Friday, May 28, 2010

Selective intuition

Steven Nemes has been single-handedly debating several Arminians over at Arminian Perspectives. I’m going to quote some representative statements by his Arminian disputants, then comment.

J.C. Thibodaux, on May 25, 2010 at 10:01 pm Said:

And again, you aren’t dealing with what the scriptures say: 1 John 2:16 and 1:5 plainly contradict your idea of all evil originating from within God. When one’s philosophical viewpoints contradict scripture, it’s time to toss said viewpoint out.

Several Arminians have resorted to this fallback appeal after they lost the philosophical argument with Nemes. However, appealing to Scripture in this context is duplicitous:

i) The Arminian disputants are also using intuitive appeals and philosophical justifications, both to oppose Calvinism and defend Arminianism. Therefore, it’s hypocritical for them to do an about-face and wrap themselves in the mantle of Scripture when their philosophical tactics backfire.

ii) Libertarian freewill is a philosophical construct. As such, it is entirely proper for Nemes to respond in kind.

iii) Quoting Scripture in this debate is just a diversionary tactic. For the question at issue is not the correct interpretation of Scripture, but the inner logic of Arminian theology. For an Arminian to quote Scripture does nothing to negate the logical implications or logical tensions in his belief-system.

Given what Arminianism teaches about divine creation, omniscience, omnipotence, and providential concurrence, can Arminians insulate God from responsibility for sin and evil?

Moreover, can they insulate God from culpability given the logical implications of Arminianism, on the one hand, and what they find reprehensible in Calvinism, on the other?

J.C. Thibodaux, on May 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm Said:

Just as in a sting operation scenario, creating a situation with a known outcome based upon another person’s independent choices doesn’t constitute the one who made the scenario authoring his crime for him.

But one of Thibo’s definitions for “author” is “mastermind.” Yet whoever planned a sting operate was the mastermind behind the sting operation.

And, of course, a sting operation is a classic set-up. It creates the initial conditions for the commission of a crime. Indeed, it instigates the commission of a crime.

So if that is Thibo’s analogy to divine providence, then it backfires.

bossmanham, on May 26, 2010 at 10:44 pm Said:

If God is not the cause of sin, then we wouldn’t hold Him blameworthy. If He is the cause, why wouldn’t we? We blame Him for the creation of the universe, because He caused it.

i) For starters, notice the essentially intuitive or philosophical character of Brannon’s contention. But even though we may all begin with a pretheoretical notion of causality, Brennon will need to define his terms in order to show that Calvinism is causal while Arminianism is noncausal. Or else that Calvinism and Arminianism are both causal, but in different ways–which inculpate Calvinism and exculpate Arminianism.

ii) Furthermore, it’s child’s play to come up with intuitively plausible scenarios in which I could be both responsible and even culpable for a situation I didn’t create.

Suppose I see a little boy fall off the dock. If I don’t jump into the water and rescue him, he will drown. Am I blameless if I do nothing?

Suppose I witness a traffic accident. A car is on fire with a screaming passenger inside. She is trying to get out in time.

It is within my power to save her at no risk to myself. Am I blameless if I do nothing?

bossmanham, on May 28, 2010 at 2:34 am Said:

This is your direct causation through secondary causes, which is exactly what we are saying determinism has God doing for every act on earth. It’s totally disanalogous to an independent creature choosing to do something.

“Direct” causation through “secondary” causes is utter nonsense. If direct, then it sidesteps secondary causes–and if it uses secondary causes, then it’s indirect.

Arminian, on May 27, 2010 at 5:04 pm Said:

Has not Steven basically conceded JC’s point that Calvinism does make God the author of evil? His response seems to be, “but that’s no big deal and I think Arminianism makes God the author of evil too.”

Steven, you responded, “I don’t think I am a hyper-Calvinist.” But how can you say that when you are arguing that God is the author of evil and that that’s ok? The belief that God is the author of sin/evil is standardly regarded as a hyper-Calvinistic, heretical belief. As states (adjectives’s), most Calvinists reject as deplorable the hyper-Calvinistic and destructive belief that God is the author of sin and of evil.

Of course, this is all equivocal.

i) To begin with, Thibo was constantly redefining his terms in the course of the debate. What “author of sin” actually meant kept evolving. When one definition failed him, Thibo switched to another.

ii) ”Arminian” would also have to show that is defining the phrase in the same way that Thibo did.

iii) Nemes didn’t necessarily “concede” anything. Rather, he was arguing with Thibo (and others) on their own assumptions. It’s a perfectly legitimate move point out that Arminianism suffers from the same basic problem it imputes to Calvinism. The point of that move is to make the Arminian reconsider his objection.

iv) Even if Nemes did “concede” Thibo’s allegation that Calvinism makes God the “author of sin,” that’s a pyrrhic concession, for Nemes may not regard Thibo’s homegrown definition as morally serious.

Remember that “author of sin” is a cipher, a metaphor. The phrase itself is morally neutral. Whether or not that ascription is morally invidious all depends on how you define it, along with a larger set of ethical and metaphysical assumptions which underwrite your use of the term.

1 comment:

  1. Why do you think Arminians are so hell-bent on establishing that Calvinism makes God the "Author of Sin"?

    They think that's their Ace-in-the-Hole trump card?