Saturday, October 08, 2016

A Syntax Guide

It's up to us!

It is up to us to decide how we wish to live our lives to make life worth living to us. It is this self-directedness that makes life meaningful. Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk, 50 Great Myths About Atheism (Wiley Blackwell, 2013), 34.

There are many things wrong with that claim. To begin with, it simply begs the question. Whether that's sufficient to make life meaningful is the very issue in dispute.

But here's another problem. The claim is so elitist. It presumes that people have freedom of opportunity. But what about a slave-state like North Korea? Apart from the ruling class, do individual North Koreans get to decide how they wish to live their lives to make life worth living to them? We could easily multiple analogous examples. 

And even apart from totalitarian regimes, many humans just don't have a great menu of options to choose from. Their circumstances force them to eke out a grinding subsistence existence. 

Yet atheists typically deny the afterlife. So this is your one and only shot at life. If we grant how the authors frame the necessary conditions of a meaningful life, hundreds of millions of humans, maybe billions, never get to enjoy a meaningful life. And there won't be any compensations for anyone in the world to come, since there is no world to come. Therefore, the "myth" that "Atheism Robs Life of Meaning and Purpose" is often true even by their own lights.  

50 "myths" about atheism

Recently I was thumbing through 50 Great Myths About Atheism (Wiley Blackwell, 2013), by Russell Blackford and Udo Schüklenk.

As you can tell from the title alone, it's a PR exercise designed to dispel allegedly harmful stereotypes and prejudices about atheists. However, the book suffers from a central dilemma. On the one hand, there's the vexed question of how to define atheism in the first place. On p3 they say:

George H. Smith adopted a very broad view of atheism as simply "the absence of religious belief." According to this approach, any person who does not believe in the existence of any god or gods is literally an atheist. For the purpose of this book we take a similar approach. 

Let's be clear on what this implies. According to their preferred definition, their operating definition, an atheist or atheism is consistent with any belief or practice apart from the singular exception of belief in the existence of a god or gods. Now, let's compare that to some of their "myths" about atheism:

Myth 7 Atheists See No Good in Religion 

Myth 11 Atheism Robs Life of Meaning and Purpose 

Myth 12 Atheism is Depressing 

Myth 20 Without God There is No Morality 

Myth 21 Atheists are Moral Relativists 

Myth 23 Atheists Deny the Sanctity of Human Life 

Myth 24 If There is No God We are Soulless Creatures 

Myth 26 Atheists Can’t be Trusted 

Myth 27 Many Atrocities Have Been Committed in the Name of Atheism 

Myth 31 Atheists are Intolerant 

Myth 32 Atheists Want to Ban Teaching Religion to Children 

Myth 33 Atheists Want to Strip People of their Beliefs

Myth 34 Atheists Want to Ban Religion from the Public Square 

Myth 43 Atheism Implies Scientism 

Notice that atheism is consistent with every one of these "myths" about atheism. Each one of these can be true of atheists. Indeed, an atheist could subscribe to every one of these "myths" about atheism. 

Since nothing in their definition of atheism rules them out, in what sense are these "myths" about atheists or atheism? 

Perhaps the authors would say atheism doesn't entail any of these beliefs or practices. But even if we grant that contention for the sake of argument, atheism does not entail the denial of any of these beliefs or practices. These are all compatible with atheism or atheists. 

Moreover, that's not just a logical possibility. There are actual atheists in each category. There are atheists for whom the "myth" is an accurate description. And not just riffraff, but important representatives.

So the "myth" boils down to the banal qualification that these descriptions aren't universally true for every self-identified atheist. At best, they think popular stereotypes overgeneralize about atheists. But that's not a very catchy title or selling point. 

In addition, a book like this is intended to promote a favorable image of atheism and atheists. To that end, it will lowball atheists who take their position in a more intolerant or nihilistic direction–whether moral nihilism, existential nihilism, or both. But what if that's just taking atheism to a logical conclusion? Even if many or most atheists did not espouse nihilism, atheism can still imply nihilism. They stop short of going all the way because the consequences are far too bleak. Likewise, intolerant atheists are bona fide atheists. 

Trump tar-baby

Before the first presidential debate, Trump was doing better than expected in the polls. But he was unprepared, and that hurt him. Now we have a new Trump scandal. Before I get to that I'd like to comment on the faux indignation from the Left. Just as Hillary's badness doesn't make Trump any better, Trump's badness doesn't make Hillary any better. 

1. There's the glowing double standard when it comes to Bill Clinton. He's an infamous skirt-chaser. This includes credible allegations of sexual assault, according to legal analyst Stuart Taylor. 

Hillary defended him because he's an escalator to advance her own insatiable political ambitions. 

