The Challies / Lukeprog Letters (index)

by Luke Muehlhauser on December 21, 2009 in Indexes,Letters

challies-lukeprog

In December 2009, I began a series of letter exchanges with Christian author Tim Challies.

Here is an index of our letters:

  1. My first letter
  2. Tim’s first letter
  3. My second letter
  4. Tim’s second letter
  5. My third letter
  6. Tim’s third letter

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Omgredxface December 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Nice choice for your next letter series Luke, This guy seems very well rounded and easy to read.

And as weird as the foolishness paragraph was, I liked his question at the end.

Can’t wait for the response!

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rhys December 21, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Urgh.

I hate it when Christians quote Psalms 14. How would they like it if we said:

The fool hath said in his heart, There is an Invisible Man in the Sky. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

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Erika December 21, 2009 at 5:13 pm

I do have to agree with rhys. As much as Christians believe it is true, it still rubs me completely the wrong way when they quote Psalms 14. Especially when they say, “but oh, remember, it’s God saying this, not me”, as Tim did.

Up until that point, I was really looking forward to the exchange.

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Sly December 21, 2009 at 6:23 pm

It looks like a comment I made was deleted about the foolishness bit.

I asked what he hoped to accomplish with that section, and said that it was rude.

Apparently that was grounds for censorship…

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lukeprog December 21, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Sly,

What, on Challies’ site?

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Scott Scheule December 21, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Yes. I recall seeing that comment earlier today on Chaillies’ site.

That’s very disappointing.

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Eric Sherman December 21, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Challies says,”The Bible often uses the word “fool” to describe a person who either denies God’s existence or admits it but refuses to submit his life to him”

“Often,” as in once explicitly and once implicitly?? No matter. His appeal to “common grace” is typical Presuppositionalist circularity and his entire apologetic is based on roughly 2 Scriptures.

Beginning with calling you a “fool” (through the Bible??) can only devolve into a meaningless correspondence, IMO.

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Eric Sherman December 21, 2009 at 9:31 pm

After thought:

Obviously, he assumes his conclusion from the outset and because so he won’t be willing to provide you reasons or evidence to persuade as an Evidentialist would.

His whole argument is and will be: You’re a fool and you know the truth and you won’t stop suppressing this “self-evident” truth because you love your immorality too much. All you got to do is believe and it will be true for you.

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Edson December 22, 2009 at 2:51 am

I am intrigued by the questions that Tim poses to Luke, or all atheists for that matter, and will be all keen to see the response.

Seems Tim got the pyschology of atheists correctly. If there is one thing that Christians have to learn and get equiped with, in the battle of ideas with atheists, is the psychological warfare tactics, the tactics that it appears at the moment, are mastered fluently by atheists.

Christians need to put themeselves on the pyschologically upper position in any discussion with atheists. And to achieve that, a Christian need to learn the universal pyschological costume of self proclaimed proselytizing atheist preachers.

They all promotes themselves as the champions of reason, scholarship and evidence, and they aggresively want everybody to perceive them as such. And just by exposing any fault in their reasoning or simply resisting to grant the honor they expect, the Emperor is left without clothes and at that point, the atheist has no other choice but to resort to insults, if he is a dawkinite, or undergo a self-reflection process, if he is wise enough.

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Sly December 22, 2009 at 3:15 am

lukeprog: Sly,What, on Challies’ site?  

I suppose I should have clarified. I posted it on Challies site.

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Alex December 22, 2009 at 5:47 am

I’m very interested to see the next letter. It’s interesting that he says the Bible does not engage in elaborate proofs, but the fact is that contemporary apologists have the most ridiculously elaborate flights of logic. I’d also be interested to read your reply viz. “common grace” considering the geographical demographics of religious belief.

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Eric Sherman December 22, 2009 at 4:18 pm

“Common grace” aka: “Sensus Divinus” and/or “General Revelation”…so I’d like to know why the greater bulk of humanity throughout history will be judged according to their conscience, that is General Revelation (GR) (Romans 2), while only a very small percentage of all who ever lived will be judged according to Special Revelation (SR)?

Also, why is GR based on behavior/conscience whereas SR is based on faith? SR adds a wholly unnecessary and superfluous component.

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Jeff H December 22, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Eric Sherman: “Common grace” aka: “Sensus Divinus” and/or “General Revelation”…so I’d like to know why the greater bulk of humanity throughout history will be judged according to their conscience, that is General Revelation (GR) (Romans 2), while only a very small percentage of all who ever lived will be judged according to Special Revelation (SR)?
Also, why is GR based on behavior/conscience whereas SR is based on faith? SR adds a wholly unnecessary and superfluous component.  

