Thibodaux continues to circumnavigate the bathtub in his plastic battleship.
His primary tactic is the fallacy of question-framing. He invariably tries to rig the issue in terms detrimental to Calvinism while Arminianism slips through. Having framed the question in tendentious terms, he then pats himself on the back when he succeeds in answering the question to his own satisfaction, although the answer was a foregone conclusion given the initial set-up, and even though his answer was the answer to the wrong question.
Thibo’s debates are always monologues dressed up as dialogues. He may seem to be talking to someone other than himself, but that’s a toy phone in his hand. There’s no one on the other end of the receiver.
This is the second of a series on the authorship of sin that came about as a result of discussions and observations on this post. Part 1 and the first section of this post address Calvinist claims that Arminians “also make God the author of sin.”
i) There’s no reason that a Calvinist would frame the issue that way in the first place, except as a tu quoque.
ii) This is exacerbated by the fact that Thibo doesn’t even define “authorship” in terms of traditional theological usage. Instead, he substitutes a made-up definition which suits his polemical agenda.
iii) The proper way to frame the question is in terms of complicity. Given what Arminians find objectionable in Calvinism, can their own alternative avoid making God complicit in sin and evil?
That’s the real question. But Thibo doesn’t want you to ask that question, since he doesn’t have a good answer to that question.
When discussing authorship implying the origination of sin, the argument inevitably arises, “but if sin originates in people, people still originate from God, therefore sin originates from God as well!” Not quite. Beings capable of sin originated from within God, it doesn’t follow that their rebellion itself came from within Him.
For counter-example, my children originated from within me. If my daughter goes off and does something of her own imagining that I didn’t teach or tell her to do, then can it rightly be called my idea? Would it be fair to state, “your daughter’s action came from her, she came from you, therefore her action originated in you!”? Not at all. There’s a independent volitional separator between myself and my daughter’s choices and actions, namely, my daughter herself, who is a free agent and makes choices that proceed from within herself independent of my causing them. To assert that all of her choices come from me or are somehow my idea is the utmost folly since she has some degree of independence from me in her choices. Now if I were somehow controlling her so that she couldn’t think or do anything but exactly what I commanded, then such an accusation would be fair, but thankfully for all involved, that isn’t the case!
i) Even if, for the sake of argument, we confine ourselves to his “authorial” paradigm (whatever “authorship” means), his illustration is counterproductive. He fails to show that God is not the “author” of sin on Arminian terms. For even in his own illustration, God indeed originates sin. The distinction he’s drawn is not between God originating or not originating sin, but between God directly or indirectly originating sin. God still originates sin, in a derivative sense.
ii) Having failed to achieve his purpose, Thibodaux would then need to show that while immediate origination is culpable, mediate origination is inculpable.
iii) And, of course, he disregards a fundamental disanalogy. The Arminian God knows what choices we will make. That being the case, how can Thibo absolve the Arminian God of complicity in the choices we make–including our sinful choices? We couldn’t make them unless he made us. So that makes the Arminian God an accomplice, collaborator, or coconspirator in the outcome. (Indeed, all three.)
So likewise, God is the originator of all creation, but it’s fallacious to think that He’s the originator of everything His creation does if He’s granted them some degree of independence. Or to put it plainly, if God created agents with wills that can function in some ways external to Himself, then those agents are capable of concepts and choices that don’t arise from within God.
i) Didn’t God have a concept of the world he was going to make? Or does Thibo think that divine creation is like a game show where God blindly chooses whatever lies behind Door 2? Is creation a shot in the dark?
ii) If the Arminian God makes us, and if he also knows our future choices, then how can Thibo distinguish God’s choices from our choices? Didn’t God choose to make a world with all those choices? If I choose to make you, and you choose to make a choice, and I know what choice you will make, then wasn’t I making the same choice that you were making? You’re the instrument of my choice. I make the same choice via your choice.
Your choices become a subset of my choices. If you choose a certain outcome, then I choose the same outcome by choosing the chooser. If you commit murder, and I know that you will commit murder if I make you, then I chose a murderous outcome by making you. I chose to make a world containing your choices. In that respect, your choices and mine coincide. I chose a world with just those chosen outcomes. My choices include your choices.
