Thursday, July 23, 2009

If the mighty works…

The debate between predestination and “free” will has raged on for thousands of years now, and a recent post at Triablogue has raised anew an interest in this seemingly timeless conundrum for this beachbum. A verse in Sacred Scripture that always comes to the fore in such reflections is from the lips of our Lord:

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (Matthew 11:21 – KJV)

I discern two important issues concerning predestination and “free” will in this verse: first, contra Reformed doctrine, unregenerate folk (in the classic Reformed sense) sure seem to be capable of repentance under certain circumstances; and second, on the flip side, for a reason(s) unknown to us, the “certain circumstances” that would have produced repentance in the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida was withheld.

Personally, I think this very interesting verse can be harmonized with Augustinian and Thomistic thought; however, I also believe that it poses certain difficulties for Calvinism.

I sincerely wonder what others think about this verse…

Grace and peace,



Randy said...

I don't know if it a bigger problem for Calvinists than many other texts. The bible talks about choices resulting in salvation or condemnation a lot. If you can accept that God is not talking about free choices but rather phoney pre-arranged choices then this passage will fit into that category.

There is the issue of hell for non-Calvinists as well. This is an example of God giving savific graces unequally. Don't we end up with the same problem of an unfair God as the Calvinists do? Sure all have free will here but not all have an equal chance of making the right choice. Paul was met by Jesus in a vision. How many mothers have prayed for their children to see such a vision and it has not happened?

Modern Catholics try and make it go away by saying people are judged on how they respond to whatever grace they are given. But certain graces are more effective. People who have the sacraments are more likely to be saved than those who don't. Same with people who have the bible. So a child born to solid Catholics has to be more likely to be saved than a child born into a non-Christian family. If salvific graces are equal in those cases then we may as well close the church.

Anyway, I am drifting off topic. I think Jesus main point here was that soon gentile hearts would open to the gospel and jewish hearts would close. Yes, God predestined that. Did he remove free will from individuals? No. But he made things so that the big picture would end up that way.

Ken said...

Context is important; verses 22 and 24 are key - the main point is about degrees of judgment on judgment day; it will be worse for the Galilean/Jewish towns of Bethsaida and Korazin and Capernaum, who had Jesus Himself and His life and miracles; than the Gentile towns of Tyre and Sidon and on the day of final judgment for Sodom. To whom much is given, much is required.

21"Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.[a] If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

God holds all men accountable for their sins; but those that heard the message and saw His miracles and rejected will be more accountable and have harsher judgment.

Furthermore, many historical passages in the gospels and Acts present the gospel message and commands to people "to repent" and "to believe", without explaining that they actually don't have the moral power on the inside to do the repenting apart from special grace of God.

For the explanation of that, we go to other passages in John 6:44, Acts 16:14 and the epistles.

Ken said...

Randy wrote:
I think Jesus main point here was that soon gentile hearts would open to the gospel and jewish hearts would close. Yes, God predestined that.

This is not an incorrect or bad comment.

Did he remove free will from individuals?

That is like, "when did you stop beating your wife?" kind of question.

Reformed theology never says "God removes free will". Human beings lost their free will by choosing sin, freely. As Augustine says in Enchiridion 30

Adam and Eve had real moral free will; but as Augustine wrote, "by the wrong use of his free will, that man destroyed both it and himself." (Enchiridion 30)

They freely chose their sin.

Everyone after them is born in "the bondage of the will" - that all our choices are according to our desires, which are always tainted with sin, pride, selfishness, jealousy, until God frees the will by grace, leading to repentance and faith.

God gave free will to Adam and Eve; they destroyed by their sin; but we all now still have freedom to choose, but those choices are "according to their desires", which are always tainted by sin.

God never takes the freedom away; we as humans did that in Adam. (Romans 5:12) That is what original inherited sin is all about. (Psalm 51; John 8:34; Ephesians 2:1-5 ff)

Acolyte4236 said...


