Saturday, April 19, 2008

The 95 Theses Against Market-Driven Religion

As far as I know, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) is the last Bible-believing, conservative Lutheran denomination in America. Other Lutheran denominations have long since departed from the faith because their foundation of Scriptural authority was eroded with the onslaught of German higher-criticism in the late 19th century as well as with the advent of theological liberalism sticking its nasty claws into formerly biblical denominations at the turn of the 20th century during what was historically known as the "Fundamentalist/Modernist Controversy".

Today, the LCMS is starting to see a new battle brewing between many faithful confessional Lutherans and a new breed of seeker sensitive, purpose-driven church growth proponents. Last week, some of the faithful confessional Lutherans in the LCMS posted a modern version of the 95 Theses that clearly condemns the false teaching of the market-driven, seeker-sensitive church madness in no uncertain terms. I post some of this excellent document below because there is much that non-Lutherans can learn from it. I encourage you to read the entire document linked at the bottom of this post and share it with others who love Jesus and cherish faithfulness to His written word.

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” He willed that the whole life of believers should be one of repentance.

2. To “repent” means to be contrite for one’s sins and to trust Jesus Christ and solely in His completed work for one’s forgiveness, life, and salvation.

3. Those who describe the Christian life as purpose-driven deny true repentance, confuse the Law and the Gospel, and obscure the merits of Christ.

4. Impious and wicked are the methods of those who substitute self-help and pop-psychology for the Gospel in the name of relevance.

5. This impious disregard for the Gospel wickedly transforms sacred Scripture into a guidebook for living, a pharisaic sourcebook of principles, and sows tares among the wheat.

6. Relevance, self-help and pop-psychology have no power to work true contrition over sins and faith in Jesus Christ.

7. Like clouds without rain, purpose-driven preachers withhold the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins won by Christ on the cross and enslave men’s consciences to the law which they cleverly disguise as so-called ‘Biblical Principles’.

8. By teaching tips for attaining perfect health, debt-free wealth, and better sex in marriage, the purveyors of relevance undermine true fear, love and trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

9. They are enemies of Christ, who distort the Word of God by tearing verses from their original context in order to use them as proof texts for their self-help, pop-psychology agendas.

10. Injury is done the Word of God when it is used as a source book for practical, relevant “life applications.”

22. The church is holy sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd.

23. How can sheep hear the voice of their Shepherd when false shepherds preach self-help and pop-psychology?

24. Purveyors of purpose-driven relevance are not shepherds of men’s souls but wolves in sheep’s clothing.

25. Purveyors of relevance claim that self-help, life-applications and biblical principles are the means to reach the unchurched because they meet people’s felt needs.

26. Yet a person’s greatest need is one he does not by nature feel, namely the need for the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ.

89. The church belongs to no man but to Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, and Lord of the church.

90. Woe to the false prophets who cry, “Unity, unity” when there is no unity.

91. Again, woe to those who say, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.

92. Again, woe to those who say, “Gospel, gospel,” when there is no Gospel.

Click Here to Read All 95

HT: Christian Research Net

Reppert's Latest Try at Undermining Calvinism

I consider the discussion Victor Reppert and I have been having to be an amicable one. I'm not aware of any personal attacks, poor behavior, or anything else that can be categorized as surly behavior that has went on. With that said, it is interesting to note the atheist feeding frenzy that has formed, by a small but vocal minority, I might add, in response to our discussion. I find their attempts to stir up trouble and bad blood to be childish, not to mention churlish. I find their comments that, for some unknown reason, it is a hoot to see two Christians debating interesting. For some reason that tells against Christianity I suppose. It is obvious that such objections stem from an embarrassing unfamiliarity with the Bible. In the Bible we find plenty of debate amongst the first century church. So, to point to something that has been going on since the New Testament, and then act as if we should re-think our Christian commitments in light of it, strikes me as showing how desperate some of the New Internet Atheists have become. This comment is particularly funny if you happen to know the first thing about any profession of field of inquiry. For example, I have 4 or 5 of the Blackwell Contemporary Debates in Philosophy Series. So, that some have pointed out that our discussion shows that we are both in error, and thus need to drop our theistic belief, strikes me as a ridiculous claim that has the unfortunate defect of being self-refuting since I disagree with the claim; hence, this shows the claim should not be held! I would hope that Victor would at least agree with me on this score.

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:

Isaiah 10:5-15

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!

Isaiah 14:24-27

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:

Isaiah 37:26

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:

Acts 2:22-23

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.

Acts 4:27-29

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.

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.
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.

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?”

First impressions on Expelled

Following hotly on the footsteps of the great Dusman, here are a few of my first impressions and thoughts after watching Expelled:
  • I liked the interviews with some big wigs in the Intelligent Design movement (e.g. Stephen C. Meyer, Richard Sternberg, Douglas Axe, Guillermo Gonzalez, Kurt Wise, Jonathan Wells, William Dembski, Alistair McGrath, John Polkinghorne) as well as the interviews with atheists like Michael Ruse, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. Not all ID-proponents interviewed were religious though (e.g. David Berlinski). In any case, it was a good way to get a quick feel for the personalities behind some well-known publications on either side.

  • Maybe I missed them but I didn't notice Michael Behe, Francis Collins, or, perhaps most notably, Phillip E. Johnson.

  • I only wish the interviews were longer and more in-depth. But the movie wasn't so much about making arguments against neo-Darwinism or for Intelligent Design as it was about presenting the case that the American academic scientific establishment is anti-ID (and religion) and basically any dissenting view from the mainstream one when it comes to neo-Darwinism.

  • Seattle looked gorgeous! (And, yeah, the Discovery Institute's office space seemed rather modest in relation to their purported influence.)

  • For some reason, Ben Stein's usual comedic shtick as a drab, nerdy professor with a monotone voice and colorless demeanor (à la his role in Ferris Bueller's Day Off) didn't seem as funny to me as it might've in the past.

  • At one point, Ben Stein asked David Berlinski, if, in Darwin's day the cell might be compared to a Buick, what might it be compared to today? And Berlinski replied, "A galaxy." It's simply amazing to me how complicated any animal let alone human cell truly is.

  • Speaking of which, there were a couple of pretty neat cell animations in the movie. Not to mention at least one funny cartoon which ended with a cartoon version Dawkins cursing his luck on a slot machine. And I thought the movie made pretty good use of old black and white footage from other movies and elsewhere throughout its hour and a half run.

  • I was surprised that the German lady working as a concentration camp tour guide couldn't bring herself to condemn what one of the Nazi doctors did in murdering people. [Update: Please make sure to read Joe Carter's comment in the combox.]

  • I was somewhat surprised that several neo-Darwinists are apostates. Indeed, neo-Darwinism can undermine and erode the faith of many Christians. In fact, Dawkins admitted he lost any vestige of faith he may have once had after studying evolution. That's why it needs to be confronted. And more than ever these days.

