Saturday, June 06, 2009

Choosing the future

According to the typical Arminian, you can’t make a real choice unless the future is open-ended. And since they think people do make real choices–as they define it–they think the future is open-ended.

But what about the future? Men make plans for the future. What will I do tomorrow? Or next week? Or next year?

That involves making short-term or long-term choice’s about the future. Resolving on what you’re going to do.

Long-term plans involve shot-terms plans. You choose to do something on Friday. In order to do that, there may also be something you need to do on Thursday. Take wedding plans, in involve a series of preliminary events leading up to the grand event. Preparations.

But there’s a catch. All of us are mortal. Our earthly future will come to an end. Yet most of us don’t know when we will die. As a result, most of us end up making premortem plans for the postmorem future. Plans for a future in which they’re dead. All the things they’re going to do, which–due to the little mishap of death–they will never do. Never have a chance to do.

As a result, most of us make plans for a closed future. Even if you’re a libertarian, the future is only-ended to you as long as you exist in the future. Once you die, your future slams shut. There is still a future, but it doesn’t include you. It doesn’t include your choices. Yet that doesn’t prevent you from making plans for a closed future.

(From a Christian standpoint, you have a future in the afterlife. But I’m discussing plans we make about what we’ll do in this life–and not the world to come.)

Take James Dean. Dean was one of those Hollywood celebrities who died young. He died on September 30, 1955–at the tender age of 24.

Yet Dean surely had plans that extended beyond September 30, 1955. I assume he expected to go to bed that night and wake up the next morning. I assumed he was planning to do something with his time on October 1, 1955.

In his shortsighted outlook, he still had his entire life ahead of him. Decades to pencil in. So many choices! So many opportunities!

For example, Dean intended to play Billy the Kid in The Left Handed Gun. After he died, the part went to Paul Newman.

Soldiers do this all the time. They write letters home, discussing what they plan to do with their life once they return home. Write love letters to their sweetheart. That’s what keeps them going from day to day. The prospect of what they’ll do when they get back home.

Yet, sad to say, some of them, many of them, die on a foreign battlefield. And they know, at the time they write, that they may not live to write another letter–much less live to marry their sweetheart and start a family.

So most all of us make plans that overshoot the mark. We plan for a future which will never be. And that’s true for libertarians. What is more, libertarians knowing plan for a future which will never come to pass. Knowingly plan for a closed future.

Libertarians are mortal. They know that sooner or later they will die. Most of them don’t know when the will die. They don’t know the day or the week or the month. Yet this doesn’t prevent them from planning for tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. They plan for a closed future just as if it were an open future. Exactly the same mental deliberations. The same psychological process. Even though they know full well that sooner or later, the future they plan for is a closed future.

Are libertarians fooling themselves? Are they self-deluded?

Harsh Realm

I’m beginning to wonder if certain SF scenarios aren’t fostering an irrational skepticism among some believers and unbelievers. In SF scenarios like The Matrix, Harsh Realm, and Dark City, most of the human inhabitants are systematically deluded about the real world. Does this mean that you and I can be thoroughly deluded about the external world?

There are several problems with that inference:

i) Even in these SF scenarios, there is a real world. An objective, extramental world outside the subjective illusion.

ii) The ability to imagine delusive thought-experiments doesn’t mean that you can actually be deluded about the external world. Rather, that only means you can imagine yourself to be deluded about the external world.

I can imagine many things. I can imagine that I’m Superman. Does that mean I can be Superman?

iii) Finally, appeal to SF scenarios of this type is too one-sided. Yes, there are SF scenarios in which a person is fed false memories or virtual stimuli. And these are the only memories he ever had. That’s the only “world” he’s ever known.

But as SF buffs surely know, there are also SF scenarios in which we have the opposite phenomenon. For example, we have futuristic espionage scenarios in which an “asset” is kidnapped, sedated, and fed virtual stimuli.

In this virtual world, his actual memories remain intact. However, his actual memories are at odds with his virtual past.

The only way for him to escape is to divulge classified information to virtual characters–who seem utterly real. And the “escape” is, itself, a virtual illusion.

The point of this experiment is to make the asset doubt himself. He begins to question his memories. As a result, he starts to lower his resistance.

He would never voluntarily divulge classified information to an actual interrogator, but within the virtual world he’s no longer sure who he can trust or distrust–because he can no longer trust himself. Or so he thinks.

Although the asset begins to question everything he used to believe, that doesn’t alter the fact that he retains accurate memories of the real world. He doesn’t cease to know what the real world is like just because he begins to harbor doubts. It’s possible to doubt what you know–even though you know it.

A Divided Front: Libertarians at odds with each other on the doctrine of PAP

In the many debates we've had with Arminians here, every singly one of them has brought up PAP (principle of alternative possibilities) as necessary for moral responsibility, and an obvious intuition that only one committed to determinism could deny.

However, many indeterminists deny PAP. Increasingly more and more, in fact.

Here's a few representative samples:

William Lane Craig: "But as you note, I’m a libertarian who thinks that causal determinism is incompatible with freedom. That doesn’t imply that I hold to the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP), which states that a free agent has in a set of circumstances the ability to choose A or not-A. I’m persuaded that so long as an agent’s choice is not causally determined, it doesn’t matter if he can actually make a choice contrary to how he does choose. Suppose that God has decided to create you in a set of circumstances because He knew that in those circumstances you would make an undetermined choice to do A. Suppose further that had God instead known that if you were in those circumstances you would have made an undetermined choice to do not-A, then God would not have created you in those circumstances (maybe it would have loused up His providential plan!). In that case you do not have the ability in those circumstances to make the choice of not-A, but nevertheless your choice of A is, I think, clearly free, for it is causally unconstrained—it you who determines that A will be done. So the ability to do otherwise is not a necessary condition of free choice."

Michael Bergmann: "One thing that makes Frankfurt’s proposed counterexample to PAP interesting is that it is supposed to be successful even if the sort of moral responsibility at issue is fairly robust – i.e., of the sort in which an incompatibilist and not merely a compatibilist is interested. Recently, however, Frankfurt’s criticism of PAP has come under attack precisely because it (supposedly) fails when the focus is full-blooded moral responsibility of the sort that incompatibilists care about.[ii] The suggestion is that such counterexamples to PAP are successful only if one assumes the falsity of incompatibilism.

In this paper, I will defend Frankfurt’s criticism against this charge. My aim is to design a Frankfurt-style counterexample to PAP that doesn’t take for granted the falsity of incompatibilism."

David Hunt: "For example, if I murder someone, and in so doing satisfy the most exacting conditions for free will, except that an irresistible power (a demon, crazed neurologist, etc.) would have forced me to murder the person if I hadn’t done so on my own, this last factor does not appear to mitigate my responsibility in the least. Here no alternative to murder is available to me (so PAP is unsatisfied), but I am nevertheless free and responsible for what I do, since the factor excluding alternatives makes no causal contribution to my actions, and indeed makes no difference to what actually happens. The same can be said in cases involving divine foreknowledge. God’s foreknowledge of the murder may make it unavoidable, but it does so without making any causal contribution to murder, which would have occurred just as it did in the absence of divine foreknowledge."

--David Hunt, ‘On Augustine’s Way Out’, Faith and Philosophy, Volume 16, Number 1, (January 1999), 17.

Linda Zagzebski: some philosophers have argued that PAP is false even if we have libertarian free will. I have given such an argument (Zagzebski 1991), as has David Hunt (1999). Hunt (1996b, 1999) argues that the rejection of PAP from the perspective of a defender of libertarian freedom can be found in Augustine, but even if that is true, it is not a position historically associated with Augustine. The literature that clearly distinguishes the claim that free will requires alternate possibilities from the claim that free will requires the falsehood of determinism is contemporary. The former is a thesis about events in counterfactual circumstances, whereas the latter is a thesis about the locus of causal control in the actual circumstances. Aside from the foreknowledge literature, support for the rejection of PAP from the perspective of a free will/determinism incompatibilist can be found in Stump (1990, 1996), Zagzebski (2000), and Pereboom (2000).

Eleonore Stump: "Some defenders of the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP) have responded to the challenge of Frankfurt-style counterexamples (FSCs) to PAP by arguing that there remains a flicker of freedom -- that is, an alternative possibility for action -- left to the agent in FSCs. I argue that the flicker of freedom strategy is unsuccessful. The strategy requires the supposition that doing an act-on-one''s-own is itself an action of sorts. I argue that either this supposition is confused and leads to counter-intuitive results; or, if the supposition is acceptable, then it is possible to use it to construct a FSC in which there is no flicker of freedom at all. Either way, the flicker of freedom strategy is ineffective against FSCs. Since the flicker of freedom strategy is arguably the best defense of PAP, I conclude that FSCs are successful in showing that PAP is false. An agent can act with moral responsibility without having alternative possibilities available to her."

--Eleonore Stump, 'Alternative possibilities and moral responsibility: The flicker of freedom.' (1999) Journal of Ethics 3 (4):299-324.

Friday, June 05, 2009

How do you know?

"One naive objection to the axiom of revelation
crops up repeatedly: Don’t I have to read the Bible?
Don’t I have to know that I have a book in my
hands and that that book is the Bible? Don’t I have
to rely on the senses to obtain revelation?
First, this objection begs the epistemological
question, How does one know, by assuming that
one knows by means of the senses. But that is the
conclusion that ought to be proved. The proper
response to these questions is another series of
questions: How do you know you have a book in
your hands? How do you know that you are reading
it? What is sensation? What are perceptions? What
is abstraction? Tell us how some things called
sensations become the idea of God. The naive
question – Don’t you have to read the Bible? –
assumes that empiricism is true. It ignores all the
arguments demonstrating the cognitive failure of

There are two basic problems with this riposte:

i) How do we know the arguments demonstrating the failure of empiricism? By what means, apart from sensory perception, do we come to know what those arguments are? How do we attain an irrefutable knowledge of these irrefutable arguments?

ii) How can a Clarkian ask “How do you know you have a book in your hands?” unless a Clarkian knows what a book is, and what a hand is? How did the Clarkian acquire his knowledge of sensory objects like books and hands–without which he couldn’t formulate a skeptical question about books and hands? How did a Clarkian acquire his knowledge of the English language–without which he couldn’t formulate a skeptical question in English?

