Sunday, February 25, 2018

Playing blind

In a recent book, William Lane Craig says:

We can vividly illustrate the stages of God's knowledge by imagining him being dealt a hand of cards. First, he is dealt a hand having all the necessary truths printed on them. God is thus not a liberty to actualize contradictory states of affairs, for they are not in the cards. Next, he is dealt a hand of cards having all true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom printed on them. Although these truths, unlike necessary truths, are contingent, nevertheless they are prevolitional for God, in that he does not decide what creatures would freely do in various circumstances. 

God must now play with the hand he has been dealt, that is to say, actualize a world that is feasible for him given the counterfactuals that are true. If we imagine God existing in various possible worlds, in some possible worlds he might have been dealt a very lousy hand indeed. The Reformed theologian might imagine God, surveying the range of feasible worlds, deciding that none of the worlds containing libertarian free creatures is worth actualizing and therefore deciding to actualize a world in which he himself determines everything that happens! Molina, on the other hand, thought that God had decided to actualize a world of libertarian free creatures and to skillfully play the hand he has been dealt in such a way that his ultimate ends are achieved through creaturely free decisions, despite the sinful decisions they would make and the evils they would bring about. C. Meister & J. Dew, eds. God and the Problem of Evil: Five Views (IVP 2017), 38-39.

Craig is very fond of that metaphor. He's repeatedly used that metaphor on different occasions. It's not just some offhand illustration. The metaphor raises about three different issues, of which I will consider two in this post:

1. One basic question raised by the metaphor is whether the deck is fair or stacked. In Calvinism, God plays with a stacked deck. Indeed, according to Calvinism, God is the dealer. 

Dropping the metaphor, in Calvinism, possible worlds originate in God's infinite imagination. God has counterfactual knowledge because God knows his own mind. Divine cognition is what constitutes possible worlds in the first place. 

But what about Molinism? In Molinism, the deck represents the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. And God can only choose from the subset of feasible worlds. 

If, however, the decks is randomly shuffled, then how does God know the order of the cards? And it seems, on Molinist terms, that the deck must be randomly shuffled. Possible worlds represent divergent courses of action. Hypothetical alternatives available to agents with libertarian freedom. Most of them remain unexemplified possibilities. 

There's nothing that causes or determines their libertarian choice. In that respect, what they opt for seems to be the luck of the draw. If you could turn back the clock multiple times, the choice would vary. 

If so, then God is like an ordinary poker player who must wait to find out the order of the cards as hands are dealt from the deck. He does not and cannot know that in advance. Rather, that's something he discovers, one card at a time. 

2. Since, by Craig's own admission, God may be dealt a lousy hand, seeing as he has no control over the deck of cards, there's no presumption that God, however adept, can parlay that into a winning hand. What if God is stuck with a losing hand? On Craig's scenario, whatever he gets is truly the luck of the draw. 

1 comment:

  1. How is this any different than Rabbi Kushner's view?