characterize people like myself who are not Thomists. I think it's tremendously cheeky as well as inaccurate. The reason that Athanasius hasn't found anything on theistic personalism is that personalism was a school of philosophy back in the early 1900s associated with people like Andrew Seth Pringle-Patterson and Gordon Parker Bound and others. Therefore it's just misleading to pick the name of this past philosophical school and give it to contemporary non-Thomists. So I think that Athanasius and our audience need to resist this kind of misleading and prejudicial labeling. With respect to the second question about divine simplicity, this requires us to explain to our listeners what the modal collapse objection is. This objection says that if, as the defenders of divine simplicity claim, everything is essential to God, that God has no contingent properties, then it follows that everything that God knows he knows necessarily. He knows essentially. It is impossible for God to know any proposition that he does not know. Now, since whatever God knows is true, that implies that every proposition is necessarily true, and that therefore this is the only possible world. All modal distinctions collapse. It turns out that the actual world is the only possible world. In other words, it leads to logical fatalism where everything that happens happens necessarily. I think that it is an absolutely devastating objection to divine simplicity, and therefore I don't think there's much hope for defending the doctrine of divine simplicity against the modal collapse objection. Those who want to still defend divine simplicity in the face of this objection have to say that God's mental state is necessary to him. But that same mental state can be knowing what he does in the actual world and in another world where there are no creatures at all, where God is alone, where he has refrained from creation, God will be in exactly the same mental state but he will know completely different propositions such as no world exists, I have created nothing, and so on and so forth. This seems to me to be absolutely implausible that the same mental state could count as knowing a certain array of propositions and as knowing a totally different array of propositions.

KEVIN HARRIS: I want to remind you to go to – any gift that you give will help us continue the work and ministry of Reasonable Faith all over the world. If you believe in this ministry, any size gift will help. And, of course, please always pray for us – Dr. Craig and Jan and those who work behind the scenes to keep Reasonable Faith moving forward. We’ll see you next time with more questions on Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig.[2]


[2] Total Running Time: 17:28 (Copyright © 2021 William Lane Craig)