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Great post, Dr. B! I could not help but recall your question at the end of my paper written some 15 years back, "Election & Salvation in John's Gospel" to wit: "Are you Calvinist or Arminian?" That made my semester because it suggested to me that I was faithful to Scripture, as I understood it.

I'm fascinated with the concept of middle knowledge. I've wondered if 2 Samuel 12:8 might not also demonstrate middle knowledge. In this passage, God (through Nathan in confronting King David about his adultery with Bathsheba) says to David that not only did God give him all he had -- but He "would have given" him "even more."

I see an overlap with quantum mechanics here, the idea of parallel realities in the mind of God, any one of which could be "possible" depending on the free will and actions of individuals.


Thanks for a great post.

Latayne C Scott
www.latayne.com

Calling Alvin Plantinga a "Calvinist" is a bit much. He comes from a Calvinist background and belongs to a Reformed church -- and much of his thought is shaped by Reformed emphases -- but his view of human agency is far more in line with Arminianism than with confessional Calvinism.

What you're describing as Calminianism sounds just like classic calvinism. God is both sovereign and man is responsible.

How does what you're describing as Calminianism differ from classical calvinism (such as described in the Westminster confession)?

I am with you on this one Dr. Craig!

Craig,

It is very misleading to describe Molinism (the position affirmed by W. L. Craig) as “Calminianism.” Many Arminians have adopted Molinism but Calvinists consistently reject it. Arguably, Molinism is the form of synergism that gives God the greatest control, since he chooses this particular world. But this is still inadequate from the Calvinist perspective because Molinism is synergistic in that, in this particular world, the outcomes of history (including salvation) are determined by libertarianly free creatures. This may be a legitimate subset of Arminianism but it is not Calminianism.

The critical issue for Molinism is the grounding objection. On this particular point, Calvinists and Open Theists are agreed: Molinism is incoherent because it is impossible to predict what libertarianly free creatures would do in a situation that never occurs. By definition, their decision will be made freely in the actual moment and is not determined by anything either personal or external.

An interesting collection of responses thus far. Thanks to everyone who has posted. I think the fact that one person can't see how my view differs from Calvinism and another can't see how it can be Calvinism confirms my conviction that it's probably as centrist as one can get! And the last post above also points out one reason we've seemingly made little progress on this issue throughout church history: the people at each end of the spectrum are convinced there is no middle ground. But I would point out that one can endorse middle knowledge from both a compatibilist and a libertarian free will position. See Terry Theissen in his excellent work, Providence and Prayer. This would be the form of middle knowledge I would affirm.

Hello Craig,

First of all I have enjoyed your books and thank you for them. I came upon this discusson by accident.

Being a "Calminian" is a nice notion but unfortunately is not allowable by the facts. The primary disagreements between Calvinists and non-Calminists (which includes Arminians but is not limited to Arminians) is in regards to three primary areas that are all mutually exclusive claims or propositions: (1) unconditional election (the calvinist belief that God decided who would be saved or damned before anyone existed as part of an exhaustively determined total plan and these decisions were made in eternity independent of anything about the individual persons (calvinists affirm unconditional election while all non-calvinists deny it); (2) whether or not people experience libertarian free will/we sometimes both have and make choices(noncalvinists affirm the reality of free will as ordinarily understood, while calvinists deny free will as ordinarily understood and instead propose compatibilism, with compatibilism assuming the third primary difference); (3) calvinists believe in Exhaustive Determinism (ED), that all events were preplanend, predecided by God (in and ED world we never ever have choices so we do not and cannot have libertarian free will, the Calvinists' Westminster confession states it as "God ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass") while non-Calvinists deny the exhaustive predetermination of all events. All three of these categories of thought are mutually exclusive and there is no middle ground between them.

In your post you advocate molinism/middle knowledge which **presumes libertarian free will**. If you affirm LFW then you deny unconditional election and exhaustive predeterminism of all events. That places you firmly on the non-calvinist side of things in two of the key areas. In the last key area of disagreement you clearly affirm LFW which means that in all three areas you take a non-calvinist position.

So then in what way is your position Calvinist at all?

One last thing, every one affirms the compatibility of God's **sovereignty** and **human responsibility** (all sides agree on this, so that is not where the disagreement actually lies). The non-calvinist becomes concerned when the Calvinist wrongly **equates** the sovereignty of God and ED (many Calvinists propose and assume that unless God has in fact predetermined all events, predecided everything, then He cannot be sovereign, but the biblical meaning of sovereignty is not exhaustive determinism but the claim that God has the right and authority to do as He pleases in all situations).

It needs to be noted that ED and human responsibility are not compatible. But divine sovereignty (properly defined as God doing as He pleases in all circumstances)**is** compatible with human responsibility. Non-calvinists affirm both God's sovereignty and human responsibility. The calvinist commitment to unconditional election, exhaustive determinism and denial of libertarian free will, then leads to problems in affirming human responsibility.

Robert

I consider myself a five-point Calvinist, but I'm not a vehement, polemical Calvinist and have sympathy for the views of Plantiga and Craig. I don't worry much about how all these details work out, but I do think your post overlooks a difference not related to sovereignty: the nature of the atonement.

In dialoging with Arminian brothers, I have learned many things and agree that there are straw man arguments on both sides. For instance, classical Arminians (including Wesley) hold to the first of the five points - total depravity - though they go about resolving that problem in a different way (universal, resistible prevenient grace vs. definite, irresistible prevenient grace).

One big difference, however, is the two camps' views of the nature of the atonement. Yes, they disagree on its extent - universal or definite? - but more than that is just what the atonement *is*.

Is it satisfying God's wrath for specific sins as Calvinism (and Catholicism, part of Lutheranism, et al.) affirms, or is it a public demonstration of his general displeasure with sin which yet acts as a substitute for for the punishment we deserve if we will to have it applied to us, as most Arminians (though not Arminius or Wesley himself) and others like Charles Finney affirm?

Choosing a theory forces one toward one camp or the other, I think, because it influences how election and salvation work out. If particular sins were actually paid for, then it would seem to be unjust to pay for them again, which means that God must have decided whose to pay for in advance and paid only for those (unconditional election, irresistible grace, limited atonement, and perseverance all seem to follow directly). If it was a governmental act, then the Arminian doctrines become quite plausible.

