On Guard (Craig)

Craig, William Lane. On Guard.

Although I recommend this book, I in no way endorse Craig’s other works that promote Middle Knowledge or Apollinarianism.

William Lane Craig covers familiar ground in this book, but he presents the material in a way that translates “directly to the streets.”  His arguments themselves are not new, but he has placed them in flowcharts and shorter premise-based arguments.  If you memorize these syllogisms, you will be able to engage unbelievers and friends.

Throughout he tells his own story of how he came to faith and his various doctoral studies in Europe.  

Note: I am not debating whether these arguments prove the Triune God of Yea Reformedom.  What matters below is the soundness and validity of the arguments.

Why Does Anything Exist at All?

Shorter version:

(1) Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence (Leibniz)

(2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

(3) The universe exists.

(4) The universe has an explanation of its existence.

(5) Ergo, God.

I’ll admit. This isn’t my favorite one, and I really like Leibniz.  It does raise some important issues, though, concerning abstract objects, meaning, etc.  The important point is that Leibniz forces us to distinguish between contingent and necessary existence.  I’ll leave it at that for now.

Cosmological Argument

(1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

(2) The universe began to exist.

(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The great thing about this one is that atheists cannot attack premise (2) without giving up Big Bang cosmology.  I am not saying that the Big Bang proves God.  (2) is even more interesting.  Al-Ghazali “argued that if the universe never began to exist, then there have been an infinite number of past events prior to today” (Craig 78).

Further, you can’t pass through an infinite number of elements one at a time.  Before any number can be counted, an infinity of numbers will have to have been counted first.

The Design Argument

Craig’s argument isn’t “Look at a watch. That kind of means there is a God.”  Rather, he is saying there is fine-tuning and irreducible complexity in the universe.  What accounts for that?

(1) The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.

(2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

(3) Therefore, it is due to design.

In some ways this might be the most popular argument.  I just lay it out before you. I want to spend more time on New Testament arguments.

Who Was Jesus?

Those who insist we ignore evidence from the New Testament are asking us to ignore the earliest and most reliable sources and go to sources which are often hundreds of years later and notoriously unreliable (186).

Basic argument:

(1) The gospels were written less than two generations after events. This means legendary aspects did not have time to creep in.

(2) The gospels employ criteria of embarrassment (e.g., Peter’s failings), historical fit, and coherence.  The Gospels also record Jesus’s ignorance about the date of his return, which doesn’t seem like something a start-up group would include.


Three independently established facts:
(1) Empty tomb

(2) Jesus’s live appearances after his death.
(3) The origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection.

(1’) The disciples assume the public location of his tomb, thus opening themselves to falsifiability. The story of the chief priests saying the disciples stole the body assumes “from the other side” that the tomb was empty.

(2’) List of eye-witnesses. The witnesses are there to be questioned.


Jesus Under Fire (ed. Moreland)

Wilkins, Michael J., Moreland, J. P. eds. Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.

If all we had were the remarks by Josephus, Tacitus et al about Jesus and the prima facie reports of the empty tomb, we would be fully warranted in believing Jesus of Nazareth lived, died, and rose again.  The Jesus Seminar rejects that and rejects that we can know most anything about Jesus.  This book is an early response to the juvenile methods of the Jesus Seminar.  It also serves as a great text for an intro to a Synoptic Gospels class.

I. The Seminar’s Method

Aside from their ludicrous coloring system, the Seminar says:

a. If an utterance isn’t a parable or an aphorism, then Jesus didn’t say it.  That’s rather strange; why would they say that?  They want Jesus to be a wandering Cynic or guru.  In other words, he’s from Woodstock.  Of course, no other body of scholarship would dream of applying such restrictive criteria to any other religious figure.

B. Jesus’s Jewish heritage is exorcised(!) from his ministry.  This makes sense, since a Hebrew prophet wouldn’t have been a Greek Cynic.  Of course, even critical New Testament studies would reject that today, since if anything all the emphasis is on Jesus’s Jewishness.