The problem is not with question of the empiricist, but the question of the Clarkian. The problem is not with what the empiricist assumes, but what the Clarkian assumes in the very process of trying to deny his operating assumption.

The Clarkian couldn’t question the existence of hands and books unless he had some prior knowledge of what these were. Does the Clarkian think we’re born with a knowledge of books and hands? Are we born knowing every book in the Library of Congress?

Innate knowledge

“Now, it seems to me that even the skimpy material in Genesis is sufficient to refute empiricism with its
blank mind…Even apart from the explicit statements in the New Testament, Genesis says that God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. Since at that time they had no sensory experience of other people, must they not have had some innate intelligence to understand this command? Of course, an empiricist might insist that they had learned the meaning from observing animals. But this assumes that a fair length of time intervened between the creation of Adam and God’s imposition
of the obligation. One can better suppose that God gave instructions to Adam more immediately. This is rather obviously true of Genesis 2:16, 17. The command was given only moments after the creation. Of course, such a command was not a
priori knowledge, but the intellectual equipment to understand it was.”

I myself don’t object to the idea that man possesses a certain amount of innate knowledge. That said, Clark’s exegetical inference suffers from two or three basic problems:

1.Clark is resorting to induction. He’s drawing a universal inference from a sampling of just two human beings!

2.Another problem with Clark’s argument from analogy is the fact that the situation of Adam and Eve is, in some degree, sui generis. They didn’t pass through the usual process of conception, gestation, childhood, and adolescence to reach maturity. Rather, they were created as adults. They were grown-ups without growing up. So, to be functional adults, they would have to be equipped with a fair amount of innate knowledge.

But Clark cannot validly extrapolate from their unique creation to the experience of their posterity–for there are some fundamental disanalogies between our situation and theirs.

3.In addition, Adam and Eve didn’t have the Bible. They didn’t even have the Book of Genesis.

So their experience is diametrically at odds with Scripturalism, according to which all knowledge is derivable from Scripture.

Christian discourse

Reading through his introduction to Jude, I see that Gene Green confirms something I’ve been saying for years: the use of judgmental, ad hominem language to characterize your theological opponents is a part of Biblical discourse. As such, there’s no reason to treat this mode of discourse as inherently unchristian or unscriptural. Of course, certain conditions must be met to justify this usage.

“We can recognize in Jude’s rhetorical strategy the use of techniques common to vituperatio, the ‘rhetoric of slander’ (Johnson 1989: 420), which was the counterpoint to laudatio, the praise of noble character and deeds. As du Toit (1994: 403) observes, ‘Vilifying your opponent, like praising your addressees, has through the centuries been a useful persuasive weapon from the arsenal of a skilled speaker or writer.’ Vituperatio was a recognized skill that was even taught to students or rhetoric,” G. Green, Jude & 2 Peter (Baker 2008), 20-21).

“Jude’s rhetorical strategy is clearly formative as well. He wants the readers to continue in Christian virtue and avoid the vice of the heretics. He does not intend to persuade the heretics. In vituperatio, a person would employ well-known topoi in the denunciation of others…These themes were so well used that they even became part of the syllabus of rhetoric. Jewish rhetoric likewise employed vilification for similar ends…the categories used in Jewish rhetoric were quite similar to the gentile counterparts, even among Palestinian Jews (Johnson 1989:434-41),” ibid. 21.

“In light of ancient techniques of vilification, how should we read Jude’s denunciation of his opponents? Analyzing Jude along with 2 Peter in the light of speech act theory, du Toit (1994: 403) states, ‘For many a long day the performative dimension of language has been neglected in favor of the propositional. This is also true for NT studies. We have too long neglected the fact that in one way or another each of these writings seeks to persuade its readers/audience in a certain direction. To ask what a NT text is doing is at least as important as asking what it is saying.” He concludes, “Ideological literature works with contrasts; it does not seek the neutral middle-field. It creates heroes and villains’,” ibid. 21-22.

“So while the standard denunciations were employed in vituperatio, they could become specific when directed at a particular case. This is precisely what happens in Jude…Jude employs these conventional charges in ways specific to the situation his readers faced,” ibid. 22.

Arminian favoritism

”Steve Hays recently called Arminians (and Josh in particular) hypocrites for not opposing my teaching eternal security. (link) It’s unclear if he means they should oppose eternal security (since he cites case where Josh does) or if Steve means they should oppose me personally.”

i) Actually, they shouldn’t oppose eternal security. They should espouse eternal security (or perseverance)–along with the other four points of Calvinism.

ii) However, my point, which I clearly made in my original, is that they ought to apply a consistent standard.

“Steve, please consider assuming a more charitable reason other than hypocrisy for the lack of personal opposition.”

I’ll consider a more charitable interpretation if and when they offer a principled explanation for why they play favorites.

But it’s not as if Josh, for one, left himself much elbowroom. To the contrary, he went out of his way to state his opposition in the most uncompromising terms he could muster.

“Faith isn’t a choice; it’s a result of one. Repentance is a choice, but faith is not. So I disagree the inception and continuation of faith are the same.”

Several problems:

i) Dan needs to explain how repentance is in voluntary, but faith is involuntary. He needs to explain how that dichotomy is psychologically tenable.
ii) He also needs to defend his dichotomy from Scripture.

iii) In addition, he needs to explain how faith is not a choice, but merely a result of choice. Even on libertarian grounds, how does this work out? How do we believe something unless we find it believable? And if we find it believable, then don’t we already believe it? Likewise, how do we disbelieve something unless we find it unbelievable? And if we find it unbelievable, then don’t we already disbelieve it?

So where does choice come into play? Does Dan think we choose to find something believable or unbelievable? Is that a psychologically realistic claim?

iv) Even if we accept Dan’s distinction, it’s a distinction without a difference. If faith is the result of a free choice (“free” in libertarian terms), then we control the resultant faith by controlling the choice which results in faith.

This does nothing to avoid my point that, on libertarian grounds, an individual is free to either believe in Christ or disbelieve in Christ.

v) Apropos (iv), how does perseverant faith differ from saving faith? Doesn’t saving faith require us to repent of our sins and trust in Christ? Doesn’t perseverant faith require us to repent of our sins and trust in Christ?

Why is conversion ultimately voluntary (i.e. the result of a libertarian choice), but perseverance is ultimately involuntary (i.e. not the result of a libertarian choice)?

Why does the freedom to do otherwise apply to conversion, but not to perseverance?

“On the other hand, we are warned about neglecting not just repudiating salvation (Heb 2:1-3). We can slip away, like a ring slipping off a finger.”

Meaning what? Apostasy? But Dan denies that this is a live possibility. And if he’s referring to something which falls short of apostasy, then it’s irrelevant to the point at issue.

“So while I am not suggesting we should be passive about perseverance or maintaining faith, I am suggesting conversion and continuation are asymmetrical. I think the way it works is that as we work, we see God working in our lives and it strengthens our faith.”

If anything, the libertarian logic of this would be just the opposite: to the extent that perseverance is cooperative in a way that conversion is not, perseverance would be voluntary in a way that conversions is not.

“I don’t disagree with non-OSAS Arminians on warning passages. I disagree with them on security passages and also in systematization.”

That’s disingenuous. Because he disagrees with them on “security passages,” he also disagrees with them on warning passage–since he interprets the warning passages in light of the security passages, contrary to the way in which they interpret warning passages.

“But I do hold we can fall away, I just don’t think we will.”

Of course, that’s a dodge. It sidesteps the question of why we won’t. We won’t because something is preventing us, keeping us, from falling. The “can’t” underwrites the “won’t.” The “won’t” is the effect of the “can’t.”
Without the “can’t,” you have no “won’t.”

All in the family

Catholic apologists often belabor the alleged scandal of a divided Christendom. According to them, unbelievers are scandalized by the fact that Christians can’t get along with one another. That, so we’re told, is a major reason why many unbelievers are unbelievers in the first place. Christian divisions are a major turn-off. This is what drives many unbelievers away from the church, away from the faith.

If every Christian were Catholic, if every Christian belonged to the church of Rome, then this would remove a major obstacle which impedes many unbelievers from coming to the faith.

What are we to make of this argument. From what I’ve read, Catholic apologists never get beyond the ecumenical abstraction. They’re in love with the idea of ecumenical reunion. But they don’t stop to think through the practical consequences of their position.

Why is that? Well, they take this position because they’re supposed to. That’s the official position of their church. The party line. It’s your duty to say that.

For Catholic apologists, ecumenical reunion is a wonderful and dutiful ideal which all of us should all strive to turn into a concrete reality.

But let’s pause a moment to consider the reaction of outsider or unbelievers if this actually took place.

Suppose we conducted one of those impromptu, man-on-the-street surveys in which we random interview pedestrians in Times Square. We begin by asking if they’re Christian.

If they answer in the affirmative, we don’t ask any further questions. The purpose of this survey is to poll the opinions of unbelievers, not professing believers. The folks who are allegedly offended by the scandal of sectarianism.

Having eliminated the professing believers, we pose a couple of follow-up questions for the admitted unbelievers. Suppose it took the form of a verbal, free association test.

Suppose we began by asking our friendly pedestrian a question like: “When you think of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, what’s the first word that comes to mind?”

I daresay that in many or most cases, the average pedestrian would draw a blank. They have no opinion of the OPC. That’s the first time they ever heard of the OPC.

