Friday, March 07, 2008


J.C. has attempted to respond to my critique:

Let’s see how successful he is:

“Hays runs off to crazy town right off the bat. Of course I never specified that I could instantiate any alternative I wanted to, which moves Hays' argument firmly into the usual category of 'ridiculous’.”

i) Under pressure, J.C. is now introducing a face-saving qualification which was conspicuously absent from his original claim.

ii) Notice that J. C. doesn’t attempt to explain why, given libertarian assumptions, he can’t instantiate any alternative he wanted to. So he’s invoking ad hoc restrictions on his governing principle.

iii) My conclusion was meant to be ridiculous inasmuch as I was performing as reductio ad absurdum on J.C’s claim. Nice to see that J.C. confirms the success of my argument.

“*Yawn* Before the event occurs from our perspective, genius.”

Once again, J.C. has to add a qualification which he didn’t include in his original formulation. It’s not my problem if J.C. has to keep doing a patch-up job on his flawed formulations.

“The old causal foreknowledge canard. The order is not ‘God believes it -> it will happen,’ but ‘it will happen -> God knows it’.”

That’s not responsive to my objection. If, *for whatever reason*, God knows it, then it cannot turn out otherwise.

So even if, for the sake of argument, we accept J.C.’s causal order, God’s knowledge of the outcome renders the outcome certain. Hence, the human agent isn’t free to do otherwise.

“Because He sees the future even more clearly than we do the present, next superficial objection please.”

i) I wasn’t asking how God, in particular, can know a temporal fact. Rather, I was asking in general, how any agent can know a temporal fact. Under what conditions can that be known?

ii) To say that God clearly sees the future begs the question. For the very question at issue is whether Arminianism is justified in preserving divine foreknowledge.

iii) Waiving (ii), if God can clearly see the future, then the future cannot be otherwise. For if the future could be otherwise, due to the freedom of billions of human agents (who can instantiate alternate possibilities), then what God would see is not the actual future (i.e. what *will* happen), but a multitude of possible futures (i.e. what *might* happen).

“I deal with the usual Calvie objections to foreknowledge in the articles on my site.”

i) So J.C. wants me to go on a fishing expedition. Fine. I’ll save that for later (see below).

ii) I would note, however, that these aren’t merely “Calvinist” objections. Even Ben Witherington admits that “OT references to God knowing someone or his people, that is, to his inclination toward or love for them, sometimes refer to a concept of election (Amos 3:2; Deut 9:24; Exod 33:12,17; Gen 18:19; Deut 34:10), and such passages lie in the background here,” Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Eerdmans 2004), 247-48.

So Witherington, who’s penned the standard Arminian commentary on Romans, doesn’t challenge the Reformed interpretation of proegno on linguistic grounds. Rather, he tries to get around it another way.

iii) Apropos (i), the tension between divine foreknowledge and libertarian freedom isn’t just a Calvinistic observation. This tension has been perceived for many centuries, and various thinkers from the past, like Boethius, Occam, and de Molina have offered different strategies for resolving the problem.

Furthermore, many modern philosophers, like Lucas, Morris, Creel, Swinburne, Hasker, and Zagzebski continue to recognize the tension, and continue to propose different solutions—sometimes sacrificing divine omniscience to relieve the tension.

J.C. tries to dismiss this objection by assuming his best condescending tone, but that merely betrays his own superficiality.

“I would actually say that Hays doesn't recognize a simple expression that God never gave them such a command, nor did He in any way desire them to do such a thing. It doesn't indicate that He didn't know about it…”

Except that that’s not what the text actually says. Remember, this was one of J.C’s prooftexts for his own position. He volunteered this text to prove his point. Now, however, he’s running away from the actual wording of the text by paraphrasing it to eliminate the offending clause. This is what I quoted:

“They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin (Jer 32:35)."

J.C. only wanted to use the preceding clause about how God didn’t command them to do this. But the text says more than that. It goes on to say “nor did it enter my mind.”

That’s why this is a favorite prooftext for open theism. Since, however, J.C. is an Arminian rather than an open theist, he believes in divine omniscience, including divine foreknowledge.

