Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Love Your Neighbor, so Long as He's no Calvinist!

"Robert" had some kind words for Calvinists:

He wrote:

But my problem is that calvinists keep bringing up this dumb argument that if some person cannot do some particular action, they then claim that that person does not, cannot have LFW. Since God cannot sin, he cannot have LFW. We will not sin in heaven, so we cannot have LFW in Heaven. God cannot lie, so He must not have LFW.

Ilion I keep seeing this extremely lame argument being spewed foth by calvinists. It seems to me that they are making a simple logical mistake that for people who pride themselves on logic should not be happening.

P- 1 = God cannot do particular action (X)
P -2 = Unless a person can do everything, the person does not have LFW,
:’ = Therefore = since God cannot do (X), God does not have LFW.

The problem should be obvious, it does not logically follow from the fact that some person cannot do a particular action, that they no longer have choices in regards to other actions.
But this post isn't about commenting on how "unloving" Robert is towards Calvinists (but it is odd given how he berated Steve Hays).

It's about his substantive claims. They may be true, but one wouldn't know it by reading libertarians.

We also had some libertarians concur in the meta of two of my latest posts to the effect that libertarianism doesn't say one can choose good or evil, a person might just have good options to choose from and no bad ones (though I confess to be confused as to how this could be spelled out). But they say one thing and other libertarians, who are more knowledgeable about this subject than them, say another (see below). What am I to do?

Robert lauds Plantinga. Let's look at what Plantinga's position on the matter is:

According to Plantinga, libertarian free will is a morally significant kind of free will. An action is morally significant just when it is appropriate to evaluate that action from a moral perspective (for example, by ascribing moral praise or blame). Persons have morally significant free will if they are able to perform actions that are morally significant. Imagine a possible world where God creates creatures with a very limited kind of freedom. Suppose that the persons in this world can only choose good options and are incapable of choosing bad options. So, if one of them were faced with three possible courses of action—two of which were morally good and one of which was morally bad—this person would not be free with respect to the morally bad option. That is, that person would not be able to choose any bad option even if they wanted to. Our hypothetical person does, however, have complete freedom to decide which of the two good courses of action to take. Plantinga would deny that any such person has morally significant free will. People in this world always perform morally good actions, but they deserve no credit for doing so. It is impossible for them to do wrong. So, when they do perform right actions, they should not be praised. It would be ridiculous to give moral praise to a robot for putting your soda can in the recycle bin rather than the trash can, if that is what it was programmed to do. Given the program running inside the robot and its exposure to an empty soda can, it's going to take the can to the recycle bin. It has no choice about the matter. Similarly, the people in the possible world under consideration have no choice about being good. Since they are pre-programmed to be good, they deserve no praise for it.

Robert accepts Plantinga's definition. He said:

Alvin Plantinga, who is obviously a theist that we can trust, (at least I hope so last time I checked, :-)), defines free will as:

“If a person is free with respect to a given action, then he is free to perform that action and free to refrain from performing it; no antecedent conditions and/or causal laws determine that he will perform the action, or that he won’t.”

That seems to be the converse of what Hasker suggests, so I believe Hasker’s definition is a good one.

Robert can't hold to both of his above positions, then (especially since he's lauded Plantinga and all he does over and over). (Furthermore, the Father isn't "free" to "refrain" from performing "that action" of loving the Son. So then, his love must not be "real" or "genuine." Robert gives us what we need to undermine Reppert's post on Hasker and Love potion #9! Libertarians have been employed to refute libertarians.)

Or, take Robert Kane, another of Robert's favorites:

"The basic idea is this: to be ultimately responsible for an action, an agent must be responsible for anything that is a sufficient reason, cause, or motive for the action occurring. If, for example, a choice issues from, and can be significantly explained by, an agent's character or motives (together with background conditions), then to be ultimately responsible for the choice, the agent must be in part responsible by virtue of choices or actions performed in the past for having the character and motives he or she now has. Compare Aristotle's claim that if a man is responsible for the good or wicked acts that flow from his character, he must at some time in the past have been responsible for forming the good or wicked character from which these acts flow" (Kane, Contemporary Introduction to free Will, Oxford, 2005, p.121, bold emphasis mine).
Not only do most views of God not see him as "having a past", almost all see him as necessarily good. There was never any "forming" of his character. There was never a time when he wasn't good. He never made the decision to form his character to a certain mold.

Thus, it appears, that God does not have the "significant freedom," or "ultimate responsibility" needed for his actions and choices to be a proper subject for ascriptions of praise.

Now, my arguments may be dumb, but that's certainly not my fault. I can only go off what libertarians themselves tell me. I find it odd to blame a man for misrepresentation when he simply repeats what he has been told. Don't shoot the messenger, and all that stuff.



I'd add that "Robert" has quite the problem on his hands when it comes to the problem of evil and his support of Reppert's arguments against Calvinists.

See, if, as "Robert" clearly indicates, we can have libertarian freedom in heaven, having a multiplicity of only good options to choose from, then why didn't God instantiate this world from the get go? That's similar to Reppert's arguments against Calvinism. "Robert" has supported Reppert.

If "Robert" says that it is not possible to make libertarainly free creatures who only choose good, then he undercuts his above claims about heaven. And thus undercuts his claims about our "dumb, lame, and stupid" arguments.

If possible to create a world where people have free will and only good options to choose from, then we have the problem of evil. Why this world with all its evils?