  • On the flip side, there are some Christians who don't want the slightest thing to do with evolution, and will refuse to hear let alone learn about it for fear that they'll somehow be contaminated by it and perhaps led astray. Although the sentiments are understandable, their thinking is not.

  • One apostate neo-Darwinist mentioned that, since he now believes in unguided naturalistic evolution, he likewise no longer believes in free will or that there is any meaning in life. He said he has a brain tumor and that he would rather shoot himself in the head than to go through such suffering. [Update: This was William Provine. Thanks to Dusman for pointing it out in the combox.] So neo-Darwinism not only condemns one to a meaningless death but also to a meaningless life. What's more, neo-Darwinism devalues human life because life and death are nothing more than "natural processes."

  • Also, I think it's ironic to hear apostates in this movie talk about how "free" they feel now that they're no longer Christians. Now that they've been "liberated" from the shackles of Christianity after seeing the light of unguided naturalistic evolution and atheism. I don't doubt that that's how they may "feel." But, if unguided naturalistic evolution and atheism are true, then what does it mean to say that someone feels let alone is "free"? What, after all, is the "feeling" of "freedom" or "freedom" itself to the atheist and evolutionist (e.g. perhaps a series of biochemical reactions resulting in the illusion of choice)?

  • At the same time, we hear other neo-Darwinists call religion "evil." But I wonder if they have considered from where they derive this moral category of "evil" for religion given their presuppositions?

  • Ben Stein rightly noted that neo-Darwinism is not a sufficient but it is a necessary condition for Nazism.

  • Someone mentioned something along the lines of, science should go before one's worldview but one's worldview often goes before science. One should go where the evidence leads, not predetermine where one is going and then shoehorn the evidence to fit the destination. Of course, this could cut both ways (assuming there's at least some validity in the statement). But it seems to me it cuts so much more against neo-Darwinism. For instance, at least one neo-Darwinist scientist would rather believe in (as Ben Stein put it) "crystals" than the possibility that God may have been the source for life on earth as we know it.

  • Near the end of the movie, Dawkins himself admitted the possibility for Intelligent Design; he said panspermia was an intriguing possibility. It's just that he doesn't admit the possibility that the Judeo-Christian "God" might be the Intelligent Designer. He'll believe in anything in order to not believe in the God of the Bible. What a tragedy.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Expelled: A Brief Movie Review

My family and I just went to our local theater and viewed Ben Stein's documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. This documentary has already created no small stir on the internet as the pre-release controversy generated by it held the number one spot in the blogosphere all day on March 24 per Nielson's BlogPulse, and also received over 800 Technorati results. With it's release in 1,000 theaters today (4-18-08), it will no doubt upset many people.

So why all the fuss over such a small-scale documentary that will probably be out of theaters in 2-3 weeks anyway?

The answer: Ben Stein and his crew have shown ho
w several highly credentialed scientists and academicians have been forced out of prestigious academic positions because they have called into question certain aspects of traditional Darwinian evolutionary theory or have given some type of credence to Intelligent Design (ID) as a viable alternative to Darwinism.

Stein demonstrates through a series of interviews with those both sympathetic and hostile to ID theory that the current American scientific establishment has no room for entertaining a debate that will question the prevailing and assumed paradigm of Darwinism. Stein also convincingly shows that the reigning scientific establishment has actively suppressed the ID movement in an effort to prevent the undermining of Neodarwinian theory, something that runs contrary to the basic principles of American and academic freedom.

Many Darwinists, skeptics, and naysayers have been upset about the release of "Expelled" for months while it was being screened across the U.S., but one particular Darwinist sums up the complaints quite well. Dr. Michael Shermer, who was one of the first people interviewed in this documentary, complained after a pre-release screening that his comments about his agnosticism regarding professors being fired from their academic posts because they hold to ID theory were conveniently misused in order to support the documentary's "conspiracy theory". It's no secret that Darwinists often love to hate the idea that any type of intelligent agency was involved in the origin of life. Richard Dawkins has no problem admitting this outright, with the exception of the panspermia theory, which just causes him to push his ignorance back one step further. "PZ" Myers, an adherent to Darwinism and a biology professor at the University of Minnesota and owner of the popular atheist blog Pharyngula, was also interviewed in "Expelled". His written comments below taken from The Panda's Thumb blog are also reflective of his attitude about ID theory in his live interview:

The only appropriate responses [to Intelligent Design proponents] should involve some form of righteous fury, much butt-kicking, and the public firing and humiliation of some teachers, many school board members, and vast numbers of sleazy far-right politicians." ~ Comment #35130, PZ Myers, June 14, 2005

With comments like Dr. Myer's, "Expelled" shows through live interviews that the scientific establishment absolutely has no room for ID theory and they will muzzle whomever they can to prevent academic freedom, research, and publishing in this area. However, there is more to this documentary than the mere suppression of academic freedom.

"Expelled" shows that Darwinism is the foundation for philosophical naturalism/atheism, the eugenics movement of the first half of the 20th century, and the modern abortion problem. The documentary demonstrates a direct correlation between Darwinism and Adolf Hitler's plan to eradicate the Jews and while eradicating them, use them as experimental tools for the purpose of developing the perfect Utopian human through biological experimentation. "Expelled" goes on to note that Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood developed her ideas about eugenics and sterilization through the influence of Darwinism.

But of course, since modern Darwinism is a theory that excludes any divine involvement in the world, then by default, only material processes are responsible for the design and propagation of all life forms. In other words, no Intelligent Designer is allowed. Of course, when the Creator is cast out, so are objective, transcendent morals, and what normally follows is cultural relativism; a type of relativism that can eventually lead to things like eugenics, euthanasia, abortion, and holocausts. The history of the 20th century demonstrates this to be the case.

In conclusion, I expect "Expelled" to be another useful tool in expelling the last leg that upholds the Darwinian establishment's power in suppressing the evidence that contradicts and undermines their theory. It would be pretty hard for the Darwinists to legally prevent scientific information that contradicts evolutionary theory from entering the movie theaters, especially when our nation allows for the sale and distribution of pornographic material. And, with Stein screening the documentary for Florida legislators last month and his doing the same for Missouri lawmakers last week, both states are making swift moves toward passing academic freedom laws; laws that may at least allow for students and teachers to discuss the scientific and philosophical viability of lack thereof of these two competing theories about how man got here and what his purpose is in this world.

The Need For An Infallible Interpreter

Kmerian wrote:

No, I did not miss it. If you read the entire section, it was on infallibity.

