William Lane Craig and James White debate Calvinism vs Molinism

In a recent episode of the Unbelievable show, we finally got to see Calvinist pastor / theologian James White discuss middle knowledge (a.k.a. Molinism) with philosopher / theologian William Lane Craig. In this post, you’ll find a link to the MP3 file, the YouTube video, my comments on the debate, and a couple of posts about the debate from Tim Stratton of Free Thinking Ministries.

Here is a link to the details from Unbelievable:

Calvinism and Molinism are two very different ways of understanding God’s sovereignty. But which one best addresses the problem of evil?

James White argues that Calvinism – God foreordaining all human behaviour both good and evil – is the more Biblical and coherent view. William (Bill) Lane Craig argues that Molinism – a view which reconciles human freedom and divine sovereignty – is Biblically consistent without making God the author of evil.

The direct link to the MP3 file.

And the video:

Summary:

JB: Why is there evil?

JW: Natural and moral evil are the results of God’s divine decree to create the world.

WLC: God has knowledge of what individual humans would do in different circumstances prior to his divine decree to create the world. God’s decree takes into account the free decisions of people in different situations. With regard to natural evil, Calvinists and Molinists do not differ much – they are permitted to achieve a greater good. But for moral evil, there is a difference. Moral evil is the result of free decisions by individual humans. They are not God’s will. God permits people to perform evil actions, because those free actions will lead to him achieving his ultimate purposes. God does not override human free will. He achieves his ultimate purposes through the actions of his free creatures. On the Calvinist view, God moves the will of creatures to do evil. God is the cause of their evil acts.

JB: God sees all of the possible worlds and instantiates a world where he is able to achieve his ultimate purposes while respecting the free decisions of his creatures.

WLC: God does not see what humans WILL do, and decree based on that. He sees what they WOULD do in different circumstances, and articulates a world where the free decisions they make in the circumstances he decrees lead to his ultimate purposes being fulfilled.

JB: And this view achieves God’s sovereignty (God gets the result he wants) with human freedom (God is not responsible for moral evil)

JB: James, isn’t it better for God to get what he wants while respecting free will, rather than micromanaging every thought and action of the people?

JW: There’s micromanaging on both sides. On Molinism, God micromanages the circumstances. On Calvinism, God micromanages everything. But how could God have that knowledge of what people would do, prior to actually creating those people? The Bible teaches Calvinism, and so we should go with that. Calvinists are concerned when Craig says that God does not determine the truth value of these subjunctive conditionals (i.e. – what free individuals would do in different circumstances) The individuals determine what they will do in different circumstances. And Calvinists would prefer that God determine (i.e. – exhaustive determinism) what individuals do in different circumstances. WLC, would you agree that the knowledge of these subjunctive conditionals are the essence of what middle knowledge is? (WK note: micromanaging circumstances doesn’t violate free will, micromanaging everything does violate free will)

WLC: No, but it is an essential aspect of it. According to Molinism, God does not determine what free individuals would do in different situations in which they find themselves. The Calvinist view is that in any situation, God actually moves the will of the creature, so God is the author of moral evil. On the Molinist view, creatures are responsible for moral evil, not God.

JW: So you’re saying that these subjunctive conditionals are not under God’s control. How can they be under the control of the creatures, since prior to God’s creative decree, the creatures do not exist yet? Where do these truth values come from.

WLC: This objection to Molinism is called the “grounding objection”. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are true without having to be grounded by the created individuals. This objection presupposes a view of truth called “truth-maker” theory. This theory says that in addition to propositions that are true, there are things that make propositions true. There are many counterexamples to this view. For example, if you deny the existence of something that does not exist, then there is no truth maker that makes that claim true. (WK note: E.g. – a unicorn does not exist) Another example is “If WLC were rich, WLC would buy a Mercedes” but there is no truth-maker situation that makes that true, except maybe if he were rich. (WK note: I think that the created individual WLC would be the truth-maker in that case?)