If Adam and Eve were predestined to fall, then it is hard to see how they lost free will. They never could have refrained from sinning.

Ken said...

Let's take the second part first,
"hard to see how they lost free will"

Did they loose free will? (Do you believe Augustine's teaching? - Enchiridion 30, 32)

Did they become sinners? Romans 5:12

Are we all sinners, enslaved to lusts of the flesh and lusts of the mind, and children of wrath?

Ephesians 2:1-3

Jesus said, "everyone who sins is the slave of sin" John 8:34

one sin makes a slave.

2 Peter 2:19-22

Only God's grace in the gospel sets us free from sin.
Romans 6:6-7; 20-23 (all of chapter 6)

The Holy Spirit sets us free to obey. Romans 8:2

God has to give repentance - 2 Tim. 2:24-26

"having been held captive by the devil to do his will"

Acts 11:18 - God grants repentance

Acts 16:14 - God opened Lydia's heart to respond to the things that Paul was preaching.

God planned and predetermined the events of the cross, as atonement for sin - Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; Rev. 13:8

Believers are elected before creation - Ephesians 1:4-5

God works all things according to the counsel of His will. Ephesians 1:11-12

Then it follows that God fore-saw the fall of man and decreed and planned it; because He planned the solution to it; the cross.

How to put together God's Sovereignty and man's responsibility is a mystery on how they fit; not the truth that both are truths.

Beyond that, we should put our hands over our mouths, as Job did; and worship the God of the Scriptures, who is Lord and Sovereign, and be quiet.

Acolyte4236 said...


Sure, I believe that they lost free will, but I don't think you can consistently maintain that they ever had it and neither can Augustine.

I believe Romans 5:12, just not Augustine's reading of it based on a Latin mistranslation.

I believe Eph 2 that humans have by long habit become by nature children of wrath and that their spiritual death is in the sinful works. Check the usage for phusis in Eph 2 please.

And sure, everyone who sins serves sin, but we disagree over what that servitude entails. The same goes for many of the rest of the passages.

Eph 1, all things are predestines in salvation in Christ. Try to keep reading to verses 10-11. All of creation is recapitulated in Christ. All men are raised in Christ, even the wicked. 1 Cor 15:19-22. If they weren't then they were never dead. 2 Cor 5:14. Christ died for all since all were dead. If they weren't dead, then Christ didn't die for them.

An sure God knows all things that will transpire according to his counsel, but that doesn't mean be determines the actions of agents but only that he directs their intentions to fulfill a different goal than the one they had in mind. (Gen 50:20) As Augustine himself notes in his commentary on Genesis, God knows all things but he doesn't cause all things.

Jews were elected too and are to be considered elect according to Paul yet they are enemies of Christ. Rom 11:28. You are confusing election with salvation, which is contrary to Paul's point in Romans 9-11. Election doesn't ensure salvation. I agree that God works all things according to his will, but the passage doesn't say that God determines all things according to his will. Knowledge and will are not the same in any case. God knows things he doesn't cause or will. You are supposing a very deterministic view of God's volitional activity.

And again, none of this answers my points. Saying it is a mystery is the same as saying one of two things. Either you don't know or your system is inconsistent. You could have saved a lot of typing by just saying either of those two answers.You just haven't answered my question as to how they ever had free will if they were predestined to fall, how is it that they could not have sinned.

If Adam was predestined to fall, then he never was in a position where he could have refrained from sinning.

Second, if agents perform actions determined by desires, how is it that Adam having a good nature had an evil desire? On the assumption that his nature is good, evil should have been impossible for him and the same goes for satan too. Throwing up your arms to claim mystery at just the point that your system is inconsistent is ad hoc and fallacious. Why is that when Arminians exclaim that agents just do will one option over another, Calvinists howl that they believe in chance, deny providence or are irrational, but when Calvinist's do the same thing, its "oh what a wonderous mystery!" Sorry, your claim to mystery is fallacious because it is ad hoc. You are just trying to save your system from an obvious inconsistency.

