The Apostle Paul said:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good… (Romans 13:1-4)
Likewise, Peter said:
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
But this is only when they’re godly right? We don’t have to submit to ungodly authority. After all, rulers are to punish evil and praise good – so whenever they aren’t following the Bible, we don’t have to follow them!
No, you still have to obey the government or you bring judgment on yourself.
Whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Romans 13:2)
Daniel said that God removes kings and sets them up… even tyrants such as Nebuchadnezzar!
He removes kings and sets up kings. (Daniel 2:21)
Jesus told Pilate
“You would have no authority over Me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:11)
And Pilate was a guy who liked to kill Jews in the temple just to show them he could!
Government is a blessing from God. Because without it, things would be a whole lot worse. God also uses government to bring about His judgment. We are to obey our rulers because God said so. We pay taxes out of obedience, because that’s how He made government to run.
He is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. (Romans 13:4-6)
Now, if that authority tells you to renounce your faith or be silent, follow the Apostles’ example and keep preaching Christ!
We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to those things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him. (Acts 5:29-32)
It’s the will of God that we should submit to earthly authority (even though you won’t always agree with the government), putting to silence the talk of foolish people who would otherwise paint us as law breakers.
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution… For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people… Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
The Bible says to pray for our governors, not rebel against them…
First of all then I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
… that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, Godly and dignified in every way, when we understand the text.
1 Timothy 2 begins:
First of all then I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Hang-on now! prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who are in high positions?? So, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Dictators, Governors, Chiefs of State, Cabinet Members, Congress…we’re supposed to pray for them and thank God for them?
Yes. Well, that’s what the Bible says.
Not just because it’s good for us, but especially because it pleases God.
This is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
In Jeremiah 29:1-28, Israel had been exiled to the Babylonians because of their sin. But, through the Prophet Jeremiah, God assured them that He would not annihilate them. Rather, they needed to pray for the welfare of their captors, work the land and be successful, be fruitful and multiply their families, and watch out for false teachers in the meantime, who would not be spared judgment.
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat of their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:4-7)
God would indeed deliver His people as He promised He would do.
The Apostle Paul, writing to his servant Timothy, says that same thing still applies:
We are exiles in this world. Pray for those who are of this world, especially rulers, realizing that everyone needs to hear the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We, too, must watch out for false teachers who will not escape the wrath of God – nor will those who follow them.
Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
And, just like He did in Israel, God will save all whom He means to save and lead them to a knowledge of the truth. Not one of His people will be lost!
… when we understand the text.
Romans 12:2 says,
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Many Bible websites and apps have said this is one of the most looked up Bible verses on the web. The way it usually gets interpreted is like this: Don’t be like anyone else or who the world wants you to be. Be who God made you to be!
That’s all well and good; but when this verse is taken by itself, “who God made you to be” is typically “who you want to be.” And “God’s will for your life” is really “your will for your life.” After all, God’s will is for you to be happy, right?
God’s will for you is that you would be sanctified, abstain from sexual immorality, control your own body, grow in holiness, and give thanks to God in all circumstances.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Which, by the way, that happens to be Romans 12:1,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
Paul previously spent the first 11 chapters of Romans explaining the mercies of God into giving up His Son. Jesus died for us so we are to live for Him – holy and acceptable to God and this is worship.
So you must consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)
Present yourselves then to God as those who have been brought from death to life… (Romans 6:13)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
To be holy means to be set apart. Don’t think like the world thinks. Have the mind of Christ. Then we’re able to know God’s will as revealed in His Word, the Bible.
Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Mark 8:33)
“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to teach him?
But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:5)
Being transformed in Christ, we desire to worship God in a way that is good and acceptable and perfect…
… when we understand the text.
Should we invite unbelievers to church?
Sure! Why not? Church should be a place where anyone who comes through the doors will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed!
The Scripture says, “The wages of sin is death! But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 6:23)
May this message be preached from every pulpit! But, we need to understand unbelievers are not part of the Church.
In Romans 8:9, Paul said:
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.
The church is the Body of Christ. Whoever is not of Christ is not part of His Body.
Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. (Ephesians 5:23)
Don’t let an unbeliever get comfortable. They need to be convicted.
We are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Though they’re in the doors, they’re still outside the Church until they repent of their sin and are reconciled to God in Christ Jesus.