Middle knowledge can apply here in how God chose those whom he would pay for, but it doesn't eliminate the doctrinal disagreements between the Calvinist and Arminian camps -- e.g., can a genuine believer truly fall away, is saving grace resistible?

As for the paradox of divine sovereignty and human responsibility: both sides have a "problem" with that, and I don't find it resolved by middle knowledge or any other theory. It's a mystery, like many other things in the Christian faith, that waits for an answer in glory, when we likely won't be so concerned with getting the answer.

Craig,
I wonder if you have also had a chance to read Terry Tiessen's article “Why Calvinists Should Believe in Divine Middle Knowledge, Although They Reject Molinism,” Westminster Theological Journal 69 (2007): 345-66? I have taken several classes with him and find it curious that you state you adopt a "Calminian" approach given that Terry affirms Calvinism while defending a specific understanding of Middle Knowledge (MK) (by the way I find Terry's defense of MK to be quite convincing and think they may in fact offer a helpful aid to our understanding of God). I agree with the previous poster that it would seem that you are more probably proposing simply Arminianism without any true sense of Calvinism (but perhaps I have misunderstood your explanation).

I thoroughly agree that there should be less in-fighting and rejection of one another (while still attempting to work through all of the issues rather than simply ignoring them), and instead work together to advance the good news of Jesus Christ. Also, while I have traded camps from Arminianism to Calvinism I appreciate the contributions of Arminius (as opposed to many who think they hold to Arminianism but instead are embracing some form of Pelagianism). The writings of Arminius seem far more 'Calvinist' than the writings of many so-called "Arminians" today. Thank you for your article.

Rick

I enjoyed reading this post. The amount of confusion and debate surrounding terms like (libertarian) free will, middle knowledge, and even Calvinism has led me to use the terms as little as possible and not claim (strict) adherence to any of them. I used to say i took a Calvinist-leaning middle knowledge position. I've used Acts 17:26-27 as a springboard for explaining my viewpoint i.e. if God had put me in a different place at a different time, i might not have sought, reached out for, and found Him. But He chose to place me where He did. Hopefully that is not an improper interpretation. Any insight or suggestion is appreciated.

While Calvinists have historically rejected Middle Knowledge, there are a growing number of noted Calvinists who (at the very least) welcome it's use theologically. For example, Terrance Tiessen's book _Providence & Prayer : How Does God Work in the World?_ presents 9 different models on prayer and providence with the last (10th) being his contribution where he advocates Middle Knowledge Calvinism. Contrary to most Molinists, his version rejects a libertarian view of the human will and also affirms God's temporal eternality rather than the traditional view of timeless eternality.

Calvinist Bruce Ware also promotes Middle Knowledge in his book _God's Greater Glory: The Exalted God Of Scripture And The Christian Faith_ (a sequel to God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism).

Even premiere Calvinist theologian/philosopher/apologist John Frame is open to possibily appealing to it in explaining the relationship between God's Sovereignty and man's responsibility.

As a Calvinist, I'm open to it myself, but for now lean away from it for various reasons. Many Calvinists have addressed the problems with "media scientia" in the past.

Here's a blog where Steve Hays critiques William Lane Craig's version of middle knowledge

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/08/no-other-name-muddle-knowledge.html

Here's a blog where Steve Hays and Terrance Tiessen interact on the issue.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/09/providence-and-prayer.html

Thank you for stimulating this conversation, Craig.

I am thankful to hear that my work has been found helpful by Craig and a few others in this discussion. It may be opportune, however, for me to note that I have nuanced my doctrine of providence. In a forthcoming issue of the Westminster journal, there will be an article co-authored with Paul Helm, entitled “Does Calvinism Need Middle Knowledge?: A Conversation.” Helm argues “No,” and I respond “No, but . . .”

The conversation ensued upon the appearance of my case for the Calvinist affirmation of divine middle knowledge, in WTJ. In the process of that interchange, I became convinced that it is unnecessary to attribute God’s knowledge of counterfactuals to a middle moment as Molina had done. I had for some years been of the opinion that God’s knowledge of possible worlds was distinct from his knowledge of possibilities and that it came about through God’s deliberation, logically consequent upon his decision to create a world. I now believe that this is not so. God’s natural knowledge of all possibilities is all that is needed for us to understand how it is that he could choose to create a world including morally responsible (free) creatures and have its history come out just as he eternally purposed through the uncoerced acts of those free agents.

In short, I now concur with the majority of the Reformed tradition that God has only two “kinds” of knowledge, natural/necessary and free. This does not, however, change my model of providence. In understanding how it is that God’s providence is meticulously sovereign and yet moral creatures act in responsible freedom, I continue to find the concept of God using his knowledge of what particular creatures would do in possible situations to be very helpful (though possible only if creatures are soft-deterministically free, acting according to their nature). Hopefully, the abandonment of “middle knowledge” will enable some traditional Calvinists to give my proposal serious consideration, whereas they may have summarily dismissed it previously. I am well aware, however, that many will still resist it precisely because of the objections to which I responded in my previous WTJ article. That article still needed to be written but if I were to do it now, I would retitle it something like: “Why Calvinists Should Affirm that God Uses His Hypothetical Knowledge in Choosing which World to Create.”

Thanks for the updates--I'll need to check out that article. I struggle to keep up with the voluminous literature in NT studies, so I'm afraid most of my ST reading is in major books! Yes, labels can be so unhelpful once they've established a reputation; people can use them to determine who are insiders and who are outsiders rather than really wrestling with the issues. And, as the thread above demonstrates, "Calminianism" is not pure Calvinism, nor is it pure Arminianism, despite some (apparently) who want to claim that it is. But that wasn't the burden of my blog; I'm seeking a third way since I find neither classic system accounts adequately for all of the relevant Scriptural data. It also appears a couple of the posts above were written just in response to my initial blog since they "inform" me of things I mentioned in my post a few posts up, in response to the first series of responses. (Aren't blogs wonderfully confusing that way?) :)

PM a five point calvinist wrote:

“but I do think your post overlooks a difference not related to sovereignty: the nature of the atonement.”

PM then discussed what he believes to be differences in atonement theory, primarily suggesting that Arminians hold to the governmental theory while Calvinists hold to the penal substitution model of the atonement.

