Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Bethlehem Birthplace Outside Of Matthew And Luke

Critics of the traditional Christian belief that Jesus was born in Bethlehem often object that Jesus' birth there is only mentioned in two New Testament sources, Matthew and Luke. And they sometimes cite John 7:42 as evidence against Bethlehem as Jesus' birthplace.

But where else would we expect Jesus' place of birth to be mentioned? The large majority of the New Testament consists of documents like Romans, Philemon, and 3 John, where we wouldn't expect to see any discussion of the subject. And two New Testament sources that mention the traditional view of Jesus' birthplace would be better than the zero that mention Nazareth or some other alternative of the critic. But there are more than two New Testament sources that identify Bethlehem as Jesus' birthplace in some manner.

Regarding John 7:42:

"John is perfectly capable of leaving unanswered a foolish objection by Jesus' opponents or interrogators because he knows that that Christian reader will see the fallacy (cf. 4:12) - a technique that creates problems for the modern reader who has to guess how much John's readers knew." (Raymond Brown, The Birth Of The Messiah [New York, New York: Doubleday, 1999], n. 6 on p. 516)

"Many ironies in Greek tragedies did not need to be spelled out because the story was already well known to the audience. The independent infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke - the only two extant first-century gospels with infancy narratives - both attest that many Christians accepted this tradition before John's time, and at least by the time of Hadrian in the early second century even non-Christian residents of Bethlehem recognized a long-standing tradition of the site of Jesus' birth in a particular cave there. The tradition was probably sufficiently widely circulated to be taken for granted by John's audience." (Craig Keener, The Gospel Of John: A Commentary, Vol. 1 [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003], pp. 730-731)

While discussing the use of irony in Josephus, the Josephan scholar Steve Mason cites the example of irony in John's gospel:

"The most famous example is probably the Gospel of John, which includes an authoritative divine prologue (1.1-18) concerning Jesus' heavenly origin (cf. John 3.11-21; 5.19-47; 6.35-58; 8.12-58; 10.1-38). The repeated claims of ignorant characters in the story to certain knowledge of Jesus' origins (John 1.45-6; 6.42; 7.41-3) are devastating because the audience - any audience at any time - knows otherwise." (Josephus, Judea, And Christian Origins [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009], p. 74)

In what sense is John 7:42 ironic? Probably in the sense that Jesus had a Heavenly origin that was even more significant than the earthly origin His critics were focusing on. But the passage probably is also ironic in the sense that Jesus' critics were ignorant of the fact that He did meet the qualifications they were asking of Him. (At such an early date, some people would have been aware of Jesus' ancestry and birthplace, but others still would have been ignorant or more skeptical of that information.) Keep in mind that John 7:42 addresses two subjects, not just one. In addition to Jesus' birthplace, it addresses His ancestry. Just as John's audience would have known that these critics of Jesus were ignorant of His Davidic ancestry, a widely known and affirmed concept in early Christianity (Romans 1:3, Mark 10:47, Revelation 5:5, etc.), the implication is that they also knew that the critics were ignorant of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. In other words, the Bethlehem birthplace is accepted by John and his readers. Matthew and Luke aren't the only New Testament sources to refer to it.

Further confirmation of that conclusion is seen in the widespread affirmation of Jesus' Davidic ancestry and/or birth in Bethlehem among early sources who were close to John and the churches among which he worked. The book of Revelation refers to Jesus as a descendant of David. Papias accepts the gospel of Mark, which refers to Jesus as a descendant of David. Ignatius refers to Jesus' Davidic descent and uses the gospel of Matthew, at one point referring to the star of Bethlehem, including when writing to Johannine churches. Justin Martyr refers to Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. So does Irenaeus. Etc. Many early sources who were historically close to John affirmed Jesus' Davidic ancestry and Bethlehem birthplace. That fact adds more weight to the reading of John 7 that I'm suggesting.

And Paul seems to refer to Luke's gospel as scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18 (George Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2000], pp. 233-235; cf. Paul's application of an introductory formula to texts mentioned second or later in Romans 15:10-12 and 2 Timothy 2:19). Thus, Paul indirectly affirms the Bethlehem birthplace as well.

Friday, November 27, 2009



A Call of Christian Conscience

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of Roman civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Faith-Alone and Judaizer Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow Roman Empire inhabitants, Christians and pagans alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

1. the sanctity of human life
2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of Roman society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our pagan culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

[I cannot imagine the Apostle Paul uniting and thus signing such a declaration with Judaizers. Apparently, many Evangelicals can. Some will consider this point unrefined, and un-nuanced, but I gladly accept this charge.]

Do potted plants go to heaven?

Jason Pratt is a member of the CADRE. He's also a universalist. But I didn't realize until now that he also subscribes to a form of animism or panpsychism:

Jason Pratt said...

"I don't mean by this that I think no other animals are conscious than humans; on the contrary, I think even normally unconscious species can sometimes be wakened to consciousness by the love of other conscious entities, and I am entirely prepared to include not only animals but even (speculatively and ideally) plants or even non-organic complex systems (like, for example, ships)."

This raises some intriguing possibilities for universalism. Do all potted plants go to heaven when they die? Or only those their owners spoke to? What about that muscle car I spent so many hours in high school washing and waxing and tinkering with? Is it a conscious being? Did it bond with me under the hood? Like Stephen King's Christine?

Resources On Christmas

Last year, I posted some resources for the Christmas season (online Christmas apologetic material, book recommendations, etc.). I have several items to add this year.

Late last year, after I posted the Christmas resources linked above, I wrote about the alleged pagan roots of the December 25 date for Christmas. And here'sa post about the neglect of Christmas apologetics, also written late last year. This past January, I reviewed two more Christmas-related books, the first two in Joseph Kelly's three-volume series on the history of Christmas. (As far as I know, the third volume isn't out yet.) Here's my review of the first two volumes. I also wrote a post on the virgin birth this past January. And here's one on Luke's census from earlier this month. I also wrote about an issue related to Jesus' birthplace.

Chris Price wrote two articles on census-related issues early this year. See here and here. This past April, Stephen Carlson wrote about the proper translation and meaning of Luke 2:7, a passage that's often misunderstood and misrepresented.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fathers & sons


This year, Derek was more anxious than usual about his high school reunion. It was about the only time he had occasion to make it back to his home state.

He’d already attended his 10th and 20th reunions. But this was different. This would be his final reunion.

The timing of his reunion was opportune–coming so, close, as it did, to his cancer diagnosis. It would be a chance to tie up some loose ends–or so he hoped–before he had to bid this world farewell.

It would also be an opportunity to spend some precious, undivided time with his two teenage sons, Bryce and Brian. Give them some “Dad time” to remember him by, when he was gone.

Perhaps this is when he’d break the news to them. He hadn’t told anyone else. Not even his wife.

Outwardly, the disease had yet to present itself–except for some fatigue, as well as pain. But the pain was something he could manage–for now–with low doses of morphine–which he kept concealed.

Of course he intended to tell them. He had to tell them.

But people treat you differently when they know you’re dying. They become very self-conscious. They look at you differently. Tiptoe around you like you’re antique china.

He wanted a little more time with his wife and kids while things were “normal” before he let them know. After attending the reunion with his sons, he’d take his wife on a little, much needed, overdue vacation.


On the plane his sons were pleasantly distracted. Immersed in their own world. Looking at them he saw himself looking back–a younger self. Himself at their age.

But they also enjoyed the chance to take a trip with dad. To do stuff and talk about stuff a bunch of guys like to together. Learn more about dad. Where he came from. What he was like at their age. Where he went and what he did.

At the airport they got a rental car. Normally, Derek would be happy to let his older boy Bryce do the driving. But, of course, he knew the area better than they did. And this was a chance to retrace his roots.

Much was still familiar, but much had changed. Back when he was a kid, the area had lots of farms and ranches and woods. But over the years it had become far more urbanized.

He made a few wrong turns driving to the motel, because the roads he remembered from his youth were not the same. It was an odd sensation–to oscillate between the shock of recognition and the shock of what was barely recognizable. Even when you went back, there was no going back.


Next morning, they drove to his grandmother’s house. At least, that was the plan. He wasn’t sure if it was still there. And he wasn’t quite sure if he knew how to find it.

You see, he’d never driven there on his own. Back when he was a boy, his parents would drive there from time to time to pay her a visit. So he’d never seen the route from the driver’s seat. Only from the backseat.

Still, Derek was surprised by how well his childish recollections guided him. Every time he thought he was lost, he’d spot a familiar landmark.

Finally he pulled onto 29th. A narrow, tree-lined residential street. Would he remember the house?

That’s when he spotted the geraniums. He’d forgotten about her geraniums. Her bright, cheerful geraniums.

Nice to know the new owners kept her geraniums. Nice way to remember his grandma. Indeed, how many times had the house changed hands since she died? But, through it all, the geraniums continued to bloom.

His grandma loved to garden. When she wasn’t praying, or buried in her dog-eared Bible, she was in the front yard, tending her little flowerbeds. One way or another, grandma spent most of her waking days on her knees.

Maybe she loved the geraniums because she herself was like a geranium. Like a smiling summer day.

In fact, he still had her Bible, as a keepsake, in a box inside a box somewhere in the garage back home. That’s about the only thing he had to remember her by.


After lunch they drove to his old home. Parked outside, on the curb, staring at it through the car windows.

Not much of a house. Not much of a yard.

