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This is the forum to discuss the spectrum of views within Christianity on God's foreknowledge and election such as Calvinism, Arminianism, Molinism, Open Theism, Process Theism, Restrictivism, and Inclusivism, Christian Universalism and what these all are about anyway. Who is saved and when is/was their salvation certain? How does God exercise His sovereignty and how powerful is He? Is God timeless and immutable? Does a triune God help better understand God's love for mankind?

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Is everything part of God's plan?

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  • #46
    Originally posted by RBerman View Post
    I'm sure that Molinism would like to place God's action subsequent to the man's action. But does that actually describe the situation properly? As I understand Molinism, God sees all the possible universes (defined in part by the panoply of human LFW choices) like books in a library, only one of which will actually be opened, meaning that only one universe will actually be instantiated. God chooses the "best" book according to his divine criteria. In that choice of book, God chooses the specific set of LFW actions which will then unfold over time. Once the book is chosen, the choices are all determined. It doesn't make sense to speak of the creature making its choice first in a scenario like that; the creature doesn't even exist when God, in eternity, is deciding which universe will instantiate. You might say that the creature exists conceptually or hypothetically, but in that case there's another version of the creature which exists to that same degree, but which made different choices, and it's God choice as to which set of human choices will actually be instantiated.
    Molinists might disagree with me, but the only way I think Molinism is logically consistent is if God creates volitional creatures in some kind of existence prior to creating the "world" (with it's space-time events). And in some sense these creatures must be presented with all possible situations (or at least all the ones God cares about) and they all make their free decisions about what they will do if they find themselves in that situation in space-time, and then those decisions are locked in. And that would provide the content of Middle Knowledge. It perhaps does raise a question of whether creatures are morally responsible for all their middle-knowledge choices, including those that weren't actualized in space-time.

    I don't think it is accurate (to Molinism) to say "another version of the creature which exists to that same degree, but which made different choices". It's always just one creature. And the non-actualized middle knowledge choices were choices in response to different, non-actualized situations. We aren't talking about any different "version" of a creature that chooses differently in the same situation. After all, from our perspective in time, if any one of those as-of-yet-non-actualized situations does become actual in the future, then we will do in it what we would do in that situation, but that doesn't make that future you a different "version" of you. You are still one being.


    Whether Molinism is true is another thing. But it seems that something along these lines necessarily follows from the two premises of LFW and God's planning space-time.

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    • #47
      Originally posted by Joel View Post
      Molinists might disagree with me, but the only way I think Molinism is logically consistent is if God creates volitional creatures in some kind of existence prior to creating the "world" (with it's space-time events). And in some sense these creatures must be presented with all possible situations (or at least all the ones God cares about) and they all make their free decisions about what they will do if they find themselves in that situation in space-time, and then those decisions are locked in. And that would provide the content of Middle Knowledge. It perhaps does raise a question of whether creatures are morally responsible for all their middle-knowledge choices, including those that weren't actualized in space-time.

      I don't think it is accurate (to Molinism) to say "another version of the creature which exists to that same degree, but which made different choices". It's always just one creature. And the non-actualized middle knowledge choices were choices in response to different, non-actualized situations. We aren't talking about any different "version" of a creature that chooses differently in the same situation. After all, from our perspective in time, if any one of those as-of-yet-non-actualized situations does become actual in the future, then we will do in it what we would do in that situation, but that doesn't make that future you a different "version" of you. You are still one being.

      Whether Molinism is true is another thing. But it seems that something along these lines necessarily follows from the two premises of LFW and God's planning space-time.
      So it sounds like if LFW exists, then the Mormons are right, and our immortal souls were created before the universe! I'd love for someone around here who is a Molinist to chime in on that one.

      But that aside, I'm confused about the paradigm you're describing. Let me see if I have it right; indulge me with a degree of anthropomorphism: Souls are created without bodies and are run through a sort of spiritual virtual reality simulator that gives them the sensation of being specific people with specific characteristics (agendas, biases, hopes, fears, etc.) placed in specific external circumstances. God runs each soul through all the variable combinations that he cares about and then tallies the results of all their allegedly uncaused decisions. Each unique combination of all the choices of all of these preexistent people could be thought of as a separate book. God eliminates the books with internal contradictions, like when Bob marries Sally without Sally marrying Bob. Or if Bob and Sally decided not to have kids, then books containing their potential son Frank's choices must be discarded as invalid. God looks at all the valid books and chooses the one he likes best to be the Story of the Universe, and the VR soul simulator goes into mothballs.

