God & Our Choices: Libertarian Free Will, Divine Causal Determinism, Compatibilism

Hello to @Clint and @boabbott and anyone else reading this! This thread is a continuation of a conversation that more recently happened here (and on various other threads on Connect like here), but, of course, is a discussion that has been happening for, literally, ages.

I wanted to give public space for this philosophy-heavy conversation to continue without hijacking another related conversation. Both men have recognised how easily these types of conversations can get heated, I am thankful that they are willing to continue the dialogue with the benefit of the community in mind. If anyone, especially the @Interested_in_Philosophy members, would like to hop in, please keep this respect in mind. :slight_smile:

Bo very kindly wrote:

I tend to stay away from these types of discussions online because the usually devolve into unhelpful bickering. But, I don’t get the sense that Clint wants to argue. I think we both want to have this discussion for the benefit of the RZIM Connect Community, so as long as we’re in agreement with that goal I’m open to it. I gave the last response so, Clint, I’ll defer to you to begin?

The Clint very kindly replied:

I also agree that my intentions are only to help the conversation move in a positive direction for the RZIM community- the last thing I want to do is bicker. I am ultimately concerned with parsing out this conversation for a broader audience to understand the issues. Furthermore, I don’t mind beginning with a response to your post and to pick up from there :smile:

So here we go, friends! :nerd_face:

Clint, I believe, is on the reply about Molinism not being able to escape compatibilism…

If interested, the conversation (Free Will, Determinism, and Foreknowledge (Philosophy Heavy Question)) was of interest to me and in particular the post from @anthony.costello .

Is it possible that God who is love and Sovereign, keeps the world in a state so that the most possible completely free willed humans have the highest amount of possible opportunities to hear and respond to the Gospel? This is what I think Anthony proposes in his post:

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The reason why I think that molinism collapses into compatibilism is not because of an issue with molinism, but because libertarian freedom cannot, as a whole, exist as the entire theory of free will for some significant theological reasons: (1) it inadvertently undercuts the power of the Holy Spirit in salvation since man can naturally accept or reject the gospel without its influence; (2) there are a handful of biblical verses among many that do not support a wholesale libertarian freedom (John 6:44; John 8: 34-36; Rom 3:10-12; 1 Cor. 2:14).

As for DCD, compatibilism avoids DCD entirely because it suggests that it is through man not God that he becomes a slave to himself. Man essentially conditions and imprisons himself through an aspect of freedom he has been given. For the statement: ‘being free to do what you are determine do’ is not quite the compatibilist position. It is being free to do what you will determine yourself to do’. It is not a logical ordering, but a sequential one. Within compatibilism there is an element of both libertarian freedom and determinism. Thus, God must reach down and help rescue the sinner from himself.

Molinism is an attempt to reconcile the sovereignty of God and the free will of man, undergirded by libertarianism, in order to avoid DCD; however, this is unnecessary since man being determined comes not from God, but himself, through his own ability to choose that leads that leads to choices that inevitably confine himself to a prison of his own making.

Regarding God’s omniscience, God knows all the choices that will actually happen not because he knows it, or because he causes everything to happen, but because he knows that humans will confine and determine themselves by their own ability to choose by conditioning their choice.

I am sure this clears up some of the clutter, but I am also sure it will also raise a lot of interesting discussion. If I have missed anything please from the prior conversation please let me know :face_with_monocle:

Blessings!

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@clint, I think I need to clarify three points. First, the entirety of Scripture is explicitly quiet on the mechanism of our choices. Indeed, there are many points in Scripture that imply certain ideas, but no passage explicitly states, ‘this is how it works,’ which is why this debate has continued for centuries. In noting this, I think the verses you cite against LFW do not have anything to say for or against LFW because they do not refer to the mechanism by things occur. The verses state what is, not how they become so. Moreover, in the broader context of the passages we see that this isn’t an issue the writer sought to engage. Each passage referenced has an LFW interpretation that falls within Christian orthodoxy, so I don’t think that the 2 theological issues you raise show that LFW cannot exist.

