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Q & A on God's Justice, the Incarnation, and Hilbert's Hotel

KEVIN HARRIS: More questions, Dr. Craig. This one from Joel in the United States:

Hello, Dr. Craig! I loved your book Reasonable Faith so much I’ve already read it twice and will probably read it again. I love being able to give reasons for my faith to unbelievers, and it is already starting to change my friends’ perspectives. My question is concerning the doctrine of predestination held by Calvinism. In your Defenders podcast you address the issue of election and make the claim that if God could have saved everyone but didn’t he wouldn’t be an all-loving God. So my question is: Was God obligated to sacrifice his Son for a fallen world of death row inmates? Aren’t we all deserving of death and therefore God can freely choose to show mercy on whomever he wills even if he chose to show mercy on no one and give them all what they deserve? And isn’t justice an act of love toward the victim of the crime so therefore even if God gave justice to everyone he would still be all-loving?

DR. CRAIG: In response to Joel’s questions, I would say that God is not obligated to sacrifice his Son for us because I don't think God has any moral obligations. On my view, obligations or duties are constituted by divine commands and, since God doesn't command himself to do anything, God has no obligations including the obligation to save us. But what I would say is that because of God's perfectly loving nature he will freely choose to send his Son to save us. Now, Joel rightly says aren’t we all deserving of death and therefore God can freely choose to show mercy on whomever he wills? That's right. We deserve God's wrath and condemnation. So there's no problem with respect to the justice of God. The question concerns the love of God. Would God be all-loving if he simply administered justice and saved no one or administered justice to some and saved some? I think while God would be no less just to do that, he would be less loving. So I'm inclined to say that because God is perfectly loving he will send his Son to die for mankind and to save them, and that this action is free even though it flows from God's very nature because the essence of libertarian freedom is that one is free of causal determinism from outside sources. God's actions are free in that sense, even if they flow from the moral character of his own being.

KEVIN HARRIS: Next question from Felix in the United States:

Hello, Dr. Craig. If Christ was fully God and fully man, doesn't it follow that Christ's subconscious mind was also fully human as well? If so then the idea of Christ's subconscious mind being omniscient would be false since it would make Christ not fully human given his omniscient and conscious mind. Correct? Thank you for your time.

DR. CRAIG: This is a question about the Christological model of the incarnation that I have presented. I've suggested that we think that the Logos, the second person of the Trinity, was the soul of Jesus, was the soul of his human nature. Moreover, on this model I suggest that the divine elements in Christ’s person were largely subliminal or subconscious so that in his waking, normal, conscious life Jesus would have had a human experience just like you and me. He would have been ignorant of many things. He would have had anxieties and doubts and fears, weariness and anxieties and stresses – all the sorts of things that go with a genuine human experience. But these would be undergirded by this divine subliminal. What Felix is asking here is: Doesn't the subconscious mind have to be truly human as well? I don't see why that does have to be the case. I would say that Christ is human, but he's not merely human. Therefore I don't see any reason to think that Christ's subconscious mind would not be omniscient because it is the mind of the Logos. I simply don't see any reason to think that Christ's subconscious mind had to be merely human.

KEVIN HARRIS: Next question from Simon in the United States:

Dr. Craig, recently I've run across arguments by atheists that say that the universe is not fine-tuned for life but life is fine-tuned to the universe, and they describe this in the puddle analogy which I'm sure you're aware of. I searched your website for something addressing this argument but maybe did a bad job searching. Could you give me your rebuttal or point me to a place in your website that you speak to this subject as this argument has been bothering me and I don't know how to address it? Thank you very much for your work and for your time.

DR. CRAIG: Let me address Simon to question of the week number 668[1] which I happened to recently choose to address. So he can find my complete answer there. Here I will simply say that the objection is very confused in a number of ways. The objection is appealing to an analogy whereby a self-conscious puddle looks at the hole in which it is and says, “Look how this hole is just perfectly suited to my existence. If it were any different shape or size I wouldn't be here. It must have been designed for me to be in this hole.” The reason that Simon didn't find this addressed is not because he did a bad search – it's because he didn't recognize this objection. This objection is just the old appeal to the Anthropic Principle using a congenial new illustration of it. The Anthropic Principle is the idea that you shouldn’t be surprised at the fine-tuning of the universe because if the universe were not fine-tuned you wouldn't be here to be surprised about it. And given that you are here, therefore you should expect the universe to be fine-tuned. This objection is fallacious because while it's true that given the fact that you've evolved within the universe you should expect to observe a finely tuned universe, that doesn't in any way follow that it's probable that a finely tuned universe should, in fact, exist. It’s enormously improbable, and therefore you really should be surprised that it exists and should be seeking for some sort of an explanation. Moreover, the analogy is just flawed because holes and puddles are not fine-tuned. The puddle could be any different size or shape. The puddle isn't like life which requires a narrow range of parameters in order for the universe to be life-permitting. The shape and size of the puddle are not essential to it.

