Friday, November 06, 2009

Responding to Wes Widner

I had been planning to respond to Wes Widner's critique of Dr. White on Molonism (critique here) but then I noticed Steve Hays' response to Widner (Steve Hays' response here).

Steve Hays does a great job, so for a detailed response, see his comments. I'll add a few thoughts of my own by way of supplement to what Steve has already said.

Wes Widner states: "Middle Knowledge (and William Lane Craig in particular) does not teach that God's soverignty is trumped or determined by man's free will or by God's Middle Knowledge of man's free will."

Yes, it does. Consider Craig's claim:
What I am simply saying is that God's aims in this life, in this world, are for a maximum number of people to come to know God and His salvation as fully as possible. And it is possible that that would not be achieved in a world that did not involve as much suffering and evil as this world does. Far from being counter-intuitive, I find that very plausible.

That's at least a conditional trumping claim. There's no claim that God is required to create, but if he does, and if he creates free will beings, and if he wishes to save the maximum number of people (as Craig insists), he is restricted to actualizing worlds in which their is suffering and evil on account of the free will of the creatures.

Wes Widner also states: "It is disingenuous to claim that Molinism is a philosophy whereas causal determinism isn't."

That's a mischaracterization of the situation. Molinism is merely philosophical. Causal determinism oozes from Scripture. It is provable from Scripture - making it a Biblical, and not merely a philosophical, position. Of course, causal determinism is a metaphysical claim. That's not the issue.

Wed Widner futher states: "You misrepresent Molinism as a doctrine wholly based on the freedom of man's will."

The foundation of Molinism is the novel concept of "middle knowledge." Middle knowledge is defined based on the actions of "free" creatures, especially men. So, to deny that Molinism is a doctrine wholly based on the freedom of man's will is only a plausible comment if one is using the terms "wholly" or "man" in a way that is stronger than anything the critics of Molinism would intend. As such, the assertion of misrepresentation is unfounded.

I'll limit my comments to those points in view of Steve's fuller discussion.



Acolyte4236 said...

Can you give a definition of causal determinism?

Jon Cardwell said...

Though I have yet to read Steve's post, a thought occurred to me as I was reading your post on Wes Widner... & please, Turretinfan, please do not think I'm inflating your ego or swelling you with flattering words. I suggest that it is possible for your to be swayed by my words because of the propensity of flesh to sin; however, I believe that you have grown in grace, by God's grace, to have an incredible handle upon Biblical truth, as well as a humility to take my words with however many grains of salt need be applied...

The more I read your work and words, the more I see the majesty of the Master, the wonderfulness of His work, and the wisdom of His way. Simply brilliant.

So the question, I need to ask myself is this: if you are Turretinfan, and I am a fan of Turretinfan, would that make me Turretinfanfan?

The initial thought was mildly amusing, however, having now typed it, I find it comically disturbing.

At any rate, dear brother, I'm blessed by your ministry.

Turretinfan said...

Thanks very much for your kind words, Jon! I'm glad that you're edified by what I write, and I am thankful that you recognize that I am seeking to be Biblical.

Turretinfan said...


Everything that comes to being has a cause or reason why it came to being in that way. Anything that changes has a cause or reason why it changes.

Does that help explain it for you?


Acolyte4236 said...

Actually, thats not a definition of causal determinism for a few reasons. That's the Principle of Sufficient Reason or something very much like it, not causal determinism.

Furthermore, causal indeterminists also think that everything that comes into existence has a cause too, so that doesn't discriminate causal determinism from causal indeterminism.

So, can you give a definition of causal determinism? We'd need a definition of the idea first to know if biblical passages teach it.

Also, do you affirm or deny the distinction between God's antecedent and consequent willing?

Turretinfan said...

Since you don't like my definition, how about you propose a definition of your own? I don't want to play a guessing game where I try to guess which definition will make you happy.

I'm not persuaded that because the definition I gave is also the principle of sufficient reason that it is not the definition of causal determinism.

A better explanation from you, if you think the definition is inadequate, would be to show how the definition I provided could apply to a system that (according to whatever definition you are using) doesn't involve causal determinism.

I'll let the Real Francis Turretin answer your final question:

Whether the will may be distinguished into antecedent and consequent? We deny. This distinction is in many ways injurious to God: 1) because it attributes to him contrary wills (viz., that God wills the salvation of all and wills the salvation of only some); that from eternity he seriously willed the salvation of Judas and yet, at the same time and in the same moment, knew that Judas never would believe; and that he did not will to give faith to Judas by which he might infallibly have been converted; yea, would even permit him to remain in his unbelief and to perish. God is never without the appropriate means to accomplish what he intends.

This distinction cannot have place in God without ascribing to him not only folly and importance (by making him intend seriously and desire with natural affection that which is not performed and cannot be performed through man because he himself does not will it); but also mutability because there can be no place for the consequent will until the antecedent is first rescinded. For how could God at the same time, by the same act of will, will to save all men and to damn the greater part of them?

