Monday, November 16, 2009

"God's Lesser Glory" in "God's Greater Glory"

“Despite the appeal of Molinism for some today, there are at least two significant problems with it, as seen from a Reformed perspective. First, it is not at all clear how God can know by middle knowledge just what choices free creatures would make in various sets of possible circumstances. The problem here is that since freedom in the libertarian sense is defined as the ability, all things being just what they are, to choose differently, it is impossible to know what decision will be made simply by controlling the circumstances within which is it made. Because, all conditions being just what they are, one can choose otherwise, control of the conditions exerts no regulative power over the actual choice made within those conditions. Therefore, it is impossible to know what decision would be made just by knowing the conditions within which it is made. In short, nothing grounds God’s knowledge of what free creatures would do in various possible sets of circumstances, and hence, God cannot know what middle knowledge advocates claim he knows: what free creatures would do in any and all possible sets of circumstances.
Second, Molinism’s insistence on libertarian freedom is itself problematic. For reasons argued in the previous chapter, libertarian freedom simply fails as a viable understanding of human freedom for both philosophical and biblical reasons. Since libertarian freedom reduces human choosing to arbitrariness, and since libertarian freedom is fully incompatible with the strong view of divine sovereignty taught in Scripture, therefore the very notion that humans have the power of contrary choice (as understood in the libertarian model of freedom) simply must be rejected. Hence, the Molinist model as it stands cannot and should not be adopted by Reformed thinkers”
(Bruce Ware, “God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith.” Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004, page 112).

I promised that I would return with Ware’s two reasons against Molinism. The above quote tells us what they are.

Let’s tackle Ware’s first reason: “it is not at all clear how God can know by middle knowledge just what choices free creatures would make in various sets of possible circumstances...because all conditions being just what they are, no one can choose otherwise, control of the conditions EXERTS NO REGULATIVE POWER over the actual choice made within those conditions.”

But this contradicts the Bible. The fact that the Lord limits our choices doesn’t mean that He is incapable of knowing which of the choices we will make. A good example of this comes from 2 Samuel 24, where the Lord punishes David for numbering the troops of Israel and Judah. David prays and asks the Lord to forgive him of his sin of numbering the people. The Lord sends the prophet Gad to David with a response to his prayer of forgiveness:

“Now when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, ‘Go and tell David, ‘Thus says the LORD: “I OFFER YOU THREE THINGS; CHOOSE ONE OF THEM FOR YOURSELF, THAT I MAY DO IT TO YOU” (2 Samuel 24:11-12, NKJV).

The Lord tells Gad to tell David to choose one of three options regarding a punishment for his sin. What were the three options?

“So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, ‘Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me” (2 Sam. 24:13).

David has been given three options: seven years of famine, three months running from enemies, or three days of plague. The Lord gives David three options to choose from—and doesn’t appear threatened to the reader in the biblical text. So, if the Lord chooses to grant choice, then how does this indicate that He doesn’t know what I (or anyone else) will choose? The very fact that God limited David’s choices show His sovereignty over all; in the same way, the fact that we have libertarian freedom demonstrates that, while we are free, our freedom comes “within constraints,” within boundaries set by God. If anything, God’s establishment of boundaries and limits displays His sovereignty far more than if He dictated what action I would take. The God who gave David three options concerning His sin demonstrates that the God of the Bible is a God who owns everything. Only those who own a lot can give a lot. And since God owns everything, He can choose how the process of selection works (in regards to choices, punishments, etc.).

This argument of Ware’s, however, is very much like that of the Open Theist. The Open Theist says that, “if God knows my choice, then how is it free?” As a result, the Open Theist claims that God doesn’t know my future choices. The problem with this theological conclusion is that it clearly denies Scripture (Psalm 139) and makes God “in our image, after our likeness” instead of us being made “in His image, after His likeness” (Genesis 1:26).

Bruce Ware writes a counterpart to this book, “God’s Greater Glory”; the opposing book is called “God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism.” I just read chapter one of this book, and in the first chapter Ware discusses how Open Theists believe that if God foreknows all things, then every action and choice is determined, not free. The only way (according to the Open Theist) for a choice to be truly free is that God is ignorant of it...knows nothing about the choice until it happens. With Ware’s entertainment of this accusation against Molinism, it seems that he’s given into the Open Theist trap.

It seems then, that Bruce Ware advocates quite a bit of “God’s Lesser Glory,” as much as the open theist does. And this is in a book titled “God’s Greater Glory!”
I would go into Bruce Ware’s second reason to oppose Molinism...but it would infringe on my next post. In that case, you’ll just have to keep reading...

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