JW: The decisions that I make are caused by God’s decree of what gifts I have or don’t have. He has freedom to decree those gifts, and then that has an effect of what I am free to do. E.g. – I am not 6’11” so I am not free to be a center in the NBA. So on the Molinist view, what is the basis for these subjunctive counterfactuals that limit what God can do?

WLC: The grounding objection presupposes the truth-maker theory, and a particular strain of that theory called truth-maker maximalism, and counterfactuals of creaturely of creaturely freedom would be prime candidates to be exceptions to the truth-maker theory.

WLC: Regarding the point about how people don’t exist in a vacuum but have a whole history, background, characteristics, etc. to shape their decisions. That’s right. But the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom factor all that in. The key point that divides us is that God doesn’t determine what creatures decide, he decides the circumstances. And so the creature is responsible for moral evil, not God. And so God doesn’t cause people to commit moral evils, then punish them for it.

WLC: We should guide our views based on what is in the Bible. But even Calvinist theologians affirm things about God that are not taught explicitly in the Bible, such as God’s spacelessness and timelessness. And Molinism makes the best sense of divine sovereignty and human freedom. On the Calvinist view, God determines how anyone would act in any situation God might place him in, so God is responsible for the moral evil committed by his creatures.

JW: (repeats) If God is limited in what he can do by counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, then we have to know where these counterfactuals come from. (WK note: the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom come from… creaturely freedom.)

JW: Genesis 50:20 says that God used the moral evil committed by some creatures to achieve the good purposes he intended. (WK note: that’s exactly what the Molinist view is, God permits moral evil by his creatures, as long as it achieves his ultimate good purposes)

JW: Molinism is unknown in the church for 1500 years. (WK note: Molinism is in Acts 17:24-27, and also, Calvin and Luther were unknown in the church for 1500 years)

JB: Is Genesis 50:20 a good example of Calvinism?

WLC: (very excited) NO!!!!!! It’s a great example of Molinism!!!! The text says that God didn’t move the bad actors to perform sinful actions – that would make God the author of evil. But God knew that if they were in this situation, they would behave in these evil ways, but ultimately it would lead to good results that God wanted. There is a chain of people partially articulating the middle knowledge view prior to Molina.

JW: You shouldn’t believe Molinism, because it comes from Jesuits. (WK Note: this is the genetic fallacy)

JW: The Bible has examples where God “hardens hearts”, e.g. Pharaoh.

WLC: It’s not that the Bible authors had Molinism in mind. It’s that this theory is consistent with what the Bible teaches.

JW: Ephesians 1 teaches that God unilaterally determines who the elect are. Calvinism emerges from the text. But in Genesis 50:20, Molinism doesn’t emerge from it.

WLC: We’re both trying to make sense of the data of Scripture. Scripture doesn’t teach the unilateral divine determinism of every human act, especially evil acts. The Bible says thate God is not evil, and cannot even be tempted with evil, but on the Calvinist view, God is causing the evil actions of his creatures, and then he punishes them for it. If it’s evil to cause someone to do evil, it makes God himself evil.

JW: In Isaiah 10, God uses the Assyrians to punish Israel, then he punishes the Assyrians for the haughty attitude of their heart.

WLC: The Molinist view of Ephesians 1 is that part of God’s good pleasure is to respect human freedom, and not to unilaterally divinely determine them to sin. Regarding Isaiah 10, you’re asking how God can punish the Assyrians for something he causes them to do? No, God knows that the Assyrians are going to do this moral evil and he uses that for his purposes, and he is free to punish their immoral act, because they did it of their own free will.

JW: But if you need Molinism to understand these texts, then what did the authors intend for people to think before Molinism.

WLC: People understand from Genesis 50:20 that people do evil things, but God gets a good outcome out of it.

JW: As a Calvinist, I do not believe that God respects human freedom.

