Monday, September 24, 2007

Providence & Prayer

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

Terrance Tiessen is an advocate of what, for convenience, I dub Reformed middle knowledge—which is a compatibilist variant of Molinism. His book on Providence & Prayer, which is well worth owning, presents a comparison and contrast between competing positions on divine providence. Terry also has a forthcoming article in the WTJ in defense of Reformed middle knowledge.

I'll quote some passages from his book, and then comment on the excerpts:
Without restating the argument, I believe that the demonstration of the compatibility of foreknowledge and human freedom, even libertarian freedom, which was offered by William Lane Craig (Molinist model) is completely adequate. Foreknowledge is not causative, not would it be an instance of backward causation.1
i) It's hard to square this admission with Terry's stated position elsewhere, in which he denies that foreknowledge and libertarian freedom are compatible (e.g. 317).

ii) I also don't see how his conclusion follows from the premise. It's true that foreknowledge doesn't determine the future. So it's not "causative." But foreknowledge implies a determinate future. The relation is logical rather than causal. But even on logical grounds, foreknowledge is incompatible with an indeterminate future—since an indeterminate object of knowledge cannot be an object of knowledge.
What God knows ahead of time (from our perspective) is the future that comes about through the decisions of free human agents (and would be so, even if they were libertarianly free, which I do not believe is the case, though Craig does). If people decided differently, God's knowledge would have been different. This does not entail that the future must be undecided; it affirms rather than the future that actually comes to be is determined by responsible agents at that time, that those actual decisions have truth value, and that God knows their truth value.2
This statement is not so much wrong as it is misleading, for it's quite ambiguous, and skates over the deeper issues. For those theological traditions that affirm foreknowledge, the question at issue is not whether God knows the future, but how he knows the future—consistent with other attributes or actions.

It's true that human beings, as secondary agents, have an instrumental role to play in causing certain things to happen. It's also true, in a sense, to say that if people decided differently, God's knowledge would have been different. But this is all equivocal.

From a Reformed standpoint, human beings don't "determine" the future. God determines the future. God's determination determines what human beings will do. This includes their contribution to the future as secondary agents. There is a sense in which human beings effect or eventuate aspects of the future. We are temporal creatures, acting in time and space, so that our past or present actions (or even inactions) impact the future. To some extent, we bring it about. A system of providence involves secondary agents (personal agents) as well as secondary agencies (inanimate forces).

That, however, doesn't mean that we "determine" a future event, any more than an electrical storm "determines" a future event. Lightening may cause a forest fire, but it doesn't "determine" that outcome—not in the way that Terry is using the term.

Now, you might say that it determines the outcome in terms of physical determinism. It's a physical determinate, in the sense of cause and effect (e.g. a chemical reaction). But I don't think that's the kind of determinism that Terry has in mind.

Rather, he is taking the position that the possible future which God determines to occur is, itself, determined by his knowledge of what we would do in one possible world or another. That's not the same thing as physical determinism.

Rather, it's a ways of saying that God's reason for choosing to instantiate possible world A over world B is supplied by his knowledge of what we would do in alternative scenarios.

From a Reformed standpoint, our contribution to the future is determined by God. Yes, we contribute to the eventuation of the future. But that is because God has determined that future (as an end), and has also determined our causal contribution (as a means to that end).

Now, it's consistent for Terry to say that we determine the future since, for Terry, God is opting for possible world A over possible world B in light of what we would do in either situation. And that, in turn, introduces the specter of retrocausation—as if God's knowledge of what we would do is caused by what we would do.

Indeed, this implicitly flirts with the specter of preexistence, as if God is making his choice from a platonic plenum of free-floating possibilities that subsist apart from the nature and being God—like a cosmic mail-order catalogue.

Calvinism doesn't deny that God knows what we would do. But what is the source of his knowledge? In Calvinism, God's knowledge of hypotheticals and counterfactuals is an aspect of his self-knowledge. God knows what we would do, because God knows what he would do with us.

In Reformed theology, hypotheticals are hypothetical decrees. God knows the alternative outcome because he knows what would occur if he decreed the alternative outcome. God not only knows the outcome of the actual decree, but he also knows the outcome of every hypothetical decree.

The correct metaphor wouldn't be a mail order catalogue, but a novel. A novelist knows what his characters will do, and he knows what they would do. He knows that, in part, because he assigns to each character its defining characteristics. It would be out of character for a character to act in a certain way. And it would be out of character because the novelist has vested the character with certain characteristics.

He also knows what each and every character will do in the future because he has written their future for them. And he knows what they would do in some alternative future, because he has imagined alternative endings for his novel.

Do the characters determine the plot? No. Do the characters determine the author's knowledge of the plot? No.

The characters carry out the plot. They are part of the story. They make certain things happen—things that wouldn't happen if that character didn't exist. And the author's knowledge of the story would be different if the story were different.

But who would make the story different? The storyteller or the storybook characters? If the author chose to write a different story, then that would affect his knowledge of the story, but that's an aspect of the author's self-knowledge. He determines which possible storyline will become the actual storyline.

The characters don't write the plot. Rather, they are written into the plot. The novel isn't written from the inside out—like The NeverEnding Story.

Okay, I'm using a metaphor. And it has certain limitations—like any metaphor. But I think it helps to explicate and expose certain inchoate assumptions and intuitions that are feeding into middle knowledge.

Unlike fictional characters, human beings are conscious beings. And we are genuine agents. We cause certain things to happen.

Yet, when we talk about possible persons in possible worlds, we are talking about the equivalent of fictional characters. Possible worlds are fictions—fictions which inhere in the mind of God. It's just that one of those otherwise imaginary scenarios will come true—in the actual world which God chooses to instantiate.

What is a possible person, anyway? Is a possible person something over and above God's idea of a possible person?

A real person is something over and above God's bare idea. In making a real person, God objectifies his idea in space and even. Even in that case, a real person exactly corresponds to the possible person—which he concretely exemplifies.

And in what sense is a possible person God's idea of a possible person? Are there possible persons, in the sense of freestanding possibilities—of which God has an idea? That would be Platonism rather than Christian theism.

Rather, God's idea is constitutive of a possible person. A possible person is a contingent set of properties which God predicates of a common subject. They don't have to go together to form that particular set of properties, which—in turn—constitutes a possible person. God could consociate a different set of properties.

Indeed, God entertains every possible combination. That's a feature of his necessary knowledge. He knows all possibilities and all compossibilities. Hence, God knows a possible person by knowing his own idea of a possible person—and his idea is constitutive rather than derivative.

By contrast, Terry is implicitly—if not intentionally—suggesting the reverse: that the possible person is constitutive of God's idea.

From a Reformed standpoint, God knows a possible person by knowing himself. He knows what he thinks, and he knows what he can do. A possible world is a subset of divine omnipotence. A possible world is a circumlocution for what God could possibly do. And a possible person is a special case of a possible world.

So what makes a possible person possible is divine omnipotence. Possibility isn't ultimately an attribute of an ideal person, but of the God whose omnipotence is what makes anything possible, and whose omniscience is constitutive of the object.

That's a long answer to a brief quotation, but it will expedite the analysis as we proceed.
I, too have become increasingly convinced that God's knowledge of what would happen in hypothetical situations is an essential element in his wise planning and predestining of the future of the world's history.3
I don't have any problems with this statement, per se. My problem, rather, is with Terry's assumption that this condition can only be satisfied by middle knowledge. But hypotheticals are possibilities. As such, they are already covered by God's necessary knowledge. God knows what would transpire if he decreed an alternative state of affairs. So this doesn't demand recourse to middle knowledge.
God must know what a person would do in every possible situation, and one cannot know that if the person's decision is ultimately indeterminate, awaiting the apparently arbitrary choice of the free agent when the moment of decision arrives.4
I agree, which is why I don't how what he denies on p317 is at all consistent with what he affirms on p315. Here he says one cannot know that if the person's decision is ultimately indeterminate, awaiting the apparently arbitrary choice of the free agent when the moment of decision arrives, but there he says the demonstration of the compatibility of foreknowledge and human freedom, even libertarian freedom, which was offered by William Lane Craig (Molinist model) is completely adequate.

This tension is reinforced by his definition of contracausal freedom (365) and libertarian freedom (366) in the glossary, which converges with his denial on p317, but diverges from his affirmation on p315.
If God simply decided the future in one logical moment without regard to the possible responses of creatures to his own initiatives and the wisest responses that he could make to those creaturely decisions, then any appearance of significance in those human decisions is thoroughly illusory.5
Once again, this is, at best, ambiguous.

i) How does a denial of middle knowledge imply that God doesn't take the consequences of each alternative scenario into account when he chooses which possible world to instantiate? God's necessary knowledge will suffice.

ii) Now his necessary knowledge would be inadequate if you think that God's knowledge of counterfactuals is dependent on what the creature would do. But I reject that assumption for reasons I gave in my earlier reply to Terry, where I said (to quote myself):
In Molinism, God's knowledge of what the creature would do is a mediate knowledge, mediated by the creature.

God knows what the libertarian agent would do because what the libertarian agent would do is the cause of God's knowledge. God isn't causing the agent to do this, for if he were causing it, the agent would cease to be free in the libertarian sense.

In Calvinism, by contrast, God knows what the agent would do because he knows what the agent would do if he caused the agent to do this or that in some alternative scenario. So, in Calvinism, God's knowledge of hypotheticals or counterfactuals is immediate rather than mediate.

Thus, Calvinism preserves divine aseity and impassibility, whereas scientia media compromises divine aseity and impassibility by making God's knowledge of hypotheticals or counterfactuals contingent on what the creature would do, rather than what God would do with or to the creature.
iii) Since, moreover, Terry is on record as endorsing compatibilism, that would be the obvious strategy to pursue in anchoring and explicating the significance of human decisions.

iv) The problem with Terry's position doesn't lie in the responsiveness of the creature, but in making God react to the creature—as if God must adapt to a realm of autonomous possibilities that present themselves to him or confront him with a preset range of choices from which he is allowed to make his selection.

Yet hypotheticals are not a preexistent, coeternal vending machine, alongside God, as if God inserts the coin, makes his selection from a preset menu, then pushes the button, and out pops the actual world.



1 T. Tiessen, Providence & Prayer (IVP 2000), 315.
2 Ibid. 315-16.
3 Ibid. 316.
4 Ibid. 317.
5 Ibid. 319.

21 comments:

  1. Steve,

    I am honored that you deem my proposal worth critique. I always find it helpful to learn how others have heard me and to have the opportunity to clarify where necessary.

    I won’t work my way through your comments one by one because that would entail a message longer than your own and any third parties might well get lost along the way. I will address what I take to be your issues and you can let me know if I miss something.

    My goal

    You have picked up my interest in demonstrating that God acts wisely in his decree (but you think that God need not contemplate possible worlds in a middle moment to achieve this). You have also discerned my desire to account for evil acts that are determined by God in a way that does not make God morally responsible for those acts (but you think that compatibilist freedom will suffice).

    This leads me to the proposal that I have laid out as “middle knowledge Calvinism” but which you find incoherent. At this point, I want to restate what I said on your previous blog post and have said to other Calvinists with whom I have discussed the matter in recent years. Defending divine middle knowledge is not my interest. What I am promoting is God’s use of his knowledge of counterfactuals, by which I mean his knowledge of what would happen if particular circumstances pertained. In working on the traditional Calvinist model of providence I came to the conviction that it presumes that God uses this kind of knowledge but that this fact has not been made explicit and it is helpful to do so.

    I don’t really care whether you think of God’s knowledge of counterfactuals as part of his necessary knowledge or of a middle knowledge but I really do think that your doctrine of providence will have the greatest explanatory force and plausibility if you make God’s use of this knowledge an important part of the “process” by which God reaches the decision to create a universe with a particular history.

    Foreknowledge and human freedom

    Upon your mention of p. 317, I read it again and I could not see where you found contradiction between my position there and the one on p. 315. Later in your message, however, I discerned the mistake that led you to charge me with incoherence. You have confused my position regarding God’s knowledge of actual future events and my position regarding God’s knowledge of counterfactuals.

    I have argued that even if God gave creatures libertarian freedom he could know what they will freely choose to do in the future because the factuality of these events gives them truth value. I do not believe that creatures have libertarian freedom, but I do not deny that even if they did God would have foreknowledge of what they would libertarianly freely choose to do.

    I deny, however, that counterfactuals can be known because they (unlike factuals) do not have truth value.

    Whether or not God could know the future acts of libertarianly free creatures is not a big deal for me, but when I engage in dialogue with people I like to grant them as much as I can. Why cut off the conversation before we must? To concede that God could know what libertarianly free creatures actually do is really a very small concession.

    What I think we need to point out to proponents of simple foreknowledge, however, is that, on this point, the Open Theists are correct. Simple foreknowledge is useless to God. It gives God no opportunity to affect the future. The actual future that God knows ahead of time would be the future that comes to be through the joint action of God and the creatures and, because God knows it as fact, he can change neither his action nor that of the creatures.

    So, Steve, I think that if you read the quotes you cited with attention to the difference between facts and counterfacts, you will discern that there is no incoherence in my statements regarding divine foreknowledge. It is not libertarian freedom and divine foreknowledge that are incompatible but libertarian freedom and foreknowledge of events that never occur. It is in cases where no decision is made by libertarianly free beings that it is impossible to know how they would have acted. If creatures have the power of contrary choice, what they would do in situations that do not occur is necessarily unpredictable, regardless of how well one knows the actors and the situations. God could know the probabilities (what Boyd calls “might counterfactuals”) but that would do him little good given the immense number of decisions that a moral creature makes in a lifetime. Even if God predicted accurately 99% of the time how a creature will act, the effect of the 1% of erroneous expectations would multiply astronomically over time.

    The risk of God’s being dependent upon his creatures

    I see the core of your most serious objection to Calvinist appropriation of middle knowledge to be a concern that it makes God dependent upon the creature. I suggest to you that this concern is groundless. Whatever dependence may be involved in the process is completely insignificant and detracts not one whit from God’s meticulous sovereignty and self-sufficiency.

    Let’s take a simple biblical example, 1 Corinthians 10:13 and see if we can reach common ground on the usefulness of God’s knowledge of counterfactuals (regardless of “when” he knows them). There we have a promise that God will not allow us to get into a situation where me are tempted beyond our ability. This assumes, I believe, that we are compatibilistically or soft-deterministically free. As Edwards argued so well, we act according to our nature. Because God knows me so completely, he knows, for instance under what circumstances I would yield to temptation to steal. (Here, I include in the circumstances, the gracious activity of God in my mind, conscience etc.) Because God knows these counterfactuals, he can see to it that those circumstances never occur. There will never be a time when I can say, after having stolen, that I was tempted beyond my ability. God knows my natural limits, and he knows what sort of grace he needs to give me to enable me to be obedient.

