Before I respond to Reppert’s latest comments about Calvinism, I think we need to define our terms. Reppert’s objection actually consists of several different objections bundled into one. So we have to disambiguate the objections. And, by way of preliminaries, we need to define what a possible world is, as well as what makes it possible.
In freewill theism, a possible world is frequently indexed to the ability of the human agent. The ability of a human agent to do or choose otherwise. And that forking path is captured by two or more possible worlds or world-segments.
In Calvinism, by contrast, the freedom to do otherwise is indexed to the ability of God to do or choose otherwise.
Both Calvinism and freewill theism make room for possible worlds, but ground them in different agents.
In Calvinism, a possible world is God’s mental narrative of a possible world history. A complete, coherent story.
Put another way, a possible world is a measure of what God can possibly think (omniscience) and possibly do (omnipotence). How many different global stories can an infinite mind coherently imagine?
Not all possibilities are compossible. The same story can’t contain mutually exclusive events. But up to a point, the same story can have alternate endings–after which you have two different stories.
Because not all possibilities are compossible, this gives rise to alternate histories or alternate timelines. An alternate past or future. The only upper limit is what is conceivable for the mind of God.
Predestination involves God’s decision to instantiate a possible world.
However, predestination can also be recast in counterfactual terms. It was possible for Judas to remain faithful to Christ in the sense that it was possible for God conceive of, and therefore, to decree that alternate outcome. Different possible outcomes are both conceivable and decreeable. For God knows what God is capable of doing. And there’s no one thing that God is capable of doing.
You could say that God’s decree selects from a range of possible worlds. But you could also say that God’s decree selects from a range of decreeable worlds. A distinction between the actual decree and unexemplified decrees. For every possible world is a decreeable world.
Now for Reppert:
It is not clear that Calvinists have the motivation to evanglize based on the truth of certain subjunctive-conditional claims concerning what the oucome will be if they do or do not evanglize.The reason is that, given what God has predestined, the future is closed.
True. But we need to explicate that concept:
i) It is closed for the human agent. And, given the decree, it cannot turn out either way.
However, this doesn’t mean the decree was a given. God was free to decree otherwise. In that respect, the future was open for him (God).
ii) Yes, the future is closed, but not in isolation to past and present conditions. What you have, rather, is a system of internal relations. Changing one variable entails corresponding adjustments.
Suppose Smith witnesses to Jones and Jones is saved. Smith, however, has struggled with getting up the courage to witness to Jones. He wonders if it will make a difference as to Jones' salvation whether he preaches or not. He knows that his preaching will not cause Jones to become one of the elect, since the elect were chosen unconditionally before the foundation of the world.
i) True. But this doesn’t mean the outcome is insulated from prior conditions (unless it’s the direct effect of a miracle).
ii) Yes, there’s an asymmetry between divine and human agency. However, to take an illustration, a backlit tree casts a shadow. The sun causes the shadow, not vice versa. But barring a miracle, you can’t eliminate the shadow while you leave the other variables intact.
Can the statement "If I don't witness to Jones, Jones won't be saved" be true if in fact Jones has either been unconditionally elected or unconditionally reprobated.
It is true if God has decreed that Smith’s testimony is instrumental in Jones’ conversion.
Perhaps Reppert is tripped up by the notion of “unconditionality.”
What this means, however, is that there are no autonomous human variables which condition God’s elective act.
By contrast, this doesn’t mean there are no teleological conditions which God himself has decreed as instrumental factors in the realization of his appointed ends.
What would make such a statement true or false? Any world in which Jones doesn't witness is a world which God did not predestine. Asking the counterfactual question is assume that there are other possible worlds, but there are no other possible worlds.
There are other possible, decreeable worlds in which Jones doesn’t witness to Smith, as a result of which Smith goes to hell (in that other possible decreeable world).
A possible world is a set of logical compossibilities. The fact that it’s indeterminate (in the sense that God didn’t decree to instantiate that mental narrative) in no way renders it logically impossible. God can conceive of many things he never decreed.
The statement is false in relation to the actual world (assuming, ex hypothesi, that Jones is instrument in the conversion of Smith in the actual world), but true in relation to one or more possible worlds which encapsulate the alternate outcome.
Ultimately what you are asking if you are asking the counterfactual question of "What would have happened if I had not witnessed" is to ask "What would God have predestined to have happen to Jones if God hadn't predestined that I should witness to him?" I can't see how to make sense of the statement "In the nearest possible world in which I don't witness to Jones, Jones is reprobated." Is there even such a possible world?
Why does Reppert find that puzzling? Does Reppert suppose, on Calvinist assumptions, that God can’t imagine a reprobate counterpart to an elect Jones?
Perhaps the underlying problem is that freewill theism hasn’t given much thought to divine agency. It is too preoccupied with human action theory.
For freewill theism, God exists to grant our wishes. Our personal, customized genie. But we mustn’t pop the bottle too often lest he (or she!) decide that life in a bottle is a bit confining.
The irony of freewill theism is that, by debasing God, it debases man. the creature of a lesser God is a lesser creature. The creature of a greater God is a greater creature.
A painting by da Vinci is a greater painting than a painting by Andy Warhol–because da Vinci is a greater artist. Indeed, there’s a sense in which a da Vinci painting is greater than Warhol himself.
It seems that, when we deliberate and decide, it seems to us, and must seem to us, as if the future is genuinely open, that we can choose one thing or another, and that no particular choice of ours is guaranteed. We envision what the world will look like if we do one thing, and envision what the world will look like when we do another thing. Both possibilities seem open to us when we decide. But if Calvinistic determinism is true (and by the way I once did a post arguing that you could be a five-point Calvinists and a libertarian on free will), then in fact there aren't any possible worlds in which we do anything other than what we do, so long as God's predestinating is determined by his nature.
This is confused on several grounds:
i) Report is shifting from the metaphysics of modality to the psychology of deliberation. Perhaps he assumes the ontological availability of these hypothetical outcomes is what underwrites our deliberations.
But even on its own terms, how can that be the case? In his bedroom, at 10:01 PM, May 18, Brad decides to take Tiffany Hofsteder to the prom. In the bedroom next door, at 10:01 PM, May 18, Chad decides to take Tiffany Hofsteder to the prom.
Well, they can’t both have her as their prom date, now can they? So the psychology of human deliberation severely underwrites the ontology of libertarian freedom.
Does Reppert really think that we can do whatever we can imagine? Wouldn’t that turn the world into a futuristic amusing park where every wish comes true? Sounds like fun, but in my experience, reality is far less adventurous.
ii) Yes, there are possible worlds in which we do something else. That doesn’t make those are live possibilities for us, in this world. Does Reppert think every imaginable choice is a viable option?