That’s what I never understood. If people will be judged according to their conscience if, say, they never heard of Jesus, then a) why was Jesus’ death necessary in the first place, and b) doesn’t it make more sense to not tell people about Jesus then? I mean, most people throughout history have believed in some sort of God/gods. If a missionary then comes and tells them about Jesus, some will accept it, but some will also reject it. So missionary work, under this line of reasoning, would actually be sending more people to hell.

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lukeprog December 22, 2009 at 5:28 pm

Jeff H,

I think the classic tale there is the one about the Inuit and the missionary.

Christian: “You must believe in Jesus.”

Inuit: “What if I can’t believe?”

Christian: “Then you will go to hell forever.”

Inuit: “Would I be sent to hell if you had never told me?”

Christian: “Well, no, Jesus has compassion on those who never hear.”

Inuit: “Then why did you tell me?”

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ayer December 22, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Jeff H: So missionary work, under this line of reasoning, would actually be sending more people to hell.

That’s silly. Under God’s middle knowledge (as originally discussed by Molina and developed by Bill Craig), God knows how every person would respond if he or she were to hear the Gospel, and can easily providentially arrange so that every person who would freely accept Christ upon hearing the Gospel will receive the opportunity to do so:

Craig: “In conclusion, then, I think that a middle knowledge perspective on the problem of the exclusivity of the Christian religion can be quite fruitful. Since all persons are in sin, all are in need of salvation. Since Christ is God’s unique expiatory sacrifice for sin, salvation is only through Christ. Since Jesus and his work are historical in character, many persons as a result of historical and geographical accident will not be sufficiently well-informed concerning him and thus unable to respond to him in faith. Such persons who are not sufficiently well-informed about Christ’s person and work will be judged on the basis of their response to general revelation and the light that they do have. Perhaps some will be saved through such a response; but on the basis of Scripture we must say that such “anonymous Christians” are relatively rare. Those who are judged and condemned on the basis of their failure to respond to the light of general revelation cannot legitimately complain of unfairness for their not also receiving the light of special revelation, since such persons would not have responded to special revelation had they received it. For God in His providence has so arranged the world that anyone who would receive Christ has the opportunity to do so. Since God loves all persons and desires the salvation of all, He supplies sufficient grace for salvation to every individual, and nobody who would receive Christ if he were to hear the gospel will be denied that opportunity. As Molina puts it, our salvation is in our own hands.”

http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/middle2.html

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Eric Sherman December 22, 2009 at 7:05 pm

@ayer

“God knows how every person would respond if he or she were to hear the Gospel, and can easily providentially arrange so that every person who would freely accept Christ upon hearing the Gospel will receive the opportunity to do so”

So according to this “logic” it is safe to say that those most recipient of Special Revelation have lived post-Jesus? Those born post-Jesus, God knew would respond more favorably???? I can’t think of anything more totally and completely non-sensical and absurd! Seriously.

And what the hell is MIDDLE KNOWLEDGE? Is that to be distinguished from LOWER knowledge and HIGHER knowledge?? Truly, God is mysterious!

Are we to understand this in light of MIDDLE EARTH? :-)

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ayer December 22, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Eric Sherman: And what the hell is MIDDLE KNOWLEDGE?

Actually, middle knowledge is based on the standard philosophical concept of counterfactuals (see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-counterfactual/). Please do a little basic research.

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Eric Sherman December 22, 2009 at 7:45 pm

@Ayer

Yeah, I’m familiar. Answer my objection instead of diverting.

If middle knowledge is true “most recipient hearts” lived post-Jesus. Yes, no? Why, why not?

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ayer December 22, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Eric Sherman: Such persons who are not sufficiently well-informed about Christ’s person and work will be judged on the basis of their response to general revelation and the light that they do have

Yes, that’s true, especially since only 2% of the people who have ever lived were born prior to Jesus, and 98% after Jesus’ life. As Craig says, those born prior to Jesus (or in similarly historical or geographic circumstances) “will be judged on the basis of their response to general revelation and the light that they do have.” We also know that God “supplies sufficient grace for salvation to every individual, and nobody who would receive Christ if he were to hear the gospel will be denied that opportunity.” What’s the problem here?

