WLCraig discusses the Knowledge of the Fate of the Damned


reasonablefaith.org/site/New … le&id=6765

Not a direct attack on Universalism as such but an attack on an argument for it. I suppose Craig is strictly correct that the argument doesn’t hold but Talbott has far stronger arguments (particularly on the coherence of Christian Theology and the 3 propositions discussion) which Craig does not discussion in this column.


To clarify for readers of this thread: WLC is responding to one objection to non-universalism (raised by Talbott, among others), concerning whether the saved in heaven will have knowledge of the hopelessly damned.

I have several issues regarding WLC’s reply, as it stands:

1.) Throughout the article, he presents this objection as though it constitutes an argument for universalism. It might be such a thing by contrast, but it seems a little misleading to present it as a positive argument for the position. (I note with interest, by the way, that WLC’s response tacitly includes agreeing that the redeemed being conscious that the hopelessly damned are suffering, would be a serious problem for non-universalism. There are various ways around that, two of which he mentions, plus annihilationism which he rejects. Or, a non-universalist might disagree that the redeemed would be bothered by conscious knowledge that the hopelessly damned are suffering, of course. I’ll have comments on one of his options presently.)

2.) WLC also, throughout his article, presents this objection as being THE argument for universalism, or at least Talbott’s only argument; which is flatly incorrect and very misleading.

3.) WLC states that the objection to the consciousness of the redeemed concerning the hopelessly damned (he doesn’t call them the hopelessly damned, but I prefer to reiterate this for clarity… :wink: ) falters on two problems, one of which is that, supposedly, the objection “assumes without justification that the redeemed in heaven do know that some persons are damned”.

This opens up the question of whether God’s own omniscience is failing in regard to the damned (if the redeemed would have problems, why would the omniscient God, Who is more loving and merciful than a man, not have problems?–or if the omniscient God doesn’t have problems with being conscious that the damned are hopelessly suffering, then why would the redeemed, whom one might suppose should have the mind of God now about the matter?). But more directly, Talbott (and other concerned parties) will certainly have in mind scripture, both OT and NT, where the redeemed (and/or subordinate entities less than God, such as angels) are regarding the lost in hades.

WLC may argue (or even merely assert) that the exegesis is wrong; but that is very different from claiming that Talbott supposedly assumes without justification that the redeemed in heaven know that some persons are hopelessly damned. (There aren’t many scriptural references to this to begin with, admittedly. But they are there.)

4.) I don’t find WLC’s distinction between knowing-p and being-aware-of-p, to be very substantial as a rebuttal. For one thing, the distinction is typically inclusive within being-aware-of-p, such that I may be aware of objective reality p without knowing accurately this-or-that set of details about it. Under this concept, the redeemed might be aware of the hopelessly damned souls (and so know those souls exist), but God would be preventing the redeemed from knowing the souls are hopelessly damned (or whatever other sub-fact might disturb the redeemed if they knew it).

WLC would have it the other way around, that the redeemed somehow “know” p without “being aware” of p. If this is taken to be a relation between a fact that might be retrieved at any time, but isn’t being considered by the thinker at a given moment, that relation would be feasible; but it isn’t any help to WLC’s defense, because for all practical purposes the bitter knowledge might as well not even exist: otherwise there would be a risk of the person remembering this fact-p and being upset by it. Thus, there would be absolutely no point for this knowledge to ‘exist’ as, putatively, part of the person’s referent psyche. God might as well excise the information completely from the mind of the person; because under this theory the “knowledge” is no more possibly accessible than if it didn’t exist to be accessed.

Yet WLC thinks this total suppression of knowledge to be “even more appealing” than God excising the knowledge! At best, I can only say I have no idea what practical gain (“more appealing” or otherwise) is supposed to be provided by this theory.

(I would also add that, as presented anyway, his answers are speculative hypotheses presented without justification in themselves. This may be slightly better than merely assuming without justification; but then, the complainers typically have some rationale by which they arrived at the idea that the saved could be expected to be conscious of the existence and state of the condemned. Though WLC gives exactly no indication that he’s aware of any such rationales.)

I’ll have to wait until later to look up Talbott’s Inescapable Love (I don’t seem to have it with me here at the office today), to see if he mentions scriptural instances of the beatified being consciously aware (in various ways) of the fate of the condemned. (Also to see if he presents the redeemed-knowledge-of-condemned issue as a positive argument for universalism, or as a problem for non-universalism. I don’t recall that he did, but it’s been a couple of years since I’ve read the book.)

Gregory, in EU, does not mention this counter to Craig’s defense, when discussing Craig’s hypothesizing concerning Talbott’s argument, on pp 15-18. (WLC’s recent reply is effectively similar to how he replied to Talbott in the past.) But neither does Gregory mention that WLC considers the consciousness of the redeemed to be merely an unjustified assumption. (i.e. that particular topic never comes up.) Gregory does correctly present the topic as a problem for non-universalism, not as an argument for universalism, though.

(Edited to add: links to popularly accessible essays of WLC vs. Talbott can be found at the bottom of this page.)


Brief followup: back on Tuesday, I looked up Talbott’s discussion in Irresistible Love, of the one thing WLC talks about in the linked article above. It apparently postdates the exchange Talbott and WLC had in the journals, but it doesn’t reference scriptural indications that the redeemed are conscious of the unsaved. (Again, not that there are many, but they do exist, here and there.)