Dear Dr. Welty,

By Johnny Sakr


May 12, 2017

Dear Dr. Welty,

Tim Stratton recently wrote an article critiquing your essay in Calvinism and the Problem of Evil. Since that time, you wrote a response to Stratton on your website and Stratton responded with a well-written counter-rebuttal to your response entitled “Gunslingers & Guilty Minds.” As a lawyer who deals with “guilty minds” on a daily basis, I would like to join the conversation.

Although your response to Stratton was well written it contains a few errors and misunderstandings. You mentioned that there is “Scriptural testimony to double-agency or double-causation.” I, as a Molinist; agree. However, we prefer the term co-actualization. As per William Lane Craig:

First, I don’t claim that “universal salvation is impossible because of free will.” The point here is subtle and easily misunderstood. I think that there certainly are logically possible worlds in which everyone freely places his faith in Christ and so is saved. What I’ve said is that, for all we know, such worlds may not be feasible for God to actualize (or, if some are, they may have overriding deficiencies that make them less preferable). The point here is that God’s being omnipotent does not entail that He can actualize just any logically possible world. For the persons in those worlds, were God to try to actualize them, might freely choose to reject God. We can grasp this point by realizing that which world is actual isn’t up to God alone; free creatures are co-actualizers of the world along with God by means of their free choices, which God does not determine. So it may not be feasible for God to actualize a world of free, universal salvation (without overriding deficiencies).[i]

Stratton does a nice job of teasing this out in his article entitled, “True Love, Free Will, & the Logic of Hell.” Consider the scriptural report you used as an example:

“For instance, the Sabeans and Chaldeans “struck down the servants with the edge of the sword” (Job 1:15, 17). And yet Job described these events as a case where “the LORD has taken away” (1:21). His friends confirmed that this was “evil that the LORD had brought upon him” (42:11).”

Of course, Molinists agree with these passages. What we disagree with is your understanding of these passages. Molinists hold that the truth value of the counter factual of creaturely freedom (herein, CCF) was determined by the Sabeans and Chaldeans; namely, the truth value to strike down the servants with a sword (Job 1:15, 17). Before God sovereignly chose to actualize this truth value, this truth value existed logically prior to Gods will and decree (God’s decree occurs at the third logical moment in His knowledge), it was merely a possible state of affairs. However, without God this truth value would never be actualized. Thus, when God chose to actualize this state of affairs He had “taken away” (Job 1:21) and that the “Lord brought forth evil upon him” (Paraphrase of Job 42:11).

What’s the Difference? 

So how does this differentiate between a Calvinist’s view and a Molinist’s?

The difference is not who actualized this state of affairs from being possible to actual [since both sides believe God does] but rather, who determines the truth value of the CCF (i.e. the killing of the servants)? Calvinism — at least a Calvinism that is wedded to exhaustive causal divine determinism — holds that God does. That is, God wills that X causes Y to be true (as X is a secondary cause) however, X could not have not caused Y.

Molinism states that God does not will that X causes Y to be true [let Y = sin] but rather, allows X to determine the truth value of the CCF [thus, God does not determine the truth of this act] (namely Y). However, God does will to actualize this possible state of affairs to bring it about that it may be actual in order to fulfill His purpose as per Romans 8:28:

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Whilst God does not determine the truth value of the slaying of the servants, God does bring them about by actualizing this state of affairs. Hence, co-actualisation occurs by the agent determining the truth value of the CCF whilst God actualizing this possible state of affairs to be actual. It seems that you understand this when you states “he does have control over will-truths about human actions.”

Likewise, with Saul (1 Chronicles 10:14)

“Therefore the LORD put him to death…”

Now, unless one wants to hold to the view that God determined Saul to commit suicide (1 Chronicles 10:4, 6) [that is, Saul could not have chosen to do (or will to do) otherwise – or if one must follow their strongest desires, God thus instilled the desire for Saul to kill himself in Saul] despite Christ giving imperatives that one ought not murder (Exodus 20:13); then by all means go ahead and believe it. However, this makes God a hypocrite considering He gives a command not to do X and yet, He determines His creatures to do X when they could not have (or wanted to have [if God determines their strongest desire in which they will necessarily act upon] chosen to do otherwise.

