Monday, December 15, 2008

Responses to Response to Twilight/Molinism Post

Both Steve Hayes and TheoJunkie (TJ) have responded to my previous post (link) on the movie Twilight and Molinism.

TJ wrote:
But what would Joe the Plumber think?

You gave a basic premise statement regarding Molinism... can you provide a corresponding direct basic premise statement regarding Calvinism? Your post hints at it, but does not come out and say it.

You said that the basic premise of middle knowledge is that God knows what a particular person would do in a particular situation, prior to God's decision as to what the future will be...

It seems clear that you would not state the Calvinistic premise in exact opposite terms from the Molinist premise, i.e.: that God knows what a particular person would do in a particular situation, AFTER God's decision as to what the future will be. For this statement falls somewhere between nonsense and the fatalistic "floppy string" idea.

Your post suggests that the basic premise of Calvinism is that God knows what a particular person will do in a particular situation, because God decided that is what the person will do in that particular situation (which of course is informed by God's decision as to what will occur in the future).

However, this statement-- without elaboration-- appears to affirm the accusations of "puppetry" that some levy against Calvinism.

We know the bible says God directs a man's steps. Yet we observe that those steps are the steps we choose to take.

Do you consider that God directs the will in each decision, or is it possible that God directs circumstances (the particulars of a particular situation) in order to bring about the steps he has chosen for the man in advance? Or would you agree it is a little of both (or either/or depending on what needs to be done in the moment)?

Is it even possible to incorporate that into a basic premise statement?
I answer:

Calvinism teaches that God's knowledge, which is truly simple, is viewed for analytical purposes under two aspects. First, there is natural knowledge. Second, there is free knowledge. Natural knowledge is the knowledge of all possible things - all things that are logically possible. Free knowledge is the knowledge of all things that arise from God's exercise of his will.

One might argue (and probably a Molinist would argue) that hypothetical questions (for example: "If I stay in the city, will the men of the city deliver me into the hands of my enemy?") raise a third category of knowledge. This apparent third category, however, disappears upon further examination.

A hypothetical question, properly framed, hypothecates something (the hypothecand) and asks for a consequence of that hpyothecand. There are a number of possible forms of hypothetical questions.

1) Questions as to abstract ideas.
Example 1: If the conclusion does not follow from the premises, is the syllogism valid?
Example 2: If three is divided by pi, is the quotient less than one?

These questions would be answered from natural knowledge. Both relate to matters of definition and/or logic. These are not the sorts of hypothetical questions that Molinists are interested in.

2) Questions as to Factual Things
Example 1: If Christ is raised, will we also be raised?
Example 2: If I am a man, do I have authority over all women?

In both of these example, the hypothecand is factual. Christ is raised, and I am a man. These questions would normally be answered from free knowledge. God has decreed that we will be raised with Christ - and God has not given me authority over all women.

3) Questions as to Logically Impossible Things
Example 1: If up is down, ...
Example 2: If nothing truly exists, ...

In these cases, the hypothecand is logically impossible. The rest of the question does not really matter, because the question is predicated on something incoherent. This category of hypothetical questions is also not interesting to the Molinist.

4) Questions as to Factually Untrue Things
Example 1: If Abraham Lincoln had not been shot, would Reconstruction of the South progressed differently?
Example 2: If I die tomorrow, will I go to heaven?

I don't really know whether the hypothecand in Example 2 is factually untrue yet. Let's just assume it is not true for the sake of the argument. These are the sorts of questions to which Molinists typically appeal, referring to them as "counterfactual" statements.

These questions raise some interesting epistemological issues. Is any answer to these questions totally speculative, are there "true" and "false" answers to these questions, or is there some other available category? I believe the best answer is to specify a third category.

The third category is that the question should not be interpreted as looking for a "true" or "false" answer with respect to history. After all, in the first example, one recognizes that historical hypothecand did not take place, in the latter example, one has no way of knowing whether the future hypothecand will take place.

Accordingly, the question is looking for an answer that has a speculative component, but not simply a speculative component. If we provide a third example, we can see how this might be:

Example 3: In a game of War, Mike played a Queen. If I had played a King, would I have beaten Mike? (Or, "Mike has played a Queen. If my next card is a King, will I beat Mike?")

Those people who know the rules of the card game, War, can readily answer the question in the affirmative. After all, that's what the question is really getting after: what are the rules? (You could also phrase the question such that you are saying, "Mike has played a King, will my next card beat Mike's?" which is really asking about what card is next in your stack of cards.)