2. In addition, Hillary impugned the credibility of a rape victim, even though she knew the allegations were true:

3. Then there's the general tolerance for sexual misconduct in the Democrat establishment. We could give many examples. The womanizing of JFK and Teddy Kennedy. Barney Frank's then-boyfriend and callboy running a male brothel out of the Congressman's home. 

Nancy Pelosi initially defended Anthony Weiner's sexting scandal. Even after he resigned, he was leading in the NYC mayoral poll before another sexting scandal sunk his bid. 

3. Or take the college hookup culture. That isn't just spontaneous. Rather, college administrators instigate a hookup culture. Take the biennial Yale Sex Week. Or the Vagina Monologues. Or coed dorms and locker rooms. 

4. In addition, the sexual mores of women in the pop culture are frequently deranged. To take a few examples, consider all the buzz about 50 Shades of Grey a while back. Isn't that very popular with women? Yet it's said to glorify licentiousness. 

I've also read about women whose idea of women's night out is to visit a night club with male strippers. They go with other female friends. 

Or take the Facebook group called "Mommy wars". That comprises about 23,000 military wives. They were caught giving each other tips on how to commit adultery while their husbands stationed overseas.

Or consider this sample of pop cultural morality:

Point is: both sexes can be equally depraved. 

5. Then there's the Trump groupies. Men like Trump are magnets for a certain kind of woman. There are ambitious women who intentionally seek out men like Trump. They sleep their way to the top. 

In addition, some women who are genuinely attracted to men like Trump. They like the swagger. 

There are women who knowingly marry skirt-chasers. They are under no illusions. I read that about Sinatra's last wife. There are women who prefer a rich man or celebrity, even though he's faithless–to a faithful working class or middle class husband. 

Take his current wife. She's a classic trophy wife. She posed nude, in chains, on his private jet. 

Yes, his comments reveal his character, but his character reveals the character of women who hang out with him. Women who voluntarily enter his gravity well. Consider the female contestants on The Apprentice. 

His reputation precedes him. They know what they are getting into. They do it for what they can get out of it. Mutual exploitation. 

6. As for Trump's comments, the problem isn't confined to the obscene descriptions of women, but to what he said he did. Now, there's a degree of posturing. The sexual braggadocio. 

But it's very plausible that he did what he said he did. It's not uncommon for powerful men like him to take advantage of their position. Indeed, that's why they seek out certain positions, like presiding at beauty pageants. Surely he does that to hit on voluptuous, nubile young women. 

7. That's the problem with being a spokesman for Trump. It's morally compromising to keep defending and excusing his comments. You become a tar-baby for Trump. When you constantly excuse what he says and does, that rubs off on you. 

Friday, October 07, 2016

A Response To Annette Merz On The Infancy Narratives (Part 7)

(Previous parts in the series: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.)

Though Merz doubts that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, she writes:

All of the canonical and extracanonical reports on Jesus' birth transmit Bethlehem as his place of nativity. (476)

She thinks some sources in the New Testament imply that Jesus was born somewhere other than Bethlehem. But she doesn't cite any extrabiblical sources in support of a non-Bethlehem birthplace. Eusebius, who had access to many sources no longer extant, wrote, "all agree that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem" (Demonstration Of The Gospel, 3:2). Jesus' birthplace isn't an issue of dispute in the earliest extrabiblical exchanges between Christians and their Jewish and pagan opponents, and the Bethlehem birthplace seems to have been widely accepted among the earliest opponents of Christianity. That support for a Bethlehem birthplace in the extrabiblical sources is highly significant.

Merz writes:

Celibacy and abortion

Here's an issue I've never seen discussed (which doesn't mean it hasn't been discussed). As is well-known, bishops have no compunction about engaging in elaborate schemes to conceal the sexual activity of priests. And the news coverage is focussed on homosexual priests.

However, you also have straight priests. I don't know if they're in the majority or minority. Of the total number of straight priests, a percentage have affairs with women. Or trysts with prostitutes. 

The question this raises is what bishops do when a priest impregnates a woman? A parallel question invokes a pregnant nun. How do you keep that a secret?

In the case of a nun, her superiors might instruct her to give the child up for adoption. 

In the case of a woman whom a priest impregnated, hush money is a possibility. Say a one-time lump sum payment to make her go away.

However, the safest and most cost-effective way to conceal an unwanted pregnancy would be an abortion referral. Does the policy of mandatory celibacy facilitate abortion? Do bishops avoid the scandal of pregnant nuns or women impregnated by priests by discreet abortion referrals?

I've never seen this discussed, but since there are undoubtedly children conceived in this situation, the question of what happens to them is inevitable. Clearly something happens to them. It's not that we don't hear about it because no such children are conceived. Rather, we don't hear about it because measures are taken to keep that under wraps. Do such measures include abortion? 

