Saturday, May 17, 2008



“Steve,__If you read Enuma Elish you see that the creator high god Marduk slays a female water goddess, Tiamat, and cuts her in two and one half is used to make the heavens, and stars made from other divinities are placed on her body. This is a flat earth cosmology, whether or not the earth below is ditch shaped or pancake shaped. __The Egyptians also produced plenty of iconography showing one god lying down and another arched above it.”

It’s possible that ancient people thought the earth was flat. However, I wouldn’t infer that from their use of corporeal or architectural metaphors to model the earth. It was natural for ancient people to use the human body or human buildings to depict the world, just as we use technological metaphors to illustrate the brain. And the metaphors vary depending on the state of our technology. Is the brain a telephone switchboard or a computer? Depends on whether you read a book from the 60s or the 90s.

Do you assume ancient people really thought the Tigris and the Euphrates sprang from the eye sockets of a goddess? I suspect this says far lot more about your naïveté than theirs.

Human beings think in metaphors. Metaphors drawn from daily experience.

I’d also avoid sweeping generalities about human beliefs. Some human beings are more observant than others. More intelligent.

“It's not difficult to find evidence in Scripture that its authors assumed the earth was flat.”

It’s not difficult to find evidence in Scripture that its authors depicted the earth as a microcosmic temple. And its authors used architectural metaphors to cue the read to the sacral significance of the earth as sacred space.

“What's difficult if finding evidence otherwise, of any inspiration they might contain of a spherical earth that spins daily and revolves yearly around a stationary sun, or evidence that other planets exist and are doing likewise.”

Scripture is indifferent to the solar system. So what? The Bible is written to and for human beings. Concerning God’s relation to man, and vice versa.

“The author of Gen. 1 only calls the Sun and Moon ‘great lamps’ not any of the stars, which are merely afterthoughts.”

“Afterthoughts” because the narrator is suppressing impious curiosity in astromancy.

“The biblical authors show no special knownledge of such things, none at all.”

But they show special knowledge of other things, viz., the future.

“And the only time the earth moves in the Bible it's an earthquake.”

Which is an argument against geocentrism, since the motion is seismic rather than geocentric.

“That’s also sometimes depicted as shaking the heavens along with the earth, as in a singular earth-centered cosmos.”

No, that’s eschatological judgment, where the entire creation is subject to the final judgment.

“Heck, evey day in creation is to create something just for the earth, including creating light in the begnning just for ‘days and nights’ ‘evenings and mornings" on earth. Very earth-centered I'd say.”

Not earth-centered. Man-centered. Man as the apex of creation on day 6.

You’re making no effort to read Gen 1 in context. Instead, you’re superimposing the Copernican controversy onto Gen 1, which is grossly anachronistic. Try not to be such a twit.

“And then there's verses that say ‘God moves’ the sun, stars, constellations in their seasonal treks across the sky. Is God really moving such things or not? Is the Bible lying?”

Does modern astronomy regard the sun, stars, and constellations, as motionless? Are you lying?

“But of course if you'd rather believe the Bible is inspired in an inerrant fashion and can't be proven wrong, maybe you ought to be taken to a ‘very high’ mountain to be ‘shown all the kingdoms of the earth’."

The devil is a discarnate spirit. A diabolical apparition is a vision. We’re talking about a visionary mountain. Visionary kingdoms. Try not to be such a twit.

“Why is the tree (in Daniel) described as ‘very tall’ instead of just tall? And how come all the earth can ‘see the tree.”

Because it’s a case of visionary revelation. Try not to be such a twit.

“Mere coincidence in both cases, or flat earth assumptions of the authors?”

Visionary flat-earth typography.

Are you this pedantically literalistic when you dream? When you dream about a city, do you crack out a street map the next day and see how accurate your dream was? Is a dreamscape errant if it deviates from a real cityscape?

“And have you ever tried arguing with Dr. Bouw at his geocentricity website? You're both Christian believers in an inerrant Bible and in sola scriptura and the perspicacity of Scripture. So why don't you agree? Unless of course he's already converted you to biblical astronomy which he argues equals geocentrism. See also my online article, ‘Varieties of Scientific Creationism’ for a discussion of the ways Christians deny and explain away the plain words of Scripture cited by other Christians, depending on where each group first draws the line between what they are wiling to define as mere metaphor and what they are willing to accept as science.”

Actually, Ed, you have more in common with Bouw than I do. You’re still a Fundy under the skin. You shuffle under the same lead-footed, hermeneutical assumptions you did back in your Fundy days.

I never made literalism my guiding principle. Grammatico-historical exegesis in my guiding principle. Not the “plain sense” of scripture,” which is just a cipher for contemporary social conditioning.

I also reject your caricature of perspicuity. The Westminster Confession has a very nuanced statement of perspicuity, which you ignore—since that would get in the way of your prefabricated agenda.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why DNA is Information

One strong argument that non-Darwinists have against Darwinism is the simple fact of DNA. Darwinism requires evolution to occur due to random mutations coupled with Natural Selection. DNA, on the other hand, requires some very specific sequences in order for some very specific organisms to exist. As a result, non-Darwinists (be they Creationists, theistic evolutionists, or believers in panspermia) find DNA to be a convincing counter to gradualistic Darwinist claims regarding the origin of life. The basic argument can be summarized thus:

A) DNA is information.
B) Information cannot arise from a random, non-directed process.
C) Darwinism requires DNA to have arisen from a random, non-directed process.
D) Therefore, Darwinism cannot explain DNA.

Since C) is a given under Darwinism, the only thing that a Darwinist can do to reject this proof is to deny either A) or B). In a coming post, I will seek to demonstrate the truth of B). For this post, I will seek to demonstrate the truth of A).

Information is something that is most commonly associated with language. But what separates information theory from linguistics is that information theory moves beyond mere language and incorporates many other things. Information theory really began only recently, after it was discovered language could be transmitted via mechanical devices. Even before it was a science, telegraph operators would have to engage in information theory to distinguish between the pulses of Morse code on the line and random noise (caused, say, by a tree swaying in a breeze with a branch striking the telegraph wire and interrupting the electrical signal). This became more pronounced with radio signals. The need to differentiate between information—the message being sent—and noise—radio interference, random fluctuations, etc.—required the spawning of information theory.

To discuss this, we need a working definition of information. As you can see from the above examples of the genesis of information theory, one way would be to say: Information is non-random.

This, however, is not sufficient. After all, if a telegraph operator received only a constant signal of dot-dash (for A) that would convey no information either. Linguistic meaning is not conveyed in that manner.

So we can start with: Information is non-random and non-repeating.

But non-random and non-repeating…what? If we’re looking at text being written on the page, it’s obvious: non-random and non-repeating letters. Thus, we know that

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
is information, whereas


are not information.