First, I would suggest that the majority position among Arminians is not the governmental theory but the penal substitution model. Second, Calvinists such as John Owen have constructed various arguments attempting to show that an Arminian or anyone for that matter cannot hold to the penal substitution model if they simultaneously hold to the belief that the atonement was provided for more than just those who eventually become believers but for the world (cf. Jn. 3:16 and 1 Jn. 2:2 in particular were the provision of atonement is made for more than just eventual believers). Third, I myself would hold the “Kaleidoscopic model” with regard to the atonement (i.e., I believe the atonement is described using different metaphors in scripture and all of them are valid and should not be placed against each other).

Fourth, I would agree with PM that there is disagreement concerning the atonement among Calvinists and non-Calvinists and I would **broaden** the disagreement to disagreement concerning GOD’S PLAN OF SALVATION.

I and other non-Calvinists (including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, other Protestants, and Independents) believe that God truly desires the salvation of all people and so provided an atonement for all people and God enables human persons through the work of the Spirit to have a faith response (with some eventually ending up choosing to trust in Christ for salvation while others reject Christ and continue to reject Christ for a lifetime and end up eternally separated from God). And in this plan God desires that people freely (in the libertarian sense of having a choice and making a choice)choose to trust in Him for salvation (so this view believes that libertarian free will is present and actually part of God's design for human persons).

Contrast this view of God’s plan of salvation with the view of exhaustive determinists/Calvinists/necessatarians: God predecided who would be saved and who would be lost and conceived a total plan encompassing all events that make up what we call history. God first conceived this total plan and then in history executes this plan. In this plan he intends to save some (and those will be necessitated into belief by means of regeneration, they will be regenerated and this regeneration will then necessarily cause of produce faith in them, they then will believe) but most He has no intentions of saving (the so-called “reprobates” and these have no chance to be saved and in fact God does not want to save them but instead wants to damn them as a display of his wrath and justice against sin). Since God only really wants to save the preselected “elect”, he provides the atonement of Christ only for them (though they will argue that it has some non-salvific “benefits” for the reprobates/non-elect). In this view, as all events are exhaustively predetermined, libertarian free will is eliminated or precluded so people are not freely choosing to be regenerated (rather God simply chooses to regenerate those whom he has predecided would be saved and chooses to regenerate them when He decides to do so).

These are very different and mutually exclusive views of God’s plan of salvation. And there is no middle ground between them. Molinists tend to go towards the non-calvinistic view (though some Calvinists who espouse middle knowledge, eg. Bruce Ware and Terrence Tiessen attempt to retain the calvinistic view of God’s plan of salvation). But make no mistake, you are going to espouse either a non-Calvinist view of God’s plan of salvation or a Calvinist view.

Robert

Wow,

Dr. Blomberg, I've lost so much respect for you after reading this post. You haven't brought two sides together. Rather, you have created a third group... When does this silliness end? These two issues will not be reconciled in this manner.

http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3392

Well, Well, my previous post my point that Ware and Tiessen are Calvinists who espouse middle knowledge is already invalidated as I see that Tiessen now renounces his previous position. Apparently, Tiessen has been convinced by other Calvinists (such as Helm) that he should reject molinism and hold on only to God’s use of and knowledge of counterfactuals. Perhaps Tiessen can then convince Ware to rejoin the calvinistic fold of exhaustive determinism and denial of libertarian free will. :-)

Tiessen wrote:

“It may be opportune, however, for me to note that I have nuanced my doctrine of providence. . . .I became convinced that it is unnecessary to attribute God’s knowledge of counterfactuals to a middle moment as Molina had done. . . .I now believe that this is not so. God’s natural knowledge of all possibilities is all that is needed for us to understand how it is that he could choose to create a world including morally responsible (free) creatures and have its history come out just as he eternally purposed through the uncoerced acts of those free agents. . . . In short, I now concur with the majority of the Reformed tradition that God has only two “kinds” of knowledge, natural/necessary and free.”

Tiessen now believes that “middle knowledge” is not necessary for God to conceive of and then execute his total plan which encompasses all events (i.e. Tiessen now embraces traditional Calvinism and not Molinism).

An interesting comment here is his illusion to “morally responsible (free) creatures”. Molinists such as Plantinga, Craig, Flint, and Ware (but for how long? :-) )hold to libertarian free will. No Calvinist who believes that God conceived a total plan and then executes this total plan as history espouses libertarian free will. So not only must Tiessen reject middle knowledge he also has to reject libertarian free will.

It seems to me from what he has written here, that his rejection of LFW is based on his commitment to calvinism (so the system of calvinism as traditionally conceived has forced him to reject LFW). I said in an earlier post that one of the key differences between Calvinists and non-Calvinists is that non-Calvinists hold to LFW while Calvinists reject it. Tiessen now proves my point.

Tiessen goes on to write:

“In understanding how it is that God’s providence is meticulously sovereign and yet moral creatures act in responsible freedom”

In other words he holds the traditional Calvinist view that God “meticulously” predetermines all events. In such a world where God has predecided how every event would occur and then executes this total plan, the result is that we never ever have choices (we do not have free will as ordinarily understood, the Calvinist will redefine “free will” as we are able to do what we want according to our natures, i.e. the compatibilist conception of free will). But it needs to be understood that the compatibilist Calvinist as they believe in the exhaustive predetermination of all events, must deny that we ever have any choices. We only and always choose to do what we were predetermined to do. If we only and always choose to do what we were predetermined to do then WE NEVER EVER HAVE A CHOICE. And this is the cost of espousing exhaustive determinism.

I said in my earlier post that there is no problem with the compatibility of divine sovereignty (understood as He does as He pleases in all situations) and human responsibility (God can rightfully and in fact will hold us all accountable for the actions that we do). The problem arises when one espouses some form of exhaustive determinism (whether it is “hard” determinism or “soft” determinism it does not matter as both presuppose that all events are determined, “soft” determinism just appears to be more palatable at first glance till you taste the medicine and realize it tastes no different than “hard determinism”). The problem is that exhaustive determinism (and Calvinists who espouse “soft determinism” believe that all events are all pre-determined just as much as “hard determinists” believe that all events are pre-determined) **is** problematic when combined with human responsibility. The problem comes first in ascribing responsibility to human persons whose every action if predetermined and fixed from eternity (God can choose to hold anyone responsible that he chooses to hold responsible). We do not hold people responsible for things not under their control, things that are even beyond their control, things were it was impossible for them to do otherwise. We do not hold people responsible for the weather (as it is not under their control, it is beyond their control, the weather is what it is and the person could not have made it happen any differently. But we may hold a person responsible for their response to the weather (e.g. if they knew that extremely bad weather could lead to extreme flooding and loss of life and destruction of property, that could have been prevented if certain things had been done, and yet they knew this and were told this and confronted about this and yet they chose to not do these things and the loss of life and destruction of property then occurred, which it is believed could have been averted or at least lessened, we then hold them responsible for their actions).

