[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Bruce Ware still has a dilemma in his advocacy of Middle Knowledge


by Matthew

Middle Knowledge is the theory that God posesses the knowledge of choices that would be made by individuals in counter-factual circumstances. A counterfactual is a set of alternative circumstances that have not occurred in real life, such as the Iraq War not taking place or my marrying my ex-girlfriend. According to advocates of Middle Knowledge, counterfactual choices are facts that God knows. So on this view it would be a definite fact whether or not I would have chosen to do a PhD course in a possible world in which the Iraq War did not take place. God would know whether I would have continued to live in Worcester if I had married my ex-girlfriend.

Most Middle Knowledge advocates are libertarians who use the theory to reconcile free-will with God's control over the universe. Bruce Ware is an exception, being a Calvinist. However, in a more Calvinistic framework, Ware uses Middle Knowledge for this same project of reconciling free-will with sovereignty.

In my opinion as it stands, I think Middle Knowledge is incompatible with a genuinley libertarian view of free-will. However, the purpose of this post is not to refute Middle Knowledge as such, but rather to argue that Bruce ware really does have a logical problem in his advocacy of both Calvinistic sovereignty and Middle Knowledge.

In a footnote, Ware refers to an argument for the incompatibility of Middle Knowledge and Calvinism:

Following the completion of the manuscript of this book, an article was published challenging the coherence and possibility of a Calvinist (or Compatibilist) understanding of middle knowledge....Laing argues that the Clvinist who wishes to incorporate middle knowledge is on the horns of a dilemma: "On the one hand, if she claims that the truth of counterfactuals of compatiblist freedom is grounded in the will of God or in the way God created the creaturely will, then she has denied the prevolitional character of divine knowledge of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom and therefore, her position is not in the middle of anything. On the other hand, if she claims that the truth of counterfactuals of compatibilist freedom are grounded in the character of the creature as he pre-exists in the mind of God, or that the truth of counter-factuals of compatiblist freedom do not need to be grounded, then her view of freedom is virtually indistinguishable from libertarian freedom"
Bruce Ware, God's Greater Glory, p.115


(I like this Laing guy; he refers to his hypothetical Calvinist as 'she'!)

What Laing is arguing is that either the Cavlinist Middle Knowledge advocate must hold that God has pre-selected the counter-factual choices, in which case this is no different from ordinary compatiblist determinism, or else she can hold that the counter-factual choices are an outworking of creaturely freedom, which would put her in the same camp as libertarian Middle Knowledge advocates like William Lane Craig.

Ware responds to this dilemma:

Rather, this middle knowledge is grounded on four things that God knows prevolitionally: 1) God's perfect knowledge, in his own mind's eye, of the character of the moral individual (or as Laing puts it, of "the character of the creature as he pre-exists in the mind of God"); 2) God's knowledge of every factor present in any given possible setting in which he envisions this individual making a choice; 3) God's knowledge of just how each unique set of factors, in each situation, would work, along with the character of the individual, to produce one strongest inclination within the individual, for each unique situation so envisioned; and 4) God's knowledge of just what choice the individual would in fact make, given the nature of his own character, the relevant factors in the particular setting in which he would make this choice, and the strongest inclination that would arise within him given this complete set of factors, giving rise in turn to this one (and only) choice.


I believe Ware has failed to answer this dilemma and it looks like he falls on the second, rather than the first of Laing's horns.

To explain why let us imagine a situation in which God's providential plan demands that a prison governor accepts a bribe. It does not matter why (perhaps to allow Christian literature into the prison?), it is simply one of the many evils that God makes use of on the Calvinistic view of sovereignty.

For Middle Knowledge to work, there must be a possible world in which, given the right circumstances, the prison governor will be inclined to choose to accept the bribe.

Suppose however, that the character of the prison governor is such that there is no possible world in which he would freely choose to take a bribe. Doing such a thing is utterly contrary to his character in every possible world.

The Calvinist might object that if the prison governor is totally depraved, then surely it is possible that in some circumstance he might take the bribe. This does not necessarilly follow, however. This prison governor is the devoted follower of an idolatrous religion, Snazzism, that promises eternal damnation to those who take bribes. In every possible situation in which he is placed, his strongest inclination will be to please his false god and escape going to hell.

Now we might object that God could create a possible world in which the prison governor would not have converted to the Snazzist religion. Millions of Hindus and millions of Russian Orthodox will take bribes. Why could God not have actualised a world in which the prison governor will be one of these? He might, however, the circumstances that were already necessitated by God's providential plan as it has already enfolded may have demanded that the prison governor be a Snazzist . It may be that in this part of the world that God has so far actualised, a man will only be accepted as prison governor if he is a Snazzist devotee.