And invoking Augustine really won't help you much since Augustine doesn't adhere to Reformed anthropology where righteousness is intrinstic to nature. Rather he thinks that grace or righteousness is added to nature. Second, Augustine doesn't believe in Sola Fide either but rather that we co-operate in justification and we can increase our justice by good works. Augustine may have a harder view of providence than my own, but he's not a Protestant.

Interlocutor said...

Hi Perry,
You do not accept Ken's appeal to mystery which is fine (although wouldn't you say there is far more revelation on our post-Adamic existence than pre-Fall). But given your view of LFW, why are some saved and others not? If it's simply, "because some chose and some did not", well why did some choose and others did not? This links up to the point Randy made in the first reply with creation/circumstances that I would think you agree God does in fact cause/will; we do not choose when or how we are born/raised or the external factors/circumstances that constantly reshape our lives, nor when we die.

"If Adam and Eve were predestined to fall, then it is hard to see how they lost free will. They never could have refrained from sinning."

Could God have created a world in which he knew Adam and Eve would not sin? Since he chose not to instantiate that world, could they ever have refrained from sinning?

Acolyte4236 said...


I accept appeals to mystery when they are not ad hoc and there is a principled reason layed out why there is a limit to our understanding. But to appeal to mystery in an ad hoc fashion whenever one reaches a point in their system where an inconsistency pops up is not acceptable.

When you ask about people being saved, that depends on what you mean since that term can have a wide and narrow meaning. Widely all men are saved from annihilation in Christ. Christ gathers all into himself (eph 1:10) and all are raised to an immortal existence. (1 Cor 15:19-22, Rev 20) Christ is the redeemer of all men, but especially of those who believe. He even purchases those who deny him. 2 Pet 2:1)

As for the fullness of salvation in a more narrow sense, God creates us without our will doesn't save us without our will. So yes, we are a terminus for our free choices. That seems no more mysterious than the free choice of other agents like the Trinity. If we require an antecedent causal explanation for every choice, what is the explanation for God's choice to create or redeem? Since reasons aren't causes and God knows all the reasons for different actions, it can't be a reason. Can't be knowledge since knowing isn't a cause. God knows his own existence and he didn't cause that. So I don't take the free choices of agents to be mysterious or inexplicable. I just recognize an explanatory stopping point when I see one. When the atheist asks me who created God, he has misunderstood that God is a sufficient explanation for the cause of the world. When a Calvinist asks me what explains an agent's choice, he has misunderstood what an agent is and that an agent is the terminus for the explanatory endevour. Persons are different than other objects. So one chose salvation and the other redemption. Full stop. Not everything is capable of a causal analysis, especially persons. They resist causal explanation, which is why there are no laws of psychology.

Acolyte4236 said...

Interlocutor, (Cont.)

As to what Randy wrote, since the Orthodox do not have the same doctrine of the Incarnation as Catholics or more especially Protestants, we don't view grace as being alien to or extrinsic to human nature and it isn't a created effect in the soul. Since the image of God is eternal, grace comes to us internally and hence can't be effeicacious in a way that is contrary to nature, since that nature too qua logos is eternal in God and nothing in God is in opposition. Grace is not opposed to nature. Hence to speak of different graces as being efficacious at a personal level apart from personal activity is a mistake. Moreover, for the Orthodox, all persons meet Christ in their death, since Christ went into death and defeated it for all men. All men are given in death a revelation o Jesus and they can repent or fall.

Further, not even Calvinists have historically endorsed psychological or circumstantial determinism as is quite clear from people like Warfield and Hodge. They opposed all psychological and materialistic forms of determinism, so I don't see how they can be of help to you unless you are going to endorse Naturalism. Different natural external influences don't determine actions even for Calvinists.

