April 2nd, 2013
Great site & I appreciate your comprehensive answers. Here’s a question that I’ve never been able to get a good answer for: If God doesn’t force us to do things, and we have free will, how did he know for sure that everything would play out exactly as it did when Jesus came to Earth? Say they made the choice not to put him on the cross, what if Peter went out of his way to make sure he didn’t deny him 3X, etc. Could you shed some light on this topic?
Surely, the biblical witness is that God sovereignly controls everything in creation, but it does not mean He causes all things. God knows what will happen because He makes it happen. God’s knowledge is wholly intuitive and relies on no existent entity and is completely compatible with divine aseity. According to Luis de Molina,
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February 13th, 2013
In the spectrum of human freedom there are typically four distinct positions: hard-determinism, soft-determinism, hard-libertarianism, and soft-libertarianism. Hard-determinism is the belief that free will is illusory and all actions/decisions are causally determined by antecedent conditions, which could be natural laws or God. Soft-determinism, also known as compatibilism, maintains that free will and determinism are compatible. Hard-libertarianism suggests that humans always have free will while soft-libertarianism commits to the belief that humans have free will at significant times.
There are five tenets of soft-libertarianism particular to Christianity.
- Ultimate Responsibility: UR indicates that an acting agent is responsible for the outcome and origin of decisions made.
- Agent Causation: A person is the source and origin of choices.
- Principle of Alternative Possibilities: At crucial times, the ability to choose or refrain form choosing is genuinely available. 1 Cor 10.13 promises that God “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” It follows that any Christian who does not in some circumstance endure but succumbs to temptation had it within his power to take the way of escape instead, i.e., he had the liberty of opposites in those circumstances.
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February 8th, 2013
As advocated by St. Anselm, God is a maximally perfect being. If ignorance is an imperfection, all things being equal [according to Ockham’s razor], then it is greater to be knowledgeable. To prevent initial detractions from the classical definition of omniscience, omniscience should be understood as knowing all truths.
O. For any agent x, x is omniscient= def. For every statement s, if s is true, then x knows that s and does not believe that not-s.
If there are truths about future contingents, God, as an omniscient being must know these truths. Since there are truths about the future, that is to say, since statements about future contingents are either true or false, and they are not all false, God must therefore know all truths about the future, which is to say He knows future-tense facts; He knows what will happen. One may try to avoid this reasoning by contending that future-tense statements are neither true nor false, so that there are no facts about the future. Since the future does not exist, it is claimed that the respective future-tense statements cannot be true or false, simply without truth. To make this assertion is a misunderstanding behind the statement’s truth claim. For a future tense-statement to be true it is not required that what it describes exist, but that it will exist. In order for a future-tense statement to be true, all that is required is that when the moment described arrives, the present-tense version of the statement will be true at that moment. Nicholas Rescher gives an illustration for this assertion:
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May 2nd, 2012
In the chapter titled “A Reformed Tradition Not Quite Right” in David Baggett and Jerry Walls’ book, Good God, they contend that the fundamental divide between Calvinism and [say] Arminianism is how God’s love and goodness are understood. This section is a [ironically] five-point objection to Calvinistic compatibilism. Before the authors make their case they assemble a philosophical justification for their method. Their epistemic framework gives a strong platform for the acceptance of a priori natural revelation going into the biblical hermeneutic. Without further ado they present their case against compatibilism (I once heard Dr. Baggett say that it’s not adieu, as it was once corrected in the drafts by the editors.)
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May 2nd, 2012
God’s responsibility for creation is a governing responsibility. Consider creation as an open system within a closed system. God could have created a world in which everyone never sinned, but that world may not have been feasible. God is responsible in causal sustaining sense as well, but that’s different from an actualizing sense. God weakly and strongly actualizes every state of affairs. As Plantinga defines the terms: God weakly actualizes S iff there is an S* such that God strongly actualizes [direct causation] S* and S* → S, where → is “counterfactual implication” (Let S be a state of affairs).
