Monday, December 24, 2007

Molinism, Dualism & the Nicene Creed

Possible world discussions involve modal claims regarding the way reality might have been. Yet not all possible worlds are feasible worlds. (Thomas Flint coined the terms possible / feasible world, though the ideas preceded him.) In layman terms, a possible world is one that is internally consistent though might include actions individuals would never freely perform. Accordingly, it would not be feasible for God to actualize possible worlds in which moral agents will not freely cooperate to bring about the realities those worlds contemplate. For the Calvinist, possible worlds are identical in number with feasible worlds because within Calvinism, actions of choice are not according to libertarian freedom; therefore, whatever is possible for Jones to do is feasible for God to bring to pass – should God so desire. The reason being, God causes men to cooperate.

Obviously possible worlds are not God, nor his will, yet they are eternal. They are, however, a reflection of his logic, which is why it is not dualistic for there to be such abstract entities. Possible worlds are necessary and find their origin in God’s attribute(s). We can rightly say, therefore, that God’s necessary (or "natural") knowledge requires knowledge of such worlds. This is a far cry from Molinism's use of middle-knowledge, whereby God somehow knows contingently true conditional propositions about creaturely free actions couched in the subjunctive mood; such as, if Jones were in state of affairs y, he would freely choose x. Such an alleged truth cannot come from God’s necessary knowledge since the truth is alleged to be contingently true, making its truth-maker itself, nothing or some mystical entity residing outside of God and his control. Yet God, somehow, eternally acquires the knowledge of how creatures would freely behave in various circumstances. Christian or pagan?

Consider Plantinga: "It seems to me much clearer that some counterfactuals of freedom are at least possibly true than that the truth of propositions must, in general, be grounded in this way."

Plantinga, as brilliant as he is, since he is not moved by the arbitrariness and inconsistencies of Molinism, would do well to put down the pagan philosophers for a time and pick up some orthodox creeds and confessions. If the unreasonableness of Molinism doesn't constrain men such as Plantinga, maybe a greater appreciation for the heretical implications of the system might. Molinists need to come to terms with the fact that any ungrounded truth implies dualism and, therefore, results in an outright denial of the historic Christian faith, which affirms that "the Father, the Almighty, [is the] maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen, [which would include any contingently true-counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (not that there are any)].

Molinism is riddled with many theological and philosophical problems (e.g. ungrounded truth; God being informed by entities outside himself; all the problems pertaining to LFW, etc.) because the system is an avoidance of truth. It was invented in order to get out from under the complete and total sovereignty of God; so we should expect it to reduce to absurdity in obvious ways. Molinists confess pagan ideas that oppose orthodox Christianity.


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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Molinism - problems, problems, problems

Molinists and Calvinists agree over the soundness of the following argument, where x is a creaturely choice.

1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
2. God foreknows x
3. Therefore, x will happen

Molinists and Calvinists even agree that the following argument is fallacious as written:

1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
2. God foreknows x
3. Therefore, x will necessarily happen

The fallacy in view is that of transferring the necessity of the inference to the conclusion. The Molinist will not accept, however, that the fallacy can be made to disappear a number of different ways. One way is by establishing that a necessary condition for God’s foreknowledge of x is the necessity of x. Molinists assert that x will occur, not necessarily but contingently. Of course a contingent x, by definition, truly might not occur. Accordingly, Molinists are left with God knowing that x might not occur while knowing it will occur – but these are contrary truths and, therefore, impossible for God to know. Accordingly, God’s foreknowledge of x presupposes the necessity of x for the simple reason that might and will are semantically antithetical and it is true that x will occur. Consequently, if x will occur, then it is false that it might occur.

Another way of making the fallacy disappear is to argue successfully that necessarily, God foreknows x. Molinists agree in the validity but not the soundness of the following argument (in other words, they agree with the form of argument but not with all the premises):

1. Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen
2. Necessarily, God foreknows x
3. Therefore, x will necessarily happen

Molinists deny that necessarily God foreknows x. In fact, pop-Molinist William Lane Craig states “Christian theology always maintained that God’s creation of the world is a free act, that God could have created a different world – in which x does not occur – or even no world at all. To say that God necessarily foreknows any event x implies that this is the only world God could have created and thus denies divine freedom.”

In passing we might note that Molinsts are not typically well read in the areas of Reformed systematics and historical, Reformation Protestantism. In part IV, Section VII of Jonathan Edwards’s classic, The Freedom of the Will Edwards has much to say on this matter under the heading “Concerning the Necessity of the Divine Will.” Edwards so eloquently states that “It no more argues any dependence of God’s will, that his supremely wise volition is necessary, that it argues a dependence of his being, that his existence is necessary. If it be something too low for the Supreme Being to have his will determined by moral necessity, so as necessarily, in every case, to will in the highest degree holily and happily; then why is it not also something too low for him to have his existence, and the infinite perfection of his nature, and his infinite happiness, determined by necessity. It is not more to God’s dishonor to be necessarily wise, than to be necessarily holy… and, in every case, to act most wisely, or do the thing which is the wisest of all; for wisdom is also in itself excellent and honorable… One thing more I would observe, before I conclude this section; and that is, that if it derogates nothing from the glory of God to necessarily determined by superior fitness in some things; then neither does it to be thus determined in all things…”