Here is the context of his statement:

"If you do not claim to be infallibly certain that your interpretation of the whole Bible is correct, then of what value is it to have an infallible Bible without an infallible interpreter? In either case, your statement crumbles (this is a statement to a Protestant who said that the Bible is the only infallible interpreter he needs). The plain fact is that an infallible Bible without an infallible living interpreter is futile. Infallibility never gets from the printed page to the one place where it is needed: the mind of the reader. The myriad divisions within Protestantism offer ample evidence of the proof of this statement."
He was illustrating the flaw in the logic of Protestants who claim the Bible is infallible but they are not.

Hmmm, and why is this a convincing argument? Let's take a quick look at it:
The plain fact is that an infallible Bible without an infallible living interpreter is futile.
1. So, the Jews labored for centuries with Scripture but no infallible interpreter.This was futile. Okay.

2. How do we ascertain - infallibly - who the infallible interpreter is in the New Covenant era?
Infallibility never gets from the printed page to the one place where it is needed: the mind of the reader.
This would, of course, apply equally as well to the Roman Catholic if true. Even if the interpreter is "infallible" (the Church and its teachers, who convey its teaching) it's infallibility would never get from the printed page or the audible words to where it is needed, the mind of the interpreter.

Every interpreter is a reader/hearer too, and vice versa. So, the problem isn't related to the necessity of an infallible interpreter (teaching office), it's the necessity of an infallible hearer/reader (person in the pew, reader, etc.).

The Roman Catholic solution only puts the question back one step or more. So, it's on epistemic par with the Protestant rule of faith, which is precisely our argument - and the very argument you provided here has proven it for us. Moreover, since you apparently agree with it, you have done our work for us. That's a real timesaver.

The myriad divisions within Protestantism offer ample evidence of the proof of this statement.

Of course, this is a non-sequitur. The divisions within the receivers of teaching say nothing about the fallibility or infallibility of the teaching itself or the text itself. That's a category error.

He was illustrating the flaw in the logic of Protestants who claim the Bible is infallible but they are not.
And it does a miserable job of illustrating it, for if valid, it applies equally to the Roman Catholic.

Mormon polygamy

I haven’t been making any effort to follow the case involving the polygamous Mormon compound that was recently raided by the authorities. But from what I’ve overheard, I’m puzzled or bothered by one aspect of the coverage.

The local authorities have been criticized for jumping the gun. Did they have probable cause? Was their informant legit? Were the kids sexually abused?

What this overlooks is that polygamy is, itself, a crime in this country. It seems to me that that alone would be sufficient reason for the local authorities to intervene. You shouldn’t need anything over and above that foundational fact to justify the intervention.


I see that, last week, Victor Reppert responded to an old post of mine:

“Perhaps Leibnizian creative requirements are excessive.”

Perhaps, so. But that’s how you framed your original argument. So I was responding to you on your own level.

“What we are talking about here, though, are gratuitous damnations.”

Depends on what you mean by “gratuitous.” If you mean gratuitously *evil* damnations, then I deny that any damnations are gratuitous in that sense.

“We are talking about people suffering an eternity of torment and separation from God.”

If they suffer torment, it’s because the damned of wholly given over to sin. Evil people are miserable. And they make each other even more miserable. Sounds like poetic justice to me.

“I take it the Calvinist is claiming that God could have given everyone free will (in the compatibilist sense) and then caused everyone to do what is necessary to receive saving grace.”

I agree with this gist of this, although it’s inaccurately expressed. God doesn’t cause people to do what’s necessary to receive saving grace. There’s nothing we can do to receive saving grace. Saving grace is, itself, causative.

But with respect to the main point, yes—God could save everyone.

“If there was a reason for God not to make earth the World of Mr. Rogers, surely
God should make eternity the world of Mr. Rogers.”

Reppert has damnable taste in television.

“The question is, is a world in which someone is damned by decree before the foundation of the world a good world?”

I don’t know what he’s asking since there’s more than on question buried in this question.

i) Is a world in which someone is damned a good world?

ii) Is a world in which someone is damned by decree a good world?

iii) Is a world in which someone is damned before the foundation of the world a good world?

I would answer yes to all three questions.

Obviously you don’t need to be a Calvinist to answer (i) in the affirmative. That’s mainstream, historic Christian theology.

If Reppert answers this question in the negative, then (ii)-(iii) seem to be superfluous.

If it’s already wrong to damn anyone, then whether you damn him by decree and/or before the foundation of the world is morally irrelevant. I don’t see how these additional conditions would aggravate the wrong.

Or is Reppert saying that it’s right to damn someone as long as you don’t damn him by decree and/or before the foundation of the world?

Perhaps he’s just targeting Calvinism because he regards that as a more consistent version of the general position he opposes.

I don’t know if Reppert would distinguish between (ii) & (iii). Depends on how he defines “decree.” If he thinks of the decree as a causal factor, then it’s possible to cause something to happen without the cause preexisting the existence of the world.

In what sense does he deny that God decreed damnation? Does he deny that God intended the outcome? Or does he deny the outcome?

Does he think the time-factor makes a difference? Would it be wrong for God to damn someone before the foundation of the world, but right for God to damn him after the foundation of the world?

“What is good for Smith is good also for those who love Smith. And someone who is being perfected in love is going to love Smith.”

Reppert is alluding to a passage in 1 John. But in 1 John, love is pretty exclusive. The love of the brethren over against the love of the world.

Moreover, damnation figures in the Fourth Gospel as well as the Apocalypse.

So the Apostle John wouldn’t define being perfected in love the way Reppert is redefining the passage.

“The more we love our neighbor as ourselves, the more we find the eternal damnation of our neighbors unacceptable.”

Here, Reppert is alluding to the Sermon on the Mount. But Jesus teaches damnation in the Gospel of Matthew. So Jesus and Matthew wouldn’t define neighbor-love in the way that Reppert is redefining the passage.

“I realize that this is in large part Tom Talbott's argument for universalism. The only conceivable escape from it is the argument that Smith has chosen self over God, and that God could have done nothing to prevent Smith from
continuing in that choice without violating Smith's freedom. However, that’s an Arminian theodicy of damnation, not a Calvinist one.”

No, that’s not the only escape. Aside from the fact that Reppert’s conclusion is predicated on a misinterpretation of his prooftexts, Talbott’s concentric argument is reversible.

Consider the Green River killer and his victims. If the cost of saving his parents or siblings necessitates the salvation of the Green River killer, then I can well imagine one of his victim’s taking the position that universalism comes at far too high a price.

“How could it? Baker, Brown and Jones all love Smith, since they are in God’s
community of love.”

That begs the question of whether we should love the damned.

“I don't see any possible second-order good arising from a disobedience that
persists for an eternity.”

The Cross presupposes the Fall. Everyone who enjoys eternal salvation is a beneficiary of a second-order good. It’s contingent on an act of primeval disobedience. But the benefit persists for an eternity.

