Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Chose to Write This Post

Amateur Arminian epologists frequently resort to rhetoric and arguments from shame to cover over what is otherwise lacking in their defense and promulgation of Arminian theology. Probably 99% of all their critiques of Calvinism stem from the assumption of libertarian free will. That's the bedrock as far as critiquing Calvinism goes. They tell us that they don't stand upon this rock when arguing for Arminianism, I'll grant them that for argument's sake. But I cannot grant that it isn't a bedrock for launching arguments against Calvinism.

Here's two popular examples of what I mean: First, we frequently hear that "choice" just means some kind of libertarianism about the will. The second is like unto it: "You Calvinists must necessarily go against laymen, common sensical understandings of certain terms. Your position is counter-intuitive. Ordinary folk laugh at you."

Besides the fact that there's nothing solid here out of which to form a good argument for libertarianism, there are (at least) two other problems. The first is that the best libertarians writing today know better that to stack the deck this way when defining things like 'choice'. The second is that -- granting the statistical point about what laymen believe, as I haven't seen the sociologists' studies -- there is an equally counter-intuitive element to indeterminism held by most "lay folk." I'll make my case by citing libertarians on these two points, in the above order.

Defining Choice

First up are libertarians Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro. In their book Naturalism they say that,

A choice is a ... mental action, and when we make choices we typically explain our making them in terms of reasons, where a reason is a purpose, end, or goal for choosing. A reason is a conceptual entity, what medieval thinkers called an ens rationis (literally "object of reason") or intentional object, which is about or directed at the future and opative in mood (expressing a wish that the world be a certain way that is good. To put this point in technical terms, while a reason is not a desire or a belief, its opative character stems from its being grounded in the content of a desire or belief that represents a future state of affairs and something to be brought about by a more temporally proximate chosen action of the person who has the desire or belief. An explanation of a choice in terms of a reason or purpose is a teleological explanation.1
And next up is one of the premier libertarian action theorists writing today, Robert Kane. This quote is taken from his chapter in the Four Views on Free Will book. Kane says that,

A choice is the formation of an intention or purpose to do something. It resolves uncertainty and indecision in the mind about what to do.2
It therefore looks to be the case that simply saying "choice" doesn't demand a libertarian understanding of the term. It is duplicitous for Arminian epologists to act as if it does. It is actually rather like those atheists or cult members who say that Bible "translation" over the centuries necessarily implies that error must have crept in. After all, it's just "common knowledge" that that is what happens in a (say) game of telephone.

Counter-intuitive

Kane points out that it seems intuitive to many people that if indeterminism is involved in some happening then that makes it a chance or luck happening. He writes,

The first step is to question the intuitive connection in people's minds between "indeterminisms being involved in something" and "its happening merely as a matter of chance or luck."3
It should be fairly obvious, though, that we never hear this common and intuitive understanding of indeterminism as incompatible with control being admitted by Arminian epologists. They obviously don't think indeterminism demands luck, chance, or loss of control. They think if ordinary folk just thought more clearly on the issue, they would agree. But, granting the point for the moment, the Calvinist also says that ordinary folk really don't mean what they say and they wouldn't say it if they would think through the issues a bit more clearly.

Conclusion

Having exposed this popular Arminian epologist three-card Monte, I hope to not see it trotted out on this blog anymore.


__________________________

1 Goetz & Taliaferro, Naturalism, Eerdmans, 2008, pp. 26-27. In interest of full disclosure, the authors put the word 'undetermined' where I had the ellipsis. This word I took to be question begging and there was no argument for the inclusion of that word as being a necessary part of the definition throughout the entire book. And, in fact, the only argument given against determinism was against physicalist determination. So, I could have left "undetermined" in the quote and added "physically" and not undermined divine-determination in the least. As further justification of my reasoning here, I refer the reader to something else said by the above authors. In explicating the Argument from Reason against naturalism, the authors point to a subtle qualification of their argument. To wit: "Like Lewis, we believe one must be careful here. It is not the mere existence of a cause for a belief that discredits it. Rather, it is the kind of cause that discredits it" (ibid, 121, emphasis original). Furthermore, the authors argue that physicalistic determination is not irreducibly normative and teleological, and so it is problematic. It is clear that this is not the case with divine-determination. God's determining is irreducibly normative and teleological. Obviously, this brings up many questions, but I think it justifies my exclusion of what I took to be a throw-away term in their definition. Lastly, if 'undetermined' is meant to cover the field, then it's false. Libertarians like Robert Kane would agree with me. But, if I am wrong, then the authors' context demands, if we are to be precise, that "physically" be associated with "undetermined," and so it's a zero-sum either way.