Suppose we followed up that question by asking our friendly pedestrian, “When you think of the Roman Catholic Church, what’s the first word that comes to mind?”

I suspect that we’d score far more hits on that question. Many people have an opinion about the Catholic church. The Catholic church is a very famous institution. For many, indeed, it’s not merely famous–but positively infamous.

It’s constantly covered in the national and international news. In addition, the Catholic church is the explicit or implicit backdrop for countless movies, TV dramas, and TV sitcoms. And much of this treatment is hostile to Catholicism.

You also have a lot of lapsed Catholics with strong opinions about they church they left.

So the notorious reputation of the Catholic church precedes it. For the moment, I’m not discussing whether popular impressions of the Catholic church are fair or unfair, true or false. That’s not the point.

Remember the original argument. Unbelievers are said to be scandalized by divisions within Christendom. If only all of the “separated brethren” came back home, returned to Mother Church, then that would be a powerful witness to an unbelieving world. That would solidify our witness to the unbelieving world.

So this is an argument based on public perception. Subjective impressions.

But in that case we need to ask ourselves, when unbelievers think of the Catholic church, what do they think of? What associations spring to mind?

At the risk of stating the obvious, many unbelievers have very negative opinions of the Catholic church. The Catholic church has an image problem.

They regard the Catholic church as a sexist and homophobic institution. They think of the Crusades and the Inquisition. They think of pedophile priests. They disapprove of its positions on contraception and abortion. And so on and so forth.

In brief, many unbelievers are offended by what, in their own mind, the Catholic church stands for.

Even if, for the sake of argument, you think they suffer from an ignorant misimpression of what the Catholic church really stands for, that’s irrelevant to the point at issue. Remember the original argument: unbelievers are said to be offended by divisions within Christendom. The way to remove this stumbling block is to heal the divisions by reuniting with the Catholic church.

But if many unbelievers, rightly or wrongly, are offended by the Catholic church, then this is not a recipe for winning converts to the Christian cause. To the contrary, that would be quite counterproductive.

For many unbelievers, “Catholic” is a loaded word. By contrast, “Presbyterian” may be neutral, simply because they know next to nothing about Presbyterians.

Suppose a Presbyterian were to become a Catholic. He would instantly inherit all of the sodden baggage that’s associated with the Catholic church.

Moreover, it’s not as if the Catholic church presents a solid front. The Catholic church has very lax standards of membership. Take the case of Hans Küng. Küng is a famous Catholic dissident. Yet Küng has never been excommunicated. Indeed, Küng has never been defrocked. He’s still a priest in good standing.

If every Christian belonged to the same denomination–in this case, the Catholic church–you’d still have high profile dissidents within the membership. You’d still have lots of in-fighting. Internecine warfare–which the news media would be more than happy to headline.

Yes, Catholic apologists try to distinguish between the unity of the Church’s official teaching and renegades like Küng. But even if you think that’s a theoretically coherent way to harmonize the internal divisions, remember the target audience. The question at issue is not how someone who is already a pious Catholic can finesse these internal divisions, but how that appears to the outside world. To someone not automatically sympathetic to Rome. Indeed, to someone who may well be antagonistic to Catholic church.

Or take the case of Catholic celebrities like Ted Kennedy. Many Catholic politicians disregard their Church’s teaching on abortion with complete impunity. So it’s not as if the public image of modern Catholicism is distinguished by its show of unity.

Furthermore, if every Christian were Catholic, then every Christian scandal would be a Catholic scandal. That would further tarnish the already tarnished image of Christendom.

Does the Catholic church really want to add all of the televangelists to its roster? Would having Jim and Tammy Faye, John Hagee, Benny Hinn, Peter Popoff, Jimmy Swaggart, Robert Tilton, Jeremiah Wright, et al. on the membership rolls burnish its public image?

Finally, to consider just one additional issue, the Catholic church is already a multi-billion dollar corporation. And if all professing believers were members, that would double its size.

Because the Catholic church is so huge, it has to process billions of dollars a year. That creates an incentive of corporate accounting scandals which utterly dwarf many middling and piddling Protestant churches.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Prolife purism

Some Christians are prolife purists. They don’t think you should try to do anything unless you try to do everything. You shouldn’t try to save any babies unless you try to save every baby–even if that isn’t a realistic possibility. As a result, they sacrifice innocent life on the altar of their ideological purity.

Let’s begin with a comparison. Should I save the life of a drowning swimmer? Should I save any drowning swimmer unless I save every drowning swimmer?

Well, it all depends.

1.To begin with, someone may be at risk of drowning because he’s a weak swimmer. In a case like that, if you’re a strong swimmer, then you’re at no particular risk of drowning if you dive in to save him.

On the other hand, someone may be at risk of drowning because he was caught in a rip-current, or because he fell into the rapids while he was rafting, or because a shark attacked him.

In that case, you may be assuming the same risk if you dive in to save him.

Likewise, someone may be at risk of drowning if he took a foolish risk. If he was responding to a dare.

2.That brings us to the next point.

Our social obligations vary from person to person.

i) In some cases, it’s a pretty risk-free endeavor to save a drowning swimmer. All things being equal, if you can save him, you should.

ii) Even then, there are exceptions. Suppose a convicted murderer escapes prison. Suppose I’m a deputy. I’m in hot pursuit.

The convict is on foot. To avoid apprehension, he jumps off a bridge. But the water is turbulent, and he’s in danger of drowning. Is it my duty to jump in to try and save his life?

No. There’s no reason I should risk my life to save his life. Not in the case of a convicted murderer.

iii) Suppose someone is a risk of drowning because he did something foolhardy. Should I put myself at risk to save him?

Not necessarily. It’s tragic if he dies, but his reckless action doesn’t obligate me to take a similar risk. He’s responsible for his own actions. And I, too, must be a responsible steward of the life that God has given me.

If someone does something reckless, he can’t expect someone else to put himself in danger to save him from the perilous consequences of his foolhardy behavior.

For one thing, we have other social obligations. If we kill ourselves in the process, we can’t provide for others who have a higher claim on our allegiance.

iv) Suppose, once again, that in order to save the individual, you’d be assuming a personal risk. But suppose the person in question is a close friend or family member–or a young child who fell into the rapids.

In cases like that, there’s a higher obligation to assume a higher risk.

To vary the metaphor, suppose your brother comes down with a contagious and potentially fatal disease. He’s helpless to provide for himself. He won’t survive without you by his bedside day and night. He may not survive even if you’re there to help him.

But prolonged contact puts you at risk of contracting the same potentially fatal disease. What should you do? Save yourself or try to save him?

In a case like that, your duty is to your brother, even if you both die in the process. However, you don’t have the same degree of obligation to a perfect stranger.

I’ll close with an exchange I had over at Justin Taylor’s blog:


JaredLorence said...
Saletan's email is if anyone wishes to contact him.

I emailed him my basic problem with his reasoning...

"Towards the end of the article you argue that pro-lifers don't actually believe abortion is murder because they don't react violently towards abortionists like they would someone who kills elderly people. You write:

"You think you're pro-life. You tell yourself that abortion is murder. Maybe you even say that when a pollster calls. But like most of the other people who say such things in polls, you don't mean it literally."

I disagree. Like most Americans, I believe that OJ Simpson murdered his wife. Should my conviction be questioned because I never attempted to kill OJ?

6/03/2009 09:45:00 AM

steve said...
Strong Tower said...

“The problem with your argument is the fact that with OJ the system was applied. In the case of the murder of the unborn, the system is not working.”

His comparison was perfectly valid. The legal system was applied in both cases. Both OJ and Tiller were tried and acquitted. In both cases, the system failed. You’re equivocating.

“Why is the murderess mother not the focus of Pro-life groups along with the practioners? They are conspirators in the same crime. While it may be true she is being confused and mentally infected often with the evil propaganada of the left, she is not innocent. She is a murderer.”

No inconsistency at all. The primary objective of the prolife movement is preemptive rather than punitive. The goal is to prevent or minimize the occurrence of abortion. Hence, prolife organizations pursue legal remedies that have the greatest chance of being enacted into law.

6/03/2009 12:12:00 PM

steve said...
Strong Tower said...

"How do you preempt it? Keeping it legal? Not prosecuting the conspirators? Right, like that ever works."

Are you trying to be slow on the uptake? The logical is pretty obvious. An abortion is a procedure with at least two parties: the mother and the "doctor." You don't need to penalize both parties to curtail abortion. To penalize the doctor would be sufficient to vastly lower the rate of abortion.

And that is politically feasible in a way that penalizing the mother is not. Therefore, since responsible prolife organizations are trying to make use of preexisting political framework to implement their agenda, you favor initiatives that are more likely to enjoy political support. That's in the nature of the democratic process.

6/03/2009 06:38:00 PM

steve said...

At the risk of stating the obvious, moral compromise does not involve failing to do what it was never within your power to do in the first place.

Prolifers don't have the political clout to penalize women who undergo abortions. Faulting prolife organizations because they don't waste time and resources on a futile exercise is irrational on your part.

And, yes, it's better to save some innocent lives than to save no innocent lives unless you can save all innocent lives.

6/04/2009 12:29:00 PM
steve said...

BTW, if you think prolifers should invest time and effort in lobbying Congress or state legislatures to pass laws penalizing women who undergo abortions, then no one's stopping you. You're more than welcome to lead by example. Don't attack others for failing to do what you yourself fail to do. If you think that's doable, then do it.

And, in the meantime, don't sacrifice innocent lives (sparing as many babies as we can) on the altar of your utopian principles.

6/04/2009 12:38:00 PM

Porcine theology

Over at Arminian Chronicles, Dan has posted a running series in defense of eternal security. I haven’t said anything up till now because I wanted to see how his Arminian padres would respond. Now I’ll venture three basic comments.