JW: I don’t think that individuals have control of the circumstances in which they are born or where they live that limits God’s sovereignty. (WK note: he doesn’t understand Molinism or Acts 17:24-27. Individuals control their own decisions. But God controls the circumstances – i.e. – everything else). There is no essence of James White that determines where I am born, my physical characteristics, my siblings, etc. God decrees everything about who I am.

WLC: “That’s because you’re a determinist, James, and I’m not”

JW: “Yes. Yes. OK.”

WLC: There are number of possible worlds where James White could exist. Different country, different education, different language, different family. God decides the circumstances for James White. James White makes the decisions. God doesn’t cause James White’s moral evil. James White does. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom must exist prior to the divine decree in order for humans to be responsible for their evil actions.

JW: You’re using philosophy. But your view should come from the Bible. (WK note: look at Acts 17:24-27)

WLC: Unilateral divine determinism isn’t taught in the Bible.

JW: Yes, in Ephesians 1.

WLC: The Molinist affirms Ephesians 1.

JW: It doesn’t mention respecting free will there, it’s teaching unilateral divine determinism.

WLC: The Bible teaches that God does have knowledge of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, e.g. 2 Cor 2:8. So the question is whether God has this knowledge logically prior the decree (Molinism requires this), or is it logically after. If it is logically after, then it makes God the cause of human moral evil.

JW: The verses raised by Craig can be subsumed under God’s natural knowledge and free knowledge.

JW: Some Molinists believe that the only people who are lost in this world are people who cannot freely respond to God’s saving initiative in any circumstances (WK note: this is called trans-world damnation (TD), and I hold this view). Does anyone in the Bible know about this idea? That changes God’s expression from unilateral divine determinism to accepting human free will and human responsibility for sin (which Calvinism denies).

WLC: Yes, there are two different views. The one view takes human free will, and human responsibility for sin, seriously. The other view makes God the cause of human sin, and therefore makes God evil for being the author of evil.

JW: On Molinism, God knew that if he actualized this world, then he knew the evil that would result, but he didn’t do it for some purpose, like revealing his own character?

WLC: No, he didn’t bring the evil into the world. He actualized a set of circumstances, and a set of free creatures. And he knew that in those circumstances, he knew that the creatures would choose to do evil. His absolute will is for all his creatures to always do the right thing. But he knows that often they will do evil. He permits that to happen, but in the end he achieves the good purposes. E.g. – achieving the redemption of mankind through Jesus through the evil decisions of the rulers at that time.

WLC: I love the Westminster Confession. But without middle knowledge, that Confession is incoherent. Middle knowledge explains how things work, so that the Westminster Confession’s affirmations are logically coherent.

JW: What you’re saying is that God respects human free will and human responsibility.

WLC: Molinism is extremely fruitful theologically. I have applied to the problem of exclusivity of salvation, to the perseverance of the saints, to the inspiration of Scripture… but the focus of the discussion today is on moral evil. Who is the cause of human evil?

JW: Only unilateral divine determinism and the denial of human free will and human responsibility are consistent with Scripture.

WLC: Scripture alone is my authority, not church tradition. But Reformed theology is permeated with concepts that are not described in Scripture, but are consistent with Scripture, e.g. – timelessness, spacelessness, simplicity.

JW: I disagree, ALL the concepts in Calvinism emerge directly from the text. Isaiah 40-48 clearly teaches divine necessity, that God exists necessarily, in every possible world. (WK note: Calvinist thought emerges 1500 years after the Bible was written)

JW: Middle knowledge is a Catholic dogma, which is why even the Catholics rejected it.

WLC: (holds up 2 volumes of a 4 volume, 2144 page set of books on Reformed theology) Anyone who thinks that Reformed Dogmatics are simply read out of Scripture “doesn’t know the history of Reformed theology”. These volumes are permeated with theological constructs, philosophical models, philosophical principles. The necessity of God’s existence, timelessness, spacelessness, etc. are all affirmed by Reformed theologians, and were inherited from medieval scholastics (Catholics).

