Saturday, January 12, 2008

Analysis Extra: 'Inspiration and Incarnation' one more time

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “ which is to be master – that’s all”. - Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

In April 2006 I reviewed Professor Peter Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation, (Baker, 2005) for Reformation 21. Professor Enns has recently reproduced what I wrote along with interspersed comments of his own, (here), making it clear where he thinks the review misrepresented and misunderstood him. I thank him for being prepared to go to this trouble.

Rather than offer comments on Professor Enns’ comments on my comments on his book it might be more worthwhile briefly to set out once more two of the principal areas of concern expressed in the review. These are: the issue of theological method, and the lack of clear guidance for the reader as to the exact bearing on the doctrine of Scripture of Enns’ ‘Incarnational paradigm’.

First then, method, and then the language of guidance.


I’m obviously not an OT specialist, indeed not an OT anything, and so the review of Professor Enns’ book should not be seen as a comment on the status or details of his scholarship, but on questions of method and approach. Being one of the general readers at whom the book is aimed I have certainly no desire to trespass on Professor Enns’ turf.

Questions of method are fundamental to the problems that arise in formulating any Christian doctrine, including the doctrine of Scripture. Take, for example, the doctrine of divine providence. We are all familiar with an array of evils - a child dying of inoperable cancer, the activities of international terrorists, of Herr Hitler, of rapists and murderers, of volcanoes and tsunamis and hurricanes. Suppose that we take these into account in our efforts to construct a Christian doctrine of divine providence. How should these data help us? To what extent should they help us? Ought one to concentrate wholly upon Scripture’s own clear statements of the extent and character and purpose of divine providence, or also to shape that doctrine by taking into account statements of the evils that all too obviously confront us all? Do these data about evil carry equal weight with the statements of Scripture? Are they to control the statements of Scripture?

The (consistently Christian) answer to these questions should be obvious. We formulate our doctrine from attending (no doubt fallibly) only to Scripture’s own explicit statements on the matter, returning time and again to check and modify our first thoughts by the data of Scripture in a never-ending iterative process. And then we wrestle with the problems in the light of our understanding of these statements. In the mercy of God, the doctrine (along with other doctrines) will illuminate the problems; the problems never control the doctrine.

In a parallel way we cannot construct a doctrine of Scripture by starting from the human marks of the 66 books. Perhaps Professor Enns would agree with this. But part of the problem with Inspiration and Incarnation that the general reader has is its loose language. Professor Enns says right at the start that he proposes to let the evidence provided by the three problem areas that he identifies ‘affect how we think about what Scripture as a whole is’. (p.15) Even if we give these words ’affect how we think’ a weak sense, isn’t such a stance dangerous? The stronger the sense we give to those words, the greater the danger. Professor Enns says that we should ‘take into account’ extra-biblical data. But all rests on the strength and single-mindedness with which we do our taking into account. As far as I can see Professor Enns offers no advice on such points. I shall return to this.

The difficulties encountered in modern OT studies to which Professor Enns draws our attention parallel the moral difficulties that present problems for a doctrine of providence. Noticing this parallel has nothing to do with philosophy but it certainly has to do with logic, with what has, or should have, logical priority in our doctrine-construction, and what not. How is the testimony of Scripture to relate to a set of problems disclosed by modern studies of the Ancient Near East? My worry about Enns’ approach, as this is set out in Chapter One and elaborated subsequently, is that it shows a marked tendency to let the problems formulate the doctrine. If so, there is the real danger that our beliefs about the results of modern scholarship will become, in Nicholas Wolterstorff’s terminology, ‘control beliefs’. (Reason Within the Bounds of Religion. Second Edn. 1976, p.67-8)

Or take an example more central to Professor Enns’ project of recommending an ‘incarnational paradigm’ for our understanding of the nature of Scripture, the Incarnation itself. If the data of Jesus’ humanity are given priority over those of his deity, if the account of his deity is controlled by data about his humanity – including his physical and mental growth, his bodily weakness, his ignorance, his emotional life - the result may be a Christ who is very different from a Christ whose divine nature is given priority. It is the Logos, who is logically and causally prior to the Incarnation, who must be the logical starting point. The human nature did not take on divinity, but God himself took on human nature. Of course we should attend to all the data, human and divine; nevertheless a Christ who is a divine man is a different Christ from the divine Logos who assumed human nature. The order of knowing may affect the order of being, but it ought not to.