However, just to clarify — as you stated — God does not determine the “will truth” in the sense that He determined whether ‘’I will do X or Y” as this was true logically prior to God’s decree; but rather, God just actualized these truth values which are not determined by His will or decree. Rather than the truth value of CCF to be merely possible, God made them actual.

Divine Concurrence 

Another way in which ‘the Lord put him to death’ is through Divine Concurrence.
Divine Concurrence is God’s active causal activity in producing everything that occurs. God is the Primary Cause of everything that exists, including human free will. As per John 1:3:

All things were made by him [Christ]; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

God does not simply allow secondary causes in the world produce their effects. On the contrary, unless God causally produces events in the world, the secondary causes would not produce their effects.[ii] Therefore, Molinism does not hold that human libertarian free will impedes on God’s aseity.

Divine Concurrence is God’s active work with (rather than upon) the agent’s will in order to bring about the effect. This is an example of influence not causal determinism. That is, the effect produced is the direct or immediate terminus of God’s action.[iii] As William Lane Craig argues:

On Molina’s view, God not only conserves both the secondary agent and its effect in being; he also wills specifically that the effect be produced, and he concurs “with” the agent by causing the intended effect.[iv]

Without God the effect of the agents will to do x will not be actualized. As Arminius states,

“[divine concurrence] is necessary to produce every act, since nothing whatsoever can have any entity except from the first and chief being [God]”. [v]

The agent self-determines what He wants to do; God does not. However, God concurs with the will of man to bring about the effect. Thus, in a sense, the Lord put him to death through concurring that it be brought about. The will to perform the evil act is not God’s will, but man’s will. (However, by actualizing this state of affairs it then becomes God’s permissive will. Therefore, nothing occurs outside of God’s will). God simply concurs with the will in order for the effect of the evil act to be actualized — but as Stratton noted in his response to your response, this was for very good reasons (a perfect and maximally great plan)!

Because God does not determine man’s will to will to do X (let X be an evil X) – God is thus not the author of evil and man is completely responsible for two reasons. First, man could have chosen (and/or willed) differently in identical circumstances and second, man was not caused to do something by causes other than oneself.[vi]

Additional Issues

Allow me to respond to your following statements:

“It is not up to creatures whether or not they exist and are placed in the appropriate circumstances!”

Just because God places P in C it does not entail that they will necessarily do X. That is, regardless of the circumstances; they [the circumstances] do not determine the truth value of X that P would freely choose to do. Circumstances influence what P would do, they do not determine what they would do. Even though God knew that P would do X in C, P could have refrained from doing X but if they were to refrain, God would have foreknown. If one rejects this, they fall into the issue of theological fatalism.

This view is implied in your following statement:

“In this way, while God has no control over would-truths about human actions (he knows these passively in his middle-knowledge), he does have control over will-truths about human actions. That is, it is up to God whether or not “the evil actions of creatures” actually occur in history with all of their specificity.”

As Stratton pointed out, it seems you are making a modal mistake. Since creatures would act in manner X in C, they therefore necessarily will do X in C. It seems thus, the argument is as follows: [I use the term ‘imply’ as it doesn’t seem to be clearly expressed]:

(1) Necessarily, If Gods know P will do X, P will do X
(2) God knows P will do X
(3) Necessarily, P will do X.

This forms a fallacy in modal logic.[vii] Whilst it is the case that P will do X it does not follow that ‘P will do X necessarily.’ Thus, all your rhetoric of “ensuring” and “guaranteeing” needs to be qualified: this is not in a necessary sense on Molinism. Calvinism can make no such claims.