It is repugnant to the gospel which constantly teaches that God wills to save not all simply, but only the elect and believers in Christ and that the means of salvation are not offered or conferred upon all, but only upon some. In fine, it overthrows the eternal election of God because it leaves it uncertain, founded not upon the good pleasure of God (eudokias) of God, but upon the human will (than which nothing is more uncertain and changeable). It makes it such as that no execution can answer to it (i.e., makes it void and inefficacious.).

Page 227-228 v1 of Turretin's, Institutes of Elenctic Theology.

Turretinfan said...


You wrote: "If the meaning of causal determinism were the same as the principle of sufficient reason, then it would follow that Molinists adhere to causal determinism, which is false. Therefore, the concepts are not the same."

Molinism cannot consistently accept the principle of sufficient reason. That's one flaw in that philosophical paradigm.

If you have no other objections, my definition (already provided above, whether you like it or not) stands.


Anonymous said...

I find it an interesting ploy by Acolyte4236.

But setting that aside I would proffer an "implicit" sense of causal determinism.

First I would note that I was trained as a commissioner who had to sit as judge during disputes between my Tribe, as the employer and their employee who had filed a grievance with my office. Sitting as a Judge is a very active causal event and by it one arrives at a determined outcome. The "Truth" determines the judgment and the outcome, at least, with my discipline, and its way, was always "predetermined" to actively find the Truth and rule in Truth's favor, no matter who was offended. Sometimes the Tribe wasn't happy with the decision. Sometimes the employee wasn't. Truth doesn't make anyone charging and accusing someone falsely happy!

With that caveat, in my opinion, here is a proffer of "Biblical" causal determinism:

Luk 4:5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,
Luk 4:6 and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.
Luk 4:7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours."
Luk 4:8 And Jesus answered him, "It is written, "'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'"

The outcome was determined in advance of the events that unfolded that fateful day.

Notice Christ, by virtue of His Eternal Nature, could have disputed with the devil, but He did not. Why?

Because of this doctrine of causal determinism.

Was everything the devil presented Christ the "truth"?. No. Why?

Because Christ is the "Truth".

What Christ knew and the devil "knew" Christ to be at that moment in time certainly is up for determination. At the end of the day though, Christ held to His Beliefs as the son of man because He is the Son of God, a predetermined actual reality that is and was and always will be.

It would be important for anyone being drawn to Christ to settle this determination as being predetermined by Grace alone through Faith alone from Scripture so as to respond with the same causal determination Christ did when responding to the devil's lies. Whatever the devil says truthfully will always be false.

He knew who the devil is. He knew what he represented was not the Truth seeing the lies were being told to the Truth Himself.

All this uncovers for the Saints Elected before the foundation of the world, predestined and foreordained to Life in Jesus Christ, is the utter insanity of the enemies we deal with on any given day, both demonic and human.

I would encourage anyone struggling with the Truth to heed Paul's direction to Timothy:

1Ti 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Turretinfan said...

Acolyte4236 wrote: "Reasons aren't causes which is why Molinists can and do accept the PSR consistently, and the vast majority of compatibilists admit as much."

The argument ad populum is noted, but not particularly compelling. Saying "reasons aren't causes" is a bit glib. The two terms have different semantic ranges, of course, but in the context of my definition (which is what you were supposedly criticizing) they are used interchangeably.

Acolyte4236 continued: "Augustine for example distinguishes between what God causes and what he ordains and there are some things he does not cause. Do you believe Augustine to be inconsistent as well?"

The difference between ordaining and causing relates to the agency of God. Augustine, like many other church fathers, agreed that God was the first cause.

Acolyte4236 provided the following definition of causal determinism: "Causal determinism is, roughly speaking, the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature."

It's the same definition that our friend GodIsMyJudge previously used and which I've already explained to be differentiable from Calvinism (link to that discussion)

Acolyte4236 added: "Antecedent states select for one and only one consequent state."

That is how the world works. There is only one future and only one past. And the past produced the present, which is producing the future. Of course, it is not (strictly speaking) the time itself that produces what happens, but the actors acting, whether they be molecules or men.

Acolyte further added: "One can affirm that every event has a cause without causal determinism as causal indeterminists think that every event has a cause."

I haven't seen any explanation of "causal indeterminism" that was coherent. Saying that something is the cause but did not determine the outcome seems self-apparently self-contradictory.


Turretinfan said...

Acolyte wrote: "Reasons aren’t causes since one can have a reason for doing something and it not occur. Decisions execute plans of actions which contain reasons."

Yes, there are uses of "reason" that do not overlap with "cause." That's a trivial point, especially since I've already conceded incomplete overlap.

"A reason for doing something" is conceptually different from a "reason why something came to be." So, naturally, your example is the wrong sort of reason.

Acolyte4236 wrote: "Your definition would include Open Theists and Molinists as advocating causal determinists since they also think that everything that occurs happens for a reason or a cause."

In theory, it might well include some open theists, but typically open theists like Molinists adopt a view of so-called "Libertarian Free Will."

