Archive for the ‘Molinisim’ Category

William Lane Craig – not a Molinist?

February 1, 2013

Terrance L. Tiessen (TLT) makes an argument that William Lane Craig (WLC) is not a Molinist. In summary, the argument is (1) a Molinist must hold to Libertarian Free Will (LFW) in the sense of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP); (2) WLC claims to hold to LFW but not in the sense of PAP; and thus by combining (1) and (2) WLC is not a Molinist.

(link to Tiessen’s post)

The material he quotes from WLC is remarkably similar to what a Calvinist might use as an objection to traditional Molinism. TLT quotes the following:

I’m persuaded that so long as an agent’s choice is not causally determined, it doesn’t matter if he can actually make a choice contrary to how he does choose. Suppose that God has decided to create you in a set of circumstances because He knew that in those circumstances you would make an undetermined choice to do A. Suppose further that had God instead known that if you were in those circumstances you would have made an undetermined choice to do not-A, then God would not have created you in those circumstances (maybe it would have loused up His providential plan!). In that case you do not have the ability in those circumstances to make the choice of not-A, but nevertheless your choice of A is, I think, clearly free, for it is causally unconstrained—it [is] you who determines that A will be done. So the ability to do otherwise is not a necessary condition of free choice.

That does look like an argument for compatible freedom, although – as TLT points out – WLC continues to self-identify as a Molinist (presumably because he does not like the idea of “determinism”).


R. Scott Clark Responds to Molinism

April 28, 2010

I am glad to report that R. Scott Clark provided a fairly concise response to Molinism on his blog (link to response). Enjoy!



RSC is getting some heat for characterizing MK this way:

According to MK, God knows all the contingencies which could be actualized in the world by persons with free will but he doesn’t know which one will be actualized in the world because he has determined to allow humans to exercise their free will to choose these contingencies.

I understand the basis for the criticism. The criticism is that now, at the present time, Molinism (notice that I say “Molinism” not “middle knowledge”) does claim that God knows what world the free agents will choose. Unless I’ve missed RSC’s point, the criticism misses the mark.

Middle Knowledge isn’t relevant at the present time. Middle Knowledge is only relevant prior to God’s decree, and prior to God’s decree God does not know which possible world his free creatures *will* actualize, though God does know (within the framework of Molinism) what worlds the free creatures *would* contingently actualize under various imagined (by God) conditions.

Now, I agree with RSC that he could have been more precise – and furthermore I’ve seen that RSC has conceded that WLC’s definition of Molinism is a reasonable one. However, if folks are going to police him for precision, they need to be precise themselves.

More to the point, the substance of the criticism of Molinism remains untouched. Notwithstanding a little imprecision (and the fact that not enough Turretin and too much Voetius were used :grin:), I thought the post was a concise capsule of the issues.


Responding to Wes Widner

November 6, 2009

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.


So Good Men Differ … so what?

July 20, 2009

One of the perennial comments one hears is that if either A or B were correct “it is doubtful that so many Bible-believing, godly evangelical Christians would have wound up on each side.” This flawed position assumes that “godly evangelical Christians” always tend to end up agreeing with correct positions.

That’s a flawed assumption. In fact, “godly evangelical Christians” often disagree over things of lower consequence than the gospel. Take infant baptism as an example, or the proper ecclesiology.

What’s worse is when people (such as Craig Blomberg) make the further leap of advocating something in-between those two positions as though this somehow bridged the gap created by the two positions.

In the case of Dr. Blomberg, the problem is worse because he’s not actually adopted a position in the middle between Calvinism and Arminianism (the two positions he originally identified): he’s adopted the Arminian position with a Molinistic explanation — which is more like a halfway point between Calvinism and Open Theism, not between Calvinism and Arminianism. In fact, the “Arminian” position he identifies is that of William Lane Craig, one of the leading advocates for Molinism.

Even if Dr. Blomberg had actually picked something between Calvinism and Arminianism (rather than just picking Arminianism), what Dr. Blomberg has overlooked is that as soon as you set up a third position, the original argument still stands, only now there are three positions instead of two: three positions that “godly, Evangelical Christians” hold to. So the truth must be a fourth, and then (once people find that), a fifth, etc. ad infinitum.

