According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Discussion in Arminianism's Grundmotif: God's Goodness and Man's Free Will vs. God's Sovereignty and Middle Knowledge

 
by Roger Olson
September 4, 2013
 
One of the most basic impulses of Arminianism is that God is not the author of sin and evil—even indirectly. On this virtually everyone knowledgeable about Arminian theology agrees. Divine determinism, the belief that God directly or indirectly determines all that happens according to a predetermined plan, was rejected by Arminius and has been rejected by all Arminians since him. I have demonstrated that in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities and Against Calvinism. Arminian theology and divine determinism are like oil and water; they cannot mix. And the reason they cannot mix is because of the Arminian Grundmotif which is God’s goodness. If divine determinism is true, the fall and all its consequences, including eternal hell, are part of God’s plan and made necessary by God even if only indirectly.

* * * * * * * *
Side Note

What is Middle Knowledge? That God knows not only what will happen but what would happen, along with all the permutations and instances of those possibilities ad naseum and ad naseum.

What is Molinism? Molinists hold that in addition to God knowing everything that does or will happen, God also knows what His creatures would freely choose if placed in any given circumstance including any resulting events and actions.

Importantly, Open Theism says this is not so and that the future of an indeterminate cosmos, and free will humanity, is always open, changeable and independent, or irrespective, of God's foreknowledge. That God and His creation react to one another based upon relationship to one another rather than upon His foreknowledge of events. That this arrangement is based upon God's divine decree when He created. That openness and freedom are the inherent structures upon which God created.

Assertion: Was Arminius a Molinist or not? If yes, did he rely on middle knowledge to reconcile God's foreknowledge with man's free will?

- R.E. Slater 

* * * * * * * *


In a now famous and much discussed article in Sixteenth Century Journal (XXVII:2 [1996]: 337-352) Dutch theologian Eef Dekker asked “Was Arminius a Molinist?” and answered in the affirmative. (Molinism is, of course, synonymous with belief in middle knowledge.) Several leading Arminius scholars have agreed. Reformed theologian Richard Muller agreed in God, Creation, and Providence in the Thought of Jacob Arminius (Baker, 1991). (He came to the same conclusion as Dekker before him.) Dutch theologian William den Boer agrees in God’s Twofold Love: The Theology of Jacob Arminius (1559-1609) (Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 2010). Now, in two recent studies of Arminius’s theology three American theologians agree. (I will be responding to their two books at a professional conference in November, so I’m going to decline to name them or address their arguments directly for now.)
 
So it would seem a consensus is developing that Arminius himself was a “Protestant Molinist” and may have actually introduced Molinism, middle knowledge, into Protestant theology. (Molina was himself a Catholic contemporary of Arminius.)

However, other Arminius scholars are not so sure. One of the most scholarly and exhaustive studies of Arminius’s theology is William G. Witt’s Notre Dame doctoral dissertation which I used extensively in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Witt argued that Arminius mentioned but did not use middle knowledge. Another Arminius scholar who agrees with Witt is F. Stuart Clarke, author of The Ground of Election: Jacob Arminius’ Doctrine of the Work and Person of Christ (Paternoster, 2006).
 
Without doubt one can find references to middle knowledge in Arminius’s writings. The question is whether he relied on middle knowledge to reconcile God’s foreknowledge with free will (and there is no doubt he believed in libertarian free will) and, whether he used middle knowledge to explain God’s sovereignty in providentially governing the whole universe including creatures’ free decisions and actions.
 
Dekker argues that, in using middle knowledge, Arminius unwittingly fell into determinism. Den Boer admits that even if Arminius’s use of middle knowledge did not imply determinism, it raised some serious questions for Arminius’s consistency—especially in the practical realm. That is, even if middle knowledge does not imply determinism, it does convey the impression, at least to the untutored, that their lives are predetermined.
 
I have argued here before that believing in God’s middle knowledge, that knowledge whereby God knows not only what will happen but would happen, not only what free creatures will do but what they would do freely in any possible situation, set of circumstances, is not in-and-of itself inconsistent with Arminianism’s basic impulses which have to do with God’s goodness (his “twofold love”). However, I have argued, and continue to maintain, once one believes that God uses middle knowledge to render certain that every creature does what they do by creating them and placing them in circumstances where he knows they will “freely” do something, then determinism is at the door (if not in the living room) and that it is inconsistent with Arminianism’s basic impulses. Hence, it makes God the author of sin and evil even if only inadvertently.
 
In order to test this we must go back to the first disobedience—Adam’s and Eve’s fall. The question is not whether God knew they would disobey but whether God rendered their act of disobedience certain.
 
Advocates of middle knowledge usually rely on a distinction between “certain” or “infallible” and “necessary,” with only the latter making God the author of sin and evil. The argument is that God’s use of middle knowledge to render the fall certain, even infallibly (it could not have not happened given God’s foreknowledge of what Adam and Eve would do and his creation of them and placing them in that situation) does not render the fall necessary.
 