Example 2, above, has a similar object. It is asking less about the existence of a situation in which the hypothecand is true, and more about the rules of salvation, as it were. When a preacher asks you, "If you died right this minute, would you go to heaven?" he is asking about whether you are justified - right with God. If you are right with God, then the answer would be in the affirmative. If you are not justified, then the answer would be in the negative.

Example 1, above, is a bit more complex. Ultimately, though, what it looks like is that the questioner is asking about is a cause/effect relation. Obviously, there is some speculation, but the answer will typically revolve around the differing attitudes of Lincoln vs. Johnson towards the South, as well as the psychological impact of the assassination.

The underlying presupposition to such a question is that humans behave an orderly, generally predictable way. If we say that Reconstruction would have been kinder and gentler, then we are really saying something about the softer character of Lincoln. Alternatively, if we say that it would have been more severe, we may be saying something about the terror that the assassination had on Johnson.

To take a Biblical example:

1 Samuel 23:12 Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up.

The LORD here is saying something about the character of the men of Keilah: their fear of Saul was greater than their loyalty to David. Had David stayed, this aspect of their nature would have resulted in their handing David over to Saul. God doesn't answer David either, "They might or might not - depends what I decree," or "They might or might not - depends what they choose." Instead, God reveals something to David about the hearts of men of Keilah, something that God could see, though David could not see.

So, to answer, your question: no, there's not a corresponding statement in Calvinism, because Calvinism rejects a third category of knowledge called "middle knowledge." Instead, Calvinism addresses hypothetical questions asked now, in time, as relating either to natural or free knowledge, depending on the situation, as illustrated above.

You also asked: "Do you consider that God directs the will in each decision, or is it possible that God directs circumstances (the particulars of a particular situation) in order to bring about the steps he has chosen for the man in advance? Or would you agree it is a little of both (or either/or depending on what needs to be done in the moment)?" God works all things together - so that the operate according to his infinitely perfect plan. How God does this is not always clear. God seems to have set in place "laws of nature" (for example) that dictate how matter moves and acts, and God also seems to have set in place certain sociological or psychological laws that dictate how human beings move and act. The study of economics, for example, is possible because of the general predictability of humans, which suggests underlying laws of behavior. Nevertheless, it is not always clear in any given case how God directs such-and-such a person to decide on such-and-such a course of action. One thing we deny: that God does violence to man's will in the ordinary course of life.

Steve Hays of Triablogue also has provided some comments (here). His thoughts are mostly not directly directed as critique on what I wrote but as relating to science fiction stories regarding time travel. I have enjoyed at least one of Steve's short stories on time travel (I have this one in mind), and obviously my post shouldn't be interpreted as any sort of condemnation of those stories.

Steve mentions, "5. Finally, I’m not entirely sure if I agree with Turretin Fan on the coherence of prophecy. The potential problem is this: if a prophecy is too detailed, it generates a dilemma. For it thereby invites its own failure." Steve mentions that a very detailed prophecy could still be fulfilled even if it were communicated in great detail to a person, but he states that "However, Calvinism traditionally rejects such a coercive model of fulfillment." I think it is fair to say that Calvinism generally does reject the idea that God normally operates coercively with respect to man's will. Of course, though, God is not limited to using coercive means to bring about his end. On the other hand, the story of Jonah provides something of a counter-example. Ultimately, though, I agree that God does not bring about the fulfillment of prophecy in a fatalistic way. Thus, if the prophecy about Cyrus' name was communicated to Cyrus' mother, God also arranged that this woman would enjoy fulfilling the prophecy.

Ultimately, any thought there is need for fatalistic measures lies in a limited view of the extent of God's arrangement of things. In other words, God could arrange it so that He would not be revealing the future to uncooperative people (I think this corresponds - at least roughly - to the restrictions that Steve places on prophecy in his article). If God communicates the future, he does so for a reason - perhaps even the reason of bringing about the future. I found it interesting to observe in the recent Disney film, "Kung Fu Panda," that the Kung Fu master is depicted as a type 2 seer, seeing the unavoidable future. In an interesting plot device (*spoiler alert*), the fact that the prophecy cannot be avoided is foreshadowed by a cryptic comment by the senior master. The prophecy relates to the escape of a particular prisoner. The junior master, not realizing that the escape is inevitable, sends his messenger to warn the prison. While at the prison, the messenger drops an item (a feather) that enables the prisoner to escape, thereby leading to the fulfillment of the prophecy.

