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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May 31st, 2012
Here is an old lecture PPT defining the differences between soft/hard libertarian freedom and soft/hard determinism. There are a lot of discussion points in the notes section. I ususally have a great discussion with the class when I teach this. So, for you teachers out there, feel free to use this material as you wish and, if anything, I hope it helps grow your knowledge on the subject. Feel free to follow the sources cited.
Determinism: Choices are caused by prior decisions
Hard Determinism: Free will is an illusion
Soft Determinism: Free will is compatible with determinism
Libertarianism: Choices originate within persons
Hard Libertarianism: Persons always have free will
Soft Libertarianism: Persons have free will at significant times
May 2nd, 2012
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. If the interpretation of the Bible is understood in light of God causing everything, He inevitably becomes the author of sin, since it is He who moved Judas, for example, to betray Christ, a sin which merits everlasting perdition for the hapless Judas. Whatever is foreknown by God must occur, which is often taken as theological fatalism. The problem foreknowledge may have, as theological fatalism, is its effect it may have on human freedom confusing necessity in sensu composito and in sensu diviso.
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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 13th, 2012
This is a legitimate question. The claim that God could have created us in the state of heaven avoiding all this evil and suffering in the world is a nuanced version of the problem of evil. If we are going to heaven and our telos, our purpose and end, is to worship God and enjoy him forever in heaven then why didn’t God skip this earthly step? Surely, one may think that there’s a possible world in which we all exist in heaven. It’s my contention that the instantiation of heaven alone is not a possible world.
Aside from other theodicies and defenses such as soul-making, perhaps the most relevant to this question, I think it’s critical to understand that heaven isn’t some lone possible state of affairs by itself. Heaven is, necessarily, a contingent state of affairs. It’s a consequent, if and only if, there are prior antecedent conditions or states of affairs. Heaven is a result of our choices during this life. In other words, this earthly life is a necessary condition for heaven to be brought about (aside from the salvific will of the Father and saving power of Christ, I’m merely stating that this life must precede heaven.
This also leads to a very important question: How does God guarantee that there will be no evil among the saved in heaven? This is a very tough question and here are a few possible answers to consider.
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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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