I’ve been asked to comment on a "refutation" of James White by Wes:
“Middle Knowledge (and William Lane Craig in particular) does not teach that God's soverignty is trumped or determined by man's free will or by God's Middle Knowledge of man's free will.”
i) It’s hardly sufficient to merely deny the charge. In order to show that White misrepresents Molinism, Wes needs to quote something from White, then compare and contrast that with excerpts from representative Molinists.
ii) In addition, the charge is ambiguous. There’s an obvious potential difference between what people claim to believe, and what their position may actually entail. Mormons claim to be Christians. That doesn’t make it so.
Likewise, since Craig is a Molinist, he’s not going to characterize his own position in the same invidious fashion that White does. But that, of itself, doesn’t mean White’s characterization is inaccurate.
“Does God really ‘look down the cooridors of time’ (common objection by reformed crowd) or is his knowledge of counterfactuals properly basic (as WLC, Flint, and I argue)?”
i) God’s knowledge of counterfactuals is “properly basic”? In my understanding, proper basicality is a thesis, not about what we know, but about certain beliefs which enjoy prima facie justification, but are potentially defeasible. A properly basic belief can be justified even if the belief is mistaken.
Is Wes claiming that God is merely warranted in what he believes about counterfactuals, even though his properly basic believes may in fact be mistaken?
ii) Moreover, Wes needs to do more than merely stipulate that God’s knowledge of counterfactuals is properly basic. If he’s going to disprove White’s contention, then he needs to at least summarize the arguments by Craig, and Flint.
“Molinism is held to naturally according to Flint and Curt Daniel of Faith Bible Church in his series ‘History and Theology of Calvinism’, particularly his lecture on Foreknowledge. To say that ‘no one comes to the doctrine of middle knowledge on their own’ is patently false as I know a number of people (including myself) who held that very idea long before stumbling across any formal presentation of Molinism.”
Once again, it’s hardly sufficient to claim that Molinism is “held to naturally.” Wes would need to document that tendentious claim.
“It is disingenuous to claim that Molinism is a philosophy whereas causal determinism isn't.”
Is White beginning with the concept of causal determinism? Or does he begin with Biblical doctrines like predestination and (meticulous) providence–then consider the necessary preconditions for these to be true?
“Attempts to claim the Biblical high ground on an issue Scripture does not address directly (in philsophical terms) but assumes man's libertarian freedom and God's sovereignty are somehow able to co-exist.”
Notice that Wes is assuming what he needs to prove.
“It is misleading to mock the ‘best of all possible worlds’ position WLC postulates as true as a result of Middle Knowledge as if it were.”
So what makes it misleading?
“You misrepresent Molinism as a doctrine wholly based on the freedom of man's will.”
Does he? Molinism tries to carve out room for man’s libertarian freedom. So God’s sovereignty has to be reformulated consistent with the a priori of man’s libertarian freedom. The axiomatic status of man’s libertarian freedom delimits the boundaries of divine sovereignty. Classic case of the tail wagging the God.
“You claim it is not obtained naturally. I held to it naturally, and many people I know held to it naturally as well. While this is an unverifiable assertion, it does serve as an initial experiential refutation of your brazen, sweeping, statement.”
How can an admittedly “unverifiable assertion” successfully “refute” anything?
“This calls into question your commitment to accurately presenting the Molinist case since it clearly shows your presupposed bias.”
Is Wes free of presupposed bias?
“You gloss over and barely mention the counterfactuals found throughout Scripture.”
That charge is highly ironic coming from a guy who accuses White of misrepresenting Craig’s position. Craig doesn’t infer middle knowledge from counterfactual knowledge. Indeed, Craig explicitly rejects that inference:
“I think it is plain, then, that the God of the Bible exhibits counterfactual knowledge…Unfortunately, this does not answer the question of whether God has middle knowledge. For the scriptural passages show only that God possesses counterfactual knowledge, and, as I have said, until modern times all theologians agreed that God possesses counterfactual knowledge. The dispute among them concerned when in logical order of things this knowledge comes: is it before or after the divine decree. Since Scripture does not reflect upon this question, no amount of proof-texting can prove that God’s counterfactual knowledge is possessed logically prior to his creative decree. This is a matter for theological-philosophical reflection, not biblical exegesis. Thus, while it is clearly unbiblical to deny that God has simple foreknowledge and even counterfactual knowledge, those who deny middle knowledge cannot be accused of being unbiblical” J. Beilby & P. Eddy ed., Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (IVP 2001), 124-25.
Continuing with Wes:
“You fail to mention how Molinism upholds sovereignty while still allowing for such fundamental Christian principles like answered prayer and moral obligation and responsibility.”
The question at issue isn’t merely what Molinism claims for itself, but whether it can make good on its claims. Is it a successful compromise? Does it succeed even on its own terms? Does it solve the problem it posed for itself?
“You seem to think that just because we refuse to arrogantly claim Cartesian certitude on such a tertary doctrine (as I would argue causal determinism is) at best is a sign of weakness rather than humility.”
Instead of casting the issue in terms of causal determinism, let’s just ask whether Molinism is consistent with the Biblical witness regarding the range and nature of God’s knowledge, predestination, and providence.
“You mock the humble assertion Craig puts forth that Molinism provides greater explanatory power while avoiding pitfalls to competing philosophical systems such as causal determinism.”
I thought Wes was offering a refutation of White. How does this count as a refutation?
“You fail to understand that Molinism is equally concerned with the Soverignty of God and the libertarian freedom of man.”
The “concerns” of Molinism are secondary. The success of Molinism is the main issue.
If, however, Molinism suffers from a misguided concern for man’s libertarian freedom, then that will skew the question, as well as the answer.
