What About Free Will?

imageI ’m currently reading a book called “What about Free Will?: Reconciling Our Choices with God’s Sovereignty” by Scott Christensen. In the book,

“Christensen explains two views that acknowledge God’s sovereignty and its relation to human responsibility: compatibilism and libertarianism. Providing cogent, biblical answers, Christensen argues for compatibilism and shows how it makes sense of evil, suffering, prayer, evangelism, and sanctification. You will gain a deeper understanding of both arguments, as well as a greater appreciation for the significant role that choices play in God’s work.” – Amazon summary

The book explains a lot of what I’ve already come to believe from the text of scripture in ways that are easily understood. Whether you are already a compatibilist, libertarian,  somewhere in between (not sure how that works), or don’t know even  what those terms mean, It’s a great read.

I’m over half-way through the book and decided not to wait to recommend it as a great read! The Amazon.com link is here.

 

11 responses to “What About Free Will?

  1. This looks like an interesting book, Dan. Anyone studying this topic is surely moving about in deep waters as I think it is one of the most interesting and divisive subjects in Christian theology. I think it should be one of the most interesting and it probably should be divisive. However, some blogs seem to make this the only subject. In many cases the discussion becomes heated and harsh words are “spoken.” Harsh words are sometimes necessary (look how Jesus spoke to the Pharisees) but in most cases, in my opinion, when theologians start with harsh words on this subject the discussion is over.

    Again, thank you for the recommendation. Anyone who can’t afford this recommended book by you can find out a lot about these positions by simply looking for them on the internet.

    I’m sure Scott Christensen’s book is unique and I am curious. I’m in the middle of something else at the moment and there is always the budget but maybe I’ll have a chance to order this some day.

    God’s blessings…

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      • Amen. You are where I am I think, Dan. It is a mystery of God in the end. It is a mystery that we have the privilege of studying. I have looked at most sides of this issue, I think. The challenge is to be Biblical. I know that is your goal as well as mine.
        An intellectual recently shared his views with me. I bought a book he recommended and I’ve read enough of it to see it is interesting but it is just another man’s view with some good points. I may get a chance to finish the book someday. It is around here somewhere.
        I had heard of but wasn’t that familiar with Molinism.
        “Molinism is an attempt to provide a solution to the classic philosophical problems associated with God’s providence, foreknowledge and the freedom of humanity. This view may be traced to the 16th century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina – hence, the name Molinism. Specifically, it seeks to maintain a strong view of God’s sovereignty over creation while at the same time preserving the belief that human beings have self-determined freedom, or libertarian free will.”
        http://www.theopedia.com/molinism
        I’m sure I haven’t heard of every view on this topic. It is good to learn how others view what the Bible teaches. It makes you think.

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        • Apologist William Lane Craig is probably the most well known Molinist today but I doubt most who like his apologetic have dealt with Molinism or God’s ‘middle knowledge’. Gotquestions.com has a good summary.

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          • I’ve watched a few of William Lane Craig’s debates and he does quite well in representing the Christian faith in general. I am familiar with the term “middle knowledge.” I know I’ve read about it in the past but I honestly don’t remember what it means. Maybe I’ll have a chance to check Gotquestions.com.

            Thanks for the assist, Dan. 🙂

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            • Question: “What is Molinism and is it biblical?”

              Answer: Molinism is named for the 16th-century Jesuit, Luis de Molina. Molinism is a system of thought that seeks to reconcile the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. The heart of Molinism is the principle that God is completely sovereign and man is also free in a libertarian sense. Molinism partly seeks to avoid so-called “theological fatalism”: the view that God decrees who will be saved or damned without any meaningful impact of their own free choice. Today’s highest-profile defenders of Molinism are William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga.

              The primary distinctive of Molinism is the affirmation that God has middle knowledge (scientia media). Molinism holds that God’s knowledge consists of three logical moments. These “moments” of knowledge are not to be thought of as chronological; rather, they are to be understood as “logical.” In other words, one moment does not come before another moment in time; instead, one moment is logically prior to the other moments. The Molinist differentiates between three different moments of knowledge which are respectively called natural knowledge, middle knowledge and free knowledge.

              1. Natural Knowledge – This is God’s knowledge of all necessary and all possible truths: all things which “can be.” In this “moment” God knows every possible combination of causes and effects. He also knows all the truths of logic and all moral truths. This knowledge is independent of God’s will, a point few if any theologians would dispute.

              2. Middle Knowledge – This is God’s knowledge of what a free creature would do in any given circumstance: all things which “may be.” This knowledge is what philosophers call counterfactuals. This knowledge, like natural knowledge, is independent of God’s will.

