Posts tagged ‘open theology’

June 8th, 2012

The Molinism Directory

by Max Andrews

I’ve decided to gather all my posts on Molinism in one post for easy reference.

  1. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell
  2. A Review of Salvation and Sovereignty (Journal Publication)
  3. Review Essay: Four Views on Divine Providence
  4. Defining Omniscience
  5. Q&A 9: Layering Divine Middle Knowledge
  6. Why I’m Not an Arminian
  7. Why I’m Not a Calvinist
  8. God Controls Everything–Good and Bad
  9. The Incoherence of Theistic Determinism–Moral Responsibility
  10. Overpower–Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?
  11. The Pelagian Equivocation
  12. The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement
  13. Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes
  14. Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?
    read more »

May 1st, 2012

Molinism and the Grounding Objection

by Max Andrews

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.[1]

April 25th, 2012

Molinism in Modern Philosophical Discussion

by Max Andrews

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.

February 16th, 2012

Can You Lose Your Salvation? A Molinist’s Perspective

by Max Andrews

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?[1]

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.[2]

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)

February 13th, 2012

The Theological Advantages of Molinism

by Max Andrews

For a context of where I’m coming from concerning Molinism please see my previous posts:

  1. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell
  2. Why I’m Not an Arminian
  3. Why I’m Not a Calvinist
  4. God Controls Everything–Good and Bad
  5. Overpower–Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?
  6. The Pelagian Equivocation
  7. The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement
  8. Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes
  9. Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?
  10. Word of the Week Wednesday: Supralapsarianism

Advantages

  1. Holds a high view of God’s sovereignty while holding to an equal and uncompromising view of human free will.
  2. Provides a better model for understanding how it is simultaneously true that God’s decree of election while His rejection of the unbeliever is conditional.
  3. Affirms the genuine desire on the part of God for all to be saved in His universal salvific will  (which is problematic for the Calvinist) claiming that God loved the whole world (John 3:16) yet, Christ has a particular love for the Church (Eph. 5:25).
  4. God control’s all things, but does not cause all things.
    read more »

April 25th, 2011

God Controls Everything–Good and Bad

by Max Andrews

If everything God does is GOOD, and if God controls EVERYTHING, then it would be BAD had one less child been gassed in Auschwitz. -Greg Boyd’s Twitter Status

I read Dr. Boyd’s status and was very intrigued.  I believe open theists deserve a seat at the table of discussion and despite my view that I think they’re wrong, their arguments are stronger than many give them credit for.  Let’s look at this.

  1. If everything God does is Good [and]
  2. If God controls everything [by weak and strong actualization]
  3. Then, it would be bad had one less child been gassed in Auschwitz.
  4. It would have been good had one less child been gassed in Auschwitz.
  5. Therefore, either not everything God does is good or God does not control everything.
  6. God is good and everything he does is good.
  7. Therefore, God does not control everything.
It seems like Boyd has posed an interesting dilemma (at least for the Molinist who affirms that God’s means of providence is not exclusively causal, but that he controls all things).  To avoid a dilemma you must either deny a horn or add another premise.  I would add the premise that God has good reasons for his control (control will encompass permission and causality, or, weak and strong actualization).  Control and goodness aren’t mutually exclusive and the dilemma isn’t as clear-cut as the open theist wants it to be [granted they only have to make one case against it to make their point]). A problem with Boyd’s position is that only immediate consequences seem to have the perspectival role.  The temporally distant consequences seem to be ignored, which are many. (i.e. Permitting that one child to live may cause more children to be gassed).  With such a counterfactual it may be the case that the allowance of such an undesirable event actually bring about a greater event in the course of history.  We are not in a spatiotemporally privileged position to make such an assessment, but if God possesses such knowledge then it may be the case that permitting such an action is the choice which enables the most good to come about.  Had that bad not occurred then the greater good could not have come about any other way given the previous counterfactuals of human freedom.  This isn’t to say that God is dependent on the bad to bring about good; it’s to say that God uses bad to bring about good [and perhaps even a greater good]. Whether or not God has such knowledge is the more fundamental grounds for such a discussion.