Along the fence, beside of his parents’ bedroom, there was a clump of bamboo. The bamboo didn’t really blend in with the other trees and shrubs. And his dad didn’t care that much for bamboo. It was very aggressive. Took over the whole yard if you gave it half a chance. You had to keep cutting it back. Use a herbicide to keep it under control.

He planted it there because his wife asked him to. Because she liked the sound of the rustling leaves. She liked to sit in bed with the window open to hear the sound of the breeze blowing through the bamboo leaves as she read a book or magazine.

So he did it for her. Derek’s dad was not the expressive type. He showed his love in other ways. For Derek’s dad, love was more about wordless deeds than deedless words.

Odd how staring at a clump of bamboo brought back a lost world.


They had an earlier supper before heading out to his old high school, where the reunion was held. They arrived early.

He walked around the campus with Bryce and Brian. Past a courtyard with a fountain. A dry fountain. Still dry–after all these years. Even when he was a student there, the fountain was dry. What was the point of a fountain if you never turned it on?

That fountain had a story. Someone put it there. For a reason.

They peered through windows of empty classrooms, as he told his sons about his teachers, his classes, his classmates.

He found something very evocative about a deserted schoolyard. Empty classrooms. Empty hallways. Nothing but the echo of your own footsteps. Where had all the time gone? Where had all the years gone?

At the reunion he proudly introduced his two sons to his old classmates. Some of them had hardly aged a day, while others were prematurely aged–from too much hard living.

It was disconcerting to see an old flame so burnt out. That’s not how he remembered her. On the other hand, it was amusing to see his old nemesis, the star quarterback, about two candy bars away from a walker.

Yet the grim satisfaction was abortive as it crossed his mind that his old nemesis would undoubtedly outlive him.


After the party broke up, he drove his sons to an old abandoned shopping center. He got out of the car and walked around the empty parking lot, under the glare of the sodium vapor lamps.

His sons wondered what he saw. All they saw was an empty parking lot, with cracks and weeds and potholes, in a seedy shopping center, with graffiti and broken windows.

But Derek saw a noisy lot full of Christmas trees, holiday shoppers, and gaudy decorations. When he was a boy, he and his dad used to drive there every December, on a cold snowy night, to pick out a Christmas tree from the artificial forest of cut trees lining the lot. They’d go from tree to tree, row by row, debating the merits of each specimen. Their breath a little fog-machine in the chilly out-of-doors. Haggling with the merchant over the price.

Funny the things you remember your father for. Of all the days and years, it comes down to a few iconic, unforgettable images.

How would Derek’s sons remember him when he was gone? What legacy was he leaving behind?

His own dad died of cancer when Derek was in high school. Yes, history was repeating itself.

For the first few weeks, through force of habit, his mom would set the table for three–then catch herself, and remove the placemat.

A part of Derek was sorry that she stopped. A part of him wanted to leave the table set for three. Hoping against hope that if they kept a place set for Dad, he’d show up for dinner one more time. Just one more time.

It was hard to look at that empty chair. You tried to overlook that empty chair. Tried to pretend it wasn’t there.


After Derek and the boys flew back home, he went to the garage. Started to rummage through boxes. Boxes stacked on boxes. Boxes inside of boxes. He’d open one, then another, then another.

Was it gone? Had it be accidentally discarded? Or simply misplaced?

As he removed one more box, and blew the dust away, and cut the strings, and lifted the lid, and peeled the wrapping away, there it was. Still there. Almost waiting for him to find it.

He sat down on the stepladder and began to read his grandma’s dog-eared Bible.

More About The Manhattan Declaration

There's a lengthy discussion about the Manhattan Declaration at Tim Challies' blog.

Thankful For Many Things

"For the Lord has made known to us by the prophets both the things which are past and present, giving us also the first-fruits of the knowledge of things to come, which things as we see accomplished, one by one, we ought with the greater richness of faith and elevation of spirit to draw near to Him with reverence....Therefore we ought to be deeply grateful to the Lord, because He has both made known to us things that are past, and has given us wisdom concerning things present, and has not left us without understanding in regard to things which are to come....Understand, then, you children of gladness, that the good Lord has foreshown all things to us, that we might know to whom we ought for everything to render thanksgiving and praise." (The Epistle Of Barnabas, 1, 5, 7)

"O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors! Having therefore convinced us in the former time that our nature was unable to attain to life, and having now revealed the Saviour who is able to save even those things which it was formerly impossible to save, by both these facts He desired to lead us to trust in His kindness, to esteem Him our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counsellor, Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honour, Glory, Power, and Life, so that we should not be anxious concerning clothing and food." (The Epistle To Diognetus, 9)

"Moreover, if we believe that some inflictions are sent on us by the Lord, to whom should we more exhibit patience than to the Lord? Nay, He teaches us to give thanks and rejoice, over and above, at being thought worthy of divine chastisement. 'Whom I love,' says He, 'I chasten.' O blessed servant, on whose amendment the Lord is intent! with whom He deigns to be angry! whom He does not deceive by dissembling His reproofs!" (Tertullian, Of Patience, 11)

"And so He wills that our prayers should not simply be requests, but thanksgivings too for what we have. For how should he ask for future things, who is not thankful for the past? 'But in everything by prayer and supplication.' Wherefore we ought to give thanks for all things, even for those which seem to be grievous, for this is the part of the truly thankful man. In the other case the nature of the things demands it; but this springs from a grateful soul, and one earnestly affected toward God. God acknowledgeth these prayers, but others He knoweth not. Offer up such prayers as may be acknowledged; for He disposeth all things for our profit, though we know it not. And this is a proof that it greatly profiteth, namely, that we know it not. 'And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.' What meaneth this? 'The peace of God' which He hath wrought toward men, surpasseth all understanding. For who could have expected, who could have hoped, that such good things would have come?" (John Chrysostom, Homilies On Philippians, 14)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The journey home

Outwardly, believers and unbelievers have the same lifecycle. We’re born. Pass through childhood and adolescence. Young adulthood. Middle age. Old age. And death. We also watch the older generation precede us as we follow at a distance.

We inhabit the same reality. However, believers and unbelievers don’t view the lifecycle the same way. From the viewpoint of the average unbeliever, there is no afterlife.

That gives rise to all the gallows humor in birthday cards for those over 40. That also gives rise to telling metaphors like “over the hill.”

Yet even “over the hill” is fairly euphemistic. For many unbelievers regard their teens or twenties at the high point of their lives. So the high point comes well before the midpoint. From a secular perspective, most of the journey is downhill. And it always ends badly.

Ironically, the actual ending is far worse than the unbeliever projects. For his death is not, in fact, the end. To the contrary, it’s a transition to a worse state.

In a sense, the unbeliever speaks better than he knows. For him, it really is a downward journey. And it continues downward–forever.

By contrast, Christians take a very different view of the lifecycle. We are born in exile. And the lifecycle charts our journey home. The return trip.

Believers and unbelievers alike are born in exile. Believers and unbelievers alike may also start out the very same way. We may both be blessed with a happy childhood or exciting adolescence. Revel in our teens and twenties.

That’s not always the case, of course. But the good and the bad may be true for believer and unbeliever alike.

It’s an age of exploration. And age of discovery.

Likewise, the middle years may be more demanding for both believer and unbeliever. Outwardly, their lives are much alike.

Yet inwardly and ultimately, there is already a subtle parting of the ways.

We both begin the journey when we are young and strong. When the world is fresh and full of wonder. The early stages of the journey are often a joy.

But as we hit the middle years, the trail is steeper, and we are weaker. It takes more effort, and we have less to give. Gone is the youthful spring in our step. Now we plot and trod.

The time when every bend in the road had its awaiting epiphany gives way to a certain sameness. Fewer surprises. More sadness.

We lose traveling companions to illness, accident, and death. We have to bury them where they fell. Leave them behind.

At this point the believer is like a soldier returning home after years away. Years of war. He is sore and battle-weary. He has seen things, unspeakable things, which he can’t forget. Sleep is no escape, for he dreams about the battlefield.

Yet the very isolation, and separation, and absence, and loneliness, is what makes the prospect of his belated reunion so compelling. It beckons from afar.

As he crosses the outskirts of his homeland, heading for his hometown, his surroundings begin to look familiar again. Remembered sights. The sense of dawning recognition as he retraces his steps.

Despite his pain and fatigue, he quickens his pace. The anticipation builds. The exhilaration swells.

He can count down the miles. Only a few more hills and valleys to go. As he nears the final bend in the journey, he breaks into a run–bounding towards the end. He can almost see his loved ones waiting for him to rejoin them and mend the broken circle.

And, of course, there is far more, and far better, to greet the Christian than may await a soldier returning from war.

The Pillsbury Dough Lord

I grant that generalizations can be unhelpful; namely, they tend to over-simplify what obviously are matters of great nuance and deserving of long and careful study and explanation. It does strike me as I consider much of the conversations I’ve read between Lutherans and Calvinists boils down to a critical distinction between our respective theological points of view, our Weltaunschaung, as it were. And, again, at the considerable risk of over-simplification, it seems to me that it comes down to this: Lutheranism tends to focus on the “what” and “that” of the God’s Word, whereas Calvinism tends to move more toward answers to “how?” and “why?” In a certain sense, Lutheranism is more about declaration and proclamation of what has been revealed by God’s Word, but Calvinism wants always to move into an explanation of the what and that of Scripture, from a metaphysical or philosophical point of view. It strikes me that often Calvinism appears to be more concerned with answering questions posed by finite human understanding, than in asserting the “what” and “that” of Scripture. Add to this a disturbing and disquieting focus more on the “sovereignty of God” and less on the man Christ Jesus, His grace and mercy and you have in place a “system” that appears to me to be more about resolving logical conundra than in asserting the Gospel of Christ.