C. The Gospel writers either borrowed from the Gospel of Thomas and/or the Secret Gospel of Mark.  Oddly enough, the stringent criteria above is not applied to these texts.

Craig Blomberg gives a good rebuttal to the above points.  We especially note the oft-made claim that Jesus expected the end of the world (and was likely disappointed).  The problem is that he gave a bunch of instruction which presupposed a long interval of time (Blomberg 31). He mentioned mundane issues such as paying taxes, divorce, and marriage.

And to say the early church made up the texts simply won’t work.  If the church “invented” Jesus’s deity, then why are there passages where Jesus seems to downplay it?  

The most important essay is Darrell Bock’s essay on the historiography of the Gospels.  Is the reporting of the gospel events designed to be a memorex, live, or jive?  In other words, given the standards of ancient writing, did the authors write dwon the exact wording of Jesus (memorex), nothing of Jesus (jive), or the “gist” of Jesus (live)?  Bock makes a convincing case for live.

If you hold to the memorex view, then you have a hard time affirming inerrancy in light of different sequences (or even worse, did Jesus heal the blind man as he was going into Jericho or leaving Jericho?).

The live view seeks to reproduce the “voice” or Jesus, not the exact words.  Compare this with Thucydides account in 1.22.1.  Thucydides admits he is summarizing, and perhaps reordering, a speaker’s thoughts and words, yet scholars recognize him as a model of accuracy and good reporting.

Other comments:

Gary Habermas remarks on the Seminar’s disavowal of miracles:  the Seminar says we can’t trust the miracle narratives because the authors wanted to believe in them.  Whether they did or not is irrelevant.  It’s called the genetic fallacy.

Strangely enough, skeptics like Marcus Borg believe in the exorcism stories, but he gives us no reason for accepting the attestation of all Gospel writers on these stories while excluding the nature miracles.

William Lane Craig offers his standard defense of the Resurrection.  I’ll forgo it here because I think it is better presented in Craig’s later works (cf. On Guard). He does note that the Resurrection can’t be a hallucination on the disciples’ part.  Hallucinations can only show what is already in the mind, and Jesus’s resurrection isn’t identical with the Jewish afterlife (Craig 161).

Edwin Yamauchi’s concluding essay is  fine survey of “Jesus studies” after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  He also touches on Josephus’s writings, including the controversial passage in Antiquities 18.  It’s mostly authentic.  Eusebius’s edition is somewhat doctored, but it is clear that Josephus knew of Jesus and his miracles.

This is an outstanding short response to the Jesus Seminar.  It is somewhat dated as N.T. Wright’s refutation of the Jesus Seminar came out soon afterwards.

Time and Eternity (William Lane Craig)

Image result for time and eternity william lane craig

The best tool for understanding what is meant by God’s being eternal is not poetry but analytic philosophy (Craig 11).

Divine eternity: God exists without beginning or end.  But is God temporal or timeless? We will come back to this question, as Craig himself revisits it at the very end of the book.  We see much about time and eternity, and the numerous tortured arguments from all sides, but little on (T/E’s) relation to God, per the book’s subtitle.  That shouldn’t detract from the fine scholarship, though.

Much of the book is a sustained analysis of Einstein and the various debates concerning relativity.  I’m going to skip those. The heart of Craig’s argument is setting forth two views of time

Tensed time (A).  This is the common-sense view of time (and the one Craig upholds).  We can speak of past, present, and future. However, if God is timeless, as he must be if we deny that time is eternal, then it’s hard to see how he can relate to time.

Tenseless time (B).  Time is an illusion, or at least speak of a past and a future is meaningless.  This fits well with some models of relativity. If time is actually space-time, and space is a 3-D coordinate, and if space isn’t tensed (and it isn’t), then time is tenseless.  While this is quite bizarre, and Craig offers a number of rebuttals, but its strength lies in its ability to comport with God’s eternity.