I am not sure how talking about different possible worlds God could have created address my question. First, God could have created a world in which Adam and Eve did not sin, but not one in which they were free because their impeccability would not be their own. It would be a matter of nature and not person so they wouldn't be persons, but objects.

Possible world semantics doesn't of itself imply determinism with respect to the actions of free agents. It depends on how one glosses the counter-factuals of freedom, what the truth maker is for such propositions and if persons are transworld idenfiable essences or not. And since knowing isn't the same as causing and God's knowing isn't temporally prior to our actions, it doesn't follow that if God knows that Adam sins that Adam was predestined to do it. KNowledge and willing aren't the same since God knows things he doesn't will.

So again, on the Reformed view, why speak of Adam as free and that he could have (not would have) refrained from sinning, if he was predestined TO sin?

Ken said...

What do you mean by "ad hoc" ?

Created for that "special purpose" of solving the problem?

Interloculor makes a great point; that we have much more revelation in Scripture about post fall history and theological explanation.

We just don't have much on before that in dealing with this issue; especially on Satan and his nature and fall, etc.

All we have are a few hints in Timothy and Jude and Rev. and if Ezekiel 28 is describing the spirit that is behind "the King of Tyre" ( you O cherub, were in the garden of Eden, etc.) and if the spirit behind the King of Babylon in Isaiah 14 is Lucifer ( O star of the morning, etc.)

Genesis 1-3 doesn't give us a whole lot of information.

So, it is a mystery.

But Adam and Eve had to be tempted from outside of themselves - Genesis 3;

Whereas we are tempted by our internal lusts. James 1:13-14

Acolyte4236 said...


Ad hoc is a fallacious form of reasoning. I'd recommend looking it up.

As for having more data via revelation now, this isn't helpful. First, it is a promisory note for information you do not have to save a theory in trouble now. It is akin to the fallacious reasoning atheists employ when they say that in the future science will be able to explain such and so away.

Second, we have sufficient data that Adam was created good, as was Satan. DO you mean to imply that this in fact is not so and that they were created defective in some way and that data we could have in the future would inform us so?

Third, I simply plugged in your theory for a clear test case and it fails. If nature determined action and Adam had a good nature then it was impossible for him to sin. If Adam was predestined to sin, then it seems he vener enjoyed the freedom prior to the fall not to sin. Your model simply confuses the categories of person and nature.

Fourth, if you wish to focus on the information we have about human nature then we had best start with the humanity of Christ since there is far more information about his human nature than we have about human nature in general. Furthermore, Christ is the model for all of humanity and all of humanity is summed up in him. And so the proper relation between humanity and divinity is set forth in Christology, not anthropology.

Lastly, if your model can't address obvious inconsistencies then that is a good reason to think it is a bad model, not to mention the fact that no other model that you reject for inconsistencies should be rejected on that basis.

Interlocutor said...

Hi Perry,
Enjoying your thought-provoking posts and have always liked your blog.

"God knows his own existence and he didn't cause that."

Sure, God isn't created though. Humankind and history are.

"Since reasons aren't causes and God knows all the reasons for different actions, it can't be a reason."

Reasons are never causes, entirely or in part? I admit I must be missing something obvious here.

"Hence to speak of different graces as being efficacious at a personal level apart from personal activity is a mistake"

So do you mean here a reinforcing loop of personal activity leading to grace (or shedding of corruption) and grace to activity, leading to a diminishing of the gnomic will and increase in virtue? I just wonder how exactly you view praying for grace if it is internal and not extra nos.

"Different natural external influences don't determine actions even for Calvinists."