KEVIN HARRIS: The nature of water is that it will conform to the shape of whatever it's in.

DR. CRAIG: Exactly. And it would still be the same puddle even if it had a different shape and size. Those properties are not essential to it.

KEVIN HARRIS: But not so with life.

DR. CRAIG: With life, there has to be this finely tuned set of constants and quantities otherwise the life would not exist, not simply the life would take some other form like another shape or size in the case of the puddle. The puddle would still exist, it would just be a different shape or size. With life, if there were not this fine-tuning it wouldn't be there. There wouldn't even be matter or chemistry much less life in the universe. So the analogy, however congenial, is simply flawed and doesn't do anything to undermine the argument for fine-tuning.

KEVIN HARRIS: Question of the week number 668. People can check it out. Next question, Derek in the US says:

Hello there, Bill. I've been listening to your podcast for a while now and while I'm not a Christian I do appreciate the work that you have done to bring out the intellectual side of Christianity. The question I have is in regards to your use of Hilbert's Hotel to show the absurdity of a temporal infinity of events. It seems that you never state the difficulty as one can embrace it as if it is what we should expect from large and small denumerable physical infinities.

DR. CRAIG:  Now let me just pause there to comment on this. First of all, just a minor correction, it's incorrect to speak of large and small denumerable infinities. Infinities are either denumerable or indenumerable; that is to say, they either have countably many members or they have too many members to be counted – uncountably many, non-denumerable. And non-denumerable infinities can come in different sizes but it's not correct to say there are large and small denumerable infinities. There is simply the single countable denumerable infinity and then there are these other sorts of infinities that don't really even come into play in Hilbert's Hotel. The objection here is one that I have addressed. It's the objection Graham Oppy makes at the end of the day where he says that these absurd situations are exactly what we should expect if physical infinities could exist. My response is that that falls short of a refutation because it doesn't show that the situations are not absurd. It just says that if an actual infinite could exist then you could have a Hilbert's Hotel and that conditional statement is not in dispute. That's exactly what we all agree. What the question is is Hilbert's Hotel really absurd? David Hilbert was a smart guy – one of the greatest mathematicians of all time – and he knew well how to illustrate the nature of an actual infinite by his use of the hotel story. Hilbert's Hotel is a good analogy (or good illustration, I should say rather) of what could exist if you could have an actual physical infinite. You get all of these crazy results. For example, that the hotel could be completely filled without a single vacancy and yet it could accommodate infinitely more guests, or that an infinite number of guests could check out of the hotel at one time and an infinite number would still remain behind, or that exactly the same number of guests could check out of the hotel and only three people would be left behind. I think that we have laid out here reasons for thinking that Hilbert's Hotel is absurd. It isn't a refutation to say, “Well, if physical infinities could exist then such a hotel would exist.”

KEVIN HARRIS: He goes on to say,

It also seems that the only problem would be actually constructing said hotel rather than actual physical infinities not existing.

DR. CRAIG: I don't see that at all. I don't see what it has to do at all with building a hotel. The idea here is that you would have a hotel which actually exists, which has a flesh-and-blood person in every single room, and yet infinitely more people can check into it. It has nothing to do with construction.


Lastly, I think perhaps it would only show that certain kinds of large and small denumerable physical infinities are impossible, not necessarily all. How would you respond to that?

DR. CRAIG: I would say that there is nothing about the nature of a hotel that would make it peculiarly impossible. Instead of a hotel with an infinite number of rooms, I've sometimes talked about a library with an infinite number of books and then checking books out of the library. Or you could talk about an infinite collection of baseball cards, or an infinite collection of beads or coins. There's nothing about the particular physical object that's selected that would make the absurdity peculiar to it.

KEVIN HARRIS: Doug Geivett has an illustration of an infinite auditorium where you move people from one seat to the next.

DR. CRAIG: I should alert our readers that a book has recently been published by Alexander Pruss, a brilliant Christian philosopher, called Infinity, Causation, and Paradox, and it is the most brilliant defense of the finitude of the past and the impossibility of there being causal infinites that I have ever seen. So if one is interested in reading something very advanced on this topic look at Pruss’ book.[2]


[2]           Total Running Time: 15:24 (Copyright © 2020 William Lane Craig)