2 Kane, For Views on Free Will, ed. Sosa, Blackwell, 2008, p. 33. Again, in interest of full disclosure, Kane would argue that indeterminism is necessary for ultimate responsibility, UR, to be ascribed to the agents who make the choices they do, but that doesn't affect the definition he gives and also would engage us in another discussion part of which would involve Frankfurt counter-examples, FCs. This debate would end up not helping the traditional Arminian who wants to affirm a traditional, robust view of God's foreknowledge. That this is so can be shown by pointing to what Double has dubbed the "Kane-Widerker" objection to Frankfurt controllers; namely, that there is no reliable "tell sign" available to a controller by which he could know that an agent would go one way over the other. This in my opinion leads to Open Theism. So, FCs undermine UR and the best way to avoid FCs is to invoke the "Kane-Widerker" objection, which leads to Open Theism.

3 ibid, 31.

27 comments:

  1. By your definition, God caused sin.

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  2. Bossmanham,

    (a) Where was that in my post at all? Stick on point or have your comments deleted. This isn't a place to stand on your soap box and get off your 'talking points.'

    (b) I addressed that very objection here:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/01/arminian-theology-myths-and-realities.html

    among other places. Familiarize yourself with the literature before you jump into the meta, please.

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  3. bossmanham said...

    By your definition, God caused sin.

    1/20/2009 3:59 PM

    Roger Olsen claimed that Jacob Arminius said this:

    “God is the first cause of whatever happens; even a sinful act cannot occur without God as its first cause…” (Arminian Theology, p. 122

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  4. Paul, I really don't have the time or motivation to read all your archived posts. I'll comment on what was just posted, however. I have been to no other blog that demands an exhaustive knowledge of previous posts.

    That being said, that is only a small part of what Arminius wrote. This is what he wrote on divine providence:

    "I place in subjection to Divine Providence both the free-will and even the actions of a rational creature, so that nothing can be done without the will of God, not even any of those things which are done in opposition to it; only we must observe a distinction between good actions and evil ones, by saying, that 'God both wills and performs good acts,' but that 'He only freely permits those which are evil.' Still farther than this, I very readily grant, that even all actions whatever, concerning evil, that can possibly be devised or invented, may be attributed to Divine Providence Employing solely one caution, 'not to conclude from this concession that God is the cause of sin.'"

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  5. bossmanham said...

    Paul, I really don't have the time or motivation to read all your archived posts. I'll comment on what was just posted, however. I have been to no other blog that demands an exhaustive knowledge of previous posts.


    Good, sounds like we have some common ground. I do not have the time or motivation to constantlyn repeat myself. So, to save us both the time (because many of my arguments will assume familiarity with prior arguments), you may see fit to just refrain from commenting in my meta. Sound good?

    It is also ridiculous and a bit hyperbolic to pretend as if I "demand exhasutive knowledge of prior posts." So, petty rhetoric and emotionally charged rants are better suited at the blogs you have on your profile page.

    "That being said, that is only a small part of what Arminius wrote. This is what he wrote on divine providence:"

    I don't care. At best you just made Arminius contradict himself! You can't defeat one claim with a contradictory claim by the same person. That only makes him look stupid. Furthermore, besides the fact that I already answered your throw-away argument, the point I was making is that Arminius himself contradicted you unless you care to inform your vague comment with some substantive material. See, on all orthodox Christian positions, God "caused" sin (I go over this in the post i linked to above). So, you must mean what you said in some special and qualified sense. But, the main problem is that you failed to spell this out in your post.

    If you can't do any of this, but instead choose to foster a lazy attitude to both studying the opposition as well as making yourself clear, then don't bother posting here. As we both agree, we don't have the time or motivation to deal with that.

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  6. Wow Paul way to show Christian courtesy. You did nothing but post a very small quote from a very small portion of what Olson has written. I haven't read Olson's work yet, so I'm not sure what the context was. Maybe you should learn to use primary sources so we wouldn't have this problem. For instance, read Arminius yourself But I see you're good at taking things out of context, kind of like Calvinism in general does with the Bible.

    The way you reacted to me, a new reader to the blog, shows the insecurity you have in your own system. People only lash out like that when pushed into a corner. Sorry I reached you at such a bad time.

    Anyway, I'll have no problem avoiding your "meta." I'll pray for you, brother.

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  7. "Wow Paul way to show Christian courtesy."

    Appeal to emotion. Way to show Christian intellectual virtue.

    "You did nothing but post a very small quote from a very small portion of what Olson has written."

    So.

    "I haven't read Olson's work yet, so I'm not sure what the context was."

    You could read my review.

    "Maybe you should learn to use primary sources so we wouldn't have this problem."

    What problem?

    "For instance, read Arminius yourself But I see you're good at taking things out of context, kind of like Calvinism in general does with the Bible."

    I assume this is an example of that "Christian charity" of which you began your post talking about?

    "The way you reacted to me, a new reader to the blog, shows the insecurity you have in your own system."