The Church holds fast to the divinely-breathed character of Scripture while recognising its all too obvious human properties. The books are breathed by God and authored by men. Such a confession throws up difficulties; hermeneutical difficulties, including those difficulties to which Professor Enns is at pains to draw our attention, those posed by the awareness of non-biblical data on our understanding of Scripture, and the New Testament’s use of the Old. But – if we are to be consistently and thoroughly Christian – these difficulties may perplex us but we should patiently await their resolution in a way that is consistent with the Christian view of Holy Scripture, the teaching of Christ and the Apostles, while all the while holding fast to that doctrine. Difficulties drawn from extra-biblical parallels should not lead us to stress the human character of Scripture at the expense of the divine – indeed we must especially be on our guard not to do this - any more than in our doctrine of providence moral and other difficulties ought to make us flinch from confessing that the Lord works all things after the counsel of his own will.

On reflection, the quotations, which I used in the review from J. I. Packer’s ‘Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God, might have been better chosen. So here’s another that is more to the point:

We must be clear as to the nature of our task. Our aim is to formulate a biblical doctrine; we are to appeal to Scripture for information about itself, just as we should appeal to it for information on any other doctrinal topic. That means that our formulation will certainly not give us a final or exhaustive account of its subject. All doctrines terminate in mystery; for they deal with the works of God, which man in this world cannot fully comprehend, nor has God been pleased fully to explore. (75-6)

The point to stress here is Packer’s observation that the doctrine of Scripture is to be derived from Scripture itself. The doctrine’s lack of finality arises from the mysterious way in which, in the production of Scripture, the divine concurs with the human.

There is danger, then, when we seek to derive our doctrine from, or allow it to be influenced by extra-biblical sources, just as it is dangerous to allow our doctrine of providence to be influenced, say, by fatalism or by Heisenberg’s indeterminacy principle or the Holocaust
This, the privileging of the human over the divine in developing an openness to the role of non-biblical sources in doctrine construction, was one chief thing that concerned me on reading Professor Enns’ book and to which the review attempted to draw attention. This privileging is set in a context in which time and again Professor Enns suggests, or more strongly, insists, that evangelical attitudes to Scripture ought no longer to find any difficulty in allowing extra-biblical data to condition the doctrine of the inspiration and authority of Scripture. But what does exactly this conditioning involve? It is at this point, I believe, that the author fails his readers. This brings us to the question of his language.

The language of guidance

Besides the issue of method, as already noted there are issues of language, of the English language, raised by Enns’ book, the language that he uses to guide his readers. These issues may not be philosophical but they are certainly ‘analytic’. I shall briefly refer to some of the places where there is a failure to guide the reader.

1. Enns makes much of the ‘provisionality’ of interpretation. Protestants are in general happy with noting human fallibility. Such fallibility inevitably results in provisionality. But provisionality comes in degrees. Yet Professor Enns shows little or no recognition of this fact. The bare logical possibility that we may be mistaken makes for provisionality, but then so does pure guesswork. Between these extremes there is a spectrum. All things are provisional but not all things are equally provisional. It would have been wise, in my view, if Professor Enns had noted and emphasised such points, and given guidance to his readers as to when the appeal to provisional understanding becomes or might become dangerous because it threatens or jeopardises the integrity of a doctrine.

