William Lane Craig affirms universal revelation accessibilism

“Salvation is truly available to all persons at all times. It all depends upon our free response.” W. L. Craig

For years, I have been aware of a gospel exclusivist approach to the salvation of the unevangelized, formulated within a Molinist framework, and enunciated very clearly by William Lane Craig. In a number of publications, I have seen him argue that God has chosen a world in which everyone who would have believed the gospel, if they had heard it, does hear the gospel, thus making the unevangelized culpable for their lack of saving faith.

I just recently listened to a debate that Craig had with Ray Bradley at Simon Fraser University, in 1994.  On that occasion, he made the statement I quoted above. He very clearly asserted that God holds people accountable only for the revelation they receive, and that the revelation which each person receives is potentially saving, if the appropriate faith is expressed. Though he doesn’t spell out what that response would entail relative to universal revelation, Romans 1:21 makes it clear that what God is looking for from people who receive universal revelation is that they “honor God as God” and give him thanks.

(You can hear the debate in this Utube broadcast, where his remarks on this topic appear  between 17.30 and 19.30 minutes in the broadcast, or you can read a transcript of the text of the debate.)

I have high regard for Craig’s scholarship and apologetic ministry, so I was delighted to hear from Craig’s lips this very clear affirmation of what I dub “universal revelation accessibilism.” (See my typology of 14 positions concerning the salvation of the unevangelized.) In my typology, I have also listed “Molinist accessibilism,” the belief that God saves those whom he knows would have believed if they had heard the gospel. Since Craig has been so long a prominent (probably the most prominent) evangelical Molinist, were he to move from gospel exclusivism to a form of accessibilism, one might have expected him to take that Molinist route. I am delighted that, instead, he chose the universal revelation accessibilism, because this view entails the belief that those who are saved are saved by a real, rather than a hypothetical, faith response to God’s self-revelation.

In January of this year, I wrote a post about another surprise in regard to William Craig’s stance. In that instance, I wrote about his affirmation of compatibilist freedom, a move that  would make his position no longer Molinist, since libertarian freedom is the essence of the Molinist proposal. That was another surprising but welcome move by this fine scholar, though I don’t know how thoroughly it has been worked into his general framework.


By Terrance Tiessen

I am Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Providence Theological Seminary, Canada.

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