      All of this, just to preserve a notion of LFW that the Bible never actually encourages us to hold in the first place? Seems awfully complicated, if I have it right. And even then, the fact that the instantiated universe was "the one God likes best" still means that God is still on the hook for the fact that you made these choices in the instantiated universe. God might have chosen a different book in which you made different choices, but he didn't want to do that, so his choice of book still determines your choices, unless you made the same choices in every non-contradictory book, in which case you necessarily made those choices in all possible worlds, which is something else that Molinism is trying to avoid asserting.
      Last edited by RBerman; 04-14-2014, 05:22 PM.

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      • #48
        Originally posted by RBerman View Post
        So it sounds like if LFW exists, then the Mormons are right, and our immortal souls were created before the universe! I'd love for someone around here who is a Molinist to chime in on that one.

        But that aside, I'm confused about the paradigm you're describing. Let me see if I have it right; indulge me with a degree of anthropomorphism: Souls are created without bodies and are run through a sort of spiritual virtual reality simulator that gives them the sensation of being specific people with specific characteristics (agendas, biases, hopes, fears, etc.) placed in specific external circumstances. God runs each soul through all the variable combinations that he cares about and then tallies the results of all their allegedly uncaused decisions. Each unique combination of all the choices of all of these preexistent people could be thought of as a separate book. God eliminates the books with internal contradictions, like when Bob marries Sally without Sally marrying Bob. Or if Bob and Sally decided not to have kids, then books containing their potential son Frank's choices must be discarded as invalid. God looks at all the valid books and chooses the one he likes best to be the Story of the Universe, and the VR soul simulator goes into mothballs.
        I think the idea is not that they are given the sensation of being specific people, but that they are specific people.

        Let me offer an alternative thought experiment: Suppose that God experiences some kind of time from His perspective. Not our time though, because our entire space-time continuum from start to finish is present in God's present. So with all of history before Him, if He decides it isn't quite right, he can make a change to it, and once the change is made He then can see the entire new, changed history before Him.

        So suppose that God started out by creating this universe and populating it with creatures who in this universe make LFW decisions and otherwise things follow physical laws as God designed. Once He sees the results, He begins making changes here and there to modify history according to His plans. With each change, many things in the future of that change are different, and if creatures are in different situations than before, they make new LFW decisions. Then once He is satisfied with the results God stops making changes to space-time, and the result is the existing universe.

        Now although imagining this sequence of events in "God's time", one after another, makes it easier on our imaginations, but we can now dispense with the idea, and suppose that all these "events" occur in one instant--in God's eternal "now". The order of events as I described could simply be an ontological order, rather than any kind of temporal order. And the only thing we have to consider having any solid/durable existence is the final, resulting space-time universe.

        In this thought experiment, we seem to have the same premises and same ontological ordering as Molinism. Yet without creaturely souls existing immaterially prior to any physical universe.


        All of this, just to preserve a notion of LFW that the Bible never actually encourages us to hold in the first place? Seems awfully complicated, if I have it right. And even then, the fact that the instantiated universe was "the one God likes best" still means that God is still on the hook for the fact that you made these choices in the instantiated universe. God might have chosen a different book in which you made different choices, but he didn't want to do that, so his choice of book still determines your choices, unless you made the same choices in every non-contradictory book, in which case you necessarily made those choices in all possible worlds, which is something else that Molinism is trying to avoid asserting.
        I'm worried here about an ambiguity. The word "choice" can refer to either

        1) the situation of multiple options, or
        2) the act of choosing among the options, or
        3) the finally selected option.

        (We might refer to the three as "the situation", "the choosing", and "the selected option".)
        It can also refer to any combination of those three. Each proposition in Middle Knowledge is something like "In situation S, creature C selects option O1." If it contains that proposition, then a proposition like "In situation S, creature C selects option O2" is false.

        Now you said, "God might have chosen a different book in which you made different choices". But by a "different choice" we cannot mean "In situation S, creature C selects option O2", because that proposition is false. Instead we can only mean, "In situation T, creature C selects option Y" (i.e., some other situation with probably different options to choose among). Thus we need to be careful because "different choice" is ambiguous.

        You said, "so his choice of book still determines your choices". To clear up the ambiguity, the creature determines the selected option, thus determines the content of Middle Knowledge. God selects among the propositions in Middle Knowledge. So if we ask whether the creature or God determines the creature's choices, we must respond that the question is ambiguous. The creature determines one thing, and God determines another thing, both of which are commonly referred to as the "creature's choice", but referring to something different in the two cases.