So am I free to break the predicted pattern? Well, the future is going to happen necessarily, but only because it will be a result of what we would do. Remember, God’s foreknowledge is a reflection of what we would do. In order to have an answer to that question, it depends on what I would do in whatever circumstance, that free choice will determine what will happen.
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May 1st, 2012
The grounding objection asks the question: By what means or grounds does God know what he knows (particularly middle knowledge)?
Suppose I have an argument similar to the grounding argument from the grounding objection claiming that contingent truths are not self-explanatory but must simply exist, from all eternity, as an ungrounded, metaphysical surd. How would I, as a Molinist, respond?
This objection is merely the result of misunderstanding the means by which God knows what he does. God’s knowledge is wholly intuitive and relies on no existent entity and is completely compatible with divine aseity. According to Luis de Molina,
God does not get his knowledge from things, but knows all things in himself and from himself; therefore, the existence of things, whether in time or eternity, contributes nothing to God’s knowing with certainty what is going to be or not to be… For prior to any existence on the part of the objects, God has within himself the means whereby he knows all things fully and perfectly; and this is why the existence of created things contributes no perfection to the cognition he has of them and does not cause any change in that cognition… [And] God does not need the existence of those things in his eternity in order to know them with certainty.
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April 26th, 2012
This is an inevitable aspect of life: people will always disagree with you. What’s very important is how we ought to respond to someone when we disagree. Here are few points I’d like to share from experience:
- Don’t get angry. We love to use ad hominem attacks but remember you’re discussing an argument or position, not the person. Getting upset is a natural reaction. When you let your upset disrupt the friendly atmosphere or affect your arguments, STOP.
- Stick to the arguments (following 1). Be reasonable and calm.
- Go to the person with him you disagree with first. This is simply Matthew 18. Don’t write open letters with defamatory comments and unnecessary attacks (a la Norman Geisler).
- Do your best to really have a robust understanding of the other position. You often heard that you should know the other position just as well as you know yours if you want to criticize it. Well, that’s not true and it’s completely infeasible. It surely helps but here why that phrase is a problem. To offer criticisms you just need to contrast it with what you believe to be true. This is simply conversion, contrapositions, obversions, contraries, and contradictions put into play. If you can do that then you don’t need exhaustive knowledge. If that phrase is true then everyone will be shutting their mouths all day long.
- Let the other person speak and don’t interrupt.
- Don’t respond if you’ve been emotionally compromised. Respond when you’re thinking clearly and calm.
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February 16th, 2012
FOCUS: Can a born-again believer lose his or her salvation while simultaneously affirming God’s sovereignty and human free will while being consistent with Scripture?
An Examination of the Perseverance of the Saints Doctrine
Apostolic warnings against apostasy pose a difficulty for the classic doctrine of perseverance of the saints because either the warnings seem superfluous or else it seems possible for the believer to fall away after all. The attempt to construe the warnings as the means by which God effects perseverance fails to distinguish the classical doctrine from a Molinist doctrine, according to which believers can fall away but in fact will not due to God’s extrinsically efficacious grace. A Molinist perspective is coherent and, unlike the classical doctrine does not render superfluous the apostolic admonitions.
The traditional doctrine of perseverance states that not only will the saints maintain grace and salvation, but literally cannot fall from grace. (It is very important to approach these and understand these texts in light of appropriate exegesis.) However, this seems to ignore numerous Scriptures, which warn the danger of apostasy of those who deliberately fall from grace:
Rom. 11:17-24; I Cor. 9:27; Gal. 5:4; Col. 1:23; I Thess. 3:5; I Tim. 1:19-20; II Tim. 2:17-18; Jas. 5:19-20; II Pet. 2:20-22; I Jn. 5:16
Perhaps the most prominent:
Therefore leaving the elementary teachings about the Christ, let us press on the maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the death and eternal judgment. 3And this we will do, if God permits. 4For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. 7For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings for the vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed and it ends up being burned. Heb. 6.1-8 (NASB)
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