Why Did God Create Us?December 09, 2019 Time: 21:59
Dr. Craig answers questions sent to him, including why God would bother to create finite creatures like ourselves.
KEVIN HARRIS: Questions from all over the world, Dr. Craig. Let’s start in the United States. Parker says,
Dear Dr. Craig,
I am a Christian and a fan of you and your work on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and I have a question regarding an atheist's argument against it. The argument states:
(P1) If the evidence for the Resurrection is compelling then we should expect to find many examples of non-christian historians becoming convinced by the evidence for the Resurrection, and since many non-christian historians are theists that believe in miracles the supernatural aspect of the Resurrection should not be a problem for them to accept it.
(P2) It is surprising that we are unable to find examples of people who 1. started as non-Christians, 2. became convinced of the Resurrection because of the historical evidence and 3. were convinced after becoming a professional historian.
(P3) But if the historical evidence doesn't warrant a belief in the Resurrection of Jesus, us not being able to find people like this would be a matter of course, [then…]
(C) Therefore there is reason to suspect that the historical evidence doesn't warrant the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
My question is how do I refute this argument? Please help me in doing so because this argument has severely challenged my faith in Christianity and I am completely at a loss on how to respond to it and other Christians that I have spoken with also do not know how to respond to it. I very much look forward to hearing your response and I will be patient no matter how long it takes. Thank you for your time and work for the Kingdom of Christ and God Bless.
DR. CRAIG: I have actually chosen to answer Parker’s question as the Question of the Week this past week. It would be unusual for us to do a podcast over a question that I’m publishing an answer to on the website. But in this case there is so much to be said that I would like to say something in response to this question in addition to the very detailed examination I give of these premises and the soundness of this argument in my response in the Question of the Week. I think that Parker’s panicked reaction to this argument is way overblown, and that in fact he doesn’t need to worry about this at all.
Even if this argument were entirely successful and showed that the historical evidence doesn't warrant belief in Jesus’ resurrection, that would not undermine the Christian faith, as Parker seems to think. In my study of the resurrection it became very apparent to me early on that the Christian faith is based upon the event of the resurrection. It is not based on the evidence for the resurrection. In fact, when you think of it, down through history the vast majority of Christians (until very recently) have not been able to demonstrate the resurrection of Jesus historically. The historical method only arose during the Renaissance, and it's only been the modern study of texts that has enabled us to see the historical credibility of the Gospels. And even then, these sorts of arguments are inaccessible to people who lack the education, the resources, the leisure time for studying the evidence for the resurrection. So clearly the Christian faith stands or falls on the reality of the resurrection – the event of the resurrection – but it does not stand or fall on the evidence for the resurrection. And by far and away, most Christians have not believed in the resurrection of Jesus on the basis of historical evidence. So even if this argument were to show that we're all in that boat – that none of us should believe in the resurrection of Jesus on the basis of historical evidence – that doesn't exclude rational belief in the resurrection of Jesus, much less undermine the truth of Christianity because the resurrection could still be a historical event. In fact, I find it amazing that we have any evidence at all for an event so extraordinary as the resurrection. When you think about it, most events in history leave no historical traces. For example, that Napoleon spat in a puddle on April 15,1805. That could well be historical, but we have no evidence for it. So there's nothing about the lack of evidence that undermines the truth of the Christian faith.
Now, Parker might be worried, well, what warrant would I have then for being a Christian if not for historical evidence. Well, typically people have said that God's Holy Spirit testifies to the truth of the Gospel’s testimony to the resurrection of Jesus. It's not as though we just make this up. We have these biographies of Jesus in which the resurrection is related. And the letters of St. Paul. And even if we couldn't prove that these were historically reliable, the Holy Spirit could bear witness to their truth with our spirit such that we could be warranted in knowing the truth of the resurrection.
So while I don't think this argument is at all sound, and I try to show that in my Question of the Week response, I'd simply want to add now to that response that even if the argument were successful, by failing to distinguish between the event of the resurrection (which is essential to Christian faith) and the evidence for the resurrection (which is not essential to Christian faith) the argument fails.
KEVIN HARRIS: I'm curious as to what you think, by the way related to this question, what do you think it says that we have such a wealth of knowledge today and access to it via the Internet and people perhaps with more leisure time and people with more resources?
DR. CRAIG: It's not just that. It's that modern historians have developed the tools to uncover the past and to determine what actually happened. When you think of the early church history and then the Middle Ages right on up through the Renaissance, there was no understanding of historical method. Historical writing at that time was just what R. G. Collingwood has called scissors and paste. You just assembled the past authorities and said, This is what they say, and you just put them together. That's where we get our word “author.” These authorities were the authors, and it was on their basis that history was written. And there was never the idea that you might actually challenge these authors and say that they were incorrect. The modern science of historiography has arisen since the Renaissance and has revolutionized our knowledge of the past and our ability to uncover what actually happened. Ironically, our listeners should understand that we are in a better position today in the 21st century to understand what really happened with respect to the historical Jesus than were people in AD 200 or 300.