I grant that generalizations can be unhelpful; namely, they tend to over-simplify what obviously are matters of great nuance and deserving of long and careful study and explanation. It does strike me as I consider much of the conversations I’ve read between Lutherans and Calvinists boils down to a critical distinction between our respective theological points of view, our Weltaunschaung, as it were. And, again, at the considerable risk of over-simplification, it seems to me that it comes down to this: Lutheranism tends to focus on the “what” and “that” of the God’s Word, whereas Calvinism tends to move more toward answers to “how?” and “why?” In a certain sense, Lutheranism is more about declaration and proclamation of what has been revealed by God’s Word, but Calvinism wants always to move into an explanation of the what and that of Scripture, from a metaphysical or philosophical point of view. It strikes me that often Calvinism appears to be more concerned with answering questions posed by finite human understanding, than in asserting the “what” and “that” of Scripture. Add to this a disturbing and disquieting focus more on the “sovereignty of God” and less on the man Christ Jesus, His grace and mercy and you have in place a “system” that appears to me to be more about resolving logical conundra than in asserting the Gospel of Christ.

Notice how he sets up the contrast. Over here we have the sovereignty of God. But over there we have the man Christ Jesus, His grace and mercy.

So, according to McCain, is Jesus less that sovereign? Likewise, if grace and mercy are less than sovereign, then what do they amount to, any way?

The doctrine of the Real Presence: Lutheranism asserts that the Word of Christ that “this [bread] is [is] my body [Christ's body]” is a statement of what and that. It is His Body, it is given for us to eat and to drink. Calvinism rejects this believe and predicates its position on trying to answer “how” and “why” type questions about the Lord’s Supper. It anchors its position finally in a philosophical/logical premise that the body of Christ can not be present under bread and wine, and therefore, Christ is not talking about an actual real, physical presence of His resurrection body in the Eucharist, under the elements of bread and wine…My “exegetical warrant” for the Lutheran confession of the Supper, is, and remains the words that ever stand sure. The words of our dear Lord Christ, “This is my body.”

What’s ironic about this exegetical appeal is the way in which McCain begins by quoting his prooftext, then instantly deviates from his prooftext without any awareness of the glaring difference between the wording of the text and his own construction.

Notice how he goes directly from “This is my body” to the “presence of His resurrection body in the Eucharist, under the elements of bread and wine.”

Stop and ask yourself how he derives those qualifications from the wording of his prooftext. Did Jesus say anything about his being “present” in relation to the communion elements? No. Did he say anything about his being “in” or “under” the communion elements? No. And when he spoke those words, was he in his “resurrection” body? No.

You couldn’t find a better specimen of the way in which a theological tradition conditions the adherent to unconsciously see things in the text that simply aren’t there.

If we were really going to take this text at face value, then Jesus would be a six-foot loaf of bread. Bearded bread. Bread Incarnate.

Does McCain think Jesus is a six-foot loaf of bread? If we went back in time to the Last Supper, would we see a six-foot loaf of bread celebrating communion with his disciples?

Real bread as empirical qualities. What does Jesus look like? Taste like? Feel like? Is Jesus a life-size version of the Pillsbury Dough Boy? Is the Incarnation really the Inbreadification?

McCain doesn’t take the text any more literally than Zwingli.

The ultimate arbiter

Bryan Cross is fond of objecting to sola Scriptura on the grounds that sola Scriptura makes the individual Christian the “ultimate arbiter.”

But the problems with this allegation are numerous:

1.He hasn’t show that this is inconsistent with the Protestant or Reformed understanding of sola Scriptura. So even if his characterization were accurate, so what? How does that disprove what Protestants in general or Calvinists in particular mean by sola scriptura?

2.He hasn’t shown that Catholicism supplies a viable alternative. Therefore, he has failed to solve the problem he posed for himself.

3.”Ultimate arbiter is vague. It could either mean (a) ultimate source or (b) ultimate standard.

i) For example, Greenwich Mean Time is the ultimate standard for time zones. Suppose I have a very accurate watch. The watch is set to GMT.

Still, to tell the time, I have to look at my watch. Does that make me the ultimate arbiter of time? Isn’t that a rather silly way of putting things?

ii) Moreover, how can Bryan avoid this consequence? Perhaps he’d say (to continue with our metaphor) that someone can tell me the time. An infallible speaker can tell me the time.

Unfortunately for Bryan, that simply relocates the problem. Instead of looking at my watch for myself, I listen to what someone tells me. But I’m still using my own senses. I’ve simply shifted from the sense of sight to the sense of hearing. But I’m still the ultimate arbiter (if you will) of what I hear–or think I hear.

Dropping the metaphor, that’s no different whether the text is Scripture, a church father, a papal encyclical, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

4.And from a Reformed standpoint, it’s not even true that I’m the ultimate source. Indeed, it’s very odd to read someone attack Calvinism because Calvinism allegedly makes the individual Christian the ultimate source of what he understands. Normally, critics attack Calvinism because, according to Calvinism, the human agent, whether believer or unbeliever, is not the ultimate source of his thoughts and actions. Rather, his understanding is whatever God willed him to understand–for better or worse.

We are the Changelings we've been waiting for

This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.

We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. We are the hope of those boys who have little; who've been told that they cannot have what they dream; that they cannot be what they imagine.

Yes they can.

We are the hope of the father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake with doubts that tell him he cannot give his children the same opportunities that someone gave him.

Yes he can.

We are the hope of the woman who hears that her city will not be rebuilt; that she cannot reclaim the life that was swept away in a terrible storm.

Yes she can.

We are the hope of the future; the answer to the cynics who tell us our house must stand divided; that we cannot come together; that we cannot remake this world as it should be.

Because we know what we have seen and what we believe - that what began as a whisper has now swelled to a chorus that cannot be ignored; that will not be deterred; that will ring out across this land as a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, and make this time different than all the rest - Yes. We. Can.

Imagine this. At a time of political turmoil, a charismatic, telegenic new leader arrives virtually out of nowhere. He offers a message of hope and reconciliation based on compromise and promises to marshal technology for a better future that will include universal health care.

The news media swoons in admiration -- one simpering anchorman even shouts at a reporter who asks a tough question: "Why don't you show some respect?!" The public is likewise smitten, except for a few nut cases who circulate batty rumors on the Internet about the leader's origins and intentions. The leader, undismayed, offers assurances that are soothing, if also just a tiny bit condescending: "Embracing change is never easy."

So, does that sound like anyone you know? Oh, wait -- did I mention the leader is secretly a totalitarian space lizard who's come here to eat us?

Welcome to ABC's "V," the most fascinating and bound to be the most controversial new show of the fall television season. Nominally a rousing sci-fi space opera about alien invaders bent on the conquest (and digestion) of all humanity, it's also a barbed commentary on Obamamania that will infuriate the president's supporters and delight his detractors.

"We're all so quick to jump on the bandwagon," observes one character. "A ride on the bandwagon, it sounds like fun. But before we get on, let us at least make sure it is sturdy."

The bandwagon in this case is conspicuously saucer-shaped. "V" starts with the arrival of a couple of dozen ships from outer space, piloted by creatures who look like humans except a lot prettier. "Don't be frightened," says their luminously beautiful leader Anna (Morena Baccarin, "Serenity"). "We mean no harm."

The aliens -- who become known as V's, for visitors -- quickly enthrall their wide-eyed human hosts.

A handful of dissidents hold out against the rapturous reception given the V's. Some are simply uneasy, such as the youthful priest Father Jack (Joel Gretsch, "The 4400"), who sharply criticizes the Vatican's embrace of the V's as divine creations: "Rattlesnakes are God's creatures too.",0,7062976.story

Almost as if Lou Dobbs had taken over the network, ABC plans to debut a series in the fall about aliens who come to Earth promising "hope," "change" and universal health care, but who actually want to infiltrate our government and our businesses and, to that end, have rallied the country's youth behind their nefarious campaign.

Morena Baccarin plays the good-looking, seductively charismatic leader of the so-called Visitors, one remarkably knowledgeable about human culture and media manipulation.

The series is called "V" and it's a re-envisioning of an old miniseries of same name.

Baccarin acknowledged she had modeled her alien character after politicians, saying: "I am trying my best [in the role] to be as trustworthy as I can be and to embody what everybody of every nationality and need wants to see. At the same time, you have your own agenda."

Oh, and "V" is debuting on Nov. 3 -- the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, a.k.a. the one-year anniversary of Barack Obama being elected the 44th president of the United States, which will be front and center on all the cable news networks, the broadcast TV networks' newscasts, the front pages of newspapers, magazine covers and pretty much otherwise on everybody's mind.

This was not lost on some of the TV critics attending Summer TV Press Tour 2009, especially those who knew the original "V" was seen as a political allegory. In that case, it was widely perceived as a thinly veiled portrait of fascism.

"Some of the words in the pilot associated with the Visitors' agenda are 'hope' and 'change' and 'universal health care,' " one critic noted. "So, was that intentional, or are you just freakishly prescient?"

"Freakishly prescient," replied executive producer Scott Peters, though not blithely -- not with any real zippiness. Many in the room did not seem to buy it, except maybe "V" heroine Elizabeth Mitchell, who responded, "Wow!" as if it was the first she was hearing about this.