“None of these involve eternal disobedience.”

I wasn’t citing these passages to establish the duration of hell. I would establish that from other prooftexts. Rather, I was citing them to establish the principle of second-order goods.

“And no, let's not play any Calvinist word games about what all means.”

Coming from a trained philosopher, this remark is inept. Doesn’t Reppert know the difference between a word’s intension and a word’s extension?

“But is a love that is guaranteed by the actions of the one being loved real
love, or puppetry?”

Considering the fact that Reppert seems to angling for universalism, why wouldn’t *that* assured outcome be puppetry?

“Now look who's putting limits on the power of God.”

This is disingenuous considering the fact that Reppert originally framed his argument in Leibnizian terms. For Leibniz, not all possibilities are compossible.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Victor Reppert on Anti-Calvinism

When I checked Victor Reppert's DI blog last night I had the following thoughts: (1) "Cool, my name is in the title of one of Victor's posts, (2) now I'll be famous. (3) I guess doppelgangers do exist. I thought (3) because the "Paul Manata" Reppert argues against seems foreign to me. I barely recognize the guy.

Anyway, not much of what he says even so much as attempts to deal with the bulk of my arguments, rather he takes a few potshots. He's not interacting with my posts in a sincere, charitable, and systematic way. But perhaps not being a professional philosopher, I don't deserve that much time to be given to my arguments. Victor's got more important things to spend his brain power on. If one is new here, you can click on the "Reppert" label at the bottom of my post and see all of my responses to Reppert. It is the considered opinion of this layman that Reppert has not met the challenges and answers I took the time to issue and offer in response to his recent posts.

Leaving the stronger arguments aside, I'll address his recent tangential points he offered up in response to my posts. As always, Reppert with appear in red.

"Paul Manata over at Triablogue is arguing that my objections to Calvinism bear no weight because they appeal to moral intuitions. He says that I begin from intuitions, and the Calvinist begins from Scripture. He is saying that if we're going to argue about Calvinism versus Arminianism or anything else, I should fight like a real man, based on Scripture passages, rather than like a girlie man, employing moral intuitions.

Or rather, I am arguing on the basis of moral intuitions, which are human and fallible, as opposed to God's Holy Word, which is infallible and inerrant."

i) I never said that they "bear no weight."

ii) He has been beginning from his intuitions, as he even admitted.

iii) I never said anything about real men or girlie men.

iv) I don't in principle have any objection to appealing to moral intuition.

v) Reppert actually claimed:

"First, while I admit that Scripture can correct my conception of goodness, accepting reprobation would, on my view, not be a correction, but an out and out reversal, of what goodness seems to me to be."

I simply responded that:

"And can Scripture "reverse" some particular conception of goodness? I don't see why not. Some may think that it is never good in any circumstance to make an innocent man pay for the sins of the guilty. In coming to the Bible, and being asked to accept what Jesus did on behalf of sinners, this man could reply: "That requires me to reverse my conception of goodness." Or, say one is a humanist. Man is the highest good. Since Reppert admits that God is the highest good, then he presents the humanists with a concept of goodness that is the reverse (outright denial, even) of the humanists. So, I don't see the problem Victor has here."

So, here we have a case where Victor's portrayal of reality is slightly off from reality itself.

vi) How does Victor reconcile his chastisement of me above with what he claimed in his post on 10/14/2005: God is not willing that any should perish. Victor wrote, and I quote, "And so when I read "God is not willing that any should perish" in II Peter 3:9, I take it to mean that, quite literally, God does not want anyone going to hell. Period, end of story. God said it, I believe it, that settles it" (emphasis added).

Moving on...

"There are several problems with this construal of the situation. First, even if Scripture is inerrant (and what that amounts to needs to be clarified), exegetes and Bible scholars are not infallible. There is no consensus amongst biblical scholars that the standard Calvinist proof texts really prove Calvinism, or that the Arminian or even Universalist proof texts to not support those doctrines."

i) If Scripture is errant (and what this amounts to needs to be clarified), why does Victor get to appeal to his (misinterpreted) "love" passages as just obvious defeaters for the Calvinist? Perhaps those are errant?

ii) I never said, or implied, that exegetes or Bible scholars were infallible. I never implied there was a consensus amongst biblical scholars.

iii) My argument was furthermore in the form of a conditional. That is IF Scripture teaches P, then P is true.

So, if this conditional is true, then if Scripture taught P and my moral intuitions said ~P, then ~~P.

Victor misstates my argument.

"I think that Calvinist interpretations of passages that teach God's love for all people do violence to the meaning of those texts and essentially trivialize them. Paul no doubt thinks the same of Arminian interpretations of Calvinist proof texts. There isn't going to be any slam dunk here."

i) This is disingenuous. Reppert doesn't show that my interpretations of the passages do violence to the text, he's simply claimed that they do violence to his intuitions.

ii) I have at least attempted to interact with the text. So, even though I'm not infallible, and my exegesis isn't infallible, I'm trying to present arguments that Scripture teaches P. If those arguments are good, and the other alternatives are not good, then we are warranted in believing P. If so, then we are warranted in believing that ~P is false. Victor hasn't argued from the text. He mentions some texts and then asserts that they mean such and such.

iii) It's not enough for Victor to mention the mere possibility of error, either. It's not enough for him to point out that I can't give a "slam dunk" (whatever that means). He's resorting to some criteria of Cartesianism. As if I couldn't offer my arguments, and say that they are true, unless I had a "slam dunk" (whatever that means) argument. I also allow for inductive arguments from Scripture to be made. Whose case is stronger? Has the better exegetical arguments? These things can be figured out.

"But it's when I back away from the exegeses of particular texts and look at what all of this means for God character. In Calvinism is false God's goal is the eternal salvation of every human creature. There is plenty of mystery concerning what God does to achieve that ultimate goal, but that goal is consistently pursued in all his works. "His mercy is over all his works," says the Psalmist, (Ps. 145: 9), something a Calvinist in going to have trouble consistently saying. This makes it possible to explain why some evils exist, others are mysterious, but here at least goodness is a fairly clear idea. The kind of goodness that God instills in me as I conform my life to his image is a reflection of the character of God, especially as revealed in Christ. The picture is morally coherent."

i) How does he know what God's character is without the exegesis? And, the exegesis of the text has some bearing on how we are to view God's character. This is his revelation. When we find out what the text means we find out more who God is and what he is like.

ii) I don't know what Reppert means by saying "God's goal is the salvation of every human creature." Perhaps he means to use what was said in his II Peter 3:9 post (the one I cited in (vi) above)? But there's no exegesis of the text there. There's two things I could say, then:

a) Some Calvinists have argued that God does desire the salvation of all people according to his voluntas signi but not according to his voluntas beneplaciti. Thus the two-wills doctrine can be used to show that these verses are entirely compatible with Calvinist notions of decree unto election.

b) Does an exegesis bear out Reppert's reading of II Peter 3:9? Let's quote the text:

"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."