So he has to construe this clause anthropomorphically. And once he admits the legitimacy of this move, then that, in turn, undercuts the appeal of his sidekick (Kangaroodort) to other Arminian prooftexts like Jonah 3:10—which, not coincidentally, is another prooftext for open theism.

“But rather that He didn't ordain it, which would necessitate libertarian free will by the fact that they commited such sin anyway.”

Two problems:

i) J.C. is equivocating. The insinuation is that if God didn’t “command” something, then he didn’t “ordain” it, in which case he didn’t “foreordain” it.

But in Reformed usage, foreordination has reference to God’s decretive will, while a command or ordinance has reference to his preceptive will.

ii) Apropos (i), it’s perfectly consistent for God to decree something he didn’t command. Indeed, he decreed their sin.

“Is he not catching that Christ was in time while saying this?”

In what respect was Christ in time? Remember, Christ has two natures, and what is true of one nature may not be true of the other.

The viewpoint which Christ is assuming in Lk 13:34 is not the viewpoint of a thirty-year-old man. Rather, it’s the viewpoint of Yahweh. The whole history of God’s dealings with stiff-necked Israel lies before his mind. And he personally identifies with that God’s-eye perspective.

So this statement reflects the divine viewpoint. And J. C. said that God is atemporal. I’m merely answering him on his own grounds.

“Also, I never said that God was strictly atemporal.”

I quoted him verbatim.

“I simply indicated that His omniscience transcends time, He can appear in time as well if He chooses (see Genesis 18 for example).”

i) To say that a theophany appears in time doesn’t mean that God qua God appears in time. A theophany is a manifestation of God, not God in himself. Notice the distancing formula in Ezekiel: “The appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”

So a theophany is three steps removed from God himself.

ii) Moreover, J.C. original invoked divine timelessness to escape the limitations of a timebound perspective.

If, however, he’s now going to say that God is both temporal and atemporal, then he merely multiplies the difficulties for Arminian theology, since I already pointed out that each position undercuts Arminian theology. Their combination would redouble the difficulties.

a) If, on the one hand, God is temporal, then that undermines divine foreknowledge (for reasons already given).

b) If, on the other hand, God is atemporal, then that undermines libertarian freedom (for reasons already given).

c) And it also undermines divine foreknowledge (for reasons already given).

J.C. doesn’t even attempt to address my specific, targeted counterarguments—in which I canvass the options for an Arminian, and show the deficiencies of each.

“Nowhere does scripture indicate that God unconditionally decreed their disobedience, which was the point in citing Jeremiah 32, which plainly indicates that He didn't.”

Predestination doesn’t need to be stated in every verse of Scripture for predestination to be applicable to a verse like Jer 32. If the Bible teaches predestination, then that general truth is also true of various passages which are silent on the issue. Silence is not equivalent to counterevidence.

By J.C’s logic, if every verse of the Gospels fails to mention the deity of Christ, then it’s appropriate to interpret some verses contrary to the deity of Christ.

“Duh. Thank you Hays, I was starting to think they were literal bands God was talking about. It's obviously a metaphor for wooing them, which is also shown as Him drawing Israel. Try raising an actual objection next time.”

i) I would note in passing that J.C. has the habit of adopting a tone of intellectual superiority which isn’t justified by the actual level of his performance. If you’re going to act smarter than your opponents, then try not to be so maladroit so much of the time. Otherwise, you end up being a poor man’s impersonation of Inspector Clouseau.

ii)”Bands” are not a metaphor for wooing—unless J.C. learned about dating from a Dominatrix.

In 11:4, Hosea has employed the metaphor of an animal trainer who uses ropes (or a yoke) to control his livestock or wild animals.

It’s obvious that J.C. never bothered to exegete his prooftext. He could have learned about the imagery by consulting the standard commentators on Hosea (e.g. David Hubbard, Thomas McComiskey, Gary Smith, Douglas Stuart).

iii) Then J.C. only quotes the first sentence of my follow-up argument. This is what I actually said:

“And even if it did, that’s a metaphor. Hosea is full of marital metaphors about the love of God. But Arminians don’t take that literally, although Mormons might!”