It should be noted that in expounding a form of Middle Knowledge, Bruce Ware has ignored the point made by Alvin Plantinga in God, Freedom and Evil that Middle Knowledge necessitates that the possible worlds that God could create, the counter-factual choices He could actualise, are limited. For instance it may be that God could not create a world in which I permitted people to wear shoes in my house without creating a different Matthew. Choosing to have a shoes-off policy in my house may be a characteristic of Matthew in every possible world. That is why genuine Middle Knowledge is a Risk model or Arminian model of sovereignty.

God create a world in which the prison governor does take the bribe, but this would be counter to the inclinations entailed in his counter-factual character. If God did this, it would not be true Middle Knowledge. This would be an occurence of Laing's first horn.

Alternatively, God could have pre-volitionally conceived the prison governor in such a way that he would accept the bribe in circumstance X. However, this is again, a first horn error. If God has already determined the content of the counter-factuals, this is not true middle-knowledge but merely a created circumstance along the lines of old fashioned determinism.

Bruce Ware's adoption of Middle Knowledge does not entail any meaningful modification of traditional Calvinist Compatibilism.

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29 Comments:

  • You guys just want to fight it out over Lorship Salvation v Free Grace, don't you?

    You could at least tell me you like the picture!

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, June 03, 2008 5:23:00 AM  

  • Ahem! It's Lordship and Free Grace.

    Nice picture. Looks like a TULIP in her hand and the lovely smell of it has her enraptured.

    Regards,

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Tuesday, June 03, 2008 7:15:00 AM  

  • She's about to fall to sleep after her Reformed boyfriend has finished explaining the difference between Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, June 03, 2008 7:26:00 AM  

  • She does seem pleasantly entranced. :)

    Good information for me to chew on, Matthew. I may come back with questions - or I may not. Only God knows, if or when I do, whether I will be wearing flip-flops or socks.

    Missy

    By Blogger Another Voice, at Tuesday, June 03, 2008 7:54:00 AM  

  • So long as you don't start trying to explain it to us...

    :o)

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Tuesday, June 03, 2008 7:56:00 AM  

  • Matthew

    It is a lovely picture!

    And if it is true love and you know your Bible you would know it's either a rose or a lily. There are no TULIPS in the Bible, only if you have those speacial glasses.

    Song 2:1 the rose of Sharon, (and) the lily of the valley.

    She is raptured in the real thing, true love! You can tell by the look on her face "she knows." If she had a TULIP she would just be left hoping!

    By Blogger alvin, at Tuesday, June 03, 2008 8:23:00 AM  

  • Missy, according to Middle Knowledge, if you decide not to come back with another question, God would know whether or not you would have chosen to wear socks that day if you had.

    I disagree with Middle Knowledge, however. I believe that God knows the choices that you will make, but the choices that you would make in differing circumstances are not facts that can be known.

    God Bless

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Tuesday, June 03, 2008 8:46:00 AM  

  • It kinda reminds me of the words to a song "jumble-i crowfish pie, billie-gumbo." Anyway in a different scenario I would have been able maybe to spell and that would be good, but only God knows!

    alvin

    By Blogger alvin, at Tuesday, June 03, 2008 10:22:00 AM  

  • Yes, Matthew, I see you are correct - with or without my shoes on.

    I've heard it said that if it exists, God knows it. Free will seems far simpler than trying to determine a way for pre-determined free-will to exist. I suppose God could be the only one to do it, but it seems frought with unneccesary bureaucracy.

    By Blogger Another Voice, at Tuesday, June 03, 2008 12:00:00 PM  

  • Determinism vs.
    Libertarian free will

    Infralapsarianism vs. Supralapsarianism

    Ontological vs.
    Teleological

    Does God save because of what He is or what He wills, ie. so that He will be glorified.

    Sheesh, you theologians are from a different planet. Normal human beings don't think that way.

    Why don't we read the Bible and follow the natural meaning of the text?

    That's an idea: unnatural, unnecessary intellectual understanding vs. simple, natural belief.

    That's a fight along the lines of Lordship Salvation vs. Free Grace

    Ha! Ha!

    Sheesh, infra supra whatchamacallit.

    By Blogger Anton, at Wednesday, June 04, 2008 6:21:00 AM  

  • Anton, the reason for these discussions, however difficult they may seem to those unused to structured thinking, is that the Word of God needs to be reflected on to be understood.

