Monday, November 30, 2009

The Great City Has Fallen

Geocities is kaput. Sadly, I was unaware they were shutting down the site and don't have backups to all the files out I had out there. For the stuff I do have, I will try to reformat them and run them through this site. I the mean time I apologize for any dead links.

The Grounding Ojbection (Part 2)

Having identified the core grounding objection as 'how can counterfactual statements about a persons libertarian free will be true, given they do not actually make the choices in the real world?', we are now in a position to address it.

In the first place, I am inclined to follow Job and proclaim if it is not he [God], then who is it? (Job 9:24). In other words God must in some ultimate sense ground middle knowledge; enabling counterfactual statements to be true. The chain has to start somewhere.

God has libertarian free will; He can create multiple worlds but He actually created one. Given His omnipotence; I see no reason why He could not create multiple universes in multiple dimensions. God is distinct from His creation; He is not His creation. Further, God is distinct from possible creations. What we can do flows from what He can enable us to do.

Middle knowledge corresponds to what we would choose, if God created multiple worlds or a different world than the one He did create. We would be God's creation and therefore distinct from God. What we would be able to choose flows from God’s power to enable us to choose. Due to God’s unique knowledge and power, He does not need to actually create the worlds to know what would happen.

Knowledge of counterfactuals is not epistemically available to us, since we can neither experience counterfactuals, nor can we deduct facts about them from principles; yet God knows them without experience or deduction. God has a unique ability to ‘run scenarios’ by placing hypothetical people in hypothetical circumstances to see what they would do; without actually creating them. I don't think the grounding of middle knowledge goes further than that.

Here's a couple of brief thought experiments that I hope will illustrate some aspects of the grounding of middle knowledge.

Imagine God created multiple universes in multiple dimensions giving people libertarian free will in the various universes. Conterfactual statements about you correspond to what you do in the various other circumstances you are in. Hopefully this little example helps people understand that middle knowledge corresponds to what we would do in other worlds and such knowledge depends on God’s power to create and that the object of the knowledge distinct from God.

Imagine you ‘jumped’ from one dimension/universe to another. Would it still be you in the other universe? Are you hesitant about the idea of ‘meeting yourself’? Science fiction writers often come up with radical explanations for what happens if you ‘meet yourself’ – annihilation or insanity or something. Hopefully this little example helps people understand that ‘hypothetical you is still you’; rather than someone else.

Objections to this sort of grounding will be addressed in the next post.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Files: Hunt - Why Simple Foreknowledge is Still Useful

In Dave Hunt's article, Why Simple Foreknowledge is Still Useful, Hunt argues that God uses simple foreknowledge providentially. His primary case is a rock, paper scissors example: The lynchpin of my argument was a counterexample, developed at length and with great care. It involved a version of rock-paper-scissors played between God and Satan. In this version God first declares rock, paper, or scissors, but only mentally, without revealing it; Satan then makes a libertarian free decision to declare rock, paper, or scissors; finally, God reveals what he declared. I claimed that the open theist God, who lacks simple foreknowledge, might well lose this game: victory is not guaranteed. (No open theist would dispute this claim.) But it is equally clear that a God endowed with simple foreknowledge can always make the right declaration of rock, paper, or scissors, based on his foreknowledge of what Satan will freely declare. So if God's objective is to win this game against Satan, simple foreknowledge gives him a clear providential advantage.

Hunt then addresses Haskers' counterargument:

(1) In order for God's decisions to be made on the basis of his foreknowledge they must be subsequent, in the logical and explanatory order, to that foreknowledge.
(2) In order for God's decisions to be included in God's foreknowledge the decisions must be prior, in the logical and explanatory order, to that foreknowledge.
(3) Therefore, if God's decisions are included in God's foreknowledge (as they are according to CSF [Complete Simple Foreknowledge]), those decisions cannot be made on the basis of his foreknowledge.


Hunt's response it to distinguish between God's foreknowledge of what someone else will do and God's foreknowledge of what He will do.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Grounding Objection (Part 1)

The grounding objection is kinda muddy because of many surrounding issues . My hope is that by parsing the grounding objection from the associated issues, we can see and understand it more clearly. It's a well known rhetorical device that the combination of arguments is more persuasive than the arguments presented individually. However, the arguments should be understood separately and the rhetorical persuasiveness of the combination does not increase the logical soundness of the arguments by themselves or in combination.

In parsing the grounding objection from associated issues, I do not in any way mean to deny non-Molinists the right to divide up the grounding objection into their own 'grounding objectionlets'. Indeed, cataloging and comparing variations on the grounding objection may well be an enlightening exercise. But from what I have seen, grounding objections share a common thread, a core, and it's the core that I would like to highlight.