"Robert" can't appeal to the goodness of free will (though this move is suspect as a theodicy in general) to justify the evil since God could have instantiated the goodness of free will without the evil. If "Robert" says that God had a good reason, a greater good in all of this, then he uses the arguments I've used against Reppert. Thus, Robert must claim that I have sufficiently answered Reppert. He must also drop all problem of evil arguments he has against the Calvinist.

None of the above should be controversial. I'm just drawing out what is implicitly in "Robert's" admissions.


  1. Not only that, but the logical structure we are looking at is really this:

    1. God cannot do particular action (X).

    2. If LFW were true, God could do particular action (X).

    3. Therefore, God does not have LFW.

    In other words, we're not arguing that unless a person can do everything he does not have LFW; we're arguing that if God cannot do a specific action that LFW requires then God does not have LFW.

    In any case, I do have to wonder about Robert on this one. Basically, he resorts to the LFW defense to avoid God seeming to be immoral. Yet in order for LFW, it must be "actually" "really" "no really" "I mean it, really really really" possible for God to do otherwise. And that means that Robert is in essence arguing that in order to keep God from being immoral, it must be "actually" "really" (etc.) possible that God is immoral.

  2. I'd add that regarding the freedom of the unregenerate, Calvinism denies that they have the freedom of contrary choice (freedom to choose between good and evil), but affirms that they have the freedom of alternative choice (freedom to choose between alternative evils). Therefore, Robert is attacking a strawman.

  3. If no one can be held responsible (whether for good or evil) for their actions with respect to moral decisions unless they have LFW, and God does not have LFW with respect to moral actions, then how can God be given glory for all the good actions that he does since He could not have done otherwise?

  4. S&S,

    That's been my argument in my last couple of posts.

    The LFWers have argued that LFW does not mean that one has the ability to do good or evil, one might only have good options to choose from. Say, G1, G2, G3, G4, G...n. They are not determined to choose G1 over G2, G3, G4, G...n.

    So, given the exact same history leading up to an LFW agent who chose, say, G1, he could have, if we replayed history over, chosen G2 or ... .

    So, that's there comeback.

    God cannot do evil but also has LFW.

    My arguments here and in the last post have sought to critique that objection given *other things* libertarisn have told me.

    So, they may clean up their position such that it is consistent, when that happens I have other objections waiting in the wings.

  5. Obviously, if LFW can be redefined as choosing between only good choices, then surely Adam could have been given LFW in some possible universe where he could only make a choice between good choices. Instead of God saying, "Do not eat from this tree" He could have said: "Eat from this tree to worship me one way, and eat from that three to worship me another way. It's totally up to you." Hence, LFW exists, and Adam cannot sin.

    Hence the LFW response to the Problem of Evil falls flat on its face.

    LFW must include evil actions as a possibility in order for the theodicy to survive; but it cannot include evil actions if we assert God has it. Therefore, the Arminian is in a true bind.

  6. Yes, Peter. I tried to make that point in my addendum. It seems that given all those things Robert has granted, he's in a bind.

    This is precisely why some Arminians (cf. Copan) have felt the need to argue that in heaven we will have compatibilist freedom.

    To me this gives us all we need. For in heaven we will be free, and morally responsible, so the Arminian can't really object to our position.

    Copan says that "in the past" we must of had LFW. Must of made some LFW choices. That's his tradeoff.

    But this has many, many problems (I listed them in a post a while back). One is that there are, presumably, at least some infants who died in infancy that will be in heaven. But, unfortunately, they didn't make LFW choices. Namely, because they didn't make any choices. Furthermore, it is odd that "the best" world - heaven - is made of of people with CFW and not LFW. So how could LFW be so good as to justify evil when the best of all worlds doesn't include it?

  7. Paul,

    Somehow I missed your addendum! Oh well :-) Great minds think alike and all that!

  8. I added it about an hour after I initially posted, so that's probably why you didn't see it!

  9. I'm having major computer problems that may require I get a new HD, so this may be my last post for some time. Since I can, right now, manage to get online, I'll leave it here for you.

    Robert is yet again repeating himself when he cites Plantinga - because Robert does little more than repeat himself. I went over this before with him when he said he believes in LFW but denies that LFW means that there are no antecedent causes to our actions. He flatly said that was absurd and then proceeded to, if I recall, cite this same quote. But read the doggone quote:

    “If a person is free with respect to a given action, then he is free to perform that action and free to refrain from performing it; no antecedent conditions and/or causal laws determine that he will perform the action, or that he won’t.

    Notice that this quote flatly agrees with what I told him.

    Now, his contention is that, since God's choices are "uncaused," God must have LFW. The problem here is that God's choices DO have a cause, namely Himself, His own character. God has the ability to choose in a manner in which His moral choices are not constrained by anything but His own moral character - and if Robert denies that is true, then that means Robert must believe that God can do both good and evil.

    Robert, as Steve points out here is confused about what constitutes contracausal freedom. Neither God nor man have the power of contrary choice - the ability to do that which contradicts our natures. Both God and man have the ability to choose between alternatives, and Robert has consistently acted as if LFW constitutes the latter and not the former. He's confused, or dishonest, or confusedly dishonest.

    That'll be all now, and maybe for quite some time. I have to figure out why my C: drive disappeared on this HD between boots (fortunately, I boot from another partition altogether). If the HD is bad, I may be some time in returning. Love to you all!