2. As we have noted, Professor Enns aims in his book to allow the evidence that he presents ‘to affect how we think about what Scripture as a whole is’ (p.15). Sometimes he writes of allowing facts to affect how we think about Scripture. (p. 67) The problem with this is that the extra-biblical evidence may affect us to varying degrees. For example, it could affect us by making Scripture a wholly culturally-determined and so a culturally-relative phenomenon. If it is wholly culturally relative then its use as a rule of faith and life is similarly so. Its ‘truths’ cannot then span cultures for they are culturally bound. (Like many, Professor Enns has little time for timeless truths, without telling us what such truths are and what is wrong with them). Or the extra-biblical data could merely reinforce and vividly illustrate what the Church has always believed, that the Bible has a human situatedness and authorship as well as a divine inspiredness. Professor Enns never makes it clear which it is to be, but he should not complain if his frequently-expressed desire to revise the evangelical attitude to Scripture tend to confirm some of his readers’ worst fears.

3. Any reader of (say) the four Gospels is soon made aware of the presence of varied interpretations of the same event. But varied interpretations need not be inconsistent interpretations. At times (p.109) I wondered if Professor Enns is clear on the distinction between consistency and entailment. Diversity can be consistent. ‘The apple is red’ is consistent with ‘The apple is green’, but the one does not entail the other.

4. Does the Bible speak differently from one generation to another? It depends on what ‘speak’ means here. It speaks the one unchanging gospel, and so is invariant from generation to generation, even as the one message unfolds until the time when God speaks to us in his Son. But how that one unchanging message may be applied to human life can vary, obviously, as the needs of that life vary. This is the familiar distinction between doctrine and application. Does Professor Enns recognise these distinctions clearly, I wonder? There is confusion also in his remarks about binding. (e.g. p.67) Is what was binding on Israel binding on us? Yes and no. Yes, the Israelites were bound to believe, as we are, that the bush burned. But no, we are not bound to do what the Israelites were bound to do. Yet as far as I can see Professor Enns rides roughshod of that crucial distinction.

5. As noted, Professor Enns proposes an incarnational paradigm for Scripture. J. I. Packer, echoing B.B. Warfield, also has interesting and wise remarks on such a proposal, (‘Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God, pp.82-4.) It’s a pity that in developing his incarnational approach Professor Enns saw no reason to interact with such sources. The nature of such interaction would be another way of helping the reader gauge more exactly what he is proposing.

The list of such infelicities and irritating gaps in exposition could be extended.

The point is, either Professor Enns’ position is a radical thesis, or it is not. It is incumbent on any scholar, in addressing a matter as fundamental as the doctrine of Scripture, not to mince his words. He should have told the reader, in words that are unmistakably clear, how radical his thesis is and what difference it will make to what Scripture is. Instead, the reader appears to be being offered radicalism by innuendo. So whether or not Professor Enns’ proposals amount to a radical reappraisal of the doctrine of Scripture, or confirm or at least are consistent with the classical view of inspiration and authority, would be easier to judge if he had made the presentation of the significance of his views in Inspiration and Incarnation clearer, showing where they take us and where they don’t.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Analysis 10: 'Saving the Planet': What's the stake?

For your reason urges you to it, and yet you find it impossible. Endeavour, therefore, to gain conviction – Blaise Pascal

In Analysis 9 I suggested that one way to face global warming (GW) is in the spirit of Pascal’s Wager. But what course of action does wagering on GW (if that's what we wager on) prescribe?

Where’s the problem?

If it’s not global capitalism that is the villain, and if the market is not demonic but an amazingly flexible and efficient, self-regulating mechanism that is morally and politically neutral, then what is the problem?

To identify the problem – at least for the Christian – is easy. To coin a phrase, ‘It’s human nature, stupid’. It’s human nature to want things to sustain and protect and amuse us, and to make life easier. It’s human nature to want more than we can use, to be greedy. It’s not the ‘environment’ of advertising and the media, - another arm of global capitalism that is also continually misunderstood - that causes consumption to rise, and to change former luxuries into necessities. Global capitalism is not tyrannical, nor is Tesco an army on the march, or like some rapacious pirate. Consumption, whether selfless or necessary consumption, or wasteful or extravagant, is the consequence of human nature.

If we decide that the prudent thing at present is to gamble on GW, then how are we to motivate ourselves to do this? We return to our earlier question. What does it mean, to wager on GW? Action is called for. After all, wagering involves placing a bet. What sort of a stake are we inviting ourselves to put down?

