Friday, June 27, 2014

Response to Nathanael Taylor on Molinism


Nathanael P. Taylor is posting a series on Molinism (link) Here’s his description of Molinism.

In Molinism, it’s been true through all eternity past that if I were in a circumstance C, then I would have faith in Christ. Logically, this means that it was true prior to God choosing to create this actual world. However, this just happens to be true—it is a contingent truth. In other words, something different could have been true from all eternity past. The counterfactual that if I were in a circumstance then I would have faith in Christ could have either been truth or false.

Suppose this counterfactual statement turned out true—you might ask, “What makes this counterfactual true or false?” And the answer is that nothing makes it true. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are just true from all eternity past and, oddly, nothing makes them true. God can’t make them true because that would mean God has control over the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, resembling Calvinism. Creatures can’t make them true because they were true before creatures existed. So nothing makes them true; they are just brute facts.

Molinists are not committed to saying “counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are just true and nothing makes them true”. We need not be committed to any specific view of grounding or if any grounding is required. We are however committed to denying any form of grounding that implies causal determinism. Take the classical text on Ezekiel’s mission (Ezekiel 3:6-7). God’s statement that foreigners would repent is true because, if they were in that circumstance, that’s what they would do. So we are committed to saying that, supposing God created a parallel universe in which He sends Ezekiel to say India, they would freely repent.

There’s a difference between grounding questions and grounding objections. It’s fine to say “I don’t know” if someone asks how counterfactuals are grounded. But if someone advances from the question to the objection that 1) nothing grounds counterfactuals of freedom and 2) counterfactuals of freedom need to be grounded in some existing thing, we need to examine their presuppositions that led them to this position. In Natanael’s case, he seems to be presupposing that only causal determinism could ground counterfactuals of freedom, which is to presuppose that there can be no counterfactuals of freedom. Indeed, he seems to hold this as a brute fact. It just is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Molinism and God's Infallible Plan

Turretinfan recently posted on Dr. Anderson’s argument that on Molinism God’s decrees are fallible, because we can choose otherwise than God decrees. (link to Turretinfan’s post; link to Dr. Anderson’s post).  But Dr. Craig pointed out that if the person would have chosen otherwise, God’s decrees would have been different.  Dr. Anderson then called this solution a “special pleading” and argued Molinists should not be allowed to exclude God’s decree.  His supporting reasons were 1) God’s decree implies we will not do otherwise (he called this a relative logical necessity) and 2) God’s decree has causal consequences.  Turretinfan accepts Dr. Anderson’s arguments and adds that sometimes prophesies are self-fulfilling (i.e. a prophesied victory motivates troops to fight).    

This is a complex business but fortunately the answer is simple.  Here’s a chart explaining Molinism:


Dr. Anderson asks us to explain middle knowledge in light of God’s decree.  In doing so, he redraws the chart moving the Divine Creative Decree above moment 2. No, middle knowledge explains God’s decree not the other way around.  Nor was Molinism invented to evade Dr. Anderson’s arguments against Molinism.

The remaining arguments say how important God’s decree is: 1) it implies the event will happen, 2) it has causal influences, 3) it leads to self-fulfilling prophesies.  But we do not exclude God’s power to do all these things from God’s middle knowledge, or our analysis of man’s free will.[note 1]  Nor do we deny that such factors logically imply that the event will happen.  What we deny is that God’s decree, causal influence or the causal influence of self-fulfilling prophesies causally determine the event.  That is to say, given the causal influence of such factors, and indeed, given all proceeding causal influences, the person retains a twofold causal ability, such that he can choose A or ~A.  Dr. Anderson seems to recognize this when he says:

“It isn’t a causal determinism, but it’s still determinism in the sense that God’s decree that S will do A (which is fixed prior to any of S’s choices) guarantees that S will do A. Given that God has decreed that S will do A, S cannot do otherwise than A.”


While I would have worded the conclusion as “it cannot be, that S will do otherwise than A” rather than “S cannot do otherwise than A”, I agree with the substance of Dr. Anderson’s comments – on Molinism, God’s decree does not lead to causal determinism but it does imply the decreed events will happen.  So, Molinists explain God’s infallibility through infallible knowledge and inescapable logical implications rather than causal determinism.  

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Note 1 - While the decree itself follows middle knowledge, the possibility of the decree and the causal influence of the decree (and self fulfilling prophecies) are a part of God's natural knowledge.  Again, Dr. Anderson and Turretinfan redraw the chart to push moment 1 under moment 2.  No, God’s power to decree, and the causal influences His decree can have and the influence self-fulfilling prophesies can have are all part of God’s natural knowledge and therefore helps explain middle knowledge and man's free will.

Thursday, June 5, 2014