I tend to think that’s a distinction without a difference.
 
That use of middle knowledge, providentially to render the fall certain, necessarily implies a plan in the mind of God that makes the fall not only part of God’s consequential will but also part of his antecedent will. And, as everyone knows and agrees, the distinction between God’s consequential will and God’s antecedent will is crucial to Arminianism’s argument that God is not the author of sin and evil.
 
Why else would God use his middle knowledge providentially? And why would he use it at all if not for the purpose of meticulous providence?
 
Many Calvinists have used Molinism, middle knowledge, to “explain” predestination and reprobation in order to get God “off the hook,” so to speak, as not the author of sin and evil. I think, for example, of Millard Erickson and Bruce Ware—two evangelical Calvinists who use middle knowledge as the “key” to reconciling God’s sovereignty and human free will. However, they at least admit that their view of free will is compatibilism—that free will is compatible with determinism. In other words, if my argument is correct, they “get it”—middle knowledge used by God for providential advantage requires a compatibilist view of free will.
 
To the best of my knowledge no Arminian claims to believe in compatibilist; all embrace libertarian free will.
 
But, to me, at least, libertarian free will means “ability to do otherwise than one does.”
 
Now, admittedly, Arminian believers in middle knowledge, including those who believe God uses middle knowledge to render creatures’ decisions and actions certain according to a plan, claim to believe that creatures who sin do so with libertarian freedom. In other words, they could do otherwise. Well, at least Adam and Eve could have done otherwise than disobey God. (The picture gets more complicated for their posterity under the effects of the fall.) But could they have?
 
If middle knowledge is true and God uses it for providential advantage, as Richard Muller says, offering inducements to creatures that God knows they will follow given their dispositions and inclinations, then God is not only “in control” but “actually controlling” everything including Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience. They could not have done otherwise even if they did it “freely.” That is the very essence of compatibilism!
 
Let’s use an illustration. Suppose I know one of my students so well that I know (beyond any possibility of being wrong) that if I suggest he read a certain book he will misunderstand the subject of our course and go on to fail it. Without the book, he would pass the course. I suggest he read the book. Why? Well, perhaps because I need someone to fail the course. I don’t grade on a curve and the dean is worried that I am not upholding academic standards. All my students pass with flying colors. My career is in jeopardy as is the academic credibility of the school. So I use my middle knowledge of the student’s dispositions and inclinations to bring it about infallibly that he fails the course. Nothing I did took away his free will. He read the book voluntarily (no external coercion was used, only inducement). (Note: None of that would happen; it’s purely hypothetical.)
 
Now, who is really responsible for - or, the “author of” - the student failing the course?
 
And can it fairly be said that by rendering his failure certain, using my middle knowledge, I did not make it necessary?
 
Now, there’s no point in appealing to God’s freedom to do whatever he wants to do. This is a debate among Arminians - and Arminians, following Arminius, are not nominalists:

[Nomianlism - (in medieval philosophy) the doctrine that general or abstract words do not stand for objectively existing entities and that universals are no more than names assigned to them. Compare conceptualism, realism (def 5a).]

We all agree that God is essentially good by nature and cannot simply do anything capable of being put into words. No informed Arminian would say “Whatever God does is automatically good, just because God does it, period.” So that objection to my scenario isn’t relevant to this context—a debate among Arminians.

I tend to agree with Eef Dekker, against several leading Arminius scholars, that if Arminius used middle knowledge to explain God’s sovereignty, then he unwittingly contradicted himself. He contradicted his own most basic principle which is that God is by no means the author of sin and evil. He unwittingly fell into determinism at that point and should not have relied on middle knowledge. Why he did, if he did, is a separate question. I think reasonable answers can be imagined (having to do with his desire to build bridges between himself and his critics).
 
So what does this mean for Arminians? I’m certainly not going to say that one cannot be an Arminian and a Molinist [(a seemingly contradictory expression - R.E. Slater)]. What I will say is that, in my opinion, Molinism is a foreign body in Arminianism even if Arminius himself used it! If he did, it was a foreign body in his own theology in the sense that it conflicted with his own basic belief commitments about God’s goodness, God not being in any sense the author of sin and evil, and creatures’ free wills (especially in disobedience).
 
No one should be surprised if a theologian falls into contradiction with himself at times—especially if he (or she) writes much over a very long period of time. I’m a historical theologian and have studied the theologies of virtually every major Christian theologian from Irenaeus to Pannenberg (and beyond). In every case I find some tension, some element of conflict within the theologian’s own system.
 
Besides, being Arminian does not require absolute agreement with Arminius. If that were the case, he would have been the only Arminian (and maybe not even he would be!).