You're right, I was conflating necessitating with influencing, and I did not mean external influences are the sole determining factor - obviously we have internal influences (though both have the same origin) but both work in tandem in driving our choices. But are there not some influences much greater than others, indeed even some influences that are said to be the deciding factor in our choices that if absent would have most certainly changed the outcome? I mean, look at the verse spawning this topic; if the mighty works had been done, the outcome would have changed and they would have made different choices. And even if these influences do not necessitate a particular choice/outcome, they certainly limit our live options, perhaps to only 2 viable choices, and perhaps to ones that are of similar moral quality and not opposed/extremes.

"First, God could have created a world in which Adam and Eve did not sin, but not one in which they were free because their impeccability would not be their own."

Were you assuming I meant they did not sin because God created their nature differently? I was taking your premise, that they could have refrained from sinning, which you assert. Why would their impeccability not be their own if they refrained from sinning given your argument they had LFW and could have done so?

"It depends on how one glosses the counter-factuals of freedom"

Well if anything explains them, does that mean determinism is true? Don't such facts exist though, but then what makes them true given LFW; how do you explain you would do something else if in an alternative situation? How do you characterize them, or do you leave it at just the "agent is the terminus"?

"And since knowing isn't the same as causing"

I'm still not sure I can buy this if the knowing is by the creator.

"KNowledge and willing aren't the same since God knows things he doesn't will."

What does he not will in *any* sense? If everything in history is created, and creation is an act of will, how can you say some things are out of His will? Related to this, was the Incarnation and redemptive plan willed, and if so, does that mean sin had to be willed in some sense?

And as for your question, yes I admit I have no good answer. Which is why I'm asking for clarification from your side on issues I view just as messy.

Ken said...

I just checked out this book from a local library:

Have you seen it? It is hot off the press. Very interesting!

Benjamin J. King
Newman and the Alexandrian Fathers: Shaping Doctrine in Nineteenth-Century England
Оxford, Oxford University Press, 2009, 320 pages | 216x138mm
978-0-19-954813-2 | Hardback
Price: £50.00


* Gives a fresh perspective on one of the most influential and controversial churchmen of the 19th century
* Traces Newman's shifting interpretations of the Fathers throughout his life
* Reassesses Newman's understanding of Christological and Trinitarian doctrine
* Seeks to bridge the gap between the theologians, biographers, and church historians who write on Newman
* Concludes with an account of the impact of Newman's influence on the patristic scholarship that followed him

From the jacket-cover: (this web-site just is quoting the cover blurb.)

"John Henry (later Cardinal) Newman is generally known to have been devoted to reading the Church Fathers. In this volume, Benjamin King draws on archive as well as published material to explore how Newman interpreted specific Fathers at different periods of his life. King draws connections between the Alexandrian Fathers Newman was reading and the development of his thought. This analysis shows that it was events in Newman's life that changed his interpretation of the Fathers, not the interpretation of the Fathers that caused Newman to change his life. King argues that Newman tailored his reading, 'trying on' the ideas of different Fathers to fit his own needs. An innovative comparison of Newman's two translations of Athanasius of Alexandria, from 1842-44 and 1881, demonstrates that by 1881 the Cardinal was swayed by the theology favored by Pope Leo XIII. King reveals that although Newman was a controversial figure in his own day, eventually his view of the Fathers and their doctrines came to be accepted by many scholars. This new exploration of his work, however, shows that the Cardinal's interpretation of the Fathers should still be controversial today."

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Thank you so much for the head’s up on this new book on Newman!!! The cheapest I have found it is at Barnes & Nobles, still quite expensive. Once you have finished the book, could you let me know what you think about it ?

I am currently reading the recently published “lost” manuscript of Greg L. Bahnsen: Presuppositional Apologetics – Stated and Defended. It is available at the Westminster Seminary Bookstore as well as the following book I am going to order: Baptism: Three Views.

Grace and peace,


Ken said...

You are welcome.

Yes, I could never pay that much for this book; I just happened to see it at a local seminary library and found it very interesting; especially the jacket cover assertion.

I am also still trying to work through Jenkin's book on The Lost History of Christianity.