But if we’re dealing with telegraph signals, we’re not looking at letters on the page. We’re listening to electrical pulses being translated into sounds and visual representations created by the raising and lowering of a pen based on those electrical pulses. And with radio, we have to examine radio waves, using instruments to detect whether or not information is present (which, today, you can do by turning on your radio and listening to the radio pulses transformed to electrical impulses which drive a magnet that creates airwaves that bring sounds to your ears and differentiating it from static).

But why stop there? Why not examine the natural world as well? And it is when we do that that we discover the richness of information in living structures.

Consider rocks for instance. Sandstone is a great example. If you examine a piece of sandstone under the microscope, you will notice that the individual grains that make up that stone appear quite random. While there are certain elements that show up more often (due to their greater abundance on Earth), there is no foundational law governing which grain in the sandstone should be next to another grain in the sandstone. It’s random.

Now look at a diamond, one that has not been cut so as to avoid human interference. It’s crystallized carbon. The atoms of carbon are structured in a specific pattern, and there are no random variations from it (the only random variations in a diamond come from the inclusion of other elements that are not carbon, which will affect the diamond’s color, etc.).

Neither a rock nor a diamond carry information in their structure. However, someone can carve an inscription into a rock and someone can laser designate a diamond. Someone can take sandstone rocks and organize them in such a manner as to build a bungalow, and someone can put a diamond into a ring setting. So consider a bungalow. Is a bungalow information? Is a diamond ring information?

If we use the above starting definition, then they would be. A bungalow and a diamond ring are both non-repeating and non-random.

But this immediately brings to mind the next question. What if someone were to design a bungalow that was repeating. A bungalow on top of another bungalow? Story after story, until you have a repeating-structure: a sky scraper. Now the building would be repeating, and therefore not information.

But sky scrapers do not appear in nature. They have to be built, and that requires work beyond the foundational laws that govern matter. When a diamond is in a crystal shape, it takes no extra effort on the part of the carbon atoms to get there; in fact, that’s the simplest way that the carbon atoms can organize under those circumstances. Likewise, it takes no special effort for a grain of sand in sandstone to sit next to another random grain of sand. That’s the natural state.

Therefore, we can add our final requirement to what determines information. Information isn’t just non-repeating and non-random, but it must be something that is non-repeating and non-random and cannot be explained by only foundational forces. (Note: by “foundation forces” I mean the laws of the universe that materialists consider to be basic, such as the laws of magnetism and the way atoms will bond with each other. For the sake of argument, we will assume these are the basic laws and that they will happen by “default” without any divine guidance needed.)

So a sky scraper may be repetitive and it may mimic a crystallized structure. But sky scrapers are not created using foundational forces of nature. Indeed, the individual units that create the sky scraper themselves are composed of bungalows, and bungalows (in our example, anyway) are composed of sandstone. Sandstone does not form bungalows using foundational forces of nature. It requires something else to organize sandstone into a bungalow. Therefore, sky scrapers exist due to something beyond foundational forces of nature.

And that brings us to DNA. As we know, DNA functions as the blueprint for life. It’s called that because the DNA is used to form all the amino acids that are used for cellular life. And the cellular life must function in order for organs to function. And organs must function for organisms to function. DNA therefore determines many things about the organism, including the means by which that same DNA can be replicated.

Let us therefore ask our questions. Is DNA repetitive like a crystal? If it was, it would mean that Adenine had a proclivity for having Thymine next to it, so you’d have ATATATATATATATAT. Or perhaps Guanine and Thymine would be structured like that.

But the fact is that there is no real proclivity at all between the various bases. Thymine could just as easily follow a Cytosine as an Adenine, or even another Thymine (note that I am not talking about the base pair here, but only which base would be next to another base on the same strand).

Since there is no proclivity, then we would expect natural forces to create random structures of DNA. But is DNA random? Obviously not, because the higher organism depends on the structure of DNA creating the right amino acids to form the right cells to form the right tissues, etc. If the DNA is not exactly like it is, the organism does not exist. But since there is not only one organism, but in many cases there are billions of the same kind, then DNA must have structure; it is not random.

If it is not random, and it is not crystallized, and if it would be one or the other if left only to foundational forces, then DNA is information.

Reformed Devil-worshipers

From C. S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain

"If God's moral judgment differs from ours so that our 'black' may be His 'white', we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say 'God is good', while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say 'God is we know not what'. And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) 'good' we shall obey, if at all, only through fear--and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend. The doctrine of Total Depravity--when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing--may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship."

Labels: C. S. Lewis, the problem of evil
posted by Victor Reppert @ 8:08 PM


After C.S. Lewis blew our cover, Calvinism initiated a church growth program back in the 60s, beginning with Rosemary’s Baby, followed by The Omen.

The OPC started the WC as a front organization to launch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. More recently, the PCA premiered Reaper on the CW as a successful recruiting tool.

In other developments, Albert Mohler, our plant in the SBC, has organized the Junior Omnipotent Fiend Club, modeled on the Boy Scouts. Junior Fiends are awarded baphomets instead of merit badges.

In the past, it’s been difficult to attract new members to Reformed churches due to our dour, puritanical style of worship. Blood-pacts kept old members coming, but it’s been hard to draw new members.

However, once word got out that we actually celebrate orgies under a full moon, attendance at our worship services has swelled appreciably. We’ve had to hire several full-time phlebotomists to process the additional paperwork.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Since Reppert has said that he accepts van Inwagen's consequence argument, then it appears he must give up libertarian free will too.

As should be clear, what is particularly troubling for the libertarian concerned with the Mind argument is that the weakest link of the argument appears to be its reliance on rule Beta. The Mind argument is valid if and only if rule Beta is, but of course it is the validity of rule Beta that the libertarian appeals to in offering the Consequence argument for the incompatibility of free will and determinism. The libertarian is thus faced with the following difficulty. The Consequence argument is sound only if rule Beta is valid. But if rule Beta is valid then, while the Consequence argument seems to show that free will and determinism are incompatible, the Mind argument seems to show that free will is also incompatible with indeterminism. If free will is incompatible with both determinism and indeterminism, however, then there is no such thing as free will and libertarianism is false. The libertarian thus seems forced to choose between abandoning the Consequence argument (the libertarian's strongest argument for the incompatibility of free will and determinism) and abandoning free will entirely. -Finch and Warfield, Oxford Journals, Mind Volume 107, Number 427 Pp. 515-528
(Note: I know Warfield and Finch try to salvage a version of the consequence argument. I don't think they succeed (as has been pointed out, among other places, in Sean Choi's dissertation). But the point here is to show that Reppert's adherence to van Inwagen's consequence argument (Reppert mentioned the consequence argument PvI gave "back when") should lead him to reject his indeterminism.)

Gods of the possible

In its classic form, LFW posits the freedom to do otherwise. And this is the form of LFW which is deployed against Calvinism.

More recently, there are some libertarians who no longer regard this condition as a condition of LFW. If so, then that’s one less objection to Calvinism.