The critic wanted more.

"We are not looking to put any sort of agenda onto the table but," Peters said, spinning madly, "you know, I wake up in the morning and you look at the news and you see there's wars; there's new diseases being discovered; there's old diseases that we are still dealing with. The economy is in the toilet; there are people losing their homes. Wouldn't it be awesome if 29 ships showed up and they all said, 'We've got this. We'll take care of you. Don't worry about it'?

Virgo intacta

The perpetual virginity of Mary often comes up in Protestant and Catholic arguments. When I was Reformed, I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t think it ought to be a church dividing issue since plenty of the Reformers and post-Reformation theologians adhered to it and defended it. And I didn’t at the time see its significance one way or the other, though no I think reflection on the perpetual virginity of Jesus will show that it is.) It was also a teaching that was held and judged to be correct or at least permissible, by plenty of “secondary” authorities. If Sola Scriptura entails following secondary authorities and eschewing the supposedly more Anabaptist take of solo Scriptura, this seemed like such a case. And of course, plenty of Protestants hold to it today, not the least of which are the Lutherans.

Francis Turretin (1623-1687) no small name among Reformed authors also favored the doctrine. Here is his summary defense of the teaching.

Several problems:

1.Yes, Francis Turretin is one of the top Reformed theologians. So far so good.

2.Robinson is alluding to Keith Mathison’s sola/solo scriptura rubric. However, that’s dubious even on its own terms:

3.Calvinists subscribe to sola Scriptura. Perry has now drawn attention to a shocking case in which most modern-day Calvinists differ with Turretin on this particular issue because they think the perpetual virginity of Mary is…unscriptural.

Therefore, Perry has succeeded in exposing the scandalous fact that most modern-day Calvinists are faithful to their rule of faith (sola Scriptura). Apparently, we’re consistent to a fault! If only we paid lip-service to our rule of faith, we’d be above criticism. But, no, we have to take it seriously! Pretty damning, don’t you think?

4.Perry equivocates. In Roman Cathoicism, there is more to the perpetual virginity of Mary than the notion that she and Joseph never hand conjugal relations.

According to Catholicism, Jesus never passed through the birth canal. Instead, he was “transported” directly from the womb to the outside world.

Not coincidentally, this tradition goes back to Gnostic sources.

Notice that Turretin isn’t defending the perpetual virginity of Mary in that sense.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The "Constantinian canon"?

“Some popular writers today have spoken of scores of ancient ‘gospels’ competing with the canonical gospels until purged by Constantine. This claim is either disingenuous or stems from ignorance of the facts.”

“If we count as a ‘gospel’ any ‘life of Jesus’ regardless of the date of its composition, we would have to include the plethora of nineteenth-century ‘lives of Jesus’ (along with a few movies about Jesus today). Clearly, however, the only ‘lives of Jesus’ that can be counted onto give us independently reliable information are those that were composed within the earliest generations of the church. As we shall argue, of the ‘gospels’ that survive today, for better or for worse only the four preserved and accepted by the mainstream second-century church into their functioning canon can lay a solid claim to stem from the first few generations (i.e., from the first century, although the Fourth Gospel probably meets this criterion by less than a decade).”

“One can in fact find scores of extant (most of them barely extant) works that can be called ‘gospels,’ but only a few of these date even to the second century, and many stem from long after Constantine.”

“The popular claim is also disingenuous because matters were settled for the vast majority of the church long before Constantine. By 170 CE, Tatian in Syria harmonized the four gospels now accepted as canonical, probably developing earlier work from the mid-second century. From the same generation Irenaeus in the western Empire, far from Syria and addressing a culturally quite different form of the Christian movement than Tatian addressed, also emphasized these four gospels. Toward the end of the second century, Irenaeus treats Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the only gospels universally accepted by the ‘orthodox’ circle of churches. Irenaeus’ modern detractors may dispute his claims about how early these works were accepted, but they were certainly widely accepted by his day, and to place other works on an equal footing with the four as late as Constantine is simply inaccurate, C. Keener, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Eerdmans 2009), 48-49.

The Manhattan Declaration

I’ve been asked to comment on the Manhattan Declaration.

1.A document can be an “ecumenical” in more than one sense. It may be an ecumenical or interfaith document in the incidental sense that the framers happen to belong to different religious traditions.

However, the document itself doesn’t focus on interfaith relations. It’s not a self-reflective document which concentrates on their mutual identity. They don’t spend time talking about each other. Affirming each other. Finding the good in each other’s respective traditions.

Instead, it’s an outward-looking document. A call to action. It takes for granted a preexisting consensus on certain social issues. There is no effort to find common ground in theology. To meet halfway. Instead, they already agree on certain social issues, and they are simply joining forces to maximize their political clout.

I don’t object to that type of document. And if the Manhattan Declaration were clearly that type of document, I could sign it.

2.Apropos (1), this is, in principle, much like any political or military alliance. You can form rotating alliances. Someone who’s your adversary in one setting can be your ally in another.

Likewise, there’s a tradeoff in which each ally has to give a little to get a little. Gen Patton and Field Marshall Montgomery are both prima donnas. Each one represents a vital ally. They both can’t have what they want all the time. So Ike has to give each one just enough to make it worth his while.

Same thing with a party platform. Maybe, like Charles Krauthammer, you’re a hawkish social liberal. You don’t agree with everything in the party platform. But you have priorities. If national security is your priority, you may be a registered Republican even, like Krauthammer, you disagree with the platform on social issues.

3.Apropos (2), the very fact that this is an “ecumenical” exercise carries with it some built-in weasel room. It’s understood, going in, that every signatory may not agree with every statement.

Some critics approach documents like this as if they were strict subscriptionists. As if you can’t sign a document like this unless you agree with every jot and tittle. But that holds the signatory to an even higher standard than we have for ordinands.

I think an underlying assumption of consensus documents like this is that some allowance is implicitly made for the mental reservations of the signatory. It’s like Congressional legislation. Voting for the bill doesn’t mean you rubberstamp everything in the bill. In this context, “agreement” is inherently flexible.

Rather, a lawmaker votes for a bill if, on the one hand, the bill contains something his constituents need while, on the other hand, it doesn’t contain something too objectionable to his constituents.

4.On the other hand, a document can be ecumenical in the sense that it’s fundamentally inward-looking rather than outward-looking. The focus of the document lies on the participants, and the institutions or religious traditions which they represent. The point of the document is to talk about each other. Affirm one another.

Interfaith documents of this sort tend to take one of two different forms.

You may have members of the religious left who sit down together to draft a statement expressing their shared outlook. And since the framers are all religious pluralists to begin with, they genuinely share a common outlook, for they have no fundamental differences. To the extent that they represent different traditions, that’s a matter of personal preference or ethnicity.

Or, to take another example, you have an informal get together of Catholics and Protestants. They hammer out a document containing deliberately equivocal formulations which one side takes one way, consistent with its theology, and the other side takes another way, consistent with its theology.

The Catholic participants make throwaway concessions that don’t cost them anything while the Protestant participants make substantive concessions. There’s the carefully crafted illusion that both sides are meeting each other halfway, but in reality, the fundamental motion is all in one direction.

Interfaith documents of this sort are worse than useless.

5.The basic problem with the Manhattan Declaration is that it has more than one target audience. As the document itself says, the framers are speaking both “to and from” their respective faith “communities.”

The document is partly a call to action, partly a call to repentance, and partly an ultimatum. It’s both inward and outward-looking.

And this muddles the message. For example, the document ends with a veiled threat of civil disobedience, if need be. A shot across the bow to the liberal establishment.

I don’t object to that. However, the document is also full of self-recriminations and mea culpas about the many failings of historic Christendom.

But the ultimatum would be more convincing if it didn’t contain so much breast-beating about the real or perceived failings of Christendom. It makes it sound as if the framers and signatories must engage in public confession to earn permission to speak to the issues. But an ultimatum shouldn’t be so apologetic.

6.Apropos (5), the document accentuates the notion of collective guilt, as if the representatives of one religious tradition are culpable for the failings of another religious tradition.

Unfortunately, that becomes the religious equivalent of identity politics. I don’t take that seriously.

And to the extent that this document is a summons to the Christian community, the way in which chooses to frame its appeal is unintentionally divisive. I don’t apologize for the dead.

So the message of the document is fairly confused and counterproductive. In principle, it could simply state a political agenda grounded in a shared vision on certain social issues. But it dilutes that with lots of soul-searching and handholding.

We end up with a well-meaning document that makes a number of fine statements. At the same time, the document is far too self-absorbed. Instead of retaining a focus on the objective issues and imperatives, along with a practical plan of action, it degenerates into group therapy.

As such, this document reflects the social circle and social dynamics of the framers. The world in which they think and move. An upper crust of Christian academics and hierarchs.

Befuddled Arminians

“Does God really want all people to be saved?”

This is not simply a question for Calvinists, but also for Arminians. According to Arminians, human beings have freedom to do or choose otherwise. The outcome could go either way.

If that is so, then there is a possible world for each alternative outcome. A possible world in which a free agent chooses one way, along with another possible world in which he chooses otherwise.

Therefore, on Arminian principles, there ought to be at least one possible world in which all free agents freely choose Jesus.
So, if God loves everyone and wants to save everyone, then why didn’t he create that possible world–rather than a world in which some human beings are heavenbound while other human beings are hellbound?