I was responding to J.C. on his own grounds. Even if we concede his (mis-) interpretation of 11:4 as metaphor for “wooing,” this doesn’t mean that God literally “woos” his people the way a suitor woos his girlfriend.

Rather, what we have in Hosea is an extended metaphor in which God assume the role of the faithful husband to a faithless wife. And we must make due allowance for the anthropomorphic touches which such a characterization entails.

I wasn’t referring to the “bands of love.” I was referring more generally, as I explicitly pointed out, to the marital imagery in Hosea. So J.C. got it wrong on both points.

Once again, if J. C. equates wooing with the use of ropes and bands, then he’s spending way too much time at S&M clubs.

“Heh, if libertarian free will gave me the kind of miraculous super powers Hays thinks it should, I'd instantiate a reality in which he actually presented coherent arguments. Sadly, its limitations become quite obvious in light of such unfulfilled wishes.”

J.C. has yet to explain how the metaphysics of libertarian freedom is consistent with so many unfulfilled wishes. What, in his view, is limiting his ability to access alternate possibilities?

It can’t be the actual world since the actual world is, ex hypothesi, the sum total of exemplified possibilities which free agents instantiate. But only impediment would be incompossible alternatives, where one agent’s choice negates another agent’s choice. But that would attenuate the libertarian claim to insignificance.

From the combox:

“Just as soon as you explain how God creates matter from nothing. The fact that we as finite beings can't understand exactly how God does a thing does not preclude Him from doing so.”

A fallacious analogy on several grounds:

i) It’s sufficient to believe in creation ex nihilo if that’s what the Bible teaches. The analogy with LFW would only work if that is also taught in Scripture. So J.C’s comparison begs the question.

ii) There’s a big difference between not knowing how something can be the case and having evidence to the contrary. The claim that libertarian freedom is consistent with divine foreknowledge is profoundly counterintuitive. And it’s not just the Calvinists who perceive that tension.

This tension is internal to the libertarian position. It’s generated by the relation between libertarianism and a theological belief about divine omniscience. They don’t go together because they were developed for different reasons, and the reasons for one fail to mesh with the reasons for the other.

That’s why there’s been an ongoing debate in historical and philosophical theology about how, if at all, they are mutually consistent.

iii) The Bible grounds divine foreknowledge in God’s knowledge of his own plan for the world (e.g. Isa 46:10-11). Cf. J. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (Eerdmans 1998), 236-37.

“And I think it a pretty sticky position to call something unknowable for a completely omniscient God.”

Of course, that’s patently sophistical. It begs the question of whether Arminian theology is entitled to make that claim in the first place. J.C. couldn’t be more tendentious if he tried.

“If He can foreknow something that did not enter into His heart that Israel should do, then He can foreknow any libertarian decision.”

That’s incoherent. An agent can’t very well know something which isn’t even present in his mind. If J.C. is now conceding the literal reading of Jer 32:35, then this would commit him to open theism.

If, however, he construes this clause anthropomorphically, then it’s literally false to say that this eventuality never entered God’s mind.

Now let’s circle back to J.C’s contention that he’s already dealt with Reformed objections to Arminian foreknowledge.

“God can, thanks to His divine omniscience, know perfectly what will happen regardless of the possibilities, so our beliefs, actions, decisions, etc. are inevitable in the sense that they will occur, they are not inevitable in the sense that they must occur (no other possibilities, or by 'fatal necessity' as it were).”

i) That’s an assertion of the Arminian position, not a counterargument to the Reformed objection. It takes for granted the very thing it needs to prove.

ii) His distinction won’t salvage his position. It doesn’t matter if they merely will occur, rather than if they must occur. The problem lies with God’s knowledge of their future occurrence. If he “knows perfectly well what will happen regardless of the possibilities,” then the possibilities aren’t live possibilities. Only one possibility is actually in play.