Auschwitz Gas Chamber

There’s also a distinction between the suffering aspect [of being gassed] and the death aspect because if God merely permits someone to die either by weak or strong actualization that’s God’s prerogative.  God is not morally obligated to extend anyone’s life, the issue is suffering.  If the bad is death and not suffering then I’d merely need an argument for why God is morally obligated to extend one’s life; thus, I’ll assume we agree the bad is suffering.  In the end, it doesn’t seem to be the case that Boyd’s dilemma is a true dilemma.  As long as God has a morally sufficient reason to allow the bad to occur, then God’s control is still good.  For more information, see Boyd’s contribution to Four Views on Divine Providence.
March 6th, 2011

The Philosophy Behind ‘The Adjustment Bureau’

by Max Andrews

George Nolfi and Phillip Dick’s recent movie ‘The Adjustment Bureau‘ is certainly a film that can get you thinking and asking the questions, “How?” and, “But why?”  I had no idea this movie was coming out until a friend Tweeted it to me a couple of days before the premiere, which made for a great date night.  Before I get into the details, my opinion of the film is that though it was entertaining and had an ‘indy-esque’ vibe to it, though it made me frustrated.

David (Matt Damon) falls in love with Elise (Emily Blunt) in the only-in-the-movies-could-it-ever-happen type moments.  They hit it off and we begin the story line.  David is heading to work a few months later after his mysterious run-in with Elise and Harry, a bureau case officer, is supposed to make David spill his coffee by 7:05 AM.  Well, it doesn’t happen and it becomes a problem because it has compromised “the plan.”  David sees Elise on that bus and they reunite.  Not good for the bureau.  Once David gets off the bus he walks into work and notices that his staff is being tampered with (for lack of a better word).  They are scanning their brains in the moment as time seems to have frozen.  Because David had not spilled his cup of coffee he witnesses what is going on.  David meets the bureau and finds out what they do and then we continue on with the plot.

Source: IMBD

Going into the movie I didn’t know what to expect as far as how they were going portray human freedom and the bureau’s providence.  There’s a clear and distinct correlation between the bureau’s chairman and God; and the case officers with angels.  The case officers are limited in their scope of abilities by the chairman, they report to the chairman, they are not perfect, and they do work for the chairman.  The chairman is the one who makes the plans.  The plans are referenced by the case workers in these books they carry around.  Here’s where I get frustrated because there seems to be an inconsistency.  Throughout the film you’ll come to understand that humans really do have free will.  In the scene when David enters his office and finds the case officers tampering with his colleagues brains, they are doing that in order to change their minds about something.  Here we have the classic illustration of soft-determinism/compatibilism.  Say there’s a scientist who plants electrodes in my brain.  I’m free to act according to my will as long as I do what the scientist wants.  Now, say I’m in a room with you.  I can either shoot you or I can walk away and we both live.  Now, I don’t want to kill you, but perhaps the scientist wants me to kill you.  Because I don’t want to do what the scientist wants me to do he activates the electrodes in my brain, which causes me to kill you.  Now back to the film.  We have David’s colleagues doing something that requires a strong-actualization, an introduction of direct causation into the states of affairs (directly causing the changes in the brains).  Now, we don’t know the efficacy of these changes, whether it’s merely an introduction of new information to be considered or if it’s something that necessarily brings about the change, we don’t know but it seems to be the case that it was actually changed.

Later on in the film you come to learn that every historical event happened to bring about the state of affairs David finds himself in.  The black plague existed to bring about this certain aspect in David’s life, the Enlightenment was brought about so that David will be reasonable, etc.  David seems to be a focus of a theodicy.  David’s not allowed to be with Elise because if he is with her then he will not be what the bureau needs him to be.  We now find ourselves with counterfactual knowledge.  If David does this, then this will happen.  If David does not do this, then this will happen (and this will not happen).  You also find the bureau using terms and phrases like “you would do this” or “you would have done that.”  So there seems to be an indication of a knowledge of counterfactual human freedom.  Okay, this makes sense.  If all these historical events were brought about so that a particular state of affairs would obtain that seems to be quite providential given that these humans have free will.  It sounds like good ‘ole Molinism! (But… it’s not).

Source: IMBD

I would not be surprised if we find this film being referenced as illustrations for openness theologians in the time to come.  It really is an excellent depiction of overall openness providence, since the climax and denouement will help shape how you interpret the earlier parts of film.  The two writers could have made a clearer distinction on how free will is portrayed and how it relates to the bureau’s providential plan.  The film is quite entertaining and you find yourself caught in the middle of David and Elise’s relationship.  One moment you want them to make it and the next you don’t because you’re too mad at David.  However, a word of caution to you philosophically minded folk, you may find yourself with the same frustration I had in trying to get a consistent depiction of human freedom and providence.