More should be quoted, but we don't have time for a fuller exegesis.

Reppert takes the "any should perish" and the "all should reach repentance" as universal in its referent. On what exegetical basis does he do so? Let's make some notes about this text (and the lager context in which it is found):

1. The broader context of the text is not salvation, that is said in passing (v.9). The context is about the last days, how we should live in the last days, and most importantly, the coming of Christ. The primary context is eschatological and not soteriological, then.

2. Peter is talking about why the coming of the Lord has been delayed.

3. The audience peter is speaking to is "you" the "beloved." There are others, "they," that are "mockers" and "false teachers. The "you" includes Peter. The "you" includes those who profess faith. The "you" is the Christians who should watch how they live in the last days. The "you" are "those looking forward to a better country."

4. So the "you" in "the Lord is patient toward you" are his elect people. That's why the letter was written "To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours."

5. This gives the "any" and the "all" in statements about perishing and repentance a context, a referent. Reppert would have the "any" and the "all" without a referent in the context.

6. The "you" is the referent of the "any" and the "all." I was talking to my son the other day and he was talking to me about his favorite toys. He said, "I like my toys, I don't want to lose any." Should I interpret the "any" as "all the toys in the world whatever?"

7. Peter writes the letter to "To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours." There is no indication of change of audience. So Peter tells the saved people that the Lord is patient toward them, and desires none of his elect people to perish.

8. Peter is saying that the Lord is slow in coming back, delaying his return, so that all his elect can be gathered into the church. There's no basis contextually to say that God is speaking of all men whoever. He's speaking of his elect. Of his desire to save them. And he does. None of them perish. God sets goals he can meet. He doesn't set a goal for "all men whoever" to be saved, especially since he knows that not all men will be saved (Victor believes in some kind of post-mortem salvation for those in hell, thus indicating his scary notions of sin as not being every bit as wicked and nasty as the Bible says it is. Those in hell gnash their teeth in hatred toward God; they don't chatter them in humble fear of him).

9. As James White asks: "Further, it should be noted that if one suggests that there is no referential connection between "you" and "any/all," the text is left making no sense. Consider it. The phrase "but is patient toward you" is left hanging in mid-air, disconnected and undefined. Obviously, what follows is modifying and explaining how this patience is expressed. And if this is the case, then how can God's patience toward "you" (in the context, the elect) be exemplified by simply stating some kind of universal salvific will? How is God's patience to the elect demonstrated by stating God wishes every person, elect or non-elect, to come to repentance?"

iii) Why does a Calvinist have trouble agreeing with the Psalmist? Reppert doesn't tell us.

"I don't mean that God is obligated to do what we are obligated to do, but rather God's character as a good being must be the kind of character that we are supposed to have. "Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus."

What's the argument here? What is Reppert trying to draw from this? I agree that I should conform myself to Jesus' character. Does Reppert mean to include those passages where Jesus tells people that are dogs, broods of vipers, sons of their father the devil? Does Reppert mean to include those passages where Jesus speaks of hell? Is his statement an argument against Calvinism? If so, what is it? If Jesus agrees with the Calvinist conception (which means we agree with Jesus), then is Reppert not conforming himself to Jesus' character?

"But what are we asked to believe if Calvinism is true? We are asked to believe that God decreed the deeds of everyone before the foundation of the world. The Holocaust, the killing fields of Pol Pot, the 9/11 attacks, and the entire content of Dawkins' The God Delusion were all decreed before the foundation of the world."

Yes. But if there's an argument here I'm failing to see it. Does Reppert know what we mean when we talk of God's decree? Can Reppert write up an argument for Calvinism's view of things that a Calvinist would accept? If not, how can he critique something he's ignorant about?

"The CD was made in eternity and plays out in time, just as it was intended. The deeds that are sinful are nevertheless deserving of everlasting punishment for the humans who perform them, even though the creatures that perform them cannot do otherwise, given those decrees."

I don't think ability to do otherwise is necessary for punishment. If Reppert thinks so he can engage in (a) showing the Bible has this notion, and (b) showing how all the Frankfurt arguments fail. Since I don't agree with PAPs, then all Victor is arguing is that Calvinism is problematic given his libertarian assumptions! But then why not ague: "Why Calvinists can't solve the problem of evil using only libertarian assumptions."? Victor should have told me so I didn't have to spend my time replying to an argument like that.

"Of these sinners, God elects some to everlasting life and the rest he allows to suffer the "just deserts" of their sins, which is, as indicated earlier, eternal suffering in hell. God could have decreed that no one ever sin, or God could have decreed that everyone receive the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but apparently it results in greater glory to himself if he damns, probably, the vast majority of the human race, especially those where the Gospel hasn't reached. Nevetheless, God is a perfectly good being. The acts we perform which merit us eternal punishment if we perform them are the same acts that God Himself ordained before the foundation of the world. Even though performing those acts as humans deserves everlasting punishment, decreeing those same actions before the foundation of the world is simply an exercise in "the potter's freedom."

None of this constitutes an argument. Reppert is just re-stating his problems with Calvinism.

"Paul says he doesn't share my intuitions. Look, given this picture, if you don't have at least notice a prima facie problem with God's conduct from a moral point of view, then you don't need an argument, you need help. It could all be OK, but then I could be a brain in a vat, Hitler could have been a nice guy who had a good reason to do what he did, and Elvis might still be alive."

i) So according to Reppert I need help. If you can't beat 'em, tell 'em they need help. Did he get this argument method from Richard Dawkins? Or was it Christopher Hitchens?

ii) I actually gave arguments and offered a fairly developed theodicy. It is uncharitable and misleading for Reppert to simply say that all I did was say that I didn't share his intuitions.

"If I were to have an argument with Jeffrey Dahmer about his, uh er, culinary practices, and I were to say that I found his actions reprehensible, he could say, "I just don't share your intuitions. Of course I suppose I could quote to him out of a book with leather covers that says "Thou shalt not kill," but there are lots of purported holy books out there."

But rather than deal with my arguments Reppert has simply appealed to his intuition.

Look (allow me to engage in some Reppert-style tactics), if you believe in a god who looked into his crystal ball and saw all the evil that would result from creating humans, and then he just let it all happen anyway, when he could have prevented it, then you don't need an argument, you need help. If you believe in a god who desires all men to be saved and knows that not all men will be saved, then you have an irrational god who desires an end he knows is impossible. If so, you don't need an argument you need help. God could have made a world where everyone (libertarian) freely does what is right (like heaven), but he didn't. He chose this one instead. Or, if he can't guarantee that everyone freely does what is right in heaven, then we maybe someone will rape someone else in heaven. If you believe those sorts of things you don't need an argument, you need help.