Second, by LFW, the Molinist means that one can choose/not choose free from coercion. This is the main driver in the libertarian portion of the name. For if a person is coerced by God, then God becomes the efficient cause and we fall into DCD – a position we both want to avoid.

Point 2 leads me to my question regarding your 2nd paragraph. You say,

“… compatibilism avoids DCD entirely because it suggests that it is through man, not God, that he becomes a slave to himself. Man essentially conditions and imprisons himself through an aspect of freedom he has been given. For the statement: ‘being free to do what you are determined do’ is not quite the compatibilist position. It is ‘being free to do what you will determine yourself to do’ .”

You also say in the following paragraph,

Molinism is an attempt to reconcile the sovereignty of God and the free will of man, undergirded by libertarianism, in order to avoid DCD; however, this is unnecessary since man being determined comes not from God, but himself, through his own ability to choose that leads that leads to choices that inevitably confine himself to a prison of his own making.”

I may be misunderstanding your position, but does it allow for people to make choices free from divine coercion? If so, this sounds as if it is affirming LFW. However, I don’t see how it provides a basis for which God has sovereignty. What is the mechanism that provides for divine sovereignty in Compatibilism? Additionally, we’re not seeking a soteriology so I don’t think that ‘man confining himself to a prison of his own making’ or ‘becoming a slave to himself’ is pertinent to this discussion.

Third, the crux of the matter is this: we need two mechanisms – one to provide grounding for human free choice and one to provide for God’s sovereignty that can integrate with one another and adhere to the Law of Non-Contradiction.

In Molinism, the mechanism that affirms human free will is LFW and the mechanism that grounds God’s sovereignty is Middle Knowledge. MK, to repeat from prior posts for those unable to access them, is God’s knowledge of everything that WOULD happen in any given freedom permitting situation. For example, God knew what you WOULD choose to do if you were the President of the United States in 1861 but your choices would not have brought about God’s plans so He did not place you in the 1860s but put you here instead. To integrate LFW with MK God, with the knowledge of how ALL humans WOULD choose in every possible circumstance, orders the world in such a way that His purposes are accomplished by the LFW choices humans make and creates the world. This seems to provide a solution for the problem we face in that we have grounds for free will and God’s sovereignty that don’t contradict each other. In LFW people are free and through MK God is sovereign and not the efficient cause of human actions so DCD is avoided.

Lastly, to summarize my questions: 1) what is the mechanism that allows for human free will in Compatibilism? You seem to endorse some form of free will that comes across, to me, as LFW. However, in the first paragraph of your last post, you deny LFW, so I must not understand the position well enough. 2) What is the mechanism that allows for divine sovereignty? I don’t think we’ve discussed it thus far in our interaction and I’m curious to hear your view. 3) How do the two mechanisms integrate so they don’t contradict one another and keep God from becoming the efficient cause?

Looking forward to more discussion! :slight_smile:

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Hey Bo, I appreciate your clarifications, and so let’s go a little bit deeper into them. When you say that the entirety of scripture is explicitly quiet on the actual mechanism of our choices I do not doubt that. However, the implication suggested by the scripture is that there is a mechanism going on that cannot be sustained by the LFW model without modification- given LFW as you have classified under Molinism:

“by LFW, the Molinist means that one can choose/not choose free from coercion. This is the main driver in the libertarian portion of the name. For if a person is coerced by God, then God becomes the efficient cause and we fall into DCD – a position we both want to avoid.”

You believe that if a person is coerced by God then we will fall back into DCD, and as I have stated before I definitely agree with you; but coercion is not the only option by which God can utilize. For example, in John 6:44 we can make the important distinction between coercion and attraction as in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges states: “The word does not necessarily imply force, still less irresistible force, but merely attraction of some kind, some inducement to come.” This suggests that whatever mechanisms that are involved must also involve the external influence of God.

