There have been some that have said that my argument is problematic since I am appealing to my "historically conditioned interpretations of the text of Scripture." And therefore Victor's argument is much better. This objection overlooks the fact that Victor Reppert has also appealed to Scripture as a main pillar of his argument against me. Therefore, this objection must refrain from lauding Victor's position while jeering mine. This objection also has the problem of reading our discussion according to a "historically conditioned" mind frame; and therefore, if I can't get to the real meaning of the text of Scripture neither can the objector get to the real meaning of either Victor's or my post. Thus, the objector can't weigh in with any objective evaluation of our arguments. Finally, this objection faces a dilemma: My position is that we can get to the meaning of the text in spite of any historical conditioning we may have (especially considering that in the Calvinist system, God is the all-conditioner, so the one who wants me to understand his word is the one who has conditioned me). This is either true or false. If it is true, then the objection raises no problem. If my position is false, then I would need another argument besides the repeated chanting about historical conditioning, for it to take root.
Lastly, before I respond to Victor's latest post, I must point out that this discussion has left far behind the original arguments Reppert posed and that I responded to. It appears that now he is simply arguing that given the truth of Arminian interpretations of the Bible, as well as Universalist interpretations, as well as the truth of the Principle of Alternative Possibility, and the truth of libertarian free will, then Calvinism is problematic. But of course, I agree with that!
I'll now turn to Reppert's latest salvo:
Paul: Here's the trouble that I would like to focus on. It seems to me to be fairly clear, even if we were to grant an compatibilist view of free will, that the following principle is true, which I will call the Wrongful Cause Principle:And just what is the Wrongful Cause Principle?
WCP: It is wrong to cause someone to do what it is wrong to do.Reppert obviously has an argument like this in mind: (1) Given Calvinism, God causes all things to happen. (2) WCP. (3) People do wrong things. (4)Therefore, God does wrong things.
I will respond to his WCP argument by (i) taking something like a survey of some of the recent literature which addresses this issue, (ii) analyzing the WCP in order to see how it bears on Calvinism, (iii) offering a reversal of the WCP which, if Victor thinks the WCP works, then he will have to think my counter works against him, (iv) briefly offering a Reformed approach to the question, and (v) I'll close with some general remarks to a couple other comments he made.
Now, it's important to know that this very question has received treatment over and over again in the literature. I could cite literally hundreds of books and articles spanning back over the centuries, but for our purposes I'll list 7 contemporary sources where Victor's very question is dealt with. John Frame, The Doctrine of God, P&R, 2002, pp. 152-159, 174-182, 274-288; Wayne Gruden, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan, 1994, pp. 315-354; Paul Helm in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (eds. James K. Beilby & Paul R. Eddy), IVP, 2001, pp. 176-182; Paul Helm, John Calvin's Ideas, Oxford, 2006, pp. 93-128; Paul Helm, The Providence of God, IVP, 1993, pp. 161-191; K. Scott Oliphint, Reasons For Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology, P&R, 2006, pp. 326-342; Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Nelson, 1998, pp. 343-381
I could continue with many more examples, both contemporary and classic (though those terms are not necessarily mutually exclusive, Frame's DG, for one!). My point here is simply to point out that these arguments Victor is using are nothing new. There are plenty of definitions, qualifications, and explications of the Reformed view on the matter. Victor hasn't taken the time to familiarize himself with the very issue he's debating. Thus, his objections to Calvinism come more from the "gut" than from any detailed study and serious thinking on the matter. I'm sure Victor would agree with me here.
What does the WCP even mean?
i) To say that it is evil to cause someone to commit an evil is just to say that it is evil to cause evil. But this is just a restatement of the problem of evil. I have already offered a theodicy which has as of yet to be responded to.
ii) What is meant by "cause?"
a) Is it the same as the Reformed understanding of "decree?" How so? Strictly speaking, the decree doesn't "cause" anything. The decree is the plan. So what does Victor have in mind here and where is it found in the reformed literature?
b) Does it mean a necessary condition? A necessary condition for any human to commit an evil act is that they be here to do it. So, are all the parents to blame for the evil their children may commit simply because they brought them into existence? In this sense of "cause," we should lock up Jeffery Dahmer's parents for giving birth to Dahmer. If you traced the causes back far enough, you'd come to their causing him to exist. Might as well figure out a way to punish the grandparents too, if we could. Maybe God will . . .
c) Does it mean necessary and sufficient conditions? But what Calvinist (or Reformed theologian) takes this view? There are distinctions that have been made in the literature between primary and secondary causality, proximate and remote causes, etc.
d) There is a long theological tradition which speaks of concurrence. We find in theologians across the board that God is upholding all things by his very power, he sustains all things, in him we live and move and have our being. If he were to withdraw his hand, nothing would continue.