JW: The central claim of middle knowledge, that counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are known by God, are not in the Bible. (WK note: Craig gave an example of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom in the Bible. There are lots of them.)

Reformed Dogmatics
Four volume 2144-page book set on Reformed dogmatics

My thoughts:

I think that it was a good debate. Well worth watching. I don’t promise that my summary is 100% accurate. Please leave room for a little snark, and watch the debate yourself. I like to take the spin off of people’s words, when I feel that they are trying to weasel out of the conclusions of their own views. It’s 2 AM on Monday morning now, and I don’t want to proof-read. Please point out errors in the comments.

If I could boil down the mistake that James White makes to one sentence, it would be to say that he comes to the text with a philosophical presupposition (determinism), and this causes him to misinterpret the plain meaning of the text as a whole. And this misinterpretation isn’t about peripheral teachings of the Bible. His embrace of God as the cause of moral evil means that he denies the goodness of God – a basic Christian doctrine. (This is compounded by his embrace of double-predestination, although that was not the topic of the debate). Christians shouldn’t let a philosophy – determinism – override the plain meaning of Scripture. Determinism is man’s philosophy – it’s a Greek philosophy that existed centuries before Christ.

White also was clearly unfamiliar with the philosophy of religion of his own Reformed tradition, and especially with the history of the development of Reformed theology. Craig was able to correct him, by showing him the books on Reformed Dogmatics and explain the historical antecedents of Reformed thought.

James White is not a “hyper-Calvinist”. He is a normal Calvinist. Calvinism teaches unilateral divine determinism. Calvinism teaches that where each individual goes after the judgment is decided unilaterally by God. Calvinism teaches that human moral evil is caused by God. Calvinism teaches that God punishes people for this moral evil. Calvinism teaches intentional double-predestination.

I wrote about the problems with Calvinism, citing Calvinist D.A. Carson and William Lane Craig, in a previous post. Determinism denies free will, and therefore undermines all meaning in life. That’s not consistent with the Bible’s clear teaching that God issues commands to his creatures, because he expects (free will) obedience. That is how we develop our relationship with God after becoming Christians (sanctification), and those relationships have ultimate significance.

Note: I link to James White’s work on this blog. He does a great job of fighting cultural and political enemies. I really appreciate his conservative perspective on issues like abortion, and his sensitivity to the totalitarian impulses of the secular left. His work on KJV-only and and debating Catholics is excellent. I don’t always agree with Craig. I recently posted disagreement with Craig on his latest work on the historical Adam and evolution. I have other minor disagreements with him as well, in substance and method. The only theology books in my house are by R. C. Sproul, Wayne Grudem, D.A. Carson, Millard Erickson, John MacArthur, etc. – all Calvinists.

If you missed Craig’s debate with Paul Helm, which is mentioned in the debate, I blogged about that previously, as well.

Drew’s thoughts

My friend Drew, another Christian apologist, had some thoughts. He has a couple of Masters degrees. He’s an expert in Christian history, theology, philosophy of religion. His current interest is history of Christian thought.

He says:

I would have mentioned that the Western Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Second Temple Jewish traditions all reject determinism. Thomas Aquinas states:

“It does not seem meritorious or demeritorious for persons to do necessarily what they could not avoid doing. It is also to be counted among the oddest philosophical opinions, since it is not only contrary to faith but also subverts all the principles of moral philosophy. For if nothing is within our power, and we are necessarily moved to will things, deliberation, exhortation, precept, punishment, and praise and blame, of which moral philosophy consists, are destroyed.”

In response to Ephesians 1:11 John Chrysostom states “Having first used the expression, to them that are called according to a purpose, and at the same time wishing to declare their privilege compared with the rest of mankind, he speaks also of inheritance by lot, yet so as not to divest them of free will.”

Chrysostom was not a compatibilist.

This is important to show that White’s view of universal divine determinism is relatively new in the history of Christian thought.