        Then as for your last claim,
        unless you made the same choices in every non-contradictory book, in which case you necessarily made those choices in all possible worlds, which is something else that Molinism is trying to avoid asserting.
        I think you have it backwards. If some choice (i.e., proposition from Middle Knowledge) is in all the non-contradictory books, then the very problem we are trying to solve is eliminated. In that case God does not make use of Middle Knowledge at all. In that case, God must actualize that situation, and then the world certainly contains whatever selected option the creature freely chooses. That is, in that case, the necessity is on God, not on the creature. That case eliminates not the creature's free choice among the options, but eliminates God's choice about whether to include the situation-and-selection in the world.

        To show directly why your argument is faulty, I'll first make your statement even stronger: If Middle Knowledge contains the proposition "C in S would choose O", then that proposition is true for all possible books. But that doesn't make it a necessary truth, because "all possible books" is not the set of all possible worlds, but the subset of possible worlds in which the content of middle knowledge is true. It is creaturely freedom that selects this subset. And it is from this subset that God chooses. If something is required because it exists in every world in that subset, it means God has no choice. And that restriction was the result of creaturely freedom.

        You conflated "all possible books" with "all possible worlds".

        So the proposition is necessary only posterior to middle knowledge. It is necessary only in the same sense that from our perspective in time, a LFW choice made yesterday is now necessarily a fact. Necessary in the sense that something is necessary posterior to its being fact, but not necessary prior to the fact.

        Comment


        • #49
          Originally posted by RBerman View Post
          I'm sure that Molinism would like to place God's action subsequent to the man's action. But does that actually describe the situation properly? As I understand Molinism, God sees all the possible universes (defined in part by the panoply of human LFW choices) like books in a library, only one of which will actually be opened, meaning that only one universe will actually be instantiated. God chooses the "best" book according to his divine criteria. In that choice of book, God chooses the specific set of LFW actions which will then unfold over time. Once the book is chosen, the choices are all determined. It doesn't make sense to speak of the creature making its choice first in a scenario like that; the creature doesn't even exist when God, in eternity, is deciding which universe will instantiate. You might say that the creature exists conceptually or hypothetically, but in that case there's another version of the creature which exists to that same degree, but which made different choices, and it's God choice as to which set of human choices will actually be instantiated.
          You basically hit the nail on the head, God did determine what will happen. The difference between Calvinism's form of determinism and Molinisms determinism is in the problem of evil. LFW is how a Molinist displaces the "blame" from the Creator to the Created. I do not intend to participate much in this thread but Molinism from my POV is essentially a philosophical attempt to synergism Arminian's solution to the problem (LFW) with the sovereign (and deterministic) God of Scriptures. (Though I confess that I hold to it less tightly than I did on the previous incarnation of TWeb.)
          Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? -Galatians 3:5

          Comment


          • #50
            Originally posted by Joel View Post
            Suppose that God experiences some kind of time from His perspective. Not our time though, because our entire space-time continuum from start to finish is present in God's present. So with all of history before Him, if He decides it isn't quite right, he can make a change to it, and once the change is made He then can see the entire new, changed history before Him.

            So suppose that God started out by creating this universe and populating it with creatures who in this universe make LFW decisions and otherwise things follow physical laws as God designed. Once He sees the results, He begins making changes here and there to modify history according to His plans. With each change, many things in the future of that change are different, and if creatures are in different situations than before, they make new LFW decisions. Then once He is satisfied with the results God stops making changes to space-time, and the result is the existing universe.

            Now although imagining this sequence of events in "God's time", one after another, makes it easier on our imaginations, but we can now dispense with the idea, and suppose that all these "events" occur in one instant--in God's eternal "now". The order of events as I described could simply be an ontological order, rather than any kind of temporal order. And the only thing we have to consider having any solid/durable existence is the final, resulting space-time universe.

            In this thought experiment, we seem to have the same premises and same ontological ordering as Molinism. Yet without creaturely souls existing immaterially prior to any physical universe.
            i do not see the difference between this and Calvinism, except that you have inserted the concept of LFW, which in your view does not really change anything since person A in circumstance B will always make decision C and never ~C. LFW loses all explanatory power that is supposed to make it superior to Calvinism and just becomes an unnecessary complication.

            I'm worried here about an ambiguity. The word "choice" can refer to either

            1) the situation of multiple options, or
            2) the act of choosing among the options, or
            3) the finally selected option.

            (We might refer to the three as "the situation", "the choosing", and "the selected option".)
            It can also refer to any combination of those three. Each proposition in Middle Knowledge is something like "In situation S, creature C selects option O1." If it contains that proposition, then a proposition like "In situation S, creature C selects option O2" is false.