I. The pungent aroma of hypocrisy

The striking thing about the response to Dan’s series is either the total lack of response, or else the congratulatory, kid-glove treatment he’s received at the hands of his fellow Arminians.

If you didn’t know any better, you’d suppose, from the way his Arminian compadres either fall silent or fall over themselves to pat him on the back, that belief or disbelief in eternal security is a matter of indifference to Arminians. That Arminians have no major stake in this debate, so it doesn’t matter which way an Arminian comes down on this particular issue.

However, let’s see how one of Dan’s own friends and Arminian soul-mates approaches the issue when the proponent of eternal security happens to be a Calvinist rather than a fellow Arminian:

When it comes to light that a teaching is clearly contradicted by biblical fact, its proponents will often try desperately to find some way to make the facts fit their doctrine, stretching the limits of believability and sanity. Others try instead to simply cloud the facts or cast doubt upon the clear meaning of the words of scripture, effectively nullifying what the word of God is saying so they won't be forced to deal with the facts therein. Chief among the earthly enemies of Christ were the Pharisees, who held their traditions and the teachings of the elders higher than the word of God. Often they would employ parts of doctrine they had themselves added to God's words to nullify or 'get around' the clear commands of God, such as honoring and caring for one's parents. Christ said to them concerning their doctrinal errors: "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition." (Matthew 15:6). Thus, if a doctrine requires that certain commands of God or the clear statements made in scripture be made meaningless or 'explained away' in whole or in part, it is a sure bet that such doctrine is in serious error.

A doctrine that has been circulating in the church for some time now is the belief that it is not possible for one who is redeemed in Christ to fall from God's grace and thereby be lost, the formal name of it being 'Perseverance of the Saints,' and often called, 'Eternal Security of the Believer.' While enjoying some popularity in past and present, this doctrine, just as any other must consistently and at all points stand up to scrutiny from God's word, else be rejected with the multitude of other errors. The doctrine being inherently a rule with 'no exceptions,' the existence of one valid counter-example or fact that runs contrary to it constitutes a thorough refutation.

The unavoidable fact derived from the above passages is that the scripture warns believers against being ensnared by sin and unbelief unto eternal destruction, thereby coming short of the reward of eternal life. This fact squarely contradicts any doctrine that states that such any occurrence is not possible. The challenge I present then is for any believer in unconditional eternal security or guaranteed perseverance of the saints to reconcile their doctrine with the warnings given in these passages. I don't mean change the scriptures to suit your doctrine, I mean change your doctrine to fit the scriptures.

Yet another route some take to make scripture fit their doctrine is asserting that God did indeed address these warnings to believers, but only for the purpose of making them fear Him and live worthy of His calling. He would never actually take their eternal inheritance from them despite the dire warnings given (even John Calvin employed this defense when commenting on Romans 11:22). All inherent problems aside, even if this were the case and God were simply 'putting us on,' so to speak, for the sake of our living righteously, then is it not better to take the Lord at His word? If God's purpose in giving such warnings was to make us live holy unto Him by indicating that if we walk away from Him, He will cast us away, yet you teach a doctrine that states He would never under any circumstance actually do such a thing, then have you not undone the holy fear which God's word was meant to instill in the hearts of His people and again made it of no effect?

Any way you slice it, any theologian that attempts to deny or explain away the real possibility of a believer falling away makes either the warnings against apostasy listed above or their consequences of no effect for the sake of his tradition.

I urge you then, brothers and sisters in Christ, don't be carried away by this errant doctrine any longer, nor lulled to complacency by the idea that you are secure no matter how you live, as it simply cannot be reconciled with the teachings delivered to us in scripture. If it is a clearly established fact from God's word that it is possible for one to fall from God's grace, then it matters not what else men say, what arguments they make against it, what we would rather believe, who disbelieved or taught against it in what time period, what creed or confession denies it, or if a council of very fallible men passed a measure against it: a doctrine that is contrary to the facts indicated in the Bible must be rejected as error because it does not comply with the unbreakable word of the Almighty God.

If we are to truly believe this nonsense that unconditional security is a vital element of the true gospel, and therefore of necessity make the belief in even the possibility of forfeiting salvation a seriously false doctrine, then we are also forced to conclude that in order to promote holiness and preserve itself, God's perfect word instills a concept of false doctrine within the church via idle admonitions with preposterous consequences. Newsflash: God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), and I stand in awe at the sheer befuddlement of anyone that cannot recognize the obvious discrepancy there.

i) Shouldn’t we expect Thibodaux to apply the same stinging oratory to Dan’s defense of eternal security? Shouldn’t we expect Thibodaux to post a parallel series of rebuttals to Dan’s defense of eternal security?

But when an Arminian says the same thing as a Calvinist, Thibodaux suddenly comes down with an acute case of laryngitis.

To his unwitting credit, Thibodaux’s duplicity restores my faith in fallen humanity. All that high-minded idealism was beginning to erode my confidence in total depravity–or even the remnants of corruption. But the yawning gap between Thibodaux’s unflinching rhetoric and his muffled practice shores up my flagging faith when I was just about to recant my Calvinism and embrace Wesleyan perfectionism.

It turns out that Arminians are just as clannish and partisan as everyone else. Very refreshing!

ii) I’d add that this isn’t just your garden-variety species of hypocrisy. People can be hypocritical about things which are quite incidental to their core beliefs.

But here, by contrast, hypocrisy cuts to the bone of Arminian identity. The logic of Arminian ethics is that we should treat everyone the same way because God treats everyone the same way. Since God is no respecter of persons, we should follow his lead.

But, upon closer examination, their egalitarian rhetoric is quite Orwellian. Some pigs are more equal than others. If you’re a Reformed proponent of eternal security, then Thibodaux shall smite thee with his rhetorical thunderbolts–but if you’re an Arminian proponent of eternal security, then Thibodaux will take rain check.

iii) Ironically, Manta and I, who’ve been on the receiving end of Thibodaux’s thunderous denunciations, are the true egalitarians. We don’t love our own kind–to the detriment of others. We don’t practice discrimination. We don’t have a rubber yardstick like Thibodaux’s, which stretches to make sure every fellow Calvinist measures up while it contracts as soon as we measure an auslander. To the contrary, if we think a fellow Calvinist is seriously in error, we say so.

iv) Some Arminians might object that I’m unfairly extrapolating from a few cases, like Thibodaux, or Dan’s back-slapping commenters, to Arminians in general. To which I respond–prove me wrong!

If this duplicity is not representative of Arminians in general, then Arminians can prove the point by critiquing Dan’s defense of eternal security in exactly the same way they critique a Reformed defense of eternal security.

II. Theological disarray

Hypocrisy aside, there are two others problems with Arminian eternal security. For one thing, it takes the position that libertarian freewill is indispensable at the frontdoor of salvation, but dispensable at the backdoor of salvation. Getting saved is contingent on the exercise of your libertarian freewill. You must be free to either believe or disbelieve. But when it comes to staying saved, you’re no longer at liberty to either believe or disbelieve.

You’re free to either enter or not. But the backdoor is locked and double-bolted. You’re free to enter, but not to leave. The frontdoor locks behind you.

Yet if libertarian freedom only applies to the frontdoor, and not to the backdoor, then why does it even apply to the frontdoor?

It can’t be that this freedom furnishes an opportunity for more people to be saved. If God can suspend libertarian freewill as soon as you get saved, then he could just as well save absolutely everyone by suspending their libertarian freewill from the get-go. Instead of having the power to either believe or disbelieve, each individual would only have the power to believe.

The usual Arminian objection to this scenario is that true love can’t be “forced” or “coerced.” However, we accept that jaundiced characterization, such a move is not available to the Arminian proponent of eternal security.

Both getting saved and staying saved involve the exercise of faith. Believing the Gospel from day to day. Conversion doesn’t require a different sort of faith than the daily walk of faith. Conversion doesn’t require a different source of faith than the daily walk of faith.

III. Hermeneutical disarray

A further problem is that Arminian eternal security results in hermeneutical disarray. What are the Scriptural prooftexts for libertarian freewill? Well, the warning passages of Scripture constitute a locus classicus. These are not the only passages that Arminians cite to establish the Biblical basis of libertarian freewill, but they represent a major plank in the argument.

Yet the logic by which a typical Arminian infers libertarian freewill from the admonitory verses of Scripture is no different than the logic he applies to his other libertarian prooftexts. This subset of Bible verses is not a class apart from the all the other verses he cites to establish libertarian freewill.

If, therefore, Arminians in good standing can interpret the warning passages consistent with their denial libertarian freewill in these particular cases, then there’s no barrier to interpreting all the other libertarian prooftexts the very same way.

If the warning passages don’t imply that a Christian is free to either persevere in the faith or lose his faith, then there’s no obstacle to saying the exact same thing about other libertarian prooftexts.

The absurdity of life without God

A pair of stories William Lane Craig recounts in his book, Reasonable Faith:
The horror of a world devoid of value was brought home to me with new intensity several years ago as I viewed a BBC television documentary called "The Gathering." It concerned the reunion of certain survivors of the Holocaust in Jerusalem where they shared experiences and rediscovered lost friendships. Now I had heard stories of the Holocaust before and even visited camps like Dachau and Buchenwald. And I thought I was beyond being shocked by further tales of horror. But I found that I was not. One woman prisoner, for example, a nurse, told how she was made the gynecologist at Auswitzch. She observed that certain pregnant women were grouped together by the soldiers under the direction of Dr. Mengele, and housed in the same barracks. Some time passed and she noticed that she no longer saw any of these women. She made inquirees: "Where are the pregnant women who were housed in that barracks?" she asked. "Oh, haven't you heard," came the reply, "Dr. Mengele used them for vivisection."

