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By James White — 10 months ago
[embedded content]I was joined in studio by Daniel Constantino and Oscar Dunlap to discuss their debate with two LDS representatives a few weeks ago at Apologia Church. Goodness, how Mormonism has changed! Almost 90 minutes of discussion, even though I was not able to play much of the debate due to a technical problem with how my computer was connected to the system (sorry about that!).
By James White — 11 months ago
On February 13th I posted the following paragraph in three Tweets:It is seriously sad that someone who claims to be a Reformed theologian could parallel God’s freely ordaining “whatsoever comes to pass” with Hydra controlling Bucky’s mind. This is why Molinism creates the myth of MK: they do not believe the Triune God, who split the sea, raised the dead, multiplied the fishes and loaves, holds the billions of galaxies in His hand yet froze time in place to prove His faithfulness (Joshua 10:13), could create the realm of time in which to display His glory, reveal His attributes, all with exact precision, so that His perfect will is accomplished by means of the real, meaningful, culpable actions of creatures made in His image.155 words. Two sentences. The background, of course, was the debate that had taken place about 36 hours earlier between myself and Tim Stratton. Stratton had repeatedly defaulted to using Avenger illustrations, one being the control of Bucky’s mind by Hydra. How anyone could possibly parallel this to Yahweh’s decreeing all actions in time, including those of free creatures, including the means, causes, etc., is completely beyond me, and that was part of the background. Stratton claims to be “Reformed,” and hence the issue. The London Baptist Confession makes it clear:God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. (3:1).And should a Molinist (the authors of the WCF and the LBCF knew of Molina’s schemes) try to find a way to affirm even this, the next paragraph closes the door, firmly:Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.The extensiveness of God’s knowledge is hereby affirmed (against Stratton), but the key element of Molinism is directly denied by “yet hath he not decreed anything…as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.” The point of these confessions is that the source, the foundation, the fountainhead of the decree, in all its aspects, is the free, sovereign, good will of God, His intention, His purpose, His glory. They well knew Molina’s intention was to make room for something else, and that via Middle Knowledge. The three tweets had one point: Molinism, by its assertion of an unbiblical “myth” of Middle Knowledge (specifically, the functional element of this assertion, the existence of the so-called counter-factuals of human freedom, or more precisely, the true subjunctive conditionals), denies that the very God who acted supernaturally throughout Scripture (as all would agree who hold to any kind of biblical authority) could, when it comes to man, act just as supernaturally. Instead of affirming the biblical testimony that God can, and has, created man in time, and made him a real, important, and culpable being, while at the same time forming the very fabric of time which must include the events that take place therein, Molinism insists that there is an inalterable source of data that “delimits” and determines the “feasible worlds” God could have created. Dr. Craig expressed it very clearly and helpfully in his dialogue with Dr. Helm January 4, 2014:What the Molinist does say that the Calvinist does find objectionable is that God is not in control of which subjunctive conditionals are true. He doesn’t determine the truth value of these subjunctive conditionals. That’s outside His control.And yet it is the content of these subjunctive conditionals that is foundational to the determination of what worlds God can actualize, and as Dr. Craig says, God’s will is not the origin of this information, this “knowledge.” Dr. Stratton is not nearly as forthcoming with his position, unfortunately, which leads to significantly less clarity. Indeed, Stratton’s assertion that this knowledge comes from “God’s nature” makes a muddle of the entire subject, for this leads to the assertion that God’s actions are limited by an aspect of His own being that is not under the control of His will, and yet impacts the very exercise thereof! The idea that Yahweh’s being is defined, evidently eternally, by unalterable decisions of creatures who may or may not even be created is the very definition of “knowledge falsely so called,” and any serious consideration of the idea should reveal how seriously this impacts the freedom of God’s will. Stratton’s defense that this is simply a statement that God cannot do the logically impossible begs the question: we are asserting that God’s decree and man’s creaturely freedom are compatible, as Scripture reveals. The ExchangeI wrote my two sentences and went merrily on my way. Upon arriving at the next stop on my journey I began to look through my