James White says He could have Chosen Otherwise

, posted by Godismyjudge

I had previously listened to James White’s refutation of Molinism on the dividing line, but I just had a chance to listen to the full presentation on youtube. For the most part, it’s the same information, with one exception that caught my attention. In the dividing line presentation, James White argued that Molininism conflicts with mans’ freewill. However, the youtube clip (around 35 min. in) James White claims Calvinism provides greater freedom than Molinism; that Molinism makes man robots and Calvinism does not.

A cell phone goes off right in the middle of Dr. White’s speech. He makes a joke about it, then asks if he had to make that joke and claims he could have chosen not to. He then argues that in Molinism, such an ability is a problem.

I wonder if Dr. White believes he was actually able to have chosen not to make that joke. That would be inconsistent with his causal determinism – the idea that our actions are causally necessary and cannot be otherwise. Given God’s decree that Dr. White make the joke and His foreknowledge of the joke; causal determinism says the joke was necessary and could not have been otherwise. Causal determinism is the specific idea that Molinists object to (not God’s control), so this is a crucial point for Dr. White to get inconsistent about.

Perhaps Dr. White doesn’t think he was actually able to have chosen otherwise. He said he was, but perhaps what he means is he was hypothetically able, not actually able. If it had been his greatest desire not to make the joke, he would have been able not to make the joke. The ability wasn’t real, it was hypothetical. Such a maneuver looks like a verbal shell game to keep normal people off their trail, but it’s normal behavior for compatiblists. Since the past determines behavior, compatiblists have to assume a different past to talk about choosing otherwise. But if that’s what’s going on here, why couldn’t the Molinist help himself to the same maneuver? Surely, if this is freedom, it applies to Molinism as well as determinism.