    The Bible says that there is one eternal God.

    It also says that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God. How can that be?

    This was a dilemma that faced the early church. The conclusion that the orthodox came to was that God is three persons who are of one divine substance.

    It would have been impossible to confront the varius heresies relating to the divine nature without deep, philosophical reflection upon the nature of God.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, June 04, 2008 7:11:00 AM  

  • Matthew, I think you just want a chinwag. Okay, I was always game for a punch up anyway. ;)

    Bible in Basic English
    And Eliab, his oldest brother, hearing what David said to the men, was moved to wrath against David, and said, Why have you come here? Into whose care have you given that little flock of sheep in the waste land? I have knowledge of your pride and the evil of your heart, you have come down to see the fight.

    Hee!

    So while we rabbit on about the Trinity, you may ask yourself why the Jews had no problem about montheism although there are at least seven different manifestations of the Godhead in OT. For example, was the Angel of the Lord God?

    The Jews apparently had no problem with heretical interpretation of their text. There was great leeway for differnt views without having to necessarily categorise them as heresy.

    You see a bit of the obssessive compulsive Western mindset creeping in with the move of the power centres of Christianity westward, as seen in the need to have everything neat and tidy in doctrine.

    Harmless in itself, but it led to an exclusivism in the faith that is antithetical to the intent of the Gospel. My tuppence worth anyways. ;)

    Your turn.

    By Blogger Anton, at Wednesday, June 04, 2008 9:47:00 AM  

  • Anton

    "The Jews apparently had no problem with heretical interpretation of their text. There was great leeway for differnt views without having to necessarily categorise them as heresy."

    Actually the Jews have come up with a lot of odd and complicated philosophical ideas in relation to montheism. Jewish theology can be as labyrinthine as Christian theology.

    "You see a bit of the obssessive compulsive Western mindset creeping in with the move of the power centres of Christianity westward, as seen in the need to have everything neat and tidy in doctrine."

    I would actually say that the bulk of debate about the nature of the Trinity took place in the Greek-speaking East, rather than the West.

    Regardless of the case, the Bible says that there is one God and that Jesus is God.

    What are we to make of that?

    If it is all just a matter of believing what the text says and not elaborating the meaning why should we have a problem with Mormonism and the Jehovah's Witnesses?

    The text says that Jesus is God. They say "Fine. Jesus is a god."

    Or how about the Modalists?
    They say the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all one person.

    Why should we condemn them?

    After all, nowhere does the Bible actually say that there are three persons in the Godhead.

    It is only the 'obsessive compulsive' theology that you hold in contempt that tells us that there are three persons in the Godhead.

    "Harmless in itself, but it led to an exclusivism in the faith that is antithetical to the intent of the Gospel. My tuppence worth anyways. ;)"

    Oh. So are you in fact saying it does not matter what we believe about the Trinity? It does not matter who God really is?

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, June 04, 2008 10:12:00 AM  

  • Matthew

    Actually the Jews have come up with a lot of odd and complicated philosophical ideas in relation to montheism. Jewish theology can be as labyrinthine as Christian theology.
    ==========================

    Hey you just said the same things I did! I said they had many different views and the views all coexisted quite happpily. For example, there was a recent judgment in Israel that stated atheists were also good Jews, the reasoning being that saying there is no God is the same as saying it's impossible to describe God!

    I would actually say that the bulk of debate about the nature of the Trinity took place in the Greek-speaking East, rather than the West.
    ==========================

    The operative word there is "Greek" (= WEST): I think I've posted before about the unimaginable skewing inflicted on Christianity with the imposing of Greek philosophical methodologies by Justin, Augustine, Aquinas et al in their respective treatises.

    Regardless of the case, the Bible says that there is one God and that Jesus is God.
    ==========================

    You have to understand that when the shema was formulated, Israel had just come out of a polytheistic culture. Now I live in a polytheistic culture and the downside to this is that each god has a different view of things. I therefore have no problem in understanding monotheism as a view of God who is constant, however he presents Himself to or communicates with Man. (You should do a word study on Logos: you'd be surprised at the conclusions!)

    Disclaimer
    The above is my own view. (As if THAT needed to be said!) ;)

    If it is all just a matter of believing what the text says and not elaborating the meaning why should we have a problem with Mormonism and the Jehovah's Witnesses?

    The text says that Jesus is God. They say "Fine. Jesus is a god."