Free Thinking Ministries

I noticed that Free Thinking Ministries has a couple of responses up already, and a debate review video.

The first one is a response to James Whites post-debate comments, in which he says he struck a “fatal blow” to Molinism that none of the Molinists he has engaged with ever thought of. Tim Stratton responds to James White, firstly by noting that he has avoided engagement with academic Molinists, either in debate or in academic journals, and secondly, against the substance of his argument. I really recommend reading this post to learn more about why White struggles in these debates.

The second one is a response to the famous “grounding objection” to Molinism, which White raised, although he didn’t seem to know the name of the objection.

I just want to say here that back in the early 2000s, when I was just starting my career as a software engineer, I attended a philosophy conference at Wheaton College on middle knowledge. Paul Helm was the keynote speaker. And everyone – even me – knew what the grounding objection was, and also what trans-world damnation (TD) was. This is basic Christian apologetics, suitable for rank-and-file Christians.

Stephen C. Meyer and Marcus Ross lecture on the Cambrian explosion

Cambrian Explosion
Cambrian Explosion

Access Research Network is a group that produces recordings  of lectures and debates related to intelligent design. I noticed that on their Youtube channel they are releasing some of their older lectures and debates for FREE. So I decided to write a summary of one that I really like on the Cambrian explosion. This lecture features Dr. Stephen C. Meyer and Dr. Marcus Ross.

The lecture is about two hours. There are really nice slides with lots of illustrations to help you understand what the speakers are saying, even if you are not a scientist.

Here is a summary of the lecture from ARN:

The Cambrian explosion is a term often heard in origins debates, but seldom completely understood by the non-specialist. This lecture by Meyer and Ross is one of the best overviews available on the topic and clearly presents in verbal and pictorial summary the latest fossil data (including the recent finds from Chengjiang China). This lecture is based on a paper recently published by Meyer, Ross, Nelson and Chien “The Cambrian Explosion: Biology’s Big Bang” in Darwinism, Design and Public Education(2003, Michigan State University Press). This 80-page article includes 127 references and the book includes two additional appendices with 63 references documenting the current state of knowledge on the Cambrian explosion data.

The term Cambrian explosion describes the geologically sudden appearance of animals in the fossil record during the Cambrian period of geologic time. During this event, at least nineteen, and perhaps as many as thirty-five (of forty total) phyla made their first appearance on earth. Phyla constitute the highest biological categories in the animal kingdom, with each phylum exhibiting a unique architecture, blueprint, or structural body plan. The word explosion is used to communicate that fact that these life forms appear in an exceedingly narrow window of geologic time (no more than 5 million years). If the standard earth’s history is represented as a 100 yard football field, the Cambrian explosion would represent a four inch section of that field.

For a majority of earth’s life forms to appear so abruptly is completely contrary to the predictions of Neo-Darwinian and Punctuated Equilibrium evolutionary theory, including:

  • the gradual emergence of biological complexity and the existence of numerous transitional forms leading to new phylum-level body plans;
  • small-scale morphological diversity preceding the emergence of large-scale morphological disparity; and
  • a steady increase in the morphological distance between organic forms over time and, consequently, an overall steady increase in the number of phyla over time (taking into account factors such as extinction).

After reviewing how the evidence is completely contrary to evolutionary predictions, Meyer and Ross address three common objections: 1) the artifact hypothesis: Is the Cambrian explosion real?; 2) The Vendian Radiation (a late pre-Cambrian multicellular organism); and 3) the deep divergence hypothesis.

Finally Meyer and Ross argue why design is a better scientific explanation for the Cambrian explosion. They argue that this is not an argument from ignorance, but rather the best explanation of the evidence from our knowledge base of the world. We find in the fossil record distinctive features or hallmarks of designed systems, including:

  • a quantum or discontinuous increase in specified complexity or information
  • a top-down pattern of scale diversity
  • the persistence of structural (or “morphological”) disparities between separate organizational systems; and
  • the discrete or novel organizational body plans

When we encounter objects that manifest any of these several features and we know how they arose, we invariably find that a purposeful agent or intelligent designer played a causal role in their origin.

