Friday, April 25, 2014

Can Calvinists Use Molinism as a Solution to Double Predestination?

I’m not a Calvinist, so the following exercise might be completely misguided. J Suppose someone wants to avoid the doctrine of double predestination, but he is not a Molinist (and wants to hold at least to a partly [if not fully] Calvinistic view of election and predestination). Briefly, the idea of double predestination is that God creates some people to be saved, and some are created and predestinated to be condemned to Hell. On this view, the non-elect are not merely passed over; instead, they are actively created for the express purpose of going to Hell.

The traditional solution is that the non-elect are merely passed over. The traditional Molinist response has been that if it is God’s free knowledge that “decides” the true propositions that govern the world, then the propositions that reflect the truth that “X would reject God’s grace and be condemned” are known in God’s free knowledge also, so that God does take an active role in the condemnation of the reprobate. The question is this: can the Calvinist escape this problem?

It seems difficult to see how, but perhaps he can. What if he were to use the idea of middle knowledge? Let’s call this the “Molinistic Reprobation Account” (MRA). This account would look something like this:

(MRA) For every elect individual S, S freely accepts God’s grace and is saved iff God’s free knowledge contains the truth that S freely accepts God’s grace and is saved; for every non-elect individual A, A freely rejects God’s grace and is condemned iff God’s middle knowledge contains the truth that A freely rejects God’s grace and is condemned.

(MRA) should not be rejected on issues of compatibilism.[1] (MRA) could be used to explain the status of the reprobate, while leaving all elect persons to the work of God. For example, perhaps it is the case that all CCFs of the Molinist sort (the ones located in middle knowledge) relating to accepting God’s grace are false; in this case, all free persons possess the property of being transworldly damned. However, God, in his grace, decided to elect some, and so those came to Christ in his free knowledge. My only objective here is to see if the Calvinist can embrace (MRA) and avoid double predestination.

There are certainly a number of things that a non-Calvinist would be uncomfortable with. Consider, for example, that on (MRA), apparently God does not desire the salvation of every individual, but only some (for inscrutable reasons, presumably). But this either sits fine with the Calvinist or else he accepts the inscrutability reason and affirms that God wants all to be saved anyway. So why would a Calvinist be uncomfortable with (MRA)? Perhaps he wouldn’t like the idea of there being any CCFs true independently of God’s decree. “Nothing is independent of God in any way; God doesn’t derive his knowledge from anything outside of himself.” The two statements are certainly not identical (consider that the latter statement is vague; does this entail that God’s knowledge is perceptual, and that God obtains knowledge from beings outside of himself? Does this mean that God and everything else are one? Surely not!). But it does seem that the primary motivation for rejecting CCFs (and hence, MRA) can be avoided. We should consider that, on (MRA), God takes an active role in the salvation of the elect, and a passive role in the condemnation of the reprobate (remember, we’re assuming, for the sake of argument, a Calvinist who wants to avoid double predestination—those who fully accept double predestination and on that basis reject MRA will be irrelevant to this discussion).

Perhaps we should revisit something: we said earlier that all persons would have the property of being transworldly damned: this isn’t quite correct. On our analysis, rather, a kind of counterfactual emerges: “If it were the case that God had not elected some individual X, then X would be lost.” But X is elect. This means X is not transworldly damned, for there are worlds in which X is elected to be saved and is saved—namely, the actual world! So, then, if some persons lack this property, why suppose that the others just so happen to have it?

I think we can save (MRA) by positing the counterfactual above as indicative of a kind of dispositional property. That is, the elect X has the property of being counterfactually transworldly damned, where (CTD) stands for Counterfactual Transworld Damnation. (CTD) is the idea that in every world in which God does not elect X, X is condemned. Now (CTD) seems to be an almost trivial set for transworld damnation (TWD); if someone has (TWD), then they have (CTD) as well. But this means that everyone, including those who are non-elect, has (CTD). It’s simply that the non-elect have an additional property, namely (TWD).

It does seem, however, that an objection rears its head. It seems epistemically possible, for all we know, that there are worlds in which God elects certain persons with (TWD)/(CTD) to salvation; those worlds are simply not the actual world. So, it seems that in addition to being afflicted with (TWD), these people also plausibly have (CS), or the property of counterfactual salvation. A person has (CS) just in case there are worlds where she is elect, regardless of her status in the actual world. This means there are people who possess (TWD)/(CTD)/(CS), and people who possess (CTD)/(CS), and only the latter group are actually saved. Call the former set of properties P-1, and the latter P-2. The only sufficient condition as to whether or not a person has P-1 and not P-2 seems to be God’s making it the case that a person has a P-1 or P-2 set of properties.

Certainly, (TWD) is had, on (MRA), because the individual freely would choose in every world in which he makes a libertarianly free choice to reject God. Everyone would have (TWD), on this account, except that God actively chooses some to salvation. This active choice gives a person a P-1 or P-2 set. So perhaps the Calvinist will want to say that God merely chooses some to have a P-2 set, and others passively receive the P-1 set. Two responses: first, it seems the property set entailed by (MRA) was supposed to explain this passivity distinction, not rely on it. Second, P-1 properties seem to entail a property gained (TWD) by an active choice of God that excludes them. If a positive property is gained by an act of God, then in what relevant way is God passive with respect to those with P-1 properties?

There may be plenty of other reasons for Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike to reject (MRA), but I think this is at least an interesting topic for us to think about. I think the moral of the story is that one should either commit to a kind of double predestination, or allow something very much like the Molinist story to hold true!

[1] Although it is true that a rejection of compatibilism entails a rejection of the account, it is much more interesting to pursue this and see if (MRA) is useful to the Calvinist.

1 comment:

  1. I think I made a mistake. It looks like I was using (TWD) equivocally throughout the article. One sense of (TWD) I am using simply seems to be the idea that one is condemned in every world in which he in instantiated, while another sense that I use later on is that (TWD) means in every world in which one makes a libertarianly free choice, he would reject God (not the same thing at all). The first sense makes (TWD) and (CS) logically incoherent together, since one states there are no world in which one is elect, and the other states there are at least some, just not the actual world. The second sense means that even those elect persons have (TWD), and then the distinction between (TWD) and (CTD) collapses (they are simply describing the same circumstances). But then this means that P-1 and P-2 persons are possessing of the same exact properties, and hence there is some other property, namely the property of being elect, that distinguishes these groups. But this property of being elect is not an intrinsic feature of persons; it is only bestowed upon someone in God's free knowledge (i.e., by his active choice). I suppose, then, that whether or not (MRA) can be saved for the Calvinist will depend on whether or not one accepts (TWD) as describing libertaianly free acts. If it does, then one wonders whether or not the rug has been pulled out from under those who reject Molinism. For on Molinism, the ones who will be saved in the actual world are only saved because God chose this world; and further, no one is saved without the working of God in their lives; and further, if there's not anything *especially* bad about the reprobate, then there's not anything *especially* good about the elect, even in cases where they bear the property of being elect (notice this is crucial: if there's nothing praiseworthy about having the property of being elect, then it won't matter whether or not one made the choice to accept God's grace or not [as it's not itself a praiseworthy action]).


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