July 6, 2020

The Council

A modern day council!

Michael Jones recently was interviewed by Braxton Hunter and Johnathan Prichett. It was an interview styled like MSNBC interviewing Obama. You have to wonder if Hunter and Prichett even have arms with the softballs they threw for Jones. 

They start off by attacking fundamentalist anti-intellectualism. While that has its merits, it is quite evident that these people are culpable of what is being charged with them. Their taking philosophical speculations and straining Christianity through that. They try to rebut that by stating that Christianity requires philosophical assumptions. That our exegetical method has philosophical assumptions. But that is superficial because we distinguish between good and bad philosophical assumptions. I use to dialogue with a man that believed he didn’t need the Bible because he had the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit that was the basis of all his theological convictions. I’m sure that they wouldn’t grant Richard Carriers philosophical assumptions just because we all have some.

Now, since this is an SB Traditionalist show, they had to mention the Calvinism issue. They asked him how determinism doesn’t follow if the world is merely the product of divine thinking? He said “Molinism”. They instantly accepted that without question because they obviously haven’t thought about it very hard. What is Molinism? It is obviously a theory about how to reconcile God’s sovereignty and human freedom. But how does it try to do so? Well, it does it by positing a third logical moment in God’s knowledge where he chooses from the feasible worlds the one world where he achieves his ends. This moment of knowledge is between God’s natural and free knowledge:

In thinking about God’s knowledge theologically it was customary for many years, until and including the Reformation, to distinguish between God’s necessary knowledge and His free knowledge. The distinction is obvious and natural. God’s necessary knowledge includes several kinds of truths. It is the knowledge of matters such as the truths of mathematics (for example, 2+2=4). It is also the knowledge of truths such as the whole is greater than the part and no circle can be a square. God’s necessary knowledge also includes His knowledge of all possibilities, such as possible people, the possible lives they could lead, and the whole range of possible worlds. These are known to God immediately and intuitively.

God’s free knowledge, on the other hand, is His knowledge of His decree (of that which, in His wisdom, God freely and unchangeably ordained to come to pass). That which God decrees is obviously a subset of all the possibilities that are known to Him. His decree also has its source solely in His mind and will. …

What is middle knowledge? At the center of this recent interest has been God’s knowledge of possibilities involving human choice (the ‘counterfactuals of freedom’ as they have been called). Why this innovation? Its proponents are concerned to preserve what they consider to be two vital beliefs. The first is God’s providence and total foreknowledge. The second is the idea that human beings are ineradicably free in an indeterministic sense. When we speak of indeterministic freedom, we mean that any human being, in a given set of circumstances, has the power to choose A or to choose not-A. The problem is obvious. How can this be consistent with God’s universal providential rule and his purposes of redemption?

The Molinists’ way of attempting to keep all this together was to suggest that there existed, besides God’s natural knowledge and his free knowledge, a third kind of knowledge. They argued that God also has “middle knowledge” (between the other two). What this means can be briefly explained. Given a whole array of possible worlds (that God knows), given worlds in which men and women were free in the relevant indeterministic sense, God knows what they would freely choose in every possible circumstance. God has knowledge of all such possible outcomes. If placed in one set of circumstances, God knows what Jones would freely choose. If placed in another set of circumstances, God knows what Jones would freely choose. This is true for all possible people and all possible circumstances. God has this middle knowledge by inspection of all the possibilities that the free will of each person might choose.

In His power and wisdom, He chooses that possible world, that total combination of individuals and circumstances, whose expressions of free will best serve His purposes. 


Notice the emphasis that this is between his natural and his free knowledge. The reason that is the case is that this knowledge is of contingent counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. That is because not every world is created by God and therefore it is thought that some are contingent. In an Idealist scheme, these worlds are all necessary because all possible worlds are equally real. So, in reality, no worlds are merely possible given theistic idealism. All worlds that are possible are actual given that view. So, all events are necessary just as divine thinking is necessary. Event timelines follow necessarily and not contingently. That is determinism. God thinks his thoughts, they don’t cause him to think.

The conversation moves to the issue of what motivates this metaphysical view of the world. Pritchet appeals to the notion that one cannot escape their own perspective.

Pritchet is forthright about the origins of this philosophy. It comes from subjectivism. On this idealism, it is conceded that one cannot get beyond one’s own mind in order to escape the egocentric snare. We are stuck in our own first-person perspectives. Notice, however, this is itself an attempt to get outside an individual perspective and describe the limitations of all others. The problem with this idealism is that in order to analyze universal conditions of knowledge, one cannot be limited by a non-universal perspective. (HT. Jimmy Stephens)

I also seem to have the nagging complaint that they ignore the issue that idealism presents itself something that isn’t self-evident. It isn’t analogous to human experience of their own thoughts. We recognize our mental experiences as something distinct from our physical setting. My thoughts don’t seem to exist in the same way my computer exists. So, from human experience, how could we ever derive the conclusion that both these experiences are equally mental?

Further Suggestions:

Christianity and Idealism

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