    Or how about the Modalists?
    They say the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all one person.

    Why should we condemn them?
    ============================

    The problem that exists is exactly what I have already said should not be: inconsistency in "logos"!

    Oh. So are you in fact saying it does not matter what we believe about the Trinity? It does not matter who God really is?
    ============================
    How much accuracy is the requirement? A little? A lot? Is there a "checklist"? ;)

    Every Blessing in Christ
    ============================
    You too.

    BTW, nice image in your "cult" site. I love Blake: and Millais, and Burns... I did my term report on the Pre-raphaelites while studying art in Blighty. Ah! Fond memeories of being chased out by the guards at the Tate and the National at closing time! I suppose you know what they were rebelling against. Hint: obfuscation.

    By Blogger Anton, at Wednesday, June 04, 2008 10:56:00 AM  

  • Anton
    "I would actually say that the bulk of debate about the nature of the Trinity took place in the Greek-speaking East, rather than the West."

    I am sorry to say I think this is the biggest cliche in theology.

    Hellenism is a really dirty term these days.

    However, if you actually study some of the Church Fathers you might actually find that in many ways they fiercely resisted the conclusions of Greek philosophy.

    "How much accuracy is the requirement? A little? A lot? Is there a "checklist"? ;)"

    Yes, there is a checklist and a very good one too:

    The Athansian Creed

    "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance.
    For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.
    Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
    The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one Eternal.
    As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one Uncreated, and one Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Spirit Almighty. And yet they are not three almighties, but one Almighty.
    So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three gods, but one God.
    So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord. And yet not three lords, but one Lord.
    For as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge each Person by Himself to be both God and Lord, so we are also forbidden by the catholic religion to say that there are three gods or three lords.
    The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
    So there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.
    And in the Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another, but all three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
    He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.
    Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man; God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of the substance of his mother, born in the world; perfect God and perfect man, of a rational soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching His godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching His manhood; who, although He is God and man, yet he is not two, but one Christ; one, not by conversion of the godhead into flesh but by taking of the manhood into God; one altogether; not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For as the rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ; who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, He sits at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence He will come to judge the quick and the dead. At His coming all men will rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
    This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved."

    Contrary to what it states, I do not view believing this as a requirement for salvation. I believe trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life is the only condition for redemption.

    However, I do believe wholeheartedly that anybody who denies what the Athanasian Creed says about the Trinity is an heretic and should be shunned.

    This creed was formulated in the time of the Fathers and has received the approval of theologians both Protestant and Catholic.

    "BTW, nice image in your "cult" site. I love Blake: and Millais, and Burns... I did my term report on the Pre-raphaelites while studying art in Blighty."

    I am glad you like the Pre-Raphaelites. However, I do not recall posting any Millais. At least not recently.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, June 04, 2008 11:13:00 AM  

  • Matthew
    ====================
    I am sorry to say I think this is the biggest cliche in theology.

    Hellenism is a really dirty term these days.
    ====================
    Blame that on Wright: and Dunn. And Sanders. And today, many more...

    ====================
    However, if you actually study some of the Church Fathers you might actually find that in many ways they fiercely resisted the conclusions of Greek philosophy.
    ====================
    But they were great fans of Aristotle's methodology? Which has been shown to be full of holes by Kant, Einstein, Feynman et al. And to think I learnt about this while studying the history of Art: wasn't that what Dadaism was all about?

    ====================
    Yes, there is a checklist and a very good one too:
    ====================
    Now you are doing a ~va susan~ by trotting out a "creed"!

    ====================
    However, I do believe wholeheartedly that anybody who denies what the Athanasian Creed says about the Trinity is an heretic and should be shunned.
    ====================
    Now this is the problem with checklists: they can be the basis of both secular and non-secular associations. Let me give you an example:

    You need to accept a checklist if you want be a member of the Freemasons or Skull 'n Bones. Once in, you're entitled to a bouquet of perks. Disagreement with any item of the 'list leads to expulsion (and denial of said perks).

    All fine, but what is the basis of this checklist? Is it an infallible document, attributable to a direct revelation from an infallible source. If so who is the approver of what is genuine revelation and what is not? Does this approver than have a higher status than the revelation he approves of?

    I know its very comforting to be a member of a social group with well laid out and unchanging guidelines (read up Tribalism in the why?clublet site run by Richard Drake. We used to go to the same church), but who are we pledging allegiance to?