media and found that Will Hess, one of the hosts of The Church Split, had responded to my tweets. Will is doing a “review” of my book, The Potter’s Freedom, with David Pallmann. I had already spent some time demonstrating that, unfortunately, neither gentleman seems overly familiar with church history, and both have an egregious tendency to ignore the flow of the text they are ostensibly seeking to review. In any case, I was simply astonished by what I saw. Here is how he responded:I mean this is the person who tweeted today that Molinists deny the triune God and that we never demonstrated any misrepresentations although we did.Ex: Molinists are not trying to rob God of any freedom. Not a single one would claim that’s the reason for their belief.And then he posted a tweet with the image of my three initial tweets and the introduction, “Before anyone is called a liar.”I immediately suggested he sit back and re-read what I had written because he has so badly misread the sentence. It is impossible on any reading of the English language to assert that I said Molinists “deny the triune God.” (As to his discussion of misrepresentations, I will direct anyone to the episodes of the Dividing Line where I have gone into the errors of Hess and Pallmann regarding their allegations). But my focus here is on the egregious misreading of a plain and clear sentence. I was speaking of the supernatural, miraculous actions of the Triune God, which, ostensibly, both the Reformed and Molinists agree are a part of divine revelation. The point was that reducing creation to a philosophical syllogism and deciding that God cannot decree freely all that comes to pass (MK delimits and conditions said freedom) is inconsistent for a Molinist who does not limit God’s actions otherwise to such strictures. God says he freely decrees, and God says man is free and responsible: demanding a mechanical, philosophical explanation for how is no better than demanding such an explanation for how Jesus was raised from the dead, or how the sea was parted for the children of Israel. Hess simply jumped to an absurd conclusion. It is, obviously, indefensible. He even sub-tweeted Dr. Stratton and asked, “@TSXpress example: do you affirm the Triune God who accomplishes all these feats?” He is plainly confusing the description of God’s supernatural acts with the actual direct object of the verb in the original sentence, “does not believe.” Does not believe what? The Trinity? The supernatural acts of the Triune God? Of course not. These were all descriptive sub-clauses. The direct object is plainly, “could create the realm of time” together with the following descriptors that are exactly what is denied by Molinism and were denied by Stratton in the debate. The sentence, while complex, is no more complex than any one would read in a serious work of literature, or in the New Testament. Hess made a clear, public, serious blunder of reading comprehension.Did he immediately recognize his error and retract his allegation? Certainly not. To my amazement, he doubled down:Condescension won’t get you far with me. These are your words. You said Molinists don’t believe in the Triune God, who accomplishes all these non-controversial things.It’s not my detestation of Calvinism here that’s the issue it’s your misrepresentation of Molinists.So once again, the error of reading by Hess is not only fully documented (and indefensible), he did not even pause long enough to re-read the material to see if maybe, just maybe, his interpretation was in error. He doubled down. “These are your words.” Yes, yes they are, and as such, I know what they meant, and what they said. And Mr. Hess is guilty of twisting them. Plainly. I replied:So, I point out that in English, the direct object of the denial is “could create the realm of time,” NOT “the Trinity,” and despite this obvious, inarguable reality, you refuse to accept the correction?This is amazing evidence of a serious imbalance, Will.Now, possibly at this point, someone in his circle may have contacted him and said something like, “Will, seriously, that’s not what he said. He did not say Molinists deny the Trinity, or those miracles. Come on, man, you are embarrassing yourself.” I do not know, but all of a sudden, his response changed to an assertion that my original statement had been unclear:So you have a misrepresentation again. Just another demonstration of it.Also, it was admittedly sloppily worded, but according to your own standard, If someone sloppily misspeaks they aren’t to be taken seriously at all.Is it true for me but not for thee?Please note “it was admittedly sloppily worded.” This, itself, is “sloppily worded.” The sentence could refer to my original statement, but then “admittedly” would make no sense, since I have admitted no such thing, nor will I, for it is factually untrue. Or, it could refer to his own response, which clearly was sloppily worded, but then its relationship to the entire thread becomes unclear. Is he saying he just did not respond clearly? That is impossible, given his sub-tweeting of Stratton and his second