Monday, February 28, 2011

FacePalm of the Day #61 - Debunking Christianity: William Lane Craig on Middle Knowledge and Hell

I'm always amazed when atheists brings up this subject and attempt to address Middle Knowledge and God's Sovereignty juxtaposed with human free will. It amazes me because it always turns into a trainwreck. This is an important issue but it does not really concern unbelievers because if either William Lane Craig is right about Middle Knowledge or Christians who disagree with him are right unbelievers are still lost. Therefore I don't see why atheists like Loftus even bring it up. But while I am here anyway I want to explain that I don't accept Dr. Craig's theology on this point and I also want to point out why it doesn't do people like Loftus any good commenting on a debate they don't understand. Loftus' original comments will be in bold.

When it comes to foreknowing our future, Craig argues that God has Middle Knowledge such that he knows “what every possible creature would do under any possible circumstances,” “prior to any determination of the divine will.”[1] So despite his protestations to the contrary isn’t it obvious that if Craig’s God has this kind of foreknowledge he could simply foreknow who would not accept his offered salvation before they were even created, and then never create them in the first place? If he did that “hotel hell” would never have even one occupant. Why not?

This is one of the problems I have with Craig's understanding of God's foreknowledge. It presupposes that God's only purpose in creating humanity is filling heaven with the most number of people possible without violating anyone's free will. I don't see that in the Bible at all. By our own will, we all deserve hell and its in God turning our hearts and freeing our minds from being enslaved to sin that we are saved. The human will is not all powerful - God is. He alone deserves all glory and I see nothing in scripture that leads me down the road to thinking that God is more concerned with what I want or think than He is in fulfilling His purposes. All of this considered - God creates everyone because He has a purpose in that although knowing that some people are going to end up in Hell. I agree with the definition of Middle Knowledge Loftus gives and that is why I reject it.

In question #202 at Reasonable Faith Dr. Craig tries to answer this type of problem:

Question 202:
Dr. Craig,

"How can God be considered Wholly Good, when he knowingly created the angels, the universe, and humanity, knowing that hell would be a requirement for such a world, and also knowing that a majority of people would be condemned to it for all eternity?" I believe this objection is valid because even if someone is condemned to hell as a result of their own free will, the fact is that God using his middle knowledge already knew that person would freely choose to go against God, and thus would be condemned to hell but created the person/world/hell anyway. The fate is so terrible, and the number of people who would be condemned is so high, that in my view, the only moral choice would be to either not create the universe/humanity, or not to create humanity with Free Will. --John
Dr. Craig responds:

Yours is a thoughtful and difficult question, John….But let’s press harder. Suppose the worst case scenario. What would the objection, if fully successful, require you to give up? The existence of God? The resurrection of Jesus? Hardly! It would seem to require you to give up biblical inerrancy, at least with respect to the reality of hell. That would be jarring, but it’s no reason to commit apostasy!

But maybe it wouldn’t even require that much. As you say, you could always adopt annihilationism, as some evangelical Christians have done. That would seem to solve your problem.

But suppose you think annihilationism is not the correct interpretation of the New Testament with respect to hell. What then? Well, notice that the objection presupposes the doctrine of middle knowledge. For it assumes that logically prior to God’s creative decree, He knew what any person would freely do in response to His grace. If He lacks such knowledge, then the objection can’t even get off the ground. And it hardly needs to be said that middle knowledge is a hotly debated doctrine that is not incumbent upon the biblically faithful Christian. So you can completely avoid the objection just by denying middle knowledge. I hope you’re beginning to breathe easier.I've
What Bill is doing here is simply saying that in order to keep one's faith in the midst of an "overwhelming defeater" then all that believers have to do is reinvent what they believe. Just jettison this or that doctrine and the cognitive dissonance will be gone. But by all means keep believing. This is exactly why Christianity has survived down through the centuries. Believers just reinvent it in every generation. Then the reinvented faith becomes the new orthodoxy. So Bill is giving this guy named John permission to do so. Forget truth at that point. Just do a little dance. Gerrymander away the problem. Do it as often as you need to in order to believe.