A second problem is in the assessment of responsibility. First we determine that the person has done the action in question (i.e. ascription of responsibility). Then we assess their praise or blame concerning the events in question (praise = they did something they did not have to do, but chose to do; blame = they did or did not do something, which they should have done or not done). In both praise and blame we presume that they did one thing but could have done otherwise (i.e. that they had a choice and either made the right choice/praise or made the wrong choice/blame). But if they had no choice (as with the weather) we don’t praise or blame the person for events out of their control and not involving them having a choice.

If God has “meticulously” predetermined every event so that every event occurs exactly as He wanted to occur, then while God has and makes choices, we do not ever have a choice. To have a choice would mean that we really could go either way (the person could have chosen to strengthen the levees or the person could have chosen not to strengthen the levees). But if the person’s every action is predecided by God, then that person either chooses to strengthen the levee (if God predetermined that outcome) or the person chooses not to strengthen the levees (if God predetermined that outcome). The person can and will only do what was predecided and predetermined for him to do. Now the determinist/Calvinist/advocate of soft determinism/necessitarian, will argue that the person who either chooses to strengthen the levee or chooses not to strengthen the levee, did so “freely”, because they did what they wanted to do. But is this really acting freely? Is this what most people mean by “free will”? Did this person have a choice and then make a choice (if God had predetermined his/her every action)? And if the person’s action is predetermined so that he has to make the choice that God predetermined for him to make, who is really responsible for the action in question?

I mean if he did X, and it was impossible for him to do otherwise than do X, and God planned for him to do X and ensured that he do X: who really ought to be held responsible for the action? Soft determinism sounds nicer than hard determinism, that is until you actually think through what it means if every event were predetermined as part of a predecided total plan of God. In such a world, we ***never ever have choices***, we only do what we were predetermined to do, and responsibility becomes a problematic concept. In the real world we all live in, the actual world, people may espouse exhaustive determinism/soft determinism/calvinism, but they do not actually live out their exhaustive determinism. They speak about and act as if, ***just like everybody else***, as if we sometimes do ***have and then make choices***. And these situations are situations where we have and make a choice which we will be held responsible for (both by other human persons in this life as well as by God at the final judgment).

And the reason that we sometimes have choices is because this is the world that God has designed and created, a world where He desired for us to sometimes have and make choices. If He designed it that way, then exhaustive determinism/soft compatibilism/Calvinism is false.

If we have any choices then exhaustive determinism is false. If exhaustive determinism is true then we never ever have a choice. If we examine the available evidence from both our daily experience as well as the bible, it is clear that in fact we sometimes have choices and exhaustive determinism/soft compatibilism is false.

Robert

Tiessen wrote:

“for us to understand how it is that he could choose to create a world including morally responsible (free) creatures and have its history come out just as he eternally purposed through the uncoerced acts of those free agents.”

I want to talk about this Calvinist claim that in an exhaustively determined world our actions are **uncoerced**. Sometimes non-calvinists mistakenly argue that Calvinists/necessatarians believe that God **forces** is to do things. This is not accurate nor does it properly present the Calvinist position.

I am going to suggest that the Calvinist is right about the lack of coercion in an exhaustively determined world, but missing something much bigger (it would be like being right that the room has a fireplace, but not noticing that the room is on fire and being gutted by the fire)! There is another form of control that if exhaustive predeterminism were true, would be constantly in force. And technically this form of control is not coercion (because people are not being forced to do things against their will as is sometimes mistakenly supposed by some that Calvinism teaches) but it is just as bad if not worse in my opinion.

Let me start with an analogy to show this kind of control which I believe Calvinism does in fact espouse.


Imagine a guy named "Joe" who enjoys playing chess. Also imagine a guy named Frazier who has the ability to implant a device into another person which then allows Frazier to **completely control** the thoughts, desires, intentions, etc. (i.e., the complete mental activities of another person in whom the device is placed). It should be noted that Frazier’s form of control is **covert** (the person, in this case “Joe”, under such control cannot and would not sense it or know that it is happening to them) and **Non-constraining** (if an action is coerced a person is forced to act against their will; if a person is constrained in their action they are prevented from doing something else). So if a “Joe” is under the control of Frazier and the device let’s call this type of control CNC or “Covert Non-constraining Control” (the philosopher Robert Kane first proposed this concept but I think many have had the concept in mind though without the words to describe it). We need to realize that if CNC is operating, ***Joe will do exactly what he wants to do***, (his intentional actions are neither coerced nor constrained) and yet he cannot do otherwise (whatever Frazier wants him to do is what he will desire to do and will do. He cannot desire or act otherwise; He cannot do other than what Frazier wants him to do. So “Joe” is not acting freely in the libertarian sense (i.e., having and making a choice) when controlled in this way by Frazier. “Joe” is under CNC type control.

Now say that Frazier and Joe engage in a chess game. And say that Frazier has placed the device in Joe and thus every move that Joe makes is what Frazier wants him to make. Joe believes that he is acting freely; he believes that the moves he makes on the chess board are up to him, within his control, not predetermined or controlled by another person external to himself. Joe is fully conscious and at least in his own estimation has a will and is acting freely (he certainly is not being coerced against his will nor are his actions being constrained: he does exactly what he wants to do). So they play this chess game together and at one point in the game, Joe makes this really “bad move” that immediately leads to the loss of his queen and the loss of the game quickly after that. Joe made the move that he wanted to make, that he desired to make, when he made his “bad move”. Joe thought he was acting freely and doing what he wanted to do. And yet it was Frazier who wanted that “bad move” to occur and since the device was operating, Joe’s move was a necessitated action though he did exactly what he wanted to do, and he could not have done otherwise.

