Responding to Craig’s Recent Critique
Hello internet friends,
I haven’t been blogging much lately because I’ve been super-obsessed with research on the book of Revelation in preparation for a chapter addressing its apparent violence for a forthcoming book for IVP. But several people have brought to my attention a recent podcast by Bill Craig in which he critiques my open view of the future and I thought it would be fun to write a couple posts responding to it. [See “Four Views of Divine Providence” at reasonablefaith.org] By way of background information, Bill and I, along with Ron Highfield and Paul Helseth, debate one another in a forthcoming book entitled Four Views of Divine Providence (Zondervan). Craig defends the Molinist model, Ron Highfield and Paul Helseth each defend slightly different Reformed models, and I, of course, defend an open model. It was his work on this book that occasioned Craig’s podcast.
I want to say at the start that I have tremendous respect for Bill and have enjoyed our several debates in the past about this topic. And I deeply appreciate the fact that Bill clearly tries to present the open view fairly, as he understands it. I also appreciate that even in this podcast Bill understands that the open view isn’t about whether or not God is omniscient (a fundamental mistake, and caricature, that the majority of openness critics make). At the same time, I was surprised to find in this podcast Craig continuing to misunderstand my version of the open view, despite the fact that he and I have addressed this issue a number of times (including in the above mentioned forthcoming book). This misunderstanding significantly undermines the force of many of his criticisms of my view.
About five minutes (or so) into the podcast, Bill asserts that I hold that “the future isn’t causally determined and that, therefore, there are no future contingent facts.” He goes on to claim that I hold that “statements about what will contingently happen are not true or false, they’re just indeterminate.” Bill thus thinks that my view denies bivalence (the logical principal that asserts that all meaningful propositions are either true or not true). In as much as bivalence is a foundational principle of logic, Craig rightly notes that its denial constitutes a “radical” move.
Now, Bill is right in claiming that I and all other open theists hold that the future is not [exhaustively] causally determined. In fact, all non-Calvinists embrace this view. But he is mistaken when he alleges that I hold that “[s]tatements about what will contingently happen are not true or false, they’re just indeterminate.” He’s thus also mistaken when he alleges that I deny bivalence. As I articulate in my essay in the above-mentioned forthcoming book (and have defended in several previously published works), I agree that future-tensed propositions are either true or false; I simply disagree with Craig’s view that propositions about what “will” and “will not” occur exhaust the field of meaningful future tensed statements. Propositions about what “might” and “might not” occur are also meaningful, in my view, and they’re logically distinct from propositions about what “will” or “will not” occur. Since God is omniscient, I argue, God must know not only the truth value of propositions about what “will” or “will not” occur, but also propositions about what “might” and “might not” occur. If God knows the proposition “x will occur” is true, God thereby knows that its contradictory “x might not occur” as well as its contrary “x will not occur” are false. Conversely, if God knows that the proposition “x will not occur” is true, God knows that its contradictory “x might not occur” as well as its contrary “x will occur” are false. Yet, if God knows that the proposition “x might and might not occur” is true, God thereby knows that its false that “x will occur” and false that “x will not occur.”
Though Bill has responded to this position in the past, I suspect he keeps slipping back into the mistaken assumption that I deny bivalence because of his own assumption that “will” and “will not” propositions are contradictory and thus exhaust the field of meaningful propositions regarding future contingencies. As Craig makes clear in his response to me in the above-mentioned forthcoming book, he thinks the truth value of propositions about what “might” and “might not”occur are logically entailed by the truth value of propositions about what “will” and “will not” occur. Hence, for example, in Craig’s view, if it’s true that “John will ask Sue to marry him tomorrow,” then it’s also true that “John might ask Sue to marry him tomorrow.” “Might,”in his way of thinking, is simply the logical presupposition of “will.”
While I grant that Craig’s view of “might” propositions has been dominant among classically trained logicians (largely because of the western indebtedness to the Aristotelian Square, which I, Alan Rhoda and Tom Belt have argued is defective), it has several problems. To mention one, everyone would agree that it makes perfect sense to assert as true the statement that “John might and might not ask Sue to marry him tomorrow.” This reflects the belief that its not presently the case that “John will [certainly] marry Sue tomorrow”and not the presently the case that “John will not [certainly] marry Sue tomorrow.” But if we hold to Craig’s view that the truth value of “might” and “might not” propositions is logically entailed by the truth value of “will” and “will not” propositions, then it seems we must accept as meaningful the assertion “John will but might not ask Sue to marry him tomorrow” as well as “John will not but might ask Sue to marry him tomorrow.” Though Craig accuses me of creating my own idiosyncratic language and logic, it seems to me this way of talking is truly idiosyncratic.
A few moments following this, Craig offers a critique of my understanding of God’s middle knowledge that leads him to conclude, “I think Greg’s view is not carefully thought out.”God bless him. I’ll address this critique in my next post.
Until then, don’t wait for what supposedly “will” happen in the future. Instead, work with God to help create the future by acting on the maybe’s that are in front of you right now.