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What exactly is the problem that Roger Olson has with Molinism? Answer: it collapses into determinism. But it isn’t clear what he means by “determinism.” His concept is ambiguous, and he seems to acknowledge this when he says, “if middle knowledge does not imply determinism, it does convey that [our] lives are predetermined.” So there seems to be two senses of what he means for something to be (pre)determined: one is with respect to being causally necessitated to act; the second is with respect to being fated to act according to some preordained plan. In Olson’s mind, the distinction makes no difference, because both senses are sufficient for what he finds problematic with middle knowledge: God is able to use it to render our actions certain. Once God does that, he says, “then determinism is at the door if not in the living room and that is inconsistent with Arminianism’s basic impulses.”
How should Molinists reply? First, they should deny that middle knowledge entails both causal determinism and theological fatalism. Second, they should argue that the property of being rendered certain is not problematic if the objects of God’s knowledge, that is, the propositions about what free creatures would do in various worlds, are grounded by what free creatures would do. Third, they should maintain that God’s use of middle knowledge is benevolent, because God is benevolent. Let us turn to the first matter.
One can be an environmentalist and an animal liberationist (premise for reductio).
If animals ought to be protected from being killed (because they can feel pain, ect.) then the natural environments in which their lives are at risk ought to be reformed or eliminated (from liberationism).
The natural environments in which their lives are at risk ought to not be reformed nor eliminated (from environmentalism).
Therefore, it is not the case that one can be both an environmentalist and an animal liberationist (from 1, 2, 3).
- Therefore, one can only be an an environmentalist or only an animal liberationist (or neither) (from 4).
This sort of argument was spelled out in greater detail by Mark Sagoff, and it is an interesting one. Given their criteria of value (the ability to feel pain gives one moral status), animal liberationists ought to intervene in ecologies where sentient creatures are naturally harmed. That is to say, there is no good reason for letting such animals die in their natural habitats; indeed, one seems required to act for the same reason that requires one to protect children from grizzly bears–suffering ought to be prevented. Conversely, an environmentalists, who primarily values things like wilderness or biodiversity, has reasons not to protect animals in the wild (unless they are endangered): these environmental goods take precedence over the interests and welfare of animals. Thus, it seems environmentalists are interested in preserving states of affairs that, for many animals, are nasty, brutish, and short.
It’s not clear to me if Sagoff personally believes this, but he seems aware that this sort of argument constitutes a reductio of the animal liberationists position. I tend to agree with this… what does Peter Singer think of lions, tigers, and bears? If anything, premise two seems to be the most vulnerable, and it would be prudent to revise it to say “animals under our care ought to be protected from being killed…” But some justification for circumscribing the animal kingdom this way needs to be given, and it isn’t obvious that it will be compatible with the primary values of animal liberationism.
By way of prolegomena, this is the logical problem of the Trinity (Martinich, 1978):
- There is only one God.
The Father is God.
The Son is God.
The Father is not the Son.
But 1-3 entail that the Father is the Son (contra 4).
And 1, 2, and 4 entail that the Son is not God (contra 3).
Likewise 1, 3, and 4 entail that the Father is not God (contra 2).
What to make of this? As Bill Clinton famously said: “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Here are five of them (Moreland & Craig, 2003: 174):
- Socrates is real (of existence)
Socrates is the teacher of Plato (of identity)
Socrates is human (of essential predication)
Socrates is white (of accidental predication)
Socrates is skin and bone (of constitution)
The problem arises only if we read the premises claiming the Father, Son, or Spirit ‘is God’ with the ‘is of identity.’ Yet these can be read with the ‘is of essential predication’ if by ‘God’ we mean ‘sharing in the divine nature.’ At least that is a common strategy deployed to rebut the argument. But it seems that some theologians are hesitant to jettison some sort of identity relation between each of the Persons and God. Why is this? Because, it seems, the oneness of God is at stake.