In other words, what LFW is suggesting is that one can choose/not choose free from any kind outside influence, but this unintentionally severs the influence (whatever kind that is) of God and the Holy Spirit upon man to make a choice for salvation. The issue I just raised is not about salvation, but an example to simply show that if man cannot even make a single choice without the influence of God (since man has the ability to choose free from external influence), then LFW is incapable of being the sum total theory of free will since the counterexample undermines the whole model without some sort of modification to compensate (which is what compatibilism does by retaining some elements of LFW).

The LFW position must show biblically that the human person has the ability to make a choice without outside influence. The insuperable problem rests on this: If man has the ability to choose without any external influence, then he can choose to accept the Gospel without ever hearing about it; and the Bible is very explicit about how one comes to accept it.

“I may be misunderstanding your position, but does it allow for people to make choices free from divine coercion? If so, this sounds as if it is affirming LFW. However, I don’t see how it provides a basis for which God has sovereignty. What is the mechanism that provides for divine sovereignty in Compatibilism? Additionally, we’re not seeking a soteriology so I don’t think that ‘man confining himself to a prison of his own making’ or ‘becoming a slave to himself’ is pertinent to this discussion.”

Furthermore, since we have established that the biblical text is not asserting a coercion of any kind, compatibilism is free from this charge. Compatibilism does not need to establish a basis for God’s sovereignty, rather it is the other way around. Does God’s sovereignty and providence logically work with compatibilism, and I believe it does because there would have to be a demonstrated logical contradiction that would challenge both of those attributes of God as a result of compatibilism.

Third, the crux of the matter is this: we need two mechanisms – one to provide grounding for human free choice and one to provide for God’s sovereignty that can integrate with one another and adhere to the Law of Non-Contradiction.

I am not sure this is such an issue. It is typically thought that there is some difficulty with the sovereignty of God and man’s free will, but I would like you to elaborate more on this to help me understand what exactly the issue is because I cannot see it.

Also, I appreciate your willingness to have this discussion. I hope the community can benefit from it and bring this conversation into a positive light :smiley:

Blessings,
Clint

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@clint, I also appreciate this conversation. Not many are willing to discuss on a cordial level, so big props to you!

I think we may be using the same word with different dictionaries. I used the word ‘coercion’ because that’s what’s commonly used in the literature. However, I agree it can sound like a person is never influenced in his or her decision making. The point that’s trying to be communicated is that the choice is really up to the person and no one else. LFW isn’t saying that people are not influenced by outside parties because we are. I mean look at the bombardment of advertising we are hit with daily, but despite all the influences – the choice is ultimately up to the individual. So, as a Molinist, I can and do happily agree that God draws a person to Himself and shows Himself to be attractive, but the final decision rests on the shoulders of the individual. And, I think this submits to the Scriptures because it, the Bible, is silent on the efficient cause of our choices. LFW is sort of like other doctrines we hold to, like the Trinity or Inerrancy, that aren’t in the Bible but makes sense of what’s written.

Regarding my statement that I called the crux of the matter, this is what I’m saying: If we were to build a system from scratch that dealt with the issue of free will and divine sovereignty, what would we need? I think we would need a component that accounts for human choice, a component that accounts for God’s sovereignty, and we would need to make sure that there is a coherence to them – aka one component wouldn’t contradict the other. Molinism does this through LFW and MK. What I’m asking is how does Compatibilism do this? From our conversation thus far, I understand Compatibilism holds to some sort of free will to account for human choices, but I don’t know how it provides a justification or explanation for God’s sovereignty. Compatibilism seems to assert divine sovereignty, which we both agree exists, without providing how God is sovereign. Is God sovereign by ordering the world like he does under Molinism, or is he more hands on like Islam is where everything that happens is Allah’s will and Allah’s cause, or is He sovereign by another alternative? Having a clearer picture of what Compatibilism says for each needed component would make it much easier for me to see how they cohere with one another.

