Marginal Credibility as a Scholar



(The FreeThinking Theist)


March 1, 2021


Tim, in your paper, Bignon’s Review of Mere Molinism: A Rejoinder, you wrote the following:

“I wrote a 300-page book surveying biblical data, historical theology, metaphysics, epistemology, perfect being theology, and apologetics. I only had one chapter to devote to a philosophical defense of libertarian freedom. Thus, I did not have the time or space to survey potential objections (of which I am aware and which I believe do not scathe the FreeThinking Argument)” (pg. 8).

Thomas Flint, who perhaps wrote the standard philosophical theology monograph on Molinism, dedicated 5 of the 11 chapters of his book to objections. His book was shorter than yours.

Further, in academic work on a subject, earning even marginal credibility as a scholar requires seeking a mastery of the best of one’s opponent’s material and then showing that mastery by surveying, strengthening, and addressing a representative sample of the best available objections to one’s work regardless of whether the dissertator thinks they are relevant. Dana Nelkin, Neil Levy, Derk Pereboom, Richard Swinburne, William Alston, to name the more prominent figures, have roundly critiqued arguments of the free-thinking style, as such arguments are at least as old as Epicurus or Aristotle. Claiming to not have enough space or time to address such figures in a three-hundred page book is egregious. (compare with Flint: Hasker gets his own chapter, and so does Adams). Failing to find them worthy of being at the center of your dissertation/book (as they are some of the top rivals) is absurd. Dedicating ten chapters to historical material instead, which would neither establish nor counter your thesis, beggars the imagination.

You excuse your failure to fulfill one requirement of good scholarship (addressing such objections) by appealing to another failure (selecting an infeasibly large scope and range of topics for a dissertation).

– Zach 

Dr. Stratton’s Response:

Hey, Zach!

It’s great to hear from you, brother! Yes, Flint’s book is awesome (and cited in my book). However, we had different goals in mind. Indeed, these goals were discussed with my doctoral supervisor during the research proposal phase. Given the fact that my doctorate is a PhD in theology — not philosophy — we decided to make a systematic case for “mere Molinism” with the target audience being the Church/Christians (hence, you, as a self-proclaimed non-Christian, do not identify with the target audience). This is why so much space was devoted to biblical data and the history of the Church. I wanted to give permission to academic and theologically inclined Christians — even Reformed Christians — to embrace Molinism. To my knowledge, that has not been done before (at least in this specific manner). Indeed, I have received several reports that the extensive historical survey is what has “converted” some to Molinism since reading my book, Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism. That is to say, the historical survey opens the door, as it were, for one to be a mere Molinist.

Anyway, it seemed to me (and my supervisor) that adding another five chapters or so to an already three-hundred-page book might be egregious and belabor the salient points. I knew I could not discuss everything in one book (plus I wanted to graduate in a timely manner), but that is what the next book is for.

I have read many works of the authors you mention, but following our last meeting at the University of Oklahoma last November, I have dedicated virtually all of my studies to the authors you have listed (and more). Perhaps I’m missing something, but I have yet to find anything that would debunk my specific and unique FreeThinking Argument and the manner in which I defend it. Indeed, several have appealed to the work of the respected philosopher John Martin Fischer in an attempt to keep their hopes for “exhaustive” determinism alive, but as I explained in my response to Guillaume Bignon (linked above), that model actually seems to strengthen my case for libertarian free thinking. As I also noted in that same paper, I am in the beginning phases of co-authoring a book (with a philosopher) focused upon offering a rigorous philosophical defense of the FreeThinking Argument. If you have any specific potential “debunkings” in mind, I’m eager to examine and interact with them in our upcoming book.  

Regarding your comment about earning “marginal credibility as a scholar” and interacting with the “best of one’s opponent’s material,” I will make two comments:

1- Simply earning a PhD from a reputable university gives one some (even if “marginal”) credibility as a scholar. Moreover, scholarship that is cutting-edge (new theorems, hypotheses, experiments, thought experiments, arguments, and syllogisms) does not, at the time the research is conducted, have objections in which to respond (because it is cutting edge or new). You noted that some have offered critiques to “arguments of the freethinking style,” but my specific argument is unique, and besides one other recent journal article found in Perichoresis 16.2 (which I coauthored with Jacobus Erasmus), new to the literature. I am eagerly waiting for published literature not merely interacting with a “style” of something related to my arguments, but specifically interacting with the exact arguments found in my book. 

To Guillaume Bignon’s credit, he engaged my specific argument, attempted to debunk it, but in the end, inadvertently strengthened it and tacitly endorsed it (or so it seems to me). I’m looking forward to other scholars interacting with my specific and unique work, which I have contributed to the field of study. Indeed, I will respond.

2- I doubt this is your intent, but your complaint seems to come across as a subtle ad hominem attack, perhaps in an attempt to discredit me as a scholar, and thus, a reason to ignore my unique arguments. I hope that folks who hold different views will begin to interact with my arguments instead of merely attempting to discredit my scholarship. Fortunately, I do not think that is what you are doing, Zach (for the sake of charity I grant you the benefit of the doubt). I know you simply would like to see me interact with some secular philosophers in the field of freedom (as opposed to Christian theologians found in my book). Your wish is my command! Stay tuned. 

I’m hoping to be back to Oklahoma again soon. I would enjoy meeting up with you for another cup of coffee.

Godspeed and stay reasonable (1 Cor 10:15),

Dr. Tim Stratton


The first line of Zach’s comments was added for context and clarity. 


About the Author



(The FreeThinking Theist)

Timothy A. Stratton (PhD, North-West University) is a professor at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. As a former youth pastor, he is now devoted to answering deep theological and philosophical questions he first encountered from inquisitive teens in his church youth group. Stratton is founder and president of FreeThinking Ministries, a web-based apologetics ministry. Stratton speaks on church and college campuses around the country and offers regular videos on FreeThinking Ministries’ YouTube channel.

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