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The first premise of the Kalam cosmological argument has come under fire in the last few years. The premise states that the universe had a beginning, and one of two prominent arguments for it turns on the claim that an actual infinite collection of entities cannot exist. After stating the Kalam cosmological argument and the two approaches to defending its first premise, I respond to two objections against the notion that an actual infinite collection is impossible: a Platonistic objection from abstract objects and a set-theoretic objection from an ambiguity in the definition of ‘=’ and ‘<’ as applied to sets. The thought-experiment involving Hilbert's Hotel is central to the dialectic, and the discussion clarifies its use in supporting the Kalam cosmological argument.
Descartes held the doctrine that the eternal truths are freely created by God. He seems to have thought that a proper understanding of God's freedom entails such a doctrine concerning the eternal truths. In this paper, I examine Descartes' account of divine freedom. I argue that Descartes' statements about indifference, namely that indifference is the lowest grade of freedom and that indifference is the essence of God's freedom are not incompatible. I also show how Descartes arrived at his doctrine of the creation of the eternal truths by consideration of the nature of God's freedom.
According to orthodox Christianity, salvation depends on faith in Christ. If, however, God eternally punishes those who die ignorant of Christ, it appears that we have special instance of the problem of evil: the punishment of the religiously innocent. This is called the soteriological problem of evil. Using Molina's concept of middle knowledge, William Lane Craig develops a solution to this problem which he considers a theodicy. As developed by Craig, the Molinist theodicy rests on the problematic assumption that all informed persons who would freely reject Christ are culpable. Using an informed Muslim as a counter-example, I try to show that Craig's Molinist solution begs the question.
David Myers's critique of my proposed Molinist solution to the so-called soteriological problem of evil miscontrues that solution in several key respects. Once those misinterpretations are rectified, it emerges that his proffered critique of my Molinist solution is really quite unrelated to that solution, but constitutes instead an independent argument against the tenability of a religious epistemology of evidentialism in the context of Christian orthodoxy.
While I may have misunderstood certain points in Craig's Molinist theodicy, a careful reading of my article will show that Craig is incorrect in his claim that I have failed to evaluate his proposal on the basis of its asserted standard: plausibility. The heart of my argument is that Craig's theodicy is implausible because it fails to provide a credible explanation of the culpability of all non-believers. In this rejoinder I try to show (1) why an evidentialist exoneration of reflective disbelievers (in Christ) also applies, contra Craig, to the unevangelized; and (2) that an evidentialist account of reflective disbelief is more plausible than Craig's sinful-resistance account.
David Ciocchi has charged that ‘open’ or free-will theism is religiously inadequate. This is it is because it is unable to affirm the ‘presumption of divine intervention in response to petitionary prayer’ (PDI), a presumption Ciocchi claims is implicit in the religious practice of ordinary Christian believers. I argue that PDI and Ciocchi's other assumptions concerning prayer are too strong, and would upon reflection be rejected by most believers. On the other hand, God as conceived by free-will theism has extensive resources for answering petitionary prayers, including prayers whose fulfilment depends on the free responses of other persons.
In response to an earlier paper of mine, T. J. Mawson has argued that omnipotence is logically incompatible with wrong-doing, ‘whilst accepting that there is “a genuine, active power knowingly to choose evil” and thus leaving room for a free-will defence to the problem of evil’. Here, I attempt to show that Mawson is mistaken on both counts – that his argument for the incompatibility of omnipotence and wrong-doing is defective, and that the free-will defence cannot be sustained on the ground marked out by him. Given Mawson's understanding of power and freedom, I argue that it would be possible for God to create persons who are both free and unable to make evil choices.
Kirk Durston recently presented an argument aimed against evidential arguments from evil predicated on instances of suffering that appear to be gratuitous; ‘The consequential complexity of history and gratuitous evil’, Religious Studies, 36 (2000), 65–80. He begins with the notion that history consists of an intricate web of causal chains, so that a single event in one such chain may have countless unforeseen consequences. According to Durston, this consequential complexity exhibited by history negatively impacts on our grasp of the data necessary to determine whether or not an evil is gratuitous. He therefore concludes that our epistemic condition poses an insurmountable barrier towards the inference from inscrutability to pointlessness. By way of reply, I contend that Durston's argument is flawed in two significant respects, and thus the evidential argument emerges unscathed from his critique.
Stephen Mumford concludes a recent paper in Religious Studies, in which he advances a new causation-based analysis of miracles, by stating that the onus is ‘on rival accounts of miracles to produce something that matches it’. I take up Mumford's challenge, defending an intention-based definition of miracles, which I developed earlier, that he criticizes. I argue that this definition of miracles is more consistent with ordinary intuitions about miracles than Mumford's causation-based alternative. I further argue that Mumford has failed to demonstrate any advantages that his approach to miracles has over an intention-based approach.
In a recent paper in Religious Studies, Clarke criticizes Mumford's definition of a miracle as it fails to recognize a supernatural agent capable of intent. Clarke believes that in order for an event to qualify as a miracle a supernatural agent must intend it. It is my aim to dismiss this qualification and demonstrate how Mumford's intent-neutral definition is less problematic. I will do this by examining each of the three cases against Mumford's definition and give reason to reject Clarke's criticism and his own definition of a miracle.
In another paper published here, I criticized Stephen Mumford's causation-based analysis of miracles on the grounds of its failure to produce results that are consistent with ordinary intuitions. In a response to me, intended as a defence of Mumford's position, Morgan Luck finds fault with my rival approach to miracles on three grounds. In this response to Luck I argue that all three of his criticisms miss their mark. My response to Luck's final line of criticism helps shed light on the difference between my approach to the definition of miracles and that due to Mumford. While my approach is driven by both metaphysical and epistemological considerations, Mumford's approach appears to be driven exclusively by metaphysical considerations.