    ====================
    This creed was formulated in the time of the Fathers and has received the approval of theologians both Protestant and Catholic.
    ====================
    Both of whom have made a right mess of the teaching of "Original Sin", as a result of the writings of the Greek Cynics. Do a word study of "knowledge of good and evil' and tell me what the teaching actually is.

    ====================
    I am glad you like the Pre-Raphaelites. However, I do not recall posting any Millais. At least not recently.
    ====================
    Yeah, my bad: there's just Burne-Jones and Blake posted, but Millais was one of the founders and I have a soft spot for him.

    Every Blessing in Christ too.

    Anton

    By Blogger Anton, at Wednesday, June 04, 2008 12:25:00 PM  

  • Good post Matthew. I agree. Ware has a problem in his theory.

    By Blogger Gojira, at Wednesday, June 04, 2008 3:56:00 PM  

  • Gojirah, I am so glad you agree.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, June 05, 2008 12:27:00 AM  

  • Anton
    "Blame that on Wright: and Dunn. And Sanders. And today, many more..."

    I think it is a problem with NT Wright that he has jumped on the fashionable bandwagon of the anti-hellennist, anti-dogmatic theology agenda.

    "But they were great fans of Aristotle's methodology?"

    Aristotle was not in theological fashion until the Middle Ages (except in the theology of Leonostius of Byzantium).

    The Early Church Fathers were influenced by Plato, but not uncritically.

    Some of the biggest opponents of the Church Fathers were the advocates of Plato.

    Origen was the theologian who was most influenced by Plato. While he was respected by the orthodox, they considered him to be in error on many points and his theological followers were repudiated.

    "If so who is the approver of what is genuine revelation and what is not? Does this approver than have a higher status than the revelation he approves of?"

    The statements of the Athanasian creed are supported by the Word of God, though this has been discovered through reflection and deeper study.

    The doctrine of the Trinity is a fundamental Bible doctrine of crucial importance and thanks to the grace of God it has been settled.

    "Yeah, my bad: there's just Burne-Jones and Blake posted, but Millais was one of the founders and I have a soft spot for him."

    And William Adolphe-Bouguereau.

    Millais should have painted more angels.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, June 05, 2008 12:37:00 AM  

  • Matthew,

    Is the painting on this post Bouguereau's? I really like it. His wife painted a similar pose of a girl lying in rest with an apple on the ground but there was another younger child in it.

    I thought the flower was a pomegranate.

    Missy

    By Blogger Another Voice, at Thursday, June 05, 2008 6:37:00 AM  

  • I thought the flower was a pomegranate.

    If it has 5 points, Missy, then it is definately a TULIP. The look of complete satisfaction on her face gives it all away.

    Regards,

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Thursday, June 05, 2008 7:24:00 AM  

  • Missy, you know, I hadn't realised his second wife was an artist.

    Her pictures seem quite good too. However, looking at them, I don't think her pictures have quite the same level of sensuality and depth as her husband's.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, June 05, 2008 8:50:00 AM  

  • Colin,

    I have some tulips with four points in the garden. They grow taller than the rest, but the petals fall faster.


    Matthew,

    I agree. She's from New Hampshire, one of the locals I've studied since moving here 2 years ago.

    By Blogger Another Voice, at Thursday, June 05, 2008 1:08:00 PM  

  • Matthew

    Thanks, for the meaty post. Each point is worth chasing down and deserves a thread all to itself! But before I start, this is as good a time as any to state my motives. I had jokingly commented that I was spoiling for a fight for it's own sake, but you may have caught on that this is not so.

    I also do not desire to spend time in hearing new things as the sophists of Greek society were fond of doing:

    "And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is which you present? For you bring some strange things to our ears; we wish to know therefore what these things mean." Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new." (Acts 17:19-21 RSV)

    On the other hand, here's something that resonates with me:

    The Hireling Shepherd

    by William Holman Hunt

    http://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a169/framepix/Holmanhunt01.jpg

    However, in a lettter Hunt himself wrote when the painting was acquired by the Manchester City Art Gallery, he states that he intended for the couple to symbolize how Christian churchmen engaged in endless theological hair-splitting and by so doing allowing their "flock" to go astray leaving them without any moral guidance whatsoever.

    http://www.squidoo.com/raphaelart#

    Ah! The Pre-Raphaelites... theology was very important to them.