-Turretinfan

3 comments:

natamllc said...

Of course, it also depends on whose side of the tracks you begin reading this article, from, the natural knowledge or free knowledge. From God's perspective, He can take and receive us on either side.

I am glad for TJ's questions.

It allows me to post some Biblical exegetical answers.

Here's a place that I have been "dying" to post these verses, ah, TJ's questions:

Psa 71:1 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!
Psa 71:2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!
Psa 71:3 Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Psa 71:4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.

A question: Is it natural or free when God made that command to save him, King David? When did that command go forth?

Compatiblism seems to find it's place there and here when one sees and understands both natural knowledge and free knowledge being handled by a really dumb, stupid, hard, crusty old man, the Apostle Peter, "made alive" in Christ Himself, and only after He, that is Christ "made him alive", died for him too by the "command" of God to save the Elect:::>

2Pe 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2Pe 1:2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Note well these words, "knowledge, and knowledge" used by Peter in this chapter.

The first is "free knowledge" and the second is "natural knowledge".

Let me explain. See verses 2, 3 and 8? The Greek word is:::>

ἐπίγνωσις
epignōsis
ip-ig'-no-sis
From G1921; recognition, that is, (by implication) full discernment, acknowledgement: - (ac-) knowledge (-ing, -ment).

See verses 5 and 6?

That word is:::>

γνῶσις
gnōsis
gno'-sis
From G1097; knowing (the act), that is, (by implication) knowledge: - knowledge, science.

Now, look at both knowledges from this perspective:::>

Rev 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

See the phrase: "let the one who desires "take" the water of..."

That Greek word is:::>

λαμβάνω
lambanō
lam-ban'-o
A prolonged form of a primary verb, which is used only as an alternate in certain tenses; to take (in very many applications, literally and figuratively [probably objective or active, to get hold of; whereas G1209 is rather subjective or passive, to have offered to one; while G138 is more violent, to seize or remove]): - accept, + be amazed, assay, attain, bring, X when I call, catch, come on (X unto), + forget, have, hold, obtain, receive (X after), take (away, up).

What does this mean?

Paul exhorted that we are to "lay hold" of Eternal Life, to get ahold of it, receive it, "take" it. It's provided freely to us.

Now let me bring a focus to the significance of the understanding to what I am pointing to Biblically:::>

Mat 7:8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

See that word "receives"? It is the same as "take" at Revelation 22:17 and this here:::>

Mat 8:17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: "He took our illnesses and bore our diseases."

See that word "took"? It is the same word as receive and take hold of, "lambano".

The natural knowledge and the free knowledge are from God. How then does one receive and take at the same time?

Well it comes down to the Faith once delivered to the Saints and that brings me back to Psalms 71. "God commanded it so". He sent to us a Savior, Christ the Lord to do both for us even when we were unwilling to receive or take it ourselves!

The reprobates, well, the only "knowledge" they have and know is that that they have been given from their father the Devil. They will never receive or take hold of free knowledge. Their only track is natural. Of course this is a mystery. And if anyone of you can explain it, go ahead! :)

Now, lest you miss the point, Jesus did rebuke Peter for being naturally of "his" father the Devil, who was setting his mind on the things of man, naturally and blinded to the mind of God, His Will, remember?

Mat 16:22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you."
Mat 16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."


Finally, this idea of "compatibility" for both natural knowledge and free knowledge does exist freely in this world.

However, we, with natural knowledge, will never be able to come to God's free knowledge. It is indeed a paradox how we can be now, dead, free men and alive, slaves to all mankind at the same time.

It is an act of God, Who, freely bestowed upon the foreordained Called, elected, thus God's command goes forth even in these days and the Holy Ghost and Christ now receive us, by the command of His by Grace and Mercy, the Elect of God. Jesus came and took our place in this natural world of science and history as a son of Adam's race. He was born "emmanuel" of that blessed Virgin Mary into this world filled with demons who wish to undo us all.

He did not, as some assert, come and take "all" mankind to Himself, receiving them freely:::>

Rev 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,
Rev 5:10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."


No, He did not and I submit, when you are grappling with these ideas, it would be wise to heed John's warning, starting there, again, at Revelation 22:17:::>

Rev 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
Rev 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book,
Rev 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
Rev 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
Rev 22:21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

TheoJunkie said...

Thanks for the detailed response, TF.

Turretinfan said...

My pleasure. Obviously, partly this was an excuse to discuss Molinism at greater depth.

:)

-TurretinFan