Saturday, October 24, 2015

The cardsharp made me do it!

Molinist votary Dan Chapa has been commenting on this post:

I'll comment on some of his remarks here. 

I think some Arminians have boxed themselves in. Some Arminians are too orthodox for open theism. Some realize that simple foreknowledge is providentially useless. Yet the God of Calvinism is "a moral monster."

So Molinism is their last best hope. They have no other fallback. I think that accounts for the desperation of some Arminians, who will fight to the last drop of blood for Molinism. 

Craig says God had to play the hand he was dealt. ("God doesn’t create such a choice for Himself. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him are outside His control. He has to play with the hand He has been dealt".)

Instead of "the Devil made me do it," the Molinist God pleads "the cardsharp made me do it!"

Two statements by Chapa:

From the verse, we know the people of Chorazin didn’t repent, but the people of Tyre would have repented had the same might works been done there. Tyre was notoriously sinful, so the comparison is to shame the folks of Chorzin – they really had a great opportunity to repent, so their choice to remain in sin was more wicked than the folks of Tyre. Yet on Calvinism, God was not given the folks of Chorzin the one and only thing that He knew could enable and cause repentance: irresistible grace. This alone is problematic and seems disingenuous. 
This sounds like a case of will setting, wherein though habit or higher level commitments, a person cannot do otherwise (like when Luther said “here I stand, I can do no other”). Aristotle gave a helpful example to explain why we maintain moral responsibility in will setting. A person who throws a rock may regret doing so midflight, but is still responsible for the results. Likewise a person who freely forms his character, such that he abdicates his freedom in some actions, is still responsible for those actions.

In the first statement he says it's insincere for God to demand repentance from people who can't repent, and whom he refuses to enable to repent.

In the second statement, he says that due to will-setting, Pharaoh's obduracy is too engrained for him to be able to comply with God's demands. 

Well, why doesn't the explanation in the second statement cancel out the objection in the first statement? 

In addition, when Scripture speaks of "repentance," that's a pretty generic word. It's not synonymous with "repentance" in the technical, dogmatic sense of "evangelical repentance." 

For instance, the Ninevites "repented" in response to Jonah's oracle of judgment. They regarded that as a credible threat. And so they did what they could to assuage Jonah's God. 

That doesn't require regeneration or the effectual call. Pagans believe in divine judgment. They believe in punitive, even vindictive gods who must be appeased. 

God’s knowledge of Pharaoh should be grounded in Pharaoh, not His decree.

i) How a timeless spaceless agent knows about the creation is bound to be different than how an embodied agent knows about creation. The mode of knowledge is indexed to the nature of the agent.

Since Molinism, which Chapa subscribes to, is traditionally a variant of classical theism, and since Chapa considers himself a classical Arminian (a la SEA), he shouldn't object to that.

ii) In addition, Scripture grounds God's foreknowledge in his foreordination:

Isa 46:10-11
10 declaring the end from the beginning    and from ancient times things not yet done,saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’11 calling a bird of prey from the east,    the man of my counsel from a far country.I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;    I have purposed, and I will do it.

As one scholar notes:

Here the three participles make a direct link between predictive prophecy (declaring the outcome at the start) and divine intervention in history (calling from the east a bird of prey)…As several commentators (e.g. Young) have noted, the three participles move from general to particular to specific. In the first instance, God tells in general what will happen in the future. He can do so because the future is fully shaped by his own plans and wishes. This is the same point that was made in chap. 14 concerning Assyria (vv24-27). Assyria's plans for Judah were really of little import. It is the Lord's plans for Assyria to which that great nation should have paid attention (see also 22:11; 37:26). 
This thought is summed in the ringing affirmations of the final bicolon of v11…The repetition serves to emphasize the unshakable connection between promise and the performance, between divine talk and divine action…This parallelism underlines again that the reason God can tell what is going to happen is that what happens is only an outworking of his eternal purposes. John Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (Eerdmans 1998), 236-37. 

BTW, I'm quoting a major commentator on Isaiah who also happens to be an Arminian OT scholar. Oswalt has taught at Asbury–the flagship of Arminian seminaries–on and off for many years.  

In the Exodus account there's a twofold divine dynamic that parallels a twofold divine strategy:

i) Left to his own devices, Pharaoh has no natural incentive to free the slaves. Indeed, he has a natural disincentive: the slaves are a major economic asset; a free mass labor force. 

In addition, Pharaoh is a proud absolute monarch and "god" who would never willingly submit to the demands of his social inferiors. 

ii) Therefore, something must be done to motivate Pharaoh to free the slaves. And that's the plagues. That incentivizes Pharaoh to accede to Moses's demand.

Left to his own devices, Pharaoh would free the slaves well before plague #10. 

iii) However, God (temporarily) counteracts that divine incentive with a divine disincentive: he hardens Pharaoh to resist freeing the slaves. 

Why does God do that? Because God has two objectives:

a) Free the Israelites

b) Discredit the "gods" of Egypt

God wants Pharaoh to free the slaves, but not too soon, for if Pharaoh relents right away, that will short-circuit (b). 

After all, if this was just about delivering the Israelites from Egypt, God could simply teleport them straight from Goshen to the border of Canaan.

But God has an additional aim: this is a direct confrontation between Yahweh and the "gods" of Egypt. Who is the true God?

By restraining Pharaoh, so that plague after plague piles up, with cumulative damage, Yahweh demonstrates the utter impotence of the Egyptian "gods." 

Divine hardening delays the emancipation of the slaves. By motivating Pharaoh to release the slaves while simultaneously putting the brakes on that process, that intentionally drags out the denouement to maximize the abject humiliation of the state religion. 

One final point: Arminians sometimes claim that the Hebrew word doesn't mean "harden." But that's a red herring.

Even if we didn't know what the word meant, we could retroengineer what God did to Pharaoh via the effect. Yahweh says he will do X to Pharaoh. We solve for X by seeing what happens. How Pharaoh reacts is the direct result of what Yahweh did to Pharaoh. So "X" is Yahweh causing Pharaoh to respond that way. 

Exod 3:19-20 is not a case of God acting/planning on the basis of what he knows, but God knowing on the basis of his action/planning. 

We're dealing with a domino effect, where Pharaoh acts a certain way as a result of God acting a certain way. Pharaoh acts as he is acted upon (by God).

So God knows the end-result of God's actions. He knows what Pharaoh will do or would do because he causes Pharaoh to do it, via divine hardening. 

I don’t see how that plan would give God knowledge that Pharaoh won’t release Israel unless God sends the plagues. Granted, divine hardening could account for such knowledge, but the divine hardening doesn’t start until Exodus 7 and isn’t mentioned in the Exodus 5 account of Pharaoh’s refusal to release Israel.

That's so inept. That confuses when a plan is made with when it is executed–not to mention that a plan may be executed in stages.

When divine hardening is said to begin in the course of narrative is a red herring: The point is that we have programmatic statements in Exodus which lay out God's game plan in advance of the play. That supplies the interpretive grid for what follows. (It functions like the prologue in Job 1-2.) The reader is supposed to refer back in his mind to those programmatic statements. Everything Pharaoh does is to be construed in light of divine agency. He's a pawn on God's chessboard. 

21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go" (Exod 4:21). 

3 But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them (Exod 7:3-5).

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