Friday, December 23, 2011

Do the Romans 9 Objections Make Sense?

Calvinist's often say the objections in Romans 9 don't make sense unless Paul is talking about unconditional election on individuals to salvation.  But Steve Hays provides some decent examples of why they still make sense if Paul is talking about God's plan to save by grace (rather than works or nationality). (link)  Romans 9 is about God's sovereignty , one way or another. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Other Views on the Middle Knowledge Texts

I recently posted a list of verses teaching God knows what we would choose under various settings.  (link)   Steve Hays responded, providing two alternative views of these texts. The first grants that the passages teach what a person would in various settings but denies we are choosing1. Here’s Steve’s suggested alternative:

God knows what might have happened because he knows how things would turn out had he decreed that alternative.

And that’s also consistent with God as the final source of every alternate possibility. What’s possible is a measure of divine omnipotence. God knows what God is capable of doing. Divine omnipotence is the engine generating those possibilities. (link)

I don’t think omnipotence (i.e. God’s capabilities) is enough to account for these passages. Imaging God creates Santa (which of course He could do). God could have Santa deliver toys this year or He could have Santa occupy Wall Street instead. How does He know which would happen if Santa existed? God must not only be able to do either, but He must choose one.

The Dominicans (early opponents of the Molinists) said God decrees not only what will happen, but also what would happen under every possible scenario. If you believe in God’s decree about what would happen in every hypothetical world, then you could use that view to account for these texts. And they accuse me of imposing speculative philosophy on scripture. James White once said middle knowledge reminded him of the Star Trek episode when Spock had a beard. Welcome to the club.

Steve also posted a link to Brandon’s post suggesting that in Matthew 11:21-23, Christ uses a figure of speech meaning Capernaum is more hard-hearted than Sodom. (link)   Unquestionably Christ is teaching Capernaum is more hard-hearted than Sodom, but how is He teaching that? Are we looking at a divine guess? No way I am buying that. Is it exaggeration? Rhetorical exaggeration works if the person knows you are exaggerating. If I tell my kids, have some of this salsa, but not that one or smoke will come out of your ears, it works, because they know I am exaggerating. But is it obvious Christ is exaggerating? No, what He is saying is plausible. Besides, His point is better made with the truth.

Brandon also suggests that in 1 Corinthians 2:8, if the leaders knew who Christ was, they could not have killed Him. Granted, it would have been much harder, but impossible? What about Satan or Judas? They faced hard evidence and still rebelled.


1At least what I mean by choosing and what I strongly believe the bible means by choosing - Steve and I had an extended debate on this, which I don’t mean to reopen, but clearly we ended with different views (link))

God Blames us when we Don't use our Abilities for Him

Jeremiah 5:21"Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.

This passage implies the Israelites were able to see and hear but refused to do so. God gave them the ability but they didn’t use it. Not only could they do otherwise, but they should have. We are accountable to God for how we use the freedom and ability He gave us.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Middle Knowledge in Scripture

One of the criticisms I repeatedly hear of middle knowledge is that it’s a philosophical system rather than scriptural. Now the two scriptural pillars of middle knowledge are the many passages saying men choose and the many passages saying God is in control. Middle knowledge reconciles the two.

However, there’s no shortage of the passages more directly supporting middle knowledge – those passages showing that God’s knows what we would choose under different settings. It’s not as if scripture limits middle knowledge to the famous examples of David in Keilah or the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon. Here’s a list of passages showing God does know what we would choose in various circumstances : Deuteronomy 28:51-57, 1 Samuel 23:6-10, Ezekiel 3:6-7, Jeremiah 49:9, Obadiah 1:5, Matthew 11:21-23, Matthew 12:7, Matthew 23:27-32, Matthew 24:43, Luke 16:30-31, Luke 22:67-68, John 8:39, John 8:42, John 14:28, John 15:19, John 18:36, 1 Corinthians 2:8, Galatians 4:15, and 1 John 2:19.

Some may still protest this fall short of a full-fledge systematic presentation. Well show me the scriptural full-fledge systematic presentation of supra or sub lapsarianism or the Trinity or your brand of eschatology.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Do Permissible Options Imply LFW?

Numbers 30:13 Every vow and every binding oath to afflict her soul, her husband may confirm it, or her husband may make it void. (NKJV)
This passage teaches that both options were permissible, neither option being a sin. Calvinists would probably respond by saying permissible options do not imply that the man can choose either option but why it does not is beyond me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Handful of Anti-Molinist Arguments

Steve Hays recently launched a series of anti-Molinism arguments, mostly in response to William Lane Craig’s defense of Molinism here.

Steve’s first criticism of Molinism is to call it fate and fatalistic, because in Molinism God does not decide what we would freely do in various circumstances.  (link) Steve doesn’t explain why this qualifies as fatalism.  Was the Cowboys selection of Tryon Smith fatalistic just because the first eight players were off the board?  No, just because you don’t decide everything does not mean you cannot decide anything or that the outcome of what you do choose is inevitable.  While God does not determine what we would choose in various circumstances, He does decide the circumstances.  Steve is confusing the inability to determine everything with the inability to determine anything.

Steve’s second criticism of Molinsim is that “So not only must God play the hand he’s been dealt, but he was dealt that hand from a fictitious deck by a fictitious dealer!”  (link) Steve basis this argument on Craig’s statements that “the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him are outside His control. He has to play with the hand He has been dealt” and on Craig’s denial that abstract objects, like numbers, exist.  But counterfactuals of freedom are not abstract objects like numbers.  Imagine God has a hypothetical simulator machine and keeps it in your basement.  He puts hypothetical people in it and it spits out scenarios.  The idea of the simulator machine or the idea of its output, the scenarios, may be abstract objects like numbers, but the machine is not.  It’s sitting in your basement.  Steve is confusing God’s thoughts and ability to hypothesize with the concepts of God’s thoughts and ability to hypothesize. 

Steve’s third criticism of Molinism is that it’s incoherent to talk about what a person would do if we assume they had a radically different past and were in completely different circumstances, like JFK being born in medieval Tibet.  This assumes there is nothing more to us than our nature, genetics and circumstances.  It’s like we could have an identity swap with another person, so long as that other person had our genetics, memories and upbringing.  But the bible does talk about what people would do if they had been born in another time, like the Pharisees in Christ time would have killed the OT prophets (Matthew 23:29-32) or what Christ’s servants would do if His kingdom had been of this world (John 18:36).  Such statements are not incoherent, in part because there is such a thing as “us”, over and above our circumstances and genetics.

Steve’s fourth criticism of Molinism is that God’s not determining what we would choose in every setting conflicts with His omnipotence.  Steve even compares William Lane Craig to a Rabbi who’s rejected by Orthodox Jews and popular among Mormans for denying omnipotence.  (link)  The comparison is uncalled for and would be like comparing Calvinists to Hindus with an evil god.  Probably Steve’s argument would look something like God cannot create a rock so big He cannot lift it because the idea of a rock so big God cannot lift is logically impossible.  There’s no such rock, and similarly there’s no such thing as libertarian free will. But if LFW is impossible, God does not have LFW, as Plantinga points out (see Theism and Persons within Advice to Christian Philosophers (link)). But perhaps Steve is a uniwiller; holding it’s impossible for more than one libertarian free will to exist.  If so, he should present his argument and meanwhile here’s a decent Molinist account of omnipotence by Flint and Freddoso (link).