The grounding objection is raised against Molinism by Calvinists, Open Theists and those holding to Simple Foreknowledge. This fact alone should help guide us in parsing the grounding objection itself from surrounding issues. Calvinists and Open Theists disagree with those holding to simple foreknowledge that God's foreknowledge is reconcilable with human freedom. Those holding to simple foreknowledge and Open Theists disagree with Calvinists on determinism. Calvinists and those holding to simple foreknowledge disagree with Open Theists on the future. Yet these three groups find a common objection to Molinism: the grounding objection. So the core grounding objection is rightly distinguished from areas of disagreement between these three groups.

The objection isn’t really about God’s epistemology. So rather than asking ‘how does God know counterfactuals of human freedom?’, one should ask ‘why are statements about counterfactuals of human freedom true?’. Those who think that counterfactuals are true but God does not know them should be seen as the exception; classic theists believe God knows all truths.

The objection is not seeking a sufficient cause of free acts, which would question beg against LFW, since in the libertarian view none exist. Rather than seeking the grounding of the ‘free acts’ aspect of ‘hypothetical free acts’, it seeks the grounding of the ‘hypothetical’ aspect. It is true some determinists argue free acts are illogical or impossible; but this is a separate issue. The lingering concern after parsing the grounding objection from objections to free will is this: since we do not actually make the hypothetical choices, isn't something other than us determining what would happen? And if so, how can we remain free in a libertarian sense in the actual world?

Nor is the grounding objection merely semantic. No doubt Molinists and non-Molinists may interpret hypothetical statements differently. For example, an open theist may claim Christ's statement in Matthew 11 "If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" is only a probability statement based on the actual thoughts and intentions of those in Tyre and Sidon. However, Molinists say this statement is not probabilistic, but certain. Further it was based on what they would do rather than their present intentions. So each side understands counterfactual statements in different ways, either probabilistic or absolute and either based on present intentions or based on what the person would do in the given circumstances. Still, the grounding objection is not suspended on this issue; this issue results from the grounding objection, not the other way around. Open Theists remain unsatisfied even when Molinists explain their views regarding counterfactual statements and also when they reword counterfactual statements in specific ways. The grounding issue is substantive, not semantic.

Finally, the grounding objection against middle knowledge is not the same as the grounding objection against foreknowledge. Granted, an open theist may reject that some future tense statements are grounded; and therefore are either all false or neither true or false. But even if foreknowledge is granted, as is the case of those holding to simple foreknowledge, the grounding objection is still advanced, since real world events will be available to ground future tense statements, but real world events are not, nor will be, available to ground middle knowledge, since the events will not happen.


In short, the core of grounding objection is distinct from the arguments that:
  1. LFW is illogical
  2. God has epistemological limitations
  3. Semantics regarding counterfactual statements
  4. Foreknowledge of free actions is illogical

Rather, the core grounding objection is how can counterfactual statements about a persons libertarian free will be true, given they do not actually make the choices in the real world?

God willing, I will attempt to address this question in upcoming posts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Main Reason I am a Molinist

The scriptures teach God's providence and man's choice. Molinism reconciles the two cleanly. In explaining scripture, Calvinism has to 'explain away' man's freedom and Simple Foreknowledge has to explain away God's providence.

Consider Acts 4:28 and Matthew 23:37 :

Acts 4:27-28 - “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

Calvinist - God planned the events leading up to Christ's crucifixion
Molinist - God planned the events leading up to Christ's crucifixion
Simple Foreknowledge - Only the crucifixion was planned, not the events leading up to it.

Mt 23:37 - O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Calvinist - Christ wanted to save the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but their leaders opposed Him
Molinist - Christ wanted to save the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but they opposed Him
Simple Foreknowledge - Christ wanted to save the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but they opposed Him

Similarly, Molinism reconciles warning passages with security passages:

Consider Hebrews 10:26-29 and Jude 24:

Hebrews 10:26-29 - For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

Calvinist - this is a warning to impostors
Molinist - this is a warning to true believers about falling from grace
Simple Foreknowledge - this is a warning to true believers about falling from grace

Jude 24 - Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,

Calvinist - God can keep you from falling
Molinist - God can keep you from falling
Simple Foreknowledge - if you don't start to fall, God can keep you from falling

All things considered, that's hundreds of passages that I take in the natural sense and other have to explain away. I am unwilling to let my system interfere with my reading of scripture.

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.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Does Molinism teach that God's sovereignty is trumped by Free Will?

Turretinfan says yes.

Wes Widner states: "Middle Knowledge (and William Lane Craig in particular) does not teach that God's sovereignty is trumped or determined by man's free will or by God's Middle Knowledge of man's free will."