Thoughts?

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Yes, I do agree with you that we want to retain the person as being the efficient cause of their choice in order to avoid DCD. I think I can sum up the issue I have with this discussion in this way:

If God knows all ‘possible’ outcomes and also knows the ‘actual’ outcome, how does it address how man can be free to choose between what is possible with what is actual; since, through God’s foreknowledge, even though man is able to choose the possible he will not, according to the actual reality that God actually knows.

LFW addresses that man is possible to choose between choices, which I agree with, but it wholeheartedly misses the other component of the theological equation; that man can only choose the ‘actual’ reality that God knows since the possible will not be actual because if it was actual then it could not have even been possible from God’s perspective.

Our conversation is not about just possible and actual states of affairs, it is about God’s necessary knowledge of what is actual apart from what is possible. Molinism through its foundation of LFW appears to not be able to account for God’s necessary knowledge of man’s choice, it just accounts for what is possible and what is actual to retain man’s freedom from DCD, but this misses the crucial aspect of necessary knowledge; that is, that man will not do the possible, but only the actual- meaning that God knows the exact route you will take despite all the other possible routes. This necessary actuality needs to be accounted for because it appears to rest on a contradiction that, from God’s perspective, what is possible and what is actual is one and the same thing- An insuperable contradiction within the knowledge of God. Thus, Molinism guided by LFW does not appear to logically work given God’s knowledge. It impugns his omniscience.

Molinism through compatibilism retains everything that LFW wants except it does not claim that God holds a contradiction of what is possible and what is actual within himself. Instead, it establishes that man can only choose from what he desires the most (from which he conditions himself for future choices), absent any outside conditions from ‘reconditioning’ those prior choices.

Since man ‘determines’ himself through his conditioning of actual choices, there is no need to reconcile or justify any issue between God and Man under this framework, there isn’t any issue, especially adopting a Molinist Compatibilism (there are also DCD Molinists)- that problem you are talking about only arises from the claim that God determines man. So my contention asserts that Molinism inevitably collapse into compatibilism because God cannot hold a logical contradiction within himself that LFW inadvertently offers to Molinism; that is, in God’s mind that what is an actual state of affairs is also a possible state of affairs and vice versa.

This is why I think a compatibilist molinism is the best version between LFW and DCD versions. I am curious as to what you think given what has been laid out. I hope you have a good weekend :slight_smile:

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@Clint and @boabbott, first off, I want to thank yall for the civility of this discussion thus far – and by the moderator’s comments earlier, the discussion previous. These days, we’re so easy to move beyond “iron sharpening iron” and allowing the experience to… well… kick out sparks unnecessarily :stuck_out_tongue: I’d like to interject, if you’ll permit, and ask your pardon in advance for any misunderstanding on my part.

As long as I’ve been studying scripture, I’ve been unable to agree with the premise of DCD. Put simply, God wouldn’t say “whosoever” unless He MEANT “whosoever”. To my mind, Calvary is where He, through Christ, put Himself at the mercy of His creation, in order that He might SHOW mercy TO His creation. It would be inconsistent, then, if He didn’t extend that demonstration – and offer of mercy – to ALL of His creation. For this reason, I’ve always felt that DCD sidelines LFW, and so I shy away from Calvinism. On the flipside, I’ve never felt entirely comfortable with Arminianism, because it seems to sideline sovereignty in the same way that Calvinism sidelines LFW.

As an amateur philosopher, I thought that Molinism offered a nice bridge between Arminianism and Calvinism, recognizing both the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. So for a number of years, I’ve identified as a Molinist, even though I don’t have “that” strong a grip on MK and the like. The thing is, the longer I go, the more I find Molinism to be as potentially inconsistent as Calvinism and Arminianism, as MK seems to attempt passively what DCD claims to do actively. Rather than manipulating man into complying with God’s Will, MK would argue that God manipulates the non-free-will aspects of life so as to make compliance to God’s Will the path of least resistance.