Moving along:

“Consider the Lord's words to Judah in Jeremiah 13:15-17, __Hear and pay attention, do not be arrogant, for the LORD has spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God before he brings the darkness…But if you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the LORD's flock will be taken captive."

i) Does Henshaw think that Yahweh literally wept over the fate of Judah? Remember, this is before the Incarnation. Unless he’s a Mormon, he must interpret this expression as anthropopathetic.

ii) Henshaw also fails to distinguish between the Yahweh’s statement (15-16), and Jeremiah’s editorial aside (17). V17 is a statement of the prophet’s sorrowful reaction. It doesn’t impute sorrow to God.

“Remember, according to Calvinism, God is sovereign over his creatures to such an extent that they have nothing to do with their own salvation (monergism).”

This is simply ignorant. For instance, consider the Reformed doctrine of sanctification: “The soul after regeneration continues dependent upon the constant gracious operations of the Holy Spirit, but is, through grace, able to cooperate with them,” B. B. Warfield, Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield (P&R 1980), 2:327.

“It should be obvious by this point that trying to apply Granville-Sharp's rule to Acts 2:23 in an effort to force synonymity on 'foreknowledge' (impersonal noun) and 'determinate counsel' (impersonal noun) is errant at best.”

The material I cited from Welty doesn’t invoke the Granville-Sharp rule to make his case. Hence, J.C’s counterargument, even if valid, is irrelevant.

And other scholars like Fitzmyer (on Romans), agree with the Reformed construction on proegno.

“God's foreknowledge of the future also encompasses His doings as well as man's: What He knows will occur is who will receive Him when they hear His word and the voice of His Son, not what we would do if He were to never show any grace at all to us. This argument takes God's foreknowledge completely out of context, for if God were to foreknow us only by ourselves without His mercy, then we could not even exist.”

To the contrary, it’s J.C. who takes the usage completely out of its immediate context in order to give the word a meaning in lacks in context, and then interpolates a number of acontextual conditions.

“Yet another case of simply begging the question. To argue that man could change his mind at the last second and produce an outcome that God did not foreknow is to simply assume that God could not foreknow the last-second change.”

Once again, this fails to salvage the Arminian position. Suppose that God could, indeed, foreknow the last-minute change of heart. By knowing what will happen, the outcome is unchangeable. A last-minute change doesn’t change the outcome. For the outcome is whatever will be.

If an agent earlier intended to do A, but changed his mind at the last minute and did B instead, God foreknew B all along, so the agent isn’t free to do A instead of B. If the occurrence of B is an object of knowledge, then it cannot fail to be other than B. B must obtain.

“The words that make up Prognosis are 'pro,' a primary preposition that is used as a suffix to mean 'before,' and 'gnosis,' which simply means 'knowledge' (intelligence, advanced understanding, wisdom, etc.). Prognosis even survives today in the English language, carrying an identical definition. So it is then rather a futile effort to attempt to re-interpret election according to the prognosis of God into election according to the forelove of God.”

I see. So pineapples are apples that come from pine trees. A hippopotamus is a horse that favors an aquatic habitat. The gospel is “dynamite,” and God loves a “hilarious” giver.

It’s obvious that J.C. has no grasp of lexical semantics. Usage, not etymology, determines the meaning of a word. In covenantal settings, yada is an idiomatic synonym for choice.

Due to the influence to Septuagintal usage on NT usage, this carries over into the NT. The addition of the prefix makes it mean “to choose beforehand” in covenantal settings.

“If 'foreknow' in relation to election actually means 'foreordain' in every case, then what in the world does 'predestinate' mean?”

John Murray answered that question a long time ago. “’Foreknew’ focuses attention upon the distinguishing love of God whereby the sons of God ere elected. But it does not inform us of the destination to which those thus chosen are appointed. It is precisely that information that the ‘he also foreordained’ supplies, and it is by no means superfluous…’to be conformed to the image of his Son’,” J. Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Eerdmans 1982), 318.

1 comment:

  1. Notice that appealing to the timelessness of God says nothing, not a word, about the knowability of libertarian choices. Indeed it merely begs the question that they are knowable to God. The question he needs to answer, and which he hasn't answered is how our LIBERTARIAN choices are knowable since they don't exist in any mind except the mind of the agent and are not knowable until they are instantiated.

