December 09, 2011

Earnestly contending for the doctrine of the omniimpotence of God

(Or, reason #2,827 why Molinism sucks.)

I saw this article from William Lane Craig excerpted first on Triablogue last week. In the intervening week, it's made the rounds around to the usual suspects in the blogosphere as well. So, as usual, I'm a little late to the game. Nonetheless.

Craig is a Molinist. Molinism is a philosophical attempt to reconcile the biblical truths of divine sovereignty and human moral agency. Not only is this an unnecessary exercise, it seems to me—if I believe in scriptural inerrancy, then I am bound to accept both, given that both are taught unambiguously in the Bible—but it simply isn't a very good one. Molinism claims that God knows what choices free creatures would make in any set of circumstances, and so, out of all the possible worlds, he created the one in which everyone freely made the moral choices that he wanted them to. Put another way: God (being a gentleman who would never barge in) must not affect the will of the creature directly, but he will herd the creature into the necessary circumstances to obtain the desired free-will choices.

That's some "freedom."

Molinism, as well as anything else, demonstrates my oft-repeated aphorism, that bad theology (or, in this case, philosophy) leads to worse theology. As Dan Phillips points out, it makes you wonder how Craig can maintain his reputation as a top-shelf Christian apologist when his philosophical presuppositions compel him to make such suborthodox claims about God.

You [Craig's correspondent] suggest, more plausibly, I think, that that there are no persons whom God could have created who would under all circumstances reject His grace for salvation. Maybe you’re right; but how can you know? I just don’t think we’re in a position to make those kinds of judgements. You talk about the insanity of unbelief; and yet such persons are all around us, people who have heard the Gospel again and again, who have the Bible, who have read apologetics material, and yet who refuse to believe. . . .

How do you know that God couldn’t put together a world in which the unreached are people who wouldn’t bend the knee under any circumstances? In fact, this hypothesis has real implications for other issues like the wider problem of evil. For example, maybe only in a world involving scads of natural and moral evil could God arrange the sort of world we’re envisioning. Maybe His desire to achieve an optimal balance between saved and lost overrides the benefits of a world with less natural and moral evil. . . .

Your pun on Sophie’s Choice (a choice between two bad options) reveals that you haven’t yet grasped the theory of middle knowledge, for God doesn’t create such a choice for Himself. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him are outside His control. He has to play with the hand He has been dealt. (Emphasis added)

Excuse me . . .I'd like to ask a question.

  • The passive voice of that last sentence—"He has to pay with the hand He has been dealt"—implies that someone other than God can tie God's hands in some circumstances. Who or what is this Dealer? Should we perhaps worship him/her/it instead?
  • Yet, I'm sure that Craig and other Molinists would nonetheless affirm, rightly, that Yahweh is indeed the Supreme Being. In other words, is it God himself who deals the bad hand, but having done so is then powerless except to let the [poker] chips fall where they may?
  • How does this square with the Bible's description of God as the one who "works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Eph. 1:11)? All does mean all, or so I've heard, correct?
  • Put another way, doesn't this mean God can, in fact, create a rock so big he cannot lift it?
  • Is it the case that some human beings would never come to saving faith in Christ, under any circumstances in any possible world that God could actuate?
  • How does this square with Jesus' statement that "all things are possible with God" (Mark 10:27)—spoken specifically about the salvation of a class of individuals? Again, does all mean all, or doesn't it?

Sheesh. I thought we Calvinists were supposed to be the fatalists.