But, for now, I’ll address the classic formulation. Nowadays, the freedom to do otherwise is cashed out using the currency of possible worlds semantics. It ascribes to human creatures the godlike power to access and instantiate alternate possibilities.

So, the first question we need ask ourselves is what evidence is there that we enjoy this tremendous freedom? Indeed, what would event count as evidence for this sort of freedom?

The only direct evidence would be if I could travel back in time, reproduce the identical conditions under which I made a choice, and make a different choice.

This is not a straw man argument. This strictly follows from how LFW has been defined: “By ‘libertarian freedom’ is meant freedom such that the agent who makes a choice is really able, under exactly the same circumstances, to choose something different from the thing that is in fact chosen” (Hasker).

So the only way to put that proposition to the test would be to travel back in time. But in that event, there can never be any direct evidence for LFW. In that event, no one has ever had any experience of LFW. Indeed, no one could ever have any experience of LFW.

Why isn’t it possible to test this proposition? Because not all possibilities are compossible. You can’t do two different things in the same place at the same time. You can do two different things in the same place at different times, or do two different things at the same time in different places (by remote control).

One choice excludes another choice. By turning left, at that time and place, you didn’t turn right, at that time and place.

But if we have no direct evidence for LFW, do we have any indirect evidence for LFW? Well, if we had LFW, then there ought to be indirect evidence for LFW.

Although you can’t instantiate alternate possibilities simultaneously, you should be able to instantiate alternate possibilities successively—assuming that human beings enjoy LFW.

After all, alternate possibilities are just a special case of possibilities in general. They are differentiated by time. The freedom to do otherwise would be the freedom to do otherwise at the same time.

Even though this is unverifiable, it should also hold at a diachronic level as well as a synchronic level. For we’re talking about the general ability to realize abstract possibilities.

However, human experience doesn’t bear this out. If I had the ability to realize abstract possibilities, there are all sorts of things I should be able to do that I’m unable to do.

As a practical matter, if I want to do something, I have to use my hands and feet. Or I can use my voice to issue commands.

In other words, my choices are limited to what the physical world presents to me. And my field of action is limited to what the physical world presents to me.

In that event, the actual world delimits the range of the possible. I can choose from what is physically available.

But if I truly had the power to realize abstract possibilities, then the actual world shouldn’t pose a limit on my field of action. For, in that event, the actual world would be the sum total of what I and other free agents actualize.

The limiting factor on what is possible wouldn’t be the actual, but a competing possibility. If I want it to rain, and you want it to snow, at the same time and place, then those are incompossible possibilities.

But after we make allowance for all of the incompossible wishes of various agents, the world we live in still doesn’t look like the world I’d expect to find if we had the power to realize abstract possibilities. In that event, the real world should be a magical world. A world where every wish comes true—as long as your wish doesn’t conflict with my wish.

One reason I’m not a libertarian is that I don’t live in the sort of world predicted by libertarian freewill. And it’s easy to see why this couldn’t be true.

If LFW were true, you’d have all these counterfactual histories lined up in storage, waiting to be instantiated. A plurality of futures on tap. Take your pick! You don’t like this historical outcome? No problem! We’ll edit that out and splice in an alternate ending.

The problem with that notion is that it severs all the lines of causality, then picks up where it left off—as if the chain of cause-and-effect had never been disrupted.

Imagine if you tried that with a family tree. Selectively adding or deleting genealogical links between Abraham and David. The problem is that, if you make one of David’s forebears disappear, you make David disappear. You can’t very well swap out one historical segment, swap in another historical segment, then leave everything else intact. No, that dislocation will displace everything else down the line.

Imagine billions of competing agents with that power at their mental fingertips. Let’s destroy the world and recreate the world ten times a day.

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.

The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners

This is Edwards' argument.

Love on the Rocks

Reppert's post:

Harry Potter, Love Potions, and Free will

The value of free will does not end there. All sorts of relationships acquire special value because they involve love, trust, and affection are freely bestowed. The love potions that appear in many fairy stories (and the Harry Potter series) can become a trap; the one who has used the potion finds that he wants to be loved for his own sake and not because of the potion, yet fears the loss of the beloved’s affection if the potion is no longer used. For that matter, individuals without free will would not, in the true sense, be human beings at all, at least this is the case as seems highly plausible, the capacity for free choice is an essential characteristic of human beings as such. If so, then to say that free will should not exist is to say that we humans should not exist. It may be possible to say that, and perhaps even mean it, but the cost of doing so is very high.

William Hasker, The Truimph of Good Over Evil (Inter-Varsity, 2008) p. 156.
Right. So the Father could just stop loving the Son one day.

"He can't," you say? "He is love," you say? "His very nature demands that he will love the Son," you say?

The Father is not libertarianly "free" to turn his back on the Son? Refuse to love him anymore?

If he is not, and since the love is really love, genuine love, then is must not be the case that true love demands libertarian freedom.

If he is (libertarianly) free to stop loving the Son, well . . . it looks like someone's a priori philosophical assumptions has got a hold of ones orthodoxy.

Looks like we have a ridiculous view of God. Scary, actually. If the Father could stop loving the Son, how much more his created people?

Besides, I don't want to spend eternity apart from God. I'm glad he has determined things so such that I will always love him. Left to my own devices, I'd always choose me over God.

A world where God and fallen man have libertarian freedom is a world where God and fallen man are never reconciled. And if, per impossible, they could be reconciled, that world provides no guarantee that they will remain reconciled.

Just like Islam provides no eternal assurance, so does a world with libertarian free will for God and man. Funny how libertarianism ends at the same place as the hard-core conjunction of determinism and voluntarism presented in Islam.

Love at first sight

Victor Reppert quotes the following statement from Bill Hasker:

“The value of free will does not end there. All sorts of relationships acquire special value because they involve love, trust, and affection are freely bestowed. The love potions that appear in many fairy stories (and the Harry Potter series) can become a trap; the one who has used the potion finds that he wants to be loved for his own sake and not because of the potion, yet fears the loss of the beloved’s affection if the potion is no longer used. For that matter, individuals without free will would not, in the true sense, be human beings at all, at least this is the case as seems highly plausible, the capacity for free choice is an essential characteristic of human beings as such. If so, then to say that free will should not exist is to say that we humans should not exist. It may be possible to say that, and perhaps even mean it, but the cost of doing so is very high.”

You know, even if I weren’t a Calvinist, that doesn’t mean I’d be a libertarian. Indeed, statements like this would turn me away from libertarianism.

It’s funny how otherwise intelligent, sophisticated thinkers like Bill Hasker and Victor Reppert suddenly succumb to such sublime Tommyrot when they get on the subject of romantic love.

This is because they begin with a theory. They feel that libertarian freedom must be true. To their mind, it’s necessary to make sense of other things they believe in.

Since it must be true, they then draw a picture of the world to comport with their theory. They are so bewitched by their theoretical commitments that they don’t bother to compare their theory with the real world. It’s the difference between an artist who paints a portrait from a real live model, and an artist to conjures up a portrait out of his imagination, to conform to his feminine ideal—like the ideal of womanhood in the Pre-Raphaelite school of painting.