And don’t use gimmicks to get them there. What you win them with is what you win them to.
For the one who sows to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)
Not one soul has ever come to Christ through pop music or door prizes. Give them the Word of God.
What’s more important than inviting unbelievers is going to unbelievers.
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)
This is evangelism.
How will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written,
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
But they’ve not all obeyed the Gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he’s heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14-17)
So yes, invite your unbelieving friend to church; AND take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the rest of the unbelieving world…
… when we understand the text.
What is God’s will for your life? Well the Bible says:
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Not the answer you were looking for?
That’s probably because what you actually want is to have your fortune told.
Many ask about the will of God as though it’s the Christian equivalent of ”wishing upon a star”. When they talk about God’s will for their life, what they’re probably talking about is the hopes and dreams they have and it’s God’s will for them to have him.
But the Bible isn’t going to tell you:
For those kinds of questions, the Bible says wisdom is found in an abundance of counselors.
Where there’s no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)
Ephesians 5:15-17 says this:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Now understanding the will of the Lord doesn’t mean what He’s going to reveal to you in a vision or a dream or some false prophet trying to con you. It’s understanding what He’s already revealed in His Word.
Know what the Word of God says and how to apply it, and it will make you wise.
The Bible also says:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
So what is God’s will for your life?
That you praise Him in all circumstances and that you live holy lives in Christ Jesus according to His Word, the Bible…
… when we understand the text.
Colossians 1:15 says that:
Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
Now, there are many we’ve interpreted, “firstborn of all creation,” to mean that Jesus is the first being created by God.
The Mormons teach He is the literal offspring of “Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother” (also, literally the brother of Satan).
The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is the Archangel Michael.
However, the very next verse says:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. (Colossians 1:15-16)
So, since Jesus is the Creator of all things, He Himself cannot be a created being because if He was created, He can’t be the Creator of all things.
Jesus, the Son of God, is eternal and uncaused – one with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus is God.
John 1:18 says:
No one has ever seen God; the only God who is at the Father’s side (that would be Jesus Christ) He has made Him known.
1 John 5:20 says:
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
Paul says in Titus 2;13 that He is our God and Savior.
Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ… (Titus 2:13)
In Isaiah 43:10, God says:
“Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.”
So, Jesus, who is God, is eternal with no beginning and no end from everlasting to everlasting.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. (Psalm 90:2)
So, what does it mean to say Jesus is the firstborn of all creation? It’s just another way of saying that all things belong to Him. The Father has given Him all the rights of a firstborn Son.
The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. (John 3:35)
Everything that belongs to God the Father belongs to the Son of God, the true God of the Bible…
… when we understand the text.
Have you ever heard of “feathery Christians”? It’s a line from a book by Thomas Watson. Here’s what Charles Haddon Spurgeon had to say about the book:
“Thomas Watson’s Body of Practical Divinity is one of the most precious of the peerless works of the Puritans and those best acquainted with it prize it most. Watson was one of most concise, racy, illustrative, and suggestive of those eminent divines who made the Puritan age the Augustine period of evangelical literature. There is a happy union of sound doctrine, heart-searching experience, and practical wisdom throughout all his works and his Body of Divinity is, beyond all the rest, useful to the student and the minister.”
Thomas Watson was a graduate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. This is the famous Puritan college of Cambridge: there were seventy-two graduates of Emmanuel College who went on to be significant Puritan ministers who led from influential pulpits and also left behind great books, were involved in the Westminster Assembly, and even helped settle the New World. Watson was right there among them.
Once he graduated from Emmanuel College, Watson took his first pastorate in St. Stephen Walbrook in the City of London. He held that pastorate until 1660. At that point, he was expelled in the Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II. Six years later, St. Stephen was destroyed in the great fire of London. It was rebuilt, one of many churches rebuilt and designed by Christopher Wren. It stands there today, right in the banking and financial district of London. It was there that, week after week, Watson preached his sermons. And it was also there that he laid the groundwork for his many books.
After he was expelled, Watson managed to find pulpits here and there and preached right up until his death in 1686. After his death, many of his books were published, including, in 1692, A Body of Practical Divinity. These days it’s published as A Body of Divinity. One of Watson’s main concerns in this book was helping Christians to be settled. In fact, he says this right on the first page,
“It is the duty of Christians to be settled in the doctrine of faith.”