In a recent article, Bruce Ware argues that the trinitarian persons share the strongest form of equality there is: equality of identity. But what does he mean? At first glance, he appears to mean that the divine persons share a similar sort of identity relation with the divine essence. Yet this is not to be confused with what he calls an ‘equality of kind’ in which two beings share the same nature, like two humans who exemplify the property of humanness, for example. For Ware, equality of identity means that each divine person possesses “fully and eternally the identically same nature as the nature that each of the other persons possesses.” This is what distinguishes trinitarian theology from tri-theistic theology, and he thinks that ‘equality of identity’ is strong enough to ward off worries about ontological subordination, which some see as a consequence of his commitment to the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father.
I find Ware’s terms confusing. My thesis is that his “equality of identity” only amounts to an equality of kind, which he seeks to avoid. I further suggest that an “equality of constitution” is better suited to relate the desiderata of the oneness of God with the fully divine nature of the three persons in Ware’s social trinitarianism.
James Spiegel’s The Making of an Atheist is a curious book in that it seeks to articulate a Christian view of atheism, that is, an explanation of atheism according to Christian theology. While plenty of Christian thinkers have offered up assessments of atheism so as to defend the rationality of Christian belief, not many spell out a cogent theology of atheism in systematic terms. The burden of any theology of atheism will be to explain why, assuming their is overwhelming evidence for God’s existence, there is obstinate disbelief in God. Basing his case on Romans 1:18-24, Ephesians 4:17-19, and Psalm 14:1, Speigel argues that atheism is not the result of a lack of evidence for God, but a lack of obedience to God. Along the way, he argues that the atheist has no evidence for the nonexistence of God from the argument from evil, and that disbelief in God is caused by emotional problems with a cosmic authority figure, which stem from an absent or abusive father and the desire for sexual liberation. In short, atheists are atheists because they are bad people. While they may be very smart, it is their defective will, not their rationality, that leads them to their self-deceived conclusions.
I came to this book with some interest, because I am convinced that our attitudes towards obeying God (if he exists) deeply influence whether or not we do in fact believe in God. I’ve explored some of these things in my review of Paul Moser’s work, namely how a cosmic authority problem functions as a non-rational factor in religious belief formation. That authority problem is best articulated by Thomas Nagel (who Spiegel also quotes):
I am talking about something much deeper—namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.
It seems safe to assume that there is a kind of “cognitive rebellion” or at least an intellectual vice, which refuses to entertain any search for God’s existence or an honest evaluation for theistic evidences, that must be overcome before there can be any genuine belief in God. This is because God is identical with the greatest possible being who is utterly worthy of worship. Belief in God entails a duty to worship and obey God, and that is something we may not want to deal with if we are honest with ourselves.
I was expecting Spiegel’s book to explore this fascinating tension between the authority of God and the autonomy of human beings in greater detail, but I was disappointed. To be sure, some of that was there and this is the better part of the book. But most of its pages are dedicated to a heavy-handed psychological analysis of adherence to Kuhnian “paradigms” buttressed by clumsy apologetic arguments . Here is one example:
The objection from evil does pack some punch, and it is a genuine problem for theists. But it could never count as grounds for atheism. Even if successful, it only undermines certain beliefs about the nature of God. It does not—nor could any argument—disprove the existence of a world creator and designer.
At most, evil should prompt us to reconsider what kind of God exists, not whether God exists.
Suppose he is right about this and the problem of evil provides evidence not for the non-existence of a creator-God, but only a not-so-good God. Would such a God be worthy of worship? Of course not, and it would be perfectly within our rights (or perhaps our duty?) to rebel against such a God. Anyone who fails to be good is not worthy of worship, and if the argument from evil provides evidence for the badness of God, then Spiegel shouldn’t be so hard on atheists for failing to obey God.
