Rejoinder to Welty


Greg Welty did me the favor of taking time to respond to my post in which I criticized his objection to Plantinga’s free will defense (FWD). He did a fine job too, and I learned a lot from him (maybe not enough), but some worries remain. First, a summary of his view, and then my response to it.

Assuming that wills go with natures (that is, dyotheletism is true), and that the Son of God took on a human nature in his incarnation, it follows that the human nature Christ took on in the actual world had a created will that was not corrupted by sin. As far creaturely essences go Christ’s nature satisfies Plantinga’s analysis: Jesus’s human essence is identical with the set of properties essential to anyone who takes on that particular created human nature. He writes, “There are world-indexed propositions about the human-willed choices made by any person who has that created human nature, and the set of these just is the essence.” Thus, it follows that there is a creaturely essence that is instantiated by the uncreated person of Christ that is not subject to transworld depravity; therefore, Plantinga’s FWD fails. The defense given by Omelianchuk [sans the c – yes my name is crazy, and yes I hate referring to myself in third person] works only if wills go with persons, which would be to affirm monotheletism. The upshot is that I, along with Plantinga, face a dilemma: either give up the FWD or conflict with orthodoxy.

With respect to this apparent dilemma, I think it is more complicated than that: give up Plantinga’s version of the FWD, which depends on transworld depravity, or deny the Third (or Sixth if you’re Eastern Orthodox) Ecumenical Council’s condemnation of monothelitism. This specification is important, because the FWD does not require the Molinist twist of transworld depravity to be viable in responding to the deductive argument from evil. Nor is one required to treat the ecumenical councils as authoritative if one is Protestant, which I am. What matters for Protestants is whether the council’s teaching conforms with Scripture, and monothelites can argue their case by appeals to Matthew 26:39 where Jesus appears to only refer to one will. None of this is to say that monotheletism is true, but that orthodoxy isn’t achieved by merely agreeing with historic creeds. Thus, I think the dilemma is a false one.

More interesting is Welty’s claim that I can avoid his objection only if I give up dyotheletism. On the contrary, it is a curious feature of dyotheletism (and monotheletism!) that leads us precisely to our main disagreement: that the only relevant sense of “creaturely essence” for the FWD is one that refers to uninstantiated persons, not uninstantiated natures. One of the questions I am interested in is whether personhood is essential to human beings, and as we might expect, Christology complicates things greatly. It would seem that the instantiation of a human nature complete with a body, soul, mind, and will would be sufficient for human personhood. But from a Christological point of view, that isn’t quite right, because there is another possibility: a human nature complete with a body, soul, mind, and will can be exemplified by a divine person without any attending human person co-existing with the divine. However persons come to be related to human nature, it seems they are such that they use the body, soul, mind, and will to act and do things in the world. Persons can be created like us, or uncreated like God the Son, so there are no “natureless persons” which means they too have an essence, a set of properties that identifies them as the particulars they are and the kind of things they are. The created ones are the instantiations of creaturely essences that are personal. Human nature has a creaturely essences too, but at least in the case of Christ, it is impersonal, which is exactly what the Christological doctrine of anhypostasis requires.

One assumption I have to make is that the only class of creaturely essences that can perform morally significant acts (if they are instantiated) are the personal kind. How would an impersonal creaturely essence be free of transworld depravity in a non-trivial sense? Such essences would be like Rock-ish creaturely essences: they would be free from transworld depravity, alright, but not because they would always choose rightly if some world in which they are instantiated were actual; rather they aren’t the sort of things that can perform a morally significant act at all. To do so, they would need whatever it is that makes them personal added; the instantiation of some personal essence in conjunction with the impersonal creaturely essence if you will. Perhaps this happens normally when human natures are instantiated, but not so in the incarnation. What happens there is unique, but sufficient to show Christ is not among the members of creaturely personal essences–he is the uncreated Word of God.

Now we are in a position to see that the debate over dyotheletism and monotheletism is irrelevant to the FWD. Obviously, monotheletism would not be any better off than dyotheletism, because it too affirms that the human nature of Christ is impersonal. On that view, things like minds and wills go with persons, not with natures, so perhaps we might think that the human nature of Christ is more impersonal on monotheletism. In any event, Welty’s argument is a good one only if Christ’s human nature is personal in a robust way, but sadly, that would slouch towards if not imply Nestorianism. My overall point, which I did not make clear in the original post, is that the FWD assumes that the relevant creaturely essences subject to transworld depravity are personal, and my defense of it contends that Christ is not a member of the set of creaturely personal essences. This, I think, is a better reading of Plantinga: “every person is the instantiation of an essence,” alright–God the Son, the archangel Michael, me, you, and Greg–but God “can create significantly free persons only by instantiating some creaturely essences” (Plantinga, 1973: 551. Emphasis added).

I doubt that this response of mine will settle things, but they are some rough thoughts that were inspired by Welty’s thoughtful response.

EDIT: Greg Welty responds with some key observations; he is true gentleman and scholar.


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