My base problem, I guess, is that ALL of the above describe God’s sovereignty as something that He MUST exercise. If God IS in charge, then He MUST be in charge. This leaves little room for permission – for God having complete sovereignty, but intentionally CEDING sovereignty in part, in order to permit man to have sovereignty over himself.

This is a dynamic that I think plays very well with scripture. After all, Paul gives us the inverse of this, where he argues that we must “die to ourselves daily”, recognizing that we DO have sovereignty over ourselves (given to us by God, as I just said), but that we must intentionally and continually CEDE that sovereignty to God. This frames salvation as a circular relationship, continuously starting with God but continuously received and reciprocated by us.

What I’ve described stands in contrast to Calvinism, of course, but I also think it stands in contrast with Arminianism, in that man complete a cycle that God has not started. We can’t accept something that hasn’t been offered. We cannot react to something that has not been initiated. To a lesser extent, I think that this might stand in contrast to Molinism, as Molinism still creates a situation where God presents His offer in such a way as to guarantee acceptance in particular people.

So I guess my question is this – the view that I currently hold to doesn’t seem to fall neatly into any of the usual -isms. Do I simply misunderstand them, or is my view actually different from all of the above?

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@nashdude Hey, I appreciate the interjection :slight_smile: , and I am glad you contemplating about these issues as there is much to consider. Let me just say real quickly that you have still hold to a form of Molinism even if you believe in determinism or not. In the soft sense, Molinism isn’t necessarily tied to one side or the other; however, the Molinism that Luis De Molina crafted around the 16th century will be tied to a libertarian free will. Perhaps what you are finding is the subtle difficulties between the two extremes of determinism and libertarian free will in light of who God is. I am contending that Molinism under a compatibilist foundation is the only position that does not impugn God’s omniscience. If you are not familiar with compatibilism, maybe that is the puzzle piece you are missing to your train of thought regarding your concerns in these areas and others like it?

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Quite possibly. I’ll admit that I haven’t studied compatibilism as deeply as I could. Still, in my mind, compatibilism has the tendency to become deterministic in that God creating specific circumstances with the intention of seeing specific outcomes “freely” chosen ultimately boils down to God subverting free will rather than actually permitting it.

Think of it in terms of a “spiritual Aikido”, where God uses the momentum of one’s choice to His advantage.

In the actual martial art, Aikido’s overarching posture is reactive rather than proactive. For an adherent, the ultimate goal of a fight is to STOP the fight, not to hurt the fighter. So when an attacker throws a strike, the adherent “turns” the attacker’s momentum so that the strike goes where the adherent wants it to rather than where the attacker wants it to. We see Christian parallels for this in Genesis 50:20 (“What you intended for evil, God intended for good”) and Romans 8:28 (“All things work together for good to those who love God…”).

Now, actor Steven Seagal is a master at Aikido, and often uses the discipline in his movies… but he uses it aggressively. And I’d argue, inconsistently. You’ll often find that when Seagal is in a fight, he’ll grab an opponent and pull him forward, CREATING momentum that the opponent did not initiate, in order to use that momentum against them. I find no Christian parallels for this in scripture, but maybe I’ve simply missed them.

In my (albeit unlearned) opinion, scripture paints God as being both sovereign and omniscient, but foregoing His sovereignty to permit His creation’s sovereignty (a la, placing the Tree in the Garden and commanding Adam to not partake, but allowing for the possibility), and foregoing His omniscience by modeling His creation’s limited knowledge (a la, “If there be any way, let this cup pass”). God and man are necessarily on an unlevel playing field, but scripture paints God as intentionally leveling the playing field by offering His love to a rebellious creation from a position of intentional restraint on His part, rather than the position of advantage that He naturally and rightfully has.

