Thursday, December 5, 2013

Evaluation of William Lane Craig's Model

              Evaluation of William Lane Craig’s Model Of Divine Eternity

In the essay “Timelessness and Omnitemporality,” William Lane Craig argues God’s relation to time is best understood as “timeless” sans creation and “temporal” subsequent to creation. God exists without time, but chooses to create time, space, and matter; and at that moment, he exists in time. Thus we can summarize Craig’s thesis in the form of two propositions: (1) God is timeless without creation; (2) God is temporal with creation. What follows from these propositions is that God is not essentially timeless, but is contingently timeless. Hence, for Craig, timelessness is not an essential property of God qua God. Craig admits he espouses an A-theory[1] of time that the past, present, and future are metaphysically distinct. The past goes out of existence, the present exists, and the future yet exists. Craig is happy to affirm presentism. He believes the only events of time that metaphysically exist, are those in the present. So there can be no parts or events of time, except those in the present. Craig develops his thesis by surveying many arguments. I want to note only a few of his main arguments for (2), and argue they are inconclusive.

Craig’s strongest argument in favor of (2) is from “divine relations with the world;” it is one that many can understand without an extensive background in philosophy. Craig thinks God must be affected by the temporal world in which he creates. God cannot create a changing world without also exhibiting changes[2] himself and thereby being temporal. Craig argues if God creates a temporal world, he gains a new relation with it. An example would be helpful at this point. Imagine a person in an empty room. Suppose the person is alone but brings a plant into the room. The person gains a new relation with the plant. The person changes from a state of solitude to a state of relationship with the plant. As the plant changes so does the person’s relation. If the plant is two inches one week, and grows an inch the next week, the person’s relation to the plant changes (i.e. a relation with a two-inch plant becomes a relation with a three-inch plant). This example highlights an extrinsic change. At minimum, Craig argues, God undergoes an extrinsic change from a state of existing alone to co-existing with creation. Craig sees this as a change of real relations. God chooses to possess a real relation with the world he did not have sans creation. Craig takes this as evidence that God is temporal subsequent to creation. Craig writes, “ Thus even if it is not the case that God is temporal prior to his creation of the world, he undergoes an extrinsic change at the moment of creation which draws him into time in virtue of his real relation to the world.”[3] Craig summarizes his argument as follows:

1. God is creatively active in the temporal world.
2. If God is creatively active in the temporal world, God is really related to the temporal world.
3. If God is really related to the temporal world, God is temporal.
4. Therefore, God is temporal.[4]

