Monday, November 9, 2009

James White says He could have Chosen Otherwise

I had previously listened to James White's refutation of Molinism on the dividing line, but I just had a chance to listen to the full presentation on youtube. For the most part, it's the same information, with one exception that caught my attention. In the dividing line presentation, James White argued that Molininism conflicts with man freewill. However, the youtube clip (around 35 min. in) James While claims Calvinism provides greater freedom than Molinism; that Molinism makes man robots and Calvinism does not.

A cell phone goes off right in the middle of Dr. White's speech. He makes a joke about it, then asks if he had to make that joke and claims he could have chosen not to. He then argues that in Molinism, such an ability is a problem.

I wonder if Dr. White believes he was actually able to have chosen not to make that joke. That would be inconsistent with his causal determinism - the idea that our actions are casually necessary and cannot be otherwise. Given God's decree that Dr. White make the joke and His foreknowledge of the joke; causal determinism says the joke was necessary and could not have been otherwise. Causal determinism is the specific idea that Molinists object to (not God's control), so this is a crucial point for Dr. White to get inconsistent about.

Perhaps Dr. White doesn't think he was actually able to have chosen otherwise. He said he was, but perhaps what he means is he was hypothetically able, not actually able. If it had been his greatest desire not to make the joke, he would have been able not make the joke. The ability wasn't real, it was hypothetical. Such a maneuver looks like a verbal shell game to keep normal people off their trail, but it's normal behavior for compatiblists. Since the past determines behavior, compatiblists have to assume a different past to talk about choosing otherwise. But if that's what's going on here, why couldn't the Molinist help himself to the same maneuver? Surely, if this is freedom, it apples to Molinism as well as determinism.

4 comments:

Robert said...

Hello Dan,

Looks like you caught James White with his pants down! :-)

“However, the youtube clip (around 35 min. in) James While claims Calvinism provides greater freedom than Molinism; that Molinism makes man robots and Calvinism does not.”

That is funny because it is his cherished calvin-ism that “makes man robots” not Molinism.

“A cell phone goes off right in the middle of Dr. White's speech. He makes a joke about it, then asks if he had to make that joke and claims he could have chosen not to. He then argues that in Molinism, such an ability is a problem.”

This is where he totally blows it. And again, he’s got the positions reversed. The Molinist would say that though you could actually do otherwise (not make the joke) God foreknew via middle knowledge that in these circumstances White would freely choose to make the joke.


White’s calvin-ism on the other hand cannot allow for any possibility of anyone ever doing otherwise than what God has decreed, predetermined to occur, decided would be part of his total plan encompassing all circumstances and every detail of world history. In calvin-ism if God predetermined for White to make that joke then he HAD TO MAKE THAT JOKE, IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO DO OTHERWISE THAN TELL THAT JOKE.

Only in a world where people had genuine free will would White be free to either choose to make that joke or free to choose not to make that joke. But White zealously believes that this world is not like that, rather, in this actual world God has predetermined every event. So for White to say what he said, is to completely contradict his own world view and theological system.

But we should not be surprised by **lapses** like this from necessatarians like James White because while they can espouse their false system of theology and write books about it and go from place to place trying to convert people to believe these false ideas: the reality remains that he lives in this one real world in which we do at times have choices and have free will as ordinarily understood. White like the rest of us has to live in this world which God has made a world in which God in his sovereignty created us with the capacity to freely choose our own actions (including whether or not we are going to make a joke!).

“I wonder if Dr. White believes he was actually able to have chosen not to make that joke. That would be inconsistent with his causal determinism - the idea that our actions are casually necessary and cannot be otherwise.”

Right his actual practice would contradict his espoused beliefs (again not a surprise at all as he lives in the world that God has made not in the world that he imagines when he spouts off about his calvin-ism).

“Given God's decree that Dr. White make the joke and His foreknowledge of the joke; causal determinism says the joke was necessary and could not have been otherwise.”

Exactly which is why if White’s espoused beliefs are true then he never HAS A CHOICE AND DOES EVERYTHING THAT HE DOES OUT OF CAUSAL NECESSITY LIKE A GOOD ROBOT!

“Causal determinism is the specific idea that Molinists object to (not God's control), so this is a crucial point for Dr. White to get inconsistent about.”

Again, Dan, you really caught him with his pants down! :-)

Robert

#John1453 said...

Calvinists use "free" or "ability to choose" in a different sense than ordinary people or than non-determinists. So JW probably thinks he was being consistent in his words.

However, Dan is quite correct to observe that for JW to say that he could have chosen otherwise is inconsistent with JE's beliefs as expressed elsewhere. For example, in his article on J. Edwards at his website, he writes:

". . . Edwards moves into the Arminian concept of "foreknowledge" and what it means. Rather than following a linguistic path of connecting the term with the Old Testament concept of "knowledge" (yadah), Edwards allows the Arminian definition to stand, but then turns it on its head by stating,

'Contingency, as it is holden by some, is at the same time contradicted by themselves, if they hold foreknowledge. This is all that follows from an absolute, unconditional, irreversible decree, that it is impossible but that the things decreed should be. The same exactly follows from foreknowledge, that it is absolutely impossible but that the thing certainly foreknown should precisely come to pass...The foreknowledge of God will necessarily infer a decree: for God could not foreknow that things would be, unless he had decreed they should be; and that because things would not be future, unless he had decreed they should be.' [end of quote]

This goes back to Edwards' concept of time as created thing, and the impossibility, based upon this, of contingency, shadows of which were seen in the above discussion of the end for which God created the world. If God foreknows something, then it will surely come to pass, unless there can be error in God's knowledge. Hence, there is no difference between this foreknowledge and decree, for it will surely come to pass no matter what word you use to describe it."

So, as with all Calvinists JW believes that God knows future events because He has decreed what those future events will be, and, once God has decreed something, it cannot be otherwise than He has decreed it to be.

regards,
#John

Robert said...

John wrote:

“Calvinists use "free" or "ability to choose" in a different sense than ordinary people or than non-determinists. So JW probably thinks he was being consistent in his words.”

Yes they do sometimes use words differently, talking about the same things as ordinary people do but with very different meanings invested in their words. It is similar to talking with a cultist about common Christian ideas where they use the exact same terms but with their own meanings.

That being said, James White was not at all consistent with his words and his cherished but false calvinistic beliefs. He had a momentary lapse and his comment actually fit the real world we all live in. Too bad he keeps holding onto his false Calvinistic views. He has become a zealous evangelist for calvin-ism attacking other believers who are not calvinists (e.g. currently William Lane Craig and molinism is the perceived threat that he feels needs to be attacked).

Robert

Godismyjudge said...

John,

Probably, but unless I have evidence to the contrary, I allow for the chance that he is unaware of his own philisopical commitments and contradicts them from time to time. I do think that if compatiblists were transparent about the sense in which they hold we can choose otherwise, they would have far less adhearents.

Time (created or not) may well be a separate issue; or at least the connection isn't imediately obvious to me. On the other hand, B-theory time seems to absolutly flow determinist.

God be with you,
Dan