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Category Archives: Theology
“The Bible is a plain book. It is intelligible by the people. And they have the right, and are bound to read and interpret it for themselves; so that their faith may rest on the testimony of the Scriptures, and not on that of the Church.”
(Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1:183)
I recently listened to the exchange on Molinism and Calvinism between William Lane Craig and Paul Helm on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? radio program. It was more of a conversation than a debate, but it’s still worth a listen. In this post I want to expand on a point Helm raised but didn’t himself develop. I’ll first summarize the main tenets of Molinism before discussing what I regard as a serious objection to it. (Be patient — the first half of this post is just set-up.)
Molinism is a philosophical theory designed to reconcile a strong view of divine providence (according to which God foreordains all things) with a libertarian view of free will and a synergistic view of salvation (according to which God doesn’t cause anyone to repent and believe; instead sinners freely cooperate with God’s resistible grace in order to be saved). According to Molinism, God is able to providentially direct events by means of his middle knowledge, that is, his knowledge of what any libertarian-free creature would choose in any specific circumstances. For example, God knew prior to his decision to create this world whether I would freely choose a Boston Kreme if I were to go to Dunkin’ Donuts at noon on February 19, 2014, in such-and-such exact circumstances. God is therefore able to plan events down to the very last detail by prearranging the precise circumstances in which his creatures will find themselves and make their free choices. God doesn’t cause those choices, but he does guarantee them in some strong sense by orchestrating circumstances in light of his middle knowledge.
I’ve uploaded a revised version of my paper “Calvinism and the First Sin” (see this earlier post for context). I think it’s improved in several ways, thanks to constructively critical feedback from a number of folk (see final footnote for credits). The main changes:
- A brief explanation of why I address problems not unique to the first sin. (p. 5)
- A stronger response to the charge that Calvinism makes God culpable for human sin. (pp. 15-17)
- A stronger response to the difficulty of explaining why (given compatibilism) unfallen Adam would freely choose to sin. In particular, I’ve added a section on how contemporary analyses of akrasia could shed some light on the issue. (pp. 20-24)
- The “luck objection” to libertarian free will has been brought forward to section 2.
- I cut out the objection to libertarian free will based on the Principle of Sufficient Reason. Dan Johnson pointed out a problem with the argument: as it stands, it relies on a version of the PSR which appears to commit one to necessitarianism. I still think the PSR raises more problems for libertarianism than compatibilism, but it would take me too far afield to get into that in this paper, and the main argument of the paper stands (or falls!) without it.
- What I formerly called “The Arminian Account” I now call “The Simple Foreknowledge Account” (see footnote 52 for explanation).
Please note again that the online preprint version will be removed once the book is published and should not be quoted or cited in place of the published version.
“Calvinism and the First Sin” is the title of my contribution to a forthcoming volume, Calvinism and the Problem of Evil, edited by David E. Alexander and Daniel M. Johnson (Wipf & Stock). The publisher has kindly granted permission to post here a preprint version of the paper. Please note that this online version will be removed once the book is published. Do not quote or cite this version.
I think there’s something for just about everyone to disagree with in the paper! Constructively critical feedback is welcome.
Every so often a scientific study appears purporting to show an inverse correlation between intelligence and religiosity; in other words, the smarter you are, the less likely you are to be religious. The latest offering is a meta-analysis of such studies which confirms the now-familiar story. Not surprisingly, a hearty cheer goes up from the atheist camp every time a report like this one appears. The insinuation is often that such studies provide evidence that religious beliefs are untrue or unreasonable. The more intelligent you are, so the logic runs, the better your chances of figuring out the right answers — and the most intelligent folk are those with non-religious answers!
Should Christians be disturbed by such studies? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that these studies are based on reliable data, and that there really is a correlation between intelligence and non-religiosity. Do the studies give evidence that Christian beliefs are epistemically subpar? No, for a number of reasons.