How does Hasker actually define freewill?

“By ‘libertarian freedom’ is meant freedom such that the agent who makes a choice is really able, under exactly the same circumstances, to choose something different from the thing that is in fact chosen. The choices in question, then, are not causally determined to occur as they do; libertarian freedom is inherently indeterministic. This means that there is nothing whatever that predetermines which choice will be made, until the creature is actually placed in the situation and makes the decision,” Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, 219.

Okay, let’s plug Hasker’s definition of freewill into Hasker’s illustration of romantic love. Remember that girl in high school you had a crush on? Some of you married her, while some of you pined for her while you watched a rival marry her.

Now, why did you have a crush on her? Did you choose to feel that way about her? Or was the way you felt about her spontaneous and irrepressible?

You simply found her delightful to be around. You couldn’t help yourself.

Of course, we also know from experience that this feeling can wear off. But just as we don’t choose to fall in love, we don’t choose to fall out of love. It just happens.

Right now I’m not talking about Christian morality. How we should choose a mate. I’m just responding to Hasker on his own grounds.

Imagine a love story written by a libertarian. Imagine a high school prom movie in which students “freely” willed themselves to love Susie or stop loving Bobby. It’s unimaginable—except as a spoof of out-of-touch philosophy profs.

Does a boy love a girl for her own sake? Or because she makes him happy? Does a girl love a boy for his own sake? Or because he makes her happy?

From highbrow playwrights like Racine to opera librettists to soap opera screenwriters to lovesick high school students, you’ll never find libertarian strictures at work. It’s a paper theory.

How many times have we seen youthful blond bombshells with fat, bald, middle-aged tycoons? Is it because the woman (wife, mistress, girlfriend) loves the man for his own sake? Is it because the man loves the woman for her own sake? No, the woman loves the man for his portfolio, while the man loves the woman for her body. They’re using each other.

Take two identical twins. Put one in a Hyundai. Another in a Porsche. I predict that this will have a statistically measurable effect on certain members of the opposite sex.

Isn’t that why they make sports cars in the first place? A way to buy sex appeal? Pheromones on wheels. Rent-a-Pheromone. (I have it on good authority that diamonds have the same effect.)

Why does a boy at 15 feel differently about girls than a boy at 10? It’s a little thing called adolescence. A boy at 15 has a built in love potion that’s injecting him with hormones.

Yes, Victor; yes, Hasker—romantic love actually has a wee bit to do with our internal chemistry. Our body mixes up a love potion.

Once again, I’m not discussing Christian morality. A Christian channels his natural impulses. You can either take advantage of nature, or you can let nature take advantage of you. A wise man does the former—a fool, the latter.

I used to take an aging relative to the local beauty school to have her hair done. Every student had her own station. And every station had a picture of The Boyfriend. Every student was orbiting a boycentric universe. Not only was it important for every student to have a boyfriend, but it was even more important for every student to be seen to have a boyfriend. So the student in the next station could see the student in the station right beside her had a boyfriend too.

In a libertarian universe, wouldn’t we expect a bit more nonconformity? Why not a picture of the Alps? But, no, it was always The Boyfriend.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


A while back, Green Baggins did a brief post on the suspension of Peter Enns. Not surprisingly, a number of liberal commenters came to the defense of Enns, including Paul Seely. Both here and elsewhere, Seely has attempted to argue that portions of Gen 1-11 are directly indebted to pagan mythology.

A couple of years ago, Noel Weeks published an article in the WTJ in which he documents the way in which Seely manipulates and oversimplified the evidence through selective citation—thereby generating specious parallels between Genesis and ANE mythology. Here is some of what Weeks has to say:

“If we’re dealing particularly with the OT, then the problem is greater because of the lack of extrabiblical material from Palestine…Externally written material from Palestine that will illumine things such as cosmological beliefs is nonexistent. The resort to Ugaritic material to fill the gap left by the lack of Palestinian material brings its own problems of being certain that Ugarit is fully representative of Palestinian beliefs and practices. Mute archaeological findings may somewhat fill that gap but material remains speak to a limited range of issues,” WTJ 68 (2006), 284.

“One crucial assumption is that biblical revelation cannot hold a different position on the issue in question from the surrounding world…How does one construct an argument to prove that the Bible may not depart from universal practice? The Bible frequently tells Israel not to be like the nations. Since an unstated premise of the apologetic that sees cosmological and historical statements as a concession to their time is that we may distinguish religious statements in Scripture from other statements…Yet, there is a theoretical possibility that the Bible, for whatever reason, deviates from surrounding cultures even on ‘non-religious’ issues…The argument to negate this possibility has to establish a universal, or near universal, external situation and then argue that what the Bible describes is identical to or at least close to that universal situation. Of course, it can be attempted, but it is well to be aware of the pitfalls. If there is a common or near universal modern mind and it is clear that premodern practice deviates from that, then the tendency can be to combine together all premodern expressions as being the universal converse of the modern, when actually there are considerable differences among premodern beliefs and practices. It follows that the whole argument must collapse if there are actually varying beliefs and practices in the premodern period, especially in cultures contemporary with the Bible,” ibid. 284-85.

“When we identify a certain element of Scripture as coming from the scientifically naïve assumptions of the time, and therefore distinguishable from the theological content of the biblical message, are we interpreting Scripture in its historical context? To some people we are, because the cosmology and prehistory of Scripture must be separable from its theological message because the cosmology and prehistory is the area that Christian apologists find difficult to defend. Yet, the same question could be answered quite differently. Is a distinction between the cosmological and theological demonstrably part of the common conception of the world in which Scripture originated? The answer is an unambiguous negative! That distinction is a modern one and thus is part of what we bring to the past,” ibid. 285.

“It is common to postulate that the Bible shared the common view of primitive societies that the land was surrounded by sea upon which it floated and was surmounted by solid heavens…One does not need to prove what the ancient Japanese, for example, believed in order to weaken his argument. The force of Seely’s argument depends upon there being a uniform premodern belief. All that is needed to undermine the argument is an example of a different belief, preferably from a culture close to ancient Israel. The culture contemporary with the writing of the OT that gives us the most information about cosmological beliefs is Mesopotamia,” ibid. 286.

“Significant Mesopotamian evidence exists in a text which shows a drawing of land surrounded by a circular ocean. In reference to this drawing, Seely does not mention that the map also shows regions beyond the sea. Horowitz is undecided whether these regions are islands or larger landmasses. Whatever the case, the drawing is not evidence for a simple picture of the earth as land surrounded by a circular ocean…Further evidence of land beyond the sea comes in the Etana Epic when Etana, looking down from a great height, compares the sea to a ditch—presumably with banks on either side,” ibid. 286.