Or, to recast the issue in less ambitious terms, the Arminian must demonstrate that there is no possible world in which free agents freely choose Christ.

Michael: “Would it not be easier and better just to admit the Calvinist position makes far less sense than the Arminian?”

That would be easier to admit if you backed it up with an actual argument.

“…but he is much more loving, as the Arminian contends (and, by the way, as the Bible teaches).”

How is God much more loving under Arminianism?

Robert: “Now the non-calvinist on the other hand, since we believe that Jesus died for the world (and that world includes both folks who will eventually become believers as well as folks who will never become believers) we do in fact believe that God has the best interests in mind for all people of the world.”

If, according to freewill theism, it is possible for every human being to either accept or reject the gospel, then there’s at least one possible world in which each human being accepts the gospel. Therefore, God could act with everyone’s best interests in mind by instantiating a possible world in which everyone freely accepts the gospel. Libertarian freedom or the freedom to do otherwise (i.e. principle of alternate possibilities) implies that there is at least one such world.

Revrogers: “I would suggest that the ‘love’ relationship between God and the human is more ‘genuine’ in that it was not imposed upon the human by irresistibleness of the grace. The Arminian understanding suggests that all grace is enabling for genuine response to God’s initiating grace (whether common or special). The genuine response of the human is genuinely rebellious in direct response to the offered grace (common or special) and not merely hardwired instinctive original sin but real individual rebellion or it is a grace-enabled ability to plead mercy. God’s initiating enabling grace makes either response more ‘genuine’ in my opinion.”

Which misses the point of my earlier comment. Even on Arminian/libertarian grounds, you are posing a false dilemma. Even if we grant your tendentious characterization of what “genuine” love requires, that doesn’t imply an actual world with hellbound sinners. For if, a la libertarianism, it is possible for human beings to either accept the gospel or reject the gospel, if it is possible for them to either love God or withhold their love, then there’s a possible world which represents each possible alternative. In that case, God could save every free agent by simply creating the possible world in which they freely love him. That doesn’t require the “imposition” of irresistible grace. Rather, that follows from libertarian action theory.

So, explain once again, consistent with your Arminian/libertarian commitments, how Arminian theism is more loving than Reformed theism?

revrogers: “What makes it ‘tendentious’?”

You define love in libertarian terms, which begs the very question at issue.

“How would you characterize and define something being a ‘love’ relationship?”

The unregenerate are like mental patients who can’t help themselves. God isn’t “imposing” on them. Rather, regeneration restores their fallen mind and will to proper working order. A properly functioning mind and will naturally loves the good and hates evil.

Revrogers: “Adam’s properly functioning (’good’) mind and will apparently did not naturally love the good and hate the evil.”

You’re confusing what is natural with what is necessary.

#John1453: “God, who loves His enemies more perfectly than we do, has set the example for us by casting into burning hellfire all those whom He did not elect, who were His enemies because of the sin of Adam their forefather.”

What exactly do you object to? Reprobation? Original sin? Or everlasting punishment?

#John1453: “If He is powerful enough to save people and has decreed what shall come to pass, and does not save all people, then He lacks the desire and is wicked.”

Your conclusion has everything going for it except anything resembling an actual argument.

#John1453: “Wow, gotta love that guy (God, not Calvin or Piper). Just makes you wanna snuggle right up into His loving hands and peek over the edge of His palm at your unelect kids burning in the hellfire and gnashing their teeth. I dunno about you, but it helps me sleep at night after I tuck my own kids into bed.”

Calvinism has no official position on the fate of all who die young. Some Reformed theologians (e.g. Warfield) believe in universal infant salvation.

And why do you think Methodism traditionally practices infant baptism? To wash away original sin. So why do you single out Calvinism? Are you simply ignorant of historical theology in general?

“Ah, the mysterious and gnostic love of God for the people screaming in hell for billions and billions of years as part of His wonderful plan. Makes me all kinda sentimental and gooey inside. If only Armnians would switch over to preaching this stuff, they would find their churches filled to overflowing.”

Since Arminianism traditionally subscribes to hell, why do you single out Calvinism at this juncture?

If “John” is referring to those who have passed the age of discretion, then why would he object to the idea that those beyond the age of discretion are liable to everlasting punishment?

In Arminianism, God could save everyone. If you think that everyone has the freedom to either believe in Christ or disbelieve in Christ, then there’s a possible world in which everyone freely believes in Christ. That possibility follows from the Arminian commitment to libertarian freedom. So, if “John” were consistent, he’d admit that God could save them from their hellish fate (in this world) by instantiating a different possible world in which they did otherwise.

#John1453: "I’m just using an argument from logic that has been around since the early Greeks. It’s a pretty standard argument from evil that can be found in any of the latest books by atheists. I just modified it so that it would refer to Calvinist tenets. In its usual form it’s presented thusly":

1) If God were willing to prevent evil but unable to do so, God would be impotent.
2) If God were able to prevent evil but unwilling to do so, God would be malevolent.
3) God is neither unwilling nor unable to prevent evil.
4) There is evil.
5) God does not exist.


Of course, that argument could also be modified to refer to Arminian tenets. Since according to Arminianism, God has libertarian freedom, nothing necessitated God in creating a world where evil exists. God could prevent that outcome by not making our world (or any world whatsoever) in the first place.

So, by your own logic, applied to Arminian tenets, God is malevolent and evil.

#John1453: “So, it is not the case that the logic can be applied to Arminian tenets.”

It follows directly from the second premise of your own syllogism: “If God were able to prevent evil but unwilling to do so, God would be malevolent.”

Yet you admit that God was able, but unwilling to prevent evil: “Yes, God could have decided not to create anything at all. However…”

Therefore, if we hold you to your own words, then God is malevolent and evil by Arminian standards.

If you’re going to backpeddle from a conclusion which is entailed by your own syllogism, then you need to withdraw your syllogism. But, in that event, you can no longer deploy that syllogism against Calvinism without implicating your own position in the same breath.

#John1453 “Anyway, your conclusion would only be true if there were no other grounds exculpating God from malevolency on account of His unwillingness.”

Wrong. My conclusion follows by strict implication from your own syllogism. You’re now having to salvage your argument by conceding that your syllogism was invalidated by suppressed premises. So you now need to reformulate your syllogism to explicate your suppressed premises.

#John1453 “Not true. Libertarian freedom does not imply that there is at least one world in which everyone chooses God.”

Of course it does. That’s a logical implication of libertarian freedom. If libertarian freedom is the freedom to do otherwise in the same situation (which is a standard definition), then the outcome could go either way. If you deny that it’s possible for an agent to either choose A or refrain from choosing A, then you deny that he would have chosen otherwise. You thereby deny the principle of alternative possibilities.

But, in that case, how can you still object to determinism or compatibilism?

If, on the other hand, you admit, a la libertarianism, that it’s possible for an agent to do otherwise, then that commits you to a possible world in which he does otherwise. That possibility can’t adhere in the actual world, for the actual world only exemplifies one future, one timeline, one possible alternative.

Therefore, the alternate possibility must refer to, and be grounded in, another possible world.

As for Molinism, all you’ve done is to expose the incoherence of Molinism.

However, since you bring it up, here is how Thomas Flint, a leading Molinist, defines libertarian freedom: “Necessarily, for any human agent S, action A and time t, if S performs A freely at t, then the history of the world prior to t, the laws of nature, and the actions of any other agent (including God) prior to and at t are jointly compatible with S’s refraining from
performing A freely.” Cf. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, 161n1.

This, of course, is just a formal way of expressing the freedom to do otherwise (or principle of alternate possibilities).

So my argument follows even from a Molinist definition of libertarian freedom.

#John1453 “Given that God is all powerful, God could of course save everyone. However, the question is why He won’t. Under Calvinism, there is no explanation; God is simply capricious. Under Arminianism, God will not because otherwise He could not receive freely given love, nor have his love freely accepted (in the libertarian sense of free).”

That’s a completely ineffective rebuttal since my argument is predicated on libertarian freedom as the operating premise. Try again.

#John1453 “ You’re a bit mixed up.”

We’ll see who’s mixed up.

“What Flint says is true, and it is then the choice of the person, not God, that determines the outcome.”

Determines *which* outcome? Determines the outcome in *which* possible world?

If libertarianism is true, then there is more than one possible outcome. That’s the point. The principle of alternate possibilities.

Hence, there is more than one possible outcome. Hence, there is more than one possible world which corresponds to that alternate outcome.

“And God, being omniscient as to all outcomes, knows which of the free choices that person will make.”

And if the agent is free in the libertarian sense, then the agent not only has more than one choice, but he makes more than one choice–in different possible worlds (or world-segments).

That is what it means to say he could do otherwise. If it could go either way, then there must be a possible world for either hypothetical outcome.

“However, it is not true that there are two worlds, both with libertarian free will, which have identical composition and identical histories but in one world the person chooses freely to perform action A, and in the other world the person freely chooses not-A.”

Is that what I said? No. Different possible worlds represent alternate futures. They may have the same history up to a point, but they fork off at the point where the free agent opts for one alternate timeline or another.

As to identical composition, to remind you, once more, a defining feature of libertarian freedom is the ability to do otherwise given the very same preconditions.

“A person can only freely choose one, not both, and God knows what is chosen.”

Can only make one choice per possible world. That’s because each possible world (0r segment thereof) represents an alternate possibility. This doesn’t mean a libertarian agent only makes one choice. Rather, he only makes one of those choices in a given world. Not that there is only one given world in which he can choose.