Recorded April 24, 2004. Approximately 2 hours including audience Q&A.

I learned a lot by watching great lectures from Access Research Network. Their YouTube channel is here. I recommend their origin of life lectures – I have watched the ones with Dean Kenyon and Charles Thaxton probably a dozen times each. Speaking as an engineer, you never get tired of seeing engineering principles applied to questions like the origin of life.

If you’d like to see Dr. Meyer defend his views in a debate with someone who reviewed his book about the Cambrian explosion, you can find that in this previous post.

Further study

The Cambrian explosion lecture above is a great intermediate-level lecture and will prepare you to be able to understand Dr. Meyer’s new book “Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design“. The Michigan State University book that Dr. Meyer mentions is called “Darwin, Design and Public Education“. That book is one of the two good collections on intelligent design published by academic university presses, the other one being from Cambridge University Press, and titled “Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA“. If you think this lecture is above your level of understanding, then be sure and check out the shorter and more up-to-date DVD “Darwin’s Dilemma“.

Paul Helm debates William Lane Craig on Calvinism and Molinism on Unbelievable

I listened to this excellent discussion between Dr. William Lane Craig and Oxford University Calvinist philosopher Dr. Paul Helm. I think this is a useful discussion in general because atheists often bring up problems with Calvinism as objections to Christianity in general, such as:

  • If God exists, then he controls everything and I don’t have free will
  • If God knows the future, then I don’t have free will
  • If God controls everything, then I am not responsible for my sinning
  • If God HAS to choose me to be saved, then I am not responsible for my damnation if God doesn’t choose me

Details:

If God ordains the future, can humans have free will? Are people predestined for salvation? And what does the Bible say on the matter? William Lane Craig is a Christian philosopher and leading proponent of Molinism, a view of divine sovereignty that seeks to reconcile God’s fore-ordination with human free will. Paul Helm is a leading Calvin Scholar. He defends the view that  God predestines the future, limiting human freedom.

MP3 of this show: http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/p/618072/sp/61807200/playManifest/entryId/1_jn0bdo52/flavorId/0_002f1k0d/protocol/http/format/url/a.mp3?clientTag=feed:1_jlj47tkv

For William Lane Craig: http://www.reasonablefaith.org

For Paul Helm: http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.co.uk/ 

I was surprised because my Calvinist friend Dina thought that Dr. Helm won this debate, but I thought that Dr. Craig won. So without further ado, here is the snark-free summary of the discussion. I also sent the summary to Dina to make sure that it was reasonably fair and accurate. She said it was biased, but she was predestined to say that. Anyway, there’s a commentary on the debate over at Michael’s Theology blog.

Summary: 

JB: Has Lewis had any impact on your apologetics?

Craig: Not as a scholar, but more as a model of a scholar who leaves a legacy through his published work

JB: How did you become interested in Calvinism?

Helm: Starting from childhood, and lately writing more on Calvinism from a philosophical point of view

JB: How do you view God’s sovereignty?

Helm: Strong view of divine sovereignty, God is sovereign over all events, but that doesn’t mean that they are determined by him

JB: What is Calvin’s legacy?

Helm: He amplified an existing concept of predestination, and wrote on many other topics

JB: What is Molinism?

Craig: Molina affirms divine sovereignty as Paul Helm does, but he also affirms libertarian free will

Craig: Every event that occurs happens by God’s will or by God’s permission

JB: What about open theism?

Craig: Paul and I both oppose open theism

JB: How does Molinism reconcile human free will and divine sovereignty

Craig: God has knowledge of what would happen under any set of circumstances

Craig: God has knowledge of everything that COULD happen, and he has knowledge of everything that WILL happen

Craig: God knows what each person freely choose to do in any set of circumstances and he can place people in times and places where he is able to achieve his ends without violating creaturely freedom and creaturely responsibility

JB: How does this apply to the issue of salvation?