Pascal invited those who are inclined to wager on the existence of God to take action to help them make the leap of faith, to motivate themselves to believe. There was a cost, as he outlines.

Be aware that your inability to believe arises from your passions. For your reason urges you to it, and yet you find it impossible, Endeavour, therefore, to gain conviction, not by an increase in divine proofs, but by the diminution of your passions.,,,,There are people who know the road that you wish to follow; they are cured of the disease of which you wish to be cured. Follow they way by which they began; by behaving as if they believed, by taking holy water, by having masses said etc. This will bring you to belief in the natural way, and will sooth your mind.
‘But that is just what I am afraid of.’

And why? What have you to lose? (Pensees, trans. Krailsheimer (Penguin), 158)

For us there’s a cost too. But what cost? Let’s explore a bit what this cost could be, and should be.

The will of God

What should we do?

At this point (if not before this point) someone might say, ‘But surely all this talk of Pascal and wagering is, from a Christian point of view, highly cynical and perhaps outright sceptical’. The implication of this is: Surely as Christians we should follow God’s will.

What Christian could demur from this suggestion? And the idea that the diversity of species has intrinsic worth is attractive to the Christian. The universe is not simply to be used, but also to be enjoyed, even though enjoying and using must often compete with each other.

But what is God’s will? What are we to do when we are in a state of ignorance of the future but nevertheless forced to make decisions? As we noted before, not to do anything is in effect to choose one of the options. We can simply fold our arms, at little or no personal cost, and carry on as before. How do we identify what God’s will is?


One current way to attempt to identify what God’s will is, and to motivate people to action, is to moralise. So we are told that pollution is ‘theft’ (an interesting variation on Proudhon’s claim, ‘Property is theft’) (57) To drive a car is like stealing someone’s watch. ‘Luxury emissions represent moral malfeasance by the rich against the poor both nationally and internationally, since they give rise both to local and global forms of pollution and other kinds of moral harms’. (57) So GW is ‘unjust’, ‘immoral’. The developed nations’ use of resources is an ‘invasion’ of the developing world. (59)

In the mouth of such moralising language starts to become Orwellian. Buying trainers at Tesco is immoral, an invasion of the poor. If this is seriously meant, then whatever credibility the case for ethical action against GW possesses is lost. Or should be lost. Not only does this language singularly fail to motivate anyone, the moraliser stops being serious. Calling someone guilty does not make them guilty, and the causal connection between consumption and GW, and GW and impoverishment, is precisely what is at issue. Can it be that we are asked unquestioningly to believe that there are poor people simply because there are rich people? That the rich are rich just because they have deprived the poor? Is this not a little too simplistic?


Another current approach is romanticism. This is the idea that we should all once again become makers and producers and consumers of things on a local scale. If not hunter-gatherers, then we ought to become medieval villagers.

But the idea that we can head off GW by ‘returning to nature’ is utterly utopian. On a planet with six billions human beings such a suggestions is ludicrous. The proposal that we can manage without the divisions of labour (and the developed skills) which have brought such gains to the contemporary world is romantic madness.

And it may be that inside this soft, furry, romantic glove of a proposal there is (besides a disagreeable smugness) a mailed fist; Northcott proposes that the genuineness or otherwise of this return to nature, to the ancient ‘way of wisdom’ (150) should be monitored by an ‘international global legal regime which governs activities which harm the climate’! (152)

Motivating ourselves

So if in Pascalian fashion we wager on climate change being ‘anthropogenic’ how do we address the problem of human nature that is at the heart of the kinds and amounts of things people choose to consume? How do we remotivate ourselves really to wager?

Pascal pointed out that even if the wager on God’s existence was unsuccessful the gambler would not be harmed.

You will be faithful, honest, humble, grateful, generous, a sincere friend, and a truthful man. Certianly you will be without those poisonous pleasures, ambition and luxury. But will you not have others? I tell you that you will gain in this life………you will finally realize you have gambled on something certain and infinite, and have risked nothing for it. (159)

He invited his friend to wager on the existence of God, something with infinite value. By comparison, attempting to alleviate GW is a finite, temporal good. Yet the logic is the same in each case. There are courses of action that are good even if they fail in their objective.