"There are, of course, some intuition pumps that can be used here to raise doubts about the moral acceptability of all of this. One picture that is often used is one in which makes it sound like a bunch of sinners just showed up in God's courtroom, all deserving punishment. God punishes some according to their deserts, and then others he saves by his grace through the sacrifice of Christ. What gets left out of the picture is the fact that these people are sinners wholly and completely as a result of God's eternal decree."

Right, so what?

"On my view, which I know not everyone shares, these people are simply not responsible for their actions, because they had no choice, given the past, to do what they did. Even if they can be held responsible, isn't there an "accessory before the fact" in their sins? Think of a Nazi commandant who gets Jews in his concentration camp to commit capital crimes and then executes them for those crimes."

i) That's right, I don't share his view. So what is Reppert trying to accomplish? Is he admitting that if my view were true, then I could "solve the problem of evil?" Okay, that's what I have been attempting to do. Or, has Reppert merely been arguing this entire time this proposition: Calvinism can't solve the problem of evil if Calvinism is false.? Would it be epistemologically blameworthy of me to say that I don't find that argument all that convincing?

ii) Does Reppert believe in original sin? If so, why should we get that and suffer from it do to a choice (Adam's) that was made in the past?

iii) The Nazi getting the Jew to commit murder isn't an accurate representation. Besides, why not spell this out more? Did the Nazi force the Jew to commit a capital crime? If so, then the Jew is not culpable. But, God doesn't force us to commit capital crimes in his universe. Did the Jew desire and chose to commit the crime? How is he not guilty?

iv) Who says they "had no choice." Most libertarians wouldn't even agree here. They say we can "have" choices yet we can't "make" choices.

"Another intuition pump that Paul uses is the idea that criminals like child molesters deserve to be punished and put away. If this is so horribly wrong, then why should any of us "child molesters" get into heaven through Christ paying the penalty for our sins?"

Does Reppert really not understand the Gospel? Does he not understand grace? Is he really of the opinion that only those who "don't do things that horribly wrong" are worthy of heaven? Indeed, doesn't Reppert answer his own question? Doesn't the death of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory(!), show just how bad sin really is?

"It's the Calvinists, in spite of their ardent denials which border on out-and-out subterfuge to me, who make God the author of sin."

Another assertion.

"Paul thinks I have a low view of sin. What??? I have such a high view of sin that I don't think God ever decrees it. I don't think God would decree sin because, also, I have a high view of God."
That's right, you do, Victor. You think sinners in hell will be seeking to repent. You think they will be sorry for their actions. You think that sin's grip is not so tight that man needs a radical intervention from the outside, a heart-transplant, in order to turn to Jesus. I've made arguments to this effect and you've interacted with none. You've not given me any reason to think otherwise, "in spite of their ardent denials which border on out-and-out subterfuge to me."
"Paul references a book called "The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God." Doesn't that title tell you a lot? God's love for humans is a difficult doctrine? On my view, that's the easy part."

i) Right, a book from a world renowned scholar.

ii) Anyway, let's read what Victor said above:

"There are several problems with this construal of the situation. First, even if Scripture is inerrant (and what that amounts to needs to be clarified), exegetes and Bible scholars are not infallible. There is no consensus amongst biblical scholars that the standard Calvinist proof texts really prove Calvinism, or that the Arminian or even universalist proof texts to not support those doctrines."

So when it comes to my passages it's, "Well, those are difficult and no one has offered any 'slam dunk' exegesis." But when it comes to passages Victor likes it's, "Well, this is so obvious. You don't even need to do exegesis."

iii) Reppert offers zero exogenesis. Reppert also notes the problem. For him it's the easy part. But does his understanding agree with the Bible's? Reppert doesn’t even bother to find out. Maybe he's wrong? That thought ever crossed his mind? Instead of blowing of a book by a specialist in a field where you are not a specialist in, Victor could exhibit intellectual virtues and study rather than dismiss.

iv) Reppert's quip is even anticipated by the blurb on the Amazon site:

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

At first thought, understanding the doctrine of the love of God seems simple compared to trying to fathom other doctrines like that of the Trinity or predestination. Especially since the overwhelming majority of those who believe in God view Him as a loving being.

That is precisely what makes this doctrine so difficult. The only aspect of God's character the world still believes in is His love. His holiness, His sovereignty, His wrath are often rejected as being incompatible with a "loving" God. Because pop culture has so distorted and secularized God's love, many Christians have lost a biblical understanding of it and, in turn, lost a vital means to knowing who God is.

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God seeks to restore what we have lost. In this treatment of many of the Bible's passages regarding divine love, noted evangelical scholar D. A. Carson not only critiques sentimental ideas such as "God hates the sin but loves the sinner," but provides a compelling perspective on the nature of God and why He loves as He does. Carson blends his discourse with discussion of how God's sovereignty and holiness complete the biblical picture of who He is and how He loves.

In doing away with trivialities and clichés, this work gets to the heart of this all-important doctrine from an unflinching evangelical perspective. Yet it does so without losing its personal emphasis: for in understanding more of the comprehensive nature of God's love as declared in His Word, you will come to understand God and His unending love for you more completely.

"I have a serious problem with any action retributively deserving everlasting punishment, since all sins only to a finite amount of damage. The reply is that they are against an infinite God, but do we give tougher penalties for people who commit crimes against, say, the President? Hell is possible not because someone retributively deserves it on my view, but rather, because someone continues to freely rebel. God can't make someone happy without a submitted will, and God can't guarantee that without making the submission unfree. At least, on my incompatibilist view."

i) What Reppert "has a serious problem with" does not count as an argument.

ii) Does Reppert think that the amount of time it took to do the crime should equal the amount of time you get punished? So a 10 minute child molestation should get 10 minutes in jail?

iii) What does Reppert mean by "finite" and "infinite?" The time in hell is a potential infinite, and thus is finite.

iv) Throw this into the mix: Sinners in hell will sin every moment of their existence, thus warranting more punishment. So, one doesn't even need the whole finite sin against infinite God line to believe all those in hell will be there forever.

v) Can Reppert exegete any of his thoughts on hell from the Bible? Here's some reasons against it:

vi) Reppert's god is like those annoying people who say, "I'm just trying to make everyone happy." Does allowing Hitler into heaven make any of his victims happy?