Another woman told how Mengele had had her breast bound up so she could no longer suckle her baby. The doctor wanted to learn how long an infant could survive without nourishment. And desperately this poor woman tried to keep her baby alive by giving it bits of bread soaked in coffee. But to no avail. Each day the baby lost weight - a fact which was eagerly monitored by Dr. Mengele. Finally a nurse then came secretly to this woman, and said to her, "I've arranged for a way for you to get out of here. But you cannot take your baby with you. I've brought a morphine injection which you can give to your child to take its life." And when this woman protested the nurse said to her, "Look, your baby is going to die anyway. At least save yourself." And so this poor woman took the life of her own child. Mengele was furious when he learned he had lost his experimental specimen, and he searched among the corpses of the discarded babies until he could find the body to have one last weighing.

Dr. Horrible

In a recent interview, a late-term abortion doctor, Dr. Warren Hern, compares the pro-life movement to terrorists and the Taliban. Hern is convinced the only difference between the Taliban and "anti-abortion fanatics" is "8,000 miles." He describes Scott Roeder's murder of George Tiller as a "political assassination."

A few thoughts:

1. First of all, contrary to what Hern believes, it really was just one guy, Roeder, who assassinated Tiller. So why does Hern blanket the entire pro-life movement as a bunch of "anti-abortion fanatics" and the like?

2. Also, much if not most of the pro-life movement has already denounced Roeder's act as murder. For example, Christians have done so. Yes, the very Christians whom Hern claims to be at the "forefront" of the "anti-abortion fanatics."

3. The Taliban were a repressive, fundamentalist Muslim regime that killed scores of innocents. How are pro-lifers comparable to the Taliban in Hern's view? How is calling for abortionists to stop killing fetuses comparable to what the Taliban stands for and has done? Rather, I'd think that Hern and Tiller are more comparable to the Taliban than pro-lifers in that Hern, Tiller, and the Taliban have each killed thousands of innocents.

4. Hern says Tiller was unarmed when he was assassinated, which is true. But Hern appears quite angered that Tiller was unarmed when he was killed -- angered that an innocent, unarmed man was murdered. Fine, he can feel however he likes. But, judging Hern by his own standard, what about the thousands of babies who were similarly unarmed when Tiller and Hern aborted them?

5. Hern treats the pro-life movement as if they were a minority group of fanatics. Indeed, one wonders how many men and women are pro-life vs. pro-choice. What makes Hern think pro-lifers are a minority group in our society? (Not, of course, that we judge the rightness or wrongness of an action by the number of people in favor or against it.)

What's more, who's the "fanatic" here? Many if not most people in our society, including medical professionals, would consider late-term abortion a more radical position than "typical" abortion. In any case, there are abortionists who support abortion up to a certain point, and either don't support it beyond a certain point or are unsure whether to support it. However, Hern not only supports abortion but he is an outspoken advocate for late-term abortion. Further, he vehemently denounces those who disagree with him. Again, who's the "fanatic" here?

6. Hern expresses sadness and grief at Tiller's demise. Yet he is a late-term abortionist. How horribly twisted! How misguided and defective one's moral compass must be not only to feel sadness and grief over another murderer's demise, but also to feel no sadness or grief over murdering innocent babies. Especially by medical procedures such as the following (which I'll simplify here; but if anyone is interested in further information, they can easily Google for it since it's publicly available):
  • Dilation and Evacuation. A doctor uses forceps inserted through the pregnant woman's vagina and into her uterus to break apart the fetus' body and crush its head. The dead fetus is pulled out of the woman's uterus. Anything remaining such as the placenta and other parts of the fetus is suctioned out.

  • Dilation and Extraction. After rotating the fetus until his/her feet are facing downwards (rather than his/her head), a doctor uses forceps inserted through the pregnant woman's vagina and into her uterus to pull the fetus' body out from the uterus, leaving only the fetus' head inside. A special type of scissors cut into the base of the fetus' skull in order to make an incision there, then a suction tube is inserted through the incision, and the fetus' brain is basically sucked out.
These are common procedures abortion doctors perform on women who want a late-term abortion. And it's Hern who feels entitled to the emotive rhetoric against pro-lifers?

(Of course, in all likelihood it probably comes down to the fact that Hern doesn't believe a fetus to be a human being or person. But since, among other things, he's making an unsubstantive, emotionally-laden tirade against pro-lifers, I'm addressing him on this level.)

7. Hern calls Tiller's murder a "political" assassination. But, by the same token, Hern is making and/or continuing to make the issue a political issue when, for example, he calls for the President to go on national television and demand that abortion doctors and women who want abortions be protected by the law and be provided with security. Or when he says that, since night vigils outside abortion clinics constitute "intimidation and harassment," the government ought to (forcibly?) intervene and end such "intimidation and harassment."

However, if that's what Hern wants, then why should, say, the tax dollars of pro-life citizens go to support him and his cause? We have a say in our communities, states, and nation, too. If Hern and other abortionists want to make it political, then we have every right to dispute abortion politically as well. We have a right, for instance, to call for the state or federal government to make abortion clinics illegal, to petition medical boards to revoke abortion doctors' licenses, to insist that abortionists like Hern turn themselves into the authorities for murder, to request local police to protect the freedom of pro-life speeches and protests, and so on.

Why should (late-term) abortionists like Hern put pro-lifers on the defensive?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Two monsters

From Edward Feser.

The Holy Cosa Nostra

Hollywood likes to make conspiratorial movies about the Catholic church, viz. Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, End of Days, The Order, Stigmata, &c. These are not movies that make any effort to be factual or plausible.

What’s ironic about this exercise is that while Hollywood directors and screenwriters concoct fictitious conspiracy thrillers about the Catholic church, it could just as easily make conspiratorial movies about the Catholic church that have a factual basis. There’s plenty of raw material to construct a fast-paced thriller based on genuine ecclesiastical intrigue. If you think this ended with the Medieval papacy or the Borgia popes, think again:

“The surprising death of the relatively young 33-day Pope [John Paul I]–he was found dead in bed one morning–isn’t investigated either by an autopsy or by the police…David A. Yallop, the author of the 1984 bestseller In God’s Name…is right in his broad account of the way in which the Vatican is entangled in the world of finance and even the Mafia. That is certainly true of its excellent relations with Giulio Andreotti, several times minister and seven times Prime Minister, whose influence is as great as the cloud of scandal surrounding him. Moreover Andreotti is author of a book ‘My Seven Popes.’ He is also thought to be privy to the murder of the investigative journalist Mino Peccorelli in Rome on 20 March 1979 or even to have instigated it…” H Küng, Disputed Truth: Memoirs II (Continuum 2008), 395.

“The Vatican, which likes to preach law and justice all over the world, hasn’t contributed anything to the explanation of manifest crimes, even though after the unexpected death of John Paul I, further amazing deaths occur which have still not be explained even today. There is the suicide (or poisoning?) in a Roman prison of Paul VI's former big banker and financial expert Michele Sindona, possibly recommended to the Pope by his patron Andreotti; the Sicilian, previously sentenced for fraud in America, had evidently also been a Mafia banker,” ibid. 395.

“Then there is the grim death of ‘God’s banker,’ Robert Calvi, head of the Banco Ambrosiano, Italy’s biggest private bank, which went bankrupt with the disappearance of $13 billion…this bank enjoyed the special trust of the church, both the hierarchy and believers. In June 1982 Calvi, like Sindona a member of the dark secret Lodge P2, which has revolutionary aims, was found hanged under Blackfriars Bridge in London, his pockets filled with stones–suicide or, as more than Calvi’s family in Milan are convinced, a Mafia murder? And what did the Vatican contribute towards enlightenment here?” ibid. 395-96.

“The Vatican Bank Istituto per le Opere di Religione (IOR) is the active partner in Calvi’s venturesome financial operations. Moreover in 1982, without conceding any debt, it spends the sum of $240 million to buy off the Vatican from legal action as the chief shareholder in the Banco Ambrosiano, which has held and wasted the money of countless Catholic creditors. The moral damage to the Vatican is enormous,” ibid. 396.

“Calvi’s direct Vatican business partner was a large American clergyman, Archbishop Marcinkus from Chicago, of Lithuanian origin, more than 1.9 meters tall, and initially in the Secretariat of State. As a multilingual travel marshal and bodyguard (‘gorilla’) he had protected Pope Paul VI from being stabbed in Manila. In 1968 he was nominated titular bishop and finally, without any banking experience, appointed secretary and in 1971 head of the Vatican Bank. He rose to become the most powerful American in the Curia,” ibid. 396.

From what his friends say I gather that this Marcinkus, an enthusiastic golfer and tennis player, must face the music for Paul VI, who had unwisely invested large sums of money in the bank of his former archdiocese of Milan…So the Milan state advocate issues a warrant for Marcinkus’ arrest. He lives in a clergy house in Rome, but evades arrest by fleeing to the Vatican, where he lives a completely secluded life. The Vatican refuses to hand him over. After a long tug-of-war with the Italian judiciary the immunity of the Vatican official–even for a crime committed on Italian territory!–is finally established by a highly controversial decision from the Italian court of appeal with reference to the Lateran treaties. Who in Italy can withstand the power of the church? Not even the courts. At the beginning of the 1990s Marcinkus can return to America unnoticed. When I was giving a lecture in Phoenix, Arizona, in November 2005 I was told that he lived there in the retirement complex of Sun City, next to the golf course. After years of investigations the Roman public prosecutor’s office produced a report in 2003 and the Calvi murder trial was to begin at the latest in 2005. However, on the evening of 20 February 2006 Marcinkus, a possible witness but now 84 years old, was found dead in his house,” ibid. 396-97.

“Although prosecutors in various countries had called for it, Marcinkus was never put on trial for money laundering, setting up shell companies, the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano or the death of Calvi…Marcinkus openly confessed to Cornwell that he had plundered the Vatican pension fund to buy off involvement in the Banco Ambrosiano,” ibid. 397.