You may say, we have a vote and a voice. Isn’t that enough? That is certainly positive. We can seek to form and to influence decisions about what ‘they’ – the Government, big business, the World Bank – ought to do. But even when we do exercise these rights, and vote for some political manifesto, or add our voice to the advocacy of some new policy, these activities are nevertheless rather detached from our daily lives of discipleship. By using our vote and our voice we are attempting to mandate or encourage or force others to act. But what should we do? What should we ourselves do?

So we still have not answered the question, what, if we wager on GW, ought we to do? What’s at stake?

A temptation

It is tempting for evangelical Christians to look for a text or two, or to transpose a parable or narrative into the modern world. Perhaps Job 21.1-2 warrants mineral extraction. What about that old favourite, the Jubilee principle? And what of ‘social justice’, a ‘bias to the poor’ and other undefinable proposals?

What about the famines with which the Lord judged the people of Israel? Perhaps GW, if indeed there is such a thing as GW , is ‘global warning’, a sign that the entire race is under judgment. Or, for Christians in another gear, the answer to what God’s will is has an apocalyptic flavour. Save the Planet? Maybe GW is the Lord’s way of fulfilling 2 Peter 3.10. Perhaps if we stoke up our consumption then we shall hasten the coming of this day of the Lord.


So, finally, let’s take a look at what we ought to do if we gamble on GW, and how we are to be motivated to do it. Here are some suggestions.

First, we can to resolve that any response that we make is a personal response. it’s better to think in terms of making a personal response. Start at the personal level or make no response at all. There are two or three general biblical principles that provide reasons for this approach. It takes moral responsibility seriously. Secondly, it’s a more authentic expression of faith. The world is full of people offering blueprints, often in the name of Jesus Christ, but they are frequently exempted from the effects of those blueprints themselves. These plans are for ‘what should be done’ rather than ‘what I should do’. That is inauthentic; or to use an uglier word, it can easily become ‘hypocritical’.

It’s all too glib to come up with some airy-fairy prescription such as ‘what we need is radical democracy’. The answer to the flaws in our human nature must be personal responses. We must start from where we are. That seems to be the approach of the New Testament. Walk the walk rather than talk the talk. (Or perhaps walk and talk.) And, remembering the mote and the beam, we must start with ourselves, not with pointing a finger at someone else.

Second, we may care to remind ourselves of certain things about our behaviour.

For example, we may often make bad judgments about what things will help us. We think we need something but we find that when we have it, we don’t in fact need it. Things that seem indispensable, a ‘must have’, turns out to be disappointing. Our lofts and yards are littered with the consequences of such judgments. Christians, as others, often deceive themselves about the true sources of well-being and fulfilment. We become sucked in to patterns of consumption without thinking. We are greedy and can become addicted to food and drink and clothes - even addicted to the maintenance of our own health. We follow society by trying to satisfy ourselves with things that will pass. It’s human nature, fallen human nature. We’re all in the same boat at this point.

The point of identifying these areas is to be in the position to say: ‘If I had not been so wasteful then my own resources, and therefore the resources of the planet would, in a very marginal way, be conserved’. So, one personal thing that we can do is to review our own choices. This seems to be in line with the general approach of the New Testament, with its teaching on self-examination and the need to exercise personal judgment.

Third, having reviewed these patterns of choice, we ought to take action, to change our behaviour, what we buy and why we buy it, where we judge such change to be necessary. Not only what we acquire, but what we get rid of. What of our patterns of disposal: what we part with, and how we part with it?

Bearing in mind our ignorance of the future, these are sketches courses of action that are likely to be prudent in most circumstances. (Note: This is not necessarily the same thing as not to make any changes at all). So even if it turns out that we lose the bet, and there is no GW, or the causes of such warming turn out to be beyond human control, our children and grandchildren will say ‘These were still sensible things to have done’.