Finally, Dr. Blomberg overlooks the fact that “godly evangelical Christians” disagree (mostly) with his fundamental premise that if “godly evangelical Christians” disagree about something, both sides must be wrong. This creates something of a paradox, since Dr. Blomberg must now rethink his original synthetic premise by synthesizing it with the position that “just because ‘godly evangelical Christians’ disagree about something doesn’t mean both are wrong” position.

Truth is absolute, not relative. Just because “godly evangelical Christians” disagree about something doesn’t mean both sides are wrong (or, necessarily, that either side is right). We need to continually go back to Scripture and let that (not counting heads) be our way of determining truth.

Thanks to Josh Walker for pointing this out to me.


Springboarding off of Hays Against Molinism

June 19, 2009


Steve Hays (Calvinist) wrote: God’s freedom is sui generis. It doesn’t fall into either model of human agent theory, whether libertarian or determinist.

GodIsMyJudge (Molinist) wrote: Determinate and indeterminate seem like mutually exclusive and exhaustive categories. Are you suggesting there is some third category we don’t know about or perhaps this is a logical paradox?


God’s Will not Like Man’s Will:

GodIsMyJudge’s question misses part of the reason for Steve’s comment. God’s will is not like man’s will. There is an analogy, but it is not a correspondence. God’s will (his secret will – his decree of Providence) is not something time-bound. It is not something that begins from existing circumstances and produces a choice that is responsive to the circumstances in which it finds itself. It itself determines all circumstances. The decrees of God are his eternal purposes according to the counsel of his will, whereby – for his own glory – he has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

The will’s decision itself (that is to say, the decree of God) is not something that comes to pass. It is an eternal purpose of God. There was never a time when it was not.

Sometimes, for analytical purposes, we treat it as though we viewed it as active, but it is not. There is no time before God’s will chooses what it chose – it is an eternal decree.

Relation to Knowledge of God:

This issue has a bearing on the discussion of the knowledge of God. What GodIsMyJudge seems to have overlooked is that in both the Molinist and Calvinist understanding, God’s decrees are eternal – they do not come to be. The order that we discuss is simply a logical order – not a temporal order.

Thus, the Calvinist logical order is as follows:

1) Natural Knowledge
2) Decree
3) Free Knowledge

Whereas the Molinist logical order is as follows:

1) Natural Knowledge
2) Partial Decree
3) Middle Knowledge
4) Rest of Decree
5) Free Knowledge

Comparison to Human Will:

But both Molinists and Calvinists agree that this is simply a logical not a temporal order.

In contrast, human wills (in both systems) operate with temporal order:

1) Nature
2) Circumstance
3) Decree

That is an order that is both logical and temporal. First, there is our nature. This is something that is a given. Next, we and our nature encounter a specific circumstance. Sometimes that circumstance is largely of our making, other times we had nothing to do with the circumstance. Finally, in the circumstance, we make a choice.

Observation about Molinism:

Oddly enough, although Molinism advocates “Libertarian” free will (as opposed to simple, Calvinistic free will), Molinism essentially makes man’s decree a product of his nature and his circumstance, such that if the same nature is placed in the same circumstance man’s decree will be the same.

Functionally, that sounds quite deterministic. The Molinist insists that the choices are free in a “libertarian” and “indeterminate” sense, but it really isn’t apparent how that is possible or even credible. In the Molinist regime, it really looks like man’s choices are essentially the product of his circumstances.


I don’t want to get too sidetracked by pointing out the apparent inconsistency of Molinism. I understand (I think) the rationale behind GodIsMyJudge’s question: he’d like to have Steve say that God has libertarian free will, to open the door to the idea that man could also have libertarian free will. The problem, however, is that while God and man both have wills – they operate in very different ways. In fact, even saying “operate” is a word that is only analogous when speaking of God’s will.

No, God is the only uncaused cause. He is the only self-existent being, and his choices are eternal – they did not come into being indeterminately or determinately – they simply did not come into being, but always were. Therein lies the fallacy in, under, or behind the question posed by GodIsMyJudge.


Middle Knowledge – Video Series

April 20, 2009

I have now concluded the series on Middle Knowledge and specifically of Turretin’s treatment of it, in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology. I should note that a summary of the section that I addressed has been created and can be found at the following link (link). I didn’t consult this list specifically in the preparation of my videos, but I hope you will find it agrees fairly well with them.