- Roger
 
[My personal take: If Arminius were alive today he would be an Open Theist and in complete agreement with today's discussion by Dr. Olson. - R.E. Slater]

 
 
* * * * * * * * *
 
 
He Said It Better Than I Did: A Guest’s Comment about Molinism
 
by Roger Olson
September 6, 2013
 
Very nice essay, Roger. You’ve put your finger on a key internal tension within Molinism.
 
While Molinism is *officially* committed to a libertarian view of creaturely freedom (and thus soft determinists like Ware are *not* Molinists, even if they co-opt the label), such a view of freedom requires that middle knowledge counterfactuals of actual creatures be explanatorily *posterior* to actual creaturely free choices.

Thus, if Adam and Eve are free (in the libertarian sense) to eat or not eat the forbidden fruit, then it must not be fixed *independently* of their actual choices that IF they were to be placed in such-and-such circumstances that they would eat the forbidden fruit. For if the truth of that conditional were independently fixed, then they would have no say about whether it is true, and thus couldn’t act as to bring about its falsity.

This means that they couldn’t do otherwise than eat the fruit in those circumstances, which in turn means that they weren’t free in a libertarian sense, contrary to hypothesis. Hence, the truth values of middle knowledge counterfactuals must be explanatorily *posterior* to actual creaturely free choices.

But this is a huge problem for Molinism because the providential usefulness of middle knowledge is predicated on its being explanatorily *prior* to actual creaturely choices. That’s the only way it can inform God’s creative decree. So Molinism is internally inconsistent. Its alleged reconciliation of creaturely libertarian freedom with meticulous divine providence depends on both affirming and denying that the truth values of middle knowledge counterfactuals are explanatorily *posterior* to actual creaturely free choices.


 
 
Amazon link here
 
In this book, Roger Olson sets forth classical Arminian theology and addresses the myriad misunderstandings and misrepresentations of it through the ages. Irenic yet incisive, Olson argues that classical Arminian theology has a rightful place in the evangelical church because it maintains deep roots within Reformational theology, even though it maintains important differences from Calvinism.
 
Myths addressed include:
 
Myth 1: Arminian Theology Is the Opposite of Calvinist/Reformed Theology
 
Myth 2: A Hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism Is Possible
 
Myth 3: Arminianism Is Not an Orthodox Evangelical Option
 
Myth 4: The Heart of Arminianism Is Belief in Free Will
 
Myth 5: Arminian Theology Denies the Sovereignty of God
 
Myth 6: Arminianism Is a Human-Centered Theology
 
Myth 7: Arminianism Is Not a Theology of Grace
 
Myth 8: Arminians Do Not Believe in Predestination
 
Myth 9: Arminian Theology Denies Justification by Grace Alone Through Faith
 
Alone Myth 10: All Arminians Believe in the Governmental Theory of the Atonement
 
 
 
continue to -
 
 
 




 

2014 Wesleyan Philosophical Societal Conference Information

 
 
Catherine Keller is the keynote speaker at the
Wesleyan Philosophical Society meeting
in March of 2014, Nampa, Idaho.
 
Paper proposals are due October 1, 2013.
 
Wiki Info - here
 
Net Info - here 
 
 
* * * * * *
 
 
Call for Papers, Wesleyan Philosophical Society
Annual Meeting: March 6, 2014,
Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, ID
Keynote Speaker:
Catherine Keller, Drew University
 
 
Historically speaking, Western philosophy has focused intently upon the mind. Consistently if not absolutely, philosophy from Plato onward has spent its time dwelling upon ideation, perception, cognition, and recollection, and has pursued, again de facto if not de jure, a duality of mind and body that continues to this day.

Likewise, if perhaps more ironically, some branches of Christianity have understood faith to be a mental assent to certain propositional statements, a mind-oriented decision that involves ideas and beliefs. Even in the Holiness movements of the 19th and 20th century, which emphasize the emotional as well as the rational, the seat of the emotions is still the mind. In spite of the body of Jesus Christ, we have managed oftentimes to advocate for disembodied faith centered upon the soul.

Some orienting questions to consider exploring include:

- What would a philosophy of the body look like from a Christian, and/or Wesleyan context?

- How do we privilege or disenfranchise our bodies as we engage God and the church?

- What do Christian ethics tell us -- via subtext -- about sin and the body?

- How do we account for the body of Christ Jesus in our thinking?

- What can we learn about God, faith, sin, and suffering via the body?

- Do both philosophy and theology need a corrective with regard to mind/body dualism?

- How does contemporary philosophy deal with the legacy of Descartes’s mind/body dualism?

- How does philosophy of mind help identify and explore the relationship between body & mind?

- Do ancient or eastern philosophical traditions offer insight to the issues surrounding bodies?

- In what way does John Wesley appropriate or challenge the Western tradition on these matters?

- How do contemporary neurological studies inform philosophy regarding the mind and body?

Papers that examine the role of the body in philosophy, Christianity, and ethics are welcomed; papers exploring other themes will also be considered.