And if there is such a thing as ‘anthropogenic GW’, then if we have gambled on it and taken personal action, we can be sure we are making some contribution to alleviating the planet’s growing warmth. That is, if anything at the individual human level can alleviate it. But if it turns out that there is no GW, or there is but it can’t be controlled, then these actions have still been sensible, Christian things to have done.

Fourth, we ought not to judge others. We should reject the temptation (into which the Christian church has frequently fallen, and still falls) of making our own ways of coping with life a part of the Gospel, the church’s message. How we handle our personal part in waging war on climate change (or of not doing so) is not an infallible prescription for others, much less an integral part of the Gospel. The Christian Gospel no more provides us with advice on the correct way to dispose of our household rubbish than it prescribes the correct way to grow shallots or to build a fence.

All this seems easy, but it’s also difficult. Those who have children know the effects of peer-pressure. We want to give our children what other children have. They want to be cool. We want to give them what we were denied ourselves, and so on. For ourselves, we want ease and plenty. It is difficult to be content.

Paul says that he had learned to be content in any situation, implying that it had not come easily to him, that he had to fight discontent. He also said, in the same passage, that ‘I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. (Phil.4 12) It’s easy to make luxuries into necessities, much less easy to have to treat necessities as luxuries. (Students of the Puritans will be aware of their attitude to ‘luxury’.)

Christians know that this world is not their home, so the idea of ‘saving the planet’ , apart from the hubris that the phrase expresses, is also a somewhat paradoxical idea for the Christian. While their short-term future is on planet Earth, their long-term future is elsewhere, in a new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells. But nevertheless, and in the meantime, we want to give our children a good start, and our parents a happy ending, and ourselves as comfortable a life as is consistent with what we profess.

(Note. Page references other than those to the Pensees are to Michael Northcutt, A Moral Climate. For details see Analysis 9.)

Eternalism contra Craig

(The first half of this paper, 'And then....', was posted in December)

The final thing I wish to do in this paper is to prod Craig’s view from the direction of timeless eternity. I stress that what follows is ad hominem to Craig and not intended as a full-dress defence of eternalism. As I implied earlier, Craig’s view could equally well be prodded from a temporalist understanding. We do not have the opportunity here to review all these arguments. I shall concentrate on one: one of the objections to pure eternalism that Craig expends some energy on is that creation by a timelessly eternal God entails changes in God, thus ‘temporalising’ him.

According to Craig, God is temporal ‘in view of the extrinsic change he undergoes through his changing relations to the world. But the existence of a temporal world also seems to entail intrinsic change in God in view of his knowledge of what is happening in the temporal world.’ By an intrinsic change Craig means, roughly, a change that takes place in God’s internal state of mind as a consequence of some extrinsic change he undergoes. This point is intended as a way of refuting God's necessary timelessness, his pure eternality.

As Craig understands matters there are two alternatives. One is that at the moment of creation God becomes temporal in virtue of coming to possess a real, causal relation to the world. His temporality is a logical consequence of that new relation. Alternatively, God exists as timelessly with creation as he does sans creation. But, says Craig, this second alternative seems 'quite impossible.

This is what Craig says

Imagine God existing changelessly alone without creation, with a changeless and eternal determination to create a temporal world. Since God is omnipotent, his will is done, and a temporal world begins to exist.... Once time begins at the moment of creation, God either becomes temporal in virtue of his real, causal relation to time and the world or else he exists as timelessly with creation as he does sans creation. But this second alternative seems quite impossible. At the first moment of time, God stands in a new relation in which he did not stand before.... this is a real, causal relation which is at that moment new to God and which he does not have in the state of existing sans creation.

Craig couples this argument with the use of a certain amount of rhetoric against Thomas Aquinas's view that while in creation the creature exists in a real relation to God the Creator, God himself does not, calling it 'extraordinarily implausible', and 'quite incredible', and 'fantastic'. But since as we have seen Craig thinks that his own view is 'extremely bizarre' there does not seem to be much to choose between it and Thomas's, at least on rhetorical grounds. In any case I shall argue that the essential point that I believe that Aquinas is making can be presented without reference to his doctrine of real relations.