"There are some elements in Paul's post that are disturbing. He explicitly says that some people are not our neighbor and we are not obligated to love them."

i) I wrote: "As a matter of fact, there are people outside the pale of neighbor. Those trying to do you harm, for instance. Does Reppert think he should help those trying to beat and rob him like the man who fell into the hands of the robbers in Luke 10?"

ii) I'm confused as to why Reppert would even say what he did! Let's look at the love your neighbor passage:

43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Notice the distinction between neighbor and enemy is right there smack dab in front of us. He’s drawing a contrast between those who are our neighbors and those who are not, those who love us and those who don't, those who are our brothers and those who aren't. So the text says not all people are our neighbors.

iii) I still inquire into the nature of Reppert's argument. God doesn't have neighbors. And, even if he did, if it is inconsistent to punish a neighbor then why doesn't Reppert lobby for all the child molesters currently behind bars? He obviously doesn't think there's any problem loving a neighbor and punishing them.

"What about all the words of Jesus about turning the other cheek to those who seek to harm you, proying for those who despitefully use you, loving your enemies."

I agree with Jesus. And?

"What about the Good Samaritan, Jesus' brilliant response to those who would circumscribe the circle of "neighbor" to exclude others. If you can exegete your way around those, you can exegete your way around anything."

Actually, the text shows which kind of person is a neighbor. Jesus asks "which of these do you think acted like a neighbor toward this man?"

What's Reppert trying to get from this passage? That since one person in need should be helped because he is your neighbor then we should help our other neighbor if he's trying to get into a house in order to rob it?

I have no clue anymore what Victor thinks he's trying to argue in all this.

"In confronting issues of theodicy, I have to admit, like any sane, sensible Christian, that a good deal is mysterious. But if Calvinism is false I can see through a glass darkly and maybe see why a good deal of evil exists. If Calvinism is true, then I'm blind as a bat. I admit the logical possibility that it might all be justified, but then it is just possible that Elvis is at the McDonald's nearest my house."

But you're not as blind as a bat. I even pointed out possible theodices for certain evils and sufferings. I must conclude that Victor didn't even bother to read my two posts. And, if there is a logical possibility that it is all justified, then Reppert's logical argument has been answered! Other than that, his only argument seems to be: "On my view of things, which I simply intuit and stipulate without argument, Calvinism is problematic." That's really all I’ve seen out of Victor.

"Given the fact that there is no overwhelming biblical case for Calvinism, it seems to me that I am justified in choosing a view that is morally coherent over a view that strikes me as being about as morally incoherent as a position could possibly be."

i) But Victor, your initial posts, the ones I have been responding to, have been arguments against why Calvinists cannot solve the problem of evil, not why you are justified in denying Calvinism.

ii) What does "overwhelming biblical case mean?" I think we got the best case in town. The case that fits best with Scripture.

iii) You have not shown any moral incoherency. You have only asserted that our views are morally incoherent. And, given my arguments, which you did not address, you have been shown how they can be coherent!

iv) Since there is no overwhelming case for Arminianism, and given that Victor's position strikes me as morally incoherent as a position could be, I am justified in rejecting Victor's Arminianism and holding to my Calvinism.

Don't you love the ways philosophers argue theology?

And, let me quote from Victor's II Peter 3:9 post again:

"All I want to say is that the possibilities that occur to us humans from our own limited perspective probably do not exhaust all of God's options."

Seems Victor could have answered his posts himself.

Most Moved Mover

Open theism is generally identified with such contemporary theologians as Clark Pinnock, Gregory Boyd, John Sanders, David Basinger, and William Hasker. However, the greatest living theologian of open theism is undoubtedly Eddie Izzard:

"Among Izzard's comic talents are mimicry and mime. He portrays God (as a bumbling authority figure who doesn't really seem to know what he's doing) using the voice of James Mason."

Declaring War on "Jesus Symbols"

FALSE HOPE, NY – Rob Meblin, an employee of False Hope Pre-Junior High School, was accused Wednesday of advancing religious views on public grounds when school officials found a mural displaying a cross on one wall of his classroom. In a brief filed by ACLU lawyers, Meblin was accused of “grossly forwarding dangerous religious views held by Jesus-followers” while “ignoring views expressed by non-believers.”

Principal Hans Ingloff said, “We run a public school. Learning is our goal, and we will learn if Mr. Meblin is a religious illiberal as soon as possible.”

ACLU’s brief was filed on behalf of an anonymous pupil of Mr. Meblin, whose guardians discovered similar religious murals in several classrooms besides Mr. Meblin’s. However, a year ago federal judges ruled briefs are only applicable for personal pedagogues of individual pupils.

Meblin claims his mural was belied by “unknowledgeable fools.”

“I used no religious symbols in my mural,” he claimed. “I merely gave a roll of symbols comprising our common English language. Now I am being crucified because one symbol I had no choice in and never desired anyway is in a similar form as Jesus’ crucifix! How am I blamed for such nonsense? If I had been in charge, Jesus would have been crucified on a Q. No one uses a Q anymore anyway! Besides, speaking is much harder if one is circumscribed from using a ‘Jesus symbol!’”

ACLU lawyer Nora Moreezan responded: “Mr. Meblin’s claims are obviously overblown. Our brief was legible and used his religious symbol in precisely zero cases! Americans need Meblin’s ‘symbol’ like we need cancer, guns, or religious freedom. We say, ‘No longer cave under pressure from wacky religious leaders. We declare war on all ‘Jesus symbols!’”

In response, False Hope Press Scribes were precluded from using a “Jesus symbol” as well, including here. We very much concur: “Jesus symbols” are unnecessary in English. And, as all pro-religious biases should be removed whenever possible, we will do so!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

You're Irrational!

I recently reviewed James Anderson's Paradox in Christian Theology.

Here is one critique of the book that purports to show that if you believe a set of theological claims that together entail a paradox (note: X is paradoxical if X amounts to a set of claims which taken in conjunction appear to be logically inconsistent), and you do not resolve the paradox, then continued belief in the set is irrational. Here's why:

My argument is fairly straight forward. In order for one to claim propositions appear to be contradictory, you have to show why you believe it is apparent that the truth of one proposition implies the falsity of the other. That’s simply the definition of a contradiction. So if it appears to you that both propositions can not be true at the same time, then it’s irrational to believe both propositions are true at the same time … unless you can provide a reasonable resolution to the apparent contradiction.

There’s no escape from the charge of irrationalism simply by saying that you don’t believe the contradiction is real, even though it seems real - if you can not demonstrate that there is an reasonable solution to the appearance of a contradiction. Which is what Van Til said we could not do. And which brings us full circle. What do you say? Is there a reasonable solution to the “apparent” paradoxes?

Now, this is addressed by following the argument in the book, mainly in chapters 5 and 6. The import of the Creator/creature distinction, the doctrine of incomprehensibility, the doctrine of analogy, our epistemic situation, etc., all bear on the answer.

Nevertheless, it won't hurt to answer this briefly since it comes from one who says he has read the review. So perhaps I did a poor job at communicating how a simple grasp of a few basic points undercuts this objection without further thought on the matter.

The fastest way around this objection is that on the model Anderson presents, one doesn't take it that the component propositions are false.