In conclusion, Craig argues that God is eternal before Creation but has a temporal dimension with respect to creation.  And that’s my problem with his conclusion. I think there is something to it, but he does very little to develop it (Craig, 217-235, and much of that discussion is a summary of his Kalam argument). He adds a fine discussion on God’s foreknowledge as an appendix.

Divine Timelessness


  1. God is simple


(1’) God is immutable.

(2) If God is simple or immutable, then he is not temporal.

(3) Therefore, God is not temporal.

(4) Therefore, God is timeless.

This argument, though, depends on certain Thomist formulations.  Craig doesn’t pursue this line of thought.

Relativity Theory


Absolute time: time without relation to anything external.

Absolute space: 

Relative time: time determined by clocks.

19th century experiments on speed of light.

Light’s measured velocity is the same in all inertial frames.


Simultaneity becomes relative.  There is no absolute space.

What does this mean for God, Time, and Eternity?  If God is in time, then whose time is he in, for time is relative to the observer? The argument becomes thus:

  1. STR is correct in its description of time.
  2. If STR is correct in its description of time, then if God is temporal, He exists in either the time associated within a single inertial frame or the times associated with a plurality of inertial frames.
  3. Therefore, if God is temporal,He exists in either the time associated within a  single inertial frame or the times associated with a plurality of inertial frames.
  4. God does not exist in either the time associated witha  single inertial frame or the times associated with a plurality of inertial frames.
  5. Therefore, God is not temporal.

Craig is going to challenge (1).  Einstein’s relativity already presupposed that there couldn’t be Absolute Space.  But this was because Einstein held to verificationism, which has since been debunked.

Review: For Faith and Clarity

Beilby, James. ed. For Faith and Clarity: Philosophical Contributions to Christian Theology.

This book is not an intro to apologetics. It’s not even an intermediate text. It’s more like a supplement to some theological issues in apologetics. On the whole it is of limited value. Nevertheless, there were a few outstanding essays.

J. P. Moreland: General Ontology and Theology

Moreland outlines what substance metaphysics is. The ultimate categories are substance, property, and relation (47), and these categories are in sets. “A set of categories is a set of mutually exclusive and exhaustive classifications of all entities.”

A substance is a continuant that can change by gaining new properties and losing old ones, yet retaining its identity (57). Substance are not had by other properties. They have properties. A property is an existence reality which is exemplified by a substance.

William Lane Craig: Pantheists in spite of themselves.

Craig cuts Hegelianism off at the pass. For post-Hegelians God is the Infinite, yet any concept of the infinite contains within it the concept of the finite. Therefore, the finite is just as necessary as the infinite. Therefore, God is both infinite and finite. For Neo-Hegelians, “infinite” means “all.” The problem should be evident. God and the moon both exist, so this means that God is not all. Yet we hold that God is infinite.

How does a Christian respond to this? Craig notes that the Hegelian concept of infinity is just silly and outdated. Modern mathematics uses the concept of infinity, but it never means what Hegel says it means. Take Cantor’s sets:

0, 1, 2, 3,….

1, 3, 5, 7,…..

We can extend both sets to infinity. There is one to one correspondence between two sets if the members of A can be paired with the members of B. We do not need to get into all of the paradoxes with an actual infinite, but we need only show that the Neo-Hegelian definition is false.

J. Wesley Richards: Divine Simplicity

Richards gives 8 different senses of how divine simplicity was used in the history of the church.

  1. All divine properties are possessed by the same self-identical God.
  2. God is not composite in the sense of being made up of parts. God has no external causes.
  3. God’s essence is identical with his act of existing.
  4. All God’s essential properties are co-extensive.
  5. All God’s perfections are identical.
  6. All God’s properties are co-extensive.
  7. God’s essential properties and essence are (strictly) identical with God himself.
  8. All God’s properties are (strictly) identical with God himself..

Richards says that all Christians can accommodate P(1) – (6). Part of the difficulty is that earlier Christian thinkers were hamstrung by Platonic and medieval ontologies. For Thomas an essence of a thing is its “what it is as such” (Richards 162). Modern essentialism, by contrast, sees an entity as “exemplifying a certain essence.” For medieval realists, an entity participated (or shared) in the form of x. For modern essentialists, an entity exemplifies x.