    How did I react? Again with thew sloppy generalizations.

    The way you jumped in and immediately made an antagonistic remark, off-topic to the post I wrote, and minus any helpful explanation, is perhaps not the way to proceed here.

    And, if you look at my first response you'll note I simply (a) pointed out that you were off-topic, and (b) pointed you to where I addressed your comment (assuming you were interested in actually learning from your interlocutor). Your reaction to that was strange. Showed the insecurity in your system.

    Lastly, you're not that "new." I've seen you drop into combox after combax and make ridiculous claims that you constantly fail to back up.

    "People only lash out like that when pushed into a corner."

    Again with the emotionally charged rhetoric intended to skew the data in your favor. And you also suffer from a superiority complex if you think you initial assertion, which you have yet to argue for, was worthy to be seen as "pushing someone in a corner."

    " Sorry I reached you at such a bad time."

    You didn't. Sorry I found yet another Arminian who can only emote instead of engage.

    "Anyway, I'll have no problem avoiding your "meta." I'll pray for you, brother."

    Oh, gee, thanks. Sounds kind of pompous and self-righteous too me. But then, I lack "Christian charity."

    Anyway, check it out, we have 7 posts so far and none of them by you have undertook the challenege of actually backing up your initial assertion. Rather than defend your claim, you quickly tried to move the discussion to the irrelevant and then to the pure emotional.

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  8. The Bible teaches that God made the world and everything in it (Acts 17), he created all things, and by his will they existed and were created (Rev. 4), God makes everything (Ecc 11); indeed not one thing has come into being came to be apart from the Logos (John 1).

    Either (i) all doesn't mean all, or (ii) evil is not a thing, or (iii) God created evil thoughts, intentions, etc. If (i) then this appears arbitrary for the Arminian to make given arguments for universal atonement, as well as being hard to prove, if (ii) then he loses his criticism against Calvinism, if (iii) then you also lose criticism.

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  9. "For instance, read Arminius yourself But I see you're good at taking things out of context, kind of like Calvinism in general does with the Bible."

    "...the Divine Concurrence, which is necessary to produce every act; because nothing whatever can have any entity except from the First and Cheif Being, who immediately produces that entity. The Concurrence of God is not his immediate influx into a second or inferior cause, but it is an action of God immediately flowing into the effect of the creature, so that the same effect in one and the same entire action may be produced simultaneously by God and creature." - Jacob Arminius, Public Disputations, Works, 2:183.

    You were saying?

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  10. Your whole post was disputing libertarian free will, which if we didn't have, would make God the determiner of all our actions, and therefore the determiner of sin. That's where I am coming from, and that's why I posted my first comment.

    Calvinists are the ones who have trouble with all meaning all. It's pretty simple. God created creatures with volition. Then those creature decided to sin. Then God allowed them to sin Then God cursed creation. All this is laid out pretty simply in Genesis 3.

    The quote from Arminius you posted says nothing of God causing sin. It says a lot about Him allowing His creatures to sin, and without His divine providence how we wouldn't even be able to sin, and how he puts into effect our choices.

    Here's the rest of that section, which I might add is an extremely small part of a very lengthy and subtle explanation on divine concurrence.

    "Though this concurrence is placed in the mere pleasure or will of God, and in his free dispensation, yet he never denies it to a rational and free creature, when he has permitted an act to his power and will. For these two phrases are contradictory, 'to grant permission to the power and the will of a creature to commit an act,' and 'to deny the divine concurrence without which the act cannot be done.' But this concurrence is to the act as such, not as it is a sin: And therefore God is at once the effector and the permittor of the same act, and the permittor before he is the effector. For if it had not been the will of the creature to perform such an act, the influx of God would not have been upon that act by concurrence. And because the creature cannot perform that act without sin, God ought not, on that account, to deny the divine concurrence to the creature who is inclined to its performance. For it is right and proper that the obedience of the creature should be tried, and that he should abstain from an unlawful act and from the desire of obeying his own inclinations, not through a deficiency of the requisite divine concurrence; because, in this respect, he abstains from an act as it is a natural good, but it is the will of God that he should refrain from it as it is a moral evil."

    In other words, and I quote from Olson's Arminian Theology, "once God decides to permit an act, even a sinful one, He cannot consistently withhold the power to commit it." (122)

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  11. Wow Paul way to show Christian courtesy.

    So's your face.

    Of course God is the cause of evil; get over it. To elaborate on Paul's argument:

    I take it as given for any Christian that all things which exist are made to exist both initially and continually by God only. You certainly agree with this, as you're quoting Arminius on concurrence; but also obviously see John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11; Genesis 1:1; Ecclesiastes 11:5; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17; and Acts 17:28. Now, “all things which exist” are adequately described as anything, at any time, which actually obtains in reality—or, more simply, anytime anything is real. And the phrase “makes to exist initially and continually” refers simply to the instantiation of something in reality, for as long as it is in reality. If God makes something to exist, both initially and continually, then God instantiates it in reality. Therefore:

    1. Anytime anything is real (R), God alone instantiates it in reality (G).
    2. Sinful intentions (S) are real.
    3. Therefore, God alone instantiates sinful intentions in reality [by modus ponens].