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Eric Sherman December 22, 2009 at 8:17 pm

@Ayer

So, you are conceding the point that God would have had to situate people at the right times and places according to their openess??? And you don’t find this absurd?

Why not just save the saved and condemn the lost and simply get on with it?

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Pau S. December 22, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Round 1 of the battle of the unqualified(bloggers):

Challies

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danielg December 22, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Luke,

I took the opportunity to answer your letter on my own blog, hope you can get to it. Thx.
Letter To Tim Challies / Luke – Part I

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ayer December 23, 2009 at 8:31 am

Eric Sherman: @AyerSo, you are conceding the point that God would have had to situate people at the right times and places according to their openess??? And you don’t find this absurd?
Why not just save the saved and condemn the lost and simply get on with it?  

Because of this little thing called “free will.” God knows how each person would FREELY respond in every conceivable circumstance, and on the Molinist account, free will is preserved.

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Jeff H December 23, 2009 at 9:34 am

ayer:
That’s silly.Under God’s middle knowledge (as originally discussed by Molina and developed by Bill Craig), God knows how every person would respond if he or she were to hear the Gospel, and can easily providentially arrange so that every person who would freely accept Christ upon hearing the Gospel will receive the opportunity to do so…

Regardless of how ad hoc I think that explanation is, it’s completely irrelevant. As I said, missionary work doesn’t make sense under that line of reasoning. Saying, “Well that’s silly, because I believe something different” is completely irrelevant. Maybe I need to be more explicit:

For those who believe that God will judge people based on the knowledge they have received about Jesus, missionary work doesn’t make sense and would seem to send more people to hell.

Is that more clear? Note that you are free to agree or disagree with me, independent of whether you believe in this idea of middle knowledge or not. And to address that issue, I think it’s entirely ad hoc. Is there any scriptural support used to justify it? Because in that link you provided, I found it interesting that there is not one biblical reference after the heading of “Scientia Media”. One might think that God might be a little more explicit when it comes to issues of eternal salvation. But maybe that’s just not his thing.

Anyway, I also don’t see how this really can jive with the idea of free will. You suggest that God knows exactly what we would decide in any given situation – so if given the choice, the people (who don’t hear about Jesus) would have rejected him. But regardless of that, there’s one problem – they weren’t actually given the choice. That’s a little like saying, “Well, I gave you cheesecake, because I knew that if I had asked you, you would have chosen cheesecake over chocolate cake.” Regardless of this knowledge, the choice was not given, and therefore there was no free will involved. This person who gave you cheesecake chose for you. They may have known what you would choose, but either way, you didn’t choose. Same with God – if the people don’t hear about Jesus, they are not given the choice. Thus, God is violating their free will. End of story.

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majinrevan666 December 23, 2009 at 10:06 am

James White (Who’s somewhat insane…and a Calvinist) does
a fairly decent job of showing why molinism doesn’t work here: http://www.aomin.org/podcasts/20091022.mp3

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ayer December 23, 2009 at 10:48 am

Jeff H: For those who believe that God will judge people based on the knowledge they have received about Jesus, missionary work doesn’t make sense and would seem to send more people to hell.

No, Molinism addresses that directly because it holds that (1) God will judge people based on their response to the Gospel and that (2) everyone who would respond positively to the Gospel will receive knowledge of the Gospel. So missionary work would not “send more people to hell.”

Jeff H: Regardless of this knowledge, the choice was not given, and therefore there was no free will involved. This person who gave you cheesecake chose for you.

This statement shows that you have not understood the concept of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. You have to spend more than 5 minutes skimming Craig’s article to grasp it, but it is well worth the time.

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ayer December 23, 2009 at 10:50 am

majinrevan666: James White (Who’s somewhat insane…and a Calvinist) does
a fairly decent job of showing why molinism doesn’t work here: http://www.aomin.org/podcasts/20091022.mp3  

I have heard that podcast, and he does not do a good job of discussing Molinism; but as you said, he is a Calvinist who rejects free will, and has a strong bias against it.

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majinrevan666 December 23, 2009 at 11:18 am

ayer:
I have heard that podcast, and he does not do a good job of discussing Molinism; but as you said, he is a Calvinist who rejects free will, and has a strong bias against it.  

How do you answer the objection that Molinism doesn’t solve the problem of free will since it requires god to
have placed humans in situations in which they would not do X?

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Eric Sherman December 23, 2009 at 11:26 am

@JeffH

“Is there any scriptural support used to justify it? Because in that link you provided, I found it interesting that there is not one biblical reference after the heading of “Scientia Media””

Good point. Often philosophy is made the whore of theology employing her to turn tricks and provide favors where the Bible is impotent and incapable!