Other essays of note are Plantinga’s evolutionary challenge and Wolterstorff’s essay on justice.

al-Kindi’s argument against eternal universe

Strictly speaking, this isn’t the cosmological argument, because as it stands there is no inference to a creating Agent.  But it does establish the groundwork for it.  This is from William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument, pp. 23-27.

  1. There are six self-evident principles
    1. Two bodies of which one is not greater than the other are equal.
    2. Equal bodies are those where the dimensions between their limits are equal in actuality and potentiality.
    3. That which is finite is not infinite.
    4. When a body is added to one of two bodies, the one receiving the addition becomes greater.
    5. When two bodies of finite magnitude are joined, the resultant body will also be of finite magnitude.
    6. The smaller of two generically related things is inferior to the larger.
  2. No actual infinite can exist because:
    1. If one removes a body of finite magnitude from a body of infinite magnitude, the remainder will be a body of either finite or infinite magnitude.
    2. It cannot be finite.
      1. Because when the finite body that was removed is added back, the resultant would be finite (see 1.5).
      2. The body would then be both infinite and finite
      3. But this is self-contradictory (see 1.3).
    3. It cannot be infinite
      1. Because when the finite body that was removed is added back to the remainder, the resultant body would be either greater than or equal to what it was before the addition.
        1. It cannot be greater than it was before the addition.
          1. Because then we would have two infinite bodies, one of which is greater than the other.
          2. The smaller would be inferior to the greater (because of 1.1).
          3. And the smaller would be equal to a portion of the greater.
          4. Thus, the smaller body and the portion would be finite because they must have limits (1.2).
          5. The smaller body would then be both infinite and finite.
          6. But this is self contradictory (see 1.3).
        2. It cannot be equal to what it was before the addition.
          1. Because the whole body composed of the greater portion and the smaller portion would be equal to the greater portion alone.
          2. Thus a part would be equal to the whole.
          3. But this is self-contradictory.
  3. Therefore, the universe is spatially and temporally finite because:
    1. The universe is spatially finite
      1. Because an actual infinite cannot exist.
    2. The universe is temporally finite
      1. Because time is finite.
        1. Time is finite
          1. Because time is quantitative
          2. And an actually infinite quantity cannot exist.
        2. Time is the duration of the body of the universe.
        3. Therefore, the being of the body of the universe is finite.
      2. Because motion is finite.
        1. Because motion is the change of some thing.
      3. Body cannot exist prior to motion.
        1. Because the universe is either generated from nothing or eternal.
          1. If it is generated from nothing, body would not precede motion.
            1. Because its very generation is a motion.
          2. If it is eternal, body would not precede motion.
            1. Because motion is change.
            2. And the eternal cannot change.
              1. Because it simply is in a fully actual state.
        2. Thus, body and motion can only exist in conjunction with each other.
        3. Motion implies time.
          1. Because time is a duration counted by motion.
        4. Time is finite.
        5. Therefore, motion is finite.
        6. Therefore, the being of the body of the universe is finite.
      4. Because the universe is composed.
        1. Composition involves change.
          1. Because it is a joining of things together.
        2. Bodies are composed
          1. Because they are made up of substance and three dimensions.
          2. Because they are made up of matter and form.
        3. Motion involves time.
          1. Because time is a duration counted by motion.
        4. Time is finite
        5. Therefore, motion is finite.
        6. Therefore, composition is finite.
        7. Therefore, the being of a body is finite.
      5. Because time must have a beginning
        1. Otherwise, any given moment in time would never arrive.
          1. Because infinite time is self-contradictory.
            1. The duration from past infinity to any given moment is equal to the duration from the given moment regressing back into infinity.
            2. Knowledge of the former duration implies a knowledge of the latter duration.
            3. But this makes the infinite to be finite.
            4. But this is self-contradictory.
          2. Because infinite time cannot be traversed.
            1. Before any given moment to have been reached, an infinity of prior moments would have to have been reached.
            2. But one cannot traverse the infinite.
            3. So any given moment could never be reached.
            4. But moments are, in fact, reached.
        2. Moreover, future time cannot actually be infinite.
          1. The future consists of consecutive additions of finite times.
            1. Past time is finite
            2. Therefore, future time is finite.