    1. R → G
    2. ( S → ) R
    3. ( S → ) G [mp]

    1. ∀x G(x)
    2. ∃x. S(x)
    3. ∴ S(x) → G(x)


    Naturally, it then follows that God chose to cause evil. Of course, it's rather unclear how an Arminian could not affirm that God chose to cause evil. Did God not know what would happen in this world when he chose to instantiate it? Under Arminianism he certainly did. Otherwise you'd be an open theist.

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  12. "Your whole post was disputing libertarian free will, which if we didn't have, would make God the determiner of all our actions, and therefore the determiner of sin. That's where I am coming from, and that's why I posted my first comment."

    Ummm, no, it wasn't. Try reading it again.

    And, I know where you're coming from. You're not the first Arminian I've talked to.

    Again, you say "God is the determiner of sin" when your first comment said "cause." Where I'm coming from is that you need to make your points clearly.

    Now, having said that, care to turn your observation into an actual argument?

    "Calvinists are the ones who have trouble with all meaning all"

    First off, even unregenerate unbelievers aren't so stupid as to think that all always mean all. Philosopher of language William Lycan, speaking on restricted quantification, writes that, "What logicians call the domains over which quantifiers range need not be universal, but are often particular cases roughly presupposed in context" (Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction, p.24).

    And it's obvious that many people believe that you can say "whole world" and it not mean "every single person whoever." For example, leftists at the 1968 Democrat National Convention in Chicago chanted, "The whole world is watching." It is fairly obvious that if asked, they would say that, "Of course, they didn't mean 'every single person whoever.'"

    But Arminians continue to say things like, "Calvinists deny the plain meaning of the Bible because they don't think all means all or whole world means whole world."

    But, it is so obvious that even the Bible doesn't always mean all when it says all, or whole world when it say world.

    Just look at a few verses:

    1 Kings 10:24 The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.

    Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.

    Romans 16:19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

    Colossians 1:23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

    All, world, everyone, every, etc., obviously doesn't have universal existential import, Obviously. Period.

    If I need to make it plainly obvious, here's an example:

    [1] The gospel has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.

    [2] Sammy the 1st century South American sea slug is a creature under heaven.

    [3] Therefore, the gospel was proclaimed to Sammy the South American sea slug.

    So, it is clear that erudite atheists, pot smoking hippies, and even the Bible, consciously use universal language without giving them universal existential import.

    I need to say it again. It is OBVIOUS that the Bible, in many, many, many places uses "all" and "whole world" and "everyone" while not meaning all and whole world and everyone. Again:

    I John 5:19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

    But John did not mean born again believers. People freed from the control and power of sinful dominion.

    I said obvious:

    Revelation 22:5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

    [1] Jesus makes all things new.

    [2] My dog's poop, my 15 month old son’s boogers, and Satan are things.

    [3] Therefore, Jesus makes my dog's poop, my 15 month old son’s boogers, and Satan, new.

    So, I am honestly perplexed by those Arminians who constantly and haughtily say things like, "Oh, you need to go read the Reformed theologians because they'll tell you that all doesn't always mean all, even when it says all."

    If Arminians think the above verses really mean all, then all I can say (actually, I could say more; I have to make this qualification for our Arminian readers) is that they've made themselves irrelevant. They are disqualified from rational discussion.

    If they agree with me about the above verses, then either they are hypocrites or they need to do some major PR work to show just what the heck they mean why they arrogantly act as if we Calvinists deny the plain reading of Scripture.

    I'm sorry, but enough's enough.

    "It's pretty simple."

    Things frequently seem simple to simpletons.

    "God created creatures with volition. Then those creature decided to sin. Then God allowed them to sin. Then God cursed creation. All this is laid out pretty simply in Genesis 3."

    I seem to be missing the term "volition" in Gen. 3. Is it in the original Hebrew or something? BTW, I agree he created them with "volition." I also seem to be missing out on the temporality here? Does it say "first they decided to sin and then God responded like a master chessplayer, one step ahead of them.?

    "The quote from Arminius you posted says nothing of God causing sin. It says a lot about Him allowing His creatures to sin, and without His divine providence how we wouldn't even be able to sin, and how he puts into effect our choices."

    It says God causes all things, to wit: "so that the same effect in one and the same entire action may be produced simultaneously by God and creature." Oh and "allowing" sin when you could stop it is so much better. If God determines sin then he's a meany, if he permits it though he could stop it, then he's "nice."