KEVIN HARRIS: This next question is also from the United States.
I'm wondering if the doctrine of the Trinity is an essential Christian doctrine. I was wondering this for the following reason. Upon casually overviewing in my mind some of the work that Dr. Craig has done throughout his career, it occurred to me that he has constructed (whether consciously or not) a case for the essentials of Christian doctrine without an appeal to the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. For example, through his book Reasonable Faith he constructed a case for (1) the existence of God and (2) the idea that God has vindicated Jesus’ radical personal claims. Within the latter is the incarnation which Dr. Craig has defended philosophically in his book Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview. Furthermore, Dr. Craig has recently been defending the philosophical coherence of the doctrine of penal substitution. Therefore, it seems to me that Dr. Craig has mounted a defense of what seems to me to be three essential doctrines: that God exists, that Jesus is God, and with that, the incarnation, that Jesus’ death atoned for our sins. But from just these three doctrines all that one could say about the persons of the Godhead is that there are two of them – the Father and Jesus – which only leaves us with a “Binity.” Thus, I'm wondering if belief in a Trinity is necessary for Christian orthodoxy, or is belief in a Binity sufficient? It would be helpful if a Binity would be sufficient because then one could construct a case for what seems to me to be the core doctrines of the Christian faith without an appeal to Scripture. If the Trinity must also be included as an essential Christian doctrine, the repeated rejection of which would compromise one’s salvation, then it would seem to me that one must also include the doctrine of inspiration as an essential Christian doctrine given that one could not arrive at the doctrine of the Trinity by reading about it in the Scriptures.
DR. CRAIG: It seems to me that he's not correctly represented the case for Christianity that I present. It is true that I argue on philosophical and scientific grounds for the existence of God and on historical grounds for the idea that God has vindicated Jesus’ radical personal claims by raising him from the dead so that Jesus is divine. But that third element – that Jesus’ death atoned for our sins – I don't present any sort of philosophical argument for that. My work on the atonement is based wholly upon the teaching of Scripture, and what I'm defending is the coherence of the doctrine that is taught in the Scripture of Christ's vicarious substitutionary death for our sins. I try to show that this doctrine is unobjectionable philosophically, and that therefore we should not reject the scriptural teaching on this. When it comes to the Trinity, I would say something similar. That this is a teaching that is essential to the Christian doctrine of God, it's taught by Scripture, and that therefore we should believe in it. The expression of Christian doctrine and systematic theology is just a different project from apologetics. I don't think that you should try to prove the Trinity through apologetics. I think Thomas Aquinas was right in saying that while natural reason can prove the existence of God, at the very best we could provide sort of probability or coherence arguments for the Trinity. But this is a teaching that is accepted on the authority of Scripture, and we have good reasons for believing that the Scriptures are inspired by God.
KEVIN HARRIS: This next question is from Ghana. Philip says,
Dr. Craig, I was having a conversation with a friend about the beginning of the universe, an argument I developed from your book Reasonable Faith. But he brought up the oscillating theory to help explain why the beginning of the universe wasn't plausible, and I want to know today’s standings of the oscillating theory.
DR. CRAIG: If you look at Reasonable Faith, it has a discussion of the old oscillating models. These were popular, especially among Russian cosmologists, during the 60s. They were soon discarded because it turned out that there was no physical mechanism that could make the universe expand and contract in the way that it was envisioned, and entropy is conserved from oscillation to oscillation which has the effect of making each oscillation larger and longer than the one before it so that as you trace them back in time they get smaller and smaller and smaller until you come to a beginning of the universe. There have been some recent attempts to resuscitate a sort of oscillating model like Turok and Steinhardt’s Ekpyrotic cyclic model but, again, as I think I show in Reasonable Faith, this cannot restore an infinite past. So I think that the prospects for oscillating universes are fairly dim today. They don't provide a viable alternative to Big Bang models of the origin of the universe that involve an absolute beginning.
KEVIN HARRIS: Chad asks this question,
In what sense is a morally imperfect being capable of not sinning? If a being always acts in accord with their nature, it would seem logical to assume that the actions of a morally imperfect being would be imperfect.