    In this scenario, notice that some of what God knows is not the result of his determination. In that regard, I see significant confusion in your message regarding the relationship between God’s necessary and free knowledge. What God knows necessarily is not a result of his determination. It is in God’s free knowledge that he knows things because he has determined that they should be as they are. Whether God knows counterfactuals in his necessary knowledge or in his middle knowledge, he knows them “before” his decree and hence prior to his determining. As a counterfactual knowledge, God would not know that I would steal in a particular set of circumstances because he determines that I would do so. He knows it because he knows necessarily how a particular creature would act in particular circumstances. Knowing this, God then decides which particular creatures and which sets of circumstances God will bring about directly or mediately through the acts of creatures.

    The reason that divine dependence is not at issue here is because I agree with you that the actual future is determined by God. God knows in detail everything that will happen in the history of his creation because he has determined in his eternal purpose what will happen. God’s free knowledge is the knowledge of his own will. For this, God is dependent on no other will. This is what we must insist upon, to protect God’s independence.

    It is not problematic, however, for God to know, prior to his decree, that creature x would do y if x were in set of circumstances z. The critical thing is that neither creature x nor circumstances z will exist unless God determines that they should. God decided, for instance, that though Peter would deny Jesus three times, he would not completely fall away. He knew in what circumstances a man like Peter would deny Jesus and, knowing that, “prior” to his decree, he determined that Peter would be allowed to experience three situations (not two or four) in which he would deny Jesus. Peter was not absolved from guilt in these denials by virtue of their inclusion in God’s decree, precisely because God did not have to do anything to bring those denials about. He did not give Peter the grace to resist the temptation, he simply let Peter do what anyone who knew Peter thoroughly could predict Peter would do. God did determine, however, that he would preserve Peter from complete apostasy and Jesus’ intercession for Peter was a key means to the attaining of that ordained end. (Note that Jesus did not pray that Peter would not deny him, only that his faith would not fail. For Judas, however, Jesus prayed no such prayer because he knew that the Father had not given Judas to him.)

    Was God’s knowledge dependent on Peter in this case? In a very minimal sense, yes. In making his decree God took into account what a man like Peter would do in particular circumstances. But this is completely insignificant. The point is that neither the man Peter nor the circumstances Peter faced would ever have existed had God not determined that they should exist. Everything real is dependent upon God for its reality.

    So, Steve, you seriously misrepresent me when you say that, in my view, “God’s reason for choosing to instantiate possible world A over world B is supplied by his knowledge of what we would do in alternative scenarios.” Definitely not. Whatever reasons God had for determining that Peter should deny Jesus three times, they were certainly not supplied by his knowledge of what Peter would do in particular circumstances. Rather, because God knew in what circumstances a man like Peter would chicken out, he was able to instantiate that particular world. God’s knowledge of counterfactuals was useful to him but it certainly did not provide him with reasons for choosing which world to instantiate.

    Middle knowledge

    It seems to me that all of this works within a Calvinist framework regardless of “when” God has this knowledge of counterfactuals that he uses without any compromise to his meticulous sovereignty. On the other hand, it is very difficult for me to see how God could know the sort of counterfactuals of which we are speaking through knowledge of himself.

    I’ll quit there. Have I helped you to understand what I am up to and why my proposal in no way dangers God’s complete self-sufficiency and sovereignty?

    Shalom,
    Terry

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  2. Dr. Tiessen,


    Hello from a fellow Westminster Seminary graduate!

    Here you are clearly committed to counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (CCFs), although the freedom is compatibilist rather than libertarian. Thus, you say that it is not problematic "for God to know, prior to his decree, that creature x would do y if x were in set of circumstances z." So, for instance, "God knew in what circumstances a man like Peter would deny Jesus." And, in general, God "knows necessarily how a particular creature would act in particular circumstances."

    What I am wondering is this. In an earlier comment, you remarked that "the grounding objection is fatal for Molinism." So what grounds the (compatibilistic) CCFs on your alternative scheme? It's clear their truth is not grounded in God's will, nor in some simple foreknowledge of what will in fact happen, since you retain the Molinist conviction that these counterfactuals are prevolitional truths. The only other option I see is that you ground them in God's natural knowledge. Is this your view? Regarding them as groundless is a fatal mistake in your opinion, so what kind of truth-maker is left -- prior to God's decree -- except his nature? Or do you ground them in eternally existing 'counterfacts' or 'states of affairs' which are distinct from God (as some contemporary Molinists do)?

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  3. For those of you who haven't read (one of?) Steve's critique(s) of William Lane Craig's defense of Molinism, here's a link to an earlier blog from August of 2006.

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/08/no-other-name-muddle-knowledge.html

    I post it because I think it's relevant to the current discussion.

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  4. Greg,

    You ask an excellent question. I suggest to you that what grounds God’s knowledge of how creatures would act in hypothetical situations is what I take to be at the heart of “soft” compatibilism.

    (Here, I use “soft” to refer to the compatibility of the freedom of spontaneity with God’s meticulous sovereignty. “Hard” compatibilism is the Thomist version in which the freedom of contrary choice is compatible with meticulous sovereignty. That would be the best of all possible theological worlds if it were possible but I don’t find it coherent. I was interested, nonetheless, to read a statement by Paul Helm recently that Scripture doesn’t define the nature of human freedom. It does assign strong sovereignty to God that requires compatibilism, but it does not define the sort of human freedom that is in that mix. Interesting proposal! I think I agree; I just find Calvinism’s soft compatibilism more coherent than Thomism’s hard version.)

    In my understanding, what makes creaturely freedom compatible with divine determination is the soft-determinist nature of creaturely freedom. To be morally responsible, creatures must act willingly/voluntarily/spontaneously/without external coercion. They need not have been able to act otherwise than they do, they simply need to have acted as they wanted to. In this compatibilist understanding, it is not problematic that how a creature acts is determined by that creatures nature, or what Jonathan Edwards called “affections.” This is why we could not have acted otherwise. Being who we are (i.e., our genetic inheritance, nurture, habits, temperament, state of grace etc.), this is how we will act in this particular set of circumstances. It is because God knows us completely that he can predict how we would act in any imaginable situation.

    Consequently, when God wants Joseph in Egypt, he doesn’t have to put evil thoughts into the minds of Joseph’s brothers and manipulate them to sell Joseph to slave traders. He knows what Joseph’s brothers would do if placed in particular circumstances and he orders the history of the world to that point so that the circumstances occur in which Joseph’s brothers voluntarily do him wrong. God’s intentions are good but theirs are evil and they are responsible for their sin even though they act as God had determined they should. I see a moral entropy at work in the world since the advent of sin. As a result of this, moral creatures naturally devolve into worse and worse evil unless restrained by the grace of God. To have moral evil occur God need do nothing. His doing nothing, however, is deliberate, is not a passive permission of evil, it is an active permission.

    That is how divine-human compatibility works. It is precisely these factors that ground God’s knowledge of counterfactuals. I am convinced that Calvinistic compatibilism operates on this assumption but it has rarely made the assumption explicit. When the middle knowledge suggestion arises, as it did within Reformed circles after Molina’s work, it usually generates the sort of anxiety that Steve has voiced, concerning divine dependence upon the creature. Much of this comes from an inability to conceive of middle knowledge separately from the synergistic construct of Molinism.

    At the bottom line, my argument is that any Calvinist who accepts the compatibilist thesis that I have outlined above (and most do) has nothing to fear in regard to affirmation of middle knowledge. No new factor is introduced into the God-creature relationship by the middle knowledge proposal that was not already part of the theological conceptualization of soft-determinist compatibilism.

    Does that help?

    Terry

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  5. Hi Dr. Tiessen,

    Thanks for your reply, which was very clear! I join you in your advocacy of soft compatibilism, and in your rejection of the principle of alternate possibilities, although I would probably add "freedom to act in accordance with reasons" (or "reasons-responsiveness" of some sort) to "freedom of spontaneity," in order to make the compatibilist account of freedom more robust in the face of various counterexamples. (This is the strategy of John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza in _Responsibility and Control_.)

    I also agree with you that God did not directly bring about Joseph's betrayal, but instead willingly permitted it, although in my view 'willing permission' according to secondary, mundane causes which are themselves under God's control, is a type of foreordination.

    Still, I don't see where you answered my question: what grounds the (compatibilistic) CCFs on your alternative scheme? The closest I see you answering this question is when you say: "Being who we are (i.e., our genetic inheritance, nurture, habits, temperament, state of grace etc.), this is how we will act in this particular set of circumstances. It is because God knows us completely that he can predict how we would act in any imaginable situation."

    OK, so the idea is that "being who we are" is what grounds the truth of the CCF. But you regard CCFs as prevolitional truths, correct? So God hasn't yet (at this 'logical moment' of omniscience) decreed that we shall in fact exist. So there is no existing person (such as Joseph's brothers) that grounds the truth of the CCF. So what grounds it?

    What I *thought* you were going to say is that these CCFs are grounded in God's natural knowledge, and are therefore prevolitional necessary truths, as is the rest of God's natural knowledge. After all, consider the following CCF:

    CCF: If Joseph's brothers were placed in circumstances C, Joseph's brothers would freely betray Joseph.

    Traditional Molinists would take the 'freely' here in a libertarian sense, and thus would regard CCF as only contingently true. If the brothers had libertarian freedom, then there is a possible world in which they are in circumstances C and they *refrain* from betraying Joseph. That is, CCF's antecedent does not *entail* CCF's consequent, for if it did, then the brothers could not do otherwise, and so their libertarian freedom could not be preserved. So for traditional Molinists, CCFs are contingently true. Their truth-value could have been otherwise, though as a matter of (brute?) fact they are what they are.

    But as a Calvinistic Molinist, you believe in compatibilist freedom (as do I). As far as I can tell, on your view one's nature *ensures* the choice that is made. Who we are ("our genetic inheritance, nurture, habits, temperament, state of grace etc.") ensures "how we will act in this particular set of circumstances." And if that's the case, then CCF is *necessarily* true. For in the specified circumstances, the brothers couldn't have done otherwise (for if they could, then they'd have libertarian freedom, which you've denied). Thus, on this view, the antecedent entails the consequent.

    So it seems to me that you must hold that the CCFs that God knows are prevolitional necessary truths. But this just is natural knowledge. If so, then what you're calling 'middle-knowledge' isn't in the middle of anything at all. Traditional middle-knowledge was 'middle' because it partly resembled natural knowledge (being prevolitional) and partly resembled free knowledge (being contingent). By way of contrast, I don't see how the CCFs you're invoking resemble free knowledge at all, since they're necessarily true if they're about compatibilist freedom.

    That's why I'm puzzled as to what grounds these CCFs on your view. I know you don't think they're groundless, since that is a fatal flaw of traditional Molinism. Nor do you think they're grounded in God's will, since then they wouldn't be prevolitional truths.

    So I still don't see how your view avoids the grounding objection, or, if it does, how it would qualify as a species of middle-knowledge.

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  6. Thank you, Greg.

    I agree with you about the helpfulness of adding “freedom to act according to reasons.” One of my puzzlements is how ready proponents of libertarian freedom are to identify after an act why they acted as they did. Some reason trumped all others in their final decision.

    Perhaps I can work with this factor in responding more satisfactorily to your question but this may actually be unnecessary, given your concluding words. We’ll see. You are troubled that, since middle knowledge precedes God’s decree to create, the creatures whose actions God supposedly knows do not exist. It is true, they do not, nor will they unless God decides to instantiate them.

    My point is that, if God were to instantiate a person who would be the person that Peter had become at the moment of his temptation to deny Christ, and if God were to instantiate the particular circumstances that existed at the moment at which Peter was tempted, such a person (with the “reasons” that Peter had) would certainly act in exactly the way that Peter acted. There are surely other possible worlds in which Peter could be the same person but circumstances different so that Peter would remain true to Jesus when under stress. Similarly, numerous factors could have made Peter a slightly different person by the time these precise circumstances occurred and Peter would therefore have acted differently.

    When God contemplated possible worlds, he had this sort of knowledge about countless possible people in countless possible situations. Most of those possible people and situations will never exist but God’s knowledge was, nonetheless, certain because, given soft compatibilism, God could know how each such a creature would act in every possible alternative set of circumstances.

    Up to this point, I have a hunch that you agree with me but, since you deem these well grounded truths that God knows to be necessary, you conclude that his knowledge of them must be natural or necessary rather than middle. In other words, given your last sentence (“I still don't see how your view avoids the grounding objection, or, if it does, how it would qualify as a species of middle-knowledge.”) It seems likely to me now that we are dealing with the last of these options, i.e., that you agree with me about what grounds God’s knowledge of counterfactuals but disagree that middle knowledge is necessary to account for God’s use of this knowledge in making his wise decree. Is that where we are?

    You may be right, Greg. Perhaps you work with a model of providence that has all the benefits I perceive compatibilist middle knowledge to have, without affirming middle knowledge. If so, I think that significant progress has been made, because in my reading of Calvinist theologians, even though they include subjunctive conditionals (counterfactuals) in their list of what God knows naturally, they seem extraordinarily reluctant to speak of God using that knowledge in deciding upon what he will create and how he will govern it toward the realization he purposes for it. That reluctance derives particularly from concern to protect God from any sort of dependence upon the creature. Where are you in that regard? Do you agree with me that the sort of knowledge God has of what compatibilistically free creatures would do in particular circumstances in no way compromises his self-sufficiency? If so, I’m guessing that this is because you (unlike me, to this point), do not think that God’s knowledge of counterfactuals has anything to do with potentially created reality, it grows out of his perfect knowledge of all necessary truths. Right?

    It may be that I could abandon the middle knowledge part of my model and stick with elucidation of the usefulness of God’s knowledge of counterfactuals in his forming of his eternal purpose (decree). (I have frequently asserted that defending middle knowledge, as such, has never been my goal.) It would be premature for me to make that leap yet, however, until I discover whether this actually works if the knowledge of which we speak is necessary. That part is still fuzzy. What presently inclines me to continue affirming something like middle knowledge is my sense that God’s contemplation of this knowledge (assuming it to be natural, which I am not certain of yet) is an act of deliberation prior to the decree that takes God beyond his simply knowing what particular sorts of creatures would do in particular circumstances to weighing the relative merits of instantiating particular worlds. That looks to me like a distinct form of knowledge.