“ A Neo-Assyrian text gives three levels to the earth: the earth’s surface; the region of the god Ea, which is generally seen as the watery Apsu; and the underworld. Yet, there is not a consistent belief that below the solid surface was a watery Apsu. Building texts describe the foundations of a building being placed on the underworld or the surface of the underworld. The roots of mountains also go down to the underworld. Further complicating the picture is a text where the gods dig a ditch for the sea with a plough so that the sea would actually rest on the earth’s surface. These varying pictures should warn us that there is not a simple, uniform physical picture being presented,” ibid. 286-87.

“Through recent discussions of the relationship of the Bible to other cosmologies, one text has been disproportionately used: the Babylonian Creation Account, or Enuma Elish. There are some problems with its common comparison with the Bible because it is a text known for its aberrant character and is not typical of the oldest Mesopotamian cosmologies,” ibid. 287.

“Further, the cosmology of Enuma Elish is by no means straightforward…The common identification is that Apsu is sweet (fresh) water, based on texts where apsu, as a common noun, refers to springs and canal waters. Tiamat is obviously related to the noun tamtu, meaning ‘sea,’ thus the common explanation that Apsu and Tiamat stand for fresh and salt water respectively,” ibid. 287-88.

“Immediately there is difficulty in deriving a physical picture from this action. The ‘deep’ or Apsu, is often pictured as the domain of Ea. In such cases it seems to be in the Persian Gulf, which is salt water. Apsu can also be found in fresh water, and Apsu is also the name of Ea’s temple in Eridu…Yet, if that is the case, was drawing a physical picture the text’s purpose?” ibid. 288.

“Older translations such as by P. Jensen and A. Heidel saw the following lines (IV: 142-145) as describing the formation of the earth over Apsu, thus giving a three-tiered universe of sky, earth, and Apsu. This translation cannot be sustained and it is now clear that these verses are still talking about the sky. The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary puts forward an alternate translation: ‘The esgalla (great temple) (called) Esarra which he created, is the sky.' The text says that this temple is equivalent in dimension to the Apsu. Note that the text is once again concerned with a temple, but it would seem to be one of cosmic dimensions. An index to the difficulty of this passage is that yet a different interpretation is presented by A. Livingstone. He believes that the Esarra is a new level of the cosmos, situated between heaven and the Apsu,” ibid. 288.

“The fate of the other half of Tiamat is continued in an incomplete text. What is clear is that the Euphrates and Tigris rivers are described as coming out of her eyes (V:55)…There are problems in trying to form a physical picture from this description. We have seen that Tiamat is generally equated with the sea, or at least a watery body. In his treatment of ‘the waters above the firmament,’ Seely concedes the point that, contrary to his other attempts to argue universal prescientific notions, primitive peoples do not generally think of water above the sky. Hence, he has to argue that the biblical account is closely related to Enuma Elish. Thus, it is crucial to his whole argument that a guard be set to prevent the waters of the half of Tiamat, now become the sky, from escaping. Here Tiamat is very clearly watery, and that is crucial to Seely’s argument,” ibid. 288-89.

“Let us consider the other half of Tiamat. Surely it must also be watery, yet it seems to be laid over Apsu, which we have seen was also a body of water. Seely’s solution is to suggest that it is the water of Apsu which is emerging through Tiamat. That is in a way logical in that springs and the Tigris and Euphrates are fresh water; however, the text itself does not mention Apsu in this context. Anyway, why did water need to come from Apsu in this lower half if Tiamat was also watery?” ibid. 289.

“One suspects that behind these difficulties there is a problem. If prescientific people think in terms of the world as a flat disk, surrounded by sea and floating on that sea, then the waters from below that emerge as springs must be the waters of the sea, namely, salt water. Yet, they are fresh. If we are correct in seeing Apsu as sweet water and Tiamat as salt water, then the composer at least recognized the distinction. Further, if the waters of Tiamat’s half that was raised to the sky are the source of rain, then one would expect rain to be salt water,” ibid. 289.

“What physical and geometric model can we form from Enuma Elish if Apsu, the dwelling of Ea, which, according to other texts is watery, is built upon Apsu which is fresh water? If half of Tiamat is the sky, is the sky conceived of as salt water? What about the other half of Tiamat? If that becomes the earth, should not the earth become salt water? If Livingstone is correct and there is a level below the half of Tiamat that became the heavens, what does that do to the geometry of the cosmos?” ibid. 289.

“What this examination shows us is that one can form a physical and geometric model if one is selective in what one chooses to quote from Enuma Elish, but not if one takes each passage that should be relevant. This situation raises a fundamental issue. Was the author thinking in terms of a physical and geometric model? For modern thinkers cosmology primarily implies a physical model. In trying to abstract the cosmology of an ancient text, we naturally look for what physical model we can extract. By selective quotation, we can obtain such a model. Yet, if all the details will not fit a physical and geometric picture, are we engaging in correct exegesis?” 289-90.

“I strongly suspect that the aim of Enuma Elish is not to build a physical cosmology, but to provide a background for Esagila, the temple of Marduk at Babylon…If that is the case, is it legitimate to take parts out of context and to try to form a physical cosmology?” ibid. 290.

“Take for example Ps 24:2. Seely makes a point of the fact that the relationship of the land to the waters in this passage and in Ps 136:6 is explained by the preposition ‘al which has ‘upon’ as its primary meaning. The problem is that there are also passages where this preposition ahs a primary sense of ‘above’,” ibid. 291.

“Judgment by water is a recurrent theme in the biblical text. We find it first in the flood, with its clear connections to the creation account. It appears again in the crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan. It is frequently invoked as a metaphor of threat and judgment…I am suggesting that it is in that context that we interpret passages that describe the relationship of land and water,” ibid. 291.

“It may be objected that we may still discern the underlying physical cosmology in such passages. Perhaps! Attempts to do so take us back to the already mentioned problem of the relationship of fresh water and salt water. The threat from water to the earth involves both sweet and salt water. Rivers may overflow their banks; sea may invade the land…there is no need in this picture to investigate the relationship of salt water to fresh water; however, once we attempt to turn this into a physical picture, we cannot avoid the issue of the physical relationship of fresh to salt water. If both biblical and other ancient texts were not thinking in terms of a comprehensive physical model, then the problem does not arise,” ibid. 291`.

“Seely argues that there is a common premodern conception of the sky as a solid dome…Seely’s view has been contested…Birds fly in heaven (Deut 4:17) and God is enthroned in heavne (Ps 11:4), so it cannot be conceived as a solid structure. Seely attempted to deal with this in his original article by saying that heaven is wider than raqia. However, the prooftexts that he cites for that proposition are all texts which show that heaven is not solid. Thus, they prove that heaven is wider than the raqia only if we accept the point at issue that the raqia must be solid; therefore, a non-solid heaven cannot be completely synonymous with raqia. This is a clear example of assuming the point at issue,” ibid. 291-92.