    "In other words, and I quote from Olson's Arminian Theology, "once God decides to permit an act, even a sinful one, He cannot consistently withhold the power to commit it." (122)

    Again, you seem to have a problem. All you're doing here is making Olson contradict himself,

    "God is the first cause of whatever happens; even a sinful act cannot occur without God as its first cause…” (Arminian Theology, p. 122).

    Apparently this means, "God is NOT the first cause of whatever happens; sinful acts CANNOT occur with God as its first cause..."

    BTW, quite citing Olson, you said you hadn't read him. To comment on books you haven't read makes you look like an over zealous hack. A know-it-all who is so sure of himself that he doesn't need to read anyone. Just like Wesely said, "No matter what Scripture teaches, it could never teach that!" I'll go you one better, I doubt you've ever read Arminius as a "primary source" considering he wrote in Latin. Furthermore, the quote you pulled was used in the Phil Johnson thread that you participated in. You pulled it from there. So, I doubt you've read Arminius. How's them apples?

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  13. Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...


    Of course God is the cause of evil; get over it.


    The sentence was linked to a series of articles where he makes a case for God being the cause of evil.

    The following is a (slightly modified) comment I left on his blog. Maybe someone would like to comment on it here.

    My comment:


    Your aticle(s) seems to support some kind of divine occasionalism/continuous creation as Jonathan Edwards seems to have held. However, I find it interesting that critics of Vincent Cheung ([who himself]subscribes to occasionalism) like Aquascum, Hays and Manata (to my knowledge all Calvinists) hesitate to accept occasionalism as necessarily true. Since, they are so theologically and philosophically capable (me being only a neophyte), I too hesitate being domatic about divine occasionalism. Even though, I can’t see why it doesn’t just necessarily follow from the fact that God not only creates all [other] things [than Himself], but continues to sustain and uphold their existence, properties and attributes. This includes the wills of immaterial sentient beings like angels and men. Cheung argues in this fashion in his (provocatively titled) book _Author of Sin_. I’m a Van Tillian myself, but on this point, I can’t seem to evade the occasionalistic implications of God’s exhaustive sovereignty.

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  14. "Even though, I can’t see why it doesn’t just necessarily follow from the fact that God not only creates all [other] things [than Himself], but continues to sustain and uphold their existence, properties and attributes."

    This is simply what Hebrews 1 teaches us. I think all Christians believe that God created all things - but not in the sense of Genesis 1. He didn't speak me into existence, create me ex-nihilo. And God upholds all things by the word of his power. There's a lot more premises needed to get you to divine occasionalism. Seems to me if one allows for secondary causation one isn't forced to accept occasionalism.

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  15. No! You were predestined to write this post! ;-) After all, `The Matrix` *must* be right, and since the Merovingian tells You that choice is an illusion, and that all that there is is causality, You just *choose* to follow him where-ever he might lead You ... :D

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  16. Hey Paul. As I said to Annoyed Pinoy in the comment thread of my linked article, I don't see any clear distinction between exhaustive divine determinism and divine occasionalism. It seems to me that if my argument is sound, then anything which instantiates in reality is exhaustively determined by God, with all secondary causation being contingent upon his own primary causation. That is to say, secondary "causation" is not causation in the strict sense; there is no causal power in secondary events, but merely the appearance of it since God causes them to be correlated in regular ways which we describe as causal.

    Obviously, this being the case, human thoughts are exhaustively determined—as you yourself seem to say in this thread. And it's hard to see how human actions or sensations can be excluded from this—which is, as far as I understand it, basically a sufficient condition for a doctrine of divine occasionalism. Am I not taking a developed enough view of occasionalism? I'll be the first to admit I could be missing something here.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  17. Dominic,

    "It seems to me that if my argument is sound, then anything which instantiates in reality is exhaustively determined by God, with all secondary causation being contingent upon his own primary causation."

    That doesn't get you to occasionalism.

    "That is to say, secondary "causation" is not causation in the strict sense; there is no causal power in secondary events, but merely the appearance of it since God causes them to be correlated in regular ways which we describe as causal."

    That's an underdetermined metaphysical claim if using only the data of Scripture. Scripture isn't a metaphysical handbook. The above doesn't follow from "God is sovereign."

    "Obviously, this being the case, human thoughts are exhaustively determined—as you yourself seem to say in this thread."

    Obviously we pour different meaning into that term.

    "And it's hard to see how human actions or sensations can be excluded from this—which is, as far as I understand it, basically a sufficient condition for a doctrine of divine occasionalism."

    It's not.

    That "God determined x" does not entail "therefore occasionalism."

    X is determined by the decree of God. A decree, strictly speaking, doesn't cause. So, the decree can't get you to occasionalism.

    "Am I not taking a developed enough view of occasionalism? I'll be the first to admit I could be missing something here."

