Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wiki page on Molinism

I upated the wikipedia page on Molinism.  This is my first time working on wikipedia so I will be interested to see if it stay's updated as the prior version seem to have been written by a Calvinist then updated by an Open Theist.  Anyways, I hope you enjoy it! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Respond to John Byle's luck objection

The issue is whether the circumstances and constitution of the self fully determine its decisions. Will the same self, under the same conditions, always make the same decision? Libertarians answer ‘no’. But then we must ask: what is the decisive factor in making a choice, if not the internal constitution of the self and its external circumstances? What other cause can there be? The inevitable implication of libertarianism is that the self’s decisions are, at least to some extent, uncaused….

How can I make any practical plans, if I do not have control over my choices? Imagine that I set out to fly an aircraft from London to Vancouver. Keeping the aircraft safely aloft and on course will keep me very busy. It will require many quick decisions. How can I hope to arrive at my planned destination, if all my actions involve an element of chance? In that case I cannot predict how I shall act. I may do things that will astonish, not only my passengers, but even myself. (link)

The strongest response to the luck objection to freewill is of course the counter-example of God’s freedom. Clearly God’s actions were not predetermined and equally clearly He was in control. I do find it odd that the very source of control and irreducible meaning of control is criticized as being out of control.

However, Dr. Byle makes two other mistakes in analyzing the repeatability and predictability of choices. He says libertarians answer ‘no’ to the question “Will the same self, under the same conditions, always make the same decision?” Answering ‘no’ does make it sound as if man’s actions involve randomness, chance, luck and are generally out of control. But libertarians don’t have to answer ‘no’ to this sort of question although open theists typically do. Byle's question is not about possibilities or what we can do, but rather about counterfactuals of freedom or what we would do. All that is required for libertarian freedom is the idea the same self under the same conditions could choose otherwise, not that we would choose otherwise. Thus we are not like a coin flip coming up heads one time and tails another; rather we might have a great deal of predictability based on past experience.

Dr. Byle’s second mistake, which grew out of his first, involves planning and predictability. Can we plan for and predict our own choices? Sure, we have the ability to project ourselves into various circumstances, think things through and predict what we would do. It’s almost like a pre-choice that we simply activate when the time comes. When I was first learning to drive, I had to actively concentrate on turning: turn signal, rear view, side view, head check turn. Now I just decide to turn and I execute the familiar sequence without much further thought. Voting is another example – I have already decided who to vote for before I enter the booth. Now perhaps just before I vote I receive new information to consider. Perhaps I may change my mind, but that just indicates my prior planning was inadequate, not that I cannot plan at all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Angels - Is Infra Better than Surpa?

Angels had a one shot deal - unlike man, they don’t have plan of salvation. Mankind on the other hand had two chances to be with God forever – the garden and the gospel. Infra-lapsarians place a lot of weight on Adam’s fall – the fall is the reason any man is reprobated1. Thus infra-lapsarians see God as a just judge in reprobating sinners. But what carries this weight in the case of reprobate Angels? It would seem justice cannot play the vital role in their reprobation that it does in the case of mankind, if it can play any role at all. And thus with respect to God’s character, they lose whatever ground they might have gained via going with infra-lapsarianism over supra-lapsarianism.

1 Reprobation may be understood as either passed over and not elected or actively reprobated. Infra-lapsarians tend to describe reprobation in terms of being passed over, but some infras do hold to double predestination. Infra-lapsarians say the reason anyone is reprobated at all is due to their fallen sinful state while the reason this person is reprobated and not that person is simply due to God’s will.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Is monergistic regeneration synonymous with irresistible grace?