Here’s what he has to say:
“To be unsettled in religion argues want or lack of judgment. If their heads were not giddy, men would not reel so fast from one opinion to another. It argues lightness, as feathers will be blown every way, so will feathery Christians.”
Watson wrote his book as the antidote to being a feathery Christian, not one who is unsettled but one who is settled. And how do you become settled in your Christian faith? Watson says it is very clear: you spend time on the foundational beliefs.
After he makes a case for being a settled Christian, Watson immediately turns to the Westminster Shorter Catechism and uses it to walk the reader through a body of divinity or, a theology. Of course, he starts with the first question,
“What is the chief end of man?” “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
And this what Watson has to say:
“Glorifying God consists in four things: appreciation, adoration, affection, subjection. This is the yearly rent we pay to the crown of heaven.”
That’s Thomas Watson and A Body of Divinity.
(This podcast is by Ligonier Ministries. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
The Shack, a novel by William Paul Young, has sold over 20 million copies and has been made into a feature film. It’s about a man whose daughter was murdered, leading him to ask why a loving God would allow such evil. He goes back to the place where she died and meets God as a woman who goes by “Papa”, the Holy Spirit (also a woman) and Young’s version of Jesus.
Though The Shack is fiction, it teaches unbiblical ideas Young said he believes about God.
“The Shack is theology. But it is a theology wrapped in a story.” – William P. Young
He believes God the Father was crucified with Jesus (pg. 96) – a heresy called patripassianism that was condemned by Tertullian in the third century. The Son of God was crucified on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins absorbing the wrath of God the Father.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief. (Isaiah 53:10)
Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Young’s version of Jesus says that He’s the best way to have a relationship with God (pg 110). But the Bible says He’s the only way to God.
Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Young’s Jesus teaches that God submits to us (pg. 145). Psalm 2 says God laughs at such pride and holds them in derision. He opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. God submits to no one, but we are to submit to Him.
He who sits on the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (Psalm 2:4)
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. (James 4:6-7)
Young’s God says that He places no expectations on us (pg. 206). But God clearly commands that we turn from our sin and obey His Son Jesus. Those who do have eternal life. Those who don’t are under His wrath.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on Him. (John 3:36)
Young’s God says that everyone is a child of God (pg. 118) and God has forgiven the sins of every person (pg. 225). But the Bible says only those in Christ are His adopted sons and daughters (Galatians 4:28). Those who do not believe are children of wrath and their father is the devil.
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3)
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me… 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. (John 8:42,44)
The Shack contains a false gospel and teaches only wrong things about God.
Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6)
We know the spirit of truth from the Spirit of error… when we understand the text.
KEVIN HARRIS: I love the smell of a new car and the smell of a new book. Bill, you’ve got one: God Over All.
DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: Which is not a car!
KEVIN HARRIS: It is not a car; it is a book. It is from Oxford Press. It is hot off the press, as well. Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism – a project of yours for quite some time. You’ve dedicated this to Richard Swinburne. What kind of influence has he had on you?
DR. CRAIG: Swinburne has been one of the most important Christian philosophers alive today. I thought it was appropriate to say thank you by way of dedicating this book to him. Although this wasn’t a motivation for the dedication, it is true that Swinburne and I see pretty much eye-to-eye on this issue of God and abstract objects. But I’ve appreciated his defense of Christianity in the realm of philosophy, and even more recently his very courageous stand on traditional biblical sexual ethics which has caused some controversy. Although that happened after the dedication was made, nevertheless it does make the dedication, I think, especially appropriate.
KEVIN HARRIS: I have found personally that being conversant in this material and knowing about abstract objects and God’s aseity has filled in some blanks and helped me in everything from my devotional life as I contemplate God to filling in some blanks in theology and in giving me some undergirding that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I want to encourage people to get this. Get it through ReasonableFaith.org, get it at your local bookstore, and begin reading it and absorbing this material. If we go through the table of contents here let’s talk about each chapter. After the introduction your first chapter is “God: The Sole Ultimate Reality.”