Yes, it does. Consider Craig's claim:

What I am simply saying is that God's aims in this life, in this world, are for a maximum number of people to come to know God and His salvation as fully as possible. And it is possible that that would not be achieved in a world that did not involve as much suffering and evil as this world does. Far from being counter-intuitive, I find that very plausible.(source)

That's at least a conditional trumping claim. There's no claim that God is required to create, but if he does, and if he creates free will beings, and if he wishes to save the maximum number of people (as Craig insists), he is restricted to actualizing worlds in which their is suffering and evil on account of the free will of the creatures. (link)

Turretinfan is either using his own specialized definition of sovereignty; which includes causal determinism and begs the question against Molinism, or his argument falls short of substantiating his claims.

Sovereignty is about authority. Normally, being sovereign over another person does not mean you causally predetermine their actions, rather it means you are their ruler and have the right to command them to do something and punish them if they don't do it. In Molinism, God is absolutely sovereign.

Turretinfan continues:

Wes Widner also states: "It is disingenuous to claim that Molinism is a philosophy whereas causal determinism isn't."

That's a mischaracterization of the situation. Molinism is merely philosophical. Causal determinism oozes from Scripture. It is provable from Scripture - making it a Biblical, and not merely a philosophical, position. Of course, causal determinism is a metaphysical claim.

Most of the classical text on the providence of God (passages like Acts 4:28) entail either Molinism or Determinism. Why does Turretinfan favor determinism over Molinism in explaining such passages?

Turretinfan, if your game, pick three text you think teach (implicitly or explicitly) causal determinism and preclude Molinism and I will take a shot at explaining them.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Files: Watson on Omniscience

Richard Watson's article on Omniscience (a part of his systematic theology) discusses God's knowledge and foreknowledge. Watson starts out by providing the scriptural passages indicating that God's knowledge is infinite. He then provides arguments from reason supporting God's infinite knowledge; namely, from God's being the First Cause, from His wisdom displayed in His works and finally from Greek philosophers who conclude God is omniscient based on the light of nature and express themselves well, so long as they expressed themselves generally, on
this subject.


Next Watson takes on the idea that God does not know our future choices; either because He doesn't choose to or because such foreknowledge implies a contradiction. Watson destroys this idea with scripture on prophecies of future choices and demonstrates what damage this does to God's providence.

Then Watson reconciles God's foreknowledge with human freedom by pointing out the difference between certainty and necessity (i.e. that a thing will happen vs. it must happen). Watson points out that knowledge is not the cause of a thing known, so if something is making that thing necessary, it's not God's knowledge.

One of the ways people have attempted to reconcile God's foreknowledge with human freedom is to deny that God's foreknowledge and our knowledge are similar in nature. Watson does not like this approach. While God's knowledge is infinite and ours is finite; the nature of the knowledge is the same. Likewise, God's goodness is infinite and He is an infinite Spirit and our goodness and spirit are finite, yet they have the same nature. Finally, Watson denies that God is impassive, while maintaining God's immutability, by removing from His emotions all the imperfections that are attached and commingled with our emotions.

Watson wraps up the discussion of God's foreknowledge by noting: the question is not, how to reconcile God's prescience with the freedom of man; but how to reconcile the conduct of God toward man, considered as a free agent, with his own prescience; how to assign a congruity
to warnings, exhortations, and other means adopted to prevent destruction as to individuals, with the certain foresight of that terrible result.
But Watson insists that in permitting sin, no moral attribute of God is impugned.

In an interesting footnote discussion of middle knowledge, Watson quotes Curcellaeus who states Gomarus (Arminius' opponent) used middle knowledge with respect to the fall (and only the fall), to avoid the idea that God is the author of sin.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Luke's Use of Pluperfects of Completed Action

Turretinfan responded to my comments on Acts 13:48:

However, Dan unfortunately seems to have misunderstood how the timing is indicated by the context. In this case, the reference timing is the time when the Gentiles, heard the gospel message, were glad, glorified the word of the Lord, and believed. The pluperfect indicates an action that was "past" with respect to those events.

That means that the ordaining was done before hearing, the being glad, the glorifying, and the believing. That does not necessarily specify when exactly the ordaining was done, which is a point that Dr. White tried to emphasize.

If we only had this verse we could not say whether the ordaining had been done (notice my own use of the pluperfect) in eternity past, a week before the message was preached, or five minutes before the apostle spoke. (link) Emphasis mine.