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ayer December 23, 2009 at 12:32 pm

majinrevan666: How do you answer the objection that Molinism doesn’t solve the problem of free will since it requires god to
have placed humans in situations in which they would not do X?

God uses his middle knowledge of the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (i.e., of what every person would or would not freely do in every conceivable circumstance) to place persons in circumstances in which they would not FREELY choose to do X. I don’t see a problem here.

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ayer December 23, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Eric Sherman: @JeffH“Is there any scriptural support used to justify it? Because in that link you provided, I found it interesting that there is not one biblical reference after the heading of “Scientia Media””Good point. Often philosophy is made the whore of theology employing her to turn tricks and provide favors where the Bible is impotent and incapable!  

I’m not sure what your objection is here. Scripture asserts that persons freely accept or reject the Gospel, and also asserts that God has foreknowledge of those decisions. Molinism is a philosophical/theological elaboration on those scriptures that deepens our appreciation of and understanding of those truths.

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Jeff H December 23, 2009 at 2:16 pm

ayer:
No, Molinism addresses that directly because it holds that (1) God will judge people based on their response to the Gospel and that (2) everyone who would respond positively to the Gospel will receive knowledge of the Gospel.So missionary work would not “send more people to hell.

And what I was saying is that my statement was addressing non-Molinists. If we granted for a moment that Molinism was false, would you then agree with me that missionary work would be non-sensical?

This statement shows that you have not understood the concept of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom.You have to spend more than 5 minutes skimming Craig’s article to grasp it, but it is well worth the time.  

Alright, so I read through it. You’re right, I didn’t entirely understand it. But I still think that this idea would counteract a notion of libertarian free will, at any rate. If such a view is true, then it would not be possible for God to know what an individual would do in a given situation, even with knowledge of the surrounding factors. Such middle knowledge would be impossible. But perhaps you don’t advocate libertarian free will – I can’t remember what you’ve said about it in the past.

I’ll retract my statement about middle knowledge being ad hoc. However, at best, Craig only espouses the idea of God doing some sort of efficiency analysis as a possibility. He doesn’t really present any positive arguments in its favour, but just says it’s logically possible. Unfortunately, with no evidence to back it up, its probability cannot be established. We have no idea if God actually went and figured out the optimal world to actualize such that the greatest number of people would go to heaven, and the least would go to hell, and that those going to hell would be positioned in the place of not hearing the gospel. He also only presents the notion of individuals who would never accept Christ as a possibility as well. Sure, perhaps it’s logically possible, but how probable is it that the majority of people in the world would never accept Christ no matter what evidence or “grace” was presented to them? Hell, the majority of the world is religious, it seems that it wouldn’t take too much to just convince them to trade one God for another.

So while I think that Craig does a good job of presenting it as a possibility, we need to move from that to probability, and I think that would be a much harder case to make.

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majinrevan666 December 23, 2009 at 2:56 pm

ayer:
God uses his middle knowledge of the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (i.e., of what every person would or would not freely do in every conceivable circumstance) to place persons in circumstances in which they would not FREELY choose to do X.I don’t see a problem here.  

It doesn’t really solve anything since we are still predestined to perform certain actions directly because
of god’s choices.
That is to say, it is ultimately god who decides things for us, even if on a micro level we appear to be making our own decisions.

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ayer December 23, 2009 at 3:26 pm

majinrevan666: It doesn’t really solve anything since we are still predestined to perform certain actions directly because
of god’s choices.

No, that’s simply not the case–”predestination” means “predetermined” and that is not what Molinism describes.

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danielg December 23, 2009 at 3:33 pm

>> AYER: ”predestination” means “predetermined” and that is not what Molinism describes.

Does it mean predetermined or preknown? There is a bit of a mystery here. How about this verse?

Romans 8:29
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined

He knew us ahead of time, and so he also predestined us. Quite a mind bender if you ask me. Back to the future and all.

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majinrevan666 December 23, 2009 at 3:42 pm

ayer:
No, that’s simply not the case–”predestination” means “predetermined” and that is not what Molinism describes.  

To my knowledge, Molinism describes a system through which
god actuates a world in which it is certain that people
will freely choose to do certain things.
Is this not a proper understanding of Molinism?

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ayer December 23, 2009 at 6:28 pm

danielg: Does it mean predetermined or preknown?