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I would definately look into it since the compatibilism I am suggesting does not support a full blown determinism, let alone one that is even remotely caused by God. So the aikido illustration would not apply between man and God given this particular situation. :blush:

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@clint, you asked me what I think regarding what you laid out, and at the risk of sounding cheeky, I think you’ve laid out 100% Molinism! Let me give a few comments on your last post so show why I think so:

If God knows all ‘possible’ outcomes and also knows the ‘actual’ outcome, how does it address how man can be free to choose between what is possible with what is actual; since, through God’s foreknowledge, even though man is able to choose the possible he will not, according to the actual reality that God actually knows.

Recall, in an earlier post I showed how knowing and causing are two different things through the example of my wife choosing a vacation destination. God causing individuals to do/not do things is what we’re trying to avoid, not Him knowing what we will choose. The only way for escape God knowing our choices is for him to not be omniscient or to not exist – neither are orthodox Christianity.

LFW addresses that man is possible to choose between choices, which I agree with, but it wholeheartedly misses the other component of the theological equation; that man can only choose the ‘actual’ reality that God knows since the possible will not be actual because if it was actual then it could not have even been possible from God’s perspective.

Well, assuming you’re meaning ‘God knows’ is equal to ‘God causes’ like the prior paragraph, this is almost like the characterization of Compatibilism I gave in a previous post, “You are free to choose what God has determined you to do.” However, you rejected that summary and replaced it with another, ‘being free to do what you will determine yourself to do.’ Your summary would be more consistent by replacing, “ man can only choose the ‘actual’ reality that God knows since the possible will not become actual… ’ with “man can choose otherwise, but will only choose what God knows he WILL choose (taking knowing and causing not to be synonymous here).” This is the Molinist position.

Our conversation is not about just possible and actual states of affairs, it is about God’s necessary knowledge of what is actual apart from what is possible.

Correct, we are seeking how man can be free while God is simultaneously sovereign without contradiction.

Molinism through its foundation of LFW appears to not be able to account for God’s necessary knowledge of man’s choice, it just accounts for what is possible and what is actual to retain man’s freedom from DCD…

Although not through LFW, Molinism does account for God’s necessary knowledge of man’s free choice. MK accounts for what man WOULD choose (possible), but through foreknowledge, also a component of Molinism, God knows what man WILL choose (actual). Molinism addresses possible choices and actual choices as two separate issues

but this misses the crucial aspect of necessary knowledge; that is, that man will not do the possible, but only the actual- meaning that God knows the exact route you will take despite all the other possible routes.

Molinism agrees. God does know the exact route you will take despite all other options. It would be silly for one to try to affirm that man can choose to both sit and not sit at the same time.

This necessary actuality needs to be accounted for because it appears to rest on a contradiction that, from God’s perspective, what is possible and what is actual is one and the same thing- An insuperable contradiction within the knowledge of God. Thus, Molinism guided by LFW does not appear to logically work given God’s knowledge. It impugns his omniscience.

Molinism would agree here, too. Actual and possible are not one in the same thing, and thereby would not be beholden this accusation.

Molinism through compatibilism retains everything that LFW wants except it does not claim that God holds a contradiction of what is possible and what is actual within himself. Instead, it establishes that man can only choose from what he desires the most (from which he conditions himself for future choices), absent any outside conditions from ‘reconditioning’ those prior choices.

Molinism would affirm what you have affirmed in this paragraph and reject what you have rejected yet using different words .

Since man ‘determines’ himself through his conditioning of actual choices, there is no need to reconcile or justify any issue between God and Man under this framework, there isn’t any issue, especially adopting a Molinist Compatibilism (there are also DCD Molinists)- that problem you are talking about only arises from the claim that God determines man. So my contention asserts that Molinism inevitably collapse into compatibilism because God cannot hold a logical contradiction within himself that LFW inadvertently offers to Molinism; that is, in God’s mind that what is an actual state of affairs is also a possible state of affairs and vice versa.