Acts 13:48 states: And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

In my understanding of Acts 13:48: I peg the timing of tazzo-ing (ordaining) to the context (either the Gentiles hearing of the gospel or the Gentiles hearing that the gospel applied to them). On the other hand, Turretinfan pegs it to something outside the context (predestination from before the foundation of the world). In doing so, note that Turretinfan denies that pluperfects of completed action are complete at a time implied in the context or at a specified time. But this contradicts standard Greek grammars:

The Pluperfect of Completed Action. The Pluperfect is used of an action which was complete at a point of past time implied in the context. (Burton)

The Pluperfect represents an action as already finished at some specified past time (Goodwin)

Turretinfan seeks an unspecified past time - one not implied in the context. This further contradicts Luke's usage. Here are all Luke's pluperfects of completed action (Acts 13:48 excepted). Note that all cases the timing of the past time is implied in the context.


Luke 2:49 But 1 he replied, 2 “Why were you looking for me? 3 Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Luk 4:41 Demons also came out 1 of many, crying out, 2 “You are the Son of God!” 3 But he rebuked 4 them, and would not allow them to speak, 5 because they knew that he was the Christ.
Luk 6:8 But 1 he knew 2 their thoughts, 3 and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Get up and stand here.” 4 So 5 he rose and stood there.
Luk 8:2 and also some women 1 who had been healed of evil spirits and disabilities: 2 Mary 3 (called Magdalene), from whom seven demons had gone out,
Luk 8:29 For Jesus 1 had started commanding 2 the evil 3 spirit to come out of the man. (For it had seized him many times, so 4 he would be bound with chains and shackles 5 and kept under guard. But 6 he would break the restraints and be driven by the demon into deserted 7 places.)
Luk 8:35 So 1 the people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus. They 2 found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.
Luk 8:38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go 1 with him, but Jesus 2 sent him away, saying,
Luk 19:22 The king 1 said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, 2 you wicked slave! 3 So you knew, did you, that I was a severe 4 man, withdrawing what I didn’t deposit and reaping what I didn’t sow?
Luk 23:35 The people also stood there watching, but the rulers ridiculed 1 him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save 2 himself if 3 he is the Christ 4 of God, his chosen one!”
Luk 23:49 And all those who knew Jesus 1 stood at a distance, and the women who had followed him from Galilee saw 2 these things.
Act 1:10 As 1 they were still staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly 2 two men in white clothing stood near them
Act 4:22 For the man, on whom this miraculous sign 1 of healing had been performed, 2 was over forty years old.
Act 7:18 until another king who did not know about 1 Joseph ruled 2 over Egypt. 3
Act 7:44 Our ancestors 1 had the tabernacle 2 of testimony in the wilderness, 3 just as God 4 who spoke to Moses ordered him 5 to make it according to the design he had seen.
Act 8:27 So 1 he got up 2 and went. There 3 he met 4 an Ethiopian eunuch, 5 a court official of Candace, 6 queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasury. He 7 had come to Jerusalem to worship, 8
Act 9:7 (Now the men 1 who were traveling with him stood there speechless, 2 because they heard the voice but saw no one.) 3
Act 9:21 All 1 who heard him were amazed and were saying, “Is this not 2 the man who in Jerusalem was ravaging 3 those who call on this name, and who had come here to bring them as prisoners 4 to the chief priests?”
Act 12:9 Peter 1 went out 2 and followed him; 3 he did not realize that what was happening through the angel was real, 4 but thought he was seeing a vision.
Act 14:23 When they had appointed elders 1 for them in the various churches, 2 with prayer and fasting 3 they entrusted them to the protection 4 of the Lord in whom they had believed.
Act 14:8 In 1 Lystra 2 sat a man who could not use his feet, 3 lame from birth, 4 who had never walked.
Act 16:3 Paul wanted Timothy 1 to accompany him, and he took 2 him and circumcised 3 him because of the Jews who were in those places, 4 for they all knew that his father was Greek. 5
Act 19:32 So then some were shouting one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had met together. 1
Act 20:38 especially saddened 1 by what 2 he had said, that they were not going to see him 3 again. Then they accompanied 4 him to the ship.
Act 21:18 The next day Paul went in with us to see James, and all the elders were there. 1
Act 21:26 Then Paul took the men the next day, 1 and after he had purified himself 2 along with them, he went to the temple and gave notice 3 of the completion of the days of purification, 4 when 5 the sacrifice would be offered for each 6 of them.
Act 23:5 Paul replied, 1 “I did not realize, 2 brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You must not speak evil about a ruler of your people.’”

Now of course, Turretinfan (and James White) could backpedal and deny that Acts 13:48 is a pluperfect of completed action and instead claim it's some other kind of pluperfect. But pluperfects of completed action require completion within the context, not outside the context.