I am disappointed in that he does not mention the extermination of the Christian communities in Najran (near modern day Yemen); and Omar's pact to get rid of all Jews, Christians in Arabia; and he does not mention that it was the Arians who first used force and police / military power against Athanasius and other homo-ousians. To me, he contradicts himself; citing the brutality of the Muslim invasions and persecutions and massacres (especially the Ottoman Turks); but he backs off from seeing the persecutions and disappearance of the eastern churches as "something inherent in Islam itself".

Most of his book seems to be dedicated to the Nestorians, and the Monophysites (Copts, Jacobite-Syrians/Armenians) and some about the Ethiopian church.

But, I am still reading it through more carefully and slowly. But it is not holding my interest as much as it did in the beginning.

Paul Hoffer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Hoffer said...

Hi all, just got back from NM after two weeks of hiking in the mountains...anyway, I think the problem of free will and predestination is largely due to a failure of man to understand the nature of God. There are verses in the Scriptures that serve as proof texts for either position. Rather than argue for a particular view, we should look for ways to reconcile the two positions. The only way I see to do that is to try to truly acknowledge and understand that God is an infinite, eternal Being, outside of time. There is no past, present or future to Him. Everything is in the "now" which gives us an insight as to how God can predestine and allow "free will" to operate in man at the same time as it were. To such a Being, omnipotence and omniscience are synonymous.

The real problem, as I see it, is that Calvinists, for all their talk of God's sovereignity, attempt to tailor their view of Him to suit their image instead of recognizing that we are made in His. In other words, Calvinists engage in a sort of anthropomorphism. (I deleted my first attempt at commenting because I saw that I misspelled this word). The Catholic position is much more accepting of that truth.

God bless!

David Waltz said...

Hi Paul,

Good to see you back from your NM vacation—wow, two weeks of hiking, very cool. I would be interested in your reasons for choosing NM over the so many other comparable options that are available in our great nation.

FYI, as you can see, no new threads this month—I am currently engaged in some in depth research for my next thread though; one which I hope to begin typing up by tomorrow, and posting on Wednesday…

Grace and peace,


Anonymous said...

Why hasn't david submitted new posts?

Has he apostasized like his friend, Kepha????

Need new posts!

David Waltz said...

>> Why hasn't david submitted new posts?>>

See my comments to Paul in comment #18.

>>Has he apostasized like his friend, Kepha????>>

Kepha (Frank) informed me via an email (about a year ago) that I was not to contact him in any manner (that was his response to a couple of threads here at AF - guess I am too mean…).

In preparation for my upcoming thread (Wednesday, Lord willing), I would like to suggest that you (and others) read at least the opening post of THIS THREAD by Dr. Bryan Cross.

Grace and peace,


Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Dave, I was acting in the capacity as an adult advisor for a Venture Crew trek to the 235 square-mile Philmont Scout Ranch located in Colfax County, NM--Scouting's paradise in God's country! Though truth be told, I would have begged to go even if I didn't have an official reason to do so. That part of NM-where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains and the desert is absolutely beautiful-bison, bears, mountain lions, elk, wild turkey, hummingbirds that mirror every color of the rainbow, wild horses and long-horn cattle, prairie and desert flowers, 100ft tall aspens and ponderosa pine, brook trout, and 12,000 ft. tall mountains! When standing on top of a mountain looking out and seeing such vistas, there is no doubt that one can know something of the Creator by seeing how wondrous is His creation.

God bless!

Acolyte4236 said...


I apologize for the delay, but with a shake up on my blog I’ve had other things to deal with. So hopefully you are still subscribed to comments here. I thought your questions merited a reply.

My point with God knowing his own existence was to establish that knowing per se doesn’t imply causation. So the fact that humans are created and God knows abut them wouldn’t imply that God’s simply knowing about them implies a causal relation. We’d need to add something more to get that conclusion.