Craig’s argument looks promising, but is it implausible to think that a timeless God can create a temporal world without extrinsic change? Given Craig’s commitment to an A-theory of time, I think Craig should make the stronger claim that it is logically impossible.  Since in all possible worlds [5] in which God creates W, God gains a new relation to W.[6] But if this is true, then any possible world God creates, an extrinsic change obtains. In effect, God cannot create any state of affairs without ceasing to be timeless. But cannot W be substituted for contingent things that are not temporal? Craig grants this possibility but finds it implausible. Creation would not be a temporal event but eternal. Such a view assumes the B-theory of time that the passage of time—things going in and out of existence—is exclusively a feature of the human mind. The events of the past, present, and future equally exist, and the division of time as past, present, and future is merely an epistemic than ontic distinction. Thus creation would only exist if and only if God eternally creates it. But Craig dispels this view on the grounds it denies a robust doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. Furthermore, Craig deduces if such a view were true, then there would be no possible world in which God could exist without creation. But such a modal notion is unacceptable for robust doctrines, of God and creation, faithful to the Biblical data.[7] Therefore, Craig concludes, we have good reason to believe the event of creation was temporal. God, by virtue of creation, gains a new relation that entails entrance into time.        
Craig argues, further, that God must undergo an internal change whereby his knowledge of the temporal world changes. This is in virtue of what Craig describes as “tensed facts.” Craig understands facts [8] refer to all details or bits of information about the world that can be expressed in a true declarative sentence.[9] And tense, like in language, locates things in relation to the present. Craig distinguishes between tense and tenseless facts expressed in sentences.  For instance, “all bachelors are unmarried males,” and “ In 2012 the United States reelects Barrack Obama President.”[10] Both sentences express tenseless truths. Dates can be included in sentences to express and locate tenseless truths in time. The latter example with a year and tenseless verb targets this fact (of Obama’s reelection) tenselessly in time. Nevertheless, given this truth, we cannot know when Obama’s reelection as President took place without knowledge of 2012 being past or future. Now suppose we change the verb from tenseless to tensed by replacing the word ‘reelects’ with ‘reelected.’ By replacing the verb to ‘reelected’ we know the event has occurred, but prior to 2012 the tensed fact of Obama’s reelection as President is false. In order for the sentence to remain true, it must be future-tensed such as “will reelect.” Craig concludes that tensed sentences, unlike tenseless sentences with a fixed truth-value, change in truth-value relative to the present. Now let us apply Craig’s thesis about tensed facts to God’s knowledge. In order for God to know the changes of time God’s knowledge must change. For example it was 11:22pm, but now it’s 11:23pm. Such tensed facts go in and out of existence from true to false. God must know these facts with omniscience. Yet facts cannot be both true and false at the same time and sense. Logic prohibits this. So God being omniscient must know when tensed facts change from true to false. However one must be in time to know when any tensed fact is true or false. Therefore, God must be temporal. Craig formulates this argument from tensed facts for divine temporality:
1. A temporal world exists.
2. God is omniscient.
3. If a temporal world exists, then if God is omniscient, God knows tensed facts.
4. If God is timeless, he does not know tensed facts.
5. Therefore, God is not timeless.


Craig is not forthcoming about the concept of a real relation. Craig gets this concept from Thomas Aquinas[11] without any alternatives to it. Craig’s argument from divine relations may be sufficient in defense of (1) and (2) but not enough to ground them as necessary. I can propose an alternative model that can account for Craig’s argument without kenoticizing timelessness. This would make Craig’s argument inconclusive. Suppose God is essentially timeless; and he eternally decrees his essential timeless nature be united with a contingent temporal nature. With the two natures, God would be both timeless in one sense and temporal in another. God would take part in both a timeless and temporal existence. God would think all truths at once timelessly; and he would also in his temporal existence think all truths temporally in successive moments. If such a view is coherent, I think it can account for Craig’s argument, and show it inconclusive.             

Craig’s argument from tensed facts can be recast, if we take time, as an experience. The argument is, roughly, if God does not have experiences of time, and humans have experiences of time, then God cannot know the experiences humans have of time. But God is omniscient, and thus knows the experiences humans have of time; therefore, God knows experiences of time and must be temporal. This, indeed, is an oversimplification, but it captures what is prevalent in Craig’s argument. Only those in time can know things in time. But this suffers the same problems as empiricism.  The problem is aptly expressed by the saying, “a person can know poison kills without swallowing it.” A person can know an item of knowledge without acquiring it. It is plausible that God can know tensed facts in virtue of divine omniscience and providence. This would require no acquisition of knowledge on God’s part. Craig rightly states tensed facts can change from being true to false or vice versa at any given moment. But it is possible that God is the one directing these changes by a timeless decree. Perhaps God is revealing and/or filling in the details of every event in time by timeless providence. If this were the case, then God would know tensed facts. Obviously this reply is unacceptable to Craig given his prior commitments to the A-theory of time. But cannot the same thing be said with the A-theory of time? In my judgment, it is possible.[12] Suppose God by an eternal decree creates the world. Granted that creation is a temporal event. Included in this decree are all the events that are to occur in time and the duration of their existence. With the assumption of presentism, it’s plausible to imagine God eternally sustains and directs only the present. God eternally creates and sustains a timeline of events, and the only events that God continually sustains are those presently occurring. As God ceases to sustain an event by eternal decree, it makes the event a past event. The passage of time would be real since God by eternal decree makes past events cease to exist. Such a model plausibly fits with the A-theory of time without abdicating God of timelessness. But Craig’s argument by tensed facts becomes inconsistent.  He simply asserts[13] God must know future contingent propositions[14] in virtue of omniscience.[15]Yet Craig will not apply the same reasoning to God knowing tensed facts. Craig argues that, “As a perfect being, the greatest conceivable being, God simply possesses essentially knowledge of only and all truths; future contingent propositions [i.e. truths about the future] are among the truths that there are; therefore God possesses essential knowledge of future contingents.”[16] But why not understand this argument to include knowledge of tensed facts? Craig’s argument here does not preclude God from having knowledge of tensed facts by omniscience. Craig to be consistent must admit God knows both future and tensed facts in virtue of omniscience or run the risk of a double standard. Craig’s analysis of divine omniscience seems quite arbitrary, since he picks and chooses what should be included within the scope of God’s knowledge. He affirms God knows future facts without a metaphysical ground (of how precisely God can know them);[17] yet he denies God can know tensed facts without the metaphysical ground of temporality.    