    It was not necessary that God create at all; creating was a decision he made freely, as I am sure you agree. But I can’t see why God would have paid any attention to the sort of abstract knowledge that we have spoken about here until he began to contemplate creating something. Only then is there any reason to consider the large number of possible worlds and to decide which one he would instantiate for his own glory. But, then again, is this contemplation of truths known naturally another form of knowledge (middle) or is it simply part of the wise act of decreeing to create a particular world? These are matters still unclear to me and about which, frankly, I have not thought clearly before.

    So, thank you, Greg, I find this a very helpful dialogue, of a sort that I have wanted with fellow Calvinists but rarely had, since my book appeared. I was delighted when my article was accepted by WTJ because I hoped it might stimulate the sort of discussion with fellow Calvinists that my previous venues for presenting these thoughts has failed to do. Apparently, such discussion is possible within God’s providence even before the article appears.

    Shalom,
    Terry

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  7. ] You are troubled that, since middle knowledge
    ] precedes God's decree to create, the creatures
    ] whose actions God supposedly knows do not exist.

    Nor is it the case, at this logical moment of omniscience, that they *will* exist, since God hasn't decided that yet. So what troubles me is not that the creatures do not exist, but rather that the counterfactuals about them lack grounds. At this stage, there is just God; no universe. And God hasn't decreed a universe yet. So if these CCFs have grounds, it looks like they have to be grounded in the divine nature, or else be groundless. Can you clarify if (i) my dilemma is a sound one, and (ii) if so, which horn you would take?

    ] My point is that, if God were to instantiate a
    ] person who would be the person that Peter had
    ] become at the moment of his temptation to deny
    ] Christ, and if God were to instantiate the
    ] particular circumstances that existed at the
    ] moment at which Peter was tempted, such a
    ] person (with the "reasons" that Peter had)
    ] would certainly act in exactly the way that
    ] Peter acted.

    Yes, but this entire sentence, if you reread it, is just one long counterfactual conditional ("were... would..."). My question is: what grounds it? Anything?

    ] When God contemplated possible worlds, he had
    ] this sort of knowledge about countless possible
    ] people in countless possible situations. Most of
    ] those possible people and situations will never
    ] exist but God's knowledge was, nonetheless,
    ] certain because, given soft compatibilism, God
    ] could know how each such a creature would act in
    ] every possible alternative set of circumstances.

    As best as I can make out, then, you believe that God's knowledge of these counterfactuals *just is* his knowledge of possible worlds. So this is a species of natural knowledge, which includes knowledge of the contents of possible worlds. Whatever the contents of possible worlds are, they are necessarily what they are (as are all possibilities generally).

    This is quite different from the traditional Molinist conception, in which knowledge of CCFs is *not* mere knowledge of the contents of possible worlds, but knowledge of *contingent truth*.

    So do I have you correct here? On your view, knowledge of CCFs is knowledge of possible worlds, and therefore is natural knowledge.

    ] It seems likely to me now that we are dealing with
    ] the last of these options, i.e., that you agree
    ] with me about what grounds God's knowledge of
    ] counterfactuals but disagree that middle knowledge
    ] is necessary to account for God's use of this
    ] knowledge in making his wise decree. Is that where
    ] we are?

    Not exactly :-)

    I don't know if I agree with you "about what grounds God's knowledge of counterfactuals," because I don't know what you believe on this point. For instance, I don't know if you regard these as necessary truths (and therefore grounded in the divine nature). If you do, then they don't qualify as middle-knowledge, because they wouldn't be in the 'middle' of anything. They would just be natural knowledge.

    ] You may be right, Greg. Perhaps you work with a
    ] model of providence that has all the benefits I
    ] perceive compatibilist middle knowledge to have,
    ] without affirming middle knowledge.

    Yes, that's pretty much my view :-) In addition, I'm not convinced Calvinistic Molinism has any of the benefits over 'simple Calvinism' that are typically advertised. I can expand on that if you'd like. But for the time being, I was simply zeroing in on the grounding objection. You regard it as a lethal objection to traditional Molinism (and I agree). But if your own view faces a similar grounding objection, then *ceterus paribus* it would be fatally flawed as well.

    Beyond this, *how* a Calvinistic Molinist answers the grounding objection will tell me whether Calvinistic Molinism has explanatory resources that aren't in 'simple Calvinism'. It will tell me, for instance, whether in the end Calvinistic Molinism is just superfluous.

    ] If so, I think that significant progress has been
    ] made, because in my reading of Calvinist theologians,
    ] even though they include subjunctive conditionals
    ] (counterfactuals) in their list of what God knows
    ] naturally, they seem extraordinarily reluctant to
    ] speak of God using that knowledge in deciding upon
    ] what he will create and how he will govern it
    ] toward the realization he purposes for it. That
    ] reluctance derives particularly from concern to
    ] protect God from any sort of dependence upon the
    ] creature. Where are you in that regard?

    Sure, I can speak to that.

    First, I'm not sure "significant progress has been made," because I haven't affirmed that God consults CCFs at all in order to providentially govern his world. I think that simple Calvinism has all the benefits of Calvinistic Molinism *quite apart from* appeal to said CCFs.

    Second, I'm not sure what you mean by Calvinist theologians being "extraordinarily reluctant" to speak of God drawing upon prevolitional knowledge of CCFs. But perhaps this is what you have in mind:

    "Although God knoweth whatsoever may, or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet hath he not Decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions" (1689 LBCF 3.2; cf. WCF 3.2).

    This looks like an affirmation that God has counterfactual knowledge, followed by a denial that God consults this knowledge in determining what it is he is going to decree.

    And so it is.

    Interestingly enough, this denial was so important to the Westminster divines, and the framers of the 1689 LBCF, that they gave it confessional status.

    It seems to me that on your view, by denying this, traditional Reformed theology has deprived itself of an illuminating explanatory resource when it comes to providence, human responsibility, God's relation to evil, etc. I guess I'll say a couple of things here.

    First, the paragraph in question *looks* eminently biblical. On the one hand, the Scriptures *do* attribute counterfactual knowledge to God, for instance the knowledge vouchsafed to David in 1Sa 23:11-12. On the other hand, the Scriptures *never* give any intimation that God providentially plans his universe by consulting such knowledge. If middle-knowledge was such an extraordinarily important resource for displaying the wisdom of God *in providence*, don't you think that would be at least implied by various biblical texts? And yet I can't find it (though I'm willing to be corrected here). Scripture asserts that there are counterfactual truths and God knows them. But it doesn't give any hint that God relies on these truths for the purposes of governance.

    Second, I agree with you that the Reformed "reluctance [to deploy middle-knowledge as a means of providence] derives particularly from concern to protect God from any sort of dependence upon the creature." But the argument for this is somewhat involved.

    In my view, CCFs are postvolitional contingent truths grounded in God's decree to actualize a possible world. They simply don't have a truth-value *until* God settles other matters by an act of will. If this is right, then they're not available for God to consult prior to his decree.

    Let's start by talking about sheets of ice. Right now, God knows many counterfactuals of icy behavior, including the following:

    CIB If a bowling ball were thrown at a sheet of ice, then the ice would shatter.

    [add *ceterus paribus* clauses about the absence of miracle, etc.]

    God knows CIB because he knows *what ice is like*, that is, what are its causal dispositions and liabilities in various circumstances.

    And God knows *that* because he in fact *created* ice with a particular set of causal dispositions and liabilities, dispositions and liabilities which are at least partly due to *what the laws of nature in fact are*.

    Presumably, God could have done otherwise. God could have made it that ice doesn't shatter when struck with a bowling ball, but instead stands firm, vibrates a little, and turns light purple (or whatever). Less drastically, God could have made it that sheets of ice have twice the strength they have now (or half the strength).

    As such, CIB is a contingent truth. It is contingent because the laws of nature could have been otherwise. The causal connections between the nature of ice and the nature of other objects that causally interact with ice could have been different.

    CIB is also a postvolitional truth, because what grounds it are what the laws of nature actually are, and that is due to the divine will. In fact, the 'nature' of ice *just is* what it is disposed to do in various circumstances, and that depends on the laws of nature.

    Now, in addition to knowing counterfactuals like CIB, which are both postvolitional and contingent, there are related facts which God knows which are prevolitional and necessary. These are deliberative conditionals (to use Robert Adams's term). Prior to willing the actual world, God knew the following deliberative conditional about at least one possibility for the behavior of ice (obviously he knows many others):

    DCI If I were to create possible world X, in which such-and-such laws of nature obtain, then [if a bowling ball were thrown at a sheet of ice in X, then the ice would shatter in X].

    DCI is a "deliberative conditional" because God consults it in his deliberations about which possible world to actualize. In addition, DCI has a counterfactual nested within its consequent, but this doesn't involve prevolitional divine knowledge that that counterfactual *is* true. Rather, it's a knowledge that the counterfactual *would* be true if God actualized possible world X. It is a counterfactual *true in a world*, not true *simpliciter*. And this is because counterfactuals like CIB, being contingent, are true in some worlds but not in others.

    In my view, deliberative conditionals like DCI are prevolitional necessary truths, and form part of God's natural knowledge. They are grounded in God's knowledge of possibility. Different possible worlds have different laws of nature, and God knows this. Ice behaves differently in different possible worlds, and God knows this. Simply put, God knows that if he were to actualize any particular possible world, then a particular set of counterfactuals about things in that world *would* be true.

    Thus, God knows DCI prevolitionally, since it's a necessary truth that whatever world he actualizes would make true *in fact* whatever truths are true *in that world*. If he wanted, he could act on that knowledge and actualize possible world X. And if he did so, *then* CIB would be true (and not before!). This is why DCI is prevolitional but CIB is postvolitional. This is also why DCI is necessary but CIB is contingent. There is no need then for a category of divine knowledge distinct from natural knowledge and free knowledge, in order for God to be perfectly provident with respect to the nature, existence, and behavior of ice.

    And this is the case, even when we are talking about human beings rather than ice. Since you're a compatibilist, you'll agree with me that who we are ("our genetic inheritance, nurture, habits, temperament, state of grace etc.") ensures "how we will act in this particular set of circumstances." Given a particular set of circumstances, and given the nature of the human agent, the human agent couldn't have done otherwise. So, let's return to the counterfactual of my previous comment:

    CCF: If Joseph's brothers were placed in circumstances C, Joseph's brothers would freely betray Joseph.

    Since we're both compatibilists, I think we'd both agree that God knows CCF because he knows *what Joseph's brothers are like*, that is, what they would *want* to do in various circumstances, and how those wants would give rise to specific choices and behaviors.

    And God knows 'what Joseph's brothers are like' because he in fact *created* Joseph's brothers (in some suitably extended sense of 'created' which doesn't preclude their parents, of course), and created them with a nature for which various sets of circumstances are causally sufficient for various behaviors.

    Presumably, God could have done otherwise. God could have created Joseph's brothers such that they *wouldn't* betray Joseph (in the circumstances outlined in Genesis), but would rather have done something else. As you yourself put it in your last comment with respect to Peter:

    "There are surely other possible worlds in which Peter could be the same person but circumstances different so that Peter would remain true to Jesus when under stress. Similarly, numerous factors could have made Peter a slightly different person by the time these precise circumstances occurred and Peter would therefore have acted differently."

    That is, there are "other possible worlds" in which Joseph's brothers act differently in the same circumstances, because Joseph's brothers have a somewhat different nature (are "a slightly different person"). But surely what nature the brothers *actually* have is grounded in God's decision to actualize a world.

    As such, CCF is a contingent truth. It is contingent because the brothers' nature could have been (slightly) different. The causal connections between things like "genetic inheritance, nurture, habits, temperament, state of grace etc." and the wants which give rise to choices and behavior could have been different. (For instance, presumably the taste of liver and onions could have been different and, if so, I would eat liver and onions in situations in which I would not eat them now. But surely the taste of liver and onions is a contingent truth grounded in God's decree, and thus so is the truth of the associated counterfactual about me. And so on.)

    [Because of this, I retract my notion in my previous comment to the effect that CCF had to be a *necessary* truth. I erred there because I wasn't taking into account the conditions of compatibilist freedom, which involves there being in place various truths about causal connections in the world. These causal connections are contingent, not necessary.]

    CCF is also a postvolitional truth, because what grounds it are (i) what the natures of Joseph's brothers' actually are, and (ii) what are the various causal connections between genetic inheritance, nurture, etc., and their wants and choices. But (i) and (ii) are clearly due to the divine will.

    Thus, CCF doesn't have a truth-value until God decides to actualize a possible world. And so it is impossible for God to *consult* these CCFs in order to decide which world to actualize. There is nothing there to consult.

    Presumably, though, there are *deliberative conditionals* that God can consult, conditionals which are prevolitional, necessary, and contain within their consequent something like CCF *relativized to worlds*. God knows that if he were to actualize a world, then certain CCFs about Joseph's brothers would be true. But that in no way involves God relying on the truth of these CCFs themselves, because they aren't true yet. They're only true in various possible worlds... until God makes some of them true by actualizing a world.

    Once again, there is no need for a category between natural knowledge and free knowledge. There is no need for God to consult prevolitional contingent counterfactuals about what creatures would do, in order to providentially govern his universe.

    To sum up, I am *quite willing* to say that God makes use of deliberative conditionals in order to come up with his decree. Presumably, God knows (the somewhat trivial truth) that if he actualizes any possible world, whatever is true *in that world* would be true in fact. And that includes the counterfactuals which are true *in that world*. They would be true *in fact* once God makes his decision. And God knows this.

    In my view, God's use of these deliberative conditionals is *not* what the Reformed confessions are targeting. (In that case, the "supposed conditions" the confessions refer to would be the 'condition' of God decreeing such-and-such, which would be a ridiculous construction on 'condition' in context.) Rather, they're excluding God's reliance on true "counterfactuals of creaturely freedom" as a means of informing his decree. For one thing, this would be incoherent: appealing to a postvolitional truth in order to figure out what your volitions are going to be.

    But even if this wasn't incoherent -- because you make it a prevolitional truth -- it would nevertheless make God dependent upon the creature, in particular, dependent upon *what the nature of ice is* or on *what the nature of Joseph's brothers are*. To make this work there would have to be a truth *about those things* which was entirely independent of God. (Proof: being contingent, it couldn't depend on his nature [which is necessary], and being prevolitional, it couldn't depend upon his will. So it must be true independently of God.)

    I realize this is monstrously long, and for that I apologize. But this should give some sense as to why the Reformed have long regarded divine reliance on counterfactuals of creaturely freedom as either incoherent or theologically suspect. *If* something like compatibilist freedom is the case, then something like the above analysis obtains. They're just not prevolitional truths. (Note that this has *no* application to traditional Molinists who endorse libertarian freedom. They have *other* problems, not these ones.)