            Now you said, "God might have chosen a different book in which you made different choices". But by a "different choice" we cannot mean "In situation S, creature C selects option O2", because that proposition is false. Instead we can only mean, "In situation T, creature C selects option Y" (i.e., some other situation with probably different options to choose among). Thus we need to be careful because "different choice" is ambiguous.

            You said, "so his choice of book still determines your choices". To clear up the ambiguity, the creature determines the selected option, thus determines the content of Middle Knowledge. God selects among the propositions in Middle Knowledge. So if we ask whether the creature or God determines the creature's choices, we must respond that the question is ambiguous. The creature determines one thing, and God determines another thing, both of which are commonly referred to as the "creature's choice", but referring to something different in the two cases.
            What did the creature determine in an uncaused, libertarian sense? If the inputs (the characteristics of the creature and his circumstance) are sufficient to explain the outputs, what is left for LFW to do? What you describe sounds like Calvinism.

            I think you have it backwards. If some choice (i.e., proposition from Middle Knowledge) is in all the non-contradictory books, then the very problem we are trying to solve is eliminated. In that case God does not make use of Middle Knowledge at all. In that case, God must actualize that situation, and then the world certainly contains whatever selected option the creature freely chooses. That is, in that case, the necessity is on God, not on the creature. That case eliminates not the creature's free choice among the options, but eliminates God's choice about whether to include the situation-and-selection in the world.

            To show directly why your argument is faulty, I'll first make your statement even stronger: If Middle Knowledge contains the proposition "C in S would choose O", then that proposition is true for all possible books. But that doesn't make it a necessary truth, because "all possible books" is not the set of all possible worlds, but the subset of possible worlds in which the content of middle knowledge is true. It is creaturely freedom that selects this subset. And it is from this subset that God chooses. If something is required because it exists in every world in that subset, it means God has no choice. And that restriction was the result of creaturely freedom.

            You conflated "all possible books" with "all possible worlds".

            So the proposition is necessary only posterior to middle knowledge. It is necessary only in the same sense that from our perspective in time, a LFW choice made yesterday is now necessarily a fact. Necessary in the sense that something is necessary posterior to its being fact, but not necessary prior to the fact.
            i appreciate the distinction you make here about Molinism contra Open Theism, but in doing so the distinction between Calvinism and Molinism appears to have evaporated, except for a paper tiger of LFW. We are left with God putting people into each circumstance knowing exactly what decision the man will make in that circumstance; there is thus a sense in which God intends the man to do what he does, even if what he does is sin.

            Comment


            • #51
              Originally posted by RBerman View Post
              I'm sure that Molinism would like to place God's action subsequent to the man's action.
              Not as far as I can tell.
              As I understand Molinism, God sees all the possible universes (defined in part by the panoply of human LFW choices) like books in a library, only one of which will actually be opened, meaning that only one universe will actually be instantiated. God chooses the "best" book according to his divine criteria. In that choice of book, God chooses the specific set of LFW actions which will then unfold over time. Once the book is chosen, the choices are all determined. It doesn't make sense to speak of the creature making its choice first in a scenario like that; the creature doesn't even exist when God, in eternity, is deciding which universe will instantiate. You might say that the creature exists conceptually or hypothetically, but in that case there's another version of the creature which exists to that same degree, but which made different choices, and it's God choice as to which set of human choices will actually be instantiated.
              More or less, though I wouldn't say the choices are determined, but allowed to occur. In actualizing the world, I don't see God as determining who chooses what, but an overall situation where the most people will choose to follow Him (irrespective of who they are). There is a tension between exhaustive definite foreknowledge (EDF) and LFW. As far as I can see, Calvinists relieve the tension by denying LWF, whereas Open Theists relieve the tension by discounting EDF. When I look at scripture, however, neither of those solutions appears tenable IMO. I think it's clear that God foreknows the future. I think it's even more clear that God gave us the ability to choose to follow Him; why exhort people (over and over again throughout history) to do something over which they have no control?