Winfred Corduan makes a similar point in his chapter on a Thomistic Cosmological Argument. On his view of causality presented in his chapter in Reasons for Faith: Making a Case for the Christian Faith, an effect is never free from its cause. If a contingent thing does not always retain its cause, then it will no longer exist (pp. 211-213).
No wrong act could take place if God were not there upholding all things. Take his hand away, the muscles that are required to pull a trigger won't work.
So in this sense, God causes all things, even wrong actions. Ephesians 1:11 refers to how God works his plan as "the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will." Proverbs 16:4-5 tells us about some of this "working out": "The LORD works out everything for his own ends—even the wicked for a day of disaster. The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished." God "works" the evil unto their disaster, but then clearly indicates that they are the ones punished for what he has "worked out." Is this a violation of the WCP?
e) Does Reppert view this like a billiard table? If the hit cue ball hits the racked balls and then they all bounce off each other, eventually going into the holes, one could say that hitting the cue ball was the cause of all the individual balls going into their holes. Likewise, God got our whole thing going by his own cue stick, "the word of his power." So in this sense, God caused people to do evil acts.
f) Is when God causes something the same as when we do? Victor is appealing to cases when humans have caused some person to do an evil act and then extrapolating that causation over to God as if they two were coterminous. How does he know this? God-causation is different that creature-causation. So is God's presence. God is fully present everywhere. But how can he and I be both "present" at every point in the same space? Reppert is treating God just like one more fact in the universe. If we don't have a full, or even partial, understanding of G-C, how does Reppert intend it to work in the WCP? When a human "causes" someone S to do some evil act E, is that the same as when God "causes" S to E? If not, then he has an equivocation in his argument.
iii) How am I to think about the WCP? What are instances of the WCP? Let's view some:
a) Say I put a gun to S's head and "cause" him to rob a bank. Is this how Victor is viewing the Calvinist picture?
b) Say I hire a hit man to off the guy who is starting over me at quarterback. The hit man kills "Chip." I "caused" the hit man to do an evil act, but he also did it willingly. Is this how Reppert views the Calvinist picture? God hiring us to knock people off or engage in illicit behavior?
c) Say Paul Sheldon writes a novel where he has some character kill off the heroine, Misery Chastaine. In one sense Sheldon "caused" Misery's death.
Now, Calvinism doesn't fit with III (a) or (b). In fact, given God's sui generous nature, there are no strict parallel we could draw (so I would argue). But I would say that (c) has a lot of parallels with God's relation to his creation, far more so than the other models (for a fuller explication of this Author-character model see John Frame, DG, pp. 156-159).
So, if we have a decent analogy here, what's the problem? Remember that it was the crazy former nurse Annie Wilkes who blamed Sheldon for the death of Misery! Is the Arminian the theological version of Annie Wilkes? (It is also interesting to pause and reflect on the fact that Misery was actually a story written by Stephen King. So neither Paul nor Annie were “real”. But that didn't affect your grasping the point. I think this point may lend credence to the conceivability of the Author-character model.)
iv) How would Reppert apply the WCP to the Bible? For example:
5 "Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger,
in whose hand is the club of my wrath!
6 I send him against a godless nation,
I dispatch him against a people who anger me,
to seize loot and snatch plunder,
and to trample them down like mud in the streets.
7 But this is not what he intends,
this is not what he has in mind;
his purpose is to destroy,
to put an end to many nations.
8 'Are not my commanders all kings?' he says.
9 'Has not Calno fared like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad,
and Samaria like Damascus?
10 As my hand seized the kingdoms of the idols,
kingdoms whose images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria-
11 shall I not deal with Jerusalem and her images
as I dealt with Samaria and her idols?' "
12 When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, "I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. 13 For he says:
" 'By the strength of my hand I have done this,
and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.
I removed the boundaries of nations,
I plundered their treasures;
like a mighty one I subdued their kings.
14 As one reaches into a nest,
so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations;
as men gather abandoned eggs,
so I gathered all the countries;
not one flapped a wing,
or opened its mouth to chirp.' "
15 Does the ax raise itself above him who swings it,
or the saw boast against him who uses it?
As if a rod were to wield him who lifts it up,
or a club brandish him who is not wood!
24 The LORD Almighty has sworn,
"Surely, as I have planned, so it will be,
and as I have purposed, so it will stand.