Craig divides God’s knowledge into three logical moments. God possess natural knowledge of all facts that could exist for any given possible world. Since God freely created the actual world, he enjoys free-knowledge of all the facts that will obtain in the actual world. Craig contends God has middle knowledge, and thus knows if the arrangement of facts that comprise any given possible world were different, God would know what would be the arrangement or outcome of facts. Craig believes God has knowledge of counterfactuals [18] prior to creation; [19] and God uses this knowledge to create the world. Craig asserts counterfactuals gain their truth-values from the facts that make up a given possible world.[20] If this is the case, I see no reason why temporal relation of facts should not be included in the make up of a given possible world as one property that determines the truth-value of counterfactuals. Craig’s argument, although long, is as follows:

1.If there are true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, then God knows these truths.
2.There are true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom.
3.If God knows true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, God knows them either logically prior to the divine creative decree or only logically posterior to the divine creative decree.
4.Counterfactuals of creaturely freedom cannot be known only logically posterior to the divine creative decree.
5. Therefore, God knows true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom.
6. Therefore, God knows true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom either logically prior to the divine creative decree or only logically posterior to the divine creative decree.
7. Therefore, God knows true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom logically prior to the divine creative decree.[21]

Does this argument entail that God would know tensed facts (about free creatures) in all possible temporal worlds[22]even if such worlds were not actualized? It seems plausibly! If so, then Craig admits a timeless God can know tensed facts since Craig believes God is timeless prior to creation. On the other hand, if Craig says God does not know all tensed facts of all possible temporal worlds then God does not know all counterfactuals prior to the creative decree. If this is true, Craig’s argument fails to prove God knows counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. Likewise, if Craig denies God knows tensed facts of all possible temporal worlds prior to creation, he undercuts God’s omniscience.


Craig’s arguments from “divine relations of the world” and tensed facts are inconclusive to demonstrate God is (1) timeless without creation and (2) temporal subsequent to creation. Craig’s arguments for (2) fail to meet both sufficient and necessary conditions to ground them true. Craig is inconsistent to hold that God knows future contingent propositions without a metaphysical ground of how precisely God can know them in virtue of omniscience; and yet he argues, God cannot know tensed facts unless we metaphysically ground this knowledge in God being temporal and omniscient. Craig’s inconsistency reveals arbitrariness on how Craig chooses what should be included in God’s knowledge. The most devastating critique, assuming Craig's model, is if God must be temporal to know tensed facts, then God cannot know tensed facts of any temporal possible world (logically) prior to creation given (1). Craig’s argument from tensed facts in support of (2) undermines omniscience and middle knowledge from (1). In effect, by Craig defending (2), he must deny (1).    


If, as Craig argues, God is timeless sans creation and temporal with creation how precisely can God be temporal? Did He already possess the properties necessary to be temporal prior to creation? What are those properties? How are we to understand God as temporal and yet immutable (without falling into a minimalist position)? Did God in His essential nature change with creation? Why not postulate a model similar to the incarnation with Christ’s hypostatic union? Is it logically possible that God has two eternal natures one essential the other contingent? If such a model were even logically possible then wouldn’t it affirm both God is timeless (in one nature) and temporal (in another)? What would such a model look like? God would have two natures, much like the incarnation, in which God would exist qua God, with all the properties of both natures attributed to the three persons without confusing the two natures. But what would these natures and properties be?  The first nature, that is uncontroversial, would be the traditional understanding of God’s essence with all the properties that should properly be attributed to God (which would include timelessness). The second nature, somewhat controversial, would be in some sense spatial and therefore temporal. The nature need not be thought of as physical. It could be similar to that of angelic beings that are incorporeal, spatial, and temporal.               