In the technical Calvinist sense, it means predetermined. The scriptural sense is more ambiguous, but Molinism is the best explanation of the scriptural evidence.

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ayer December 23, 2009 at 6:48 pm

majinrevan666: To my knowledge, Molinism describes a system through which
god actuates a world in which it is certain that people
will freely choose to do certain things.
Is this not a proper understanding of Molinism?

It’s a little condensed, but I could accept that definition with the stipulation that the people freely choosing are doing so with libertarian free will and that God’s foreknowledge of their choice in no way controls that choice.

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Thomas Reid December 23, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Jeff H: But I still think that this idea would counteract a notion of libertarian free will, at any rate. If such a view is true, then it would not be possible for God to know what an individual would do in a given situation, even with knowledge of the surrounding factors. Such middle knowledge would be impossible.

How so? It would be within the created person’s power to choose freely, God simply knows how they would choose. Where’s the contradiction?

So while I think that Craig does a good job of presenting it as a possibility, we need to move from that to probability, and I think that would be a much harder case to make.

It wasn’t clear to me for what probability you were asking – I thought you were using it in two senses. The first seemed to be, how probable is it that God has this type of knowledge? I think a typical Molinist response (well, mine anyway) is that this knowledge is essential to God, so there is no postulated probability about whether or not He has it. He wouldn’t be God if he didn’t have this knowledge.

But you also seemed to be asking, how probable is it that each of us would not place our faith in Christ no matter what evidence or grace was offered them? In that case, since God is omniscient, He need not assign any probability to any outcome. God simply knows everything about all possible worlds, including what each individual would or would not freely do.

For an expanded treatment of the subject, I recommend Thomas Flint’s “Divine Providence: The Molinist Account”.

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Fortuna December 24, 2009 at 12:41 am

Thomas Reid;

How so? It would be within the created person’s power to choose freely, God simply knows how they would choose. Where’s the contradiction?

If God knows what you would do in any given situation, does that not imply that one’s response is determined by the totality of the situation (circumstances + how your mind works)? If that’s so, how could ones’ will be libertarian? It would pretty clearly work in a deterministic fashion.

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Jeff H December 24, 2009 at 7:10 am

Thomas Reid:
How so?It would be within the created person’s power to choose freely, God simply knows how they would choose.Where’s the contradiction?

What Fortuna said, above. Libertarian free will requires that we have the ability to have free choice, over and on top of any influencing factors. So, to give a simple example, even if my genetics led me to overwhelmingly want to choose A, it would still be possible for me to choose B if I so chose to. If that is the case, then there is no direct causal link between what one’s genetics (and other factors, of course) dictates and one’s choice. That seems to completely negate the idea of middle knowledge, since God could place me in a specific situation that would influence me towards A, and yet I could still choose B because of my free will. God could still know the future (i.e. what I will choose), but that is different from this middle knowledge, which is what I would choose in any given situation.

Now, I don’t know where I stand on the issue of free will, but if I remember correctly, ayer has argued for it in the past, and likely many Molinists would as well. So I’m arguing that Molinism would not allow for libertarian free will, and would need some level of determinism – or at least a compatibilist perspective.

It wasn’t clear to me for what probability you were asking – I thought you were using it in two senses.

Sorry for the ambiguity. But yes, I was using it in two senses – I was asking two separate questions, actually. The problem I was pointing out was Craig’s argumentation style, which is purely defending Molinism from possible counter-arguments. I suppose perhaps there are positive arguments out there as well, but he did not seem to really present them.

First off, he says something like, “It is possible that God has surveyed all the possible worlds and chosen the one where the greatest number of people will go to heaven and the least will go to hell.” This assumes, of course, that there is no possible world where everyone goes to heaven, and there is no possible world with a greater “efficiency”, so to speak (greater in heaven, lesser in hell). These assumptions seem to need more of a justification than what he’s given them.

How do we know that there is no more efficient world out there? It seems to me, at least, that if God had started appearing to people around the world and presented them with perfect Bibles in their own native language, or if he had written “Yahweh was here” on the moon, that more people would be saved, with no greater number placed in hell. I just don’t see how it is justified to assume that this is the most efficient world, when it is easy to come up with scenarios that would appear to provide more people in heaven. What Craig is essentially saying is that all these people who never hear about Jesus (which is and has been a large percentage of the population throughout history) are all people who would never have accepted him, no matter what evidence was provided to them. Given the frequency of religious belief in the world, it seems unlikely that this is the case. It seems very probable that a Muslim child growing up in Saudi Arabia would be just as convinced of Jesus as the Messiah had he grown up in a Christian family in the Southern US. This seems very intuitive to me, and unless one is willing to engage in circular reasoning (“well it may be intuitive, but it can’t be true because God has determined the optimally efficient world and this is it”), we need a better justification.