Another odd feature is that the Spiegel often vacillates between giving a Christian account of atheism and defending the obviousness of theism. But these projects are quite different as he presupposes the truth of Scripture for one and appeals to natural theology for the other. Conspicuously absent from the “clear” and “obvious” evidence for God’s existence is any appeal to evidence for Christ’s resurrection, which would make his account more distinctively Christian. The fact that Spiegel doesn’t include this shows that the paradigm of “theism” is quite different from the paradigm of “Christianity.” It would then seem that the “immorality leads to unbelief” thesis would be true in Jewish and Islamic thought as well. Perhaps this is enough to satisfy Spiegel, but if he was trying to give a Christian account of atheism, there is nothing distinctively Christian about it.
I’ve been looking for a helpful introduction to non-rational factors like the cosmic authority problem and the will to believe so as to recommend it to lay people who might interested, because Moser’s work can be a bit daunting for the uninitiated (as I was told by my poor father). Sadly, Spiegel’s work is not it.
The answer is “no.” Consider the argument from Jason Stanley’s Knowledge and Certainty:
“If knowing a proposition requires that proposition to be true, we would expect (7) to sound like an assertion of a trivial conceptual truth and (8) to sound like an assertion of an obvious falsity:
“(7) Everything anyone knows is true.
“(8) There is something someone knows that isn’t true.
“(7) is obviously true, and (8) obviously false. Similarly, if knowing a proposition requires believing that proposition, then we should expect (9) to be a trivial truth and (10) to be obviously false:
“(9) Everything someone knows she believes.
“(10) There is something someone knows that she doesn’t believe.
“Finally, if knowing a proposition requires having evidence for that proposition, we would expect (11) to sound like a trivial truth and (12) to sound obviously false:
“(11) If someone knows something, she has a reason to believe it.
“(12) There is something someone knows that she doesn’t have any reason to believe.
“An assertion of (11) certainly seems true, and (12) seems false. If it is intuitively obvious that knowledge requires subjective certainty, we should expect (13) and (14) to seem like banal truths and (15) to seem obviously false:
“(13) I’m certain of everything I know.
“(14) Everyone is certain of everything she knows.
“(15) There are some things I know, of which I’m only fairly certain.
“However, (13) and (14), unlike (7), (9), and (11), do not sound like banal truths. An utterance of (15) also does not share the obvious sense of falsity of (8), (10), and (12). Similarly, if knowledge requires epistemic certainty, we should expect (16) to be a banal truth, on a par with (7) and (9), and we should expect (17) to seem clearly false, on a par with (8), (10), and (12):
“(16) Everything I know is certain to be true.
“(17) There are some things I know, which are only fairly certain to be
“But (16) does not seem like a banal truth, and (17) seems perfectly in order.”
From page 4 (37). Here’s more:
Does neuroscientific findings eliminate free will? Some think so based on an experiment by Benjamin Libet that revealed evidence of neural activity linked to volitional acts before they were consciously felt by the subject. Here is a video explaining how the experiment works:
Timothy O’Connor (Indiana University) offers some criticisms of the inference that the experiment shows we have no free will:
For more on neuroscience and the soul check out Biola’s Center for Christian Thought.
God, of course, may have His own opinion, but the Church is reluctant to endorse it. I think I have never heard a sermon preached on the story of Martha and Mary that did not attempt, somehow, somewhere, to explain away its text. Mary’s, of course, was the better part-the Lord said so, and we must not precisely contradict Him. But we will be careful not to despise Martha. No doubt, He approved of her too. We could not get on without her, and indeed (having paid lip-service to God’s opinion) we must admit that we greatly prefer her. For Martha was doing a really feminine job, whereas Mary was just behaving like any other disciple, male or female; and that is a hard pill to swallow.
Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man–there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as “The women, God helpus!” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything ”funny” about woman’s nature. But we might easily deduce it from His contemporaries, and from His prophets before Him, and from His Church to this day. Women are not human; nobody shall persuade that they are human; let them say what they like, we will not believe it, though One rose from the dead.