Thursday, May 31, 2007

Koons on "logical dilemma" vs. "paradox" (re: grace or works)

Luis de Molina
A Middle Knowledge Solution?
(Image from Grandes Economistas)

Picking up on yesterday's short post, another short post follows.

Robert Koons has concluded that Lutherans do, in fact, implicitly acknowledge that works play a role in salvation, for according to Lutheran doctrine, "our continuing in faith, and our avoidance of a kind of carnal sin that is incompatible with saving faith" ensure that one remains in a state of grace. In the words of Koons:
Thus, it seems that Lutherans must admit that our works do contribute to our final salvation, so speaking of "salvation through faith alone" is an exaggeration. (pdf, page 32)
Koons then constructs a hypothetical exchange:
A Lutheran might respond at this point with the charge that Roman theologians are excessively concerned with logical consistency. Salvation involves an element of impenetrable mystery, beyond human comprehension, and it is therefore improper to seek to reduce doctrine to a logically coherent system. This disqualification of logic cuts both ways, however. The core of the case for the Lutheran consists of the claim that Roman doctrines contradict the Biblical principle of sola gratia. The identification of such a contradiction is a logical matter. A Roman theologian could respond, with considerable justice, that the Lutheran is overlooking the paradoxical relationship between divine grace and human freedom, expressed by Paul himself in the epistle to the Philippians: "Work out your salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work within you, both to will and to work." Lutheran theology attempts to reduce this paradox to a logical dilemma: either salvation through grace alone or salvation requiring an element of human cooperation, but not both. (pdf, page 32)
A Lutheran might indeed respond this way -- calling this a logical dilemma -- since Koons hypothetically did so and was actually (still) a Lutheran at the time. I don't know if a Catholic would opt for calling this a paradox, but Koons the Catholic hasn't (yet) disavowed the term.

I'm not very comfortable with either expression, certainly not if the term "paradox" is intended to indicate an ineluctable contradiction that one simply has to accept. I'd prefer to attempt a resolution through the Middle Knowledge theology of Luis de Molina, something that I've superficially dealt with before on this blog:
Kevin Kim's Water from a Skull

Two senses of "going to happen"
Sorry about this short entry, but student essays are calling...

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At 4:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fit more in line with what you said in the post. Just because from "God's point of view" he knows everything down to the very minute detail about my choices from start to finishes does not mean that from my point of view (or anyone's points of view - including God's) I do not have a real choice.

This discussion might have some application in social thinking - as in - how there is a struggle these days in law and psychology about whether criminals are accountable for their acts --- if their upbringing or a chemical imbalance in the brain is what "caused" them to commit a horrible crime, if they had no "choice" in the matter due to nature and/or nurture, how can you punish them?

In some of my courses in the MA-Teaching program I'm in now, I have some trouble accepting the ideas on psychology and adolescent development that also fall roughly into this area - though I can't remember what my rift with what we were being taught was - it was last summer - and I've seem to have blocked it...

At 6:21 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

On the issue of insanity, I suspect that the freedom of such individuals to make free choices is rather radically curtailed, depending upon the degree of insanity.

But I'm not very knowledgeable about such things.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking more along the line of a society-wide, intellectual trend - one that influences even something like giving grades and punishment at school....You could really feel the trends influence in the education program I am now in, but the trend might have been stronger in the mid-1990s.

I was uneasy with it back in the early 1990s when I first went to college, because to me, it ultimately started to negate free will and choice (and I wasn't even concerned about the religious or philosophical angle), because it seemed also to end up having attached to it the idea that someone needed to "guide" me (us) back toward what was correct (socially) and protected me from my upbringing and faulty DNA...

If Big Hominid happens to read this, I just had flashed through my head a talk Anikin Skywalker with his future wife in the Star Wars movie (can't remember II or III) where he said what the republic needed was a wise ruler to guide them...

At 4:27 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

USinK, the biology and psychology courses at university level often assume a sort of methodological naturalism that systematically excludes any appeal to free will.

That is their strength ... and their limitation.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought you might want to jump into a renewal of the debate over at Big Hominid's blog...

He links to a longer, rambling comment section discussion we just had on this...During it, I vaguely remembered your mentioning of Middle Knowledge and this post (and one other, I believe, on Molina I commented on that I can't seem to locate, or I dreamed it up)...

I thought you mind want to add something to the discussion over there (or not)...

At 5:52 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, USinK. I had noticed Kevin's blog entry on this topic but hadn't commented because the issue is one that I'd need to think about more -- though I have considered the problem that Kevin notes concerning God's own 'free' will.

Perhaps God needs no free will in the sense that He could make a genuine choice between good and evil because such a free will is inconsistent with His infinite goodness. Perhaps free will for God simply means that God's choices are unconstrained by anything outside of his own nature.

Free will in the sense of moral choice is important for human beings because we are limited beings who can grow ethically only through making morally significant choices, and choices cannot be morally significant if they are not free.

Jeffery Hodges

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