This is a Q & A blog post by our Visiting Scholar in Philosophy, William Lane Craig.
I am currently an agnostic, though I was formerly a Christian. I have enjoyed much of your writing and am very much open to becoming a Christian again because of it.
I have been discussing the issue of faith with my parents and have found that, though they have a real faith, they have no real interest in gaining a deeper understanding of their faith or understanding the logic behind various doctrines. In fact, their view seems to be that intellect is dangerous and somehow can be a tool of the devil to lead a Christian away from God.
Is it the case that they, through their epistemic vice, are going to reach the kingdom, whereas I (assuming I stay agnostic) am not?
It seems to me that a God who rewards ignorance is not worth praising at all, though I welcome your thoughts on the matter.
Dr. Craig’s Response
I am so thrilled to hear of your openness to becoming a committed Christian again, Aaron! It’s a genuine pity that your parents’ attitude should be an obstacle to your coming to faith.
In answering your question, it is important to understand that your parents’ eternal salvation is not a reward given to them for their faith. Salvation is not in any sense a reward. The biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith holds that there is nothing we can do to merit our salvation. It can only be accepted as an undeserved gift of God through trust in Him. Thus, it is a mistake to think that our faith is a sort of work that we perform for which God rewards us and by which we earn salvation.
Nor does God reward ignorance! On the contrary, your parents are actually acting in disobedience to God’s command in Scripture, which tells us, “Do not be children in your thinking. Be babes in evil, but in thinking be mature” (I Corinthians 12.14). The Christian faith is not a childish faith, an apathetic faith, a brain-dead faith, but rather a living and inquiring faith. It is, as St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, said, a “faith that seeks understanding.” So, if your parents are beneficiaries of God’s salvation, it will be in spite of, not because of, their intellectual apathy.
So in answer to your pointed question, “Is it the case that they, through their epistemic vice, are going to reach the kingdom, whereas I (assuming I stay agnostic) am not?,” I must answer both “No” and “Yes.” No, they will not reach the kingdom through their epistemic vice, but in spite of it. We are all sinners saved by grace, and none of us goes into the kingdom faultless. But, honestly, Yes, you are not going to reach the kingdom if you persist in your unbelief. For by refusing to accept God’s grace and pardon you repudiate His provision for your sin and so remain separated from Him. Fortunately, I do not think that you are going to persist in your agnosticism! I sense in you an open heart and feel confident that you will come to a full and vibrant faith in the Lord and, I predict, a faith that will be an inquiring and intelligent faith.
- William Lane Craig