response. But then someone else pointed out the obvious to Will, and he replied:It’s unclear. He’s either saying they deny the Triune God, or the attributes that make Him the God of the Bible. Both are wrong on molinists. If it’s unclear, then perhaps he should be more precise before condescending others for not being as precise. Either way, it’s an issue.So, notice that he is still asserting the obviously impossible: that I was saying Molinists “deny the Triune God” or “the attributes that make Him the God of the Bible.” No one can possibly read what I originally wrote and come to this conclusion based on any grammatical or logical analysis, so, clearly, something else is in play here. He then tries to shift the blame to me for writing something unclear (“if it’s unclear”), throws in an accusation of condescension, and then declares “either way, it’s an issue.” Notice the only option he does not consider: his own astonishingly clear error of reading right from the start. That seems to be the one option Will Hess will not put on the table. Likewise, he again replied to me, Again, condescension doesn’t work. But it was a run on sentence. One that myself and others couldn’t even decifer.Regardless, molinists affirm God is outside of time and created it. So to say Molinists “deny the triune God…..could create the realm of time” is blatantly untrue.At this point I have lost track of how many opportunities Will Hess had to finally admit his error and apologize for his misreading, but, clearly, it just isn’t going to happen. Now it is a “run on sentence.” Will needs to learn that a complex sentence (with multiple sub-clauses) is not the same thing as a “run on sentence.” I would challenge him to diagram the sentence (does anyone do that anymore?) and see for himself. But now he says he could not “decifer” (decipher) the sentence. I guess that is as close as we are going to get to, “I can’t follow the claim but I will still accuse you of lying about Molinists.” And he still repeats his initial error, the blatant, obvious misreading of the text so as to assert it says Molinists deny God could create the realm of time, ignoring the multiple and key descriptive phrases that follow that define the difference between Middle Knowledge and biblical creation.Will wrote a number of further tweets repeating the same error, none of which dealt with the actual claim of the original tweet. He started to say it was “sloppy,” but through all the verbiage one reality stood clear: he refuses to allow my original words to stand in their own context, and, most importantly, shows not the slightest understanding of what the actual key issue is relating to the function of subjunctive conditionals. So, the irony is, he is beating the “you misrepresented Molinists” drum while it is he who does not seem to even understand the function of the claims of Molinism as they were intended to impact the substance of Reformed theology. I do believe, clearly, this exchange vitiates any relevance to Hess’ involvement in “reviewing” my book. If he cannot handle, accurately and truthfully, 155 words in a few tweets, what should we expect from he and Pallmann over the course a tens of thousands of words? In conclusion, one may well ask, “How is it that a man can so badly maul the language, as Will Hess did, and, when faced with the obvious exposure of his error, double and triple down, obfuscate, and declare himself a victim?” Part of it is the social media realm, obviously. But in this case I assert I was correct at the start: his prejudice against Calvinism caused him to read the original tweets in an errant manner, and rather than admit this and correct himself, he is willing to sacrifice his integrity rather than do something that might be construed as “failing” to defeat the monster that is Calvinism. I have seen many people completely lose their balance on social media. Think of the fact that we have had to come up with the phrase “derangement syndrome” to speak of those who cannot even allow someone to speak without immediately attacking them and twisting their words, for whatever reasons. I believe that is what we have here, to be sure, and it is a sober warning to all that we should always seek to hold to the highest standard in handling our words, whether spoken or written.Addendum:Upon posting the link to this article, Will Hess replied (probably far too quickly to have even bothered to read it):Ah, so we don’t respond anymore we just write articles. Got itSo to be clear Molinists don’t believe the Triune God split the Red Sea? Asking because a lowly podcaster doesn’t understand sentences.No honest person believes I said Molinists don’t believe the Triune God split the sea, so, we can only conclude Mr. Hess has no interest in honesty or accuracy.Then a few hours later, this final example:just read the article it’s CNN level bad bad…“Let me only say what my opponent said, but not add the part where he clearly cornered me, or my horribly condescending attitude. Let me only drop Will’s responses. Oh, and his misspelling. That’ll teach him!”Lolz cool bro.