For I shall argue this argument of Craig’s is unsound and that nevertheless there is a perfectly clear sense in which God, in creating the world, is related to it. A number of questions here require separation. The first is the purely logical question, If A is related to B is B related conversely to A? The answer is obviously yes.

Then there is the second question. if it is true that God creates a changing world does God extrinsically change? To this question, Craig must answer yes, because there is now something distinct from God, the universe, to which he must be related, related as its Creator. This is one of the ways that Craig has of answering the first question

Even if the beginning of the temporal world is the result of a timeless volition of God, the fact that the world is not sempiternal but began to exist out of nothing demonstrates that God acquires a new relation at the moment of creation. At the moment of creation, God comes into the relation of sustaining the universe or at the very least that of co-existing with the universe, relations that he did not before have.

For Craig, the third question quickly follows from the second. It is, in the circumstance in which God extrinsically changes must God also intrinsically change? Does whatever is involved in sustaining the world imply that God intrinsically changes? The question here is not whether Aquinas thought God does nor does not intrinsically change in such circumstances, but whether an eternalist must answer yes. Craig himself holds that ‘the existence of a temporal world also seems to entail intrinsic change in God in view of his knowledge of what is happening in the temporal world.’ But this change is only necessary if the world that God creates is really a world with an A-series temporal order.

The point is not that had the creation been different then God’s eternal will would have been different, and so God would be intrinsically different from possible world to possible world. This is obviously true and Craig himself must recognise this, since for him as for the purest eternalist God’s willing of the first moment of this creation must be different, for God, from his willing of the first moment of that creation. It may be that the contents of the divine mind, being the fruit of omniscience, never change. Necessarily God knows all the contents of all possible worlds. But which of these he creates clearly implies a fundamental difference. But God’s eternally willing that this possible world be created, rather than that possible world, is not a change in God.

By contrast, as Craig says, that any universe exists, and that in creating a universe God decided to create this universe, are both contingent matters. God’s creation is causal, though in a sense of cause that requires no material cause, but a cause that is temporal with a temporal effect. Once this changing universe is created then according to Craig, in sustaining what he has created God himself experiences the reality of tense and of temporal becoming. But in creating some universe does God intrinsically change? Craig claims that he does, but without argument except one that assumes the reality of the A-series account of the temporal series, the reality of tense and temporal becoming.

Let us suppose two possible universes, X and Y, and let us also suppose that X is the actual universe, the universe that God eternally and voluntarily wills to create. Y is a universe distinct in its description from X that God might have created but has voluntarily and eternally chosen not to create. Then we can say the following: that it is intelligible to suppose that God might have eternally willed that Y exist, and not X, but that given that he has eternally willed to create X then God has a different relation to X than he has to Y. Given his decision to create X rather than to create Y his mind is in a different state from the way it would have been had he eternally willed to create Y and not X.

Given his will to create universe X God’s relation to universe Y is a relation to a counterfactual possibility. But his relation to X, the real universe, is a relation to an actual state of affairs. The two relations are obviously different, in rather the way in which a potter's relation to the cup he has created is different from his relation to the jug that he might have created. But God's having a relation to this, the actual universe, does not involve him in intrinsic change, for the universe that is actualised is actualised as the sole result of his timelessly eternal will. It’s a truth about God that entails a truth about something contingent that really exists and is distinct from God.

So the basic Craigian idea must be that of a timelessly eternal will eternally willing the first moment of the creation and as a consequence of the success of that operation God himself becomes temporal. By contrast, there can be no temporal 'and then' for a timelessly eternal God. Even if the universe is created in time, and even if a timelessly eternal God eternally creates the universe by willing a temporal succession of events without changing his will, he nevertheless has a timeless relation to each of these. So for such a God there is no first moment of creation.