    (Full disclosure: about five years ago I had an email exchange with a friend of mine on this topic, and some of the distinctions he drew have found their way into my own exposition above.)

    ] Do you agree with me that the sort of knowledge
    ] God has of what compatibilistically free creatures
    ] would do in particular circumstances in no way
    ] compromises his self-sufficiency?

    On my view, it does compromise his self-sufficiency if the "knowledge" you are speaking of is straightforward knowledge of CCFs about various creatures. Knowing that these CCFs are in fact true is *not* knowledge of mere possibility. Knowing that "If I actualize world X, then CCF would be true in X" does *not* get you knowledge of CCF, only knowledge that CCF *would* be true if certain other decisions were made by God. But if knowledge of these CCFs isn't natural knowledge and it isn't free knowledge (because prevolitional), then there is a contingent truth *about the natures of Joseph's brothers* which doesn't depend on God's nature or his will. It is true *independently* of God, and as such compromises his self-sufficiency.

    Of course, if the sort of knowledge you're talking about is simply knowledge of these various *deliberative conditionals* I've delineated above, then no, that doesn't compromise God's self-sufficiency, since that is just knowledge of necessary truths which are true in virtue of God's power: for any possible world, if God were to actualize that world then what that world represents as being true would be true. But I'm pretty sure *that's* not the kind of knowledge you're talking about in Calvinistic Molinism.

    ] If so, I'm guessing that this is because you
    ] (unlike me, to this point), do not think that
    ] God's knowledge of counterfactuals has anything
    ] to do with potentially created reality, it
    ] grows out of his perfect knowledge of all
    ] necessary truths. Right?

    On my view, all counterfactuals are either grounded in God's nature (if they're deliberative conditionals), or in God's will (if they're directly about creatures, and not 'nested' in the consequent of a deliberative conditional). I don't see how the kind of counterfactuals *you're* talking about -- if person P were in C, then P would freely do A -- could be grounded in God's nature, since that would make them necessary truths, and for the reasons stated above they can't be necessary truths (they involve contingent causal connections being the case). So they're either grounded in God's will (which you reject), or they're groundless (which you also reject), or grounded in some kind of eternally existing reality *independent* of God (which has theological problems).

    ] What presently inclines me to continue affirming
    ] something like middle knowledge is my sense that
    ] God’s contemplation of this knowledge (assuming it
    ] to be natural, which I am not certain of yet) is
    ] an act of deliberation prior to the decree that
    ] takes God beyond his simply knowing what particular
    ] sorts of creatures would do in particular
    ] circumstances to weighing the relative merits of
    ] instantiating particular worlds. That looks to me
    ] like a distinct form of knowledge.

    But even "his simply knowing what particular sorts of creatures would do in particular circumstances" isn't a case of natural knowledge, because it depends on *what the creature is like* and *what causal connections obtain*, and *that* depends on God's decree. I submit that it's postvolitional knowledge, and contingent because grounded in God's decree to actualize a world.

    So I guess I don't see how God's knowledge of CCFs is a form of knowledge distinct from his free knowledge.

    I, too, appreciate the dialogue. I have further thoughts about why I *suspect* you hold Calvinistic Molinism to be superior to simple Calvinism. Given what you said about Peter's temptation two comments ago, I think it's because you regard it as a way of articulating God's "indirect" relation to evil, and a way of preserving the integrity of the divine/human relationship (and perhaps human moral responsibility to boot). I'm not so sure on any of these fronts, but that would take another very lengthy comment :-)

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  8. The bottom line is that God's (natural) knowledge of deliberative conditionals does not get him (middle) knowledge of counterfactuals about how creatures would behave, for those counterfactuals aren't true until God decides to actualize a world.

    Essentially, God knows (by way of a deliberative conditional) that if he were to actualize a world, *then* a specific set of counterfactuals would be true. This is quite different from God drawing upon knowledge of true counterfactuals, because even though the deliberative conditionals are true *the counterfactuals* aren't true yet. That's why they're *deliberative* conditionals: God is deliberating, among other things, which set of counterfactuals to make true.

    It looks like the traditionally Reformed reluctance to countenance middle-knowledge doesn't deprive them of any explanatory resources when it comes to providence, since natural knowledge and free knowledge can do whatever Molinists do with middle-knowledge, *as long as* you're a compatibilist, and can therefore hold that any relevant CCFs are true because of the divine will.

    For instance, in responding to Molinism, Francis Turretin says, "The question is not whether God knows future contingencies (for all agree that God knows from eternity by a certain knowledge not only things themselves, but all their combinations and connections, whether present, past and future, or necessary and contingent)" (Francis Turretin, _Institutes of Elenctic Theology_, Third Topic, Thirteenth Question, V (in the Giger/Dennison edition this is vol. 1, p. 213).

    In addition, "The question does not concern necessary conditional future things, which on this or that given condition cannot but take place (as -- if the sun rises, it will be day; if Peter heartily repents, he will be saved), for as these are necessarily connected together either from the nature of the thing or on the hypothesis of the divine decree, they fall under either the natural knowledge of God (if the condition is only possible) or the free (if it is future and decreed by him)" (ibid., VI, p. 213).

    What more could be needed to construct a doctrine of meticulous providence -- if you are a compatibilist -- than God's knowledge of all future contingencies and necessary conditional future things, all of which is had prevolitionally?

    On this account, the CCFs themselves are only known postvolitionally. Why would it undermine the wisdom of God's providence if God knew *by knowing his own will* that if Peter were in a set of circumstance, Peter would betray Christ? Wouldn't it *enhance* providence to regard even these truths as under the control of the divine will? What, then, is the advantage of Calvinistic Molinism for a compatibilist, providentially speaking?

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  9. Thank you, Greg.

    You have expressed yourself clearly and I am getting a better handle on your concerns. We may not understand one another completely yet but I feel as though we are getting there.

    Re: Calvinist Molinism

    I would not use the term “Calvinist Molinism,” that you used in your last message. It is, I think, an oxymoron. You probably do it because you are equating the concept of middle knowledge with Molinism but Molinism is just one framework within which middle knowledge can be attributed to God. Its distinctive is its commitment to libertarian freedom while endeavoring to give God as strong a sovereignty as is possible, if one assumes that Thomism is incoherent.

    What Molina described as middle knowledge was not a new concept, but he did originate the term. We find the concept centuries before in Augustine, for instance. W. L. Craig notes that Augustine “sought to explain the death of an infant on the grounds that God knew that were he to become an adult, he would fall away from the faith and be lost, or again, God did not allow the gospel to reach certain persons because He knew that even if it had, they would not have believed” (The Problem of Divine Foreknowledge, 219.) Maurice Wiles observes that Gregory of Nyssa spoke in much the same way (On the Death of New-Born Infants), but he was a synergist.

    This looks to me like exactly the concept I am espousing though I would not apply it as these Fathers did. In Augustine’s ideas, God’s knowledge of what these infants or unevangelized people would do is a knowledge of truth about something that is never realized, i.e. a future counterfactual. It is also a knowledge of what would happen contingent upon the (counterfactual) acts of these people, although those acts are never realized. But, it is clearly prevolitional since God’s decree that the infants should die and that the unevangelized should not be evangelized is based upon true counterfactuals regarding the acts which these individuals would do, if given the opportunity.

    No doubt you would object to Augustine as you do to me. I’m not suggesting that since Augustine did this it must be OK, only using his theology to protest the identification of the idea with Molinism.

    So I am a Calvinist and, at this point I affirm divine middle knowledge, but I am not a Molinist.

    The nature of “counterfactuals”

    As I read your helpful comments, I realized again that there is an ambiguity in regard to the term “counterfactuals” that can lead to unfortunate misunderstanding. (I note this problem in my paper for WTJ.) I am using the term as Craig does when he says that “counterfactuals are conditional statements in the subjunctive mood.” (Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, 120). One might assume, as you have done here, that the term refers only to events which never happen but which would have happened if circumstances had been different, that is, that no counterfactual ever actually occurs. By this very strict definition of a “counterfactual,” both Molinists and Calvinists would have to assert that God knows counterfactuals only in his free knowledge, since they could not be known, by definition, until after God had chosen a particular world and thereby decided what would actually occur. So, there are numerous points where you speak this way and I concur with you.

    The “counterfactuals” which I am suggesting are useful to God in the formation of his decree are subjunctive conditional truths that are, since God knows them before his decree, prevolitional, but I have argued that these are not simply truths God knows naturally. Here, a number of your objections to my proposal are put on the table.

    Let me see if I can move the conversation along by addressing those concerns.

    Put simply, I understand the logical order to be as follows:

    1) Natural knowledge: of everything that could be given who God is

    2) Middle knowledge: of what would be if . . .

    The decree

    3) Free knowledge: of what will be.


    The ground of the truth of subjunctive conditionals

    I have taken a few runs at explaining what I believe grounds these subjunctive conditionals that are definitely not part of God’s free knowledge because they are prevolitional but that seem to me not to be an aspect of God’s natural knowledge. You do not yet understand my answer and your reasons for this are becoming steadily more clear to me. You argue that these subjunctive conditionals “have to be grounded in the divine nature, or else be groundless.” In other words, the “what would be ifs” belong in God’s natural knowledge and there is therefore no middle knowledge.

    In my previous comment, I suggested that you and I might agree about the usefulness to God of subjunctive conditionals, a knowledge of possible worlds concerning which he deliberates when deciding what universe to create, even though we might disagree about whether this knowledge is natural or middle. It seems pretty clear now that I was wrong. If I were to agree with you that God knows these subjunctive conditionals naturally, you would still deny that this knowledge is of any significance to God in the formation of his decree.

    This is a helpful discovery. I suspect that your position is quite typical of Calvinist theologians generally and this indicates that the gains I hoped to make (for reasons that you have guessed at quite well in your last comment) are likely impossible within the traditional two forms of knowledge construct.

    As I indicated last time, my reason for placing God’s knowledge of possible worlds in a middle moment is that I see it as different from his knowledge of himself. Nevertheless, the truth of these subjunctive conditionals is grounded in God’s natural knowledge and God’s knowledge of these subjunctive conditionals is not additional knowledge (as his free knowledge is), in the sense that it contains truths which do not simply derive from the nature of things as they must be, given who God is.

    I agree with what you say concerning what you call “deliberative conditionals,” that “God knows that if he were to actualize any particular possible world, then a particular set of counterfactuals about things in that world ‘would’ be true.” But here you are using “counterfactual” in its strong sense, the sense in which counterfactuals can only be true after God’s decree. For that reason, I have stopped using the term and am speaking instead of subjunctive conditionals.

    But, you want to know, what grounds these subjunctive conditionals. How does God know what Joseph’s brothers, if they were the characters that they actually were when the caravan headed for Egypt came along, would do if the circumstances were different, or how, as different characters, they would have acted in those circumstances? I agree with you that he knows this as a consequence of his natural knowledge. He knows non-discursively how character x would act in circumstances y or z or w. But, I think that something significant takes place when God begins to contemplate possible worlds, something that was not simply natural, but which moves forward the process by which God eventually decrees to create that a particular universe should be.

    The usefulness to God of his knowledge of subjunctive conditionals

    The really important difference between us is now appears not to be that I postulate a difference between the kind of knowledge God has of what “could” be and the knowledge he has of what “would” be, i.e. between natural and middle knowledge. It is that I consider God’s knowledge of possible worlds to be very useful to God in his determining which world he will instantiate and you do not. You believe that “there is no need for God to consult prevolitional contingent counterfactuals about what creatures would do, in order to providentially govern his universe.” I believe there is.

    Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 10:13 which came to my mind when you said that “Scriptures never give any indication that God providentially plans his universe by consulting such knowledge.” This is a text which looks to me very clearly to be saying just that. God decreed a history in which none of his children ever ends up in circumstances such that they are unable to resist temptation. It seems clear to me that this entails God’s having known in what circumstances I would lie or steal or commit adultery. Those circumstances never become real because God chooses that they should be counterfactuals in the strict sense. Nevertheless, God knows what would have happened if, instead, he had chosen one of those other situations to be real. God’s knowledge of those possible worlds, a knowledge that came to him through contemplation, not just “naturally,” is what enables him to be sure that none of his children will ever have to sin after they have been regenerated.

    We could multiply these scenarios because they underlie God’s providential care of us continually. If God did not want my house broken into, he knew how to have the situation be such that the people who would like to do such a thing, in different circumstances, do not want to or are not able to. And so on . . .

    Does this make God dependent on something outside of himself in a way that compromises his self-sufficiency?

    You think that it would and hence you object, as I would do if I thought so. But, precisely because the subjunctive conditionals are about people and situations that have no reality, God’s independence is not compromised. God’s knowledge of subjunctive conditionals is not trivial, as you suggest, but God never loses control because none of these subjunctive conditionals will become actual unless God decides that they will. Although it is helpful to God to know in what circumstances I would be unable not to steal, so that he can keep me from ever being in such circumstances, he is not dependent on me or on some real world either for his knowledge of these subjunctive conditionals or for his decision whether or not to actualize them. This knowledge is helpful to God but his using it does not derogate from his self-sufficient sovereignty. Yet, it is the manner in which all this comes around that accounts for the authenticity of the freedom of people whose every act is according to God’s decree.

    At the end of my previous post, I wondered aloud if I could keep this construct of divine providence that I find in Scripture without positing middle knowledge. That now looks to me to be unlikely. I sense that the distance between us is wider than I had hoped might be the case.

    Shalom,
    Terry

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  10. “I have argued that even if God gave creatures libertarian freedom he could know what they will freely choose to do in the future because the factuality of these events gives them truth value.”

    But if they have libertarian freedom, then how would God know, in advance of the *fact*, which event will eventuate and thereby ground their truth-value?

    “I do not believe that creatures have libertarian freedom, but I do not deny that even if they did God would have foreknowledge of what they would libertarianly freely choose to do.”

    Since, on this view, God’s knowledge would be an effect of their future choice, rather than the result of *his* choice, then how could he know what they will do before they do it?

    “Whether or not God could know the future acts of libertarianly free creatures is not a big deal for me, but when I engage in dialogue with people I like to grant them as much as I can. Why cut off the conversation before we must? To concede that God could know what libertarianly free creatures actually do is really a very small concession.”

    You can concede anything you like for the sake of argument, to carry an assumption to its logical extreme—but if you don’t agree with the operating assumption, then at some point you should revisit the assumption which you granted for the sake of argument, and explain why you don’t *actually* concede this assumption.