So that’s my choice, too. It’s not merely your choice. Indeed, you couldn’t make those choices in the first place unless I chose to make you–with all those foreseen choices in the pipeline. My choice of your choice.
So, yes, those choices “arise” from God. He made the chooser. He chose the chooser. To say the choice “proceeds from within the human agent,” even if true, does nothing to negate God’s complicity.
One Calvinist objection to the middle-knowledge view is that if God knows what you will do given situation X, then puts you in situation X, that your reaction to X is then necessary. They then may argue that God can therefore be called the author of sin if middle knowledge is employed, since He’s made sin necessary by putting His creations in situations in which He knows they will sin.
The error in logic here is equating “necessary given what you will do” with “divinely necessary.” If what I will do if put in situation X is determined by me rather than God, then my reaction can’t be divinely necessary, as this would essentially be saying that what was divinely necessary was contingent upon a created being’s independent will -a contradiction. God knowing what I will do in situation X and putting me in situation X makes the reaction certain, but if it in any way depends upon my independent agency, then it can’t be called divinely necessary.
i) We don’t have to cast the issue in terms of “authorship” (whatever that means). “Authorship” is not the only morally pertinent category in discussions of responsibility or culpability.
ii) We don’t have to frame the issue in terms of “necessity.” What about “inevitability”? If I know that by putting you in a particular situation, you will do X, then it’s inevitable that you will do X if I put you in that situation.
Even if you deny the “necessity” of that outcome, how is that morally germane to the theodicean issue?
iii) Suppose I take a recovering alcoholic to a bar. Suppose he resists the temptation in that environment.
Was it still appropriate for me to take a recovering alcoholic to a bar? Should I expose him to that temptation?
If your best friend was a recovering alcoholic, would that be a considerate thing to do to him? Would that be acting in his best interests?
Keep in mind that this is about the weakest example we can imagine. I didn’t force him to drink. I didn’t buy him a drink. I didn’t offer him a drink. And he didn’t drink.
Still, don’t we think it’s inappropriate to put him at risk–regardless of the outcome? Isn’t solicitation culpable? Isn’t incitement to evil evil?
iv) Suppose I offer him a drink, and he accepts. I didn’t make him accept the offer. Suppose he was free to refuse my offer.
Still, if I offer a recovering alcoholic a drink, and he accepts my offer, doesn’t that make me complicit? Is it appropriate to offer a recovering alcoholic a drink?
Is he to blame? Sure. But is he solely to blame? No. I share the blame by leading him on. By playing into his weakness.
For Thibo to constantly cast the issue in terms of “authorship” or “exhaustive determinism” is just a diversionary tactic, for questions of responsibility or culpability don’t require anything nearly that strong.
v) Now perhaps Thibo would say there’s a basic disanalogy between what’s permissible for God and what’s permissible for man. But if that’s his fallback argument, then that argument is also available to the Calvinist.
In a similar vein, it’s also argued that our agency doesn’t really constitute free will if the outcome is made certain by God placing us in a situation. I mean, you don’t really have power to choose if your choice is certain, do you? Logically speaking, you actually do. ‘Certainty’ doesn’t imply constraint, it implies factuality, including that which is occurs apart from necessity. An ‘acid test’ to tell if an agent is free in the libertarian sense is the question, “For any given choice and the situation in which it occurs, could the choice be different based solely on the agency of the creature, with no factors changed or differing action on God’s part?” If the answer is “yes,” then this reply indisputably implies libertarian agency, regardless of objections that it “doesn’t sound like free will.”
But the creature’s agency isn’t the sole factor. If God knows the outcome, and if his foreknowledge renders the outcome certain, then the outcome can’t go either way.
For Thibo to artificially isolate one variable, while conveniently disregarding another relevant variable, is fallacious.
“It’s good when God decrees it happen, bad when it actually happens…”
i) That’s a caricature of the Reformed position. God decrees it for a good reason, and, by the same token, God has a good reason for enacting it through providence.