DR. CRAIG: That’s s-o-l-e not s-o-u-l. God is the sole or only ultimate reality. This is a phrase I borrow from Brian Leftow who was Swinburne’s successor as the Nolloth Professor of the Christian Religion at Oxford University. Brian wrote a massive book called God and Necessity in which he defends the view that God is the sole ultimate reality. That is to say, God alone is uncreated and is the source of all reality apart from himself. I thought Brian’s phrase “the sole ultimate reality” really captured that idea of divine aseity very well. So that is the title that I use for the chapter in which I lay out the biblical, church historical, and theological grounds for affirming the doctrine of divine aseity – that God is the sole ultimate reality.
KEVIN HARRIS: I’ve heard you say that God is ontologically ultimate. There’s nothing more ultimate than he. What are some of the things in the chapter?
DR. CRAIG: In this chapter I first begin with an exegetical study of the New Testament and what it has to say about God’s being the sole ultimate reality, and in particular I look at the prologue of the Gospel of John where in verse 3 John says all things came into being through him and without him nothing came into being; not one thing came into being. Then I look at the writings of the apostle Paul. You find very similar teaching that God is the one from whom and through whom and for whom all things exist.
My exegetical study of these passages revealed very, very intriguing backgrounds for these New Testament affirmations in Middle Platonism. Middle Platonism is a form of Platonism that evolved several centuries after Plato himself had died. It was the type of Platonism that was dominant in the first century – the time at which the New Testament was written. One of the key tenets of Middle Platonism is that the Platonic ideas (things like numbers and properties and other so-called abstract entities) don’t exist on their own. Rather they exist as ideas in the mind of God. This is not an unusual notion in the ancient world. Rather, this became a widespread and standard doctrine in Middle Platonism. The Platonic ideas are really in fact ideas in the mind of God. In the Jewish Alexandrian philosopher Philo, who is contemporaneous with the New Testament, Philo locates the Platonic ideas in the mind of God which he calls The Logos or The Word. This is the same word that is used in the Gospel of John in the prologue: in the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God. This is just exactly the same thing that Philo affirms. Again, for Philo, the Logos is the seat of the Platonic ideas. So there is no realm of uncreated abstract objects apart from God. These are concepts in the mind of God. This, I believe, forms the background for understanding the prologue of the Gospel of John and many of Paul’s statements where he replaces the word Logos with the word Christos. Christ now, for Paul, is the formal cause of all things and the instrumental cause of all things. When you read the New Testament against this historical background of Middle Platonism I think it really illuminates the doctrine of divine aseity.
I go on in the chapter to explain that the pre-Nicene fathers (the early church fathers prior to the Council of Nicaea) adopted this same view. When it came to Nicaea, this gets codified in the Nicene Creed where it says, We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and the creator of all things visible and invisible, and in his Son, one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things came into being. So both the Pauline language and the Johannine language are picked up in the Nicene Creed and affirmed as God’s being the only uncreated thing. The historical background to this doctrine is just fascinating.
KEVIN HARRIS: We’ve got Middle Platonism, Middle Knowledge, and Middle Age. I’m struggling with all three! Middle Platonism – the third chapter – the challenge of Platonism. That is kind of the crux isn’t it?
DR. CRAIG: Yes, the idea here is that this doctrine of God being the sole ultimate reality receives a significant challenge from what is called Platonism. This is the view that there are uncreated abstract objects. These are not material entities which are contingent. These are abstract entities like numbers and sets and other mathematical objects, properties, propositions, possible worlds. Many, many contemporary philosophers believe that these abstract objects are real and exist just as robustly and objectively as automobiles or fundamental particles. Yet, if this doctrine is true, then it is not the case that God is the sole ultimate reality and the source of all being apart from himself. God is, in fact, an infinitesimal part of what exists. There are infinities of infinities of objects that exist independently of God eternally and necessarily. I maintain that this is a view that strikes at the very heart of theism and therefore requires a response from Christian theists.
KEVIN HARRIS: I’ve seen the bumper sticker “I brake for abstract objects” or “I brake for universals.” Things like that. Being that they are viewed as objectively real. That they exist somehow. They exist but they are not extended into space.
DR. CRAIG: Right. That’s right. These things would not be in space. They would transcend space. I think some of them would plausibly transcend time as well if they exist. If numbers exist they would exist timelessly and spacelessly. Numbers would not be something that endure through the night while we’re asleep and are still there in the morning when they wake up. Other sorts of abstract objects can be very weird, and may be spatiotemporal. For example, take the equator. The equator is a geometrical line that girdles the Earth and is about 25,000 miles in length and yet is an abstract object. There is no concrete object “the equator.” This is an abstract object but it clearly exists in space and time. You can step over this abstract object. That would be a really strange abstract object. Many of them, like numbers and mathematical objects, would seem to be non-spatiotemporal.