“You may disagree, but that is what Molinists believe.”

You’re the one who introduced Molinism, not me. I was discussing the implications of libertarian freedom. It’s not as if Molinism has a monopoly on possible worlds.

#John1453: “Your ‘hence’ is a non sequitur.”

That’s an assertion, not an argument.

“And I know of no one who argues for libertarian free will that would agree with you.”

That’s an anecdote, not an argument.

“It does not follow that there must be a possible world for either hypothetical outcome, at least not if one holds to the principle of bivalence (which most people do hold to, including most philosophers and most who believe in libertarian free will). For example, tomorrow there either will or will not be a sea battle depending on the choice of the admiral. A free will libertarian would argue that both are possible.”

“Both possible” in relation to *what*? The actual world? The actual future? They can’t both be possible in relation to the same outcome since contrary outcomes would be incompossible. Both could only be possible in relation two different possible worlds. Your position also has no way of grounding unexemplified possibilities.

“Both those who believe in simple foreknowledge and Molinists agree that God knows what the outcome will be because he knows the actual future. What will occur is the actual future (e.g., the sea battle occurs), and God knows that.”

That assumes the very thing you need to prove. If the future is open-ended, then there is no one outcome to be known prior to the event.

“Anyway, if one believes in bivalence (as I do) then there cannot be two true outcomes of a future choice.”

Which, once again, misses the point. They cannot both be true in reference to the same world. But different possible worlds represent alternate futures. That supplies the truthmaker for counterfactual statements–without which counterfactual statements lack truth-value. Yet libertarianism is knee-deep in counterfactuals.

“In logic, the semantic principle of bivalence states that every proposition is either true or false. The principle of bivalence can be stated more formally as: For any proposition P, either P is true or P is false. This principle is related to the principle of contradiction and the principle of the excluded middle.”

True or false for *what*? For each possible world, every proposition is either true or false. But that restriction obtains *within* possible worlds, not *between* possible worlds. There is no contradiction in saying that what is true in one possible world may be false in another. Try again.

#John1453: “In regard to no. 1, steve’s reply does not help his position, in that after I assert that what he says does not follow, I then go on to explain why. Steve’s reply fails to show how his conclusion follows.”

i) To the contrary, I specifically countered “John’s” explanation.

ii) Likewise, I’ve explained in some detail how the conclusion follows. “John’s” bare denial hardly amounts to a disproof.

“In regard to no. 2, the fact that no one else argues as steve does is good evidence for the conclusion that steve, being the odd one out, is wrong.”

i) A headcount is not an argument. Indeed, it’s a tacit admission that someone can’t defend his position by reasoned argument.

ii) Also keep in mind that this is just another assertion. “John” has offered no statistical evidence to back up his statistical claim.

“Neither Molinists nor simple foreknowledge-ists believe that the future is open ended. They believe that the choices of humans are contingent facts, but they both believe that the future is, and has been, fully determined by God (because of the content and nature of His knowledge).”

i) Arminians emphatically deny that divine foreknowledge implies divine determinism of the future.

ii) ”John” continues to equivocate over the future. He still doesn’t grasp the issue. The question at issue is not whether the actual future is open-ended. Rather, in libertarianism, there are alternate possible outcomes. The actual world actualizes one possible outcome. But this is by no means to obviate the open-ended character of the future at the level of possible worlds. And that is how the freedom to do otherwise cashes out. Does “John” even understand the principle of alternate possibilities?

iii) Apropos (ii), this, in turn, raises the question of whether God can know in advance which possible future is the actual future.

iv) Even if “John’s description of Molinism were accurate, that’s beside the point since the question at issue is not merely the descriptive question of what Molinism claims to be the case, but the evaluative question of whether Molinism is coherent. Can Molinism consistently make good on its claims?

Remember that Molinism is a compromise position which tries to finesse libertarian freedom and divine sovereignty. Whether it’s successful in that endeavor is a standing bone of contention.

“Even open theists would agree that the ultimate end is determined, and that many of the events along the way to that end are determined.”

That’s vague and equivocal. The point at issue is not whether natural events like earthquakes are determined, but whether God predetermines human actions. This is something open theism denies. Indeed, it goes further and denies that God even knows what human agents will do.

“Steve hays seems to use ‘open ended’ to mean ‘contingent’, but they are not the same concepts.”

That’s not how I’ve defined my terms.

“Further, as I have indicated, neither Molinists (e.g., W.L. Craig) nor those who hold to simple forknowledge (e.g., D. Hunt-the one with the PhD) believe that the future is open ended in the sense that steve hays sets out, i.e., unknown outcome.”

i) Once again, “John” fails to distinguish between the description of a claim and the evaluation of the claim.

ii) He is also trying to shift the focus of the discussion. The question of whether or not God can foreknow the counterfactuals of freedom is ancillary to my original argument. The question at issue is whether there is at least one possible world in which libertarian agents freely believe in Christ. And, therefore, whether the Arminian God is more loving than the Calvinist God when the Arminian God could save everyone without infringing on their libertarian freedom, but chooses, instead, to making a world containing hellbound sinners.

“Steve hays does not appear to understand the principle of bivalence nor how possible world theory works, but this is not the place for a mini lesson in those concepts (unless it is desired by readers).”

Because “John” doesn’t have a real argument, he resorts to promissory arguments. The check is in the mail.

“In short, however, if a person makes a choice at a certain time, e.g. biting an apple, and that choice represents the true history of the world, then there is no possible world with the exact same history up to that point in which the person does not bite the apple.”

To the contrary, that’s exactly how libertarianism asserts. Remember Flint’s definition, which I quoted above. According to Flint, libertarian freedom is definable by the fact that the preconditions don’t determine the outcome. Under the very same preconditions, you could have a different outcome.

Consider another standard definition of libertarian freedom by a leading libertarian philosopher (William Hasker):

“By ‘libertarian freedom’ is meant freedom such that the agent who makes a choice is really able, under exactly the same circumstances, to choose something different from the thing that is in fact chosen…libertarian freedom is inherently indeterministic. This means that there is nothing whatever that predetermines which choice will be made, until the creature is actually placed in the situation and makes the decision,” Contemporary Debates in Philosophy, 219.

It follows from Flint’s definition and Hasker’s alike that the history of the world could be identical up to the point at which the free agent makes his next choice, yet different futures remain in play. Although the actual world instantiates just one possibility to the exclusion of the others, the future could go either way at the level of possible outcomes, which inhere in different possible worlds (or world-segments). And that is how libertarian philosophers unpack the freedom to do otherwise.

“Some nonChristians have speculated that the universe is continually forking off and every logically possible world thus exists (either always and at the same time, or as progressive branching), but such arguments are not relevant for discussions of future knowledge involving the Christian God (i.e., one who possesses maximal compossible attributes). [note that I said ‘logically possible’, not ‘alethically possible’].”

That objection is muddled in two respects:

i) A Christian can subscribe to the multiverse. Don Page is a Christian physicist who has written in support of the multiverse.

ii) More to the point, the question at issue is not the physical existence of forking paths, but forking paths as possible worlds (i.e. abstract objects). As (Christian) libertarian philosopher Robert Kane explicates the concept:

“Open alternatives lie before us…This means we could have chosen or acted otherwise…If Jane believes her choice is a free choice (made ‘of her own free will’), she must believe both options are ‘open’ to her while she is deliberating. She could have chosen either one…But that means she believe there is more than one possible path into the future available to her and it is ‘up to her’ which of these paths will be taken. Such a picture of an open future with forking paths–a garden of working paths, we might call it–is essential to our understanding of free will,” Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics, 285-86.

Kane’s explanation directly contradicts “John’s” contrary assertion about the relation between past and future in libertarian action theory.

“John” seems to lack even a nodding acquaintance with the standard libertarian literature–although that’s the position he claims to be both representing and defending. Either that or he doesn’t grasp what the writers are saying.

“It appears to me that steve hays is unfamiliar with the concepts and literature necessary to engage usefully on this issue and out of his depth.”

Notice that I’m the one who’s actually documenting my claims from the relevant literature. “John” is simply pounding his fist.

#John1453: “Note that Kane is writing from Jane’s perspective; to her all of the paths are open to her while she is deliberating.”

Wrong! Kane is using Jane to articulate the concept of libertarian freedom. This represents Kane’s position, as a libertarian action theorist.

“That is not God’s perspective under either simple foreknowledge or Molinism.”

For some reason, “John” keeps trying to recast the issue. The starting point is not middle knowledge or simple foreknowledge. The starting point is libertarian freedom. If you take libertarian freedom as your operating premise, then the next question is what does that imply?

Remember the question headlining Justin’s thread? Does God really want to save everyone?

Arminian commenters immediately began to pounce on Calvinism. I, however, pointed out that if you subscribe to libertarian freedom, then there’s at least one possible world in which everyone freely believes in Jesus. Yet God doesn’t make that world. Instead, he makes another possible world containing a large number of hellbound sinners. In that event, is the Arminian God more loving than the Calvinist God. That’s the question.

You can pose the same question for any form of freewill theism. The same question is applicable to Molinism. Indeed, William Lane Craig admits the existence of possible worlds in which everyone is saved. He justifies the creation of a world in which everyone is not saved on the grounds that more people are saved overall, even if that comes at the expense of the damned.

“Under those two theories, God knows which path Jane will take.”

Once again, “John” is unable to distinguish the descriptive question from the evaluative question. The question at issue is not merely what those two theories stipulate to be the case, but whether one or both are internally coherent with all their operating assumptions.

