Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Molinists in the Matrix

Had an impromptu debate on Facebook with some freewill theists, two of whom are Molinists:

Calvinism makes God the author of evil, even if it is denied.

How does your position square with passages like this:

For it was the Lord's doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses (Josh 11:20). 

And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech (Judges 9:23).

If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death (1 Sam 2:25).

Absalom and all the men of Israel said, "The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel." For the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom (2 Sam 17:14).

So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite (1 Kgs 12:15).

19 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab the king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ 21 And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 22 Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets. The Lord has declared disaster concerning you” (2 Chron 18:19-22).

For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie (2 Thes 2:11). 

for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled (Rev 17:17).

i) Freewill theists get off on the wrong foot when they cast the issue in terms of "Calvinism makes God the author of evil". If Calvinism is merely repeating and reaffirming what the Bible says, then that's only a problem for Calvinism if Scripture is false.

ii) These passages which attribute a human choice to divine agency. Their choice is said to be the result of God acting on them. 

iii) It's not an incidental consequence of divine action, but the specifically intended consequence.

iv) That eliminates the ultimate sourcehood definition of libertarian freedom, for their choice is said to be the effect of God's prior action.

v) That eliminates the principle of alternate possibilities definition of libertarian freedom, for if their choice is the result of divine agency, then they were in no position to choose contrary to God's instigation. 

vi) Finally, the passages I quote describe God causing them to make evil or self-destructive choices. 

I don't see it even close to being a comparison. If I write the script of a book, I am solely responsible for the actions of the characters. If I create a play where the actors are free but knowing their choices I write the script around it, I am not the direct agent behind their decisions. 

i) Of course, storybook characters lack consciousness. That's not analogous to predestined conscious agents.

ii) In what sense do you think human agents are "free"? If you think the choice could go either way, does that mean their choices are random, like a coin toss? If I flip the coin a minute sooner, it may be heads, and if I flip the coin a minute later, it may be tails?

iii) In Molinism, God is choosing from an array of feasible possible worlds. The humans in those worlds aren't conscious agents. They are merely possible persons or abstract objects. Indeed, Craig is a fictionalist. They only become conscious if God actualizes a possible world. 

You're reading more into the text than is there. Those same passages in your second point are compatible with both strong actualization via determinism and weak actualization via providence arranged according to middle knowledge (incorporation of free will choices).

What an ironic comment considering the fact that you're filtering the text through the colored lens of Plantingian metaphysics, which is totally extraneous to the text. Was the ancient Jewish audience using Plantingian metaphysics as its frame of reference?

You're like a ufologist who construes Ezk 1 as a flying saucer, and when I point out that the ufologist is imposing an extraneous interpretive grid on the text, he counters that Ezk 1 is compatible with the ufological interpretation. 

That's not how exegesis works. The meaning of the text is determined by a frame of reference available to the target audience. 

I never said the Jewish audience was using those frameworks. I said the texts are compatible with both, so they cannot be used to adjudicate the matter.In other words, they are underdeterminative. None of the texts rule out libertarian freedom even under PAP terms or ultimate sourcehood terms.

Christians are reading more into the text than is there. The Incarnation, crucifixion, and Resurrection narratives are compatible with both a real Incarnation, crucifixion, and Resurrection as well as a virtual Incarnation, crucifixion, and Resurrection. The texts are compatible with an external world or a computer simulation, so they cannot be used to adjudicate the matter. In other words, they are underdeterminative. None of the texts rule out the Matrix.

You criticize me for saying that the biblical data is consistent but not conclusive regarding Molinism and then say that texts on the resurrection are compatible with a virtual resurrection. But actually, that's not true. I think the text does require a physicalist reading of the resurrection. Moreover, any computer simulation analogy is parasitic on the physical world for its resources. I don't see why the Bible's being underdeterminative regarding the issue should preclude concluding to Molinism on other grounds. Why think that's the case?

That's confuses the order of being with the order of knowing. Yes, even the Matrix requires a real world with real energy and machinery to run it. The point, though, is the inability of somebody plugged into the Matrix to differentiate appearance from reality. Likewise, your hermeneutic invokes a frame of reference that's entirely extrinsic to the text of Scripture or the background knowledge of the original audience to neutralize the text and tip the scales towards Molinism.

Do you agree that at least God has libertarian freedom?

Depends in part on how your define libertarian freedom. For instance, there's the "mere indeterminist causation" theory of action (whatever that means) as well as the "no causation at all' theory. Here's what a premier freewill theist says:

If it goes to the left, that just happens. If it goes to the right, that just happens…There is no way to make it go one way rather than the other…It is a plausible idea that it is up to an agent what the outcome of a process will be only if the agent is able to arrange things in a way that would make the occurrence of this outcome inevitable and able to arrange things in a way that would make the occurrence of that outcome inevitable. If this plausible idea is right, there would seem to be no possibility of its being [up to the agent] what the outcome of an indeterministic process would be." Peter van Inwagen, Metaphysics (Westview Press, 4th ed., 2015), 278).