Hopefully I’ve explained myself a little more clearly. Craig does a good job at establishing the logical possibility of those two assumptions: that this may be the most efficient world, and that the people that don’t hear about Jesus may all be people that would never accept him anyway. I just don’t see either of them as probable. And I think more discussion about the probability of these premises being true is needed in order to properly determine whether Molinism is true.

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ayer December 24, 2009 at 9:12 am

Jeff H: I just don’t see either of them as probable.

For an atheist, it is extremely doubtful whether he or she would ever find any of the explanations of how salvation works for “those who have never heard” probable, since they Christian theism ab initio. So convincing the atheist is not really the point. What Molinism shows, however, is that the cartoonish view that “under Christianity, missionary work just sends more people to hell” is silly.

However, I appreciate the fact that you seem to have considered Molinism carefully. Suffice it to say that (2) I see no reason why God’s knowing what someone would freely do in every possible world entails controlling what that person would do; and (2) in Christianity, the primary obstacle to faith is not lack of knowledge, but pride; most other religions offer a way for the individual to earn his or her salvation through works, but Christianity requires the individual to admit that that is impossible, which is why just hearing the Gospel would not necessarily result in conversion for adherents of other religions.

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Thomas Reid December 24, 2009 at 9:46 am

Fortuna: If God knows what you would do in any given situation, does that not imply that one’s response is determined by the totality of the situation (circumstances + how your mind works)? If that’s so, how could ones’ will be libertarian? It would pretty clearly work in a deterministic fashion.

No, I don’t see how knowledge of what a person would choose determines the facts of the matter and removes the person’s freedom. The act determines the knowledge; the knowledge does not determine the act. Consider an example:

There are two people, Bob and Sue. If given the freedom, Sue would choose diamonds over a coal lump for Christmas. How might Bob know this? In each of the following 4 scenarios, assume that the causal antecedents are identical, it’s just that Bob has varying knowledge of them.

(1) Suppose Bob knows merely that Sue is a person. Bob believes that people in general prefer diamonds instead of coal for Christmas gifts, so he thinks Sue would prefer diamonds. So he has a certain flimsy level of justification for this true belief, but maybe he doesn’t yet have knowledge about what Sue would choose.

(2) Now suppose Bob knows that Sue is a woman. Bob believes that women in general prefer diamonds, and so he reasons that Sue would choose diamonds. Now perhaps he has a greater justification for this belief.

(3) Now suppose Bob knows that Sue is married, and that it is her husband who is giving the gift. Well Bob would be on even firmer ground here, if he knows that wives prefer diamonds from their husbands instead of coal. The degree to which we can call Bob’s belief about Sue “knowledge” is increasing.

(4) But now suppose that Bob knows Sue is his wife – he has acquired great familiarity with her having been married to her for the past 30 years. Bob knows that Sue would prefer diamonds from him instead of coal, and I think we could rightly call this “knowledge”.

As we think about the progression from scenario (1) to (4), all else being the same, does it make any sense to say that we’ve been moving closer to determining Sue’s choice? I don’t think so. For all along we have been changing the facts about Bob and his knowledge, not Sue. Remember, the causal antecedents were the same in each scenario, but we postulated Bob’s varying knowledge of them.

In the same way, God’s middle knowledge of our choices, although complete, have no bearing on those choices. Upon His act of creation, the content of His knowledge about what free creatures will do is set, but only on account of the fact that He has middle knowledge, not because we are without freedom.

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danielg December 24, 2009 at 10:03 am

Thought this link was timely and related to the discussion:
Theological Defenses of Hell: Freewill theism

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majinrevan666 December 24, 2009 at 11:44 am

ayer:
It’s a little condensed, but I could accept that definition with the stipulation that the people freely choosing are doing so with libertarian free will and that God’s foreknowledge of their choice in no way controls that choice.  

It does in the following way:

God to humans
is
Kevin Spacy to brad pit in the movie Seven.

God places humans in situations of which he has foreknowledge while knowing perfectly well that their own
shortcomings will result in their ultimate damnation.