No, I don’t think reasons are ever causes. If they were, merely having a reason would be sufficient for an agent to perform an act without making a decision. Decisions are causes which can be done for reasons.

Your question about a reinforcing loop with the eclipsing of the gnomic mode of employment is on the right track. Praying for grace and the receiving of it doesn’t need to turn on grace being extra nos if grace is appropriate to human nature, if human nature itself is a grace qua potentia. The natural can be viewed as condign while the personal activity can be viewed as congruous.

I think you mistake determining factors with joint causes. In order for those to be the same things we’d need to presuppose a deterministic theory of causation for natural events, which is not only controversial but question begging. Besides, plenty of Calvinists have historically rejected causal determinism for natural events. My point was that Calvinism doesn’t historically accept the idea that physical causes determine human choices. Clark, Van Til, Hodge, Warfield all reject the idea of mechanistic determinism.

To drive the choice, I am not sure what that means. And I’d need an idea of what you take a choice to be. If the causes are sufficient to render an outcome, why add the thing called a choice? It seems like an explanatory dangler.

With influences the deciding factor is the person isn’t it? The person makes a choice. If the causes are sufficient, why think there is a person and a choice at all? With the passage that spawned the thread, there are lots of ways we might explain the difference. Perhaps even the wicked in that circumstances weren’t as wicked as the ones in this circumstance. That seems to have some exegetical purchase, doesn’t it? And if wickedness is personal that seems like an adequate explanatory stopping point.

Surely as creatures our options are limited, but part of being a moral particularist, virtue theoriest and joining that with a rejecting of the simplicity of the good is the product that there isn’t only one good act to do in a situation, but many.

Acolyte4236 said...

interlocutor (cont.)

As for God creating Adam in such a world in which he was free but didn’t sin, I think this is part of where possible world semantics and Molinism more specifically break down. On those schemas, persons are essences and the idea is as I am sure you know, that God knows what Jones will do in world w1 because God knows Jones’ essence and the essence guarantees that Jones would do X in world w1. While this can be helpful, I don’t think it is compatibile with libertarianism or deeper commitments in Christian theology. Persons aren’t essences. If they were, Nestorianism or Eutychianism would follow, not to mention either Sabellianism or Tri-Theism in triadology. Essences don’t determine an agents actions so that God’s knowledge of what an agent would can’t be grounded in a hypostasis as an essence. Such is a category mistake and one reason why Molinism isn’t compatible with libertarianism.

The possible world semantics is a useful tool for thinking about possibility and necessity, but it hiccups I think when it comes to an analysis involving persons. I do not think that this gives any ground to Open Theist complaints. Rather it simply points us to the Hellenistic metaphysic that still undergirds modern thinking about personhood which tries to reduce them to objects or principles. There’s not much new in Leibniz that isn’t in Plotinus or Proclus.

My thought was that our first parents impeccability would not be their own if they weren’t the source of it given a Calvinistic gloss. But on a libertarian one, it would.

I am not sure why one would think that a mere grounding for the truth of a proposition would imply or entail causal determinism. Determinism would only enter the picture if the relation between the agent and the grounding were causally deterministic, but I see no a priori reason to think that this is so. As for explaining the counter-factuals of freedom I admit that I have no explication on hand, but then I don’t think determinists do either.

I am not sure again why God’s knowing would be causal. If knowing were identical with causing then the world would be a necessary extension and emanation of the divine essence, which is the mess that Edwards ended up in. His Platonism got the better of him.

God knows possible worlds he does not create so I think its safe to say that God knows things he doesn’t cause. Further, even Augustine is clear that God ordains all things but he only causes somethings. God knows of evil acts, but he doesn’t cause them.

I don’t think that the primary cause of the incarnation was sin. I think the relation is the other way around. I think sin was an attempt to stop the incarnation from occurring. If humanity is annihilated, there can’t be a virgin birth. God always wills his incarnation.

Thanks for the amicable exchange.