Sunday, January 12, 2014

Benjamin Franklin's creed

I just finished reading The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands. It was an excellent biography, and I highly recommend it. I've always kind of admired Franklin. This book disappointed me in some ways (not disappointment in the book, but disappointment in Franklin), but in some ways it strengthened my admiration.

Since a lot of people consider Benjamin Franklin to have been a deist, and since this is a religious blog, I thought I'd quote something he wrote about it. Toward the end of his life, a lot of people wrote him letters asking for details about his life story. Among them was Ezra Stiles who asked Franklin specifically about his religious sentiments. Here is what Franklin said:
Here is my creed. I believe in one God, creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental principles of all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as it probably has, of making his doctrines more respected and better observed, especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure.

I shall only add, respecting myself, that, having experienced the goodness of that Being in conducting me prosperously through a long life, I have no doubt of its continuance in the next, though without the smallest conceit of meriting such goodness.

Friday, January 10, 2014

One of James White's objections to Molinism

I'm not a Molinist, but I thought of an objection to one of James White's objections to Molinism.  I thought about calling the Dividing Line and talking to him about it, but I'm always at work when the show is happening.  Besides that, he intimidates me.  He can be a little aggressive.

Anyway, a while back, William Lane Craig made the following comments in the context of Molinism:

So there are worlds which are intrinsically possible but which God, given the counterfactuals that happen to be true, is not capable of actualizing and which are therefore, in Flint's terminology, infeasible for God.  Notice that because counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are contingently true, which worlds are feasible for God and which are infeasible is also a contingent matter.  It all depends on how creatures would freely behave in various circumstances, which is beyond God's control.  "The difference between possible and feasible worlds"

The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him are outside His control.  He has to play with the hand He has been dealt. "Molinism and the soteriological problem of evil once more"

That last quote especially bothered White.  White, as most Calvinists, has a very strong view of God's sovereignty.  God, in White's view, can do whatever he wants (Daniel 4:35), and he isn't limited by the free will of creatures.  To say that God's hands are tied by the freedom of his own creatures is to make the creature sovereign rather than God.

So here's my objection to White's objection.  Even if we grant that no creature has libertarian freedom, as long as it's possible that there could have been free creatures, then there are some possible worlds in which free creatures exist.  If so, then there are counterfactuals of creaturely freedom that apply to those worlds.  And if so, then God is limited in which world he can create.  He can create this world in which there are no free creatures, but there are other worlds he cannot create, and the reason he can't create them is because of the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom that apply to those worlds.

So even if you grant Calvinism and compatibilism in the actual world, that doesn't undermine the point Craig made.  It would still be the case that God had to play with the hand he had been dealt.  God would still be limited in which possible world he could actualize.

The only way for White to overcome this problem is to say that there are no possible worlds in which there are free creatures.  He would have to argue that libertarian freedom is logically incoherent.

And maybe it is.