“It is precisely the fact that God has libertarian free will that exacerbates the problem for Molinism. God’s ‘pulling the trigger’ – his creating human agents and placing them in specific circumstances – was up to God and not up to something or someone external to him. If God did not actualize agents and circumstances, then no sins come to pass, but if God does so actualize them, then he ensures that all their sins come to pass exactly as they do come to pass. And yet God was free to either actualize or not actualize. So if the ordinary gunman is culpable for what he brings about, then so is God.”

This seems to assert that God is culpable for sin because He chose to actualize a world where sin occurs. The question is then raised: Could God have chosen to actualize a world where there was no freely performed sin? If He could, why didn’t He?

The answer is simple: It may not be feasible for God to create such a world. If such a world were feasible, then (all else being equal) surely a maximally great being (God) would have created it. But given His will to create free creatures so that genuine love could be attained, God had to accept that some would freely sin.[viii] As Stratton noted, “LOVE backwards is EVOL.”

Why is God not culpable for the sin committing by P? First it must be noted that God did not intend for P to sin. That is, it was not part of His prescriptive will but rather, His permissive will. This is viewed in the biblical claim that God does not even tempt men to sin (keeping in mind temptation brings forth the possibility of sinning rather than the necessity to sin). James 1:13 [NRSV]:

No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.

If God does not even tempt individuals to sin, how then can we propose that God determined man to sin? This ought to negate the claim that God placed P in X for the intention of P committing a sin. Whilst God knew P would commit a sin in C God does not place P in C for the intention that He commits a sin. God wills that P do otherwise and in fact, P could have chosen (and/or willed) to do otherwise.

Even in circumstances that God knew P would sin. God is faithful enough to provide a path that does not necessitate them to sin. Consider 1 Corinthians 10:13

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

I suggest reading the article, ‘Does “Draw” Only Mean “Irresistible Dragging”?’

The basis of God’s faithfulness found in the above scripture rests upon the claim that there was a plausible alternative to not sinning. Sinning was not necessary. If one argues that P was determined to commit a sin, then God is not faithful because that means God did not provide a plausible alternative for P to not commit a sin.

This is why person P — not God – is responsible for sinning. The circumstances that God placed P in were ‘freedom permitting circumstances.’ That is, P could do X or not–X (or at the very least, will to do X or not–X); the circumstances that P were in allowed him to choose (and/or will) either or; they were not determined. Both options were logically possible in the actual world. [No, this does not mean that P could make a decision that God does not know but rather, if they were to choose differently – God would have foreknown]. Not only were the circumstances ‘freedom permitting’, there were no internal or external factors that determined the decision of P. This includes P’s own desires.

“Undoubtedly the mere fact that I conceive a child is not sufficient to make me culpable for what he later chooses to do. But that’s because my choice to conceive, combined with relevant knowledge I had at the time, is not sufficient to ensure any future sins on the part of my offspring.”

Once again, the word ‘ensures’ is used. If ‘ensures’ means ‘necessitates’ [for the remainder of your article] then it is unfortunate that theological fatalism is present. Please revert above.

“As we all know, knowledge matters for culpability, and in the actual world God infallibly knows that his actualization combined with the true counterfactuals ensures the future sinful actions of agents, in all their specificity. There is nothing remotely analogous to this in Stratton’s example of mundane conception.”

If the premise “… knowledge matters for culpability” correct, then this means that God is culpable for sin in every theological perspective save for Open Theism. If true, this view is highly problematic and thus, in order to avoid heresy; one must conform to Open Theism! Thank God, the proposition “knowledge matters for culpability” is false.

Latin Lingo & Legal Philosophy 

Knowledge does not make man criminally culpable in every respect.[ix] Rather, being a Lawyer myself, it is the intent. In fact, Christ taught this very message in the Sermon of the Mount. In legal terms, mens rea is determined to find volitional intent. Mens rea is Latin for ‘guilty mind’.[x]

The standard common law test of criminal liability is expressed in the Latin phrase actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea (i.e. “the act is not culpable unless the mind is guilty”).[xi] This is vital to grasp and in Stratton’s counter-response to you he demonstrated exactly why God’s mind is not guilty on Molinism, but God would be the only morally guilty mind (mens rea) on Calvinism.

If actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea is true in all material respects, then man should be culpable for the sin of their sons. How so? As Stratton pointed out, it doesn’t take omniscience for one to know with extremely high degrees of reasonable certainty that their child will commit at least one evil act (sin) against God. They may not know the exact time and type of sin committed, but they could and should reasonably infer their child will sin against God. Does this mean that we are culpable for merely knowing the sin that our child will commit? No.

Ezekiel 18:20 (NRSV):

The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own.

Just because God knew sin would occur does not mean He is culpable. However, if God had the intent for sin to occur then He would be. That is, if God causally determined Adam (or human beings in general) to commit a sin; then God contained the mens rea to be criminally culpable. Unless of course, God merely ‘allowed’ man to sin without the use of any determinative factors nor the intention that they ought to fall under these circumstances. That is, even if person P contained libertarian free will; if God placed P in C for the intention that they commit a sin [rather than willing them to do otherwise and merely allowing them to sin]; God would still be liable due to the mental ascent in which He possessed. This intent would make God culpable for sin.

You continued with the following remark:

“Why do we regard the ordinary gunman to be guilty? All he did was choose to pull a trigger, and surely a trigger-pull – by itself – is not sufficient for the killing of anyone. So why do we hold him culpable for what happens ‘down the line,’ so to speak, after the trigger releases the hammer which hits the primer which explodes and ignites the propellant which creates the gas pressure which sends the bullet down the barrel, into the heart of the victim? So many things had to happen after the trigger pull, in order for the bullet to kill!”

This question embarks upon the area of legal philosophy pertaining to the area of intent and culpability. An area that I thoroughly research in my dissertation. You provided a scenario that is called in the legal realm, ‘farfetched and fanciful’. That is, a scenario that is so farfetched that an ordinary man would not have known would occur if they had pulled the trigger. Unfortunately, the amount of information that needs to be taken into account when dealing with this problem is vast and is in need of much consideration and analysis. However, I will keep it brief.

The main element is intent! If, for example, God was the “ordinary gunman,” since He is omniscient, God would have necessarily foreknown the consequences of what would happen if He had pulled the trigger or if God had determined that another person pull the trigger. Thus, because God is all-knowing – the standard of the ‘ordinary man’ and the criterion of being ‘farfetched and fanciful’ would not apply since God would necessarily know what would occur.

If God intends on killing the victim in the above scenario on grounds that are unjustified then yes – He is culpable. But would a human being in this scenario be held accountable? They can be if they intended to kill this individual or under various circumstances. For example, if the person knew through scientific methodology – that the victim would die [or had the intent of killing them through shooting at a specific trajectory] if He had shot in that direction then He is held accountable. Even if the person did not intend to kill the victim, they could be held liable under criminal negligence. The facts are not clear in this case and much needs to be assessed in order to make a definitive judgement.

However, to keep things simple – if God was the gunman; He would be held accountable if He had killed the victim in a manner that was unjustified.

Unfortunately, I don’t find this scenario fitting. God has the right to take life however, God does not have the right to determine or influence person P to commit a sinful act in order that the victim is to be killed unless it is for morally justifiable reasons. God could use the free choice of P to perform an evil act in order that Y would die as a consequence however, God cannot determine or influence P to perform an evil act in order that Y is to be killed.

“I find it curious that Stratton reads into Ezekiel 18:20 concepts that are nowhere to be found: that “the son’s free choice to sin broke ‘the chain of causation’.” The text speaks neither of the son’s ‘freedom’ nor of a ‘chain of causation’ (which then gets ‘broken’ by freedom). I fear Stratton is reading into texts the theses he needs rather than finding them there. Here’s one reason why ordinary fathers don’t inherit the guilt of their sons, but God according to Molinism might well indeed inherit the guilt of created agents: ordinary fathers don’t govern the lives of their sons by way of a Molinist providential scheme. They don’t engage in acts of actualization that ensure or guarantee their son’s sins.”

