Nature of God


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An objection to Molinism
« on: May 04, 2019, 07:11:43 am »

I posted this under general discussions but just found this category (sorry I am a new user)
I have been enjoying learning about Molinism. I have an objection that I have not yet seen addressed, Can anyone help?

Imagine that a free agent S was put in a fully specified set of circumstances C and was able to make a small and trivial decision between two alternatives A and ~A with roughly equal reasons to carry out either alternative. Lets imagine that God, in his middle knowledge, knows the agent would choose action A were he to actualise the circumstances C. Now imagine that God did actualise C and the free agent carried out action A as expected. What would happen if God decided to re-actualise circumstances C again and again to keep testing what the free agent does each time. Would the agent continue to make the same decision on to infinity? In this thought experiment, each time God actualised the set of circumstances C everything was exactly the same down to the quantum physical level. Furthermore all the knowledge, beliefs and memories of the free agent S were exactly the same each time God "rebooted" the scenario (so the free agent was not aware of being placed in C in the past). 

Someone may argue that this is a pointless thought experiment because God wouldn't do something like this (i.e. it is not consistent with his character or will) so there is no possible world in which this state of affairs obtains. But I don't think this removes the force of the objection. And even if it isn't possible, I still think it raises problems as a purely theoretical thought experiment - and either answer seems problematic:
1. If we answer that the free agent would always do the same thing again and again and again with no exceptions, then a few problems seem to present themselves:

(a) Why would the agent just "freely" keep making the same decision when it is completely in their power to do the alternative? If they are not causally determined to carry out action A and if action A and ~A have a similar appeal to the agent what constrains the agent to always choose A? We can't say that it is the circumstances being identical because a free decision cannot be causally determined by the circumstances. The decision originates in the volition of the agent who is completely free to carry out either action.

(b) The second problem is that if the free agent always acts in the same way they seem more like a robot who just keep following the same "script" every time rather than a genuinely free agent. I think this is may be why Greg Boyd posits "might" counterfactual - he wants to keep open the possibility that in C agent S might do ~A. If the agent always makes the same decision A, there is a zero probability of them choosing ~A. But to say that there is a zero probability of them choosing ~A seems to be equivalent to saying they could not chose ~A is circumstances C (i.e there is no possible world in which S chooses ~A despite a potentially infinite number of opportunities). But the surely the Molinist wants to affirm that it is possible that the free agent can choose ~A but it just is not what they would do.

2. Alternatively, if in some of the infinite repeats the agent surprised us and chose ~A, then in what sense is it true that "God knew the agent would do action A in circumstances C"? What is to stop the agent choosing ~A on the "first run" of the experiment?

So either option seems problematic: The first scenario (the agent always repeating the same choice) seems inexplicable and appears to rob the agent of any significant freedom. The second scenario (the agent occasionally doing something different) seems inconsistent with the type of would counterfactual which are posited in the doctrine of middle knowledge.

Can anyone suggest a route through this problem? Thank you and God bless. Pete



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Re: An objection to Molinism
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2019, 10:12:36 am »
If God has created the souls and the souls grow, in fact it would be impossible for God to repeat this test in exactly the same way. Growth is the addition of spirit or power to the soul in question, meaning it becomes a “new person,” and becomes free even of God, unless God has such in-depth knowledge of the creatures that He predicts these changes.

Keep in mind that predictability is not necessarily enslavement, and in fact we all require a certain degree of predictability in our friends if we are to have a good and warm society. If you know your friends to be good and noble, their choices may sometimes offer a surprise or two, but you always know it will be a delightful surprise, not a shock.

It seems to me you are following a shallow model of a person, but I prefer to think of a person in depths, and the propensities by which choices are made are one aspect of a profound personality. That these propensities are known to a certain degree, by God or by one’s friends, does not imply determinism. Because of a propensity, the agent S will choose A rather than ~A, although the two are of relatively equal effect. Only in the case of a shallow personality, making choices on the surface, would they go either direction.