William Craig Lane recently removed his white gloves and offered his bare-knuckle opinion of Calvinism. I emailed him yesterday. Here's what I wrote:
Dear Dr. Craig,
I appreciate all the fine work you’ve done in the field of apologetics, both in theory and practice. However, I take issue with your recent answer in “Troubled by Calvinists.
It is this view, which affirms universal determinism and compatibilism, that runs into the problems you mention. Making God the author of evil is just one of the problems this neo-Reformed view faces.
i) “Author of evil” is a metaphor. In debates over Calvinism, it’s about as meaningful as an inkblot. So you need to (a) define your terms; (b) explain how Calvinism makes God the “author of sin” (as you define it), and (c) explain how that inculpates God.
ii) How does Molinism avoid making God the “author of evil”? If God knowingly chooses to instantiate a world in which evil occurs, then his action is a necessary precondition of the evil consequences. On a counterfactual theory of causation, that makes God a cause of evil. The evil outcome was avoidable had he refrained from choosing to instantiate that world.
At least five come immediately to mind:
1.Universal, divine, causal determinism cannot offer a coherent interpretation of Scripture. The classical Reformed divines recognized this. They acknowledge that the reconciliation of Scriptural texts affirming human freedom and contingency with Scriptural texts affirming divine sovereignty is inscrutable. D. A. Carson identifies nine streams of texts affirming human freedom: (1) People face a multitude of divine exhortations and commands, (2) people are said to obey, believe, and choose God, (3) people sin and rebel against God, (4) people’s sins are judged by God, (5) people are tested by God, (6) people receive divine rewards, (7) the elect are responsible to respond to God’s initiative, (8) prayers are not mere showpieces scripted by God, and (9) God literally pleads with sinners to repent and be saved (Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension, pp. 18-22). These passages rule out a deterministic understanding of divine providence, which would preclude human freedom.
i) One basic problem with your objection is that your prooftexting is illusory. You don’t actually exegete libertarian freedom from the types of passages you cite. You don’t actually show that such phenomena are at odds with Scripture.
All you really do is to cite types of passages, then stipulate that what they describe is at variance with “universal, divine, casual determinism.”
Put another way, you’re not exegeting libertarian freedom from Scripture. Rather, that’s an extratextual presupposition which you bring to the text. These passages don’t make sense to you unless you take libertarian freedom for granted.
But that’s not an argument from Scripture. That’s not a teaching of Scripture, whether explicit or implicit. Rather, that represents your extrascriptural preconception. You may find that intuitively convincing, but don’t confuse that with what Scripture either says or implies.
ii) You need to explain what you mean by (8). If prayers were “scripted” by God, how would that make them “mere showpieces?”
Why should we pray? One reason is that prayer cultivates an awareness of our utter dependence on God. Another reason is that prayer cultivates a spirit of thanksgiving. Yet another reason is that prayer causes somethings to happen which would not have happened absent prayer.
Assuming that our prayers are scripted by God, how does that fact obviate the purpose of prayer?
iii) How does Molinism avoid the problem you see with (9)? Say there’s a possible world A in which Judas is saved, and another possible world B in which Judas is damned. If God instantiates world B, then it’s inevitable that Judas will be damned. So in what sense is God still pleading with Judas to repent and be saved? If God really wanted to save Judas, he could have saved him by instantiating a world in which Judas is saved. And if you say that there’s no possible world in which Judas is saved, yet God instantiates a world in which Judas is inevitably damned, then in what sense is God still pleading with Judas to repent and believe? How does your Molinist alterative avoid what you find so objectionable in Calvinism at this juncture?
Determinists reconcile universal, divine, causal determinism with human freedom by re-interpreting freedom in compatibilist terms.
To “reinterpret” freedom assumes a received interpretation of freedom. But any theory of freedom will be a philosophical construct. It’s not as if we have a ready-made definition of freedom which fell from the sky.