“It’s a never-ending story. On 5 July the influential big financier Gianmario Roverado, who is regarded as the ‘broker of Opus Dei,’ is kidnapped on his way to an Opus meeting in Milan and two weeks later is found murdered in Parma. At the same time, the Calvi murder trial continues before a Roman court; at it, among other things, the honorary chairman of the L’Espresso media group says that Calvi sensed a conspiracy against him and even had the windows of his Roman apartment fitted with armored glass against a possible helicopter attack. The person thought responsible is Flavio Carboni, the former Calvi bag carrier, and with him his ex-girlfriend Manuela Kleinszig from Carinthia, Mafia banker Pippo Calò and further mafiosi,” ibid. 397.

“Will the mysterious darkness which surrounds the relationships between the Vatican, Opus Dei and the Mafia ever be illuminated?…the death of Calvi and so many other incidents (for example the equally unexplained murder of the commandant of the Swiss Guard and his wife by a member of the guard who immediately commits suicide) also makes me wonder whether there was something suspect about the death of John Paul I. At any rate, immediately after his death a pious lie goes the rounds that the Pope died with Thomas à Kempis’s medieval book of devotions The Imitation of Christ on his bedspread. I hear directly from those around the present Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Giovanni Colombo, Luciani’s best friend in the College of Cardinals, that the evening before his death John Paul I had telephoned him and said to him: ‘Mi prendono in giro–they’re leading me by the nose’,” ibid. 397-98.

“As Pope [John-Paul II], by every possible means he will promote this ‘Work of God’ [=Opus Dei], this Fascist-type Catholic secret organization with the features of a sect which grew up in Franco’s Spain and had the majority of ministers in Franco’s last cabinet as members…Wojtyla withdraws this tightly-organized Opus, which aspires to power in the church and in time has several thousand friends, supporters and sympathizers everywhere, from the control of the bishops and makes it a prelatura nullius, so to speak an independent world diocese, in the face of much resistance also in the Curia…Wojtyla beatifies and even canonizes its ambitious founder Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer…He nominates the sacked Vatican banker Marcinkus a titular bishop–Marcinkus is also said to have diverted millions to the Polish Solidarity movement,” ibid. 400.

“Joseph Ratzinger, who originally had his reservations about Opus Dei, allows himself to be given an honorary doctorate by the Spanish Opus Dei University and makes use of its services in power politics,” ibid. 401.

Paul Hill

Are Christian prolifers hypocritical for not resorting to violent resistance? I’ve already approached that question from more than one angle. Now let’s consider yet another angle.

Take the case of Paul Hill. Hill was a defrocked Presbyterian minister who was later convicted and executed for the murder of an abortionist.

What were the consequences of his actions? Well, one consequence is that he left behind a widow and three young kids.

As a husband and father, Hill had prior obligations. Obligations to his dependents. By committing a capital offense, he was unable to discharge his prior obligations. He’s morally equivalent to a married man who walks out on his wife and kids. Even apart from the question of murder, desertion is a sin. A very serious sin. Hill was shirking his domestic responsibilities.

Some things are morally permissible–all things considered–which are morally impermissible–all things being equal. A single man or woman doesn’t have all the same responsibilities as a spouse, parent, and breadwinner.

However, even single men or women have prior obligations. For example, grown children have a duty to care for elderly parents who are too enfeebled to care for themselves. If a single man commits a capital offense, then he’s no longer in a position to discharge his filial duties. That’s in addition to the moral status of the capital offense, in and of itself.

(The same would also hold true for a life sentence. You can’t provide for your dependants when you’re behind bars.)

Degrees of social responsibility

Mainstream prolife organizations rightly denounce violent resistance to our national abortion policy. However, they often resort to sweeping disclaimers which are clearly overstated. After all, the Bible doesn’t say it’s always wrong to break the law or resort to violence.

It’s easy to come up with examples like the French Resistance, the plot to assassinate Hitler, or hiding Jews from Nazis, which seem to be morally permissible or even obligatory.

So what’s the answer? Well, here’s part of the answer: our social obligations are concentric. Social obligations are a matter of degree.

There is, for example, a lot of domestic abuse that goes in behind closed doors in the Muslim world. But it's not my personal responsibility to directly intervene in all, or any, of those situations. On the other hand, it is my personal responsibility to defend my own dependents.

Then there are other situations which fall somewhere in-between. For instance, many parents are bad parents. They let their kids throw temper tantrums at the checkout stand.

The screaming brat could use a good spanking. Indeed, the negligent parent could use a good spanking.

Yet it’s not normally my duty to spank someone else’s misbehaving child. I might confront the negligent parents. But I don’t have the same duties to his children that I have to mine.

So our duty to protect others ranges along a continuum. This doesn’t mean we have no duty to protect neighbors and strangers. But it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Social obligations come in varying degrees. We should calibrate our response accordingly.

Whose Jesus?

“As is already heralded in his 1968 Introduction to Christianity, later in his contribution to a volume which he edits on ‘The Conflict over Scriptural Exegesis’ (1989), Ratzinger paints a gloomy picture of the historical-critical method: ‘Faith is not an element of the method nor God a factor of the historical event with which it reckons,’ Historical criticism attempts to ‘construct’ the human history behind the biblical history of divine action. This is then to serve as the criterion for exegesis: ‘No one can be surprised that in this procedure the hypotheses increasingly bifurcate and finally become a jungle of contradictions. In the end one hardly knows what the text says but only what it should say, and from what elements one can derive it’,” H. Küng, Disputed Truth: Memoirs II (Continuum 2008), 129.

“Of course Joseph Ratzinger doesn’t make it as simple in his 1968 Introduction to Christianity. After rejecting an enquiry into the Jesus of history, because he claims that this is impossible, he wants ‘simply to try to understand what is stated by the Christian faith, which is not a reconstruction but a present reality’,” ibid. 224.

In one respect, I’m sympathetic to Ratzinger’s position: the historical reconstruction (i.e. the quest for the historical Jesus) is a human construct. To place your faith in that “Jesus” would be to place your faith, not in the historical Jesus of Scripture, but in a merely human construct. To that extent, Ratzinger makes a valid point, and a momentous point.

However, his own position is severely flawed in a number of key respects:

1.He presents a false dilemma: It’s not as if we’re forced to choose between a reconstructed Christ–on the one hand–and a patristic or conciliar Christ–on the other hand. What’s wrong with the Christ of the Bible?

2.If he rejects the Christ of the Bible was a sufficient reference point because he tacitly buys into some of the skeptical methods and assumptions of the historical-critical method, then he can’t very well salvage his Christian faith by turning to the ecumenical councils or Nicene/post-Nicene fathers to lay a firmer foundation. It’s not as if these sources are better informed about the historical Jesus than the NT writers were. All he’s done is to shift the object of faith from one human construct–the Jesus of the quest–to another human construct–the Jesus of the fathers and councils. And, of course, he’s selective about which fathers and councils set the standard.

(From a Protestant perspective, the fathers and the councils are valid in the degree to which remain faithful to the Biblical witness.)

3.In addition, if you’re skeptical about the NT Jesus, then you should logically extend your skepticism to the patristic or conciliar Jesus. If, for example, you think the high Christology of John’s Gospel represents a legendary embellishment, then the same holds true for Chalcedon.

Likewise, if you think belief in miracles is a hallmark of legendary embellishment, then that’s equally applicable to Bible writers and church fathers alike.

So Ratzinger’s alternative sufferers from the same problem as the perceived failings of NT Christology.

4.If, on the other hand, Ratzinger rejects the skeptical methods and assumptions of the historical-critical method, then the NT is a trustworthy source of information about the person and work of Jesus.

5.Ratzinger’s low estimation of the quest for the historical Jesus is probably colored by his encounters with proponents like Rudolf Bultmann. It’s understandable if he’s reacting to their radical reductionism. However, there’s obviously a big difference between a representative like Bultmann and a representative like Tom Wright or Craig Evans.

6.Catholic scholars in good standing, like John Meier and the late Raymond Brown, are also exponents of the quest for the historical Jesus. But if Ratzinger rejects the entire enterprise, then, as pope, why doesn’t he take action against a Catholic scholar like John Meier?

7.For that matter, Ratzinger also presided over a BPC document which sanctioned the historical-critical method. And Catholic scholars like Joseph Fitzmyer and Luke Timothy Johnson are prominent exponents of this method. But if he regards their methodology as fundamentally flawed, then why doesn’t he take action?

8.The historical-critical method is generally driven by a number of arbitrary assumptions, such as:

i) God doesn’t speak and act in human history. Hence, any supernatural incidents in Scripture reflect legendary embellishments.

ii) Even if God does speak and act in human history, a historian must suspend judgment on the supernatural factor and confine himself to naturalistic explanations (i.e. methodological naturalism).

iii) The Jesus tradition underwent decades of creative oral redaction before it was finally committed to writing (i.e. form criticism). Hence, the canonical gospels are not a reliable witness to the historical Jesus.

iv) The canonical gospels are faith-statements rather than historical accounts.

v) The object of the quest is to isolate and identify, if at all possible, a residual core of factual information. To winnow the legendary chaff from the kernels of truth.

vi) Although supernatural incidents (e.g. miracles, exorcisms) are not or cannot be literally true, we may still be able to incorporate them into a contemporary version of faith by reinterpreting them as metaphorically true.

If, however, you reject these arbitrary assumptions, then there’s no need to fall back on subscriptural or extrascriptural alternatives.

9.The quest for the historical Jesus can still be a useful exercise from an apologetic standpoint as long as you don’t submit to a set of arbitrary methods and assumptions which filter out the witness of Scripture.