Was Joe acting freely when he made the bad chess move? It depends how you conceive "acting freely" (if you mean that he did what he wanted to do/the compatibilist conception of acting freely he was acting freely; if you mean that he did what he wanted to do but also could have done otherwise/that he had choices of which moves he would make at particular points in the game/the libertarian conception of freely, then No, he was not acting freely).

Who is responsible for Joe’s bad chess move? Most of us, as onlookers who knew what was really going on (recall the control of “Joe” is covert and not senses by him at all), would conclude that since the move resulted from Frazier’s CNC control of Joe, that Frazier is directly responsible for the bad chess move. We would certainly find Joe’s circumstances surrounding the “bad move” to be extenuating circumstances and find him less responsible or not responsible at all.

Now if you want to understand calvinistic “soft compatibilism” just take the CNC control that Frazier exercised over “Joe” and extend it to **every intentional action** of **every human person** who has lived or ever will live. So we are all doing the actions which God predecided that we would do and that God has predetermined for us to do (and we can never do otherwise than we in fact do as we are always experiencing CNC type control of our every action). Most Christians are repulsed by and see some real problems with CNC control of all human persons in their every action (e.g. this makes God the author of sin, the biblical invitations are a sham, biblical commands and urgings which seem to involve persons having choices never involve persons having choices, etc. etc.).

It should be carefully noted that someone acting under CNC control would not be coerced to do their actions or forced against their will to do their actions (note – if you control everything about a person directly and completely, then you would not need to force them to do something against their will because you already directly control and manipulate their will; you only need to coerce if the person’s will is independent of your own and not directly and completely controlled by you).

Sometimes non-Calvinists in attempting to convey what we believe exhaustive determinism/Calvinism logically entails or amounts to, bring up examples like a puppet whose every action is controlled directly and completely by the puppet master who pulls his strings. Or we talk about preprogrammed robots. Or about an author who first conceives his story and then writes his story having selected and decided every detail of his story. All of these analogies are meant to illustrate the idea of human persons having their every action predecided and predetermined by God specifically because their will is directly and completely controlled by a person external to yourself). Puppets are a perfect illustration of total and direct control of one being by a being external to that being.

We don’t’ believe that Calvinists sufficiently allow for the implications of their belief in exhaustive determinism (a world where our every action, everything about us is directly and completely controlled by a person external to our self). In such a world where ED was present, we all become “Joe” and God is Frazier. Calvinists will try to lessen the impact of exhaustive determinism with claims such as “but if you do what you want then you are acting freely.” Yeh, but if some person outside of us controls our desires (the way Frazier controls "Joe"), what we want, then we will want and then do only what he wants us to want and then do. Or they will say that we only sin because of our sin nature which we now receive at birth due to the fall of Adam. Yeh, but if God exhaustively determines every event, then Adam had to fall, God wanted Him to fall, God necessitated the fall, the fall was like "Joe's bad chess move".

Robert

Hello Craig,

I was informed that you are also discussing your views expressed here over at a calvinistic blog called TRIABLOGUE. The leader of that blog (a person named Steve Hays) brought up a common argument against the ordinary foreknowledge view that merits a response. The ordinary understanding of the meaning of foreknowledge (across all sorts of Christian traditions, found throughout church history, and confirmed by the meaning of “proginosko”) is that it means: God knows future events before they occur (including future events that involve libertarian free will actions, actions where we have a choice and then make a choice).

Both Open theists and Calvinists regularly bring up Hays’ argument against the ordinary understanding of foreknowledge because they believe that if God foreknows our actions then we cannot be doing them freely (the Calvinist argues against it to eliminate libertarian free will believing that exhaustive foreknowledge of the future eliminates free will as ordinarily understood; the Open Theist argues against foreknowledge using this argument to preserve libertarian free will, neither side affirms what the bible affirms which is the reality of both foreknowledge and free will as ordinarily understood).

Steve Hays wrote:

“How exactly is it that God would know what libertarian creatures would do in certain circumstances? All things being the same, in order for them to be free, they've got at least two options. How does he know which one?”

I want to coin a fallacy for this as it is such a common argument against foreknowledge of freely chosen actions. Let’s call it the “unless I know HOW it happens, I cannot know THAT it happens” fallacy. :-) The fallacy is the claim or assumption that just because you don’t know HOW something happens, that that must mean that that something CANNOT HAPPEN.

If someone asks me HOW God knows what He knows (including His exhaustive knowledge of future events where people have and make choices) my answer is: “I don’t know HOW God knows what He knows, only THAT He knows what He knows.” Now this is not a “cop-out” in any sense as none of us really knows HOW God knows what He knows. If we interpret the bible to teach (and I believe this is the proper and correct interpretation, and it is the interpretation of the vast majority of Christians throughout church history) that God has knowledge of everything, including the future in its entirety. Then we conclude THAT HE KNOWS EVERYTHING. Now if you ask me HOW? My answer is that I do not know HOW He knows only THAT He knows.

In other words when it comes to God I sometimes employ what I call the THAT/HOW distinction (i.e. I know THAT certain things are true, but not HOW, I cannot explain HOW they work or occur).

Some examples – I believe THAT God became a man and that man was Jesus during his incarnation (but I have no idea HOW the incarnation occurred). I believe THAT God is triune (but I have no idea HOW that works). I believe THAT God will raise everyone from the dead (but I have no idea HOW that works). These examples could be further multiplied but I think everybody gets the drift! :-)


And when it comes to God’s knowledge I don’t even know HOW he knows what is currently happening. I mean God does not have a physical body as we do, with a brain and sense organs, so he does not see, hear, taste, touch, feel as we do. Does he know what is happening right now? I would say with no hesitation, absolutely. If you ask me HOW He knows what is happening right now? I do not know. But does it follow that because I do not know HOW he knows what is now happening that I do not know THAT He knows what is happening right now? I can’t even tell you HOW He knows what is happening NOW. And the future seems even harder to know than the present at least from my perspective.


The necessitarian, the Calvinist, of course believes that he knows how God knows the future (God knows the future since he predetermined and preplanned it all). But that is another fallacy that is called “begging the question”. The “answer” turns out to be, merely what Calvinists already believe. That proves or establishes nothing.

I believe it is more humble and also much more accurate to say that when it comes to God and spiritual things, there are some things that we know THAT they are true, but we have no idea HOW they are true. We affirm them because the bible properly interpreted presents them.