I think we’ve shown this accusation, actual vs possible states of affairs contradiction, to not hold merit. Rather than Molinism collapsing, I think it’s standing firm and maybe what you are describing.

This does lead me to two further questions. First, I still don’t know how Compatibilism justifies divine sovereignty. The view that you have supported so far has asserted that God is sovereign without explaining how He is sovereign – a main portion of this discussion. From what I’ve gathered you don’t think there’s a need for explanation or you implicitly agree with Molinism’s handling of the issue. If there’s not a basis for God’s sovereignty, one could take your view and say it’s like Open Theism, particularly the version endorsed by Greg Boyd. So, again, how does God accomplish his purposes under your view of Compatibilism?

Secondly, you are the first person I’ve encountered that holds to ‘Molinist Compatibilism.’ I’ve been looking for more on this view, but I only find articles that hold to the juxtapositions of Molinism and Compatibilism. Could you send some articles or other links to help me better understand? Because, if I may be frank, if there aren’t other articles and literature on Molinist Compatibilism, I think you may have created your own view (which is fine) or, perhaps as my gut is telling me, you are a Molinist but don’t call yourself so because of a few misgivings of Molinism. Please forgive me if I’m wrong or have shown myself to be unfit to run a Google search.

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@boabbott Yes, you are right- it wasn’t that Molinism was collapsing but rather LFW collapsing into compatibilism through Molinism. I apologize for this lack of clarity as I am arguing for a compatibilist Molinism. However, I am not aware of you reconciling how God, through LFW’s version of Molinism, can know that possible affairs are also actual simultaneously while actual states of affairs are possible under God’s omniscience since he knows ‘necessarily’ what will happen.

There is no need to reconcile a molinist/compatibilism with God’s sovereignty because there is nothing that obstruct this relationship. The whole enterprise of figuring out the relationship between God and Man’s free will was due to the paradox between the two given God’s knowledge. Without needing to defend it any further, I can appeal to Molinism to satisfy it in the same way that you do. Although, I don’t think it is even necessary to appeal to even that since compatibilism alone does not jeopardize either God’s sovereignty or man’s freedom and their interrelationship. You would have to show that outside of molinism that compatibilism violates this relationship somehow, but it wouldn’t even matter since my compatibilism is contained within Molinism. The fundamental basis for God’s sovereignty is in my scriptural position regarding the biblical witness and I do not fall into an Open Theism which denies one of his key attributes. So, in a nutshell, Molinism works for my compatibilism.

To your second point, you may be right on me constructing my own view as I am not familiar with too many Molinist compatibilists. I find those two concepts to be mutually powerful together. I wish I could give you some literature but I don’t have any recommendations. Perhaps we can work through this together?

The biggest problem right now for standard Molinism with LFW is the inherent contradiction in God’s knowledge. This must be overcome for any justification for a LFW Molinism, and the only way I can see a remote possibility for reconciling this justification is to posit a multiverse, which though it satisfies the charge, it burdens itself with possibly much more than it can sustain.

I apologize again for not clarifying from the start that I was operating under a Molinist compatibilism :face_with_monocle:

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@clint, thanks for being patient for this response. It’s been one heck of a week on this end.

I do have a few thoughts and comments regarding your alleged ‘inherent contradiction in God’s knowledge.’ First, I’m not sure I’m understanding the working definition of omniscience that you are using. I’m operating with the common definition of, ‘for any true proposition, P, God knows P and does not believe not-P.’ Plus appropriate self-knowledge (I am God, he is Clint, she is Whitney Houston, etc). So for our purposes here, we both know that actual and potential states are not the same thing, and God knows as well so he does not hold to that view; God does not believe not-P, where P is, Potential states and actual states are not the same thing. Molinism isn’t making the claim that they are the same thing nor does LFW lead to that conclusion. LFW simply states that mankind makes choices freely without outside causation. Potential states and actual states come from Molinism’s handling of MK and foreknowledge, and I think that’s were the majority of your hang up comes from.