    His answer is God knows them before we do, from our standpoint, but not his. However, this doesn't answer the question how God could know them before they were instantiated at all, for they can only be done as a product of their instantiation. They are only knowable after they are instantiated by the agent.

    Now, it's true that the timelessness of God means that all things are "eternally simultaneous" to God, but that's an ontological category. Here, we're talking about telelogy, a distinct epistemological category. God understands relational sequence, that 1, for example, comes before 2. But if the question is "! or 2" and that question is answered only by an agent other than God, then how does He know the answer to it prior to the agent making the decision?

    He's also attacking the independence of God, for, let's take one example, if God is dependent on our libertarian choices in order to elect persons to salvation, God is a passive agent, depending on the creature.

    “Nowhere does scripture indicate that God unconditionally decreed their disobedience, which was the point in citing Jeremiah 32, which plainly indicates that He didn't.”

    Well then, by all means let's find another text. Hmmm, let's see:

    Isaiah 10:

    5Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
    And the staff in whose hands is My indignation,
    6I send it against a godless nation
    And commission it against the people of My fury
    To capture booty and to seize plunder,
    And to trample them down like mud in the streets.
    7Yet it does not so intend,
    Nor does it plan so in its heart,
    But rather it is its purpose to destroy
    And to cut off many nations.
    8For it says, "Are not my princes all kings?
    9"Is not Calno like Carchemish,
    Or Hamath like Arpad,
    Or Samaria like Damascus?
    10"As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols,
    Whose graven images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
    11Shall I not do to Jerusalem and her images
    Just as I have done to Samaria and her idols?"

    12So it will be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, "I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness."

    Acts 2:23:

    23this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

    Note for JC: Simply lifting some texts from Scripture and saying they demonstrate LFW isn't an argument. At a minimum you have to exegete the texts to show this is the case. You're simply begging the question.

    What you need, in order to show LFW, is a text of the Bible that shows that our motives/desires are not sufficient causes to our own actions, eg. that we have contracausal freedom. In case you need to bone up on the definition of LFW, LFW means that freedom is contracausal, that's why merely showing that people act in a manner contrary to God's commands doesn't prove LFW. The question is this, "Why do they disobey?" That's a question related to the motives of the agent. Do they choose in manner that is not consistent with their desire to do so? Where does the Bible teach this? When the Bible ascribes blame to us for our actions, doesn't the Bible ascribe blame based on our desires, our motives, what we say in our hearts?

    Steve wrote:

    In 11:4, Hosea has employed the metaphor of an animal trainer who uses ropes (or a yoke) to control his livestock or wild animals.

    It’s obvious that J.C. never bothered to exegete his prooftext. He could have learned about the imagery by consulting the standard commentators on Hosea (e.g. David Hubbard, Thomas McComiskey, Gary Smith, Douglas Stuart)

    Which is why I asked him how Hosea 11 relates to John 6, which was the text I had in mind, and his reply, if you'll recall was originally to me.

    Here's Hosea 11:1-4

    1When Israel was a youth I loved him,
    And out of Egypt I called My son.
    2The more they called them,
    The more they went from them;
    They kept sacrificing to the Baals
    And burning incense to idols.
    3Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    I took them in My arms;
    But they did not know that I healed them.
    4I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love,
    And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws;
    And I bent down and fed them.

    This text is not about God "wooing" Israel, it's about God's deliverance of Israel. It's about His faithfulness to them. This text, if we want to talk about it's relation to the meaning of "drawing" is on our side, not his. God did not "woo" Israel out of Egypt or "woo" Israel into the land of Canaan. Indeed, He did not "woo" them into the Exile and the Return. He pulled them out.

    And, if JC wants to say, "Well, Israel fell into sin," yes it did, but if he'd care to check out the whole trajectory of Hosea, after the Exile, Israel was delivered through the remnant. God preserved the nation, and God did so as a type of the Church, the elect.