It is bad in and of itself. It is bad in terms of the bad motives of the sinner. But it’s good in relation to its overall contribution to God’s design, and God’s intentions in decreeing that event, and bringing it to pass, are good.
ii) Moreover, we could easily recast his objection in Arminian terms: “It’s good when God permits it happen, bad when it actually happens…”
This is how Calvinists have classically tried to evade the problem of God authoring sin. It’s declared to be somehow righteous and holy in God decreeing it, but it’s just somehow bad when people commit it.
And this is how Arminians have classically tried to evade the problem of God’s complicity in sin. It’s declared to be somehow righteous and holy in God permitting it, but it’s just somehow bad when people commit it.
Foster responds to this with the obvious question and inevitable conclusion:
But, then, a question arises right here. Was not the sinner’s intention decreed, also, as well as the act? If you answer, “No,” then here is something which comes to pass in time which was not decreed before time. If you answer, “Yes,” and the sin was in the intention, then God, who was the author of the intention, was the author of the sin; for the sin and the intention are the same.
i) Foster doesn’t define his terms. What does he mean by “author” of sin? Is he using that phrase according to historic theological usage? Is God the sole agent? No. Not according to the Westminster Confession (to take one representative source).
ii) Yes, God decreed the sinner’s intentions.
iii) And according to Arminianism, didn’t God intend the sinners intentions? If God foreknew the sinner’s intentions, and chose to make him, then God intended that the sinner’s intentions come to pass.
Obviously, if nothing happens apart from God’s decree, then this would include not only one’s actions, but his thoughts and intents as well.
Obviously, if (a la Arminianism) nothing happens apart from God’s creative fiat and providential concursus, then this would include not only one’s actions, but one’s thoughts and intents as well.
So truly exhaustive determinism would necessarily have God authoring not only the act, but that which makes the act itself evil.
What is more, truly exhaustive foreknowledge (a la Arminianism) would necessarily have God authoring not only the actor of the act, but that which makes the act itself evil.
Beyond being mere “lack of good,” wicked thoughts and intents are themselves an abominable thing to God.
“The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure.” (Proverbs 15:26)
The book of Proverbs goes to further state that those who devise evil things are also abominable to Him.
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)
Yet the Arminian God freely and knowingly chooses both to make and sustain a world in which abominable thoughts and intents occur. So God presumably does that for the greater good. And a Calvinist can avail himself of the same rationale.
Or does Thibo think that God brings about this “abominable” situation for no good reason?
At least some actions can be in and of themselves morally neutral, with the thought behind it determining whether it’s good or evil. Thoughts and intentions are a different matter, evil thoughts being inherently contrary to the Holiness of the absolutely Holy God, and utterly abominable to Him along with the heart that devises them. The horrid ramification of exhaustive determinism, as seen above, is that all of these things that God finds abominable wind up originating in Him. Further, if the wickedness of the wicked isn’t ultimately from themselves, but rather produced for them from within God, then the heart that devises their evil schemes wouldn’t truly be their own, but God’s!
i) Thibo has failed to show how Arminianism can avoid the “horrid ramifications” which it imputes to Calvinism.
ii) Moreover, he’s already been corrected on his simpleminded failure to distinguish between evil thoughts and thoughts of evil. As an omniscient being, God entertains the evil thoughts of the wicked. Does that make God himself a wicked being?
Many Calvinists appeal to “secondary causes” to mitigate the concept of God being the author of sin. Besides being a rather lame defense (employing secondary causes didn’t get David off the hook -see 2 Samuel 11:14-12:9)…
If that’s a rather lame defense, then so much the worse for Arminianism, considering the fact that Thibo’s entire Arminian theodicy hinges on that distinction.
The usual last resort to try and reconcile exhaustive determinism with God not being the author of sin is appeal to mystery.
Since Thibo hasn’t even show that God is the “author” of sin in the historic sense of the term, no response is called for at this stage of the argument.
Which brings us to the claims of many Calvinists who hold to exhaustive determinism: God by Himself exhaustively, immutably and unconditionally predetermines [which plainly implies authorship]…
How does that “plainly imply authorship”? Is that how the term is used in historical theology?
Thibo continues to bandy the term for three more paragraphs without attempting to show that “authorship” in traditional theological usage has the meaning he unilaterally assigns to it.