              3. Creative command – this is the “moment” where God actually acts. Between His knowledge of all that is or could be, and all that actually comes to be, is God’s purposeful intervention and creation.

              4. Free Knowledge – This is God’s knowledge of what He decided to create: all things that “actually are.” God’s free knowledge is His knowledge of the actual world as it is. This knowledge is completely dependent on God’s will.

              Using middle knowledge, Molinism attempts to show that all of God’s knowledge is self-contained, but it is ordered so as to allow for the possibility of man’s free will. In other words, man is completely free, but God is also completely sovereign—He is absolutely in control of all that happens, and yet humanity’s choices are not coerced.

              According to Molinism, God omnisciently knows what you would have been like had you lived in Africa instead of Australia, or had a car accident that paralyzed you at age 9. He knows how the world would have been changed had John F. Kennedy not been assassinated. More importantly, He knows who would choose to be saved and who would not, in each of those varying circumstances.

              Accordingly, it is out of this (middle) knowledge that God chooses to create. God has middle knowledge of all feasible worlds, and He chooses to create the world that corresponds to His ultimate desires. Therefore, while a person is truly free, God is truly in control of who is or is not saved. Molinists differ on how God defines His underlying desires. For example, some believe God is seeking the maximum number of people to be saved. Others believe God creates in order to maximize some other divine goal.

              Is Molinism biblical?

              Molinists point to various texts to establish that God has “middle knowledge.” For example, Matthew 11:21–24 where Jesus denounces Chorazin and Bethsaida. Here, Jesus tells those cities that “if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” This type of “if-then” is an example of divine knowledge of what would happen given a different set of circumstances. As such, Molinism sees this verse as evidence that the doctrine of middle knowledge is true.

              Strictly speaking, Molinism is a view that cannot be rebutted or defended wholly on biblical grounds. The same is true of other philosophical-theological systems such as Calvinism or Arminianism. Middle knowledge is a philosophical concept that attempts to uphold both the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. At the same time, it can be evaluated on multiple levels, including biblically and philosophically.

              Molinism is often criticized by both Calvinists and Arminians. Calvinists claim that holding to human free will denies God’s absolute sovereignty. Arminians claim that, if God is in control of who is or is not saved, then free will is merely an illusion. Molinists would argue that both sovereignty and free will are biblically represented and real, and that middle knowledge allows both a God who is completely in control and a humanity who is completely free.

              Not all people feel Molinism is the best way to think about God’s sovereignty and human free will. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all things (Proverbs 16:33; Matthew 10:29; Romans 11:36; Ephesians 1:11), even human decisions (Proverbs 20:24; 21:1). Although God does not stir men to sin (James 1:13), He is still working everything, from individuals to nations, to the end that He has willed (Isaiah 46:10–11). God’s purposes do not depend upon man (Acts 17:24–26). Nor does God discover or learn (1 John 3:20; Job 34:21–22; Psalm 50:11; Proverbs 15:3). All things are decreed by God’s infinitely wise counsel (Romans 11:33–36).

              That being said, it should be noted that Molinism would agree with everything said in the above paragraph. It is not on this level where Calvinists and Molinists disagree. Where Calvinism, Arminianism, and Molinism disagree most is in interpreting doctrines such as total depravity and limited atonement, in light of these other ideas.

              Recommended Resource: Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach by Kenneth Keathley and The Potter’s Freedom by James White

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              • Thank you for the summary, Dan. 🙂

                “Middle knowledge is a philosophical concept that attempts to uphold both the sovereignty of God and the free will of man.”

                I did remember this much. The rest is review for me.

                The quotation seems to be a more objective view than the book I have as it argues in favor of Molinism.

                “Molinism holds that God’s knowledge consists of three logical moment.These ‘moments’ of knowledge are not to be thought of as chronological; rather, they are to be understood as ‘logical.'”

                I can understand why this position appeals to a man like William Lane Craig who is very logical in his arguments. At the same time, there are things in the Bible that defy logic, at least as we see them now. There are things that can’t be explained perfectly. We can try to explain them and I think it is admirable to do so. I think a study on this topic leads to knowledge in other areas.

                Again, thank you Dan. This has been a brief refresher course for me.

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              • I will stand firmly on the complete sovereignty of God in the salvation of men and the responsibility of man to believe. They are both clearly taught in scripture.I think it was Spurgeon who once said “You don’t have to reconcile friends.” William Lane Craig’s approach assumes ‘libertarian’ free will, which I find nowhere in scripture.

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