Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Walls v. McCall

Two Arminian philosophers debating each other. I think Walls has the better of the argument–given their shared libertarian assumptions.
So, yes, I think McCall is missing something obvious. It's not just a bare question of how God knows something. Rather, it's a question of how God can know something given implicit constraints on his knowledge vis-a-vis libertarian freedom.

That imposes a condition on divine knowledge. Or, put another way, that seems to remove a necessary condition under which God could know something. 

Can you give me your concise thoughts on middle knowledge?
  • Jerry Walls I dubious of it. It is sheer mystery how God could know the actual free choices of possible creatures who will never exist. It also has troubling theological implications, in particular, that there might be some people God could save but does not. I have discussed these in both "Why I am not a Calvinist" and 'Hell: The Logic of Damnation."
  • Aaron Duvall I've been reading a ton if William Craig recently and I have similar concerns. I'll have to reread both of those. It's been a while.
  • Tom McCall What, exactly, is the problem with *how* God knows something? It seems to me that if there is *anywhere* that appeals to mystery are appropriate, it would be here. How much do we know about divine epistemology anyway, and how much should we expect to be able to know? I don't know just how God knows any of the things that he knows, but I don't take my ignorance as grounds for disbelief in God's knowledge of those propositions. I've never seen an argument from "I don't know how God knows X" to "Therefore, God cannot (or even does not) know X" that isn't an abject failure. And yet I hear this often enough to think that maybe I'm missing something obvious. 

    I think that what should really concern us is this: just what *does* God know? And it surely seems as if God has knowledge of -- among other things -- counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (insert standard arguments based on 1 Sam 23 etc here). Now maybe Molinism isn't the only or best way to account for those; fair enough. But it seems to me that there are more fruitful ways to evaluate Molinism.
  • Jerry Walls Well, I think you can make sense of THOSE counterfactuals (the biblical examples) by God's knowing the psychology, history, tendencies etc of those actual people (maybe he knows them as high probabilities or something like that). What mystifies me is the claim God knows what all possible people who will never exist in the actual world would do in all possible states of affairs.
  • Luke Carpenter Jerry, do you know if Craig has any published answers to those questions of this theory? I know it's not "his" per se, but he's kind of taken the reigns on it of late
  • Aaron Duvall Is it fair to say that God chooses a "world" that someone is not saved in when he could have "chosen" a world where that person would have responded positively? In a molinists view?
  • Jerry Walls Not sure Luke, but I'd guess you just have to embrace the mystery. Aaron, so far as I know yes. And in his view I suppose God may have to choose a world where one person responds positively and another does not, who would have in a different world. But I am not sure Molina addresses this issue.
  • Aaron Duvall doesn't he also say that for God to be a cause agent he has to be restricted to time after creation? Thoughts?
  • Jerry Walls Well, his knowledge of the actual world is contingent on his own free choices about which states of affairs and persons to create (from among all the possible ones).
  • Tom McCall OK, Jerry, it mystifies you. It mystifies me too, at least in the sense that I don't have good explanations of divine epistemology. But I can't see how "(P) I don't know how S knows X" entails "(Q) Therefore, S cannot/does not know X." 

    Aaron, WLC appeals to "transworld damnation" (as an extension of Plantinga's "transworld depravity"). So those who, say, are never evangelized and thus never converted would be among those who would have rejected even had they heard. 

    I think that it is important to understand that there is Molinism, and then there are various and sundry theological applications/uses of Molinism (e.g., Christology, papal infallibility, original sin, freedom in heaven, and many more). Whatever one makes of WLC's applications of MK, I don't think that it should be confused with Molinism per se.
  • Aaron Duvall I understand the idea of those who would never respond in any world being placed in eras areas where they are never reached. My real concern is the possibility that God "picks" a world where I may be damned when we could have picked one where I would have freely chosen Him. Unless there is a trans-world salvation as well. If I would have picked Him in any world he makes sure I'm in.
  • Jerry Walls Indeed, mystification does not entail that something is false. But I do think our sense of what is possible gives us some traction on modal reality, and I think there may be similar intuitions about what it is possible to know. Obviously God can know lots things we cannot know just because his grasp of logical truth is so much greater than ours, as well as his sheer capacity to know all things that are knowable. But the sort of things Molina thinks God can know may not be possible to know. At any rate, there is nothing even analogous to our powers to reason and understanding that makes ANY sense of it so far as I can see.
  • Jerry Walls As for your question Aaron, it is my view that if there is a feasible world in which you are saved, you will be saved in the actual world because of optimal grace, even if that grace must be given in the next life. That is my view, not Molina's.
  • Aaron Duvall I knew you'd sneak that in someplace!!
  • Tom McCall I'm pretty sure that WLC would deny that anyone is damned for the reason you mention. By the way, I see no reason why what Jerry just said couldn't be consistent with Molinism too.
  • Tom McCall Jerry, your sentence "But the sorts of things..." seems to be missing a word or something.
  • Jerry Walls Well, on Molina's view I suppose it could be possible that person A is saved in W but person B is not. But in W' B is saved but A is not. God may have to choose which world to create if there is no postmortem grace.
  • Tom McCall Being the creator, God has to choose which world to actualize anyway. True on open theism too, right?
  • Jerry Walls Yes, but he is not choosing a world where A is damned, as opposed to B.
  • Tom McCall Are we assuming something close to Plantingian actualism (rather than Lewisian views etc) wrt possible worlds?
  • Tom McCall Good. Well, if a possible world is a maximally compossible state of affairs, then whichever world is actualized by God includes some being damned and others being saved. So on just any view of omniscience, God is choosing to actualize a world in which some are damned and others are saved. Whether or not -- and exactly *how* -- God *knows* what he has done is rather beside *this* point, so far as I can see. 

    Of course the Molinist will say that while God chooses which possible world to actualize, the contents of those possible worlds is (partly but significantly) up to us. Thus God doesn't elect or reprobate someone "unconditionally" -- and he surely doesn't *determine* their actions. 

    By the way, I don't mean to suggest that Molinism isn't insulated from some important critiques. But the "how does God know" complaint just seems like a non-starter to me.

1 comment:

  1. I assume this is stemming from the Helm/Craig dialogue? I understood Helm's point differently. McCall seems to be thinking that the objectors are looking for some explanation as to how God's knowledge forming process works, whether applied to agents like humans or tomorrow's weather. But I thought Helm was pointing to a special difficulty concerning *libertarian agents*. In other words, it's not just an issue of being ignorant of how God acquires his justified true beliefs (or what have you), but that there is something about libertarian agency that makes acquiring knowledge of their (libertarian) choices appear difficult if not impossible, regardless of how God's knowledge faculties work.

    And that would be something like the following:

    If Jones can choose x or ~x in circumstance C, then there is a possible world in which it is true that Jones chooses x and a possible world in which it is false that Jones chooses x. Supposing that God could pick out the possible world in which Jones chooses x in circumstance C (say this is world W), what's to prevent Jones from exercising his libertarian freedom to choose ~x? If Jones isn't determined in W and has the power of contrary choice there seems to be a problem in the very idea that there is a fixed truth value to a statement like "Jones will do x in circumstance C in W." And that's independent of how God acquires his knowledge.