“You confuze the libertarian or creaturly freedom given to men with a Pelegian idea of complete autonomy. You do disservice even to Arminism in this regard.”
An allegation in search of an argument. Wes accuses White of confusing the two, but where’s the supporting argument?
“You presuppose at the outset that Molinism has, as it's goal, the chipping away of God's sovereignty. Quite the opposite is true.”
How is the opposite true? If de Molina’s concern was to uphold the sovereignty of God, then he could have dispensed with middle knowledge entirely and stuck with Thomism or Augustinianism.
“You do not address he primary reason people like myself, Craig, Plantinga, Ware, etc. hold to this rich doctrine which is it's satisfactory answer to the question of evil.”
Since Wes doesn’t lay out the primary reason why it’s a satisfactory answer to the problem of evil, what is there for White to address?
“You characterize Molinism as a reaction to the Reformation which you seem to presuppose is wholly right and fail to comprehend that while Molinism may be reactionary in part, it's claims still need to be addressed.”
Wes isn’t giving us any reason to address its claims since all he’s giving us are tendentious claims.
“You presuppose that, in order for God to be sovereign he needs to exert causal control (something you clearly state in the 2nd half of your presentation) over everything he creates.”
Notice that Wes doesn’t present a counterargument.
“Ironically you laugh off the notion that your position turns humans into robots and you somehow try to implicate Molinism by a flawed assertion that God's knowledge of our free actions is based on a mechanistic (as opposed to volitionally free) response to any set of circumstances.”
Does White have a “mechanistic” theory of causation?
“You also presuppose that Causal Determinism is clearly stated in Scripture.”
“Clearly stated” or logically implicit?
“This is not a settled issue and any Cartesian claims of ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ either elevate you to the position of a prophet or.”
Then why did Wes cite the counterfactual statements in Scripture? Isn’t that a “thus saith the Lord” appeal?
“You apparently lack the categories of thought required to accurately discuss such concepts as ‘logically possible worlds.’”
Wes apparently lacks the categories of thought required to mount an actual argument.
“You misrepresent the possible worlds section of Craig's book by presupposing that the limiting factor is man's free choices rather than God's character.”
Didn’t Craig say “the counterfactuals which are true at that moment thus serve to delimit the range of possible world to worlds feasible for God,” ibid. 222?
So don’t the counterfactuals of freedom (i.e. man’s free choices) function as a limiting factor on God’s field of action?
“You portray Craig's tantalizing tidbits of ‘best of all possible worlds’ as though it were of paramount importance to Molinism rather than what it is, Craig's musings at the end of his book in response to an objection.”
Does this mean that Wes is distancing himself from Craig’s position?
“You don't name your bias and you arrogantly assume it is ‘Biblical’ and fail to mention its wholly philosophical/Stoic nature.”
i) Once more, that’s highly ironic for someone who accuses White of misrepresenting the other side. White’s Calvinism is not a state secret. He wears this on his sleeve.
ii) And White doesn’t merely “assume” that Calvinism is Biblical. He’s made a detailed, exegetical case for his position in many different venues.
iii) Moreover, the genetic fallacy cuts both ways. Should we dismiss Molinism out of hand due to its wholly Jesuit nature?
“You make the same mistake Greg Boyd does in thinking that anything foreknown by God would necessarily entail causal degree.”
And how is that a mistake? Where is the supporting argument?
“In this respect you completely ignore one of the primary objections to complete soverignty and foreknowledge Molinism attempts to address.”
i) Which is what?
ii) Moreover, what Molinism “attempts” is not the issue. You can attempt to win the Boston Marathon. You can also come in dead last.
“You make the statement that God's knowledge is based on his decree.”
And where’s the counterargument?
“You arn't honest in citing your bias on the off chance that anyone in attendance wanted to compare your phi.”
Indeed, James White is notorious for concealing his Calvinism. It would take a private eye to uncover the fact that White is a closet Calvinist rather than a protégé of Norm Geisler or Dave Hunt.
Thankfully, Wes has outed White for all the world to see. White can no longer masquerade as a militant Arminian.
Just between you, me, and the fly on the wall, I've also heard unconfirmed rumors that White may be a crypto-Baptist!
“You presuppose causal determinism to be the golden standard everything else, including competing philosophies like Molinism, must measure up to.”
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is even accurate, where’s the rebuttal?
“What was the real objective of your presentation? Was it to adequately explain Middle Knowledge or was it to merely defend Calvinism/your particular view of causal determinism?”
“If it was to truly explain accurately Middle Knowledge, why did you limit yourself to one book (not even one author) written 9 years ago and fail to mention all the other people and material that also defends the doctrine of Middle Knowledge?”
Does this mean there are competing versions of Molinism? If so, then how can Wes make blanket statements about Molinism? If not, how is this even germane?
“Why do you act as if Middle Knowledge is merely a philosophical position while presupposing your stance on causal determinism isn't?”
Why does Wes hurl questions, assertions, and allegations in lieu of suitable documentation or argumentation?
“Why do you superimpose your presuppositions of total depravity and causal determinism onto Middle Knowledge and then mock Middle Knowledge when it doesn't match your presuppositions?”
Craig, Flint, and de Molina all believe in the Fall, do they not? So Molinism must factor in the noetic effects of original sin. It’s dealing with a possible fallen worlds, not possible unfallen worlds.
“If you truly intended to accurately explain Middle Knowledge it would seem that you would try (insofar as humanly possible) not to drag your presuppositions and biases into the discussion before bashing it.”
Have you ever noticed how often those who rail against the perceived bias of their opponents are oddly blind to their own blatant bias?
“To do otherwise makes it seem like you are intentionally creating straw men that are then easily knocked down by your presuppositions.”
From start to finish, this tirade by Wes is 10 parts assertion and accusation to zero parts reasoned argument or documentary evidence.