God's choices are not caused or determined by anything outside himself. However, God has reasons for his choices. His choices aren't independent of reason, or contrary to rationality. 

I don't think God has the freedom to commit evil. Do you? Moreover, libertarian freedom is often defined as ability to do otherwise in under the same circumstances, but God has no circumstances. Divine freedom is sui generis. 

Why think that God couldn't weakly actualize every creaturely free will choice simply by placing free creatures in certain circumstances?

i) Because I don't grant the premise of your question (i.e. creatures with libertarian freedom).

ii) Because their choices are either uncaused or at least indeterminate, which makes them unpredictable. If their choices are predictable, then they lack the freedom to do otherwise. Conversely, if their choices are uncaused, then they can't be known in advance. 

That's one reason many of the most philosophically astute freewill theists are open theists. 

iii) Because their choices are independent of God, and even independent of their own prior mental states. It's a coin flip. Each coin flip is causally independent of the preceding or succeeding coin flip. 

iv) And finally, because they don't exist. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are disconnected from God. 

That's not a problem for Calvinism, where possible worlds are divine ideas, and divine ideas are constitutive. Possible worlds are what is divinely conceivable. God knows his own mind. They are not derivative of what autonomous nonentities would or wouldn't do. 

Debating Molinism is like debating Monadology. A mental construct. No reason to think there's anything in reality corresponding to that fanciful construct. 

A few texts in favor of soft libertarianism: Gen 4:6-7; Deut 30:11-20; Josh 24:14-15, 22; Psalm 119:108-109; Isa 5:3-4; Prov 1:23, 28; Jer 26:2-4; Jer 36:3, 7, 17-20; Ezek 18:21-24, 30-32; Ezek 33:11; Zech 1:2-4; Matt 23:37-39; Acts 5:4; 1 Cor 7:37; 1 Cor 10:13; Rev 2:21.

i) You're confusing material conditionals or material implication (if-then) with libertarian freedom. That's a category mistake.

ii) The fact that we can deliberate about alternate courses of action doesn't imply that those are realistic options. We can imagine many scenarios that we are unable to act on.

iii) Predestination is compatible with hypothetical alternatives. If I did A, B would be the consequence, but if I did C, D would be the consequence. In Calvinism, there are cause-effect relations.

iv) Likewise, predestination is compatible with alternate timelines or possible worlds. In Calvinism, those are representations of God's intellect and power.

Under Calvinism, God is both the necessary and sufficient condition for evil. 

It's not nearly enough for you to simply distinguish between necessary and sufficient conditions. In addition, you need to explain how that's morally germane. Evidently, you're stipulating a general principle: if X is a necessary but insufficient condition of an evil choice, then exculpates X, but if X is a sufficient condition of an evil choice, then that inculpates X. 

But why should we grant that? Suppose I'm an arms dealer for a Columbian drug cartel. I don't personally murder anyone. I just supply the kingpins and their death squads. So that makes my action a necessary but insufficient condition in the demise of the innocent victims. Does that let me off the hook morally?

As to your analogy, no free-will theist would grant that God is like an arms dealer for the Cartel. That's disanalogous.

It's only disanalogous if you now concede that your distinction between necessary and sufficient conditionality is an unreliable principle in general to inculpate or exculpate an agent. So you must now supply some additional criterion, over and above mere necessary conditionality, for your argument to have any chance of going through.

Simply having children, in and of itself, doesn't determine what choices they will make, one way or another. So at best, the parent only makes it possible for those children to make bad choices - a necessary but insufficient condition. The sufficient condition would be the children's own choices. So imagine that even in spite of teaching the children right from wrong, one of them goes on to become a criminal. Would the parent then be held morally responsible for the actions of the child just for bringing them into the world? No, or course not.

You oversimplified what I said, omitting key variables. Try again. What I actually said was: " if God knows that by creating the world, specific evils will transpire, then he renders their occurrence inevitable by making a world with those foreseeable consequences. The events cannot be otherwise given those combined factors. That follows on Molinism and simple foreknowledge Arminianism alike."

The argument wasn't based on creation alone, but knowing full well all the consequences of one's fiat, if one were to do so, then causing a the initial conditions that eventuate in those foreseeable results.

And to play along with your example, if a couple knew that by having conjugal relations on a particular night, Pol Pot would be conceived, then they would indeed be morally responsible for the dire outcome. 

God is the "ultimate cause" in that He made evil possible. But He didn't actualize it. His agents did. But under Calvinism, Gods decree is what actualized evil. Satan, Adam, and Eve were just doing what God programmed them to do.

Predestination doesn't actualize anything. Predestination is just a plan. The plan is actualized by creation and providence (occasionally by miracles).

1 comment:

  1. In most of your examples, the actual authors of the evil acts are humans and spirits, even as God steers events to his will, by hardening hearts or sending delusions.

    Some of your examples, like 1 Sam 2:25, I am not certain what your point is.