“But she can only choose in one way, and there is no other universe in which she chooses the other way.”

Which is a point blank denial of libertarian freedom. If “John” wants to deny libertarian freedom, that’s fine with me. However, he’s been attacking Calvinism right and left. Yet it’s very difficult for him to attack Reformed combatibilism if he’s going to repudiate libertarian incompatibilism as well. At that point, what is his standard of comparison?

“Under simple foreknowledge and Molinism there is no other universe with the exact same prior history and constitution in which Jane makes the choice differently.”

That statement directly contradicts Flint’s definition of libertarian freewill, and Flint is a leading Molinist. It also contradicts Hasker’s definition.

“So Kane does not contradict me, at least not in that passage.”

Kane isn’t stating the position of either middle knowledge or simple foreknowledge. That’s not his starting point. His starting point is libertarian freewill. The next question is what libertarian freewill allows or disallows.

I’ve now cited three libertarian action theorists (Flint, Hasker, Kane) whose definition of libertarian freedom directly contradicts the position of “John.” Yet “John” is attacking Reformed compatibilism. If, however, “John” rejects libertarianism and compatibilism alike, then what is his fallback position?

“It is, of course, possible to imagine other theories in which the above description is not the case, but those theories would not be simple foreknowledge or Molinism (which is what Hays began his attack on).”

“John” is rewriting the history of the thread. I didn’t begin by attacking middle knowledge or simple foreknowledge. Go back to where I entered the discussion. I began by discussing the universalistic potential of freewill theism:

“Hays gives the example of the multiverse, which is fine, but that is not what was underdiscussion and the failings of the multiverse are not the failings of Molinism or simple foreknowledge.”

i) Once again, “John” is rewriting the history of the thread. I’m not the one who brought up the multiverse. He did. I was responding to his introduction of that issue into the exchange.

ii) Moreover, he did that by confusing the concept of forking paths with the concept of the multiverse. While the multiverse is one way to underwrite the garden of forking paths, the two concepts are hardly synonymous. Kane is using the garden of forking paths to illustrate libertarian action theory, not physics.

iii) Furthermore, the “failings” of Molinism or the multiverse were not the point at issue. The issue was the way in which libertarian freedom implicates the possibility of a world in which everyone freely believes the gospel.

iv) Finally, “John” said the multiverse was inconsistent with Christian theism. I simply pointed out that you have professing Christians like Don Page who think otherwise.

So let’s recap the real issue: according to freewill theism, does God want everyone to be saved? If libertarian freewill creates the possibility of a world in which everyone freely accepts the Gospel, yet God chooses not to make such a world, but instead, makes a world in which many sinners will spend eternity in hell, then in what sense does God want to save them? It lay within his power to do so without stepping on their libertarian toes. And, in that case, how is freewill theism more loving than Reformed theism?

#John1453: “None of the three philosophers cited by Hays (Flint, Hasker, Kane)states that proposition, which Hays does not appreciate.”

A red herring. The question is whether, given a standard definition of libertarianism, such as they supply, an Arminian can demonstrate that there is no possible world in which free agents freely choose Jesus. For if there is even one possible world in which everyone is saved, yet God chooses to instantiate a different world in which some individuals are damned, then in what sense is Arminianism more loving than Calvinism?

This is a question of logical implications, given a libertarian premise. What does that premise logically allow or disallow?

Given his commitment to libertarian freedom, can the Arminian (or Molinist) rule out a possible world in which everyone is saved?

“Libertarian free will is not defined by the number of possible futures, but by the manner in which a human makes a choice. In particular by the constraints on that choice or lack thereof.”

That’s a false dichotomy. Libertarian freewill is defined by the agent having at least two viable alternatives at his disposal: in the same situatio, he can either choose A or refrain from choosing A.

If his choice is constrained in the sense that only one path is open to him, then he lacks libertarian freedom.

“However, in the true history of the universe the person in question will only choose one thing. There are not two (or more) true / actual histories of the world. There are many logically possible histories, but only one actual one.”

“John” is apparently saying that in the actual world, an agent only has one path open to him. I agree with that. But, then, I’m a Calvinist. When “John” makes statements like that, he is repudiating libertarianism. In that event, what is his objection to Calvinism?

“In both simple foreknowledge and Molinism, God is limited in what worlds he can create by the actual choices of the people that inhabit those worlds.”

People don’t make actual choices in possible worlds. For merely possible worlds have not been actualized.

It would be more accurate to say that so-and-so does one thing in one possible world, and another thing in another possible world.

And the fact that, according to Molinism or Arminianism, God’s choice of what world to create is constrained by what human agents will do or would do does nothing to show that there can be no possible world in which free agents freely choose Christ.

If there are no possible worlds in which Judas either betrays Christ or remains faithful to Christ, then it’s not possible for Judas to do otherwise. In that event, you deny libertarian freedom. And, since I’m a Calvinist, that’s fine with me. However, that denial does nothing to help “John” make his case against Calvinism.

“For example, there is an intrinsically possible world in which Peter freely affirms Christ in precisely the same circumstances in which he in fact denied him; but given the counterfactual truth that if Peter were in precisely those circumstances he would freely deny Christ, then the possible world in which Peter freely affirms Christ in those circumstances is not feasible for God. God could force Peter to affirm Christ in those circumstances, but then his confession would not be free.”

Both possible worlds are feasible since, in both possible worlds, Peter acts freely. He acts just as freely in the possible world where he’s faithful to Christ as in the possible world where he’s faithless to Christ.

Therefore, God would not be “forcing” Peter to affirm Christ by instantiating a possible world in which Peter freely affirms Christ. Peter could freely opt for either alternative under precisely the same circumstances.

So, whichever outcome God instantiates is consistent with Peter’s libertarian freedom.

“The important point is that God cannot create a world in which a person chooses to do other than what God knows she will do in those exact same circumstances. Though it is logically possible for someone to do A or B or C, etc. in those circumstances God knows that the person will do A.”

There is no one thing a libertarian agent will do in different possible worlds. Even Craig, in the every passage which “John” cited, is explicit on that point: “He knows, for example, that in some possible world Peter freely denies Christ three times and that in another possible world Peter freely affirms Christ under identical circumstances, for both are possible.”

According to Craig, it could go either way. Indeed, there are possible worlds which encapsulate each of these alternate outcome.

“So, it may be that there is a world in which everyone freely comes to Christ, but the only such world is one in which God must lie, or the world must end in 3 A.D., or some other factual circustance that God, in His wisdom, does not want to actualize. We cannot know God’s reasons for choosing to create a world in which everyone does not come to saving faith, but we do have confidence that God has good reasons for doing so or that such a world was not possible. Neither way is libertarian free will defeated.”

Notice that “John” is now backpedaling from his previous denials. He now admits the possibility of a world in which everyone is saved. Yet God didn’t create such a world. Instead, he made a world in which everyone is not saved. So how is Arminianism (or Molinism) more loving than Calvinism?

“Furthermore, the Calvinist is no better off than the Libertarian; indeed her position is worse. The Calvinist position is worse because God determines the future by decree, and so could simply decree that every person be saved. Moreover, under Calvinism saving faith is irrestible since God first regenerates the heart of the person that is saved. Under Calvinism God is not limited by the true conditionals of freedom (i.e., by what a person will do under specified circumstances).”

i) “Not better off” is a far cry from “John’s” original allegations. “John” is retreating from his prior position.

ii) Moreover, “John” hasn’t shown that Calvinism is worse off. He says that under Calvinism, God could “simply decree that every person be saved.”

Yet he’s also quoted Craig saying there’s a possible world in which free agents like Peter can do otherwise under identical circumstances. So, for “John” to show that Calvinism is worse off than libertarianism, he must show that there is no possible world in which the damned in the actual world freely chose Christ in a possible world.

“So, in heaven we will be delighted with God that He has used some of our loved ones (children, parents, grandparents, best friends, etc.) as a means of displaying His wrath forever and ever. We’ll be pleased that God didn’t save them even though He could have.”

“Even though he could have saved them.” But, to draw an invidious contrast between Calvinism and libertarianism on that score, “John” needs to demonstrate that it was impossible for God to do so on libertarian grounds.

“Even if there is a feasible world in which everyone has libertarian free will and comes to saving faith, the fact that we do not have such a world means either that it is not feasibly possible or that this world, one in which everyone has freee will but not everyone is saved, is better for some reason that God only knows.”

False dichotomy. It means that “John” should go back and question his a priori commitment to libertarian action theory.

#John1453 “Hays has already forgotten a previous post of mine on this thread in which I indicated that normally people engage in a productive discussion by actually reading the posts carefully and interpreting them charitably, by which it is meant that one looks for an interpretation that makes sense and for the strongest interpretation. Doing so would help Hays overcome his penchant for shooting from the lip.”

“John” has already forgotten all his uncharitable remarks about Calvinism.

“In his post of November 23, 2009 at 9:06 am Hays calls my reference to the three philosophers he cited a ‘A red herring.’ If that is so, then it equally applies to his use of them, which is what prompted my reply.”

Not at all, since I cited them to establish a premise, not a conclusion. Try again.

“More importantly, however, I pointed out that the three philosophers he cited do not support his contention; Hays has not replied differently. I don’t expect a reply on that point because Hays is incorrect.”

i) “John” hasn’t shown that I’m incorrect, since I never cited them to establish my conclusion. Rather, I cited them to define libertarianism. “John” is simply burning a straw man.

ii) Moreover, John is the one who’s incorrect, since he defends libertarianism, but does so in a way that contradicts the standard definition.