Compatibilism entails determinism, so there’s no mystery here. The problem is that adopting compatibilism achieves reconciliation only at the expense of denying what various Scriptural texts seem clearly to affirm: genuine indeterminacy and contingency.
i) You need to define what you mean by “contingency.” In Calvinism, there’s a teleological structure to the decree. Means and ends. One event presupposes another. So what makes you think that Calvinism can’t deal with the passages you cite?
ii) You also need to explain, from a Molinist perspective, the sense in which “genuine indeterminacy” inheres in the actual world, in contrast to possible worlds. Surely you don’t think the actual world combines contrary possibilities from different possible worlds.
2.Universal causal determinism cannot be rationally affirmed. There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.
i) I don’t see the logic of your objection. If your belief in determinism was determined by a mindless external factors, then determinism would undermine your belief in determinism. But if your belief in determinism was determined by a rational God, then how does that undermine the rationality of your belief in determinism?
ii) To say “the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so” is simplistic and equivocal. That confuses the reason he has for believing in determinism (i.e. the thing that makes determinism a persuasive idea to him) with the reason something happens to him.
The reason it rained today isn’t the same reason as the reason I think it rained today. Surely you can tell the difference.
iii) How is a determinate agent unable to weigh the arguments pro and con? To the contrary, a determinate agent would be predetermined to weigh the arguments pro and con. And why do you assume that a deterministic process can’t make use of good reasons to convince a determinate agent that determinism is true?
3. Universal, divine, determinism makes God the author of sin and precludes human responsibility.
Needless to say, you’re begging the question. I find it odd that a Christian philosopher and apologist would keep assuming what he needs to prove.
In contrast to the Molinist view, on the deterministic view even the movement of the human will is caused by God. God moves people to choose evil, and they cannot do otherwise. God determines their choices and makes them do wrong. If it is evil to make another person do wrong, then on this view God is not only the cause of sin and evil, but becomes evil Himself, which is absurd. By the same token, all human responsibility for sin has been removed. For our choices are not really up to us: God causes us to make them. We cannot be responsible for our actions, for nothing we think or do is up to us.
i) Once again, all we’re getting from you are question-begging assertions.
ii) To say that God “moves” people is another metaphor. What do you literally mean by that metaphor? It’s not as if Calvinism subscribes to any particular theory of causation.
iii) Let’s play along with your metaphor of God “scripting” the outcome. When a novelist contemplates a novel, he contemplates various characters who may populate his novel. Not only does he consider different characters, but variations on the same character. There’s a wide range of things which each character could do. What a character could possibility do is only limited by the imagination of the novelist, as well the relation of one character to other characters, and to his fictional environment.
A possible character can do whatever a novelist can make him do, in the fictive sense of all the possible actions a novelist can think of. What is possible for the character comes down to what is possible for the novelist to contemplate. All of the possible actions or events which the mind of the novelist can imagine.
Out of the larger range of hypothetical possibilities, the novelist chooses one set of possibilities to commit to writing about. He instantiates one set of possibilities to the exclusion of others.
There is, however, no prior constraint on what a possible character could do. A merely possible character has no default setting. There is no particular course of action which he would have done. Rather, he could have done any number of things. He could have done whatever the novelist could conceive of him doing.
By contrast, an actual character will only do one thing. At a concrete level, he can only do one thing. In the actual story, the novelist selects one combination of serial possibilities to the exclusion of others. The novelist instantiates one combination to the exclusion of others.
Considered as a merely possible agent, there is nothing either in character or out of character. There is nothing in particular which a possible agent was or wasn’t going to do. There’s a sense in which God makes every creature do whatever it does, but not in the sense of making it do something contrary to what it would otherwise do, of its own accord. For there’s no one thing which a possible agent was going to do, or refrain from doing.