KEVIN HARRIS: In this chapter, do you spell out your particular view on how to view abstract objects?
DR. CRAIG: No. This is very much an exploration, this book. In fact, I don’t try to close alternatives off. I try in this book to open up as many alternatives for the theist to respond to the challenge of Platonism. What I think is theologically unacceptable is Platonism – the view that there are uncreated objects apart from God. But there are a plethora of both realist and anti-realist alternatives to Platonism, and that’s what I lay out in the remainder the book.
KEVIN HARRIS: OK. Chapter 4: “Absolute Creation.”
DR. CRAIG: This is the first realist alternative to Platonism. The easiest way to deal with the challenge of Platonism would be to say, yes, all of these abstract objects exist (like numbers and properties and possible worlds) but God created them. Not only did God create the concrete world, he created the abstract world as well. This view has been defended by people like Thomas Morris and Christopher Menzel. In this chapter I explore some of the real difficulties facing absolute creationism, particularly the so-called bootstrapping objection. This is most easily understood by thinking about properties. In order to create the property “being powerful” God would already have to have the property of “being powerful.” If he weren’t powerful he couldn’t do anything; certainly he couldn’t create the property of “being powerful.” So there seems to be a vicious circularity in absolute creationism. It says that God creates properties but in order to create properties he’d already have to have some properties.
KEVIN HARRIS: You can’t make what you don’t have? You can’t give what you don’t have or don’t possess?
DR. CRAIG: Not exactly. No. Because certainly, for example, God could create a material world without being a material object. But in the case of properties, in order to create certain properties you have to have some properties. In order to create the property of “being powerful” you would need to be powerful. You would also need to be a concrete object. You’d need to have certain other properties like will. The idea here is that there is a vicious circularity that seems to attend absolute creationism which everyone recognizes to be a very, very severe problem.
KEVIN HARRIS: The bootstrapping problem.
DR. CRAIG: That’s right. I do, in the end of the chapter, suggest one way that the absolute creationist might be able to get out of the bootstrapping objection but it is not a very popular alternative. Nobody takes it. But it is a possible escape route.
KEVIN HARRIS: OK. Then chapter 5 is “Divine Conceptualism.”
DR. CRAIG: Divine conceptualism is another realist alternative to Platonism. Divine conceptualism is the view of the early church fathers that moved the Platonic ideas into the mind of God and said these are thoughts of God. The number “2” is actually God’s thought “2.” Properties are God’s concepts. Propositions are really God’s thoughts that can be true or false. Divine conceptualism is a historic alternative to Platonism. This has been defended in our day by people like Brian Leftow and Greg Welty. It has also been endorsed by Alvin Plantinga interesting enough, though Plantinga only really gives a nod in its direction. You have to turn to Leftow and Welty to have a real development of the view. So it is their views that I examine in this chapter.
KEVIN HARRIS: Abstract objects are somehow located in God.
DR. CRAIG: Not exactly, Kevin. On this view there are no abstract objects because thoughts are concrete objects. Thoughts are things that have causal power. God’s thoughts cause things. On this view, thoughts play the role normally assigned to abstract objects. This can be very misleading because people like Greg Welty is very prone of speaking exactly like you did: abstract objects are thoughts in the mind of God. That’s very misleading. That is not what Welty really thinks. What he thinks is God’s thoughts are functionally what abstract objects are. They play the role normally played by abstract objects.
KEVIN HARRIS: OK. You have two chapters – 6 and 7 – “Making Ontological Commitments, part 1 and part 2.”