Craig: The circumstances in which God puts a person includes God leading people to him and he foreknows who will respond to his leading

Craig: God has ordered the world in such a way that he foreknows the exact people who will free respond to his leading if he puts them in certain circumstances

JB: Does God want to save the maximum of people?

Craig: My own view is that God does order the world in such a way that the maximum number of people will respond to God’s drawing them to himself

JB: Is the Molinist view gaining ground?

Craig: Yes, Calvinists and open theists are both moving towards it, and Molinism is the dominant view among philosophical theologians

JB: Why has Molinism not convinced you?

Helm: It’s an unnecessary theory, God’s natural knowledge and free knowledge covers what middle knowledge covers

Helm: Calvinism has a stronger view of sin, such that God has to act unilaterally and irrestibly to save them

JB: Are creatures free on your view?

Helm: My view of free will is weaker than Craig’s view of free will

Craig: For the Calvinist, grace is irresistible, but for the Molinist, grace is effective when it is met with a response from the creature

Craig: The Bible affirms the strong view of free will, when it says that in certain circumstances people can freely choose to do other than they do

Helm: But if a person is in circumstances X and they are free, then why don’t they choose something that isn’t what God can foresee

Craig: In identical circumstances, a person has the freedom to choose, and God doesn’t determine what they choose, he just foreknows what they choose

Helm: How can God foreknow what people will freely do if people have this strong view of freedom that allows them to do anything? God would not know what people can freely do if they really are free

Craig: God has knowledge of what his creatures would freely do in any set of circumstances, he has knowledge of subjunctive statements

Craig: The Scripture is filled with statements that show that God has this knowledge of what people would do in other circumstances (e.g. – 2 Cor 2:8)

Helm: I am not denying that the Bible is full of subjunctive statements, but if humans have real libertarian free will, then God cannot know what they will do

Craig: I think God does preordain everything, Molinism has a strong sense of divine sovereignty BUT the foreordaining is done with the knowledge of what humans would do in any circumstances, so that what God ordains achieves his ends, but without violating creaturely free will

Craig: I take at face value the passages of the Bible where it says that God wants all persons to be saved

Craig: When the Bible says that God wants ALL persons to be saved (2 Pet 3:9), the Bible means that God wants ALL persons to be saved

Craig: So either universalism is true OR there is something that stops all from being saved outside of God

Craig: the something that prevents all from being saved is creaturely free will

Helm: Most people don’t have the opportunity to hear the gospel, so God doesn’t want all to be saved

Helm: People can still be responsible for what God “fore-ordains”

JB: Can a person really be responsible for wickedness if they didn’t freely choose it?

Helm: Even though God is the only one who can act unilaterally to make save people, the people who act wickedly are still responsible

Craig: Molinism provides an answer to the problem of why not all people have heard the gospel, because by using middle knowledge he is able to know who would respond to the gospel if they heard it and he places those people in the times and places where they will hear it

Craig: That solution means that NO ONE is lost because they have not heard the gospel

Craig: There is Biblical support for (Acts 17:27) God choosing the times and places where people will live SO THAT they will be led by him and be able to respond to his leading

JB: Is God the author of sin, on Calvinism?

Craig: If Calvinists define providence to mean causal determinism, then he is the cause of every effect including human actions, and he is the one who causes people to sin

Craig: This view (determinism) impugns the character of God

Helm: I don’t think that sovereignty requires determinism

Helm: God has mysterious resources – which I cannot specify – that reconcile his sovereignty with human responsibility for wickedness

JB: But if God is the cause of people doing wrong things, then how can they be responsible for it?