Now that will not stop theologians and philosophers from trying to tell us HOW something is true, :-) when it should suffice us to know THAT it is true. In my daily walk with the Lord I do not need to know (and perhaps if he even tried to explain it, it would be way beyond my comprehension) HOW he knows the future, only THAT He knows the future. Knowing THAT He knows the future helps and allows me to trust Him about that future, to have hope about that future, to be confident about that future and confident that His prophecies will all come true. Do I need to know HOW He knows the future to have that trust in Him to have confidence in His Word? And if someone wants to attack my belief in the foreknowledge of God with his “how” question, that just reveals to me that he presumes to know a lot more than what we really know. I also wonder if that person asks that same question with that same mentality about other truths of the Christian faith where we also know THAT they are true but not HOW?

Robert

Robert,

What you quoted as having been from Steve Hays was actually from the comments of another writer named Steven. Not that any who've dealt with you will be surprised that someone has to correct your sloppy methodology once again or anything... But still, the record should be corrected.

Robert, who incorrectly calls me "PM", posted above about Arminianism vs. Calvinism on the nature (n.b., not extent) of the atonement.

I don't really have any interest in rehashing the Calvinist and Arminian salvific systems, as he does in the latter part of his post.

My point to Dr. Bloomberg was simply that the doctrinal divide between the two camps is a bit more than just the four (n.b., not really five) points on which they historically disagreed because they often, but not universally, subscribe to different models of the atonement which eliminate one or the other salvific system.

I agree that we can make use of different perspectives or images of the atonement, but I tend to agree with Owen et al. that if one accepts the penal model as a valid perspective, then the Arminian (and Calminian) salvific system is eliminated as an option. And likewise, if one accepts the moral government theory as stated by Arminian exponents like Miley, then the Calvinist (and Calminian) system must be discarded.

The point is, one can come at this set of issues from other angles that to my mind make the Calminian position seem less plausible than it does on first glance. I don't think it's anything to get in a big huff about, however, so holy kisses all around, especially to Dr. Bloomberg for whom I retain great respect.

Robert,

Re: your post of Tuesday at 1:20, I want to clarify a misunderstanding. You asserted that Ware and I had asserted human freedom to be libertarian. This is incorrect. Had it been true, we would have been Molinists rather than Calvinists. But I described my position as “middle knowledge Calvinism” and Ware spoke of his as “compatibilist middle knowledge.” We both believe that Molina made a helpful contribution in his description of God’s use of the knowledge of counterfactuals. But we both rejected Molina’s affirmation of libertarian freedom. This is what differentiated our positions from Molinism. We also both believe that the grounding objection is valid, namely, that it is impossible for anyone to know what a libertarianly free creature would do counterfactually. Hence we believe Molinism to be incoherent. If God knows counterfactuals, which Scripture clearly teaches, then creatures are not libertarianly free.

Most of your post has gotten into the important issue of the nature of human freedom. I can’t get engaged in that discussion now but I don’t disregard its important. I simply wanted to clarify my belief (and Ware’s) to prevent perpetuation and propagation of your misunderstanding.

Shalom,
Terry

CF wrote:

“Robert, who incorrectly calls me "PM", posted above about Arminianism vs. Calvinism on the nature (n.b., not extent) of the atonement.”

So you are CF not PM? Don’t worry I won’t make that mistake again.

“I don't really have any interest in rehashing the Calvinist and Arminian salvific systems, as he does in the latter part of his post.”

You brought up Owen’s arguments that Arminians cannot hold to penal substitution if they hold to unlimited atonement. I responded. If others are interested in seeing this Owenesque argument (and other arguments of Owen soundly refuted) check out two blogs by calvinists who provide very strong arguments against these kinds of arguments (see THEOLOGICAL MEDITATIONS run by a Calvinist named Tony, and CALVIN AND CALVINISM:An Elenchus for Classic and Moderate Calvinism run by a Calvinist named David, both of these sites provide all sorts of negations of Owens and his argument on the atonement, and the sites are run by Calvinists).

“My point to Dr. Bloomberg was simply that the doctrinal divide between the two camps is a bit more than just the four (n.b., not really five) points on which they historically disagreed because they often, but not universally, subscribe to different models of the atonement which eliminate one or the other salvific system. “

I agree with CF on this, some doctrines are mutually exclusive and there is no middle ground between them. The atonement is such a doctrine when it comes to the provisional aspect of the atonement, you will either believe that the provision of the atonement was for the world/all people or that it was provided and intended only for the preselected elect.

“I agree that we can make use of different perspectives or images of the atonement, but I tend to agree with Owen et al. that if one accepts the penal model as a valid perspective, then the Arminian (and Calminian) salvific system is eliminated as an option.”

Again, for refutation of this argument of Owen see the Calvinist sites referred too above.

“And likewise, if one accepts the moral government theory as stated by Arminian exponents like Miley, then the Calvinist (and Calminian) system must be discarded.”

Rather than setting various atonement models, theories and the biblical metaphors they are derived from against each other. Isn’t it better and more accurate to what the bible is suggesting to take a more eclectic approach and realize that there are different metaphors for the atonement in the bible and each has its own validity to some extent?

It seems to me that this is what Craig is aiming for: to develop conclusions on what the bible properly interpreted leads one to. Knowing that some of these conclusions will support certain theological systems while other conclusions will contradict certain theological systems.

This suggests that we should not be too tied to one particular theological system. It seems to me from both observation and my understanding of church history that a common mistake is for Christians to have almost exclusive allegiance to one system which they then take to be the “truth” while they view others as being completely mistaken (and sometimes even worse question the salvation of those with whom they disagree).

“The point is, one can come at this set of issues from other angles that to my mind make the Calminian position seem less plausible than it does on first glance. I don't think it's anything to get in a big huff about, however, so holy kisses all around, especially to Dr. Bloomberg for whom I retain great respect.”

I think I understand where Dr. Blomberg is coming from. He studies the biblical texts, comes to conclusions based upon those biblical texts. He then compares the conclusions with various theological systems and finds that in fact sometimes these theological systems are contradicted by these conclusions. That means the theological systems are mistaken in these areas and they do not say everything that is true on various issues. Specifically he sees problems with both the Arminian and Calvinist theological systems so he proposes that perhaps there is some “middle ground” between the two which is where the truth actually lies.