Although the text does not explicitly speak of the chain of causation or free choice; as Stratton notes, “it’s not rocket science to read this passage and understand its implicit presence.” Why wouldn’t the father be culpable for the sins of the son? For a few reasons, the father didn’t put the son in circumstances intending, or for the purposes, of the son sinning. Nor did the father determine the son to sin or tempt him in any way.

However, there are biblical examples that demonstrate that although a person did not force or determine another to sin; they are still held accountable for influencing a sinful act that arises. We read in Habakkuk 2:15 – 16 (NRSV):

Alas for you who make your neighbors drink, pouring out your wrath until they are drunk, in order to gaze on their nakedness! 16 You will be sated with contempt instead of glory. Drink, you yourself, and stagger! The cup in the Lord’s right hand will come around to you, and shame will come upon your glory!

In brief, one could be held accountable for the sin committed by someone else [namely, in the above text – drunkenness (Galatians 5:21)]; if they had caused them to sin. If man is held accountable for the sin of someone else if they had caused them to sin and if God performs the same act – ought not He [God] too be held accountable? Surely God does not provide imperatives for His creatures that He too ought not to follow. This would make God an arbitrary dictator who is not worthy of worship. Thus, falling prey to the Euthyphro Dilemma as outlined by Plato, Meno 10b. Cf. (See “Calvinism & Euthyphro’s Horns“).

More Questions 

Dr. Welty, you asked several questions:

1. Does the ordinary gunman pull the trigger, or not? Analogously, does God actualize circumstances, or not?
2. In pulling the trigger, does the ordinary gunman ensure a particular outcome (as long as the laws of nature are in place)? Analogously, in actualizing circumstances, does God ensure a particular outcome (as long as the counterfactuals are in place)?
3. In pulling triggers and ensuring outcomes, is the ordinary gunman culpable for the outcome? Analogously, in actualizing circumstances and ensuring outcomes, is God culpable for the outcome?
4. If I murdered someone with a Bullet Bill gun, would he hold me culpable? Why not? Could I plead innocence because Bullet Bill wasn’t “forced or causally determined”?

More Answers

1. Yes, the gunman pulls the trigger. Yes, God actualizes the circumstances however, as noted above – God does intend for sin to arise. The creatures freely acted upon their own volition. If God intended for evil to occur by “abusing” His middle knowledge; sure. But this is contradictory to God’s all-loving nature (omnibenevolence).

2. If by “ensure” one means “necessity,” then no! They are freedom permitting circumstances. The person could choose to do otherwise. God never “ensures” sin, God always wills for them to not sin. God does not place P in C in order the sin obtain.

3. Once again, as above – God does not have the intention of P committing sin. Ever.

4. Yes, because you intended to kill the victim. I have already answered exhaustively why God would not be responsible if ‘pulling the trigger = actualization.’ Although, this creates a false dichotomy as they are not the same one has full blown intent on causing harm, the other does not.


[i] William Lane Craig, Should God Create Simulations of Reality? (08 January 2017)

[ii] William Lane Craig, Q&A #405 – Divine Concurrence <>.

[iii] Luis de Molina and Alfred J. Freddoso, On Divine Foreknowledge: Part IV of the Concordia (Cornell University Press, 2004) 200.

[iv] Dennis W. Jowers, ‎William Lane Craig and ‎Paul Kjoss Helseth, Four Views on Divine Providence (Zondervan, 2011) 57.

[v] Jacob Arminius, Disp. Pub. X.9. See also; Keith D. Stanglin and Thomas H. McCall, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace (OUP USA, 2012) 96.

[vi] Dr William Lane Craig, Q&A #320 – Free Will <>.

