Saturday, August 27, 2011

When's an offer not an offer?

An offer is not a simple statement of fact in the form of a bare statement of material conditionality. An offer is by definition (normal standard English usage) this, I am willing and able to give you this, if you are willing to receive it.
In the case of an offer of something, one is not just making a bare statement of fact in the form of a simple statement of material conditionality. For in that case, the veracity of the statement of fact is not being called into question at all, which misses the point entirely. What is being called into question is the veracity of the offer of the thing, not the fact of the thing.

Several problems:

i) Ponter is committing a classic semantic fallacy: the word-concept fallacy.

Even if (arguendo), the concept of an offer incorporates sincerity or veracity, that doesn’t figure in the meaning of the word itself.

ii) In addition, to stipulate that an offer must be sincere or true to be a genuine offer begs the question. That’s not something which Ponter is entitled to posit at the outset. For that’s the very issue in dispute.

iii) Ponter’s stipulation apparently includes a tacit proviso: God would never make a false or insincere offer: therefore, a genuine offer is, by definition, sincere or true.

But even if that’s a correct statement regarding the nature of a divine offer, that is not the nature of an offer, per se. So Ponter can’t extract that additional caveat from the concept of an offer qua offer. 

iv) Must an offer be a sincere offer to be a genuine offer?

Let’s distinguish between a “sincere” or “well-meant” offer and a true offer. Take a dilemma. Suppose I’m a high school football coach. One of my players comes to me, telling me he saw the halfback take a laptop from the locker of the running back, and put it in his own locker.

Suppose I confront the halfback. I tell him that if he lets me search his locker, and I don’t find the laptop, then he’s in the clear–but if I do find the laptop, then he’s off the team.

If he’s innocent, then he has nothing to lose by letting me search his locker. But if he’s guilty, then he’s in a bind. If he let’s me search his locker, then that will confirm his guilt. But if he refuses, then I know he has something to hide.

I make the offer knowing that if he’s guilty, he will probably refuse the offer. And I’ll infer his guilt from his refusal.

It’s a no-win situation for a guilty player, but that’s the point. If he lets me search his locker, and I don’t find the laptop, then he’s exonerated.  If he refuses, then his refusal is the evasive behavior of a guilty man.

Whatever choice he makes will succeed in establishing his guilt or innocent.

My offer is a true offer. If he’s innocent, he will be vindicated. If he’s innocent, then he’s motivated to take me up on the offer and clear his name.

Yet there’s another sense in which my offer is insincere or ill-meant inasmuch as I know that if he’s culpable, he won’t cooperate. He will spurn the offer. Indeed, I’m banking on that quandary as a pressure tactic to smoke him out.

The same offer functions as an incentive to the innocent, but a disincentive to the guilty.

Is an insincere, but true offer, not a genuine offer? If not, why not?

v) Must an offer be true to be genuine?

Suppose a store offers a product on sale to lure customers in. Suppose the store has no intention of honoring the offer. The store made no effort to stock the sales item. That was just a deceptive come-on.

Isn’t that a fraudulent offer? Isn’t the store legally liable for false advertising? 

Here’s an offer that’s both false and insincere. If, however, we say that such an offer is not a genuine offer, then the store can’t be fined or sued for fraud. After all, if it never even made an offer (as Ponter defines it), then it can’t be guilty of making a fraudulent offer.

vi) Must an offer be true to be sincere or well-meant? Suppose I offer to sell a friend my classic Mustang. He pays me the amount.

When we go to the garage, I discover, to my surprise and consternation (not to mention my friend’s dismay), that the Mustang has been stolen. When I made the offer I was (unwittingly) in no position to make the offer. My offer was sincere, but inadvertently false. I was willing, but unable (unbeknownst to me) to make good on the terms of the offer.

vii) Here’s a divine offer:

10Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11"Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." 12But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”(Isa 7:10-12)”

There are two parties to this offer: God and Ahaz. God is both  able and willing to do it. Indeed, God will make good on the offer–despite the intransigence of Ahaz.

By contrast, Ahaz is unwilling to take God up on the offer. What is more, God foreknew that Ahaz would refuse the offer.

So does Ponter think God is guilty of insincerity? Was this not a bona fide offer?

viii) It’s also unclear, on Ponter’s own definition, how the free offer of the gospel can be either universal or well meant. Since Ponter is not a universalist, he must believe that God knowingly makes the offer to many who are unwilling to receive the offer. But in that event, God never even made them the offer (as Ponter defines it).

So on Ponter’s own terms, the offer is either universal, but not uniformly sincere–or uniformly sincere, but not universal. 

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