[1] Craig uses the terms ‘dynamic’ theory or ‘A’ theory to refer to his view of time.    
[2] The change might be construed as a mere Cambridge change. See Richard Swinburne. The Coherence of Theism (Oxford: U. P. Oxford, 1977), 212-213. 
[3] William Lane Craig.“Timelessness and Omnitemporality.” God and Time: Four Views. Ed. Gregory E. Ganssle. (Downers Grove: IV Press, 2001), 141.
[4] Ibid.,p.141.
[5] Possible worlds, for those not trained in Philosophy, refer to the different ways God could have created the world.
[6] The same can be said of contingent things. If God creates a contingent thing W in any possible world, then he gains a new relation to W in any possible world; a relation he did not possess (logically) prior to creation of W.      
[7] Ibid.,pp. 65-66. I think Craig would also say such a view is an attack on the self-sufficiency and aseity of God. See J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig. Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview (Downers Grove: Intervarsity P, 2003), 504-505. 
[8] Craig explains factual content and propositional content are identical. Ibid.,p.145.
[9] .” Ibid.,p. 145. Craig defines a fact as “the state of affairs described by a true declarative sentence.” But in other writings Craig defines a proposition in terms of information content expressed in a declarative sentence. See William Lane Craig, What Does God Know? Reconciling Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Norcross: RZIM, 2002),19-20. See also J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig. Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview (Downers Grove: Intervarsity P, 2003)136-137. 
[10] My example of Obama is inspired by Craig’s example of Kennedy; however, the examples are different in content. Craig’s example refers to the pledge given by Kennedy; my example refers to the reelection of Obama. Ibid.,p.145.
[11] Paul Helm. “Divine Timeless Eternity.” God and Time: Four Views. Ed. Gregory E. Ganssle. (Downers Grove: IV Press, 2001),47-48.
[12] Leibniz would be an interesting case example. I think a person that espoused a process theory of time and accepted Leibniz’s metaphysical doctrines--pre-established harmony and notions--could argue God must know tensed facts without being temporal. It would be based on a strong view of divine providence.   
[13] See William Lane Craig. What Does God Know? Reconciling Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Norcross: RZIM, 2002),40-41. Also The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 123.
[14] Future contingent propositions are true facts about the future.
[15] Paul Kjoss Helseth draws the same conclusion in his response to Craig’s essay. In Four Views of Divine Providence. Ed. Stanley N. Gundry and Dennis W. Jowers. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011),104.
[16] Craig, William Lane. What Does God Know? Reconciling Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Norcross: RZIM, 2002), 40.
[17] I assume here there are counterfactuals prevolitional to God’s decree simply to make the argument against Craig. But I think counterfactuals are grounded in God’s natural knowledge and therefore, do not exist apart from God.   
[18] Ibid.,p.41. Counterfactuals are conditional statements in the subjective mood. For example, if Judas were offered 30 pieces of silver then he would betray Jesus. They are “if-then” statements.
[19] Ibid., pp.43-45. This is called middle knowledge or hypothetical knowledge. It is the idea that God not only knows what could happen or what will happen, but he also knows what would happen under any given circumstances.
[20] Ibid., p.56. Here Craig replies to the grounding objection against middle knowledge. By Craig’s reply I cannot help but think how Craig can consistently be a molinist and nominalist. Craig grants God universal knowledge prior to creation without concrete objects. Given Craig’s molinism, he ought to side with a version of theistic conceptual.
[21] Ibid.,p.51-52.
[22] e.g. In W1, if Judas is offered 30 pieces of silver at T1, then he will betray Jesus.

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