[vii] As per Dr William Lane Craig:
And in fact this argument, as it stands, is fallacious. It commits a fallacy in modal logic. Modal logic is the logic of necessity and possibility. You see that that is what is operative in this argument: “Necessarily, if God knows that X will happen, then X will happen.” Then the second premise: “God foreknows X.” And then (3): “Necessarily, X will happen.” This has the logical form:
1. Necessarily, P implies Q.
2. P.
3. Therefore, necessarily Q.
The problem is: this commits a fallacy in modal logic. From the two premises (1) and (2), it doesn’t follow that (3) is true. That is just fallacious. What does follow from premises (1) and (2)? All that follows from “Necessarily, if God foreknows X, then X will happen” and “God foreknows X” is: “X will happen.” But it doesn’t follow that “X will necessarily happen.” Thinking so commits a fallacy in modal logic. So from the fact of God’s foreknowing X, it follows that X will happen but not that X will happen necessarily. X could fail to happen, and if it were to fail to happen, then God’s foreknowledge would have been different. The argument as it stands commits a fallacy in modal reasoning.

Dr William Lane Craig, Doctrine of God (Part 14) <> .

[Cf. J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (InterVarsity Press, 2009) 51 – 59 and William L. Craig, The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000) 69 – 74.

[viii] William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (David C Cook, 2010) 280. See also; Paul Copan, That’s Just Your Interpretation: Responding to Skeptics Who Challenge Your Faith (Baker Books, 2001) 95; Corey Miller and ‎Paul Gould, Is Faith in God Reasonable?: Debates in Philosophy, Science, and Rhetoric (Routledge, 2014) 36 – 37; Joel Feinberg and ‎Russ Shafer-Landau, Reason and Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy (Cengage Learning, 2016) 139 and Adrian Hastings, ‎Alistair Mason and ‎Hugh Pyper, The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought (Oxford University Press, 2000) 223.

[ix] They may be criminally liable in circumstances where they knew a crime was going to take place [‘accessory before the fact’] or after a criminal offence taking place [‘accessory after the fact’] and they willingly did not inform the authorities. Even in this scenario there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration.

[x] Dorothy K. Kagehiro and ‎William S. Laufer, Handbook of Psychology and Law (Springer Science & Business Media, 2013) 207. See also; Geert-Jan Alexander Knoops, Mens Rea at the International Criminal Court (BRILL, 2016) 8 and Jerome Hall, General Principles of Criminal Law (The Lawbook Exchange Ltd, 2010) 71.

[xi] Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (Oxford University Press, 2001) 21. See also; Michael J. Allen, Textbook on Criminal Law (Oxford University Press, 2015) 18 and Jonathan Law, A Dictionary of Law (Oxford University Press, 2015) 15.

About the Author

Johnny Sakr was admitted as lawyer at the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia in 2014 and is an Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Law at the University of Notre Dame, Australia. He has completed his Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.), Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP), Masters of Laws (LL.M) and is currently undertaking is M.Phil/Ph.D in Law (Philosophy) at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney Australia.

His thesis looks to prove that through universal reason, a characteristic which all mentally complete human beings are assumed to have in them; view an objective standard as necessary to qualitatively assess the rightness of wrongness of the accused conduct called into question. Therefore; society should adhere to human reason and implement an objective standard in all areas of reform and judgement.

Johnny is a former Roman Catholic, now Baptist – who adheres to the philosophy of Molinism.

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About the Author

By Johnny Sakr

Johnny Sakr was admitted as lawyer at the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia in 2014. He has completed his Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.), Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP), Masters of Laws (LL.M) and is currently undertaking is M.Phil/Ph.D in Law (Philosophy) at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney Australia. His thesis looks to prove that through universal reason, a characteristic which all mentally complete human beings are assumed to have in them; view an objective standard as necessary to qualitatively assess the rightness of wrongness of the accused conduct called into question. Therefore; society should adhere to human reason and implement an objective standard in all areas of reform and judgement. Johnny is a former Roman Catholic, now Baptist – who adheres to the philosophy of Molinism.