Anderson views theological paradox (with the constraints Anderson sets on what kind of doctrines make the cut) as merely apparent contradictions, MACs. Thus they are not real contradictions.

They result from unarticulated equivocations in the metaphysical expressions of the doctrines (though they can be expressed formally in an non-contradictory way). Hence they are merely apparent contradictions resulting from unarticulated equivocations, MACRUEs.

Now, granting that Anderson shows that we are warranted in taking the paradoxical doctrines as MACRUEs, then it follows that we do not believe that any of component the claims are false. We can believe all of the component claims are true. (How we can be warranted in our beliefs of the component claims is demonstrated in chapter 5.)

We can write the doctrines out in such a way as to avoid explicit or formal contradictions. We can even think about them in a formally or explicitly consistent way.

Anderson uses the example of the two-dimensional Flatlander FL and the three-dimensional Spacelander SL. Say that FL gets propositional revelation from SL regarding a cone (which is a three-dimensional object). FL cannot grasp the entire truth of the matter; indeed, FL's very conceptual limitations mean that he can only conceive of the object (cone) two-dimensionally. SL wants to reveal to FL about the nature of the cone. SL thus does it this way:

[1] The object O is shaped triangularly.

[2] The object O is shaped circularly.

This is not an explicit contradiction, but when FL conjoins the above with this other belief:

[3] No object is both such that it is shaped triangularly and circularly, he obtains his apparent contradiction because he can only think two-dimensionally.

But say that FL is independently warranted in believing both [1] and [2] (how the Christian can be was shown in ch.5). For example, say that FL knows that SL cannot lie and cannot make errors and would not deceive FL about something like this. Given that, then FL is warranted in believing [1] and [2]. If he is, then he is rational in believing [1] and [2]. This is based on the tradition of warrant Anderson stands in.

So, FL also has this belief:

[4] [1] and [2] are both true.

Thus, though they appear to contradict for FL, he can nevertheless believe that they are not contradictory (because two propositions that are really contradictory cannot both be true, and given what FL knows, they cannot be false because a being that can‘t make an error told him they are true…just not the whole truth, perhaps!).

So he takes it that because of his limitations, the vast distinction between a three-dimensional being and a two-dimensional one, the accommodated or analogical language SL employs, etc., there is a term he doesn't fully understand. So, he takes this as an instance of a MACRUE. In so doing he does not believe any of the claims are false. Now, in so doing he realizes that there is some sense in which the object is both triangular and circular, even though he can't grasp how this can be. He might nevertheless be humbled at his epistemic situation and grant that this is all possible in a three-dimensional world.

FL can also render the doctrine formally consistent. Say he had other revelation where he knew that terms were being used differently. So, he would write it out like this, for instance:

[1*] The object O is shaped1 triangularly.

[2*] The object O is shaped2 circularly.

The 1 and 2 might indicate horizontal and vertical, respectively.

Still FL might not be able to concretely conceive of how this cone looks, or could exist. This cone-doctrine is rendered formally consistent, not metaphysically or concretely.

At any rate, say the Christian is in a situation like this with the doctrine of the Trinity. Say that they are warranted in believing the doctrine to be a MACRUE. In this case he does not need to believe that any of the component claims are false.

Now, this removes the fangs of the objection. the objection received was that the Christian was irrational because he had to believe the one of the component claims were false. I have shown that this is not the case.

So, the only other move the objector could make is this:

[5] Even if you can believe the paradoxical doctrine to be a MACRUE, and even if you don't have to believe any of the component claims are false, you still have to be able to specify where, precisely, the unarticulated equivocation lay. Which term it is, otherwise you are irrational.

Well, given that 'irrational' or 'rational' hasn't been defined, I totally deny the intuitions behind [5] and don't see why I must accept it, at all.

One more thing. The above objection doesn't really help matters out much. If Anderson has shown the orthodox expressions of the doctrines to indeed be paradoxical, then the only choice for the objector is to embrace what he calls irrationality, or to embrace heterodoxy.

Without overcoming the objections and analysis made in chapters 1 and 2, then by the objector claiming that belief in the paradigm paradoxical doctrines is irrational, and he will not be an irrationalist, he has just said he's going to opt for heterodoxy. This is hardly a consolation prize for orthodox Christians.

Not NORMal Free Will

JNorm said:

The E.O. view is very similar to the Arminian one.
Yes, we know. Another reason Arminians should reconsider their theological position.
LFW is free will.

Says who? Other than demonstrating that he can capitalize and press the "Enter" key, JNorm has done nothing to make his case. His original complaint was that Calvinists do not affirm "free will." No, we don't affirm LFW. So, he resorts to truth by definition. That's very mature.
and yes, I have read the WFC.

Hard Determinism and Combatabilsim is not free will.
Aside from showing us he's not the best speller, JNorm has done nothing to demonstrate the case. I look forward to his take on Frankfurt experiments in relationship to freedom and responsibility.
God forcing an "internal" desire on someone is not free will....especially if that "internal" desire is irresistible.
Aside from misrepresenting the opposing position by resorting to caricaturing it, JNorm has done nothing to demonstrate that Calvinists affirm forces an internal desire on someone.

Does the pottery have a right to complain to the Potter? According to JNorm, the answer must be "yes."

LFW reduces to the notion that our choices have no causes. This is irrational. It is therefore not free will in the ordinarily understood sense.

To quote Turretinfan:
Taking a page or two from Edwards, we can simply point out that a will that acts contingently (a "libertarian" will) cannot be a will that is determined. Yet, wills in Scripture are determined, as are choices. A will whose acts are not determined by the person whose will it is, is a monstrosity that would destroy our intuition of what is required for moral responsibility. Finally, we can see evidence in Sociology, Psychology, and the like that people's wills are determined. The advertising industry is built on the fact that people are largely predictable in their behavior. Scripture confirms that man's acts are determined - comparing man's acts to the fruit of a tree.

Furthermore, Scripture is clear that creation is dependent for everything - even its very existence - on the Creator. Accordingly, to assert that something could come to be without its ultimate source being God is contrary to Scripture. In Him we live and move and have our being, as even the pagans recognized.
I'm sure Manata and Pike will have a field day with you, but even so, I'll ask you some questions:

1. If Agent A's desires are sufficient causes for their actions, is this "free will?" If not, why not? If so, then why the objection to compatibilism?

2. Where, pray tell, does Scripture teach LFW?

3. If the Bible doesn't teach it, then from whence does it come?

4. If it doesn't teach it, why should we believe in it?

5. You've asserted the Fathers all believed in LFW. (Turretinfan and I both take exception to that assertion, but I'll concede that for the purposes of this question). If it isn't an action theory not taught by Scripture, then where did they get that idea, assuming that they all believed in it?