DR. CRAIG: Here we now move from realist alternatives to Platonism to anti-realist views. These are views that deny that there are such things as mathematical objects, properties, possible worlds, and propositions. There is a whole cornucopia of these anti-realist views. In these chapters I examine three views in particular: free logic, one that is called Neo-Meinongianism (this is a kind of refurbished version of the 19th century Austrian philosopher Alexius Meinong – and there all on the contemporary scene these Neo-Meinongians who are very interesting), and the last alternative is what I call Neutralism. These views all would undercut the argument for Platonism by denying that truths about mathematical objects, propositions, and possible worlds require that these things really exist. A statement like “2+2=4” can be true even though there is no such object as “2+2” or “4.” An illustration. Suppose I say there are five Fridays in October this year. I think that that could well be true, but does that commit me to an ontology that includes “Fridays” as objectively existing? Do Fridays exist? That seems absurd. Fridays are clearly mind-dependent, socially constructed realities that are the result of our calendaring system. It is not as though in the absence of any human beings there would be Fridays laying around. So this would be an example of a non-theological sentence in which we can affirm there are five Fridays in October this year – that’s true – but that doesn’t commit you ontologically to the reality of things like Fridays; similarly with mathematical sentences, sentences about possible words and things of that sort.
So that’s what these two chapters are about, and I have to say this is really where my sympathies lie.
KEVIN HARRIS: I am curious. Do you, as a philosopher, sometimes just have to think about things? That is what Plantinga says philosophy is: thinking real hard about stuff. Do you think while you are reading or while you are writing, or do you ever have to just sit or stand or walk and just think about it?
DR. CRAIG: Oh, yeah, that is very true. Sometimes I just lean back from my desk, put down my pen, and just sit there and think. Jan has said to people, When I don’t hear anything, then I know he is working. [laughter]
KEVIN HARRIS: That is very true. Chapter 8 is “Useful Fictions.”
DR. CRAIG: Yes, in the next three chapters we consider anti-realist views that deny abstract objects exist but they accept the notion that the literal truth of sentences referring to abstract objects would commit you to their reality. This is very different than free logic, Neo-Meinongianism, or neutralism.
The first of these is called fictionalism. Fictionalists would agree with the Platonist that if 2+2=4 is true, that commits you ontologically to the reality of objects like “4.” But they would say these sentences are not true. Despite their obviousness and usefulness and utility in science, it is not literally true that 2+2=4 because there is no such thing as “2+2” or “4.”
KEVIN HARRIS: Not objectively.
DR. CRAIG: Right. Yeah.
KEVIN HARRIS: Chapter 9: “Figuratively speaking.”
DR. CRAIG: This is a fascinating view that is called figuralism. This view is championed by a philosopher named Stephen Yablo. What Yablo points out is that a great deal – indeed, I think he would say a majority of our language – is figurative, not literal. We say things like, He pulled over onto the shoulder of the road. Roads don’t literally have shoulders. This is a metaphor.
KEVIN HARRIS: He hit the ceiling. He blew his top.
DR. CRAIG: Yeah, exactly. Yablo would say that this abstract object talk (including mathematical sentences) aren’t meant to be taken literally. These are a form of figurative speech. As such they are figuratively true. It is true that he hit the ceiling or that he blew his top. But it is not literally true. It is figuratively true. Yablo shows a fascinating number of parallels between abstract object talk and figurative language. An interesting fact that our listeners might appreciate is that I’ve discovered that a person who holds to this view of divine aseity and abstract objects was C. S. Lewis. Lewis believed that mathematical talk and other talk of this ilk is figurative. It is just figurative language, and therefore the theist is not committed by that kind of language to the reality of these abstract objects.
KEVIN HARRIS: You have a paragraph here on silliness. What is that referring to?
DR. CRAIG: That is one of the many parallels that Yablo draws between figurative language. He says that when we speak figuratively it could invite silly questions. For example, he says we talk about how big the average star is. This might provoke the question of where is it located? Where is the average star? That’s a silly question. When you talk about the average star you’re not referring to a literal object that is somewhere. In a similar way, when you talk about abstract objects it could invite silly questions like, he says, what are the intrinsic properties of the empty set in mathematics which has no members. That would just be one of the parallels that I mentioned between abstract object talk and figurative language.
KEVIN HARRIS: Chapter 10: “Make-believe.”
DR. CRAIG: This is the last alternative to Platonism that I consider. This is called pretense theory. The idea here is that talk about abstract objects is a species of make-believe. This is based upon the fascinating work of Kendall Walton on fiction. Walton’s theory of fiction is that fiction is a species of make-believe. Things are prescribed to be imagined as true, and then we develop that fictional world that we make believe is true. Mary Leng, who is a philosopher of mathematics at the University of Liverpool applies Walton’s view to mathematical discourse. She argues that mathematics is a species of make-believe. You make believe that there are numbers or you make believe that there are sets, and then you can develop your theorems and draw your conclusions. I, again, find this to be a very plausible view of abstract object talk.
