Thursday, February 25, 2010

Molina's Concordia-- Disputation 47, Sections 1 and 2 (On Contingency)

“1. Thus far we have subjected our freedom of choice to intellectual scrutiny, reconciled it to the extent our weakness allows with God’s general concurrence and with divine grace, and shown with the clarity permitted us that there is contingency both in the works of nature and in those of grace. In order that we might return to the explication of St. Thomas and to the issues that pertain to this article, we must now, first of all, investigate the SOURCE OF CONTINGENCY, so that the contingency of future things might thereby be fully and more clearly established. What’s more, we will explain the way in which God knows future contingents, and, finally, we will reconcile divine foreknowledge with our freedom of choice and with the contingency of things” (Luis de Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge: Part IV of the Concordia,” Disputation 47, Section 1. Translated by Alfred J. Freddoso. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1988, page 85).

We have examined Dr. Ken Keathley’s words regarding Molinism and his five-point theological system. Now, I’m gonna do what I’ve always been told is good advice: go back to the primary sources. That’s right---I’m now gonna go through Molina’s words himself, from his “Concordia, Part IV.”

Someone might ask, “Well, why is it that you will only cover Part IV?” The answer is, that Part IV is the only portion of Molina’s “Concordia” that’s been translated from Spanish to English. The good news is, however, that Part IV is all we’ll need in order to see Molina’s theology up-close.

Before I get started, I’d just like to thank Dr. Ken Keathley for taking time to sit with me over this past Thanksgiving Break and spend some time talking about Molinism. I asked him in his office about Molinist resources, and he gave me the best recommendations. He told me (I remember these five books) to buy “Divine Providence: The Molinist Account” by Thomas P. Flint, “A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology” by Kirk R. MacGregor, “The Only Wise God” by William Lane Craig, “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach” by Dr. Ken Keathley, and “On Divine Foreknowledge: Part IV of the Concordia,” by Luis de Molina. I think he was a little biased in recommending his own book (smile), but recommending the others to me was as much as blessing as recommending his own. I’ve been extremely blessed in my study of Molinism and middle knowledge...and, although I’m still not a Molinist, I do affirm the biblical concept of God’s middle knowledge. I’ve read much conclusive evidence to bring me to this conclusion. Had I not become convinced of middle knowledge, at the very least, I would have affirmed true human responsibility from the Bible itself. As I’ve said here before, Classical Arminians have nothing to fear regarding middle knowledge. We may not like the name “middle” knowledge, but we can at least confirm that such knowledge is “contingent” or “dependent” upon human choices. God knows what true creatures will do because He made them---not because He determined what they would do. And, since He created the world out of His own free will and desire, we must agree that these creatures (humanity) are “contingent,” dependent upon God’s will and continued desire to be faithful to His Word. Should God decide to stop holding the world in place (hypothetically), humanity as we know it would “fall off the face of the earth” and be no more.

Today, I’m gonna start going through Molina’s “Concordia, Part IV.” For those of you who really wanna know what Molina said, I would suggest buying a copy of the “Concordia” from somewhere like Amazon. I think most copies will sell for somewhere between $15-$20. I suggest you buy the “Concordia” (Alfred Freddoso translation) for no other reason than to examine what I say about Molina for yourself. Don’t take my word for it---examine Molina’s words for yourself, to see if what I’m saying matches Molina himself.

The above quote at the beginning of the post is from Disputation 47, “On the Source of Contingency,” which is where Part IV of the Concordia starts. Molina has already argued for contingency in “the works of nature and in those of grace,” so now, he will attempt to show “the source or origin of contingency”:

“To understand the source or origin of contingency, we must note that there are two senses relevant to the present undertaking in which a state of affairs may be said to be contingent. A state of affairs is contingent in the first sense when, if you think just of the natures of the terms, the subject no more lays claim to the predicate that is affirmed of it than to the opposite of that predicate. For instance, that Socrates is sitting is contingent, since Socrates as such no more lays claim to sitting than to standing or to lying down” (Disputation 47, Section 2, pages 85-86).

When Molina talks about the “source or origin” of contingency, he is referring to the one on whom all of life depends. The next phrase, “state of affairs,” must also be qualified. This phrase refers to the idea of the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who came up with the “best of all possible worlds theory.” Jay Wesley Richards quotes from the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy to provide a definition of a “state of affairs”:

“a possibility, actuality, or impossibility of the kind expressed by a nominalization of a declarative sentence” (Jay Wesley Richards, “The Untamed God: A Philosophical Exploration of Divine Perfection, Simplicity and Immutability.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003, page 54).

The definition from the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy tells us that a state of affairs is an event that “can” or “might” happen (possibility), happens or is happening (actuality), or can never happen (impossibility). A “state of affairs” is simply a proposition or consideration of an action in real life. Richards also provides examples:

“‘Socrates’ teaching Plato in Athens’ and ‘Jay’s writing a book in 2002’ states of affairs" (Richards, 55).

The next word that needs to be defined is “contingent.” Something is “contingent” if it is “dependent” upon something or “conditional,” possible under certain conditions, etc.

Molina then travels into the two types of “contingency.” The first type involves subject and predicate. A subject is the object or person being discussed in the sentence. The predicate is the description or set of details given about the sentence. Let’s use Molina’s example:

“For instance, ‘that Socrates is sitting’ is contingent, since Socrates as such no more lays claim to sitting than to standing or to lying down” (Concordia, 86).

Here we find that "Socrates" is the subject (the person being discussed), and "is sitting" is the predicate, the description given about Socrates. But notice what Molina is saying here: Socrates does not have to “sit,” and Socrates is not bound to “sit” any more than he can “stand.” This is why the phrase “Socrates is sitting” is contingent (dependent, conditional): it is based upon Socrates decision to sit or stand. It is not out of necessity that Socrates sits.

But there is a second sense of the word “contingency”:

“A given future state of affairs is called contingent in a second sense, because it rules out not only the necessity that has its source in the natures of the terms, but also the fatalistic and extrinsic necessity that results from the arrangement of causes” (Molina, 86).

The second sense not only does away with necessity WITHIN the objects themselves, but also opposes the idea of necessity OUTSIDE of the objects themselves. In other words, the inner nature and outer relationship of objects are not bound by necessity. In other words, nothing within Socrates forces him to sit...but nothing from without forces Socrates to sit as well.

“It is in this second sense that we will be speaking of contingency in the present context, as we inquire into its source” (87).

Molina has defined here what he means by contingency---that objects are not bound from within or from without by necessity. We should keep this idea of contingency in mind when dealing with the “Concordia.” I will continue with Molina’s thoughts on contingency in my next post.

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