I don’t think there is a middle ground on some doctrines that again are mutually exclusive. I would suggest that Craig take an “eclectic” or “Biblicist” position (i.e. take whatever is true from various systems and reject what is false in the systems based upon what the bible says, if the bible correctly interpreted says X, and some system holds to X, then that system is correct on X, however if the system does not hold to X or contradicts X, then the system is false in that area).

Craig am I understanding you correctly here?

Robert

[I tried posting earlier and seemed ot have trouble. I'm sorry for any repeat posts that may result.]

CF,

I appreciate your gracious tone. I just wanted to point out that you seem to be obscuring the fact that most Arminians including Arminius himself and John Wesley held to the penal satisfaction view of the atonement. (Indeed, I think it well known that most evamgelicals hold to both unlimited atonement and penal satisfaction). It is not surprising that Calvinists try to argue that Arminians are inconsistent in doing so just as Arminians argue that Calvinists are inconsistent in their theology. But most evangelicals don't seem to detect any inconsistency in the Arminian position. Indeed, there are plenty of Calvinists who do not even find Owen's arguments convincing, hence 4 point Calvinists (who are probably much more numerous than Arminians who adhere to the Governmental Theory of the atonement over penal satisfaction)! I think Owen's arguments have been answered rather persuasively. For a brief and convenient answer to Owen, see http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/provisional-atonement-part-1-dealing-with-john-owens-arminian-dilemma/. For more internet resources, see http://evangelicalarminians.org/category/2/8. Of course there are books that address the issue too, but I'm just giving some convenient resources. Beyond addressing Owen specifically, we happily have two essays by world class scholar I. Howard Marshall, one arguing for unlimited atonement (http://evangelicalarminians.org/I-Howard-Marshall-For-All-for-All-My-Saviour-Died) and the other arguing for the penal satisfaction vew of the atonement (http://evangelicalarminians.org/I-Howard-Marshall-The-Theology-of-the-Atonement).

Well, there is so much more I could address from this thread. This probably was not the most ciritical. But I have to get going . . . (One last thing: Roger Olson addresses the idea of Calminianism in his recent watershed book, *Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities*, arguing that such a hybrid is impossible.)

Robert,

In case you are interested, I’d like to mention that, unlike many of my fellow Calvinists I do not deny that God COULD foreknow the actual decisions of libertarianly free beings. On this point, I accept William L. Craig’s propositional approach. God knows all true propositions, true propositions are tenseless (i.e., a statement about some event in the present [e.g. Robert is writing] was true yesterday as a future tense proposition [Robert will write] and will be true tomorrow in the past tense [Robert wrote]. I’m willing to concede to Craig and to you that we need not know how it is that God knows all true propositions, he simply does by virtue of his omniscience. That works for foreknowledge of the actual future which is the grounded in the reality of their occurring at a moment of time. Unfortunately for Molinism, it does not work for counterfactuals because these are not grounded.

Plantinga has used the same agnostic appeal in regard to counterfactuals but there I think he is wrong. Of course, I could be in error about that, but right now future counterfactuals of libertarian freedom appear to me to be genuinely ungrounded and agnosticism about the how of God’s knowing them is too big a stretch.

Cheers,
Terry

Hello Terry,

First off, I have greatly enjoyed your books (PROVIDECNE & PRAYER and WHO CAN BE SAVED?). I always appreciate books that compare and contrast (such as the “four views” type books that give different views the proponents of the different views then interact) and that is a strong feature of your books. I enjoyed your books and recommend them highly.

You wrote:

“Re: your post of Tuesday at 1:20, I want to clarify a misunderstanding. You asserted that Ware and I had asserted human freedom to be libertarian. This is incorrect. Had it been true, we would have been Molinists rather than Calvinists. But I described my position as “middle knowledge Calvinism” and Ware spoke of his as “compatibilist middle knowledge.””

Actually Terry I think you are mistaken about what I wrote. Looking back I did make a mistake when I wrote:

“Molinists such as Plantinga, Craig, Flint, and Ware (but for how long? :-) hold to libertarian free will.”

That is a mistake because while the others hold to LFW, Ware is a compatibilist and does not (though he holds to middle knowledge). I did not make a mistake concerning you however as I wrote:

“Well, Well, my previous post my point that Ware and Tiessen are Calvinists who espouse middle knowledge is already invalidated as I see that Tiessen now renounces his previous position.”

Note I said that you and Ware were Calvinists who held to middle knowledge, not to libertarian free will. I then wrote a few sentences later:

“Perhaps Tiessen can then convince Ware to rejoin the calvinistic fold of exhaustive determinism and denial of libertarian free will. :-)”

In that comment I was referring to Ware rejecting middle knowledge as you have and so joining the fold of those who like Helm are Calvinists and compatibilists and reject LFW. I should have probably phrased it as:

“then convince Ware to rejoin the calvinistic fold of exhaustive determinism and denial of middle knowledge.”

In fact I know that neither of you hold LFW because I have all of Ware’s books where he discusses his view of compatibilistic calvinistic middle knowledge and I have your books as well. I know that you both hold to compatibilism and of course I believe you are both mistaken as LFW is the proper conception of free will! :-)

“We both believe that Molina made a helpful contribution in his description of God’s use of the knowledge of counterfactuals. But we both rejected Molina’s affirmation of libertarian freedom.”

Again I am fully aware of that. Reminds me of the scene in “Patton” where Rommel’s troops are advancing and Patton/George C. Scott says of Rommel, if I recall correctly: “You . . . I read your books!”
:-)

“We also both believe that the grounding objection is valid, namely, that it is impossible for anyone to know what a libertarianly free creature would do counterfactually. Hence we believe Molinism to be incoherent.”

I am not a Molinist but I do not find the grounding objection that challenging (recall I wrote earlier that I know THAT God knows the future but not HOW, and the grounding objection presumes that unless we know what grounds God’s knowledge which is another way of saying unless we know HOW God knows future events)

“If God knows counterfactuals, which Scripture clearly teaches, then creatures are not libertarianly free.”

Not sure how this **follows** perhaps you could elaborate for me. The passages in scripture such as the Keilah incident show that God knows not only what did in fact happen but would have happened had other actions occurred. Seems to me that if God had exhaustively predetermined every event then it is impossible that things could have gone differently, they had to do down exactly as they did. But perhaps I am missing something.

“Most of your post has gotten into the important issue of the nature of human freedom. I can’t get engaged in that discussion now but I don’t disregard its important.”