B.B. Warfield seemed to think so when he said: "Thus it comes about that the doctrine of monergistic regeneration -- or as it was phrased by the older theologians, of "irresistible grace" or "effectual calling" -- is the hinge of the Calvinistic soteriology, and lies much more deeply embedded in the system than the doctrine of predestination itself which is popularly looked upon as its hall-mark.  Indeed, the soteriological significance of predestination to the Calvinist consists in the safeguard it affords to monergistic regeneration - to purely supernatural salvation. What lies at the heart of his soteriology is the absolute exclusion of the creaturely element in the initiation of the saving process, that so the pure grace of God may be magnified. Only so could he express his sense of man's complete dependence as sinner on the free mercy of a saving God; or extrude the evil leaven of Synergism (q.v.) by which, as he clearly sees, God is robbed of His glory and man is encouraged to think that he owes to some power, some act of choice, some initiative of his own, his participation in that salvation which is in reality all of grace.” (link)

I disagree with Warfield or at least have some doubts that the terms are equivalent.  Setting aside the fact that regeneration is more specific than grace, it just appears that that irresistible is broader than monergism and relates to more parts of the conversion process.  Per the Calvinist order of salvation, God regenerates, then calls then man repents and believes.  God’s regenerating and calling guaranties a response.   It’s the aspect of guaranteeing repentance and faith that is included in irresistible grace, but missing from monergistic regeneration. 

Does this seem like hair splitting?  Maybe it is, but the term monergistic regeneration has lead to a good deal of confusion.  For example, do I hold to monergistic regeneration since I think God alone regenerates man, even though I think regeneration happens after faith, not before?  Many Arminians do view themselves as monergists on this account.  But if Calvinists insist that repentance and faith in response is regeneration is a vital aspect, then are Calvinists synergists because man is active in repentance and faith?  But perhaps monergistic regeneration must be a regeneration that takes place at the initiation of the saving process.   Well, in that case do Arminians hold to monergistic previenient grace and they therefore are also monergists?  After all, it’s Pelagians and Semi-Pleagians, not Arminians who deny that God alone initiates the saving process. 

On this account some Calvinists drop regeneration and just speak of monergism.  And there is a sense in which all Calvinists are monergists and no Arminians are: God determines the salvation of certain individuals.  But the practical problem with this definition is that not all Calvinists use it and use it consistently and monergism is often still brought up in reference to regeneration and the order of salvation. 

So in short, I think that the term monergistic regeneration is a poor improvement on the term irresistible grace.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Arminius and Middle Knowledge in his Review of Perkins

Several years ago, when Dr. Olson first published Arminian Theology and I noted his objection to the idea that Arminius held to middle knowledge1 (the idea that God knows what we would freely do under any circumstance), I wrote a brief post quoting Arminius’ use of middle knowledge. (link) At the time I thought it was a simple matter of pointing out the people that Arminius used the concept of middle knowledge. Surprisingly, this has not been the case; some Arminians are still reluctant to agree that Arminius held to middle knowledge. This, I think, is to their loss, since according to William Lane Craig, middle knowledge is one of the most fruitful theological concepts he has come across and according to Eef Dekker, Arminius introduced middle knowledge into protestant theology.

I recently went through Arminius’ response to Perkins again, which I really enjoyed. Below is a list of eleven quotes from just Arminius response to Perkins where he uses the concept of middle knowledge. Here are the quotes:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

God has nothing to do with anything in time?

James White recently spoke about middle knowledge and William Lane Craig on ‘Radio Free Geneva’. Some of the program repeated past mistakes James White has made about middle knowledge, but he provided some fresh mistakes as well; the most notable of which was his statement around 42 minutes in that “the best the Molinist can say is that God has nothing to do with anything that takes place in time because He is a huge divine cosmic computer that ran all the possible scenarios based upon what free creatures would do and actuated a scenario” and again two minutes latter, James White says “[per Molinism] the freedom of God’s choice is limited to one decision, that’s it.”

In Molinism, just as in Calvinism, God’s one decision is all comprehensive and has multiple aspects. His decision impacts (either directly or via permission) all points in time, so it’s fundamentally wrong to say God has nothing to do with anything that takes place in time. Just because God planned for the flood from eternity past does not mean He didn’t send it in time.

I think that one of the reasons why Calvinists dislike middle knowledge so much is that it’s too close to their own view. They would rather have their opponents be Open Theists and Pelagians, because this gives their own view some wiggle room. The contrast between Calvinism and middle knowledge focus our attention like a laser on causal determinism, which is an uncomfortable topic for many Calvinists who would rather just go back to championing God’s grace and omniscience against Open Theists and Pelagians.