Creation selects for one of these possibilities. Creation causes that possibility to be realized. But it doesn’t cause the agent to do something in the sense of making him act other than how he’d act on his own. It’s not as if a possible agent was going to do one thing rather than another until God intervened. Rather, as a merely possible agent, he could do a number of different things. A possible agent doesn’t have a bias one way or the other in terms of what he’d do. There is no predisposition to do A rather than B, or B rather than A. At this juncture, his field of action is only delimited by what is logically compossible. By what the infinite mind of God is able to coherently “imagine” or conceive in relation to the same basic character.
If God chooses to instantiate that possibility, he does us no wrong. For it’s not as if there was something else we were going to do until he stepped in to thwart it.
4. Universal, divine, determinism nullifies human agency. Since our choices are not up to us but are caused by God, human beings cannot be said to be real agents. They are mere instruments by means of which God acts to produce some effect, much like a man using a stick to move a stone. Of course, secondary causes retain all their properties and powers as intermediate causes, as the Reformed divines remind us, just as a stick retains its properties and powers which make it suitable for the purposes of the one who uses it. Reformed thinkers need not be occasionalists like Nicholas Malebranche, who held that God is the only cause there is. But these intermediate causes are not agents themselves but mere instrumental causes, for they have no power to initiate action.
Well, human beings are creatures, so we have no power to initiate action in an ultimate sense. We are not self-subsistent. You seem to rankle at the very notion of your creaturely finitude.
Hence, it’s dubious that on divine determinism there really is more than one agent in the world, namely, God. This conclusion not only flies in the face of our knowledge of ourselves as agents but makes it inexplicable why God then treats us as agents, holding us responsible for what He caused us and used us to do.
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that your rather tendentious description is accurate, how would determinism fly in the face of our experience as agents? If all our thoughts and actions are predetermined, then determinism would be indetectible. For we’d have no experience apart from determinism to compare it to. A determinate agent could not be mindful of causes his thoughts and actions, for his thoughts and actions are the end-result of determinism. Your objection tacitly assumes a viewpoint of conscious detachment–as if the determinate agent can retrace the process and peer behind the effect to the underlying cause. But a determinate agent would be in no position to discern the “external factor” as something external to himself. That’s a God’s-eye view of the transaction.
5. Universal, divine determinism makes reality into a farce. On the deterministic view, the whole world becomes a vain and empty spectacle. There are no free agents in rebellion against God, whom God seeks to win through His love, and no one who freely responds to that love and freely gives his love and praise to God in return. The whole spectacle is a charade whose only real actor is God Himself. Far from glorifying God, the deterministic view, I’m convinced, denigrates God for engaging in a such a farcical charade. It is deeply insulting to God to think that He would create beings which are in every respect causally determined by Him and then treat them as though they were free agents, punishing them for the wrong actions He made them do or loving them as though they were freely responding agents. God would be like a child who sets up his toy soldiers and moves them about his play world, pretending that they are real persons whose every motion is not in fact of his own doing and pretending that they merit praise or blame. I’m certain that Reformed determinists, in contrast to classical Reformed divines, will bristle at such a comparison. But why it’s inapt for the doctrine of universal, divine, causal determinism is a mystery to me.
i) You resort to the type of prejudicial, emotive, and incendiary invective which I ordinarily associate with men like Hitchens, Dawkins, and Ingersoll. And your emotionalism clouds your judgment.
ii) I don’t see that you operate with a Biblical view of love. In Scripture, human beings are fallen beings. Sick. Like a mental patients.
You can’t expect informed consent from somebody who’s clinically insane. Rather, he requires therapy to restore his sanity.
iii) Seems to me that in Molinism, God is like a child who decides which set of toy soldiers to take out of the toy box. The toy solider didn’t get to choose which possible play world would be the actual play world. If a toy soldier finds himself in the real play world, he didn’t choose to live in that world. He didn’t choose his fate. Rather, God made that choice for him.
iv) Evidently, you don’t trust God enough to write the story of your life. But in that event, you don’t trust God with your own life. You don’t seem to think God is wise and benevolent. You want to be your own novelist. You can’t stand to be a creature.