10.Although it’s important for Jesus to be a “present reality”–as well as a future reality–that’s not the right way to frame the issue.

i) It’s not as if a reconstructed Christ fails to provide a present reality whereas a patristic or conciliar Christ succeeds in providing a present reality. That’s another false dichotomy.

ii) Moreover, there must be a point of identity between the present reality and the past reality. Ratzinger is setting up yet another false dichotomy.

This is not a choice between a reconstructed Jesus and a patristic or conciliar Jesus. Rather, this is a choice between the historical Jesus of Scripture and subscriptural or extrascriptural alternatives.

The New Testament Canon

Below are links to the articles in my series on the New Testament canon, followed by some of the points I made within the articles.

The New Testament Canon And Evangelicalism

The Twenty-Seven-Book New Testament Before Athanasius

The Significance Of Other New Testament Canons

Popes, Councils, And The New Testament Canon

Marcion And The New Testament

The Means Of Identifying A New Testament Canon

Apostolic Authority And The New Testament Canon

Canonical Implications In John's Gospel

From Apostolicity To The Twenty-Seven-Book New Testament

Irenaeus And The Gospel Canon

Why Trust The Canonical Judgments Of The Early Christians?

The Messiness Of The Canon

Hostile Corroboration Of The New Testament Canon

Why Do Evangelicals Agree With The Christian New Testament Consensus, But Disagree With The Christian Old Testament Consensus?

In the introductory post, I recommended some resources, and I cited some examples of comments made about the New Testament canon by critics of Evangelicalism. (source)

The earliest extant source to advocate the twenty-seven-book New Testament probably was Origen, around the middle of the third century. (source)

That canon seems to have also been held by other sources between Origen and Athanasius' Festal Letter 39. (source)

The evidence we have for the New Testament canons of the earliest Christians is highly fragmentary. That some Christians held the twenty-seven-book canon prior to Origen is a reasonable possibility. (source)

Some Christians before Origen's time are known to have believed in the canonicity of at least the large majority of the New Testament documents, sometimes more than twenty of the books. (source)

Twenty-two of the twenty-seven documents were widely accepted in the second century, and the other five seem to have been accepted by a majority, though a smaller majority, in the ante-Nicene era. (source)

Books like First Clement, The Shepherd Of Hermas, and The Epistle Of Barnabas weren't accepted as scripture by as many people as is sometimes suggested. They seem to have been accepted by only a minority. No document outside of the twenty-seven that make up the canon today seems to have ever been accepted as scripture by a majority. (source)

No ruling by a Roman bishop or a council in the first five centuries was widely perceived as having settled the canon. The New Testament canonical consensus that scholars often date to the timeframe of the fourth and fifth centuries was accomplished without the sort of church ruling that modern critics of Evangelicalism often appeal to. (source)

Some scholars question whether the twenty-seven-book canon was advocated by the fourth-century Roman bishop Damasus, whether that canon was advocated by a council in Rome in 382, and whether the canon is found in the council of Carthage in 397. (source)

Marcion doesn't seem to have had as much influence on the canon as some have suggested. (source)

There are multiple means by which a person can come to the conclusion that a book is scripture, and the earliest Christians appealed to more than one way of arriving at a canon of scripture. (source)

Those who criticize Evangelicals for identifying their canon without something like a ruling from a Pope or ecumenical council are also criticizing the many Jewish and Christian believers in antiquity who did the same. (source)

Modern canonical disputes tend to focus on potentially easy, demonstrable, and widely applicable means of judging what is and isn't scripture, but there is no canonical criterion that has all three of those characteristics. (source)

The criterion of apostolicity is demonstrable and widely applicable. (source)

A document should be considered apostolic if it was written by an apostle or seems to have been approved as scripture by an apostle, not just if it was written during the time of the apostles or by an associate of the apostles. (source)

Jesus' comments about His disciples in John 13-17 suggest that they would be involved in writing scripture, and John seems to have viewed his gospel as a fulfillment of what Jesus anticipated. (source)

It seems that all of the writings of the apostles should be considered scripture, not just some of them. (source)

James, the brother of Jesus, should be considered an apostle in the highest sense of that term, which means that his letter is an apostolic document. (source)

Barnabas is the best candidate for the authorship of Hebrews. (source)

Twenty-two of the twenty-seven New Testament books were written by an apostle, and the other five were approved by at least one apostle. (source)

Irenaeus' comments about the number of gospels are often misrepresented by critics of Christianity. His use of number symbolism was only a minor factor in his canonical judgments, and he cites multiple lines of evidence for numbering the gospels at four. (source)

The limitations and errors of the early Christians don't diminish their canonical judgments enough to warrant a rejection of their testimony. They showed sufficient knowledge and discernment on issues relevant to the canon. (source)

Given the context in which the early Christians made their canonical decisions, their widespread agreement about the large majority of the New Testament is impressive. The disagreements over a minority of the canon are largely understandable and typical of what we often see with extra-Biblical literature. Atheists, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and other critics of Evangelicalism have to sort through similar disputes in many areas of life, and they do so without the sort of infallible guide that they often claim Evangelicals need on canonical issues. There are some difficulties involved in making judgments about the canon of scripture. But those difficulties aren't as bad or as unusual as they're often made out to be. (source)

Non-Christian sources had a significant influence on the canonical judgments of the early Christians, who were in frequent and deep interaction with the world around them. They read the writings of non-Christians and often interacted with arguments against the faith. From the earliest generations of Christianity onward, non-Christian sources possessed the New Testament documents, commented upon them, and were concerned about Christianity and interacting with Christians. (source)

Many non-Christian sources corroborate the New Testament canon. (source)

Evangelicals aren't being inconsistent by agreeing with the Christian New Testament canonical consensus while disagreeing with the widespread Christian acceptance of some Old Testament Apocryphal books. The evidence for the Apocryphal books isn't comparable to the evidence for the New Testament. (source)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Prolife pragmatism

If abortion is murder, the most efficient thing you could have done to prevent such murders this month was to kill George Tiller…So is Roeder getting support from the nation's leading pro-life groups? Not a bit. They have roundly denounced the murder.

I applaud these statements. They affirm the value of life and nonviolence, two principles that should unite us. But they don't square with what these organizations purport to espouse: a strict moral equation between the unborn and the born. If a doctor in Kansas were butchering hundreds of old or disabled people, and legal authorities failed to intervene, I doubt most members of the National Right to Life Committee would stand by waiting for "educational and legislative activities" to stop him. Somebody would use force.

The reason these pro-life groups have held their fire, both rhetorically and literally, is that they don't really equate fetuses with old or disabled people. They oppose abortion, as most of us do. But they don't treat abortionists the way they'd treat mass murderers of the old or disabled. And this self-restraint can't simply be chalked up to nonviolence or respect for the law. Look up the bills these organizations have written, pushed, or passed to restrict abortions. I challenge you to find a single bill that treats a woman who procures an abortion as a murderer. They don't even propose that she go to jail.

What are we to make of this challenge?

First thing I’d say is that there’s something diabolical about Saletan’s argument. On the one hand, liberals are eager to pin the blame for the firebombing of an abortion clinic or assassination of an abortionist on the prolife movement as a whole. Blanket guilt-by-association–even though these are very rare incidents which are sincerely disowned by mainstream prolife organizations.

On the other hand, you have liberals like Saletan who positively taunt prolifers to either systematically target abortionists and abortion clinics or else recant their entire position.

But by issuing that challenge, Saletin is inciting the prolife community to foment violence. Suppose we were to call his bluff in the way he has chosen to frame the alternatives? That can go either of two ways.

Secondly, some prolifers like Doug Wilson, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Greg Koukl have, in fact, responded to this challenge. When, however, they rise to the challenge, they are faulted for offering merely pragmatic or utilitarian counterarguments. So what are we to make of that criticism?

i) To begin with, if the objection is that prolifers are inconsistent on this point, then a pragmatic/utilitarian counterargument is perfectly adequate. That answers the critic on his own terms.

A prolifer doesn’t have to demonstrate that violence resistance is intrinsically wrong–in any and all analogous situations. He only has to show that there is no logical inconsistency on the part of nonviolent prolifers. The fact that the counterargument happens to pragmatic/utilitarian is wholly irrelevant to whether or not it successfully relieves the alleged inconsistency. A prolifer doesn’t need to prove that violent resistance is intrinsically wrong to rebut the charge of hypocrisy.

It’s sufficient to show that the inexorable logic of Saletan is not, in fact, inexorable. Is, in fact, fallacious. A pragmatic/utilitarian counterargument will suffice to invalidate his objection.

ii) In addition, it is quite unreasonable to demand that prolifers be able to draw a bright line between licit and illicit violence.

Borderline cases are commonplace in ethics. This crops up quite often in medical ethics and military ethics, to take two fields that must often deal with life and death decisions.

Should we taunt our soldiers to either be wanton killers or resign their commission unless they have snappy answers for every conceivable dilemma?

Should we taunt our doctors to either be butchers or leave the medical profession unless they have snappy answers for every conceivable dilemma?

There’s no reason to hold prolifers to a different standard than doctors and soldiers–to name a few.

"Who do men say that I am?"

“It is not the church of the New Treatment that primarily interests Joseph Ratzinger but always the ‘church of the fathers’ (of course without mothers). As is abundantly clear in his Jesus of Nazareth (2007), his theological concern is not concentrated on the Jesus of history, in light of whom the later dogmas of the church are to be interpreted for our time, but on the Christ of the Hellenistic councils, whom he reads everywhere into the New Testament Writings,” H. Küng, Disputed Truth: Memoirs II (Continuum 2008), 15.