KEVIN HARRIS: The final chapter is the title of the book: “God Over All.”
DR. CRAIG: Right. Here I sum it up by laying out how I think we ought to best think about abstract object talk. I’m an anti-realist. I don’t think that these things really exist. I think that neutralists, Neo-Meinongians, free logicians are correct in denying that the truth of abstract object sentences commits us to the reality of the objects in them.
KEVIN HARRIS: This topic and this book will cause you to sit back in your chair and think.
DR. CRAIG: [laughter] I hope so!
KEVIN HARRIS: It really will! As we conclude, talk to the layperson. Is this an intermediate-level?
DR. CRAIG: Actually, that is interesting. Yes, this is. This is not a book for scholars. This is a book for non-specialists. That doesn’t mean just ordinary laypeople, but intermediate. If you look in the back of the book you will find a long glossary of terms to help the neophyte understand what we are talking about when we say “abstract object,” “ontological commitment,” “universals,” “sets,” and so forth. I am hoping that this glossary will be a real help to non-specialists.
KEVIN HARRIS: I love this topic! Get God Over All. Get the book at ReasonableFaith.org or look for it in your local bookstore.
(This podcast is by Reasonable Faith / William Lane Craig. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
When it comes to religious freedom, we face two equal and opposite temptations. But neither will do in the face of our current challenges.
Here on BreakPoint we often talk about the ongoing struggle between religious freedom and so-called “sexual freedom.” Today, religious freedom, though clearly established in the Bill of Rights, often loses. Sexual freedom is on the march and seems to be taking no prisoners.
The latest flash point in this struggle is so-called SOGI laws, that is, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity laws. Essentially, SOGI laws create new protected classes of people based on inclination and behavior, not race, sex, or creed. As a result, anyone with religious convictions against participating or celebrating such identities is a bigot.
Here, as is the case with every other cultural challenge, Christians face two serious temptations: demonizing and compromising.
Our enemy is not those who support special gay or transgender rights. Our true enemy is the false ideas that hold them captive—a worldview that reduces human beings to the sum of their desires and behaviors; that promotes pleasure as the ultimate human good.
The other serious temptation, and the one I want to focus on today, is one to which many of our brethren have already succumbed: compromise.
Some within the evangelical Christian camp are now proposing that the best way forward is to actually accommodate SOGI laws, as long as they include limited religious exemptions. The idea is something like this: “We’ll recognize sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes of human beings, as long as churches and certain religious organizations are exempt.”
There are three problems with this line of reasoning. First, Christians must be truth tellers, and Christians cannot endorse a falsehood, even if for self-protection. To say that sexual orientation or gender identity defines a different class of human beings is simply not true. Who we are as God’s image bearers is no small part of the Gospel story, and SOGI laws deny who we truly are as people.
Second, while these accommodations may protect houses of worship and some Christian institutions, they don’t protect all Christian institutions and certainly don’t protect all Christians, especially those in the public square or world of commerce—like the baker, photographer, or florist.
All callings are sacred for all Christians. To seek to protect churches or organizations for doing “ministry,” but not photographers, bakers, and other Christians is to misunderstand the holistic life we are called to live in Christ. It’s particularly strange, by the way, for some Christian liberal arts colleges to promote compromise with SOGI laws. Most would teach students the idea that all callings are sacred, but apparently they don’t believe the teaching applies once their students graduate.
Third, by establishing sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class of people, we’re allowing ourselves to be placed automatically in the category of bigots. I get the impulse to draw the line where we can, but if we are bigots already, it’s unwise to think that line of compromise won’t move significantly in the future.
Today, I’ve joined with Alan Sears of the Alliance Defending Freedom and an amazing list of about 80 other Christian leaders to sign a statement clarifying where we stand on these troubling SOGI laws. The statement is very clear: SOGI laws threaten the freedoms of Americans to speak, teach, and live out their deeply held convictions in public life without fear of lawsuits or government coercion.
You can read the statement at ColsonCenter.org/freedom. In fact, you can add your name to the list of signers. And you’ll find resources on how to talk about religious freedom and SOGI laws with friends and neighbors.
Again, come to ColsonCenter.org/freedom.