Helm: Well, humans do cause their own actions

Craig: Helm is right to say that God has resources to reconcile God’s sovereignty with free will and human responsibility, and that resource is not an unknown mystery, it’s middle knowledge

Craig: I can affirm everything in the Westminster Confession except for the one clause where they expressly repudiate middle knowledge as the mechanism for reconciling divine sovereignty and free will

Helm: Well, Calvinists have a strong view of sin so that humans cannot respond to God’s leading

Craig: Yes, and that’s why humans need prevenient grace in order to respond to him

Craig: God has to take the initiative and draw people to himself or they cannot be saved, but that grace is resistible, and that’s what the Bible teaches (Acts 7:51), so humans are still responsible if they resist God

Helm: My view of grace is that it is monergistic and irrestible, it is a unilateral action on the part of God, like pulling someone out of an icy pond which they can’t get out of

JB: If humans freely choose to respond to God’s drawing and leading, does that diminish grace?

Helm: Many are called but few are chosen

Craig: Molinism does not require synergism – which is the idea that humans are partly responsible for their salvation

Craig: In Eph 2:8, Scripture is clear that faith opposite to works, and responding to God’s drawing is not meritorious

JB: So receiving a gift is not meritorious?

Craig: It’s the passive acceptance of what someone else has done for you

Helm: But doesn’t this mean that you can lose your salvation, because you can accept and resist the gift of salvation?

Craig: That’s a separate question that Christians can differ on, but if the Holy Spirit indwells a person and seals them, then that would argue for the view that salvation cannot be revoked

JB: Doesn’t Romans 8 teach Calvinism pretty clearly?

Helm: This is called the “golden chain”, and it does support Calvinism

Craig: Actually, this text is no problem for Molinists because the first link in the chain is foreknowledge, which, if it incorporates middle knowledge, is no problem for Molinists

Craig: What God is electing in Romans 8 is a specific group of people that he knows in advance of creating the universe will freely respond to his drawing them to him

Craig: In Acts 4:27-28, it is talking about God’s foreknowledge, which involves and incorporates knowledge of what any individual would freely choose if placed in those circumstances

JB: If God actualizes a set plan with set circumstances for everyone, isn’t that very similar to Calvinism?

Craig: Yes! It’s a strong statement of divine sovereignty

Helm: Foreknowledge doesn’t mean that God knows what people would do, it’s just refering to God “knowing his own mind” about what he wants to do

JB: How do you respond to the fairness of God unilaterally and specifically choosing some people for salvation and choosing other people for damnation (because he refuses to act unilaterally for them)?

Helm: God ordinarily bypasses other people in the Bible, like when he chooses the Jews as his chosen people

Craig: The problem with that is that the Bible clearly teaches that God has a genuine will that all will be saved and he makes a genuine offer of salvation to all people

Craig: Also, just being a Jew and a member of the chosen people doesn’t mean you were saved, because some Jews rebelled against God

Craig: And there were also people outside of the Jewish people who were righteous and in a relationship with God, like Job

Helm: “the fabric of our faith” depends on God’s choice and his not-choice, it is fundamental to the Bible and to God’s character, and choosing them “effectively” (irrestibly and unilaterally)

Helm: The idea of God considering “possible worlds”, some of which are feasible and not feasible, with conflicts between the wills of free creatures in different circumstances, and then actualizing one world that achieve these ends is very messy

Craig: Some worlds may not feasible for God to create, for example a world in which everyone is saved – it is logically possible, but may not be feasible

Craig: God will not exercise any divine coercion to force people to go to Heaven against their own will

Helm: If God chooses a world because it is feasible, then he doesn’t love me directly, he is choosing a world, not individuals

Craig: Well, when God actualizes a world, he specifically knows which individuals will be saved within that world, but without disrespecting free will

Craig: The world isn’t primary, the individuals are primary

Helm: I think that middle knowledge can he included in God’s natural knowledge and free knowledge

Craig: The knowledge of what people would do in different circumstances is based on the freedom of the individuals

JB: Make your conclusions!

Craig: Molinism is a Biblical model for reconciling divine sovereignty with human freedom

Helm: It is intellectually mystifying to introduce this strong view of human freedom and it is not Biblical

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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