Inherently, LFW prevents its advocates from properly identifying a reason or cause for a particular outcome vis-a-vis any other outcome, at least in an ultimate analysis (which can explore if necessary). Furthermore, in the case of LFW acts, it is equivocal for LFW advocates to assert (although some do) that the LFW acts occur for a reason or cause.

"There is a clear logical difference between saying, necessarily P causes Q and, If P causes Q, then necessarily Q."

Whether or not there is a logical difference between those two doesn't seem to be overly relevant to the discussion.

"On the one hand you reject the standard definition of causal determinism, of which theological determinism is a species (plug in God’s willing for the antecedent states) and yet on the other hand you remark that the “That is how the world works…past produced the present, which is producing the future…the actors acting, whether they be molecules or men.” These two seem inconsistent."

Perhaps you've overlooked something ...

Acolyte4236 wrote: "Augustine thinks that God is the first cause, but it doesn’t follow that God is the cause of everything, which he explicitly denies for example in his commentary on Genesis. Only things that have being can have a cause and for Augustine, evil has no being and hence strictly speaking, no cause. Taking God as the first cause doesn’t imply then that God causes all things. It doesn’t logically follow."

I lack time or interest to try to explain why God being the first cause does entail that God "causes," in a sense in which Augustine would not have used the term, all things. I've presented your comments above for the sake of letting you essentially have the last word on that sidebar.

Acolyte423 wrote: "Reporting that you find causal indeterminism incoherent isn’t a reason for thinking it is so."

In fact, it is a very weak reason. But since you have given no good reason for us to think that "causal indeterminism" is coherent, we have no reason to accept it simply because you assert it.

Acoylte4236 wrote: "My argument wasn’t an appeal to what most people believe, but to experts in a position to know what the term means."

What the term means ... in the contemporary literature. That's an important qualification. I was of the mistaken impression that you were asking questions to learn about what I meant by what I wrote. If you had asked what the term means in the contemporary literature, I would have told you. But, again, that gets us back to your guessing game approach of not liking my definitions and trying to argue from the popularity of some other definition.

Turretinfan said...


Thanks for your latest comment, which confirms to me that you had no interest in understanding what was being said.

You are hereby banned from this blog for one week.


Strong Tower said...

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” ...I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”

Who doubts that this will be done exactly as it is stated, even though it is posing a counterfactual.

We confess the full humanity of Christ. However, for him to be truly human in the MK sense, he would have had to have been born with the freedom to do other than the will of His Father. He could have not asked for the nations as his heritage except that would negate another fact- that he was conceived of the Spirit, bound to him from birth and could not deny it, nor was there sin in him such as is in us. We confess that there was never a time when he was not fully God and fully man, yet without sin. That begs the question, doesn't it, about the express image of God, the Son, into whose image we are conformed, as to whether or not he had potential to be a counterfactual. Was Christ, both the image of the Father and at the same time His anti-image? Could God imagine a Son who was not only his image? The potential for choice of a counterfactual would have had to reside within him, having no precedent, and no necessary result, such that when the question was asked, he could respond free from the Father's desire. Jesus the man, is incarnated in time, and therefore must be a product of the decree, as was stated, but we see that the knowledge of the decree and itself are at one in this Psalm. What that means is that God could only truly know that one incarnation which he decreed of the Son who is his expressed image. Why?

In the incarnated world, we see a Christ who is man make certain determined choices, "I always do the will of Him who sent me...I do nothing but what I see the Father doing." Never does Christ, the man, make the claim that he could of his LFW, choose to deny his Father. Did God, see himself in alternate worlds choosing against himself? For only then would Christ if Christ was being truthful about his Father's will. And seeing that to be the true son of man and the true Son of God they must also have the one and same Spirit, how then could the Father have truly known his Son in any other reality than that one he instantiated?

The heathen try to break this bondage of the decree, always, for in their world they are God who opposes God, equal to and even able to exalt their will above his will. The fact is that God in his omniscience can have knowledge of potential worlds, but can never see himself in any of those worlds choose against his nature because of who he is, naturally. It doesn't occur then in God that any potential is actual, or can be. That is, no other world but the world in which he sees himself truly there will he instantiated. Potentials are all impossible though all imagined worlds could be known by him. It then resolves, that man could exist in only one reality for only in one reality is there the true Christ, and at every moment of that reality God is in all ways who he is, ominiscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. What this means is that man can only make those choices in which God is the God who is there as true God.

That is what the heathen rages against- the fact that they do not do as they please and want to, but can't.

Turretinfan said...


I'd agree with most of what you are saying, although I think that the passage itself doesn't post a "counterfactual" in the conventional sense (i.e. if A then B, where A does not happen). It should be noted that some Molinists treat counterfactuals as though they are every case where it is "if A then B" where A's eventuality is simply unknown or unspecified.


Strong Tower said...

I think I understand...

Wes Widner said...

Just wanted to point out that you misspelled my name above. It's "Wes" not "Wed" :-)