The following is a guest post by my friend Paul Manata, a philosophy student at Calvin College. It’s a response to this recent post on the Tyndale UC Philosophy blog. Paul originally submitted it as a comment on that blog, but for some reason it didn’t appear, and now the comments are closed there. So I invited Paul to post his response here instead.
Previously on Analogical Thoughts:
- In an article co-authored with Greg Welty I argued that if there are laws of logic then there must be a God. A key part of the argument is to explain why propositions should be understood as divine thoughts.
- In a comment on a subsequent post Jeff asked how I would respond to the claim that God doesn’t think propositionally.
- In a comment on my answer Jeff cited (without necessarily endorsing) some remarks to the contrary by Nate Shannon and William Lane Craig. Another commenter, Ray, also mentioned some relevant footnotes in Scott Oliphint’s God With Us.
In this week’s exciting episode, I examine the arguments of Shannon, Oliphint, and Craig. Do they show that God doesn’t think propositionally or that propositions couldn’t be divine thoughts? Does the doctrine of divine simplicity rule out Theistic Conceptual Realism? Should anyone care either way? We’ll be right back with some answers after the following short section break!
In chapter 5 of Politics – According to the Bible, Wayne Grudem explains the US system of government, its “separation of powers”, and the proper role of the judiciary. He goes on to argue that while the system has “worked quite well” for most of the history of the United States, there is a problem that has become increasingly evident and damaging over the last 50 years or so, namely, the judiciary moving beyond its legitimate role of interpreting and applying the law into effectively creating new laws (and without any public accountability).
[T]here was a weakness in the system that the justices on the Supreme Court discovered over time. . . . If a case came to the Supreme Court and the Constitution did not say something that the Supreme Court justices wanted it to say, or thought it should say, they could claim to “discover” new principles in the Constitution, and no one would have power to overrule them. Whenever they thought it was important, they could simply create a new law and call it an “interpretation” of some part of the Constitution, and suddenly it would become the highest law in the land! In this way the Supreme Court justices discovered that they could become the most powerful rulers in the country. (p. 132)
After citing Roe v. Wade as a prime example, Grudem continues:
As the Supreme Court offered more and more decisions of this nature — decisions not grounded in any law that had been passed by any Congress or any state legislature, and that were not part of what the Constitution originally meant — it became, in actual functioning, the highest governing authority in the nation. The justices discovered that they had the freedom to make up new constitutional doctrines whenever they could get a majority of five persons to do so, and they could always claim to “discover” the new doctrine in some vague principle of the Constitution or other. (p. 134)
The Supreme Court . . . not only interprets the law and judges according to the laws, but also makes new laws in the sense of new provisions it claims to find in the Constitution, based on what it thinks is good for the nation. As former Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes said, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judge says it is.” (p. 135)
Grudem proceeds to discuss several other prominent examples of judicial activism before delivering his conclusions about the significance of this political issue:
I believe that the battle for the control of the judicial system is now the single most important issue for the future of the United States. On the one side of this issue are liberal judges who insist that they will continue to make and uphold new laws as they think best, calling them “interpretations” of the Constitution, and also liberal politicians, who are determined to support the actions of these activist judges. . . . On the other side of this issue are those on the more conservative end of the political spectrum, including many judges who have decided that their task is only to interpret and apply the Constitution and the laws of the nation and the states according to the original intent of those documents at the time they were written. (p. 150)
As a non-US citizen and a relative newcomer to American politics, I’m hardly qualified to evaluate the details of Grudem’s argument, although I believe he’s quite right about the illegitimacy of judicial activism and about the rotten fruit it’s bearing in the United States. My purpose in this post is not so much to discuss Grudem’s analysis as to share a simple thought that occurred to me shortly after I read his chapter:
What has happened in the US system of government almost exactly parallels what happened in the government of the Christian church over the course of many centuries, a development that finds its fullest expression in the Roman Catholic Church.