Thursday, August 20, 2015

Molinism - Responses to a Some Attempted Defenses

Someone posting under the name Richard Bushey has a post attempting to defend Molinism against some of the criticisms offered by my friend, Dr. James White (link). I'd like to rebut a few points.

Is Molinism too heavily reliant on philosophy? Mr. Bushey argues that philosophy is inherent to every kind of theology. However, that misses the point. The problem is not simply that Molinism employs philosophy but that it is (at best) totally speculative, based solely on philosophy, rather than being based on Scripture with philosophy being employed to draw out what is implied by Scripture.

Does Molinism begin with libertarian free will aka the "autonomous will of man"? It certainly does. Mr. Bushey says that Molinist just "recognize that freedom of the will exists." The problem is that Molinists cannot establish this starting principle from Scripture. The Scriptures teach that man has a will and that he makes decisions, but not that man's will is autonomous. On the contrary, the Scriptures have plenty of contrary examples.

Does Molinism compromise God's sovereignty? Yes, though not as much Mr. Bushey seems to be willing to let it. Mr. Bushey thinks that on Molinism, God "does not have to dictate every single movement to have sovereignty." Actually, on Molinism God does decide every single movement in his decree to instantiate a single feasible world. Even so, God's sovereignty is compromised because there is a difference between the set of "possible worlds" that God could create, and the set of "feasible worlds" that humans would cooperate in bringing about. Thus, God's choices are limited by human autonomy. Oddly, they are limited by a human autonomy not even yet in existence and consequently having no actual basis.

Mr. Bushey admits, "the Molinist is saying that with the additive of human freedom, then God’s choices become limited because he wants to persist in allowing humans the luxury and virtue of freedom of the will." Since this imagined freedom supposedly results in the eternal damnation of many, it hardly seems appropriate to call it a luxury, and it quite obviously isn't a virtue when exercised in that way.

Furthermore, the idea that freedom to fall into damnation is somehow a good thing contradicts the idea that heaven is going to be a good place, since we won't have the possibility of falling into damnation. Similarly, God himself necessarily lacks the freedom to sin, which suggests that the freedom to sin is certainly not a virtue and is not truly a luxury.

Finally, the Scriptures do not teach or suggest that God has a desire that humans be autonomous. That's that unbiblical philosophical presupposition creeping back in.

Is predestination still personal on Molinism? In some strains of Molinism, where it is suggested that God tries to save the maximum number of people, it does seem impersonal to that extent. Naturally, there are a variety of Molinistic views, so William Lane Craig's views on that point are not representative of the entire spectrum of Molinists. When God chooses to instantiate a particular world, that inevitably leads to a particular group of individuals certainly being saved and all the others being certainly lost, on Molinism. So, from that perspective, it is personal and individual.

Who dealt God the cards? One of the central problems of Molinism is the grounding objection. I've dealt with at length in a previous post (here), so I won't repeat it all. In short, while human autonomy is supposed to limit God's choices prior to the final decree of creation, the problem is that there is no existing created thing at that logical instant to provide the limitation, and the limitation is not internal to God. It's an insoluable problem that can get glossed over, but which ought to trouble every Molinist. On Molinism, God is not literally dealt cards by a card dealer, but what other than a co-eternal being could limit God before God's decree to create?

Does Molinism retain freedom of the will? On Molinism, a person in a particular situation would always make the same decision. That does not look, walk, or quack like autonomy - it sounds like determinism. IF a die is a fair die, it has an equal probability of coming up 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. But the Molinist will would, in a particular situation, always come up the same. That looks more like loaded dice.

Is David's experience in Keliah evidence for Molinism? Some Molinists think that God's answer to David's hypothetical question supports the idea of middle knowledge, because it suggests God knows what a person would do, even in circumstances that don't come to pass. Unfortunately, these Molinists have overlooked that God's answer is exactly the same as it would be if the men of Keliah were purely deterministic. If you don't see why, just substitute a non-human in David's question - "If I stay, will the walls collapse on me?" Obviously, in that case, the answer has nothing to do with middle knowledge. The same is the case with David's actual question. The only reason for thinking it has to do with middle knowledge is the insertion of the idea of an autonomous human will - an insertion that lacks basis in Scripture.


I've skipped over the stuff about Dr. White supposedly not knowing various things. Those accusations can hopefully be seen to be false in view of the explanations above.


Richard Bushey said...

Mr Turretin,

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I appreciate the polite demeanor that you maintained throughout this response. Too often on the internet, people just do not know how to behave when engaging with those with whom they disagree.

First, even if you disagree that Molinism remains within the confines of biblical theology, that is not quite the point. I was enunciating the task of the philosophical theologian and expressing the virtue and merit of the project of philosophical theology. Christians often rely upon that sort of reflection, even without thinking about it. For example, upon reflecting on God's sovereignty, the Calvinist would conclude that there is no libertarian human freedom. That is philosophical reflection that undergirds theology. The same can be said of Molinism. The Molinist is reflecting upon God's sovereignty and human freedom and asking how to form a cohesive model.

Second, we certainly would have an exegetical difference with regard to autonomy. The Molinist would say that there are scriptural examples that indicate libertarian freedom. The Calvinist would say that these are misinterpretations. However, it is important to treat each other fairly and recognize that we are trying to interpret Scripture. There is no point to mount these accusations that those with whom you disagree do not care about Scripture. Men such as Doctor Michael Brown, who Doctor White has debated and seems to be friends with, is one of the most passionate Arminian Christians that I am aware of and it is unthinkable that such a man would not care about Scripture. If we are to respect each other, it is just not helpful for us to mount these accusations against those with whom we disagree.