DR. CRAIG: I think that what Chad has misunderstood is that by “imperfect” one doesn't mean morally flawed. When I say a being is not perfect, I mean that it is not the paradigm of moral goodness – infinite perfection. But it doesn't mean that it's flawed or bad because it's not the paradigm of moral perfection. Adam and Eve in the Garden, for example, were not morally perfect but they were morally innocent – they were sinless. And as sinless persons they could freely choose to obey or disobey God. Once you get rid of this equation between morally imperfect and morally flawed then you can see that there's simply no problem in a being not being morally perfect but still having free will to make moral decisions and to choose good things.
KEVIN HARRIS: Next question. John says,
Dr. Craig, I'm a big fan and have read some of your books and many of your articles on the website. I got a question that has befuddled me and thought you might have some insights. Given our Creator’s omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and perfect nature, what could mankind possibly offer him? Here is an entity with the power to create an entire universe with incomprehensible complexity, and his intellect must be immeasurable. What value can a being of such dimension find in us? What do we bring to the party? Does this make sense?
DR. CRAIG: I think the answer is we bring nothing to the party, John! We contribute nothing to God's value or goodness. He's already of infinite value. What that means therefore is that creation cannot be for God's own sake. It can't be that God is lonely and needs a companion or that he's going to create human beings to increase his joy or something of that sort. The only thing that could motivate creation would be that it would be for the benefit of the creature – that the creature would now have the incomprehensible privilege of coming to know God, an incommensurable good, the locus of perfect goodness and love. What this means, interestingly enough, is that creation as well as salvation is by grace alone. Creation is also solely by grace, just as salvation is solely by grace.
KEVIN HARRIS: Kind of knocks the narcissism right out of you, doesn’t it?
DR. CRAIG: Yes.
KEVIN HARRIS: From the United Kingdom, Pete says,
I've been studying Molinism for a while now and find it to be a deep and enriching model of providence. However there is something that seems troublesome about it. In the book Divine Providence, Thomas Flint argues for a single undivided creative act of will that incorporates all of God's creative decisions. Not only does this include the creation of specific creatures and circumstances, but also his own divine actions in the world such as answers to prayers, prophecies, and miracles. If this is the case, in what sense can we see ourselves as having a relationship with God? God doesn't really respond to, interact with, or react to any of our free choices. I may be missing something in Flint's excellent book. I'd love to know your thoughts on this.
KEVIN HARRIS: I am so impressed that Pete has been studying Thomas Flint's brilliant defense of Molinism entitled Divine Providence. Moreover, I'm extremely impressed that he discerns one of the differences between Flint's exposition of Molinism and my own. In my simplified exposition of Molinism, I leave out of account what are called counterfactuals of divine freedom. That is to say, if God were in circumstances C, God would freely do A. I don't take those into account. What I talk about is how God, prior to the divine creative decree, is confronted with a range of feasible worlds that are characterized by different counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. Like: if Kevin Harris were in circumstances C, he would freely do A. The claim is that God will choose one of those worlds which is feasible to him to create, and therefore by his divine decree will actualize that world. Then, as a result, he will have what Molina called free knowledge of that world as actual. Now, Flint's exposition is fuller than mine because he takes account of these counterfactuals of divine freedom. What is so interesting and important to understand here is that God does not have middle knowledge of counterfactuals of divine freedom. If he did, those counterfactuals would be true prior to God's divine creative decree and therefore be inconsistent with human freedom. So on Molina's view, when God issues a decree to actualize a world he not only chooses a set of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom but he also simultaneously decrees what he would do in any set of circumstances that he might find himself in. So prior to the divine creative decree, God has middle knowledge of the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. With the divine creative decree, he decrees which of those feasible worlds will be actual including how he himself would act in any circumstances he might be in. And then in the last moment (or posterior to the decree) is his free knowledge of how he and creatures will act.
It's evident, I think, that this is not at all inimical to having a relationship with God because on this view God does not decree the truth of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. These are presented to God prior to the divine decree. They are true or false independent of his will. The only counterfactuals that are subject to his will are counterfactuals of divine freedom. Those will take account of how creatures would freely act. So imagine God saying, If I were to find myself in the circumstances that Pontius Pilate would not send Jesus to the cross but would let him go free then I would appoint somebody else to be the procurator in Jerusalem. Those are the kind of things that God will decide, and that obviously takes account of how creatures would act in the various circumstances in which God might place them. So this definitely is conducive to a relationship with God. His decrees take cognizance of what you would do in those different circumstances.
KEVIN HARRIS: Keep your thinking cap on, Bill. We’ll answer some more questions next time on Reasonable Faith.
 See QoW #647 at https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/why-dont-professional-historians-come-to-believe-in-jesus-resurrection (accessed December 9, 2019).
 Total Running Time: 21:59 (Copyright © 2019 William Lane Craig)