“Mesopotamian texts are not a great help to us because there seem to be different views in Mesopotamia… Even if we ignore the problem in assuming that biblical views must be the same as external cultures, if there is no unanimity in the Mesopotamian tradition, then we cannot invoke the tradition to explain the Bible,” ibid. 292.

Sylvia Browne, John Edward, James Van Praagh and Universalism

I have an apology to make. For years I laughed at mediums such as Sylvia Browne, John Edward, James Van Praagh, and others, for never failing to report that someone's beloved is doing fine and dandy in the afterlife, smiling down at them from heaven. How convenient. How perfect. How utterly unoffensive. Sells tickets.

Well, given Universalism, they've been telling the truth.

So, I apologize Sylvia Browne, John Edward, James Van Praagh, and others. It turns out you're not quacks after all!

You were right

You were right

You were right

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thoughtless atheism

“But to affirm the Bible as the inerrant word of God, as one extreme, is so far removed from a reasonable faith that it just seems incredible for me that any thinking person can believe it.”

Unfortunately for Loftus, this accusation is self-incriminating. For Loftus is an apostate. He used to believe it. He used to be an ordained minister in a denomination which affirms inerrancy. He likes to remind us that he studied under William Lane Craig to become a Christian apologist.

So fall all those years, Loftus was not a thinking person. He managed to graduate from a Christian college and seminary in a persistent vegetative state.

Statistical Analysis

Even if you only casually read through news websites (such as those of CNN or FOXNews), several times per month you will notice headlines such as the following:


Study: Long-Term Breast-Feeding Will Raise Child's IQ



Study: 1 in 50 U.S. babies abused, neglected in 2006
And naturally we’re all aware of the competing studies that exist too. One study shows that eggs are bad for you; another that they’re good for you. One study shows how margarine is a healthier alternative than butter; another that butter is better for you. With so many competing studies, you can find a scientific backing for just about any position you want to take (especially in health matters).

The existence of so many studies helps to emphasize a point regarding statistical analysis. Despite being a powerful tool, if you do not set up the guidelines and restrictions for your samples properly any statistics you observe won’t amount to a hill of beans. And we’re not even talking about the inherent fluctuations that require the existence of error bars (that’s the line that says +/- 3%, for example). Nor are we even addressing political manipulation of statistics in the form of pollaganda. Instead, I’m talking about something at the heart of statistics itself—it’s a universal.

To demonstrate what it is, let us first ask a simple question. When we do a statistical analysis of some observation, for what reason are we doing it? As you can see in the above headline examples, most of the time studies are done to find a causal linking between some object and/or action and some result. Thus, the first headline above says that too much or too little sleep (the cause) is “tied” to “ill health” (the effect). We also see that women should marry uglier men for a healthy marriage (in a study obviously written by an ugly man).

Now let us assume that there is a correlation that all these studies found. Let us assume that it is the case that people who sleep less than six hours a night weigh more than those who sleep eight hours a night, and that women who married uglier men (however that is defined) are in healthier (however that is defined) marriages. The fact of the matter is that when you compare any subset of a group, however you wish to define that subset, with the rest of the group as a whole, you will find things that the small group has in common at a statistically higher rate than the group as a whole. This happens automatically and does not mean that it is relevant in a causative sense!

To give a simple example, let’s examine hockey (since I like hockey). There are 30 teams in the NHL. Of those 30 teams, 7 are named after animals (the Penguins, Bruins, Thrashers, Panthers, Ducks, Coyotes, and Sharks) and 7 are named after people-groups (the Islanders, Rangers, Canadiens, Senators, Blackhawks, Oilers, and Kings). Each group of 7 constitutes 23% of the teams in the League.

There have been 80 Stanley Cups awarded since 1926. During that time, teams named after animals have won 8 Stanley Cups, which means that they won 10%. However, teams named after people-groups have won 39 Stanley Cups during that time, which means they won 49% of them. Clearly, having a team named after a people-group instead of after an animal provides a statistical advantage to a hockey team…

Perhaps someone could argue that the statistical data isn’t fair. After all, the Thrashers (1999), Panthers (1993), Ducks (1993), Coyotes (1996), and Sharks (1991) are all teams that did not exist before the 1990s! On the other hand, the Rangers, Canadiens, Senators, and Blackhawks all existed in 1926 (the start of this survey). Furthermore, the Kings were founded in 1967, the Oilers in 1971 and the Islanders in 1972. Of the animal teams, only the Bruins were around in 1926 (the Penguins were founded in 1967). Thus, using 1926 as the baseline (since before that there were other teams besides just NHL teams that could play for the Cup), the average year of founding for animal teams is 1981 and for people-group teams it’s 1945.

However, we can adjust for that. Animal teams have won a Cup on average every 3.25 years they’ve existed; while people-groups win a Cup for every 1.59 years they’ve existed. Clearly, it still remains better to have a team named after a people-group than an animal. (And I’m not biased since I cheer for the Avalanche, which is neither a people-group nor an animal…)

Now here’s the thing. The statistical data that I’ve given here is all correct (assuming I didn’t make any typos or anything of that nature), but every rational person would immediately recognize that the type of name a sports team has, has no bearing on the performance of that team. This is an attribute that is linked statistically, but the statistical linkage is accidental rather than causative.

Every time that we do these surveys and examine the numbers we have to realize that there are some number of things that will be discovered in common that are accidental correlations. The problem is that we ignore most of these connections. And when I say we ignore them, I don’t mean that we test the data and then go, “This isn’t relevant” but we do not even look for them in the first place. After all, were it not for the fact that I was looking for an example for this blog entry I would never have cared what percentage of teams named after animals won the Stanley Cup. This correlation would have been excluded a priori as being irrelevant.

But these irrelevant correlations are important to statistical analysis! Why? Because since a certain percentage of linkages are accidental, we have to account for them in our conclusion. In other words, we have to have some way of determining if the link we discover is causative or if it is merely the kind of statistical fluke you get when examining hockey mascots. And that means that we would need to examine all possible connections and discard those that are accidental in order to find out if the statistical percentages are covered.

That, however, is impractical to the point of impossibility. After all, it is relatively easy to come up with statistical correlations between things. For instance, with my hockey example it took me all of 15 minutes to come up with that correlation. The longest part was pulling up the Wiki sheets on the number of Stanley Cup wins various teams had had. Indeed, based on my experience I would argue that it is so easy to come up with meaningless links between data that it will always remain more likely that a correlation is accidental than causative. That is, for every one true causative link between a subset of a group and the average of the entire group, I would argue there are several accidental links. And these accidental links are not always as obviously accidental as the examples I’ve given. (For a less obvious example, think of the correlation between diabetes and obesity. Does one cause the other? Or is it just a statistical fluke, similar to the names of hockey teams?)