    I think you're trying to squeeze too much juice from the Bible. As I said above, the Bible is underdetermined regarding many metaphysical, epistemological, and even ethical theories.

    Occasionalism teaches that all events are caused directly by God. I don't see how that can possibly be proven from the Bible. As I said above, secondary causation is enough to undermine it, especially if it is possible, and it is, that an omnipotent God create entities with causal powers inherent. We can't lay out the rules by which God had to create. And, with apologies to pious sentiments, it is not dishonoring to God to say that there is real secondary causation. This is more the case if you view God-causation as sui generous.

    Moreover, the nature of causation itself is a hotly disputed topic in philosophy. The Bible doesn't offer any specific theory of causation. Rather than treating the Bible as a philosophical answer book, many times it is enough that our philosophical theories are consistent with Scripture.

    Lastly, I find that your view would undermine moral responsibility. To say that it only appears that I caused an evil act, or that it only appears that I wanted to do evil, is to undermine proper ascriptions of responsibility. For these, admittedly underdeveloped, reasons, I find much of Clark and Cheung simply insufficient to handle the problem of evil and offer a viable theory of compatibilism. I don't find their explications of free will, or the answer to the problem of evil, satisfying.

    Unfortunately, I won't have a lot of time to discuss this much further.

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  18. Dominic,

    Have you read this:

    http://www.proginosko.com/aquascum/cheung.htm

    Secondly, what is your view of inerrancy. For example, your view demands that God is the only or sole cause of any non-divine thing whatever for your view to work. So, is your take, for example, on passages like this:

    “I will cause Your name to be remembered in all generations” (Ps 45:17)

    ?

    You must say that, strictly speaking, David is uttering a falsehood. So, you must say that Scripture is not affirming that David will cause the name of the Lord to be remembered. Perhaps it's due to his philosophical ignorance. But then how do you escape a Ennsian understanding of Scripture? Why can't it affirm falsehoods about the natural world due to ignorance. Or, was David speaking pheonomenologically? Is that really a viable interpretation? Would you have to do that for all these passages:

    Rom 13: 17I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

    I Cor. 8:13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

    Gal. 6:17Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

    Are these passages like the classification of the hare as a cud-chewer? What we do know is that none of these passages are, strictly speaking, true. Seems a hard pill to swallow.

    Furthermore, what of belief causation? For example, consider that a person believes:

    [1] If Mary jumps into the pool, she will get wet.

    and

    [2] Mary jumped into the pool.

    Given a person believes [1] and [2], then she will also believe

    [3] Mary got wet.

    Do [1] and [2] cause the belief that [3]? Of course, God is an ultimate cause, but if he is the only cause, then [1] and [2] do not cause [3] as a mental event.

    Continuing, since we know that divine occasionalism is a very fallible process (i.e., if God directly, and as the sole cause, causes all beliefs that happen wherever, then he causes billions of false beliefs. One what basis is it believed that we can trust inferences like [3] to infallibly be true given the that we believe [1] and [2]? In fact, do the probability calculus. What is the probability that any given belief you have will be true just in case it was caused by God? I don't know? There are billions of false beliefs and billions of true ones. So is the probability inscrutible? Seems so. Wouldn't this be a defeater for any of your beliefs?

    There are other problems, again, read the Aquascum paper, but those are some of my problems with occasionalism.

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  19. Hey Paul; I think talking at cross purposes a bit. I agree that Scripture isn't a metaphysical handbook, but I do think it gives us enough information to draw certain fairly specific conclusions. I also agree that determinism, per se, does not entail occasionalism—I presume we both take "determinism" to mean merely the thesis that all events are decreed by God, though without entailing some specific theory of causation. But what I'm talking about, which I perhaps poorly called exhaustive determinism, is the thesis which is the conclusion of my above argument: a thesis which does seem to entail a fairly specific theory of causation; namely that everything instantiated in reality (ie, not merely decreed but actually caused to exist) is instantiated by God.

    Occasionalism teaches that all events are caused directly by God. I don't see how that can possibly be proven from the Bible. As I said above, secondary causation is enough to undermine it, especially if it is possible, and it is, that an omnipotent God create entities with causal powers inherent.

    Well, I'm not sure this is right—if the very existence of something obtains only by virtue of God's continually causing it to exist, it's hard to see how one can meaningfully claim that God doesn't cause everything directly? That is basically the conclusion of my argument above. Now, perhaps I got my first premise wrong; perhaps it is saying more than can be validly said. But it doesn't seem that way to me upon consideration, so I'd need to see some kind of counter-argument.

    Moreover, the nature of causation itself is a hotly disputed topic in philosophy.

    Certainly. But I'm not sure that impacts on the argument I'm making since the manner in which God causes something doesn't seem to change the fact that he does cause it. Again, I'm open to correction on this; it just prima facie doesn't strike me as directly relevant. I'm quite happy to speak of secondary causation, but it doesn't seem sensible to me to speak of secondary causation which is not, itself, contingent upon God's primary causation.