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ayer December 24, 2009 at 12:41 pm

majinrevan666: It does in the following way:

God to humans
is
Kevin Spacy to brad pit in the movie Seven.

God places humans in situations of which he has foreknowledge while knowing perfectly well that their own
shortcomings will result in their ultimate damnation.

I haven’t seen the movie, but there are two problems with your statement. (1) “Choice” is what is going on, not “shortcomings” (which is an ambiguous term that could imply lack of libertarian freedom); and (2) your objection boils down to the fact that if God creates a world where he foreknows that some will reject him, that amounts to controlling their decision to reject him. And that’s just not the case. Now, you are free to disagree with God and say it would be better to have no world at all, but that is a different issue.

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majinrevan666 December 24, 2009 at 4:15 pm

ayer:
I haven’t seen the movie, but there are two problems with your statement.(1) “Choice” is what is going on, not “shortcomings” (which is an ambiguous term that could imply lack of libertarian freedom); and (2) your objection boils down to the fact that if God creates a world where he foreknows that some will reject him, that amounts to controlling their decision to reject him.And that’s just not the case.Now, you are free to disagree with God and say it would be better to have no world at all, but that is a different issue.  

How about this then:

God is to humans what god is to Adam and Eve in genesis?
(tautological, yes, but you probably get my point.)

1)I never said that choice meant shortcomings.
I’m not sure what you mean by saying that choice equals what is going on.

2)My problem is with the actuation of the possible world
wherein they are predestined to reject him.
I see the distinction between “would” and “could” as a distinction between macro and micro free will respectively.

Do you admit that according to Molinism, we all have
a destiny which we cannot, in this actuated world, defy?

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Jeff H December 25, 2009 at 8:24 am

ayer:
For an atheist, it is extremely doubtful whether he or she would ever find any of the explanations of how salvation works for “those who have never heard” probable, since they Christian theism ab initio.So convincing the atheist is not really the point.What Molinism shows, however, is that the cartoonish view that “under Christianity, missionary work just sends more people to hell” is silly.

Well, of course, if God doesn’t exist, then there’s a probability of approximately 0 that God would be doing anything like this. I was working under the assumption that Christian theism is true for this – as Molinism is really an account of how God acts rather than whether he exists. It could be compared to say, Calvinism in this respect. Both Molinism and Calvinism are of course already assuming that the Christian God exists, etc., so it would only be fair to operate under those assumptions. Just like you could say, “Well, I don’t believe that Santa Claus exists, but if he did, he’d probably give presents to me.” So, I can just as easily say, “I don’t believe God exists, but if he did, this is probably how we would act.”

And as I’ve already said, the comment about missionary work only applies to a certain view of Christianity. I never meant it as a broad brush-stroke. My original comment about this said “So missionary work, under this line of reasoning, would actually be sending more people to hell.” If you don’t share this line of reasoning (non-Molinism, if you will), then it doesn’t apply to you. It does, however, apply to those Christians that would say that people can be saved by simple general revelation alone if they have not heard of the Gospel specifically. If anything, you should be agreeing with me on this. But whatever – let’s just drop it, as you seem to be hung up on some idea that I was trying to apply it to everyone.

However, I appreciate the fact that you seem to have considered Molinism carefully.Suffice it to say that (2) I see no reason why God’s knowing what someone would freely do in every possible world entails controlling what that person would do;

I agree. However, God isn’t simply leaving it at knowledge alone – he is then using that knowledge to place people in specific situations. If I know that when you find yourself in a McDonalds, you (always) choose a cheeseburger over a regular hamburger, but in Harvey’s you (always) do the opposite, then I can manipulate your choice but taking you to one restaurant over another. If I want you to choose a cheeseburger, I’m going to take you to McDonald’s.

However, I find the stronger line of reasoning to be that against libertarian free will, which I see as being in conflict with this idea of “middle knowledge”. If we truly have a free choice in the matter, then the situation, environment, and internal factors will never, ever give us a complete picture of what we will choose. It may give us probability, but never certainty. Thus, God would not be able to know with certainty what we would do in any given situation – but perhaps he may at least have some idea of what we would probably do. That would seem to be the only way to rescue Molinism if we truly have libertarian free will.

and (2) in Christianity, the primary obstacle to faith is not lack of knowledge, but pride; most other religions offer a way for the individual to earn his or her salvation through works, but Christianity requires the individual to admit that that is impossible, which is why just hearing the Gospel would not necessarily result in conversion for adherents of other religions.  