    Of course, if you really think this isn’t a “big deal,” then your concession doesn’t cost you anything. But I, for one, don’t regard the issue as nothing more than a throwaway argument. And I’m not in the habit of discarding bits of truth here and there.

    “I see the core of your most serious objection to Calvinist appropriation of middle knowledge to be a concern that it makes God dependent upon the creature. I suggest to you that this concern is groundless. Whatever dependence may be involved in the process is completely insignificant and detracts not one whit from God’s meticulous sovereignty and self-sufficiency.”

    We’ll see.

    “Let’s take a simple biblical example, 1 Corinthians 10:13 and see if we can reach common ground on the usefulness of God’s knowledge of counterfactuals (regardless of “when” he knows them). There we have a promise that God will not allow us to get into a situation where me are tempted beyond our ability. This assumes, I believe, that we are compatibilistically or soft-deterministically free. As Edwards argued so well, we act according to our nature. Because God knows me so completely, he knows, for instance under what circumstances I would yield to temptation to steal. (Here, I include in the circumstances, the gracious activity of God in my mind, conscience etc.) Because God knows these counterfactuals, he can see to it that those circumstances never occur. There will never be a time when I can say, after having stolen, that I was tempted beyond my ability. God knows my natural limits, and he knows what sort of grace he needs to give me to enable me to be obedient. In this scenario, notice that some of what God knows is not the result of his determination.”

    To the contrary, the whole thing is the result of divine determination. How does God know you so completely that he knows under what circumstances you would yield to temptation to steal? He knows that because he’s responsible for who you are and for your circumstances. Therefore, God is not getting this information from you, as if he were dependent on you for his information.

    Rather, God determines the outcome by determining your character and circumstances alike. And the same factors apply in a hypothetical scenario.

    “In that regard, I see significant confusion in your message regarding the relationship between God’s necessary and free knowledge. What God knows necessarily is not a result of his determination. It is in God’s free knowledge that he knows things because he has determined that they should be as they are.”

    You’re overlooking my stated qualifications. I spoke in terms of hypothetical decrees. God knows what the outcome would be if he decreed a different outcome. He doesn’t *actually* determine that alternative. But he knows the outcome of any situation which he *were* to determine. This is a subset of the possible, and falls, therefore, within the scope of his necessary knowledge.

    “Whether God knows counterfactuals in his necessary knowledge or in his middle knowledge, he knows them “before” his decree and hence prior to his determining. As a counterfactual knowledge, God would not know that I would steal in a particular set of circumstances because he determines that I would do so. He knows it because he knows necessarily how a particular creature would act in particular circumstances. Knowing this, God then decides which particular creatures and which sets of circumstances God will bring about directly or mediately through the acts of creatures.”

    Your formulation merely pushes the question back a step. God necessarily knows “how a particular creature would act in particular circumstances” inasmuch those factors would determine the outcome, and God would determine the outcome by decreeing those factors.

    God doesn’t determine the hypothetical. Rather, divine determinism is, itself, a hypothetical factor among the other (mundane) hypothetical factors that figure in the alternative outcome.

    “The reason that divine dependence is not at issue here is because I agree with you that the actual future is determined by God. God knows in detail everything that will happen in the history of his creation because he has determined in his eternal purpose what will happen. God’s free knowledge is the knowledge of his own will. For this, God is dependent on no other will. This is what we must insist upon, to protect God’s independence.”

    i) Even if that were good as far as it goes, it doesn’t go far enough. For even if the actual future were wholly dependent on God’s determination, that doesn’t honor divine aseity and impassibility in other respects.

    ii) Moreover, it falls short even in reference to the actual future. For you have made his determination of the actual future contingent on his middle knowledge, which is the autonomous effect of what the creature would do. So God’s putative independence vis-à-vis the actual outcome collapses back into his middle knowledge, where he is dependent on the creature for his knowledge of the creature.

    “It is not problematic, however, for God to know, prior to his decree, that creature x would do y if x were in set of circumstances z.”

    It is problematic if what the creature would do is the cause of God’s knowledge.

    “The critical thing is that neither creature x nor circumstances z will exist unless God determines that they should.”

    No, that’s not the only critical thing. If God’s counterfactual knowledge, which figures in his ultimate choice, is mediated by the eventual objects of his choice, then we’re flirting with Platonism and retrocausation.

    “Was God’s knowledge dependent on Peter in this case? In a very minimal sense, yes. In making his decree God took into account what a man like Peter would do in particular circumstances.”

    I’m sorry, but you keep using these abbreviated formulations—which conceal the deeper issues. Once Greg and I begin to unpack your compact formulations, the problem of the ultimate source remains intact.

    “But this is completely insignificant. The point is that neither the man Peter nor the circumstances Peter faced would ever have existed had God not determined that they should exist. Everything real is dependent upon God for its reality.”

    But that places a severe restriction on divine aseity by exempting the possible from God’s attributes. Christian realism isn’t the same thing as platonic realism. God must somehow constitute the possible as well as the actual. (Greg has modeled this relation in his work on theistic conceptual realism.)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Plantinga Fan9/27/2007 5:25 PM

    Tiessen said: I have argued that even if God gave creatures libertarian freedom he could know what they will freely choose to do in the future because the factuality of these events gives them truth value.

    And Steve Hays responded: But if they have libertarian freedom, then how would God know, in advance of the *fact*, which event will eventuate and thereby ground their truth-value?

    Here it is: if human persons actually had libertarian free will, according to Hays it would be impossible for God to know what they actually will do/”which event will eventuate” in the future. Interesting that Steve Hays knows how God’s knowledge is limited (He cannot know future events if they were freely chosen by agents acting with libertarian freedom). This is precisely the argument which open theists use: if people had free will in the libertarian sense, then God could not know what they will do in the future. The open theists use this to argue against God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, and the Calvinists use this to argue that unless God predetermines future events He cannot know the future. And if God can and does know freely chosen actions in the future, then they would both be wrong.

    And note carefully Hays’ reason for making this claim: “and thereby ground their truth-value.” In other words, since we do not know what the grounds would be for such knowledge of future free actions, therefore, God could not have such knowledge of freely chosen actions in the future. Since we don’t know what the grounds for such knowledge would be/could be, therefore, it is impossible for God to have such knowledge.

    Anybody else see a major problem here?

    What if God is capable of having knowledge of such future freely performed actions, but that the “grounds” for such knowledge are unknown to us, or beyond our capacity to understand? In this case, He would in fact have grounds for such knowledge, but we could not know what these grounds are. But our ignorance of these “grounds” is not the same as saying that they do not exist. In the scriptural examples cited by Molinists and Tiessen, God does in fact have knowledge of future freely chosen actions of human persons. So we know from scripture that He is able to have this knowledge. But we do not know (or better – cannot know) what the grounds for this knowledge are.

    If I am ignorant of something does that mean that that something does not, or cannot exist?

    Hays writes: To the contrary, the whole thing is the result of divine determination. How does God know you so completely that he knows under what circumstances you would yield to temptation to steal? He knows that because he’s responsible for who you are and for your circumstances. Therefore, God is not getting this information from you, as if he were dependent on you for his information.

    Rather, God determines the outcome by determining your character and circumstances alike. And the same factors apply in a hypothetical scenario.

    If God completely determines everything “by determining your character and circumstances alike” then whatever we do and are is completely predetermined by God. And if that is so, then why does he punish eternally people whose character and circumstances were God’s responsibility (“He’s responsible for what you are and your circumstances”)? Hays spoke earlier using the metaphor of a novelist and his novel. So this “divine novelist” predetermines the character and circumstances of every “character” in his novel, he is according to Hays completely responsible for all of this, but then the novelist holds them responsible for their actions?

    Plantinga Fan

    ReplyDelete
  12. Dr. Tiessen,

    Thanks for your response. But I find I'm even less confident that I understand your views, than before. I'll try to point this out below.

    ] What Molina described as middle knowledge was not a new
    ] concept, but he did originate the term.

    Sure. And when I referred to your view as "Molinistic" I was referring to the concept, not making a historical claim about the parentage of your own views. Since you repeatedly endorse the concept of "middle-knowledge," I can just call your position "Calvinistic middle-knowledge," if you prefer that to "Calvinistic Molinism".

    You go on to outline your own view:

    ] Put simply, I understand the logical order to be as follows:
    ]
    ] 1) Natural knowledge: of everything that could be given who God is
    ]
    ] 2) Middle knowledge: of what would be if . . .
    ]
    ] The decree
    ]
    ] 3) Free knowledge: of what will be.

    As far as I can tell, the above *just is* the three logical moments in divine omniscience as *traditional Molinists* understand them. There's nothing here that's different from Molinism, so I don't know why you would balk at that term being used to describe your view. The only difference from traditional Molinism I can find in your own views (to the extent that you express this consistently; cf. below) is that the kind of 'freedom' that is specified in the middle-knowledge is compatibilist freedom, not libertarian freedom. Thus, it looks like "Calvinistic Molinism" is an apt description. It is the above Molinist picture with libertarian freedom swapped out and compatibilist freedom swapped in, particularly with reference to the second moment.

    However, I won't insist on using this label if you really don't prefer it, or see it as misleading. You're clear you endorse middle-knowledge in some sense, so I think a useful term would be "Calvinistic middle-knowledge".

    ] I am using the term as Craig does when he says that
    ] "counterfactuals are conditional statements in the
    ] subjunctive mood."

    As far as I can tell, that's been my usage of "counterfactuals" as well. In fact, in my exposition of "deliberative conditionals," I used the terms "counterfactuals" and "conditionals" interchangeably. So I'm not quite sure how this change of terminology on your part clarifies something I've obscured.

    ] One might assume, as you have done here, that the term
    ] refers only to events which never happen but which
    ] would have happened if circumstances had been different,
    ] that is, that no counterfactual ever actually occurs.

    Again, as far as I can tell, I've never insisted that the term 'counterfactual' "refers only to events which never happen." Nor have I insisted that "no counterfactual ever actually occurs," if by that you mean that no antecedent of any counterfactual ever becomes factual.

    In fact, I've used the term "counterfactual" to refer to events which *do* happen (such as the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers, or Peter's denial). So I'm not sure what you're getting at here. You seem to be imputing to me a restriction on the usage of "counterfactual" that I don't in fact make.

    Basically, on my view, the 'counter' in 'counterfactual' simply designates that the event in the antecedent *need not* take place, in order for the counterfactual as a whole to be true. But there are plenty of true counterfactuals that end up having true antecedents, and many that do not. My understanding of "counterfactual" is neutral between these two conceptions.

    ] The "counterfactuals" which I am suggesting are useful to
    ] God in the formation of his decree are subjunctive
    ] conditional truths that are, since God knows them before
    ] his decree, prevolitional, but I have argued that these
    ] are not simply truths God knows naturally.

    When you say that these prevolitional subjunctive conditionals "are not simply truths God knows naturally," I find this *very* confusing, given the kind of things you say later. For instance, you say later that "the truth of these subjunctive conditionals is grounded in God's natural knowledge." And a bit later you reiterate this by saying God knows subjunctive conditionals about Joseph's brothers, and that "he knows this as a consequence of his natural knowledge." So according to you, these are not simply truths God knows naturally, and yet... their truth is grounded in God's natural knowledge, and are known as a consequence of his natural knowledge. This looks like a contradiction to me, so I'm afraid I still don't understand what your position is at this point.

    Now to come again to the set of distinctions you apparently endorse:

    ] Put simply, I understand the logical order to be as follows:
    ]
    ] 1) Natural knowledge: of everything that could be given who God is
    ]
    ] 2) Middle knowledge: of what would be if . . .
    ]
    ] The decree
    ]
    ] 3) Free knowledge: of what will be.

    In what sense is your "middle-knowledge" middle? Traditional Molinists have an easy answer to this question. Middle-knowledge is middle because it partakes partly of the character of natural knowledge, and partly of the character of free knowledge. Middle-knowledge is like natural knowledge in that it is known prevolitionally. Middle-knowledge is like free knowledge in that it is contingent knowledge (what is known could have been otherwise).

    But you don't agree with traditional Molinism. In particular, you hold that God knows these subjunctive conditionals "as a consequence of his natural knowledge," and that their truth "is grounded in God's natural knowledge." Given this, on your view this alleged 'middle-knowledge' does *not* partly partake of the character of free knowledge, because it is knowledge of *necessary* truths, not contingent truths. Indeed, it looks indistinguishable from natural knowledge. So your version of 'middle-knowledge' isn't in the middle of anything at all, which is why I think it's a misnomer.

    I could be wrong here, so could you clarify: in what sense is your 'middle-knowledge' (which is a term you *do* endorse) middle?

    Note that it will not do to say it is knowledge of subjunctive conditionals. For those who have rejected Molinism have long acknowledged that God's knowledge of *necessarily true* subjunctive conditionals (such as the "deliberative conditionals" I outlined earlier) fall under God's necessary knowledge. So calling it knowledge of subjunctive conditionals isn't sufficient to distinguish it from natural knowledge.

    Nor will it do to say it is knowledge of contingent truths. If you say that, then you cannot reasonably say -- as you do say -- that it is grounded in God's natural knowledge. Only knowledge of necessary truths is grounded in God's natural knowledge.

    So in what sense is your 'middle-knowledge' middle? If you can't sketch this out consistently, then I'm not sure you can really endorse three logical moments in divine omniscience, as you do above.

    ] I have taken a few runs at explaining what I believe
    ] grounds these subjunctive conditionals that are
    ] definitely not part of God's free knowledge because
    ] they are prevolitional but that seem to me not to be
    ] an aspect of God's natural knowledge.

    Again, I remain *very* confused here. You say that divine knowledge of these subjunctive conditionals seem "not to be an aspect of God's natural knowledge." But later you say that "the truth of these subjunctive conditionals is grounded in God's natural knowledge." And later you say "he knows this as a consequence of his natural knowledge." So which is it? Are these grounded in God's natural knowledge, or not? You *seem* to be in two minds here.

    ] You argue that these subjunctive conditionals "have to
    ] be grounded in the divine nature, or else be groundless."
    ] In other words, the "what would be ifs" belong in God's
    ] natural knowledge and there is therefore no
    ] middle knowledge.

    Clearly, I was there (at the top of that lengthy comment) raising a dilemma for *your* view of subjunctive conditionals, not articulating my own view. The point there was that *if* you insist that these conditionals are prevolitional, then since *ex hypothesi* there has been no act of the divine will yet, the only reality available to ground your prevolitional conditionals would be the divine nature (since that's all that exists prior to the divine decree). And so if you don't ground your prevolitional conditionals in the divine nature, they'd have to remain groundless. (After all, what aspect of reality, *other* than the divine nature, would be available in which to ground the truth of *prevolitional* conditionals?)