    Lastly, I find that your view would undermine moral responsibility. To say that it only appears that I caused an evil act, or that it only appears that I wanted to do evil, is to undermine proper ascriptions of responsibility.

    Fair enough; my description was perhaps both hasty and sloppy. I am not arguing that secondary causation does not occur as causation; what I'm arguing is that it seems difficult to say that it occurs apart from a prior but different kind of causation on the part of God. That seems entirely consistent with upholding moral responsibility, but would still constitute some kind of occasionalism as I understand the term. Not that I actually care if it is occasionalism—I just want to get my labels right.

    Unfortunately, I won't have a lot of time to discuss this much further.

    Fair enough. I do appreciate you responding.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

    ReplyDelete
  20. DOMINIC BNONN TENNANT SAID:

    "Well, I'm not sure this is right—if the very existence of something obtains only by virtue of God's continually causing it to exist, it's hard to see how one can meaningfully claim that God doesn't cause everything directly?"

    While providence is sometimes depicted as a kind of continuous creation, we have to ask if that's anything more than a confused metaphor.

    i) If you believe that God is timeless, then it's not literally true that God is continually causing the creature to exist—not in terms of direct, primary causality, although a timeless God could employ secondary media to sustain the existence of a creature.

    If God is timeless, then continuous divine action is impossible, for that would involve continuous temporal action. Literally continuous creation is temporally continuously creation.

    Perhaps, though, you reject timeless eternality in favor of temporal eternality. That will require other adjustments to your system.

    ii) You also seem to be tacitly committed to the A-theory of time. But if we favor the B-theory, then God instantiates the entire history of the world in toto, by one timeless, indivisible act. He doesn’t instantiate the world incrementally, by a continuous succession of discrete divine fiats.

    Perhaps, though, it’s your considered opinion that the A-theory is preferable to be B-theory.

    Obviously, these distinctions were not in play in historical Christian theology. They build on the work of McTaggart. This may be a case where we can refine traditional formulations.

    Occasionalism naturally dovetails with a temporal God as well as an A-theory of time. Was that your intention?

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  21. Hi Steve. Actually, I hold to the B-theory of time for the precise reason that God is atemporal. But that seems to support my position rather than conflict with it. As you say:

    God instantiates the entire history of the world in toto, by one timeless, indivisible act. He doesn’t instantiate the world incrementally, by a continuous succession of discrete divine fiats.

    I agree with this. If God stands outside time, then time is a part of creation. Thus, when God instantiates the universe, he creates not merely all of space, but all of time as well. This being so, although the God-relative term "continuous creation" is a misnomer because the act is timeless and indivisible, it does seem to be the case that this creative act caused every state of the universe at every moment of its internal existence. And that in turn certainly seems consistent with creation-relative descriptions of God "upholding" the universe—since all moments in time occur because of his timeless act in eternity, certainly those moments are "upheld" by him.

    I'm not sure how this view of God's causative action upon creation can be construed as anything other than a kind of occasionalism from a creation-relative perspective, though. Unless, as I say, I've misconstrued what occasionalism argues. If everything which obtains in creation is instantiated in God's timeless creative act, then certainly our beliefs, thoughts, acts, feelings and so on are part of that instantiation.

    One difficulty I do see with the B-theory of time, though, is that the Bible strongly suggests that the universe extends infinitely into the future. Now, that wouldn't be a problem under A-theory, since the incremental moments being added only entail a potential infinite; but under B-theory all of time stands actually instantiated in eternity, which in turn implies an actual infinite. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    With regard to Paul's objection that occasionalism ought to function as a defeater to having any true beliefs (including the belief in occasionalism), I must confess bemusement. It reminds me of the Arminian claim that belief in predestination ought to function as a defeater to evangelism. I just don't follow—and I didn't when I first read it in the exchange with Cheung some time ago.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  22. "Probably 99% of all their critiques of Calvinism stem from the assumption of libertarian free will."

    Yah, right. 99% of critiques surely stem from all the biblical data contrary to the calvinist position. For example, the tons of verses that certainly look to most rational people like they contradict the P in TULIP. Or the total lack of verses outlining the L in TULIP. Or the strained logic applied to scripture to support the T.

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  23. I'm glad you guys brought up issues I was going to. So, I'll just get into it.

    Paul said:

    One what basis is it believed that we can trust inferences like [3] to infallibly be true given the that we believe [1] and [2]? In fact, do the probability calculus. What is the probability that any given belief you have will be true just in case it was caused by God?