              FWIW, it seems to me that Joel is also trying to relieve the tension by getting around EDF, just in a different way than the Open Theists.
              Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. St. John Chrysostom

              Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
              sigpic
              I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

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              • #52
                Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
                More or less, though I wouldn't say the choices are determined, but allowed to occur. In actualizing the world, I don't see God as determining who chooses what, but an overall situation where the most people will choose to follow Him (irrespective of who they are). There is a tension between exhaustive definite foreknowledge (EDF) and LFW. As far as I can see, Calvinists relieve the tension by denying LWF, whereas Open Theists relieve the tension by discounting EDF. When I look at scripture, however, neither of those solutions appears tenable IMO. I think it's clear that God foreknows the future. I think it's even more clear that God gave us the ability to choose to follow Him; why exhort people (over and over again throughout history) to do something over which they have no control? FWIW, it seems to me that Joel is also trying to relieve the tension by getting around EDF, just in a different way than the Open Theists.
                God not only foreknows the future but, according to Joel, arranges external circumstances logically prior to the man's choice, so that a particular choice ensues. I see no need to appeal to LFW to explain man making choices and being held accountable for them.

                Comment


                • #53
                  Theodicy is less of a problem when you say that not everything is God's plan. But then you'd be an open theist.

                  Comment


                  • #54
                    Originally posted by RBerman View Post
                    i do not see the difference between this and Calvinism, except that you have inserted the concept of LFW, which in your view does not really change anything since person A in circumstance B will always make decision C and never ~C. LFW loses all explanatory power that is supposed to make it superior to Calvinism and just becomes an unnecessary complication.
                    The bold part is true only if that that is what the person freely chooses.
                    As I said, "It is necessary only in the same sense that from our perspective in time, a LFW choice made yesterday is now necessarily a fact. But that doesn't imply that it wasn't made via LFW."

                    What did the creature determine in an uncaused, libertarian sense? If the inputs (the characteristics of the creature and his circumstance) are sufficient to explain the outputs, what is left for LFW to do? What you describe sounds like Calvinism.
                    No the creature is/was able to select any of the options.

                    E.g., we start out with 3 possible worlds:
                    "C in S selects O1."
                    "C in S selects O2."
                    "C in S selects O3."

                    The creature decides/determines (in a libertarian sense) which one of those will be in the content of middle knowledge, and the others are thus eliminated (cannot be in any "book").

                    there is thus a sense in which God intends the man to do what he does, even if what he does is sin.
                    Not necessarily. See Plantinga's "transworld depravity" argument. It may be the case that human sin is required because there is no possible "book" in which men do not sin.

                    Also, the man has already freely decided to sin. God is putting it on display, so to speak, and using the man's sinful choice for good. That's not at all the same as God desiring that C in S sins. In fact, presumably God would have preferred if C in S instead had chosen to do good, which would have made some even better "book" possible.

                    Originally posted by RBerman View Post
                    God not only foreknows the future but, according to Joel, arranges external circumstances logically prior to the man's choice, so that a particular choice ensues. I see no need to appeal to LFW to explain man making choices and being held accountable for them.
                    No, middle knowledge (and thus the man's choice) is logically prior to God's arranging the external circumstances.

                    Comment


                    • #55
                      Originally posted by themuzicman View Post
                      Theodicy is less of a problem when you say that not everything is God's plan. But then you'd be an open theist.
                      Is that all that open theism entails? Because I thought it included more, such as that God experiences the passage of time.
                      If what you say is true, then pretty much everyone except hard-core Calvinists are open theists.

                      Comment


                      • #56
                        Originally posted by RBerman View Post
                        God not only foreknows the future but, according to Joel, arranges external circumstances logically prior to the man's choice, so that a particular choice ensues. I see no need to appeal to LFW to explain man making choices and being held accountable for them.
                        That seems to be a misunderstanding of LFW. As far as I can see, Calvinism (of the non-hyper variety) holds people accountable for every choice but the really important one.
                        Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. St. John Chrysostom

                        Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
                        sigpic
                        I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

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                        • #57
                          Originally posted by One Bad Pig View Post
                          That seems to be a misunderstanding of LFW. As far as I can see, Calvinism (of the non-hyper variety) holds people accountable for every choice but the really important one.
                          I don't know what you mean.

                          Comment


                          • #58
                            Originally posted by RBerman View Post
                            I don't know what you mean.
                            Calvinists hold that we cannot choose to follow Christ, yes? That's kind of important, as following or not following Christ is determinative of our eternal situation. It's nice that we can choose to do good deeds and store up rewards in heaven, but those rewards are just gravy compared to getting there in the first place.
                            Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. St. John Chrysostom

                            Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
                            sigpic
                            I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

                            Comment


                            • #59
                              In short....I think God has a plan for everything that happens.
                              A happy family is but an earlier heaven.
                              George Bernard Shaw

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                              • #60
                                I think some Calvinists do hold that literally everything is foreordained and that we have literally no free will. I suspect that this is based on a misunderstanding of one's own theology. A number of Arminians equate this with Calvinism but it does not seem to be an accurate criticism.
                                "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

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