If it is so difficult to prove our position statistically due to the possibility of accidental links, then what good is it to come up with a statistical correlation in the first place? For most studies that you read about in the media, the answer is: “None.” However, for scientists there remains one thing that a truly causative link can do that an accidental link cannot do that saves the field. A truly causative link will enable you to make a prediction that you can test and verify. If something is causative then it will continue to cause the effect at the same rate. On the other hand, if it is accidental then it is a random linkage, and random linkages will break down through further testing. For instance, the fact that people-group teams have won more Stanley Cups than animal teams does not help us predict who will win the Stanley Cup this year or next year or the year after that; therefore, it is an accidental link rather than a causative link. However, if further testing shows that the percentages of obese people who get diabetes remains constant, then we can have more confidence that that is a truly causative link rather than simply a statistical accident.

So there are some ways to salvage statistics. But it requires that we be able to conduct further tests with our predictions in place in order to sort out whether we have a meaningful causative link or a meaningless accidental link. If we cannot conduct those further tests, then any causative links will be lost in the noise of the countless accidental links. They may be true, but it is impossible to verify it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev 21:8).

Speaking of damnable lies:

robert said...

“The Triablogers, especially Steve Hays, repeatedly attack and ridicule persons, not arguments.”

That’s a demonstrable falsehood. In my response to Reppert and others, I’ve gone into great detail attacking their arguments. This is not a case of attacking the person instead of the argument.

But this is my general policy. I begin by attacking the argument. I then see how the opponent responds.

If the opponent is evasive, I continue to attack his arguments, but I also point out that he is not an honest opponent. And that’s directly germane to the debate.

It’s far more time-consuming to debate an evasive opponent. You have to spend a lot of time rehearsing what you said before to remind the reader that he ignoring what you already said. The character of an opponent can get in the way of a constructive debate.

“We all understand that attacks against an argument are OK, but that is not what the Triablogers repeatedly do.”

The same damnable lie. I repeatedly attack arguments. My replies to Reppert have been far more detailed and substantive that his replies to me. Same thing with Manata.

“The Triablogers are in fact mean and nasty and repeatedly violate biblical standards of how we are supposed to interact with each other.”

What about Biblical standards?

One Biblical standard is to be truthful. Robert regularly violates that biblical standard.

Do ad hominem attacks violate biblical standards? The Bible itself can get very ad hominem. Look at what Isaiah says about the king of Babylon (Isa 14), or Ezekiel says about the King of Tyre (Ezk 28).

The Bible is chock-full of ad hominem attacks. So commenting on the character of your opponent is by no means a violation of biblical standards. As usual, Robert picks and choose what parts of the Bible he is going to obey.

Notice, too, that Robert is doing the very thing he denounces as unbiblical. Instead of attacking our arguments, he is attacking us.

On the one hand, Robert tries to impose an unscriptural “standard” on his opponents. On the other hand, he refuses to hold himself to the same standard he urges on his opponents.

And notice the way he goes about it. First of all, he uses guilt-by-association. He tries to tar Manata with something I said. Attempting to discredit Manata’s arguments as if any “sinful” statement I make rubs off on him. Not only is that an ad hominem attack—which he supposedly deplores—but a classically unscrupulous form of the ad hominem attack.

Robert professes to take the moral high ground while he wallows in the gutter.

Then there’s his stalking horse tactic. He uses a second party to attack a third party. He attacks Calvinism by defending Reppert. This makes Robert seem magnanimous. Like Bill Moyers interviewing Jeremiah Wright. You use the second party as a shield behind which you lob bombs at your opponents.

And this ploy is designed to make you look like Mr. Nice Guy since you’re just coming to the aid of someone else. If you were attacking your opponent directly, that would be “mean and nasty,” but this way you can attack your opponent indirectly by oozing sympathy for the “victim.”

Robert’s calculated performance may be convincing in front of the bathroom mirror, but not everyone in the audience is taken in by his thespian exploits.

“But even then, if you are talking with another Christian brother or sister.”

This involves a presumption about Reppert’s Christian identity. Given the number of heterodox positions he deploys to attack Calvinism, I wouldn’t presume anything one way or the other on that score.

And I also don’t regard one’s Christian profession as a flack-jacket to deflect moral or intellectual scrutiny.

“You don't attack them as not pursuing the truth because they think differently than you do.”

What are some of the strategies that Reppert uses to attack Calvinism? We can never be sure what Scripture teaches. Even if we were sure, Scripture may be wrong. Even if Calvinism is correct, God may be the Omnipotent Fiend. Maybe God doesn’t know the future.

Sometimes deploys universalism against Calvinism. Sometimes he deploys open theism against Calvinism.

In the past I’ve let a lot of things slide where Reppert’s concerned because he’s useful on other issues. But when he keeps pounding away at Calvinism, I can’t very well ignore him. And, in order to pound away at Calvinism, he must pound away at other evangelical doctrines.

Notice how quickly this discussion moved from a debate over reprobation to a debate over hell itself.

So Reppert has now worked himself into the position where he’s defending the Christian faith on some fronts while attacking the Christian faith on other fronts. And it tells you something about Robert that he rushes in to defend a man who’s taken a chainsaw to core planks of the Christian faith.

Reppert has a do-it-yourself theology. He only believes what he can intuit. Throw everything else to the sharks to lighten the load.

“Since when is an argument personal enough to designate it as a **simpleton**.”

Because it’s Reppert who originally cast the issue in “simple” terms. Remember what he said:

“Go ahead and believe it if you want to, well, to avoid begging the question, if God predestines you to do so, or because you think that Bible teaches it. Just don't tell me that God is not the cause of sin. On a counterfactual analysis of causation, God's decrees cause sins. It's that simple.”

Notice how Robert drops the context of my remark. That would require a modicum of honesty on Robert’s part.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Paul Helm, for one, has explained in some detail why it’s not that simple.

When Reppert tries to frame the Reformed position in such simplistic terms, he’s operating at the level of a simpleton. The fact that Reppert is not a simpleton makes his performance all the more inexcusable.

“And it is completely unacceptable and according to biblical standards, sinful speech. People who profess to be Christians, to be following Jesus as his disciples, need to be obeying His Word.”

I’m waiting to see Robert follow his own advice.

“And the scripture is very clear on how we are to interact with other believers and unbelievers. I can cite the verses for you, and have done so with the Triablogers in the past, to no avail. They just ignore the scripture, continue to justify themselves and attack others with their verbal poison.”

This is yet another damnable lie. Robert likes to quote Scripture out of context. He uses the Bible the way a Jehovah’s Witness uses the Bible.

We’ve corrected his misuse of Scripture. How does he respond? By merely repeating himself.

At this rate, Robert will need an asbestos wetsuit to insulate himself from the lake of fire.

“I believe it is a great testimony to Victor that he does attack arguments here from a Christian perspective.”

Is universalism a Christian perspective? Is open theism a Christian perspective.

What about Reppert’s dismissive view of penal substitution? Is that a Christian perspective? What about his refusal to believe that God ever ordered the execution of the Canaanites? Is that a Christian perspective. Is there anything in Scripture which isn’t negotiable for Reppert?