My appeal to Edwards as a representation of Reformed, Orthodox theologians is merely to show that Craig’s remark is a bit gratuitous to say the least. Reformed thinkers consider libertarian free choices a philosophical surd, not just as the silly metaphysical notion pertains to man but as it pertains to God as well. Not only do Molinists like Craig not appreciate that the necessity of the divine will is held by a vast number of Calvinists, notice too the imprecision in Craig’s remark where he speaks of freedom. Molinists do not draw any distinction whatsoever between liberty (i.e. the ability to choose as one wants), and the power of contrary choice, which is the alleged ability to act contrary to how one will (libertarian free will). The two are the same for the Molinist; yet the former idea pertains to moral accountability, whereas the latter is metaphysical notion that in the end would destroy moral accountability. It’s sad to consider but has anyone ever read a Molinist where he has interacted with the notion of liberty, which is the very seat of moral accountability? Why isn’t the ability to choose as we want a sufficient condition for moral accountability? Do Molinists tell us why liberty is insufficient? No, they simply ignore the matter of liberty and make the bald assertion that we must be able to choose contrary to what we will in order to be morally responsible agents. What is it after all to be able to choose x, when we intend to choose ~x? If that’s a caricature of libertarian freedom, then will a Molinist explain this metaphysical notion in light of the infinite regress problem that is inherent to the notion?

Pressing on, we should see that the minor premise that “necessarily, God foreknows x” is indeed true. If God’s foreknowledge of x was not necessary, then it was contingent. Forget for a moment that future contingencies - being truly contingent - defy eternal truth values with respect to their outcome, (which Open Theists have demonstrated). How about the simple truth that everything eternal (God and his thoughts) must be necessary? After all, did God deliberate? Did God move from not knowing to knowing? Moreover, where is “x will happen” grounded if not in the eternal, determination of God? And if there, what does it mean to determine x without determining a cause of x? Did contingent causes determine God’s eternal decree, which would include the Arminian notion of "contingent certainties"?!

A third way to get rid of the fallacy is to utilize facts that are grammatically in the past tense yet contemplate acts still future. The progression below takes no shortcuts so it might seem a bit tedious, but each step is appropriate.

Establish the necessity of God’s belief about Tom’s choice:1. 100 years ago God believed that Tom will do x tomorrow
2. If x is believed in the past, it is now necessary that x was believed then
3. It is now necessary that 100 years ago God believed that Tom will do x tomorrow

Establish the necessity of Tom’s choice, given the necessity of God’s belief:
4. Necessarily, if 100 years ago God believed Tom will do x tomorrow, then Tom will do x tomorrow
5. If p {i.e. God's historical belief about Tom's choice} is now necessary (3), and necessarily if p, then q; then q {i.e. Tom's choice of x tomorrow: (consequent from 4)} is now necessary [transfer of necessity principle]
6. Therefore, it is now necessary that Tom will do x tomorrow [3, 4 and 5]

Establish that Tom does not act freely, given the necessity of Tom’s choice:
7. If it is now necessary that Tom will do x tomorrow, then Tom cannot do otherwise
8. Therefore, Tom cannot do otherwise than x tomorrow
9. If one cannot do otherwise, then one does not act freely
10. Therefore, when Tom does x tomorrow, he will not do it freely

Molinists will again find the argument valid but take issue with some of the premises, namely 5 if not also 2. With respect to 2, a Molinist might wish to assert that the necessity of the past does not apply to the entire past, but that’s an arbitrary stricture. A Molinist might also object to premise 5, where a change of modality occurs whereby accidental necessities (necessities about the past) are intermixed with metaphysical necessities having to do with actions of choice. This, however, represents a classic case of drawing a distinction without a relevant difference. The Molinist objection is to the transfer of necessity principle, yet they permit the very same principle of logic when dealing with the validity of argument 3! Accordingly, their objection should only be with premise 2 of argument 4, but are they prepared to argue that the past is contingent and not necessary?!

Given an objection to the transfer of necessity principle, the Molinist position reduces to: Tom's choice of x will necessarily occur but contingently. What is it though for x necessarily to occur by contingent means? In other words, what does it mean for a necessary occurrence to fall out contingently?! (Again, "will = might" for the Molinist.)

In summation, Craig’s lament with argument 3 is that one cannot prove the necessity of God’s foreknowledge. If one can prove that necessity, then I am led to believe by his say-so that he would accept the conclusion of argument 3 above, which asserts the non-contingent nature of choice. Consequently, the issue with Craig and his disciples over the 10-step proof should not be over any change in modaltity in step-5, since the same sort of modality change occurs in argument 3 without objection! Craig’s objection to argument 3 is not a change of modality objection but rather strictly a metaphysical objection pertaining God’s free will. Having no modality objection there, Craigites should find none in argument 4 either. Consequently, Craig and his disciples should at least begin by conceding that in time God’s foreknowledge became necessary (step 3 – argument 4), which should lead him to embrace all the valid arguments on the page as being sound given no modality objection for argument 3. Now why won’t they? Because the matter is ethical, not intellectual, that’s why. God has blinded the Arminian to the glorious doctrines of grace, which is why they say things like: “How can God find fault, for who can resist his will?” I’m afraid that Arminians don’t recognize that Romans nine is speaking to them.

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