“This is the early church as he [Ratzinger] understands it. He doesn’t see Jesus of Nazareth as his disciples and the first Christian community saw him but as he was defined dogmatically by the Hellenistic councils of the fourth/fifth centuries, which in fact split Christianity more than they united it. The Jesus of history and the undogmatic Jewish Christianity of the beginning hardly interest him. For Ratzinger, the early church is the church of the church fathers, more precisely of the Latin church fathers rather than the Greek, and not of those before the Council of Nicaea in 325…” ibid. 131.

“He [Ratzinger] pays only limited attention to more recent Protestant and Catholic exegetical research into the primitive church. It would be highly inconvenient for his understanding of the church, oriented as it is on the later church fathers. This reminds me of the enigmatic comment by the prominent Protestant exegete Ernst Käsemann, who on leaving the hall after Ratzinger’s Tübingen lecture of 1967 ‘On the Importance of the Fathers for Present-day Theology’ remarked to me: Now I know once again why I can’t be Catholic’,” ibid. 165.

“First of all it is striking that in his Jesus book the author [Ratzinger] postpones historically precarious questions from the virgin birth to the ‘empty tomb’ to a planned second volume, and interprets Jesus’ walking on the lake, the transformation of water into wine and Peter’s abundant catch of fish in symbolic theological terms without saying anything about the historicity of these narratives…Basically, Ratzinger hasn’t written a historical book but a learned spiritual interpretation of scripture…” ibid. 329.


“It is amazing that in Article 25 of the Vatican II Constitution on the Church, on this question there is only a reference to the Vatican I statement about the magisterium ordinarium (Denziger, 1712), and not a word about infallibility. In addition there is a reference to a Vatican I schema, but this doesn’t have the slightest dogmatic authority because it was neither discussed nor approved. In that case, where does the view of the infallibility of the episcopate come from? As far as we know today, it was cooked up by the Counter-Reformation theology of the Jesuit cardinal Robert Bellarmine and the Roman scholastic theology which followed it. It is understandable that I had also to study this very ‘thesis’ at the Gregorian and painfully prepare it for the examination. However, it is now clear to me that this is no ‘catholic’ (=universal) doctrine but a new Roman special doctrine which does not occur in the theology of the Middle Ages, let alone the church fathers,” H. Küng, Disputed Truth: Memoirs II (Continuum 2008), 151.

“It is almost unbelievable, but nevertheless a fact, that the new teaching about the infallibility of the episcopate was neither discussed nor examined at Vatican II but blindly taken over from counter-Reformation Roman scholastic theology as prepared by the Curia,” ibid. 151.

“The ‘inventor’ [of papal infallibility] is the eccentric Franciscan Petrus Olivi (died 1298), often accused of heresy. With his doctrine of infallibility he wanted all subsequent Popes to subscribe to a decree of Nicholas III in favor of his trend among the Franciscans, which required rigorous poverty. Therefore in 1324 Pope John XXII condemned the doctrine of infallibility as the work of the devil, the father of lies. The consequence is that initially the infallibility of the Pope was a heresy that was condemned!” ibid. 172.

“What about the infallibility of the ecumenical councils? One result of the researches by the Jesuit Hermann-Josef Sieben is that not even Athanasius, the great champion of the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), believed in it. Indeed the authority of the ecumenical councils had quite a different basis. A council doesn’t have authority simply because according to certain presuppositions it is ‘ecumenical,’ still less because it could produce infallible statements with the support of the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is authoritative insofar as it attests the apostolic faith, insofar as, to use a happy formulation by Athanasius about the Council of Nicaea, it ‘breathes scripture, in short insofar as it is an authentic and credible expression of the gospel,” ibid. 172.

“Even Karl Rahner concedes in a Spiegel interview on 28 February 1972: ‘If I hypothetically, unreally hypothetically, imagine that I had read out the 1870 definition of the First Vatican Council to Jesus in his lifetime, in his empirical human consciousness he would probably have been amazed and not understood any of it.’ The only amazing thing is that we contemporaries with our ‘empirical human consciousness’ should understand something that Jesus the Christ, to whom the whole Christian tradition appeals, would not have ‘understood anything of’,” ibid. 173.

Why Classical Arminianism Needs to Become Open Theistic to Use Rebutting Defeaters to Frankfurt Counter Examples

I take it that Classical Arminianism at least affirms the thesis that God has exhaustive foreknowledge, where this means he knows the future actions of libertarian free (indeterministically free) agents.

Frequently, in debates against Calvinists, Classical Arminians claim that Calvinism cannot be true by the conjunction of a biblical premise with an extra-biblical premise. First, the biblical premise. (1) The Bible clearly teaches that men are morally responsible for their actions (all sides agree to this). Now the extra-biblical premise (Stuart Goetz recently told me via email that you cannot prove a libertarian action theory strictly from the Bible and people who think you can are sophomoric). (2) To be morally responsible for your actions requires the ability to do otherwise, otherwise known as, the principle of alternative possibility (PAP). To get a handle on PAPs I will cite some expressions of this intuition given by prominent libertarians.

The below expressions of PAP are 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 possibilities' 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). [NOTE: Hunt, though a libertarian nevertheless rejects the PAP constraint on moral responsibility.]

Since PAPs are inconsistent with there being only one future given a past divine decree (determinism), Arminians feel that, based on the intuitive strength PAPs yield, a Calvinism that posits a divine determinism cannot be the case.

Yet, there is a response. Many determinists have claimed that there are equally strong intuitions against PAP brought out by what are called in the literature, Frankfurt Counter Examples. Many libertarian free will theorists have agreed. For example, David Copp, a libertarian, writes, "Frankfurt's argument is troubling and puzzling because it brings intuitively plausible counterexamples against an intuitively plausible principle. It forces us to deal with clashing intuitions" (Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibility: Essays on the Importance of Alternative Possibilities, (eds. Widerker & Mckenna, Ashgate, 2006), p.265).

In a nutshell, Frankfurt Counter Examples propose some kind of controller that will ensure that an agent cannot do otherwise than some action A, if he were to physically try to, or even if he were about to think to try to do otherwise than A. As the story goes, though, the agent proceeds to A, and never even wavers, and so the controller does not need to "push the button" that will ensure he A's. So, the agent is morally responsible while being unable to do otherwise than A. There have been thousands of pages written on Frankfurt Counter Examples, this was intended as just an initial sketch. These counterexamples represent a defeater for PAPs, and thus a defeater to the objection to Calvinism based on the conjunction of the above (1) and (2).

Frankfurt examples seem to have escaped unscathed from almost every response to them, and thus it looks like the critique against Calvinism based on PAP has little merit, indeed, it looks false.

Yet, there are Arminians who still think Frankfurt Counter Examples do not falsify PAP. But, it seems that more and more libertarian philosophers have realized the strength of Franfurt Counter Examples. Things have funneled down to an objection libertarians think is pretty strong: the indeterminist world objection.

Bill Vallicella recently made mention of this objection, he writes:

But if we think about it, we see that these Frankfurt examples give an incompatibilist who believes in free will no reason to abandon PAP. Incompatibilists hold that (libertarian) free will and (causal) determinism are logically incompatible: they cannot both be true. So if free will exists, then determinism is false. And if determinism is false, then indeterminism is true. If indeterminism is true, then free choices are not determined by earlier events and the laws of nature. Jones choice is determined only at the instant at which Jones chooses, and is determined by Jones. How then could Black control Jones' choice? Suppose Black has all the powers of a Laplacean demon: in a deterministic universe he can predict any state from any temporally prior state. These powers won't help him, however, in an indeterministic universe. Before Jones chooses, Black cannot predict what he will choose. He cannot foresee (by observing electrical activity in Jones' brain, say, that Jones will choose A rather than B. Black must wait for Jones to choose before he can know what he chooses. But then it is too late for Black to interfere. Jones will have made a choice, and indeed one that he might not have made. For Black to ensure that Jones will make the choice that Black desires him to make, Black must act prior to the time at which Jones chooses so as to bring it about that Jones chooses as Black desires. But then Jones is not responsible for his choice. Jones cannot be responsible for his choice if Black is part of the cause of the choice. (Emphasis mine)
Or, as Robert Kane puts it,

If free choices are undetermined then a Frankfurt controller could not ensure or control them without actually intervening and making the agent choose what the controller wants. In indeterministic worlds, as Widerker has put it, there will not be a reliable "tell" sign which lets the controller know that the agent will do. In other words, since no one can know what a free agent will do in an indeterministic world, the only way a choice (or action) controller could work is by forcing the choice he wants, which takes away responsibility for the agent (Kane, Introduction to Free Will, Oxford, 2005, p. 87-88), emphasis mine.
So, the indeterminist world objection, OKA, the Kane-Widerker Objection, states that there can be no Frankfurt controller since it is impossible to know the future free actions of indeterministically free agents.

The problem this has for the Classical Arminian should be obvious: it kicks out traditional views of foreknowledge. Another strong intuitions Calvinists have had (well, not just Calvinists, some libertarians too) is that foreknowledge is just as threatening to libertarian free will (though the argument to that conclusions runs slightly different that the determinism argument, mere foreknowledge of an event is not causation of that event). This is why both Calvinists and many non-classical Arminians have claimed that Open Theism (which, among other things, denies God's knowledge of the future actions of libertarian free agents) is the logical outworking of Arminianism. The recent objection to Frankfurt Counter Examples, the Kane-Widerker Objection, has only served to strengthen that intuition. (I should add, though I will not present the arguments, things are not at a stalemate here. Some, like Mele, have claimed that Frankfurt Counter Examples can work against even this objection. Frankfurt Counter Examples have been resilient, if anything, to various rebutting defeaters.)

Thus, it looks like the noose is tightening and Classical Arminianism will eventually be forced, logically, to the Open Theist position. On the other hand, they can drop the PAP objection to Calvinism (libertarian Dave Hunt does not hold to PAP, so that is another viable option). They would just lose a major weapon they have been wielding in the debate between the two systems. Only time will tell which one they will give.