How do we know for sure that more people will end up in hell than in heaven? People are saved by putting their faith in how much of the salvation plan they have had revealed to them. Today we have more of the pieces than Abraham or anyone in the Old Testament had. And Isaiah had more of the larger picture than Abraham did. We are accountable for accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior because we know. They will be with us in Heaven because they believed that God would make atonement for them. They didn't know the name of the Messiah, only the One was to come. What will the Canaanite who lived while Israel was enslaved in Egypt be responsible for believing and accepting (or anyone for that matter)? Whatever God holds them accountable for. The Bible is clear. And as for the people who didn't have the Bible they have creation and their consciousness. God would be in his rights if he only held some people accountable for those. That is not you or me today because we do have the Bible and we have had Jesus revealed to us. We must keep in mind that God would have been within his rights to save no one. He was within his rights to have chosen to annihilate everyone or send everyone who ever exists to hell. It was up to Him. He owes us nothing. We owe Him.

I've never heard William Lane Craig endorse annihilationism but I have never heard him condemn the idea as unbiblical. And it is grossly unbiblical. Loftus is indeed correct that some people are willing to water-down scripture and "re-invent" doctrine every generation. I'm not. It truly does come down to living a holy life or going to hell. Your soul/mind will survive your death and you will either find yourself with God forever or forever separated from God. There is no middle ground. It doesn't take changing the message to believe. You can believe what the Bible says. It hasn't changed.

That being said he does attempt to answer John's question:
But suppose you think, as I do, that God has middle knowledge. Here my response, as you note, is that those who would freely reject God’s love and forgiveness and His every effort to save them and so damn themselves forever, against His will, should not be allowed to have a veto power over God’s creating a world in which multitudes of other people freely accept His grace and are saved. Why should the blessedness and joy of those who would be saved be prevented by what evil and intransigent people would freely do? Why should they be allowed to prevent an incommensurable good?

Your response is that unbelievers “did not ask to be created, and had they been presented with the stark choice of Non-Existence and Eternal Conscious Torture they would undoubtedly choose Non-Existence.” This response seems to miss the thrust of my answer. Of course, the damned would prefer not to have been created! Obviously! But my question is why such persons’ freely rejecting God should be allowed to prevent the blessedness and joy of those who would freely accept God’s salvation? These people shouldn’t be privileged over those who would love and want God.
There's more to his answer of course, it's just that I cannot chase all of his claims down the apologist's rabbit hole right now. Let it suffice to say that he's has a very selfish perspective here. Christians are themselves quite selfish when it comes to heaven. All they care about is that they get in. It doesn't matter much if others don't. While they might try evangelizing a few times in their lives the only thing that matters is that they get into heaven regardless of whether or not their family, friends and co-workers do.

John Loftus still seems to think that God should care what we think. It's true that many people would rather choose non-existence rather than eternal torture or serving and loving God. So What? We didn't get a vote. He is the potter. We are his clay. Don't like it? Tough. People who love God want what God wants. We want more than to just for us to make it in. We know we don't deserve it and want as many people as possible to turn from their sin and be with God because it only then that a human being is truly free. That is why we must tell everyone and leave it to God as to how and when they respond.

It's not whether non-believers would prefer non-existence to an eternal suffering in hell. It's that agape loving Christians should prefer non-existence rather than knowing their family, friends and co-workers will end up in an eternal hell.

John Loftus does not really know what Agape means. It is the kind of Love that gives what is needed even if it's not wanted or deserved. It does not mean that you get everything you want on your own terms. God wants what is best for us, yes. It's stupid to think that you know what that is better than He does. It's also stupid to think that you can get away with ignoring Him when atoms obeys His Commands. We deserve hell and if you go to Heaven its because of Grace and Mercy through faith that God gives you/

Caring Christians themselves should all rise up as one and demand an answer for why God created this world at all knowing so many people would end up in hell. If I were a Christian I would protest God for creating this world even if I ended up in heaven. I would rather that God never created anything at all than for him to create this world, if my family, friends and co-workers were to wind up in hell along with billions of other people. If I were a selfless agape loving Christian I would gladly have preferred non-existence than an existence in heaven for me knowing the eternal sufferings of so many others in hell. That's selfless agape love. Christians do not have it and neither does their God if he created this world on the backs of the screams of billions of people in an eternal hell.

Christians should know that clay doesn't talk back to the potter. I'm grateful that God would allow me to go to Heaven. It's not like those who end up in hell wanted to be saved and God said "No." Loves requires responsibility. You can't just live any kind of way on your own terms and then cry foul when God punishes you for doing what you wanted to do. People like Loftus have reality backward. We are supposed to serve God. God does not serve us.


[1] William Lane Craig, “Middle Knowledge, A Calvinist-Arminian Rapprochement,” in The Grace of God, The Will of Man, ed. Clark H. Pinnock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1989), pp:141-164.

Debunking Christianity: William Lane Craig on Middle Knowledge and Hell
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