Second, on Molinism God has his middle knowledge logically prior to his decree to actualize the world. Then, once he sets things in motion God’s foreknowledge takes over and he knows what will actually happen. (Side note, William Lane Craig gives a fantastic lecture over this in his Defender’s class series 2, I can look it up if it interests you). So it’s not the case that possible affairs are also actual affairs, rather it’s that God knows the possible states and then they become actual states that He knows (and also foreknows). Certainly, God can recall possibilities, however, to think that he conflates them to be actual states is nonsense, as you and I both agree. I think this address the heart of your objection, no?

Third, when you say, “ The whole enterprise of figuring out the relationship between God and Man’s free will was due to the paradox between the two given God’s knowledge. ” I think I disagree here. Remember, knowledge does not mean causation. What creates the potential conflict is HOW God brings about actual states of affairs. This is why I keep asking, on your view, HOW is God sovereign/HOW does he bring about actual states of affairs? I don’t think it’s sufficient to say, “ There is no need to reconcile a molinist/compatibilism with God’s sovereignty because there is nothing that obstruct this relationship” and “ The fundamental basis for God’s sovereignty is in my scriptural position regarding the biblical witness… ” All attempts reconcile this problem hold to this, but each provide different solutions as to HOW God brings about actual states. Molinism, Calvinism, Arminianism, Thomism, Open Theism, etc all claim to have Scriptural basis for the positions they take, but when we press into each solution, we see that some have more merit than others. So, if you are creating your own view, how does God bring about actual states of affairs?

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@boabbott Hey, I understand life happens. I also appreciate you clarifying that the contradiction doesn’t exist between LFW and Molinism since God does not, in fact, hold to the possible and actual as being one and the same. I thought this is what a LFW Molinism was trying to say since it does not account for God’s necessary knowledge of what you will actually do when it does through Molinism’s handling of MK and Foreknowledge as you mentioned. So I think this clears up a lot.

As for as for how God brings about his plan I would naturally follow a molinist response to the question of free will and God’s sovereignty but with the caveat of compatibilism instead of LFW.

Brothers,

Appreciate the deep dive (over my head) into this topic. But, it seems to me that one component piece is looking at determinism within the created system for a definition of God’s determinism. What I cannot see is how an all-knowing God could be anything but deterministic. If any outcome is prearranged for the system, which it is I believe, then the system is determined. With perfect knowledge, regardless of how one wants to parse it, God created. And, He did so knowing that people would go to hell. At the moment that our all-knowing and all-powerful God willed a creation that contained people that would end up in different places He was deterministic regarding them - He couldn’t have been otherwise, could He? The creative act itself that made a system that had different outcomes for its components while accomplishing its ultimate purpose must be deterministic from God’s perspective, doesn’t it? As I have considered this, I believe it is fair to state a position that God could have created a world in which people fell away for a time but all came to know Him in the end and that could still accommodate varying arguments for man’s free will. But, He didn’t do that. He created people He knew would end up in hell.

So, it seems to me that the hinge of the argument is trying to answer the question, “how could God have people end up in eternal hell and not be evil? (If we, His creatures did that, wouldn’t He judge us for it?)”. From my perspective of a system-required God determinism, then it leads me to consider man’s part. Is He a participant in double determination by which the necessary determination of God required for differentiated creation is matched with man’s self-determination within the system to end up at the same place, so that every man is without excuse (self-confirmation of God’s determination)? But, however I consider this issue, I am still struggling to find a reasonable proposition for how a completely good (by nature) God that desires that no man should perish could create a determined system and not own some questions that could cause a redefinition of “good”. A possible solution I am thinking through is a hybrid in which God limits Himself in some way, like The Son did as He emptied Himself to take on the form of a servant, so He could die. But, I am early in chewing on this.

Anyway, sorry to be a distraction! But, it seems you gentlemen have spent much time and thought and study on this, so I’d love your comments.

Kevin