"Though it is unfortunate that certain calvinists, hate the open theists with a passion."

Robert is projecting.

"And regarding being a Christian and being mistaken, we all make mistakes; some of us just refuse to ever admit it."

Sounds very humble except that Robert doesn't apply that disclaimer to his beliefs about Calvinism.

"And regarding character, some of my friends who are open theists, display greater character than most of the calvinists that I know."

How many Calvinists does he know, personally?

I'm sure some of the Judaizers were nice guys. I'm sure some of the Gnostics were nice guys. Not to mention many Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists, or backslapping Baal-worshipers.

Indeed, a false teacher must generally have winsome personality to win converts to his position. If you want to be a successful heretic, it helps to be warm and charming.

"These same open theists affirm all of the essentials of the Christian faith including the trinity, the deity of Christ, salvation by faith alone, etc. etc."

Meaning that divine omniscience is inessential to the Christian faith, as Robert selectively defines it.

"In my old age, :-) I look at people’s character first, beliefs second, especially if they are professing Christians. And if they are not loving people, but seem to hate everybody who thinks differently than them, well . . ."

The funny thing about this statement is Robert's blindness to his own intolerance. He only likes people who are like him. His own kind of people. He loves others who happen to meet with his approval. Who fall within certain parameters. Some of his friends are open theists. But he doesn't speak in very friendly terms about Calvinists, now does he? No, they are the enemy. Take no hostages.

"Is that what the bible calls us to in our dealings with other believers?"

I've never thought we should lower the bar when dealing with someone who claims to be a fellow believer.

Moreover, Reppert has now made it clear that he's never submitted his heart, mind, and will to God.

"Hays continues to engage in this kind of sinful speech with those with whom he disagrees (whether they be believers or unbelievers makes no difference) with no accountability or evidence of repentance whatsoever. His speech is sinful and embarrassing to the cause of Christ. And he fancies himself an apologist. The 'god' of calvinism is a gruesome and sadistic person, and he is not the God revealed in scripture. They say that we become like the God that we worship, Hays illustrates this quite well: he is just as nasty and ornery as the 'god' he wants to believe exists. Neither Hays nor his conception of God reflects the character of Christ who is the true God, the one who died for all including sinners who will never repent and come to believe."

Suppose I'm ever bit as bad as he says, and then some. What interests me is Robert's unconsciously humanistic outlook. On the one hand, he thinks that every human being should be treated with utmost reverence—unless, of course, he's a Calvinist. That's beyond the pale.

On the other hand, he doesn't hesitate to blaspheme God. Infinite reverence for man combined with infinite irreverence for God.

Of course, he defends his attitude by claiming that the God of Calvinism isn't the true God. But his objections are essentially ethical and aprioristic. His presuppositions are ultimately indistinguishable from Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. He has certain interpretive strategies for blunting the passages of Scripture he can't stand. But the underlying animosity is the same. Take away his rose-tinted filters and Robert would view the God of Scripture in the same hostile light as Hitchens or Dawkins or Ehrman or Spong.

Frankfurt Schmrankfurt

In the comments section of Steve's post Victor Reppert asks if his "refutation" of Frankfurt Style Counterexamples, FSCs, was really as easy to refute as he thinks:

Victor Reppert said:

I wrote my master's thesis on free will. It still seems to me that the distinction between the freedom of action of freedom of choice means that we can ask the question "was the choice free" independent of any consideration of whether in a counterfactual situation, a person could have carried out their action had they chosen otherwise. PAP, as I see it, applies to choices, not actions.

I must ask myself, is it that easy to refute Frankfurt arguments? And maybe you guys can help me see why it isn't that easy. Still, I think the examples will all sooner or later founder on this problem.

This kind of philosophical debate is closer to my area of specialization, certainly, than biblical exegesis.

5/10/2008 8:30 PM

i) Let me give you four definitions of PAP from prominent libertarians who are *specialists* in this field (quotes taken from Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibility: Essays on the Importance of Alternative Possibilities, eds. Widerker & Mckenna, Ashgate, 2006):

"PAP: An agent is morally responsible for performing a given action A only if he could have avoided performing it" (Widerker, p.53).

"PAP: An agent S is morally responsible for its being the case that p only if S could have made it not the case that p." (Ginet, 75).

"Frankfirt-style cases (FSCs) were introduced to undermine 'the principle of alternative possiblities' or PAP. They were designed to show that a person could be morally responsible even though the person had no alternative possibilities (APs) or could not have done otherwise." (Kane, p. 91, see fn. 4 for an elaboration. Kane agrees that in *particular* cases FSCs show that an agent was morally responsible even though he could not have done otherwise just in case he had some libertarian free choices in his past that shaped his character.)

"PAP3: A person is (libertarian) free in what he has done (= A) only if there is something he did (= B) which is such that (i) he could have done otherwise than B and (ii) it is (at least in part) in virtue of his doing B that he is (libertarian) free in doing A" (Hunt, p.167).

ii) So, we must ask why you go against the experts on your own side?

iii) We should note that there are libertarians who think Frankfurt has made his point. Some would be:

a) W.L. Craig
b) Dave Hunt (the philosopher)
c) Robert Kane (for particular cases)

iv) Did you even read my links? Your post at DI implies they left with the above questions unanswered. But Allen concluded in one I gave you: "Thus Frankfurt cases can be constructed involving mental acts such as deciding" (Alan, Re-examining Frankfurt-Cases, pp. 9-13).

v) Apropos (iv), say an omnipotent fiend wants you to kill your wife. He knows you have chosen to do so. He lets you proceed, but just in case you have a change in heart, he makes sure that he will block any choice to do otherwise. It just so happens that you never change your mind. You're resolved. You couldn't have chosen otherwise, though. You hack your wife. Are you not responsible?

vi) The control needed for moral responsibility as defined by libertarianism hasn't been able to answer the luck objection. So it would appear that the presuppositions inherent in libertarian definitions of PAP undercut moral responsibility. So, your "choice" constraint just might actually undermine responsibility (assuming you're using an agent-causation model).

vii) Since God is essentially holy, perfectly good, he cannot choose (or do) evil.

So on your score you just removed God as a proper subject of ascriptions of praise. Can't praise a "robot" for doing what its nature determines it will do.

Arminian Denies God has Libertarian Free Will(?)

Dan at Arminian Chronicles gives some necessary and sufficient conditions for ascribing "libertarian free will" to an agent. Rather than write an entire post interacting with his post, I'm just going to draw attention to two statement. Dan said,

"[Libertarian Free Will is not] The ability to create ex nihilo."

But God's free will has this ability.

"[Libertarian free will is] Being able to choose either option implies both options are possible, which implies neither option is necessary."
But choosing evil, for God, is impossible. It is necessary that he choose good because he is necessarily good. Choosing evil is not a possible option, for God.

If God doesn't have LFW, and man is made in his image, why think man has LFW?

Paul on hell

Douglas Moo on Paul on hell (PDF).