Does Foreknowledge Change Anything?

One of the common rebuttals to Calvinism is the claim that predestination = God’s foreknowing our future decision(s) to choose or not choose him.  It’s an attractive position.  It allows human dignity and responsibility yet also posits a timeless God.  We will call it weak foreknowledge (Fw).  

While I’m sympathetic to this position and want to hold to something like Fw at the end of the day, I am not sure it delivers on what it promises.  It claims the following:

(1)  God foresees my future decisions.
(1a) God does not cause my future decisions.

Outside of Open Theism, every non-Calvinist agrees with these propositions.  We must then add some conclusions about God that both sides (open theism excluded) hold.

(2) God’s knowledge is immediate and nondiscursive.  

In other words, God doesn’t have to figure stuff out or reason his way to a solution that he didn’t know.  Yes, I understand the verses but every tradition holds those as anthropomorphic.  

(3) God’s essence is simple and immutable.  

(3) says that God doesn’t change.

(2) and (3) allow us to add another premise:

(4) God’s knowledge is fixed.

How does all of this relate to the discussion on predestination? If God’s knowledge is fixed and immutable, and if God sees into eternity future (whatever that means), then aren’t my actions just as fixed?

(1*) God’s knowledge of my future decisions is a knowledge of what I will do.

It’s not clear how I am still free on the quasi-Arminian gloss.  Sure, I as an acting free agent freely employ my will to choose God (JBA–I actually hold to something like this position), but the end result hasn’t changed   Let’s add the classic libertarian hypothesis:

(5) I could have acted otherwise.

Can (5) obtain?  It’s not immediately clear that it can.  Premises (3) and (4) point to a fixed knowledge of future events.  Has the Arminian’s commitment to (1) logically reduced to Calvinism?

Maybe not.  The advocate of LFW (Libertarian Free Will) has several responses:

(6) God’s knowledge of future events does not destroy certainty.

Even Charles Hodge will agree with this point (Systematic Theology, II: 294-306).  Hodge doesn’t actually say much on this point, simply that certainty and free choice aren’t exclusive.  That is true, but he doesn’t tell us why they aren’t exclusive.  

William Lane Craig, an Arminian, clarifies: certainty is a predicate of persons, of knowers.  Necessity is a predicate of events known (Craig, “The Middle Knowledge View,” in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, 127-128).  Bruce McCormack agrees: “God’s foreknowledge gives him certainty with regard to what will happen.  Whether the events God knows with certainty take place necessarily or contigently is a function of the natural and historical conditions under which they take place” (McCormack, “The Actuality of God,” in Engaging the Doctrine of God, 205).

At this point the LFW’s commitment to (1) seems to obtain and functions as a logically coherent alternative to Calvinism.   However, there still lurks some ambiguities.

(7) Does the Bible teach this?   

I can’t go into the exegetical points here.  I am simply trying to work through some logical underpinnings.

(8) Granting (6) obtains, am I still really, really free?

The objection argues that (6) inevitably collapses back into (1*).  It still appears to be the case that I am going to do this set of actions (Sx) and not another set of actions (Sy).  (8) appears to be a psychological rebuttal to (6), not a logical one.  In other words, even if (8) obtains, (6) is still logically coherent.  However, the LFW has one more option:

(9) The doctrine of Middle Knowledge allows one to affirm (5), (6), and (1*).  

But that’s for another post.


Can the advocate of LFW offer (1) as a rebuttal and alternative to Calvinism? Phrase another way, (1) is logically coherent.  However, the ultimate truth of (1) depends on other exegetical variables.