Again, this is speaking in possibilities. It “would not necessarily result in conversion”; fine, but I would say it may in many cases probably lead to conversion. A Molinist is required to say that the many, many religious people out there would never, ever respond to any evidence presented to them, even if Jesus Christ himself descended from heaven and said, “Hey, dumbass, I’m real. Believe in me. Let me tell you exactly what to do to go to heaven,” and then flew back up into heaven with a chorus of angels attending him and a brilliant flash of light. THAT is a prerequisite for being a Molinist – that in every possible situation, the majority of the people in the world would never believe. That’s a pretty tall order, and I don’t see it as likely. But perhaps I have a silly notion that people might tend to believe that some miraculous event proves heavenly truth. I guess that never happens, right?

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ayer December 26, 2009 at 8:42 am

Jeff H: “So missionary work, under this line of reasoning, would actually be sending more people to hell.”

This is still a distortion, because the view you hold is not really a detailed theological view at all; it’s just the view that “we share the Gospel because of the Great Commission, and we trust God to be fair regarding the eternal destiny to those who ultimately do not hear the Gospel.” That is a perfectly acceptable view, but Molinism seeks a deeper and more detailed understanding of what is going on.

Jeff H: then I can manipulate your choice but taking you to one restaurant over another.

As long as that choice is made freely, as Molinism stipulates, then it is still “free will.” No free will decision is made in a vacuuum.

Jeff H: If we truly have a free choice in the matter, then the situation, environment, and internal factors will never, ever give us a complete picture of what we will choose. It may give us probability, but never certainty. Thus, God would not be able to know with certainty what we would do in any given situation – but perhaps he may at least have some idea of what we would probably do.

No, under middle knowledge God has knowledge not just of the factors that influence the decision, but knowledge of the free will decision itself. Again, 100% certainty does not equal control. But there is an orthodox (though controversial) Christian view called “open theism” that is similar to what you are saying here, and orthodox Christians can have a variety of views on this philosophical issue.

Jeff H: But perhaps I have a silly notion that people might tend to believe that some miraculous event proves heavenly truth.

But believing something to be a fact and surrendering one’s life to that truth are two different things. As the book of James says, even demons believe in God; that obviously does not mean that they therefore follow God.

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Jeff H December 27, 2009 at 8:22 am

ayer:No, under middle knowledge God has knowledge not just of the factors that influence the decision, but knowledge of the free will decision itself.Again, 100% certainty does not equal control.But there is an orthodox (though controversial) Christian view called “open theism” that is similar to what you are saying here, and orthodox Christians can have a variety of views on this philosophical issue.

Just as a question, do you subscribe to the idea of libertarian free will? If you don’t, then that’s fine. But from what Craig said about middle knowledge, it seems entirely incompatible with LFW. Remember that middle knowledge is not the knowledge of what we will do, but just what we would in any given situation. Since God (at this “moment”) has not chosen a specific world to instantiate, he has no knowledge of the “future”, so to speak – only of said counterfactuals. But under LFW, the determining factors do not add up to the decision. In other words, even if we took into account all determining factors (gender, age, situation, etc.), we would still have a free choice over and on top of that. Thus, middle knowledge could not include a knowledge of what an individual would definitely do in a given situation. At best, it could only give a probable result. Now, I suppose after God creates a specific world with all the details he wants, he would have “latter knowledge” (or whatever Molina called it…I don’t feel like looking it up right now), and could know the future, so to speak. He would know how the chain of events would play out. But this knowledge in Molinism comes after creating a specific world, and is thus not included in middle knowledge.

Of course, this still leaves Molinism open for deterministic or compatibilistic views, so it’s definitely not a complete counter-argument. But I don’t see how it can be compatible with LFW, that’s all.

But believing something to be a fact and surrendering one’s life to that truth are two different things.As the book of James says, even demons believe in God; that obviously does not mean that they therefore follow God.

Well, I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Obviously you seem to place more emphasis on human stubbornness than I do. I can point to general gullibility of people, whereas you can point to unwillingness to surrender. I don’t see your situation as very probable, but you obviously do. So whatever. Let’s just say that I don’t find it convincing, and leave it at that :)

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danielg January 7, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I’ve created my own series permalink for this series, which includes my responses to Luke’s letters, which I think are, in some ways, better than Tim Challies’. You be the judge.

Luke / Challies Letter Series – an atheist talks to a Christian about working together

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lukeprog January 7, 2010 at 4:24 pm

daniel,

I plan on responding to you after my series with Challies is done.

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