“I’ve tried to educate him with the following two facts:”

Just to set the record straight, I’m the one who’s been tutoring “John” on his own side of the argument. I’m the one who had to quote libertarian philosophers to correct his misdefinition of libertarian freedom. “John” has been playing catch-up.

“(1) libertarian free will does not necessitate that conclusion.”

i) It doesn’t need to “necessitate” that conclusion. Rather, it’s sufficient that unless “John” can disprove that conclusion, then he can’t claim that Arminianism is more loving than Calvinism. “John” is illogically attempting to shirk his burden of proof.

ii) Moreover, “John” cites Craig, yet Craig grants the possibility of a world in which everyone is saved.

“And (2) none of the three major Christian approaches to libertarian free will (simple foreknowledge, Molinism, open theism) necessitate such an approach.”

“John” is chronically unable to distinguish claims from implications or descriptions from evaluations.

“And all the varieties of open theism explicitly reject that proposition.”

i) I never said open theism implicates that proposition. But unless “John” is an open theist, that’s a diversionary tactic.

ii) Moreover, John would have to argue that open theism is more loving than Calvinism. If so, where’s the supporting argument?

“I’ve provided quotes from philosophers in support, but to no avail.”

Quoting someone’s opinion is not, itself, an argument. Moreover, the opinion is subject to rational scrutiny.

“I will try once again, again using W.L. Craig.”

I already responded to “John’s” prior citation of Craig. Craig ends up corroborating my position, not “John’s.”

Notice that “John” doesn’t attempt at any point to offer an actual counterargument to anything I’ve said. Instead, he resorts to tendentious characterizations of the exchange. This is a backdoor admission that he has no counterargument.

“It all depends on how creatures would freely behave in various circumstances, which is beyond God’s control.”

Which is irrelevant to the point at issue. God doesn’t have to control their behavior. As long as their behavior involves alternate courses of action (in different possible worlds), God can instantiate one or another of their freely-chosen actions.

“…Plantinga pointed out that for all we know such a world may not be feasible for God. Indeed, for all we know, all the worlds which are feasible for God and which involve as much good as the actual world also involve as much evil.”

i) If “John” is reduced to saying “for all we know,” then that cuts both ways. For all we know, there is such a world, and for all we know, there is no such world. If, therefore, “John’s” last-ditch appeal is an appeal to ignorance, then, by his own admission, he’s in no position to say whether or not Arminianism (or Molinism) is more loving than Calvinism.

ii) At the same time, transworld depravity fatally compromises the principle of libertarian freedom. If there’s no possible world in which free agents freely do right, then agents lack the freedom to do otherwise. In that event, how can “John” attack Reformed compatibilism or determinism?

“No, they are not both feasible because in those exact circumstances Peter will make his choice to do one or the other. In those exact circumstances Peter will always make that choice because that is the choice he makes.”

i) That’s not what Craig said. Just the opposite: “He knows, for example, that in some possible world Peter freely denies Christ three times and that in another possible world Peter freely affirms Christ under identical circumstances, for both are possible.”

So it’s not the case that Peter always makes the same choice. Rather, he makes both choices–in different possible worlds.

ii) And if, pace Craig, “John” says there is no possible world in which Peter ever chooses differently, then it isn’t possible for Peter to choose differently–which which case “John” denies libertarian freewill.

“Or, if one is an open theist…”

i) Unless “John” is an open theist who is attacking Calvinism from that particular standpoint, this is a stalling tactic on his part.

ii) And to say that God can’t know the counterfactuals of freedom hardly shows how open theism is more loving than Calvinism.

“Under simple foreknowledge or Molinism God knows what people will choose (or ‘would’ choose if one prefers to state it as a conditional).”

Which doesn’t mean they make “actual choices” in “possible worlds.” Rather, it means that if God actualizes a possible choice (of theirs), then they make an actual choice in the actual world.

“Thus God could not create that world and expect Peter to affirm Christ, because affirmation of Christ is something God knows Peter will not do.”

“Will not do” in which world? If Peter enjoys libertarian freedom, then there’s a possible world in which he affirms Christ, and another possible world in which he denies Christ. Craig even stated that, in the passage which “John” quoted. John is unable to follow the explicit claims of the very sources he cited.

“Given that Hays chief argument fails, his submissions have no traction.”

As usual, “John” substitutes a tendentious characterization for a counterargument. Unable to defend his position, all he can do is editorialize.

“From start to finish I have maintained that there are some worlds that are not feasible for God to make and that a world in which everyone freely follows Jesus appears to be one of those (that are not feasible).”

i) “Appears to be?” Yet another example of “John’s” backpedaling.

ii) If he’s going to contend that freewill theism is more loving than Calvinism, then he needs to actually demonstrate that a world in which free agents freely choose Christ is impossible. I await the argument.

iii) Moreover, if such an argument were successful, it could only succeed by denying the libertarian freedom of the agents in question. So “John” has backed himself into a lose/lose dilemma.

“Hays simply states, ‘False dichotomy’. If anyone can spot it, I’d appreciate it. Right now I’m left with the impression that English is not Hays native tongue.”

Simple: this is how “John” set up the dichotomy:

““Even if there is a feasible world in which everyone has libertarian free will and comes to saving faith, the fact that we do not have such a world means either that it is not feasibly possible or that this world, one in which everyone has freee will but not everyone is saved, is better for some reason that God only knows.”

Notice how this takes the libertarian premise for granted. But that needs to be consistent with the additional stipulation that freewill theism is more loving than Calvinism. If, however, God creates a world in which some agents are damned even though there was a feasible world in which everyone is saved, then that’s not the most loving arrangement for the damned. So “John” needs to decide which horn of the dilemma to tackle. Is God able, but unwilling, to make a world in which every one is saved–in which case God is unloving towards the damned? Or is God willing, but unable to do so because such agents lack the libertarian freedom to do otherwise?

“My arrival at my current belief that God has given humans libertarian freewill is a result of reading Bible passages such as: Deuteronomy 30:15… Jeremiah 21:8, 9.”

But if “John” subscribes to simple foreknowledge, then God created a world with foreseen outcomes, in which case the outcome cannot be otherwise in the actual world. If he foresaw what we were going to do in this world, and he created this world, then the outcome can’t turn out any differently.

Likewise, if “John” subscribes to Molinism, then if God instantiates possible world A, we can’t do in actual world A what we did in possible world B. To instantiate one possibility thereby precludes another possibility.

#John1453 “Yes, and my point was that not only did you define libertarianism incorrectly, you also cited those three philosophers incorrectly as support. They do not support or agree with you definition.”

That’s just self-serving rhetoric in lieu of any counterargument.

“Craig makes a clear distinction between intrinsically possible worlds and feasible worlds, which Hays conflates.”

Far from conflating them, I specifically interacted with that dichotomy.

“Craig also states that some worlds are not feasible for God to create, which Hays denies.”

i) That’s something I didn’t affirm or deny. And that doesn’t get “John” anywhere. Since an “infeasible” world is definable as a world which God cannot instantiate, the appeal is viciously circular. So invoking infeasible worlds does nothing to advance the argument. It’s just a way of paraphrasing a question-begging claim.

ii) Moreover, even if this dichotomy were abstractly tenable, the application of that dichotomy to any specific case requires a specific argument to show that the case in question is, indeed, infeasible. Merely asserting something to be infeasible is not an argument. “John” needs to argue for his postulate.

“Hays idiosyncratic use concepts and terms unlike the manner used by philosophers is making things difficult.”

More self-serving rhetoric in lieu of any counterargument. “John” is bluffing his way through the debate.

“God cannot instantiate one or the other of the freely chosen actions, because in any given circumstance a person will only make one choice, though that choice is causally free and not determined by God.”

i) Yes, God can instantiate one or the other. What God cannot do is instantiate both in the same world at the same time. The simultaneous instantiation of alternate possibilities is incompossible. But that’s irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

ii) Both possibilities are *alternately* feasible. That’s what makes them alternate possibilities.

iii) To say that in any given circumstances a person will only make one choice misses the point–as usual.

Alternate possibilities pair off with possible worlds (or segments thereof). Will only make one such choice per possible world. And the agent will only make one such choice in the actual world.

However, that restriction takes the choice of the actual world for granted. Given the actual world, only one alternative will eventuate.

That, however, doesn’t impose a prior constraint on which possible world God chooses to instantiate in the first place.

“But as time progresses she will only choose one of the options and after the moment of her choice has happened she and everyone else (not just God) will see what she did choose.”

“As time progresses” is a statement about the actual world, not one or more possible worlds–from which the selection of the actual world is made. “John” still doesn’t get it.

“The choice is now in the past and cannot be changed.”

i) The accidental necessity of the past is irrelevant to whether or not the future is open or closed. That’s a separate issue.

ii) Moreover, to the extent that “John” keeps chipping away at the freedom to do otherwise, he undercuts his own objection to Reformed compatibilism or determinism.

“God’s foreknowledge is as if he were seeing her choice as a past choice, as something it had become.”

i) If “John” is now inferring that foreknowledge entails the certainty of the outcome, then that undermines libertarianism (unless he goes the open theist route).

ii) He’s also sidestepping the issue of God’s counterfactual knowledge, which is not about what someone will do in the real world, but what is done in different possible worlds.