    Of course, *my own* view of these subjunctive conditionals is different. I do not believe that they "have to be grounded in the divine nature, or else be groundless." That's because, as I argued later in that comment, they are *postvolitional* contingent truths, and are therefore grounded in the divine will.

    In short, the material you cite from me above is a critique of a view I reject, not an argument for the view I accept. I don't believe that the subjunctive conditionals we're talking about (such as the one about Joseph's brothers) "have to be grounded in the divine nature, or else be groundless." Nor do I think such conditionals "belong in God's natural knowledge."

    Just to clarify :-)

    ] In my previous comment, I suggested that you and I might
    ] agree about the usefulness to God of subjunctive
    ] conditionals, a knowledge of possible worlds concerning
    ] which he deliberates when deciding what universe to
    ] create, even though we might disagree about whether this
    ] knowledge is natural or middle.

    Again, I find a sentence like the above quite confusing. I can't tell whether by "subjunctive conditionals" you're referring to what I called "deliberative conditionals," or whether you're referring to conditionals about how free creatures would use their (compatibilist) freedom. As I sought to argue in my previous comments, these are two very different things. On my view, "deliberative conditionals" are necessary truths God knows because they are grounded in the divine power. God knows that if he *were* to actualize a particular possible world, then a particular set of subjunctive conditionals (about how creatures would use their freedom) *would* be true. These deliberative conditionals are not the same thing as straightforward subjunctive conditionals about how creatures would use their freedom.

    As far as I know, in your "previous comment" you didn't even raise the issue of deliberative conditionals. Rather, you were referring to subjunctive conditionals about how creatures would use their freedom. If so, then I find it further confusing that you would refer to knowledge of such conditionals as "knowledge of possible worlds". It is simply impossible to derive knowledge of these subjunctive conditionals from knowledge of possible worlds, and yet above you seem to treat the two concepts interchangeably.

    Given God's knowledge of possible worlds, God knows it is possible that:

    P1 In circumstances C, Peter betrays Christ.

    And he knows it is also possible that:

    P2 In circumstances C, Peter doesn't betray Christ.

    Knowledge of possible worlds gives God knowledge of possibilities like these. But they do not give knowledge of subjunctive conditionals like the following:

    SC1 If Peter were in circumstances C, Peter *would* betray Christ.

    There is simply *no way* that I can see that knowledge of things like P1 and P2 gets you knowledge of something like SC1. What would be the inference principle by which necessary truths like P1 and P2 ground contingent truths like SC1?

    Of course, since God knows P1 and P2 by his natural knowledge, and knows that P1 and P2 are true in various possible worlds, God *can* also know various *deliberative conditionals* by way of his natural knowledge. So, for instance, if P1 is true in possible world beta (let's say), then God also knows by his natural knowledge that:

    DC1 If I were to actualize possible world beta, then if Peter *were* in circumstances C, then Peter *would* betray Christ.

    God knows DC1 because he knows that P1 is a possibility, and he knows that if he actualizes a possibility then it would be actual. And he knows all this by his natural knowledge.

    In short, I see how one can get from P1 and P2 to DC1 by natural knowledge alone. I *don't* see how one can get from P1 and P2 to SC1 by natural knowledge alone. Thus, I'm afraid I don't agree with you that God's knowledge of "subjunctive conditionals" like SC1 just is his "knowledge of possible worlds."

    BTW, if it *were* the case that his knowledge of SC1 were natural knowledge, then there'd be no need to call it "middle-knowledge". But apparently, you do.

    But perhaps you can clarify. What *you* call "middle-knowledge": it is something like SC1, or is it something like DC1? Notice that DC1 can be true, even if SC1 lacks a truth-value.

    Finally, you say "we might disagree about whether this knowledge is natural or middle." Actually, given my arguments in the preceding two comments, my position is that this knowledge is *neither* natural nor middle. Rather, God's knowledge of subjunctive conditionals like SC1 is both contingent and postvolitional. It's free knowledge.

    ] If I were to agree with you that God knows these
    ] subjunctive conditionals naturally, you would still
    ] deny that this knowledge is of any significance to
    ] God in the formation of his decree.

    But I *don't* think that God knows subjunctive conditionals like SC1 "naturally". As I argued in my previous comment, he knows them postvolitionally, as part of his free knowledge.

    But perhaps you're referring to conditionals like DC1. Yes, I regard them as part of God's natural knowledge, but in addition I think they have *great* "significance to God in the formation of his decree". If God didn't know deliberative conditionals like DC1, he could hardly be an intelligent, wise, and provident Creator. For one thing, he wouldn't know the consequences of his own decree if this aspect of his natural knowledge was lacking. He'd be 'creating while blind,' as it were.

    And that's my larger point: God's natural and free knowledge suffices for God to be a perfectly intelligent, wise, and provident Creator. Calvinistic middle-knowledge not only seems to be theoretically oxymoronic; it strikes me as pragmatically superfluous.

    ] I suspect that your position is quite typical of Calvinist
    ] theologians generally and this indicates that the gains I
    ] hoped to make (for reasons that you have guessed at quite
    ] well in your last comment) are likely impossible within the
    ] traditional two forms of knowledge construct.

    Actually, I conclude that any providential gains to be made through 'Calvinistic middle-knowledge' are not only possible but are already had "within the traditional two forms of knowledge construct." :-)

    ] As I indicated last time, my reason for placing God's
    ] knowledge of possible worlds in a middle moment is that I
    ] see it as different from his knowledge of himself.
    ] Nevertheless, the truth of these subjunctive conditionals
    ] is grounded in God's natural knowledge and God's
    ] knowledge of these subjunctive conditionals is not
    ] additional knowledge (as his free knowledge is), in the
    ] sense that it contains truths which do not simply derive
    ] from the nature of things as they must be, given who God
    ] is.

    Again, this is a very confusing paragraph (at least to me).

    First, you say you place "God's knowledge of possible worlds in a middle moment". Huh? If God's *knowledge of possibility* is not natural knowledge, then nothing is! It's how natural knowledge is *defined* in the literature. God's knowledge of himself (in particular, of the range of his own power) *just is* his knowledge of possibility.

    Are you suggesting that the distinction between natural knowledge and middle knowledge be collapsed? But earlier, you endorsed this distinction.

    Second, you go on to equate "God's knowledge of possible worlds" with his knowledge of "subjunctive conditionals". Again, huh? How does one get 'would be the case' from 'possibly the case'? (I am speaking of course of subjunctive conditionals like SC1.)

    Finally, you say that this knowledge is "different from his knowledge of himself." But you conclude by saying that it is "grounded in God's natural knowledge," and is not "additional" to this by containing "truths which do not simply derive from the nature of things as they must be, given who God is." So at one and the same time, this knowledge both is and is not constituted by God's knowledge of his own nature. Huh?

    How can it be grounded in his natural knowledge but different from his knowledge of himself? That's what natural knowledge is. Natural knowledge is God's knowledge of his nature. That's why it's called 'natural' knowledge.

    ] I agree with what you say concerning what you call
    ] "deliberative conditionals," that "God knows that if he
    ] were to actualize any particular possible world, then a
    ] particular set of counterfactuals about things in that
    ] world 'would' be true."

    Great! We finally agree on something :-) And I find this a hugely significant area of agreement, since I don't find any providential advantage in positing a 'middle-knowledge' that goes beyond knowledge of deliberative conditionals (which are an aspect of God's natural knowledge).

    In short, by his natural knowledge God knows the truth of deliberative conditionals like DC1, and then by his will he can make subjunctive conditionals like SC1 to be true. (And he *knows* he can do this because he knows things like DC1.) What more is needed for providence? God is in complete control of which subjunctive conditionals are the case, as they all depend on his will. What more could one ask for? *Even if* you could give a case that we *can* regard subjunctive conditionals like SC1 as prevolitional, there's little reason to think they *must* be prevolitional if providence is to be secured or enhanced. On the contrary, making them postvolitional brings them *entirely* within the scope of God's providential purposes.

    ] But here you are using "counterfactual" in its strong
    ] sense, the sense in which counterfactuals can only be
    ] true after God's decree. For that reason, I have stopped
    ] using the term and am speaking instead of subjunctive
    ] conditionals.

    Well, I don't really understand this. I've never heard of a "strong sense" of "counterfactual". My understanding of "counterfactual" is neutral between whether they're prevolitional or postvolitional. I mean, it's not *incoherent* for a counterfactual to be prevolitional. In fact, the deliberative conditionals I've defended are clearly prevolitional counterfactuals. Rather, in my view what makes for a counterfactual is:

    (i) it's a subjunctive conditional about what would be the case if something else were the case;
    (ii) the antecedent of the conditional need not be true for the entire conditional to be true.

    That's it. I don't think I've also assumed:

    (iii) the truth of the conditional is grounded in God's will.

    I can't see where I've insisted on (iii) as necessary for a counterfactual to be a counterfactual. In fact, I can't imagine what an argument for that would be like; I certainly wouldn't attempt it :-)

    In short, the issue of whether a conditional is a counterfactual is distinct from the issue of how it is grounded. I assumed we always had agreement on the former, although not on the latter.

    Of course, I've *argued* for the view that subjunctive conditionals like SC1 *are in fact* grounded in God's will. But that's very different from insisting on some strict or strong sense of "counterfactual" by way of stipulated definition.

    ] But, you want to know, what grounds these subjunctive
    ] conditionals.

    Yes! Since you regard the grounding objection as the fatal flaw of Molinism, I was interested in how you answer that objection in the context of Calvinistic middle-knowledge. It looks like I finally have an answer :-) (cf. below)

    ] *How* does God know what Joseph's brothers, if they were the
    ] characters that they actually were when the caravan headed
    ] for Egypt came along, would do if the circumstances were
    ] different, or how, as different characters, they would have
    ] acted in those circumstances?

    Yup. How does God know things like SC1?

    ] I agree with you that he knows this as a consequence of his
    ] natural knowledge.

    Ack! That's precisely what I argued *against* in that earlier comment. There, I argued that God *doesn't* know things like SC1 as a consequence of his natural knowledge. Rather, God knows *deliberative conditionals* like DC1 by way of natural knowledge, and his knowledge there guides him in his *willing the truth of* subjunctive conditionals like SC1. I take things like SC1 to be an aspect of God's free knowledge, his postvolitional knowledge, his contingent knowledge, not his natural knowledge.

    So no, we don't agree. Perhaps I was just very clumsy in my exposition. If so, then the fault is mine, but hopefully I've clarified things since then. We apparently agree about the grounding of deliberative conditionals like DC1 (they're aspects of God's natural knowledge), but we still disagree about the grounding of subjunctive conditionals like SC1 (I take them to be aspects of God's free knowledge; I'm still not sure whether you take them to be aspects of his natural knowledge or his middle-knowledge.)

    ] He knows non-discursively how character x would act in
    ] circumstances y or z or w. But, I think that something
    ] significant takes place when God begins to contemplate
    ] possible worlds, something that was not simply natural,
    ] but which moves forward the process by which God
    ] eventually decrees to create that a particular universe
    ] should be.

    I guess I don't understand this. On the one hand, you say that he knows subjunctive conditionals like SC1 "non-discursively". And, apparently, you take things like SC1 to be an aspect of God's natural knowledge. But you're losing me when you say there's something (distinct from natural knowledge?) "which moves forward the process by which God eventually decrees" a universe. What's the "process"? Are you referring to the three logical moments of divine omniscience you outlined above? But if God really does know subjunctive conditionals like SC1 non-discursively and on the basis of his natural knowledge, then he *already has* knowledge of everything that Molinists put in the 'middle-knowledge' stage. So what is the process?

    Perhaps you're simply referring to the transition between natural knowledge and free knowledge. OK, but if so, what's the need for middle-knowledge?

    ] The really important difference between us is now appears
    ] not to be that I postulate a difference between the kind
    ] of knowledge God has of what "could" be and the knowledge
    ] he has of what "would" be, i.e. between natural and middle
    ] knowledge.

    No, that still seems to be a really important difference. Partly because I have no idea what your position is :-) Here you assign "could be" knowledge to natural knowledge, and "would be" knowledge to middle knowledge. But you just got finished saying above that you think God's "would be" knowledge about Joseph's brothers is grounded in his *natural* knowledge! (As you put it above, it's "a consequence of his natural knowledge.") So I'm not getting a really consistent picture here, at least as I'm viewing it from my end of things.

    ] It [that is, the "really important difference between us]
    ] is that I consider God's knowledge of possible worlds to
    ] be very useful to God in his determining which world he
    ] will instantiate and you do not.

    No, that's not true. My defense of God's natural knowledge of deliberative conditionals was meant to show that "God's knowledge of possible worlds" *is* "very useful to God in his determining which world he will instantiate."

    As the Zep would say, we have here a "Communication Breakdown"; you're attributing to me the opposite of what I've argued for.

    ] You believe that "there is no need for God to consult
    ] prevolitional contingent counterfactuals about what creatures
    ] would do, in order to providentially govern his universe."

    That's right. And that's because I don't believe there *are* any prevolitional contingent counterfactuals for God to consult.

    Nevertheless, as I have argued, God *does* consult prevolitional *necessary* counterfactuals, about what *would* be the consequence of various divine decrees. And that gives him all the providential control he needs.

    ] I believe there is.

    But if you believe these "prevolitional contingent counterfactuals" which God consults are "contingent," then why would you ground them in God's natural knowledge? Why would you equate them with God's knowledge of possible worlds (which is necessary, because possibilities are necessarily possible)?

    I guess I don't understand your view. You're saying that God consults contingent truths that are grounded in his natural knowledge. This looks contradictory to me.

    ] Let's go back to 1 Corinthians 10:13 which came to my mind
    ] when you said that "Scriptures never give any indication
    ] that God providentially plans his universe by consulting
    ] such knowledge." This is a text which looks to me very
    ] clearly to be saying just that.

    1Co 10:13 says that God providentially plans his universe by consulting prevolitional contingent counterfactuals?

    Really?

    You really think this text even *broaches* that fairly complicated issue? You really think this text *rules in* the view that God consults prevolitional contingent counterfactuals, but it *rules out* the view that God consults prevolitional necessary counterfactuals? I can't begin to see how the text makes such a fine distinction.

    Indeed, I fail to see how the text implies that God "consults" some pre-existing knowledge at all. For all I know, God could *make true* postvolitional contingent counterfactuals about how we would respond to temptation, and *that* would be sufficient means for God to guarantee the truth of 1Co 10:13.

