Thursday, October 29, 2009

James White's Response on Molinism

Dr. White graciously took the time to respond to one of my posts where I commented on his critique of middle knowledge. (link) The discussion is in the first part of the broadcast. I had argued that Dr. White's positions that Molinism undermines both LFW and God's sovereignty were inconsistent. Dr. White responds that I misrepresented his arguments and it's possible for a system to have more than one problem.

It's true that I didn't quote Dr. White's comments in their entirety, but I did link to them. But what I did say I believe to be both relevant and accurate. As for systems being able to have more than one problem; I agree. But only if you draw out contradictory premises from inside a system, can you validly assert a contradiction. If one or both of the premises are unacceptable to your opponent and outside their system; they have every right to point out that your assertions are inconsistent. Thus Mark notes about Christ's trial: many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. (Mark 14:56)

To explain my position (that Dr. White's arguments are inconsistent) I plan to summarize his arguments and draw out the contradiction.

Dr. White's Arguments

Argument #1 - Molinism Undermines LFW
P1: Molinism says God knows what you would do under any circumstance
P2: In any given circumstance, people can only do what God knew they would do
P3: Libertarian free will requires the person to be able to choose A or non-A
C1: So Molinism undermines LFW


Argument #2 - Molinism Undermines God's Sovereignty
P4: Molinism says God knows what you would do under any circumstance
P5: In any given circumstance, our hypothetical free choices limit God's options
P6: God's sovereingy is inconsistent with anything outside of God limiting His options
C2: So Molinism undermines God's sovereignty


P2 is 'external' to Molinism; an idea introduced by James White. Molina himself said the opposite explicitly and repeatedly.1 P2 and P5 imply a contradiction; that we are only able to do one thing and at the same time our ability to do two things limits God's options. One possibility and twofold possibilities... 1=2. A plain contradiction.

If our nature was such that we only had the ability to do one thing (i.e. if we don't have twofold possibilities), then what we do is necessary such that we cannot do otherwise. Necessary items are a part of God's natural knowledge, not His middle knowledge - the very idea of middle knowledge is based on twofold possibilities and yes, God's choice to give us twofold possibilities limited His options.

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1For the things that issue forth from our choice or depend on it are not going to happen because they are foreknown by God as going to happen, to the contrary, they are foreknown by God as going to happen in this or that way because they are so going to happen by virtue of our freedom of choice – through if they were going to happen in a contrary way, as they are able to, then from eternity they would be foreknown as going to happen in that contrary way instead of in the way the are in fact foreknown as going to happen – and, indeed the knowledge by which God knew absolutely that such and such things would come to be is not a cause of the things, but rather, once the order of things that we see has been posited by the free determination of the divine will, then (as Origen and the other Fathers observe) the effects will issue forth from their causes – naturally from natural causes, freely and contingently with respect to both parts from free causes – just as if God had no foreknowledge of future events. From this it clearly follows that no prejudice at all is done to freedom of choice or to the contingency of things by God’s foreknowledge, aforeknowledge through which, because of the infinity and wholly unlimited perfection and acumen of His intellect, He sees with certainty what the free causes placed in any order of things will do, even though they could really, if they so willed do the contrary; rather, even though that knowledge exists, freedom of choice and the contingency of things with respect to both parts remains intact, just as if there were no foreknowledge. (Molina Translation by Freddoso. Concordia Disp 52 para 29.)

15 comments:

Onesimus said...

I note thsat White's arguments relate to God's knowledge of what man could do under ANY circumstance.

They are considering what God could know regarding every possible action under every possible circumstance.

I see that is a misrpresentaion of the issue. God's foreknowledge is of what man ACTUALLY does under the ACTUAL circumstance that man has faced.

White's arguments seems to address an unlimited hypothetical situations and choices. There is nothing hypothetical about the events that God DOES foreknow.

He has forseen ACTUAL events and actions not an infintie number of hypothetical events and actions

Onesimus said...

Hopefully my previous comment can be stated more simply by saying that God's foreknowledge involves what man DOES do and not the possibilitites of what man COULD do.

It is foreKNOWLEDGE not foreSPECULATION.

Likewise it IS foreknowledge (knowing beforehand) and not foreordination (manipulating beforehand).

bossmanham said...

Dan,

Wonderful response. Thank you for explaining this.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

P2: In any given circumstance, people can only do what God knew they would do

That is a misunderstanding of how middle knowledge works. It should read:

`PS2: In any given circumstance, God knows that people can do x amount of options, but they will do what God knows what they will do.

There is no necessity that requires people can do only one thing. God's knowledge does not cause our actions; rather our actions cause God's knowledge.

bob said...