    I'm constantly monitoring my own posts to check if I'm guilty of either of the above tendencies. So the condition that sets off an alarm is the one that arises when the discussion becomes so technical that it becomes impossible to later EXPLAIN it to the smallest child in, say, a typical church congregation.
    That's when I start wondering what the benefit is of continuing further. Of course, my motive may be to cause a brother or sister in Christ to turn away from meaningless explorations and instead to concentrate on edifying those with lesser gifts of undersrtanding and discernment. And what better topic to turn to than sharing ways to keep from going "astray".

    I'm saying that I would rather you keep away from topics of no direct use or benefit and stick to salvation and sanctification issues. Assuming you have something to say about both. ;)

    I myself do have things to say, and sometimes, they aren't very conventional! Maybe these discussions are good places to refine our understandings of these issues as there always seems to be some weaknesses in a particular view (I know that I have this problem and I read these threads eagerly to see if people have fresh insights that may be relevant to my difficulties).

    Of course we could still stick to the original topic: until I get tired (of digging up old notes I made that deal with the issues under discussion) and collapse from exhaustion. But then, you could be the one that comes a cropper! ;)

    Peace

    Anton

    By Blogger Anton, at Thursday, June 05, 2008 1:54:00 PM  

  • Missy writes: I have some tulips with four points in the garden. They grow taller than the rest, but the petals fall faster.

    The more consistent 5 pointers last forever

    :o)

    Regards,

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Thursday, June 05, 2008 2:50:00 PM  

  • Anton
    "However, in a lettter Hunt himself wrote when the painting was acquired by the Manchester City Art Gallery, he states that he intended for the couple to symbolize how Christian churchmen engaged in endless theological hair-splitting and by so doing allowing their "flock" to go astray leaving them without any moral guidance whatsoever."

    Yes, I am aware of that picture (it is great) and that meaning.

    I do agree that this is a great danger for Christians.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Friday, June 06, 2008 2:24:00 AM  

  • Matthew,

    Since I agree with Bruce Ware, I found your post interesting. I think that you are correct that if God has middle knowledge of the voluntary acts of compatibilistically free creatures, then not all imaginable situations are possible. But I don’t think that this supports Laing’s contention. This is, after all, entailed in compatibilism.

    You would likely be interested in my article in Westminster Theological Journal last fall – “Why Calvinists Should Believe in Divine Middle Knowledge, Even Though They Reject Molinism.”

    Shalom,
    Terry Tiessen

    By Blogger Terry Tiessen, at Friday, June 06, 2008 3:52:00 AM  

  • Terry, I think a key question to ask wou;d be whether Ware's view would give God any more control over his creations than He would have on the view of Arminians who hold to Middle Knowledge.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Friday, June 06, 2008 5:47:00 AM  

  • Matthew,

    I do think that the compatibilist form of middle knowledge that Ware and I affirm gives God more control over his creation than the incompatibilist form that Molinists and some Arminians affirm. Like more traditional Calvinists, we believe that God gets exactly what he wills in his eternal purpose and he is able to do so precisely because he gives creatures soft-determinist rather than libertarian freedom. I am convinced, however, that the grounding objection to Molinism is correct. If creatures were libertarianly free, it would be impossible to predict with certainty how they would act in hypothetical situations, precisely because they have the power of contrary choice and their decisions are not determined by anything prior to those decisions, including the complex of their own personal beings. Only if creatures are soft-deterministically free can God predict how they would act in hypothetical situations. In short, Molina did well to propose the concept of middle knowledge but, in order for it to work, he must give up his commitment to libertarian freedom.

    The more pressing issue for Ware and me is to convince our fellow Calvinists that God knows counterfactuals as a middle knowledge rather than as part of his necessary or natural knowledge, as the Thomist and Calvinist traditions had generally insisted. I see middle knowledge as part and parcel of God’s wise contemplation of possible worlds prior to his choosing which of those worlds he would actualize. It illumines for us, for instance, how it is that God can keep us from being tempted beyond our ability to bear (1 Cor 10:13). In the moment of God’s middle knowledge, he knew in what complex of circumstances a particular sort of person could resist a particular temptation. I am actually less concerned to defend the middleness of God’s knowledge of counterfactuals than I am to demonstrate the usefulness of his having such knowledge. Nevertheless, I do believe that this sort of knowledge is sufficiently distinct from what God knows necessarily to warrant its being designated separately. It is a knowledge of divine contemplation that arises only once God has considered creating a world and it precedes God’s decree and his free knowledge, precisely because God’s decree is wise not arbitrary. In other words, it is neither necessary nor free, hence it is “middle.”

    Shalom,
    Terry

    By Blogger Terry Tiessen, at Saturday, June 07, 2008 6:43:00 PM  

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