Dr. Tim Stratton and Dr. James White, Part 1
On February 11, an important debate was held in Houston, Texas between Dr. Tim Stratton and Dr. James White on the question “Is Molinism Biblical?” Although debates may not be a fruitful exercise in many cases, it was important in that there was the possibility to acquaint those who attended and listened with a view with which they may have been unfamiliar, that is, of Molinism. I would like to give a brief review of the event.
Dr. Tim Stratton of Free Thinking Ministries led off with the affirmative case. It was necessary given the circumstances to define Molinism. Stratton said, “It’s the conjunction of propositions ‘God possesses middle knowledge’ and ‘humans possess libertarian freedom.’” He then focused on the contention that Christians possess at least some libertarian freedom, using texts from both the New and Old Testament (I Cor. 10:13-15 and Deut. 30:10-30) to make that case. Stratton’s fourth contention brought up middle knowledge as the only way that God could “predestine a libertarian free choice.” If the Bible states or even implies that humans have libertarian free will, then God could not have causally determined exhaustively all things that have come to pass. Dr. Stratton did make his case to those who already affirm Molinism, but his opening statement was a gusher of contentions and definitions which could have been better organized.
Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries is a much more experience debater and that showed in this encounter. White began his negative case by defining for himself the idea of being Biblical. According to White, it is “to be derived from the necessary teaching of Scripture by sound methods of exegesis and interpretation.” It is interesting to note that White did not really return to this point in his first speech until the end of it. Dr. White made theological points, especially in his key issues, such as that counterfactuals of human freedom “delimit and determine what possible worlds God can actualize” and the placement of middle knowledge before God’s creative decree. God’s creative decree was the key factor in Dr. White’s assertion that middle knowledge denied God’s fundamental freedom. Dr. White assumed that the Reformed doctrines were correct almost without explanation of why they were more Biblical and offered a better alternative to Stratton’s positive case for Molinism. He did not assert that the few Scripture passages he used in his case, through sound exegetical and interpretative methods refuted Molinism.
In the second set of speeches, both Stratton and White asserted that the other did not make his respective case. Dr. Stratton echoed many of William Lane Craig’s debates in which he asserted that Dr. White did not answer sufficiently any of his contentions. Stratton did answer White’s question about the grounding of God’s middle knowledge in that it comes from His perfect nature. “The fact that God is a Maximally Great Being and exists necessarily.” As such, God’s attributes exist before His creative decree. This is a point on which Stratton could have given more exposition. When Dr. White took over, he simply dismissed as some vague and possibly mythical thing that may have existed outside of God. White returned to his contention that Molinism robs God of His fundamental freedom, but gave no real reason for it except to assert God’s sovereign choice. He accused Stratton of trying to prove his case by attacking Calvinism but not giving direct Biblical teaching, the same teaching that White failed to give.
In my next article, I will review and comment on the cross-examination, question and answer period, and offer a few comments.