    It seems to me that we can trust inferences like the one above based on God's general revelation and general (not special) providence along with God's special revelation concerning both. We know (by God's promises, covenants and generally revealed plan for creation that) there are usually predictable ways in which God's providence brings things to pass. Based on that knowledge, we can infer that things will continue to occur *uniform*ly unless God "intervenes" (special providence) (say in answer to prayer for something to go contrary to God's usual providence).

    Again, not being dogmatic about occasionalism, I would second DBT's comment " I am not arguing that secondary causation does not occur as causation; what I'm arguing is that it seems difficult to say that it occurs apart from a prior but different kind of causation on the part of God.

    I too lean toward a B-theory of time and it's relation to God's eternality. It seems to me that temporal eternality (requring A-theory of time) has Arianistic implications, and so I lean away from it. Yet, in all honesty, it seems to me that timeless eternality (implying B-theory) has panentheistic and/or emanationalistic implications. Along with creation being corellatively eternal with God. Anyone know a good resource that'll help me deal with these two issues?



    Finally, can anyone quickly explain what an "Ennsian understanding of Scripture" means?

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  24. AP,

    "It seems to me that we can trust inferences like the one above based on God's general revelation and general (not special) providence along with God's special revelation concerning both. We know (by God's promises, covenants and generally revealed plan for creation that) there are usually predictable ways in which God's providence brings things to pass. Based on that knowledge, we can infer that things will continue to occur *uniform*ly unless God "intervenes" (special providence) (say in answer to prayer for something to go contrary to God's usual providence)."

    Um, besides the questionable exegesis from Gen. 6 as if it were some kind of explananation about induction and the uniformity of nature, the answer's simpler. We can trust tghe inference because if the premises are true, the conclusion must be. Anyway, it's a fairly standard claim that belief in [1] and [2] cause [3]. But, above it was denied that there was any cause besides God, then the claims got changed. I can only go with what I'm given. (I also don't know what it means to say that God could make modus ponens invalid.)

    Now, Cheung says, "To summarize, God acts directly on the mind and conveys information directly to it on the occasions when one is experiencing physical sensations, but God acts on the mind and conveys this information always apart from the sensations themselves. Even the act of reading the Scripture depends on Christ the divine logos, and not our senses."

    So you see, [1] and [2] wouldn't cause [3]. But this seems highly counter-intuitive, goes against the grain of most non-materialist philosophers of mind, and the above claim from Cheung is underdetermined from the data in Scripture. None of what he says can be deduced from the bible. None of it.

    "Again, not being dogmatic about occasionalism, I would second DBT's comment " I am not arguing that secondary causation does not occur as causation; what I'm arguing is that it seems difficult to say that it occurs apart from a prior but different kind of causation on the part of God."

    Again, occasionalism has nothing to do with it, dogmatic or otherwise. First, why think we have a proper occasionalism when we have actual, real secondary causation? Second, as I said above, this is so vague that all Christians could agree with it. So you, and DBT, aren't saying anything substantive by it.

    You wondered how occasionalism didn't follow: it doesn't follow if you hold to actual, real secondary causation. You guys have answered your own question. See, Cheung says things like this: “Therefore, it is correct to say that he alone is the cause of all things.” This is what you need for global occasionalism. But you have disagreed and admitted to secondary causation. So it's hard to see how occasionalism, O, follows from (a) God is the ultimate cause of all things, and his causation is sui generous, and (b) there is also genuine, real causation on the creaturely level. (a) + (b) don't = O. At least it's not been shown how. At best, it appears there's some odd, underdeveloped view being called occasionalism here.

    "Finally, can anyone quickly explain what an "Ennsian understanding of Scripture" means?"

    It doesn't matter much now since DBT admitted to real secondary causation. I was referring to Peter Ens. If there was not actual causation other than God I then wondered we were to take those passages that mentioned causes other than God. I wondered what view of inerrency one held. Those statements were, strictly speaking, false on philosophcial grounds. So I wondered if one would have to hold a view like Ens or McGowan and claim that Scripture can err according to our modern understanding of truth and error. So, that's why Scripture writers could affirm as true an acient, three-tierd model of the cosmos. So I wondered if you'd need to invoke this kind of take on inerrency to answer the passages which speak of people besides God causing things. I then wondered if one might just say that they were speaking phenomenologically, but I concluded that that seems an odd view on all those passages.

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  25. Dominic,

    I'm busy now so I'll have to content myself with two brief observations:

    i) When God instantiates the totality, that includes the internal causality of the universe. He instantiates the mundane agents and agencies (second causes) by his creative fiat. So it isn't a choice of either primary causality or secondary causality. The former instantiates the latter.

    ii) I don't object to the idea of an actual infinite, per se. The usual objection is to a concrete actual infinite over against an abstract actual infinite on the grounds that it's impossible to reach an actual concrete infinite through incremental steps (e.g. a temporal process).

    If however, you combine the B-theory of time with a divine Creator of the spacetime continuum, then this negates that particular objection.

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