25 I will crush the Assyrian in my land;
on my mountains I will trample him down.
His yoke will be taken from my people,
and his burden removed from their shoulders."
26 This is the plan determined for the whole world;
this is the hand stretched out over all nations.
27 For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him?
His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?
And still speaking of Assyria:
26 "Have you not heard?
Long ago I ordained it.
In days of old I planned it;
now I have brought it to pass,
that you have turned fortified cities
into piles of stone.
Here we have Jehovah clearly causing the Assyrian king to "to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets." So is this an instance of WCP? Have we shown God to be immoral?
Another example can be found in Job. When Job heard that the Chaldeans had stolen his camels and killed his servants, Job said: The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Is this a violation of WCP? Or is this an instance of the different levels of God's involvement. The Chaldeans took and the Lord took. The Bible obviously ascribes different causal models to each.
One last example will do for the time being. Take Jesus' death. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus death was planned from before the creation. It was also known that he would be sinless. Thus to kill an innocent man is murder. Now, suppose God had not caused what would take place. He left it up to chance. How would Jesus pay for the sins of his people if no one instantiated the necessary requirment of murdering him? Would we read in the Bible about him going up to people and pleading for them to murder him? Perhaps he would commit a capital crime so that he could complete his task of getting mur... uh, er, not anymore. Perhaps he would kill himself? Of course all of this is absurd. So, God made sure, determined, planned, brought it about, caused, whatever floats your boat, that Jesus would be murdered. Thus, God caused other people to do a wrong act, thus a violation of the WCP! Let's look at the biblical witness:
22"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.
And so here we see an unambiguous case where God "caused" people to do wrong things.
But if we want to remain orthodox, it is not open to us to say that this is a violation of WCP.
One reason is that God had a good reason, a morally sufficient reason, for the death of Jesus.
Thus Victor's WCP principle isn't a necessary one. If it were, it would contradict clear teaching in the Bible (even an essential of the faith). This option is not open to the Christain.
v) God also may cause someone to do a "wrong" act but the act serves as either punishment of discipline. If someone is worthy of punishment and discipline, then why is God using a gang member as his tool necessarily immoral?
Does Victor’s argument open up the door to the Wrongful Permission principle?
WPP: It is wrong to permit or allow someone to do a wrong act if you could stop them through no loss of your own.
Indeed, this doesn't even have to affect free will. God could cause a knife blade to turn to rubber right when a killer attempts to cut a victim's throat. The person still had evil intentions, and would have killed the other person. This would be enough for a moral evaluation to be issued by God. The man still would have sinned. He would not have lost his free will. And the crime would have been stopped.
Say Victor loses his job at ASU. He gets a new job on a pit crew checking the breaks of NASCAR cars. Say Victor sees that the break line is leaking a massive amount of fluid. He knows an accident will result. If Victor doesn't stop this, if he permits the car to get back on the track, has he not done something immoral?
It seems to me that Victor falls by the WPP. Or, he could say that God has a good reason for the evil he permits. But if he can say this to undercut WPP, then I can use it to undercut WCP.
Jonathon Edwards writes,
“They who object, that this doctrine makes God the author of sin, ought distinctly to explain what they mean by that phrase, ‘the author of sin.’ I know the phrase, as it is commonly used, signifies something very ill. If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant ‘the sinner, the agent,’ or ‘actor of sin,’ or ‘the doer of a wicked thing’; so it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin.This permission is no bare permission, though. It is his willing permission. Helm says for "For X willingly to permit action A is at least for this: for A to be the action of someone other than X; for X to foreknow the occurrence of A and to have been able to prevent A; and for A not to be against X's overall plan" (Helm, Four Views, pp.176-178). On this view then, God does not causally determine everything in the sense that he is the efficient cause of everything. But nothing that happens is something that God was unwilling to happen. So God positively governs all acts that occur and negatively governs all evil acts by knowingly willingly permitting them.
But if, by ‘the author of sin,’ is mean the permitter, or not a hinderer of sin; and, at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy, and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow: I say, if this be all that is meant, by being the author of sin, I do not deny that God is the author of sin (though I dislike and reject the phrase, as that which by use and custom is apt to carry another sense).
And, I do not deny, that God being thus the author of sin, follows from what I have laid down; and, I assert, that it equally follows from the doctrine which is maintained by most of the Arminian divines.
There is no inconsistence in supposing, that God may hate a thing as it is in itself, and considered simply as evil, and yet that it may be his will it should come to pass, considering all the consequences.