I brought it up because the reality of our having choices refutes exhaustive determinism/Calvinism. I wanted that discussion on the table.

“I simply wanted to clarify my belief (and Ware’s) to prevent perpetuation and propagation of your misunderstanding.”

For the record, based upon my reading of both Tiessen and Ware’s books, both are committed compatibilists.

“In case you are interested, I’d like to mention that, unlike many of my fellow Calvinists I do not deny that God COULD foreknow the actual decisions of libertarianly free beings.”

That is good to hear. To affirm that God could not know future decisions of libertarianly free beings, is to deny that God has foreknowledge of future events involving us having and making choices. It also is a completely arbitrary restriction on the “natural knowledge” of God. Many Calvinists have argued that God cannot know LFW involved actions in the future in order to argue against Arminianism.

“On this point, I accept William L. Craig’s propositional approach. God knows all true propositions, true propositions are tenseless (i.e., a statement about some event in the present [e.g. Robert is writing] was true yesterday as a future tense proposition [Robert will write] and will be true tomorrow in the past tense [Robert wrote]. I’m willing to concede to Craig and to you that we need not know how it is that God knows all true propositions, he simply does by virtue of his omniscience. That works for foreknowledge of the actual future which is the grounded in the reality of their occurring at a moment of time.”

Again glad to hear you we agree on this point. I also brought up the THAT/HOW distinction with Plantinga and he agreed with me on it as well. So now I have two well known philosophers who agree with my distinction so it must be right!  

“Unfortunately for Molinism, it does not work for counterfactuals because these are not grounded.”

Again, if God knows everything, and we do not know how he knows what he knows, then the grounding objection is groundless! :-) It seems to me that people asserting the grounding objection are saying that unless we know what grounds knowledge of counterfactuals in God’s knowledge then we will not accept that God could know them (but isn’t that just a more sophisticated way of saying that unless I know HOW he knows I will not accept THAT He knows that??).

“Plantinga has used the same agnostic appeal in regard to counterfactuals but there I think he is wrong.”

So you disagree with the How versus THAT distinction that I have raised here?

“Of course, I could be in error about that, but right now future counterfactuals of libertarian freedom appear to me to be genuinely ungrounded and agnosticism about the how of God’s knowing them is too big a stretch.”

Alright let’s make a deal, when you explain to me How God knows what he knows (whether that be the present, the past or the future) then I will seriously consider that since we do not know what would ground knowledge of counterfactuals for God, that there might be no grounds for knowing them for God. Deal or No Deal? :-);-) When you explain how he knows what he knows then I will take the brief case and be done with the game Howie, er I mean Terry! :-)

Robert

I though Plantinga and Lane Craig were both Molinists.

Hello Rey,

You wrote:

"I though[t] Plantinga and Lane Craig were both Molinists."

From my reading of material by both of them, as well as seeing the comments of others, both Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig appear to be Molinists.

Rey what do you think of the thoughts of these two men in this area? And what are your own thoughts concerning Molinism?

Robert

My response to Arminian hasn't show up yet (was it lost?), but I found this book/interview relevant on the nature of the atonement:

http://theologica.blogspot.com/2009/08/graham-coles-book-on-atonement.html

You might be interested to know that this post was linked on (of all places) a boardgame website. This was my response after reading this:

I've never heard the term "Calminian", but what Blomberg describes at that link - middle knowledge - is Molinism (the microbadge I requested on page 1).

William Lane Craig has an interesting quote referring to predestination and middle knowledge: "It is up to God whether we find ourselves in a world in which we are predestined, but it is up to us whether we are predestined in the world in which we find ourselves."

The basic idea is that we make free choices in this world that exists, but God knows what choices we would make in ANY possible world. And he has chosen to create only this world, knowing what choices we would freely make. So in a sense God has chosen what we will do, but he could only choose from the set of choices we would make in any possible world.

The interesting thing is that slight variations on Molinism could result in either Calvinism or Arminianism. It's a question of what possible worlds exist (which only God knows).

Assume Molinism is true and that God always gives enough prevenient grace for a person to be saved. Suppose one group of people would always respond to the slightest bit of grace in every possible world, and the another group of people would never respond to offered grace in any possible world. Then Arminianism results. (Each person freely chooses to accept or reject salvation AND God has no influence on the choice - other than to offer salvation to everyone.)

Assume Molinism is true and that God always gives enough prevenient grace for a person to be saved. Suppose that for every possible combination of persons, there exists a world where those persons and no others would respond to an offer of saving grace. Then Calvinism results. (Each person freely chooses to accept or reject salvation BUT God has chosen a specific world where the people who freely choose to accept salvation are exactly those people he wanted to choose and no others. For strict Calvinists, simply make the slight change that God does not give prevenient grace to those he knows would not respond in this particular world.) (ADDED NOTE: After reading the comments here at koinoniablog, I realize there are other differences. For example, I'm not familiar with the distinction between Libertarian Free Will and other types of Free Will.)

I'll accept the Molinist title (or Calminian - that's a new word for me), but I plead agnosticism on what set of possible worlds exist. So I wouldn't take a position on how close to the Calvinist or Arminian side things are. My guess, though, is that it's somewhere in the middle. I don't think it's pure Arminianism because I do believe I'm saved, but I also believe that in other circumstances I would not have responded positively to God. Neither do I think it's pure Calvinism, because I believe scripture tells us that God desires all to come to salvation, and if there were a possible world where everyone who ever lived freely accepted grace that he would have actualized that world instead of this one.

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/436743/page/2

Plantinga is not a Calvinist; he does hold to Molinism, including middle knowledge AND libertarian free will.
Ware is a Calvinist; he does not hold to Molinism. As Thiessen pointed out, Ware calls his position "compatibilist middle knowledge" since he holds to compatibilistic free will and middle knowledge.
Dr. Blomberg has confused the terms "middle knowledge" and "Molinism".

Dr. Blomberg, to quote my theology and philosophy professor, John Feinberg: "There's no such thing as a Calminian." I would be interested to see how you would try to develop the whole scheme of salvation as the elusive Calminian, but in the end, it seems you would either find your system internally inconsistent or simply mislabeled. To end on a better note, I do appreciate the work you have produced in your own field, notably the Historical Reliability of the Gospels has often been a blessing!

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