    It says that, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."

    So, surely, the text *does* presuppose that:

    (i) God knows which temptations are beyond our ability to resist; and
    (ii) God will ensure we face no temptations beyond our ability to resist.

    But why think that the knowledge specified in (i) is prevolitional rather than postvolitional? Indeed, why can't *both* (i) and (ii) be grounded in the divine will? What aspect of providence would be *precluded* if one were to take that view? None that I can tell.

    ] God decreed a history in which none of his children ever ends
    ] up in circumstances such that they are unable to resist
    ] temptation.

    Right. The text teaches (ii).

    ] It seems clear to me that this entails God's having known in
    ] what circumstances I would lie or steal or commit adultery.

    Not exactly. It all depends on what you mean by "having known". Do you mean, known prior to his decree? Where does the text teach or imply *that*? At best what (ii) entails is (i), and (i) is neutral on whether the knowledge is prevolitional or postvolitional. (In fact, I'm not sure the text requires any sort of entailment relation between (ii) and (i); perhaps both are grounded in the divine will, and that is that.)

    ] Those circumstances never become real because God chooses that
    ] they should be counterfactuals in the strict sense.

    God chooses that circumstances become counterfactuals? I'm not following. Isn't this a category mistake?

    ] Nevertheless, God knows what would have happened if, instead,
    ] he had chosen one of those other situations to be real.

    Sure. But given the way you've just stated it, you're talking about a deliberative conditional like DC1, not a subjunctive conditional like SC1. So in what sense are you defending middle-knowledge as distinct from natural knowledge? When I said that the Scriptures *never* give any indication of God consulting such-and-such, I was referring to things like SC1, not DC1.

    ] God's knowledge of those possible worlds, a knowledge that
    ] came to him through contemplation, not just "naturally," is
    ] what enables him to be sure that none of his children will
    ] ever have to sin after they have been regenerated.

    Maybe we've been using terms with wildly differing meanings. I don't understand the distinction between God knowing something "naturally" and knowing it "through contemplation". If you mean *deductions* from natural knowledge, those are just natural knowledge as well (although I'm not sure God 'deduces' any of his knowledge).

    Again, what's confusing is that earlier you said God "knows non-discursively how character x would act in circumstances y or z or w." But now you say it's through "contemplation," which would seem to be discursive knowledge. So I'm not sure what you're getting at in this language of 'process' and 'contemplation'. This is all grounded in natural knowledge? There is a logical moment *within* natural knowledge?

    ] If God did not want my house broken into, he knew how to have
    ] the situation be such that the people who would like to do
    ] such a thing, in different circumstances, do not want to or
    ] are not able to. And so on . . .

    Sure. But why would he need prevolitional *middle-knowledge* to know or do all this?

    ] Does this make God dependent on something outside of himself
    ] in a way that compromises his self-sufficiency? You think
    ] that it would and hence you object, as I would do if I
    ] thought so. But, precisely because the subjunctive
    ] conditionals are about people and situations that have no
    ] reality, God's independence is not compromised.

    What triggers the aseity / self-sufficiency objection is *not* the claim that "the subjunctive conditionals are about people and situations" that are real. In that case, yeah, you could just dispose of the objection by noting that the counterfactuals are about "people and situations that have no reality."

    But the objection is in fact the opposite: it is *because* the conditionals are "about people and situations that have no reality," that the divine aseity is threatened. For the conditionals have to be grounded in *something* in order to be true. If the "people and situations have no reality," then clearly the conditionals can't be grounded in *them*. And if the conditionals are contingently true, then they can't be grounded in something necessary, like God's nature. And if the conditionals are prevolitional, then they can't be grounded in the divine will. Thus, if you agree with the grounding objection to traditional Molinism, you must hold that these conditionals are in fact grounded. Since their grounding is distinct from God (including his nature and his will) and distinct from the people and situations (which "have no reality"), then their grounding must be in an eternally-existing reality which is distinct from God. In which case, God's not self-sufficient, as his prevolitional knowledge is partly dependent on some eternally-existing reality which is distinct from him.

    Note that the aseity / self-sufficiency objection only works if you hold that:

    (i) the conditionals are prevolitionally true;
    (ii) the conditionals are contingently true;
    (iii) the conditionals must be grounded to be true.

    It's pretty clear to me that you accept (i) and (iii). So you can escape this objection by denying (ii), and grounding the conditionals in God's natural knowledge. Which, apparently, you do. But then I think you have *other* problems, which I've tried to explain.

    [Note that my original raising of the aseity / self-sufficiency objection was in the context of you accepting (ii). As I put it in that paragraph, the objection is only raised if the truth "about the natures of Joseph's brothers" is a "contingent truth". You've since been clearer (in my opinion) as to your rejection of (ii).]

    ] God's knowledge of subjunctive conditionals is not trivial,
    ] as you suggest,

    Well, my suggestion about "the somewhat trivial truth" was in reference to God's knowledge of deliberative conditionals. It *does* seem a trivial truth that "if he actualizes any possible world, whatever is true *in that world* would be true in fact." It's trivial if God is omnipotent. But that was a comment on my view, not your view. (Much of God's natural knowledge is 'trivial' in this sense, BTW :-)

    Of course, I do think that God's knowledge of prevolitional contingent subjunctive conditionals *would* be trivial with respect to enhancing providence, since I think whatever can be had by way of that 'middle-knowledge' can be had by God's natural knowledge of deliberative conditionals.

    ] but God never loses control because none of these subjunctive
    ] conditionals will become actual unless God decides that they
    ] will.

    Again, I'm confused. If by these subjunctive conditionals "becoming actual" you mean they become *true*, then it looks like you're saying that these subjunctive conditionals are postvolitional, and part of God's free knowledge. As you put it, it is up to what "God decides". Isn't that contradictory to your earlier view that they were grounded in God's natural knowledge?

    ] Yet, it is the manner in which all this comes around that
    ] accounts for the authenticity of the freedom of people
    ] whose every act is according to God's decree.

    Yes, it seems to me that freedom with "authenticity" is a *desideratum* that you think is achieved by positing Calvinistic middle-knowledge. It's still unclear to me, though, how positing such middle-knowledge is required for authenticity, rather than, say, positing God's natural knowledge of all deliberative conditionals. I can understand, if libertarianism were required for authentic freedom, that traditional Molinism would be an attractive option. But it's not clear to me, if libertarianism were not required, why some Calvinistic analogue to Molinism would be attractive.

    ] I sense that the distance between us is wider than I had
    ] hoped might be the case.

    As you can tell from the above, I sense that I'm still not sure what your position is. So I remain agnostic on distance claims :-)

    BTW, thanks for being so respectful in your dialogue, despite our potential disagreements. That's pretty rare in Internet dialogues, isn't it? Hopefully, I've returned the favor.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Plantinga Fan,

    ] If I am ignorant of something does that mean that
    ] that something does not, or cannot exist?

    No, but that's not the inference Hays is making. Hays is answering Tiessen on his own terms. It was Tiessen who sought to ground the "truth value" of divine foreknowledge in something: "the factuality of these events" (namely, "what they will freely choose to do in the future"). As he put it, "I have argued that even if God gave creatures libertarian freedom he could know what they will freely choose to do in the future *because* the factuality of these events gives them truth value" (emphasis mine).

    To the extent then that *Tiessen* is right that the truth-value needs to be grounded in something, Hays is simply pointing out that grounding it in future events doesn't do the trick. For if divine foreknowledge is, as Hays put it, "in advance of the *fact*" of the human free choice, then *there is no grounds* for the foreknowledge. It doesn't exist when God has the foreknowledge. (I don't think it matters if you construe the 'when' in terms of logical priority or temporal priority.)

    Now, Hays might be right or he might be wrong. But he's not saying anything as obtuse as:

    (i) We are ignorant of the grounds;

    (ii) Therefore, it is likely there are no grounds.

    :-)

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  14. PLANTINGA FAN SAID:

    “What if God is capable of having knowledge of such future freely performed actions, but that the “grounds” for such knowledge are unknown to us, or beyond our capacity to understand? In this case, He would in fact have grounds for such knowledge, but we could not know what these grounds are. But our ignorance of these 'grounds' is not the same as saying that they do not exist. In the scriptural examples cited by Molinists and Tiessen, God does in fact have knowledge of future freely chosen actions of human persons. So we know from scripture that He is able to have this knowledge. But we do not know (or better – cannot know) what the grounds for this knowledge are.”

    i) Dr. Welty has already shown that plantinga fan missed the point: I was answering Tiessen on the level at which he chose to frame the issue.

    ii) Beyond that, the Bible does inform us that God’s knowledge of the future is indexed to his purpose for the future (e.g. Isa 46:9-11).

    “If God completely determines everything ‘by determining your character and circumstances alike’ then whatever we do and are is completely predetermined by God. And if that is so, then why does he punish eternally people whose character and circumstances were God’s responsibility (‘He’s responsible for what you are and your circumstances’)?”

    I’ve already addressed that objection on many different occasions. And that is also irrelevant to the dialogue with Dr. Tiessen.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Plantinga Fan9/28/2007 11:32 AM

    William Craig in his essay on the grounding objection writes: What is the grounding objection? It is the claim that there are no true counterfactuals concerning what creatures would freely do under certain specified circumstances–the propositions expressed by such counterfactual sentences are said either to have no truth value or to be uniformly false–, since there is nothing to make these counterfactuals true. Because they are contrary–to–fact conditionals and are supposed to be true logically prior to God's creative decree, there is no ground of the truth of such counterfactual propositions. Thus, they cannot be known by God.

    Notice what he says here, there are according to opponents of molinism, supposedly no things that would make these counterfactuals true. And since there are no grounds, then the truth of these kinds of propositions cannot be known by God. I am suggesting what if there are grounds for God to know these kinds of propositions, but in order to know what they are you would have to know how God thinks about future free actions of persons. But since we cannot know how God thinks, we cannot know what these grounds are. And so to argue that the Molinist is not providing them so they do not exist is not a fair criticism. They may exist, and it may be the case that the Molinist or anyone else cannot provide them because to provide them you would need to know how God thinks which we cannot know.

    Greg says: No, but that's not the inference Hays is making. Hays is answering Tiessen on his own terms. It was Tiessen who sought to ground the "truth value" of divine foreknowledge in something: "the factuality of these events" (namely, "what they will freely choose to do in the future"). As he put it, "I have argued that even if God gave creatures libertarian freedom he could know what they will freely choose to do in the future *because* the factuality of these events gives them truth value" (emphasis mine).

    So Tiessen is suggesting what the grounds are. OK, and my point remains, what if no human person can know what the grounds are? Does that then mean that they do not exist? Or that God cannot know the future free actions of persons if they are operating with libertarian freedom? You Calvinists seem to think that it would be impossible for God to know these future free actions if people had libertarian freedom. It has never been shown that libertarian freedom does not exist, and in fact there are strong reasons for believing that it does exist.

    Greg says: To the extent then that *Tiessen* is right that the truth-value needs to be grounded in something, Hays is simply pointing out that grounding it in future events doesn't do the trick. For if divine foreknowledge is, as Hays put it, "in advance of the *fact*" of the human free choice, then *there is no grounds* for the foreknowledge. It doesn't exist when God has the foreknowledge. (I don't think it matters if you construe the 'when' in terms of logical priority or temporal priority.)

    Again, how does he know that it doesn’t or cannot exist? He doesn’t. In order for him to know that he would need to know the mind of God, which he most certainly does not know.

    Greg says: Now, Hays might be right or he might be wrong. But he's not saying anything as obtuse as:

    (i) We are ignorant of the grounds;

    (ii) Therefore, it is likely there are no grounds.

    I did not say that we are ignorant of the grounds therefore it is likely there are no grounds. I said, it could be the case that there are grounds for God knowing the future freely performed action, and if we do not know those grounds (and I argue that we cannot know them because to know them we would need to know how God knows things) it does not follow that since we do not know the ground (or cannot know the grounds) therefore these grounds do not exist. You Calvinists argue: you Molinists do not know upon what grounds these future events are made to be true. And because you do not know, therefore there must be no grounds that make these future events true. But it does not follow that because the Molinist does not know what the grounds are, that there are no grounds.

    You Calvinists claim that the grounds of His future knowledge of events is that he predetermined the event which occurs therefore he knows the event and that it is impossible for God to know future free actions if libertarian freedom is involved. But you do not know how God knows the future either; you simply put your conjecture in the blank. They put middle k in the blank and you put predetermination of all things in the blank, you both assume that you know what goes in the blank. But to know what goes in the blank you would need to know how God knows things, something that is beyond the grasp of both of you. If you don’t and cannot know how God knows things, then you cannot know how God knows future free actions of persons. Because how God knows a particular future free action is wrapped up in how he knows future free actions of persons. And how he knows future free actions of persons is wrapped up in of how he knows. You do not know how he knows, so you don’t know how he knows future free actions of persons. You bypass this little problem and go straight to filling in the blank. If you take a test and the sentence is in a language that you don’t know and is a fill in the blank question, how will you fill in the blank if you don’t even understand the question or context in which the blank is found?

    Steve Hays says: Dr. Welty has already shown that plantinga fan missed the point: I was answering Tiessen on the level at which he chose to frame the issue.

    Both you and Tiessen are disagreeing about what to put in the blank. He says one thing, you argue with his answer. I say neither of you can fill in the blank because neither of you understands the language or context in which the question occurs.

    Steve Hays says: ii) Beyond that, the Bible does inform us that God’s knowledge of the future is indexed to his purpose for the future (e.g. Isa 46:9-11).

    The passage does not say he predetermines every event. It says he knows and declares the end from the beginning. So he knows all things, but that is not the same as saying that he determines all things. The passage also speaks about the fact that he accomplishes the purposes that He has. But he may also have some events which involve his purposes that he accomplishes and some events which he allows or permits. For example he purposes to raise Jesus from the dead after Jesus’ crucifixion, but he may not purpose each event which involves human sin. In order for your view to be established from that text it would have to say that he purposes every event which occurs, it does not say that.

    Consider this, if we say that when Joe gets angry he does X. From this statement it does not follow that Joe is always angry and always does X. Likewise, when God has a purpose that he wants to accomplish, he will accomplish that purpose. But it does not follow from this statement that he purposes every event which occurs.

    I asked:

    “If God completely determines everything ‘by determining your character and circumstances alike’ then whatever we do and are is completely predetermined by God. And if that is so, then why does he punish eternally people whose character and circumstances were God’s responsibility (‘He’s responsible for what you are and your circumstances’)?”