Third, I do not think that Molinism compromises sovereignty. There is no reason to think that sovereignty *necessitates* that God is micromanaging. That would be a departure from the normal usage of the word "sovereignty." As I pointed out in my original article, even in the case of God's inability to create a world in which all free creatures are saved, this would not negate his sovereignty. This is because he has the capacity to absorb human freedom and create a world in which all are saved in the way that the Calvinist thinks that they are. But *if* God wants to grant humans the provision of freedom, it follows that he might not be able to create a world in which all people freely accept him.

Fourth, you raise two philosophical objections to human freedom. Upon philosophical reflection upon the scriptural truths concerning human freedom, you have yielded these two philosophical arguments. You suggest that if human freedom were such a virtue, then we would have it in Heaven. Well, I am not compelled to think that. I think that there are some things that are good which we only have in this world. Among them are courage, self-sacrifice, and freedom of the will. Likewise, there are many things that are good which we could not have in this world. For God to give human beings all of the "goods" he would have to create a two-world system. Your second philosophical argument was that God would be granting a freedom that he does not possess. Well, I think he does possess it. God is free to choose anything that he wants. But he is morally praiseworthy because he always chooses that which is righteous and holy.

Richard Bushey said...

Fifth, I responded to the horrid example of philosophical theology known as the "grounding objection" in my original post. The first time I heard it, I thought that Dr White was just rambling and saying random things. But apparently, he thinks that this is a serious argument (which reminds me of Professor Richard Dawkins thinking that the Boehing 747 Gambit was a serious argument). Nobody dealt God the cards. On Molinism, God's choices are limited because he wants to grant human beings the provision of freedom. With that desire comes the innumerable possible worlds. But God's desire to grant freedom to humanity is internal to God.

Sixth, you seem to misunderstand what a circumstance is. When we say a "circumstance," we are not saying, as Doctor White thinks, a similar occurrence on a different day. We are not saying that every day, Doctor White will eat the same lunch with no exceptions. We are not saying that if you roll the dice at the blackjack table again and again, it will always yield the same number. A "circumstance" in this context would be unique. It would only happen once. Every day, there are different factors to consider. When Doctor White eats lunch on Monday, there are different factors to consider when he eats lunch on Tuesday.

Seventh, you suggest that David and Keliah should be read deterministically. Well, I would be inclined to agree, if the events that the ephod foretold actually occurred. God told the David that if he stays, Saul will attack the city and that the people will turn him over. This is not deterministic because none of these events actually happened. This is knowledge of what would have happened in different circumstances.

In conclusion, while I appreciate your taking the time to reply, as I read through and respond to your arguments, I have the impression that you are just repeating the original arguments that were rendering without taking my responses into consideration (at least in some cases). For example, when you talk about whether Molinism compromises libertarian freedom, you do not interact with my argument where I pointed out that this assumes that foreknowledge negates human freedom nor the argument wherein I pointed out that the circumstances are different every day. You just brushed passed them and summarized the original argument. So in many cases, I am confused about why this article was even directed at me because you just do not interact with what I said. You just sort of rehash the original arguments.

Turretinfan said...

As to your first issue, my point about Molinism being unbiblical is not that it relies on philosophy, it's that it does not rely on Scripture as its source.

As to your second issue, my point is that Molinism lacks Scriptural warrant. My post doesn't say that Molinists "do not care about Scripture."

As to your third issue, (a) your rebuttal seems to suppose that there can be conflicting desires in God, (b) your rebuttal assumes that human freedom must be autonomous, and (c) divine sovereignty and creaturely autonomy are (minimally) apparently contradictory. Even if it were true that God could cede part of his sovereignty to creatures, that would simply reduce God's sovereignty.

As to your fourth issue, first part, the problem is that you haven't established that "freedom of will" is itself a virtue. There is no reason to accept your assertion/belief that it is.

As to your fourth issue, second part, yikes. Also, Scripture directly contradicts your idea that God has the capacity to sin.

As to your fifth issue, you haven't actually addressed the grounding objection.

As to your sixth issue, your assertion that I've misunderstood something is wrong. Your representation of my views is wrong, and you should go back and re-read my post.

As to your seventh issue, your argument is invalid, as easily demonstrated by my falling walls counter-example.

You complained that I didn't address all of the errors in your original post. Since you picked a few, I'll address those.

"I pointed out that this assumes that foreknowledge negates human freedom"

It doesn't "assume" that. What the argument demonstrates is that what is known via middle knowledge doesn't have the characteristics of freedom.

"the circumstances are different every day"

Obviously. And while Molinism denies that the circumstances determine the human choice, middle knowledge functions as though they do, such that for any given circumstance there is only one thing that a person would do with 100% probability, not two things with 50% probability, or any similarly free scenario.


michael said...

TF //On Molinism, God is not literally dealt cards by a card dealer, but what other than a co-eternal being could limit God before God's decree to create?//

Well being a Trinitarian I can think of two who could deal a deck of cards that could limit God in those middle knowledge worlds but not in this world we live in! But that would be impossible there because God is One!

The God of the Bible, Three Persons, says in the Bible God cannot lie. The Bible teaches us that out of nothing God creates, ex nihilo. That is apparently an impossibility the Molinist cannot overcome in their philosophical theology argument about God!

Really none of this can exist in those other worlds that apparently exist in that realm of middle knowledge without humans really existing in those other worlds. The only other places we know of where humans truly exist is in Hades or Paradise right now. Middle knowledge seems to me to be the phantom in this world where Molinism is being debated.

Keith Patton said...

Uh, actually, James White *does* accept Molinism. Hear him admit to accepting the underlying premise here:

Turretinfan said...

Cute catch, Keith. It does sound a little like middle knowledge and Molinism. Obviously, there is plenty Dr. White has said elsewhere that clarifies his position, but nice catch!