Men do will sin as sin, and so are the authors and actors of it: they love it as sin, and for evil ends and purposes. God does not will sin as sin, or for the sake of anything evil; though it be his pleasure so to order things, that, he permitting, sin will come to pass, for the sake of the great good that by his disposal shall be the consequence. His willing to order things so that evil should come to pass, for the sake of the contrary good, is no argument that he does not hate evil, as evil,” Works (Banner of Truth 1984), 1:76,78,79.
God's intentions are different from man's too. As Augustine says:
In a way unspeakably strange and wonderful, even what is done in opposition to his will does not defeat his will. For it would not be done did he not permit it (and of course his permission is not unwilling but willing); nor would a good being permit evil to be done only that in his omnipotence he can turn evil into good (cited in Helm, For Views, p. 176).Calvin speaks to this intention also:
How may we attribute this same work to God, to Satan, and to man as author, without either excusing Satan as associated with God, or making God the author of evil? Easily, if we consider first the end, and then the manner of acting…So great is the diversity of purpose that already strongly marks the deed. There is no less difference in the manner…Therefore we see no inconsistency in assigning the same deed to God, Satan, and man; but the distinction in purpose and manner causes God’s righteousness to shine forth blameless there, while the wickedness of Satan and of man betrays itself by its own disgrace, Institutes 2.4.2.Intent or virtue, end or goal, is a necessary condition for an ethical act. And I've already thrown a lot of doubt on the notion that Reppert's WCP is some necessary truth, besides the fact that we have no clue how it is supposed to apply to the Calvinist's conception of God.
I will close out by commenting on a couple of other statements Reppert made in his post:
Even if you can make it out that if an omnipotent being pre-ordained the Holocaust before the foundation of the world, that Hitler can nevertheless be blamed for perpetrating it (after all he didn't do it against his will, he wanted to do it); in particular if the sin involved is so heinous as to deserve everlasting punishment, then an omnipotent being who is also perfectly good would not decree the Holocaust.Perhaps Victor forgot that every sin is so heinous that it deserves everlasting punishment on the traditional, orthodox view (cf. Romans 6:23).
If Hitler deserves everlasting punishment how much more so do those that murdered an innocent man, Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory? I have demonstrated that God decreed this. So Victor can deny that the Bible reported truth in Acts 2 and 4, or he can say that God is not perfectly "good" (whatever he means by that).
I would like to ask if there is any human context in which anyone could deny that this principle is true. Can we just dismiss this principle as "intuitions?" Isn't it an intuition that virtually all of us share, and would employ without hestitation unless one's theology was at stake?
Here's a context where one might be able to deny that the WCP is true. A Morally Acceptable Violation of the WCP:
MAVWCP: A terrorist tells you that he will nuke all the major cities of the world unless you force someone to lie to their grandmother about coming over for sunday dinner. (And you can tell no one about this, either.)
So, you happen to know that Ned goes to his grandma's for dinner every Sunday. Ned is about 120 pounds soaking wet. You're an ex-linebacker for the San Diego Chargers. Ned is obviously frightened of what you could do to him if you got angry. So, you go to Ned and put on a show of rage and anger. Tell him you hate grandmas, or something. So, you tell him to call his grandma, Gladis, and tell her that he is going out with his friends sunday and will not be coming over for sunday dinner.
So here we have a violation of WCP that seems to be morally exceptable. One reason was that there was a much greater good involved. Applying this to Calvinism we find that we're right back at my theodicy. And without any interaction with my theodicy (which is really just the theodicy of the majority of contemporary Christian philosophers), Victor's WCP is just a re-statement of the problem without advancing the discussion forward one bit.
I've already pointed out some problems in reasoning from human to divine here. I also pointed out problems with the principle in general as it is supposed to apply to the Calvinist. How doe he think we're denying this intuition? I also provided a principle, WPP, that I wonder "if there is any human context in which anyone could deny that this principle is true." Can Victor just dismiss WPP as "intuitions?" Isn't WPP an intuition that virtually all of us share and would employ without hesitation unless one's tradition was at stake? And I've also shown that the Bible asks us to, and can, overturn our moral "intuitions." I've shown that with the atonement. I've done that with the a general argument from inerrancy. That is, if the Bible is inerrant, if its teachings are infallible, then if it teaches some teaching T, and if our admittedly fallible moral intuitions teach ~T, then ~~T.
Lastly, the Bible tells us that the gospel is an offense. I wonder if thinkers like Victor keep "fixing" the Bible so as not to offend people's moral or theological "intuitions", what will happen to the gospel? If no one is offended by your gospel, have you got the right gospel? If they are, why ask them to give up their moral “intuitions?”