    You replied: I’ve already addressed that objection on many different occasions. And that is also irrelevant to the dialogue with Dr. Tiessen.

    You brought up the novelist metaphor in your initial post in which you wanted to use it to show problems with Molinism. You brought up the metaphor so I am asking you about it because it also shows problems with Calvinism. I have no doubt you have an answer for it, I just wanted to hear what your answer was.

    Plantinga Fan

    ReplyDelete
  16. plantinga fan said...

    “The passage (e.g. Isa 46:9-11) does not say he predetermines every event. It says he knows and declares the end from the beginning. So he knows all things, but that is not the same as saying that he determines all things.”

    It shows how little regard he has for the authority of Scripture that plantinga fan doesn’t bother to study the interconnections in the text. Let’s consult a standard commentary on Isaiah by John Oswalt. As an OT prof. at Asbury, the flagship of Arminian seminaries, Oswalt is hardly predisposed to support a Calvinist reading of Isaiah. Yet this is some of what he has to say:

    “Here [46:10-11] the three participles make a direct link between predictive prophecy (declaring the outcome at the start) and divine intervention in history (calling from the east a bird of prey)…As several commentators (e.g. Young) have noted, the three participles move from general to particular to specific…In the first instance, God tells in general what will happen in the future. He can do so because the future is fully shaped by his own plans and wishes. This is the same point that was made in ch. 14 concerning Assyria (vv24-27)…The repetition [46:11] serves to emphasize the unshakable connection between promise and the performance, between divine talk and divine action…This parallelism underlines again that the reason God can tell what is going to happen is that what happens is only an outworking of his eternal purposes,” J. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (Eerdmans 1998), 236-37.

    So Isaiah embeds foreknowledge in foreordination. And he states this as a general principle, of which Cyrus is simply a special case.

    “But he may also have some events which involve his purposes that he accomplishes and some events which he allows or permits. For example he purposes to raise Jesus from the dead after Jesus’ crucifixion, but he may not purpose each event which involves human sin.”

    He predetermined the Fall, which is a paradigmatically evil event (Rom 11:32; Gal 3:22). He predetermined the Crucifixion, which is a paradigmatically evil event (Acts 2:23; 4:28). There are many other examples in which sinful deeds are providentially ordered (e.g. Gen 45:5; 50:19-20; Exod 10:1,20; 2 Sam 16:10-11; Is 10:5-7).

    “You brought up the novelist metaphor in your initial post in which you wanted to use it to show problems with Molinism. You brought up the metaphor so I am asking you about it because it also shows problems with Calvinism. I have no doubt you have an answer for it, I just wanted to hear what your answer was.”

    How does that show problems for Calvinism? If a fictitious character commits murder, do we put the novelist on trial for homicide?

    ReplyDelete
  17. BTW, Paul Helm has an excellent discussion of the precarious status of foreknowledge in libertarian schemes:

    http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2007/02/three-responses.html

    ReplyDelete
  18. Here's another good article on middle knowledge from a Reformed perspective:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3817/is_200409/ai_n9440211/print

    HT: Greg Welty

    ReplyDelete
  19. Steve,

    I accept your rebuke (message of 9/26) in regard to my imprecision regarding my thinking concerning the possibility of God’s knowledge of the actual future if creatures have libertarian freedom. I do not concede this for the sake of argument, I believe it to be correct.

    I accept Craig’s conceptual (propositional) rather than perceptual (seeing beforehand) approach, and I affirm his conviction that statements about reality are tenseless. If something happens, a statement about it is true whether it is put in terms of past, present or future.

    Craig argues that God knows all true propositions even though we do not know how God has this knowledge. (This is where comments by Plantingafan come in.)

    So, I go that far with Craig and, consequently, I believe that classical Arminians are right to reject the Open theist contention that God can not and does not know the future acts of free creatures with certainty.

    In regard to counterfactuals, however, I agree with Open theists rather than Molinists and this is because I do not believe that counterfactuals of libertarian freedom have truth value (unlike the facts of reality). Hence, I affirm the grounding objection against Molinism and I move toward my affirmation of middle knowledge within a monergistic framework.

    The rest of your message made points that Welty is also making and I will address them in a response to his message of 9/27.

    Shalom,
    Terry

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  20. Dr. Welty,

    Thank you for your patience in this conversation. I am sorry for the confusion that my last message in our discussion created, causing you to be even less clear about what I am proposing than you were before. Such regress is regrettable. I think a number of factors have contributed to this confusion:

    (1) Inevitably, we hear one another through our own grids and this brings about some misunderstanding on both parts. This can be remedied with further conversation.

    (2) At some points, as you feared, we are using terms differently. In some cases, this is the result of the first factor but in others I am guilty of unnecessarily generating the confusion. I see a couple of reasons for this:

    (a) You are raising questions that I have not pondered before, at least in these terms, and so I am thinking on my feet. Sometimes my thinking is fuzzy and sometimes my language to express it is simply not clear. For that I’m sorry. Doubtless, you have more formal philosophical training than I and this creates difficulties which I am hoping will not discourage you too greatly.

    (b) Occasionally, I can see that I have used terms in an unorthodox way and, worse yet, have been inconsistent with my own use. This is inexcusable and my sole defense is, again, that I am thinking out loud and perhaps writing prematurely in an eagerness to move our mutual understanding along. The result is naturally otherwise.

    (c On occasion, I have created terms to express myself (like “strong sense of counterfactual”) and their meaning has not been clear enough to be helpful to you, largely, I think, because of factor (1).

    So, then, let’s see if I can improve things. I feel as though I understand your position (and Steve’s) better than I did at the outset and this may help me to speak in ways that communicate my intentions better.


    A quick comment about nomenclature for my position. Given your comments on 9/27, I can see why you dubbed my position a form of Molinism. As you note, the order that I outlined is identical to Molinism’s order. It is for this reason that I have appropriated Molina’s term “middle knowledge.” You then note that the only difference between my proposal and the Molinist model is the nature of human freedom. This is true but I see this as a hugely important difference and this is my reason for not liking the term “Calvinistic Molinism.” It looks to me to be an oxymoron, like “monergistic synergism.” That was the point of my concern. On the spectrum of 11 models that I expound in my book, Molinism is the “softest” of the synergisms, but it is decidedly a form of synergism. My model is definitely a form of monergism, although I see it as a “softer” form of determinism than classical Calvinism has put forward, though “harder” than Thomism. For this reason, namely, because I give priority to the watershed between synergism and monergism, I prefer “Calvinistic middle knowledge” or “Reformed middle knowledge” (Steve’s term in his original post). Bruce Ware speaks of “compatibilist middle knowledge” which is a good term too.

    Now, a few comments on my point in regard to strong and weak senses of counterfactual. This is not terminology I’ve heard anyone else use, hence your puzzlement. In my use of these terms, the “weak sense” refers to counterfactuals that are prevolitional and the “strong sense” to counterfactuals that are postvolitional. It appears that you and Steve use the term only regarding the postvolitional and I think that this explains some of our difficulties in understanding one another.

    When I speak of the “strong sense” I refer to events that will never occur. God knows this after his decree, in his free knowledge. Once God has decided that the particular person we know as Peter will deny Jesus three times, all other possibilities are counterfactual (in the strong sense), they will never be realized. Peter will never be a different sort of person, one who would not deny Jesus in that situation, nor will circumstances ever occur in which Peter as the same person he was does not deny Jesus. So, in deciding which world will be factual, God makes all other possible worlds counterfactual.

    In my middle knowledge model, however, unlike your classical Calvinist model, God knows a wider range of counterfactuals prevolitionally. Before deciding which world he will instantiate, God knows all the “if this then that”s. I referred to these as counterfactuals in the weak sense because one set of these counterfactuals will be realized by God’s choice, thereby becoming “factual” and hence not “counterfactual” (in what I called the strong sense).

    I was very confusing about “possible worlds” and I hope I can clear that up now. Given that “possible worlds” are worlds that could be, by my own definition of the distinction between the three types of knowledge, God’s knowledge of possible worlds is natural. When I speak of God’s natural knowledge of all the worlds that could be, however, I think of this as a rather unspecific knowledge. Possible worlds are worlds which cohere with God’s nature, so there could be no world in which God is not meticulously in control. In all possible worlds, the situation is monergistic. But at this level, God simply knows what sort of creatures would be consistent with God’s own being. He knows the things which inform his deliberation at the middle knowledge stage. This is where specific prevolitional counterfactuals come into play.

    I think it is at this point that you are having the most difficulty with my proposal and this is the point at which the validity of compatibilist middle knowledge must be tested. This is where your critical question regarding the grounding of the truth of counterfactuals arises, a question which I have thus far been unable to answer clearly for you but I’m still hoping we may get there. I will come back to my very first answer, namely, that what makes God’s determination compatible with human freedom is what makes it possible for God to know the counterfactuals of soft-determinist freedom prevolitionally. My compatibilism and my belief in middle knowledge are all part of the same seamless piece of theological cloth.

    Let’s talk about some of your propositions.

    You wrote:

    “Given God’s knowledge of possible worlds, God knows it is possible that:

    “P1 In circumstances C, Peter betrays Christ.

    ”And he knows it is also possible that:

    ”P2 In circumstances C, Peter doesn't betray Christ.”

    The difference between our perspectives is showing up here because I would not say this. Here’s why. As I understand things, what God knows in his middle knowledge is how a particular person would act in particular circumstances (e.g., “SC1 If Peter were in circumstances C, Peter *would* betray Christ.”) Molinists say this too, but they are wrong because of the grounding objection. However, if creatures have compatibilistic freedom, God can know how Peter would act in circumstances C. He knows this because Peter is only soft-deterministically free, he acts according to “reasons” and so, because God knows those “reasons,” he knows what a particular sort of person (Peter as he was at this moment) would do in a particular set of circumstances. So, God knows SC1 as a prevolitional counterfactual; he knows that if this particular man were put in this particular situation, he would betray Christ.

    But I can not, therefore, also affirm P2. If this Peter would betray Christ in circumstances C then either Peter must be different or the circumstances must be different, if God does not want Peter to betray Christ. It is through this knowledge (which I take to be middle) that God is able to decree the world in which Peter freely betrays Christ. So, I must reject P2, in favour of possibilities

    P3 In circumstances D, Peter doesn’t betray Christ or

    P4 In circumstances C, Peter 2 doesn’t betray Christ.

    I sense that it is at this point that you and Steve sharply disagree with me because you believe that this way of construing things undermines God’s independence. I have argued that it does not do so in a significant way but you disagree. Instead (correct me here if I am wrong), you assert that it is only postvolitionally that God knows in what circumstances Peter would betray Christ and in what circumstances Peter would not betray Christ. Thus, God knows this because he decrees either P1 or P2 to be the case. I, on the contrary, am positing that God cannot (if he gives creatures compatibilist freedom) decree either P1 or P2. He must choose between P1 and P3 or P4.

    Am I right in assuming that you find this problematic because you think that it limits God unacceptably? In your words, as I recall, it makes God’s decision dependent upon a reality that is independent of God’s will. This is why I tried to relate God’s middle knowledge to his natural knowledge but my proposal that the former is grounded in the latter was confusing and hence unhelpful. Putting that little linguistic or logical confusion aside, what I’m trying to say is that God’s sovereignty is not limited significantly because the fact that he cannot choose whether to actualize either P1 or P2 is that they are incoherent by virtue of the reality that is constituted by God’s very nature and which he knows in his natural knowledge. This is why I argue that the non-existence of either Peter or Peter 2, or of circumstances C or D, unless God wills that they should be real, is important.

    That God cannot choose between P1 and P2 is not because he is limited by a reality indpendent of himself. The nature of things that limits God to choosing between P1 and P3 or P4 is not independent of God, it coheres with God’s own nature. (I spoke of this in terms of its being grounded in God’s natural knowledge, but this seems to be a bad move.) God is not restricted by something outside of himself, whatever restrictions this presents derive from within God.

    You likely disagree, but does this make better sense. Do you understand what I am trying to say or am I still confusing you?

    Coming back to your post. You said:

    “Knowledge of possible worlds gives God knowledge of possibilities like these [i.e., P1 and P2]. But they do not give knowledge of subjunctive conditionals like the following:

    “SC1 If Peter were in circumstances C, Peter *would* betray Christ.

    “There is simply *no way* that I can see that knowledge of things like P1 and P2 gets you knowledge of something like SC1. What would be the inference principle by which necessary truths like P1 and P2 ground contingent truths like SC1?”

    I have explained above why I do not believe that God’s knowledge of possible worlds gives him knowledge of P1 and P2. These do not cohere, if Peter has compatibilist freedom. Given what I have said, however, in God’s middle knowledge SC1 is precisely the sort of thing that God knows and it is with the multitude of SC truths of this sort in mind that God decides whether to actualize a world in which Peter betrays Christ (P1) or a world in which he does not (P4). God does not infer SC1 from P1 and P2. In the nature of possible created things as coherent with God himself, P1 and P2 are not alternative possibilities. God knows that either

    SC1 If Peter were in circumstances C, Peter *would* betray Christ.

    or

    SC2 If Peter were in circumstances D, Peter *would not* betray Christ.

    God then chooses to bring about circumstances C or D, depending on whether or not he wants Peter to betray Christ.

    In answer to your question then, I see SC1 as what God knows in his middle knowledge. But, in his natural knowledge, he knows whatever it is that makes it the case that a being of the sort we know as “Peter” would do an action of the sort “betray Christ” in circumstances of the sort C. It is this nonspecified knowledge that God draws upon when he knows at the middle moment what Peter would do in circumstances C or D and what Peter 2 would do in circumstances C or D. God then decides what he wants to be the history of his world and so he chooses either Peter 1 or Peter 2 as part of (or together with) circumstances C or D. God decides whether or not Peter betrays Christ and, in that decision, he chooses whether to instantiate P1 or P3. What God knew was not a possibility was P2 but this is not a significant limitation of his sovereignty.


    Am I making better sense yet Dr. Welty?

    I know that you do not agree with me. At one point, I hoped that our disagreement might be about whether God knows counterfactuals such as SC1 and SC 2 in his natural or middle knowledge. It is clear to me now, however, that you would object to my construct even if I were to assert that God had this knowledge of counterfactuals as part of his natural knowledge. You insist that God can only know what Peter would do in circumstances C postvolitionally. If I understand you rightly, that is a stronger determinism and a less compatibilistic model than I find in Scripture and am trying to elucidate.

    I am hopeful that this time around I am making myself more clear. Let me know if such is the case and if not where I still confuse you.

    Shalom,
    Terry

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  21. This thread had been real interesting, but seems to have to come to a sudden halt.

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