Should you wish to play all the videos in the Middle Knowledge series together, here you go (nothing new in this, just the six videos of the series played one after the other):

If you would like to see a critique of Middle Knowledge from a slightly different perspective (although he does find his way to Turretin around pp. 29-30), Travis Campbell has provided an interesting article, which one can find at the following link (link). I should point out that he seems to give rather more attention to Bruce Ware and Terrance Tiessen than they deserve on this topic and seems to conclude with them that there are “true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom” – a significant and (in my view) unnecessary concession to William Lane Craig, one of the leading Molinists today (although I should qualify this comment by noting that there are some latent ambiguities in the terminology that Mr. Campbell uses, which may actually place him closer to the position I hold than it would at first appear).


Middle Knowledge – Part 6

April 19, 2009

This is the sixth and final section on Turretin’s discussion of Middle Knowledge. This section delves into the philosophical arguments that undermine the concept of middle knowledge, demonstrating that the concept of middle knowledge leads to inevitable self-contradictions.

1. Two categories of knowledge are all that are required, because all true objects of knowledge are things possible or things actual (in Turretin’s terms, “future”).

2. Untrue things cannot be foreseen as true. In other words, unless it is true that a man will do “X” in situation “Y”, God cannot foresee such a thing as true.

3. If divine providence is comprehensive (if it extends to men’s acts) then men’s will cannot be said to be indeterminate.

4. God’s knowledge cannot be said to be uncertain. Therefore, if God foresees “X” as certain, then it cannot be said to be uncertain.

5. Middle Knowledge removes God’s sovereignty over the creature, because it suggests that God is in essence depending on man’s fortuitous cooperation in obtaining the ends he wishes.

6. Middle Knowledge removes God’s freedom to base decisions solely on his own good pleasure, thereby contradicting the view of God presented in Romans 9.


Middle Knowledge – Part 5

April 18, 2009

This is the fifth video in the series, of which (for those already weary of the series) there are six videos. This section deals with alleged proof texts of Middle Knowledge:

(1) 1 Samuel 23:11-12

This is the place where David asked God whether the men of the city would deliver David up if David stayed in the city, and God told him they would, so David left the city. Turretin notes that this was simply a question about the men’s plans, not specifically about a future contingency.

(2) Matthew 11:21

This is the place where Jesus compares those who failed to believe after many miracles were done in their midst by comparing them to Tyre and Sidon and saying that the men of Tyre and Sidon would have already repented if the miracles done had been done in them. Turretin notes that this is hyperbole, much as one might say that if a person had been beating on rocks as long as he had been beating on a judge for justice the rocks would have been broken, or that if a donkey had been taught as long as a very slow pupil that the donkey would be able to understand already.

(3) 2 Samuel 12:8

This is a place where God notes additional blessings that would have come to David if David had obeyed. Turretin notes that these blessings are conditional promises, and consequently they are based on a decree of God necessarily.

Additionally, we noted that in each case the verses relate to God’s knowledge after the decree, and consequently they are not really prooftexts for any kind of middle knowledge, because they do not relate to the knowledge of God before the decree of futurition.


Middle Knowledge – Part 4

April 17, 2009

This is the fourth section of the discussion of Middle Knowledge taken from Turretin’s Institutes. This section deals with Turretin’s six main objections to Middle Knowledge:

(1) Two categories of knowledge are enough, because all things are either merely possible or actually future,

(2) Untrue things cannot be foreseen as true,

(3) God’s exhaustive providence precludes the possibility that mans’ will is indeterminate,

(4) No uncertain knowledge belongs to God, therefore if God foresees men’s decision, they must be certain and consequently determinate not indeterminate,

(5) Middle Knowledge would remove God’s sovereignty over the creature, and

(6) Gods’ freedom to base his decisions solely on his own good pleasure would be undermined.


Middle Knowledge – Part 3

April 16, 2009

This is the third video in the series on Middle Knowledge. This section presents the “state of the question.” That is to say, it helps describe what exactly is under consideration. Thus, in this video we distinguish the issue from the issue of God knowing all possible contingent things, of God knowing necessarily contingent things (like “if the sun rises, it is day” or “if a person heartily repents, he will be saved”), and from the issue of God knowing freely contingent things prior to ALL decrees.

Instead, the question is whether God knows what men or angels (rational creatures) will freely do without a special decree preceding (if placed with these or those circumstances and in such-and-thus an order of things).


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