Saturday, February 22, 2014

Wartick v. Anderson

I'm going to quote James Anderson's responses to J. W. Wartick:

Hi J.W.,
I think if your readers take the time to read my entire post and my subsequent interaction with Greg Welty in the comments, they’ll find that I don’t import a Calvinist understanding of foreknowledge and foreordination into Molinism and I don’t confuse middle knowledge with free knowledge.
My response to your comment highlighted the distinction between God’s decree and God’s foreknowledge for this reason: the decree is an active willing rather than a passive knowing. According to Molinism, God acts so as to ensure that S chooses A in C. So the issue I’m raising is this: given that God’s has decreed that S will choose A in C is it possible for S not to choose A in C? If it is, then God’s decree must be fallible. If it isn’t, then it’s far from clear how Molinism really preserves libertarian free will; S is free only in a very qualified sense (with respect to C but not with respect to God’s decree).
It doesn’t do to say, “If S were to choose otherwise then God would have decreed otherwise,” because that’s dodging the issue. It’s answering a different question than the one I’ve posed. None of this presupposes Calvinist understandings of terms or confuses middle and free knowledge.
“Your argument is that molinism entails a fallible God. Thus, your argument is that molinism–on molinism’s terms–entails a fallible God.”
If you read the comments under my original post — as I’m sure you have done — you’ll see that I conceded that my original argument needed to be modified to take into account how the LFW of creatures is characterized (specifically, whether or not the divine decree is taken into account as part of the circumstances in which the creatures make their free choices). I’m arguing that the Molinist faces a dilemma depending on how the conditions for LFW are cashed out: as I observed in my previous comment (above) either the Molinist has to concede the fallibility of the divine decree or he fails to preserve the LFW of the creatures. That’s still an internal critique of Molinism. It doesn’t depend on any Calvinist presuppositions.
“First, you misstate the actual premise, which is not that God would have decreed otherwise but that God would have foreknown otherwise; again, this leads me to think you’re not taking molinism on molinism’s terms. Instead, it seems you continue to conflate foreknowledge and the decree.”
With all respect, this comment makes clear that you are the one who is failing to do justice to Molinism, and thus failing to seriously engage with my argument.
Molinism is not primarily a theory about divine foreknowledge, although it does address that issue. Rather, it’s a primarily theory about divine providence (as the title to Thomas Flint’s book indicates; likewise William Lane Craig’s contribution to the book Four Views on Divine Providence). Molinism accounts for divine foreknowledge partly by way of the divine decree (i.e., God deciding to create particular creatures and place them in particular circumstances so that they will act in foreseeable ways).
Consider, for example, Craig’s essay in the Four Views book. He begins by talking about the post-Reformation debates over God’s decrees; specifically, whether or not God’s hypothetical knowledge of creaturely free decisions is logically prior to his creative decree. Both the Dominicans and the Molinists affirmed that God had an eternal decree that encompassed all events, but they disagreed over the logical relationship of God’s decree to his free knowledge.
Craig makes clear that the divine decree is more fundamental than divine foreknowledge, since the latter is dependent on the former: “Given middle knowledge of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom and the divine decree, foreknowledge follows automatically as a result, without any need of God’s peering into the future, as detractors of divine foreknowledge imagine.” (p. 85) In other words, God foreknows what will happen because God decrees what will happen (partly on the basis of his middleknowledge).
Listen again to the discussion between Craig and Helm. Craig makes a point of saying how he could affirm most of what the WCF says about God’s eternal decree and divine providence. (He has made the same point in other venues.) Note how he explicitly says that God ‘preordains’ all things — not merely foreknows, but foreordains.
So when you say that the “actual premise” of Molinism “is not that God would have decreed otherwise but that God would have foreknown otherwise” if S were not to choose A in C, you are the one misrepresenting Molinism. You’re underselling it! Yes, God would have foreknown otherwise, but that’s precisely because God would have decreed otherwise, since his foreknowledge follows from his decree (as Flint and Craig make clear in their expositions of Molinism).
If you don’t recognize this distinctive Molinism view of the divine decree, it’s little wonder you aren’t impressed by my argument.:)
I’m not sure how restating the Molinist view, and pointing out things I already grant, addresses my objection. Yes, if S to had chosen otherwise in C, the counterfactuals would have been different and God’s middle knowledge would have been different. But how does that preserve S’s libertarian freedom post-decree? How does that explain S’s ability to choose not-A given that God has already decreed that S choose A?
By the way, it’s worth noting that the following two propositions are just as true on Calvinism as they are on Molinism:
(1) If S had chosen otherwise, God would have decreed otherwise.
(2) If S had chosen otherwise, God would have foreknown otherwise.
In other words, these aren’t distinctive to Molinism, and since they’re consistent with determinism they do nothing to show that Molinism avoids determinism. A theistic compatibilist can happily affirm (1) and (2).
“This is why Craig often says molinism has a rather robust view of sovereignty, because once God actualizes a world, whatever God brought about to happen in that world will happen, period. One cannot bring it about that the world God brought into existence will fail to be the world God brought about.”
Right — and that’s precisely the basis for my objection. If S cannot bring it about that God’s decree fails, then S is not really free (in the libertarian sense) to choose not-A given that God has decreed that S will choose A. As I’ve pointed out, the Molinist wants to have his cake and eat it. But he cannot preserve both divine infallibility and human libertarian freedom.
“They don’t bring it about that God’s decree fails; they bring it about that the decree’s content would have been different.”
I don’t see how that addresses the issue, since it confuses the factual (what God has actually decreed) with the counterfactual (what God would have decreed).
Let me ask the question as directly as I can. If God has actually decreed that S will choose A, does S have the power not to choose A? It won’t do to answer, “Yes, because S can bring it about that God would have decreed otherwise,” because ex hypothesi God hasn’t decreed otherwise.

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