How does understanding time as a B-series help in our understanding of creation by a timeless God? On that view, each event is tenselessly related to each other. The Battle of Hastings has a fixed, tenseless but nonetheless temporal relation with the Battle of Waterloo, the temporal relation of being earlier than Waterloo. How does this help? Invoking the B-series view enables us to think of the temporal series from a standpoint that is indifferent to any point within it. So we can think of God as similarly indifferently occupying a standpoint outside that series, a timeless standpoint that entails a tenseless standpoint but which is not entailed by it.

So, according to this eternalist view of creation, God creates the universe as a B-series, according to which every event in that universe is, tenselessly, either before, after or simultaneous with every other event in the universe. But God is in no temporal relation to this B-series, not even in the tenseless relation that, according to the B-series view, any event in the universe is to any other event in it, and it is a simple mistake to suppose, as Craig does, that in creating the universe a timeless God must become contemporaneous with the first moment of creation and contemporaneous with any subsequent moment. For this would be to suppose that God is related to time on an A-series view of time in which certain events are present for God, certain events are future and (as the universe unfolds from its first moment), an increasing number of events are past.

If one wishes to use the language of time to characterise the relation of a timelessly eternal God to a temporal order then it must be said that God has always stood in the relation of being the Creator of the temporal world. But this language is itself misleading, and therefore needs to be used cautiously. It is better, more accurate to eternalism, to say that God has a timelessly eternal relation with the temporal world, but a relation that is nevertheless causal and contingent.

So Craig has the resources, drawn from the first phase of God’s two-phase existence, to affirm eternalism, which does not involve God in change, even though God comes into new relations. God may related to a temporal order without himself being or becoming temporal. This alternative is open for Craig. But we know why he doesn’t take it. This leads me to make a few brief concluding reflections.

Concluding reflections

Establishing a philosophical position often involves a trade off between downsides of varying intensities, a trade-off which is amenable to a kind of cost-benefit analysis. The shoe pinches somewhere for Craig as it pinches somewhere for anyone who wishes to establish a positive philosophical conclusion and not simply to demolish one. In the case of the tradition of faith seeking understanding theological matters are also among the constraints, though they have not figured in our present discussion of Craig. Why is Craig not attracted to pure eternalism? Not I suggest, because it is internally incoherent or the like. It is simply that the costs of pure eternalism, for Craig, outweigh its benefits. The shoe pinches by the pressure exerted by the ‘bizarre’ two-phase view, because the A-series view is more centrally entrenched in Craig’s system of things. Since Craig’s attachment to that view is strong, more central to his view of things, he tolerates the discomfort. Similarly, though things that Craig says about God’s second phase, together with his commitment to the A-series, suggest that pure temporalism may beckon, (a possibility that I have not discussed at any length in this paper, of course) he resists its attractions because of his commitment to the Kalam argument, and also because of the problem of why did God not create the world sooner.. This commitment exercises pressure in favour of the ‘bizarre’ view from a different direction.

If the A-series view is true, then temporality involves true becoming, some version of presentism. God’s involvement with the creation, if it is temporal, involves his true becoming. If the Kalam argument is true, then the universe must have a first moment. So given the Kalam, God’s involvement with time is not an involvement with a backwardly everlasting temporal order at some moment of which the first created thing arrives. If pure eternalism, then no A-series; if pure temporalism, then no Kalam. From the way in which Craig writes, it is clear that his commitments to the Kalam and to the A-series matter more to him than his commitments to either pure eternalism or to pure temporalism. And so, as regards God’s relations to time, Craig opts for an ‘extremely bizarre’ hybrid, the two-phase view. We have noted that this view is indeed beset with ‘bizarre’ difficulties, difficulties in understanding it, difficulties in its consequences. Perhaps the view is downright incoherent, though I have not argued this, or claimed as much. The most anyone who does not favour the two-phase view can hope for is that acknowledging that its slide towards incoherence will eventually pinch Craig so hard that it crowds out the benefits of holding on to it. Otherwise Craig will hold on to it, or something like it, so long as his commitments to the A-series view of time and to the Kalam argument endure. The shoe will continue to pinch, with no relief in sight.

(I’m grateful to Oliver Crisp and William Lane Craig for comments on an earlier version of the paper.)