June 12th, 2012
A few years ago Ken Keathley, Professor of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, presented a paper at the SBC’s Building Bridges Conference. Keathley is a Molinist and the title of his paper [on election] was “How to be a Consistent Infralapsarian.” This paper was the primary content in the chapter on election in his book Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach. There is an audio version of his presentation but all the links I found online were broken. Be sure to download the draft of the paper in the link above and read through it. He outlines a very robust model of election and reprobation. (As a Molinist I, of course, affirm much of what he argues.) Nonetheless, you cannot deny that he is being biblical and consistent in his model of election.
I had a review of Salvation and Sovereignty published in the Midwestern Journal of Theology you can read. Concerning Keathley’s chapter on election, his paper, this is what I had to say:
Keathley’s understanding of sovereign election, which he calls “consistent infralapsarianism,” follows from his understanding of overcoming grace. Under this view, God elects all individuals who would freely cease to resist his saving grace. God will so arrange the world, via strong and weak actualizations, to bring about a person’s experiences and circumstances in which they would freely refrain from rejecting him.
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June 8th, 2012
Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, 4.37.2-3, averred in the face of Gnostic determinism that the prophetic rebukes for spiritual evil and exhortation of spiritual good presupposed human ability to obey, as did the religious teachings of Jesus. Hence both Old and New Testaments substantiated the self-determination of humanity. By libertarian freedom I mean that our freedom is a derived freedom, humans are not completely independent or completely autonomous. In Molinism, unlike Calvinism, God is completely sovereign over the eternal destinies of a world of libertarian free creatures who have, in Augustinian terminology, “free choice” and not merely “free will.” For Augustine, “free choice” (i.e. libertarian free will) entailed the freedom to choose between opposites in both the physical and spiritual realms. Thus fallen humanity, by virtue of the imago Dei, can freely choose whether or not to respond to God’s prevenient grace. By contrast, Augustine defined “free will” (i.e. compatibilist free will) as the ability to choose without any external constraint between the options compatible with one’s nature. On this view, unregenerate humans, due to original sin, lack the ability to choose between spiritual good and evil. Just as a bad tree can bear bad fruit or no fruit at all, unregenerate humanity can either perform spiritual wickedness by actively rebelling against God or do nothing spiritual at all by displaying passivity toward God. 
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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 30th, 2012
If God doesn’t have middle knowledge then he has only natural and free knowledge. There are two options. The first option is that God possess mere or simple foreknowledge. If one turns to simple foreknowledge, there lies no good sense in God’s providential planning of a world of free creatures in the absence of middle knowledge. William Lane Craig insists that,
…On such a view of God [He has], logically prior to the divine decree, only natural knowledge of all possible scenarios but no knowledge of what would happen under any circumstances. Thus, logically posterior to the divine decree, God must consider Himself extraordinarily lucky to find that this world happened to exist. “What a break!” we can imagine God’s saying to Himself, “Herod and Pilate and all those people each reacted just perfectly!” Actually, the situation is much worse than that, for God had no idea whether Herod or Pilate or the Israelite nation or the Roman Empire would even exist posterior to the divine decree. Indeed, God must be astonished to find Himself existing in a world, out of all the possible worlds He could have created, in which mankind falls into sin and God Himself enters human history as a substitutionary sacrificial offering! [Anthropomorphically speaking]
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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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April 25th, 2012
The task of a Molinist perspective of middle knowledge is to remove the perceived dilemma between human freedom and divine foreknowledge. There are a minority of philosophers and theologians who hold to this Molinist doctrine. On a promising note, middle knowledge is in modern philosophical debate and works advocated by some of the most prominent philosophers such as Thomas Flint, William Lane Craig, Ken Keathley, Kirk MacGregor, and perhaps one of America’s greatest philosophers, Alvin Plantinga. These leading Molinists serve in prominent societies such as the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, the American Philosophical Association, and the American Academy of Religion, who serve as witnesses to middle knowledge amongst leading Calvinists, Openness Theologians, atheists, and philosophers of other schools of thought. Middle knowledge, when implemented into modern discussion, serves as a defense to the many forms of the problems of evil (most notably the soteriological problem of evil), a plausible solution with explanatory scope and power for issues such as predestination, the doctrine of biblical inspiration and inerrancy, and is compatible with every other orthodox doctrine.
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