“This, then, is my picture of the providential evolution of God’s purpose as to sinful acts; so to arrange and group events and objects around free agents by His manifold wisdom and power, as to place each soul, at every step, in the presence of those circumstances, which, He knows, will be a sufficient objective inducement to it to do, of its own native, free activity, just the thing called for by God’s plan. Thus the act is man’s alone, though its occurrence is efficaciously secured by God. And the sin is man’s only. God’s concern in it is holy, first, because all His personal agency in arranging to secure its occurrence was holy; and second, His ends or purposes are holy. God does not will the sin of the act, for the sake of its sinfulness; but only wills the result to which the act is a means, and that result is always worthy of His holiness. e. g., A righteous king, besieged by wicked rebels, may arrange a sally, with a view to their righteous defeat, and the glorious deliverance of the good citizens, in which he knows the rebels will slay some of his soldiers. This slaying is sin; the good king determines efficaciously to permit it; not for the sake of the slaying, but for the sake of the righteous triumph of which it is part means. The death of these good soldiers is the sin of the rebels; the righteousness of the end in view, is the king’s.
Is God’s intelligence herein Scientia Media?
It may be said, that this scheme represents God, after all, as governing free agents by a sort of scientia media. I reply: Let us not be scared by unpopular names. It is a knowledge conditioned on His own almighty purpose, and His own infallible knowledge of the dispositions of creatures; and it is, in this sense, relative. But this is not a dangerous sense. For only lay down the true doctrine, that volitions are efficiently determined by dispositions, and there is, to God, no shadow of contingency remaining about such foreknowledge (That was the ugly trait). As I showed you, when explaining this scientia media, in the hands of him who holds the contingency of the will, it is illogical; in the hands of the Calvinist, it becomes consistent” (R.L. Dabney, Systematic Theology, pp. 288-289).
There you go. A modified form of scientia media that dares NOT provoke the mighty potsherd (Romans 9:19-20), but DOES dare to command the Potter that He has no authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor (Romans 9:21). Dabney’s versions of “divine sovereignty” is what you get when you fight with the One who made you, and say to the One who formed you, He has no hands (cf. Isaiah 45:9).
Here are some insightful comments by Marc D. Carpenter on Dabney's ridiculousness:
"How does God 'arrange and group events and objects' without causing human beings to act? Let’s take a person walking into a gym and seeing a basketball, for example. According to Dabney, this person has absolute free will to do whatever he wants (other than believe the gospel), and God has 'arranged and grouped events and objects around' this free agent in order to induce him to do something; He has caused this basketball to be in the gym for the person to see and to be induced to do something. But how did the basketball get there? Did it just fly in from outer space? Or did a person put it there? And how was the basketball made? Ex nihilo? Or did a person make the basketball? So then Dabney would have to back up and say that the person who made the basketball and the person who put the basketball in the gym were free agents and were not caused to make the basketball and put the basketball in the gym but that God 'arranged and grouped events and objects around' them in order to induce them to make the basketball and put the basketball in the gym. And we can go further back to the making of the materials necessary to make the basketball, making the person arrive at work to make the basketball, etc., etc. None of it, according to Dabney, is directly caused by God. Note that this is all morally neutral activity. So when the person walks into the gym and sees the basketball, he has a morally neutral choice to ignore the basketball or pick up the basketball and play with it (among other choices). According to Dabney, this person is absolutely free to choose what he wants to do, without any causation from God, yet, 'in the presence of those circumstances, which, He knows, will be a sufficient inducement to it to do, of its own native, free activity, just the thing called for by God’s plan.' So God has planned for this person to pick up the basketball and play with it, yet he does not cause the person to pick up the basketball and play with it, but merely 'arranges and groups events and objects around' this person so it would be certain that he would pick up the basketball and play with it. How God makes that absolutely certain Dabney will not say. What is to keep this person, in his free agency, from choosing to ignore the basketball and play with something else? What is inducing this person to pick up the basketball and play with it? This person is, after all, a free agent, according to Dabney. Dabney won’t go into that, because it would show how absurd his attempts at distancing God from the actions of men is."
Dabney had written:
only lay down the true doctrine, that volitions are efficiently
determined by dispositions, and there is, to God, no shadow of
contingency remaining about such foreknowledge (That was the ugly trait)."
My understanding is that according to Dabney, the reason a person would play with a basketball (and not, say, a volleyball) is because their volition to play with the basketball is efficiently determined by their basket-ball-loving disposition, APART FROM God's active control.
Marc had written:
"How God makes that absolutely certain Dabney will not say. What
is to keep this person, in his free agency, from choosing to ignore the
basketball and play with something else? What is inducing this person
to pick up the basketball and play with it? This
person is, after all, a free agent, according to Dabney. Dabney won’t
go into that, because it would show how absurd his attempts at
distancing God from the actions of men is."
Here is an absurd attempt by Dabney taken from another of his writings:
"Does one ask how then a permissive decree can have entire certainty? The answer is, because God knows that men's natural disposition certainly prompts them to evil; for instance, I know it is the nature of lambs to eat grass. If I intentionally leave open the gate between the fold and the pasture I know that the grass will be eaten, and I intend to allow it just as clearly as if I had myself driven them upon the pasture" (R.L. Dabney, The Five Points Of Calvinism, pp. 49-50).
Dabney talks of God knowing that men's natural dispositions certainly
prompt them to evil. This is but generals, come to particulars, man. HOW does God
know that a man will be prompted to commit a SPECIFIC sin, apart from His
actively causing it? Clearly Dabney's "god" has no hands.