Dr White seems to confuse certainty with necessity. That God forknows x does not cause x to happen. It simply means that it will happen of a certainty. Certainty is a property of persons (in this instance, God), while necessity is a property of propositions. Therefore God knows with certainty the outcome of truly contingent events.

Godismyjudge said...

Dear Onesimus,

Thanks for explaining your views although perhaps we disagree. I not only think God knows what we will do tomorrow, but He also knows what we would do under other circumstances.

God be with you,
Dan

Godismyjudge said...

My pleasure Boss!

God be with you,
Dan

Godismyjudge said...

God's knowledge does not cause our actions; rather our actions cause God's knowledge.

I personally would not say our actions cause God's knowledge; I don't think anything causes God's knowledge (in a strict sense of the word 'cause'). I think the relationship between the event, the truth value of propositions about the event and God's knowledge of the event is logical rather than causal. It's more like the relationship beteen a word and it's definition or mathematical relationships. That get's around 'retro causation' while maintaining that the event precedes God's knowledge in the logical order.

God be with you,
Dan

Godismyjudge said...

Dear Bob,

Thanks for the on target comment!

God be with you,
Dan

Onesimus said...

Godismyjudge said...
Dear Onesimus,

Thanks for explaining your views although perhaps we disagree. I not only think God knows what we will do tomorrow, but He also knows what we would do under other circumstances.

God be with you,
Dan

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But Dan,
we make our decisions according to the circumstances that we DO face. We do not make our decisions according to circumstances that we DON'T face.

We are not part of a universe in which there are countless possibilities that all have their own reality. We are not part of multiple universes where all possibilities are acted out by different variations of ourselves.

We face a circumstance and we decide according to THAT circumstance and God already knew what that decision would be.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

White displays a poor understanding of logic in more areas than MK in relation to LFW,

"P5: In any given circumstance, our hypothetical free choices limit God's options"

White's error in logic here is evident on two levels, God's freedom isn't limited by LFW since:

a.) God is perfectly capable of forcing the issue (overriding our wills) if He wishes, and

b.) God was the one who chose the option of giving us free will in the first place, rather than make us into pre-programmed machines.


Point b also disarms the next postulate,

"P6: God's sovereignty is inconsistent with anything outside of God limiting His options"

Which is an incoherent statement, given that God Himself was the One who gave the creatures some degree of autonomy. In other words, if God chooses to work through libertarian choices sometimes rather than irresistibly decreeing all 'choices,' then this was a decision that God Himself made, and hence not at all contrary to or inconsistent with His sovereignty.

Godismyjudge said...

Dear Onesimus,

I agree that multiple universes don't exist, but God knows what would happen in them as if they did.

You said: We face a circumstance and we decide according to THAT circumstance and God already knew what that decision would be.

So if He knew what we would do in the circumstances we will be in, why is it hard to accept that He knows what we would do in other circumstances?

God be with you,
Dan

Godismyjudge said...

Josh,

You said:

Point b also disarms the next postulate,

"P6: God's sovereignty is inconsistent with anything outside of God limiting His options"

Which is an incoherent statement, given that God Himself was the One who gave the creatures some degree of autonomy. In other words, if God chooses to work through libertarian choices sometimes rather than irresistibly decreeing all 'choices,' then this was a decision that God Himself made, and hence not at all contrary to or inconsistent with His sovereignty.


In addition, scripture declares that righeousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. In other words, God dosn't *outsovereign* justice.

God be with you,
Dan

Onesimus said...

Dan said:
"So if He knew what we would do in the circumstances we will be in, why is it hard to accept that He knows what we would do in other circumstances?"

Its not a matter of it being hard to accept - its a matter of what is in fact reality, what is in fact truth.

Those hypothetical cirucmstances are NOT reality. They did not happen and will not happen.

He knows what we will do in the actual circumstances we face because we actually face those circumstances and they can be foreknown.

THAT is foreknowledge - knowing something that DOES happen before it happens.

One of you commenters is quite close when he said:

"God's knowledge does not cause our actions; rather our actions cause God's knowledge."

I would amend the last part of that to say "our actions provide something for God to foreknow".


Team A beats team B in a soccer game, is it foreknowledge to know that team B would have beaten team A had circumstance been different and team B had scored more goals than team A?

That is not foreknowledge - that is "what if..." and is the realm of the fiction writer.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

"...scripture declares that righeousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. In other words, God dosn't *outsovereign* justice."

Exactly. A true justice without partiality towards certain people (1 Pet 1:17, Rom 2:11, Eph 6:9, Col 3:25).