Credulous Catholics

It's revealing to see the gullibility of faithful Catholics, including some very intelligent Catholics. Take Feser's response to Robert George:

a major difficulty for Robbie’s assertion is that then-Cardinal Ratzinger, speaking as head of the CDF and the Church’s chief doctrinal officer, explicitly denied that John Paul II had made any change to the Church’s teaching on capital punishment at the level of doctrinal principle (as opposed to prudential application of principle).  In a letter responding to an inquiry from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus about whether the teaching of Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism represented a doctrinal change, published in First Things in October of 1995, Ratzinger said:

Clearly, the Holy Father has not altered the doctrinal principles which pertain to this issue as they are presented in the Catechism, but has simply deepened the application of such principles in the context of present-day historical circumstancesIn my statements during the presentation of the encyclical to the press, I sought to elucidate these elements, and noted the importance of taking such circumstantial considerations into account.  It is in this sense that the Catechism may be rewritten, naturally without any modification of the relevant doctrinal principles. (emphasis added) 
That’s about as clear a rejection as there could be of the thesis that the teaching of Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism represents a change in doctrine rather than merely a change in prudential application of doctrine.  
Fifth, contrary to what Robbie asserts, this previous teaching is in fact infallible.  Every Catholic must assent to it.  The First Vatican Council solemnly teaches that:

[T]hat meaning of Holy Scripture must be held to be the true one, which Holy mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true meaning and interpretation of Holy Scripture.In consequence, it is not permissible for anyone to interpret Holy Scripture in a sense contrary to this, or indeed against the unanimous consent of the fathers. 
The Council of Trent taught the same thing.  Now, many scriptural passages teach not only that capital punishment is legitimate, but also that it is legitimate even just for purposes of securing retributive justice.  (Cf. the examples Joe Bessette and I cited in our recent Catholic World Report article.)  And the Church, from the Fathers onward, has always understood these passages this way.  The various contemporary attempts creatively to re-interpret such passages simply cannot be squared with the principle that scripture must be understood to mean what the Church has always “held” it to mean. 
This is why Cardinal Ratzinger, despite his personal opposition to capital punishment, made the statements he did about the subject during his time as head of the CDF, i.e. to the effect that John Paul II’s teaching was prudential rather than doctrinal and to the effect that a good Catholic could disagree with it.  This is what Ratzinger’s famous “hermeneutic of continuity” with past teaching – and thus the very credibility of the magisterium of the Church – strictly requires.

Feser is right to say the "very credibility of the magisterium" is at stake. And that's why you wouldn't expect the "the Church’s chief doctrinal officer" to openly accuse a sitting pope of altering doctrinal principles. Ratzinger is hardly a disinterested party. To begin with, it was JP2 who appointed him to be the CDF. He was serving at the pleasure of JP2. For that reason alone, he's not going to publicly contradict his boss.

Moreover, Ratzinger believes in the system. He's been a leading member of the Catholic establishment for decades. He's a convinced Catholic. Naturally he's not going to take a position that torpedos the authority of the magisterium. That would be self-defeating. Feser quotes Ratzinger as a witness to Feser's interpretation. But Ratzinger is hardly a nonpartisan referee. Ratzinger has a vested interest in defending the consistency of the magisterium. That's a cornerstone of his Catholic faith. 

So this is an illicit appeal to authority. You can't very well quote a member of the magisterium to prove the consistency of the magisterium when the consistency of the magisterium is the very issue in dispute. That fails to respond to George on his own level. That fails to refute his evidence. George is not alone  in this. Justice Scalia made the same point. There's a trajectory in recent papal teaching. That's easy to document. For instance:

Prison of the mind

When I comment on atheism I routinely comment on people who are very self-conscious about their godlessness. Their atheism defines their core identity. Their personal and social identity is conditioned by their commitment to atheism. They organize their thinking, speaking, and acting around atheism as a central reference point. They think about God as much as Christians do.

By contrast, there's another kind of atheist. They barely think about God at all. For them, God is not a frame of reference one way or another. They live without taking thought of God. "Alienated from the life of God" (Eph 4:18). They resemble pre-Christian unbelievers who were born before the missionaries arrived. 

It's like a concentrate camp which has a door with an illuminated exit sign. You can see it day and night. The inmates walk past the door every day. Many times a day. Back and forth. 

Yet no one tries to open the door. No one puts his hand on the doorknob to see if it turns. They don't register the door. It's as if the door isn't there.  

They could leave the concentration camp at anytime. But they remain in the camp year after year, decade upon decade, until they die of old age. Freedom lies just beyond the door, but they die in captivity, for their captivity is psychological rather than physical. A prison of the mind.

Arab bazaar

Andy Stanley has responded to his critics:

There's a lot to sort out:

1. He talks about how the culture has changed. I think that's overstated. Andy and I are just year apart. In his lifetime and mine, I don't think American society was ever all that Christian.

Andy is the scion of a legendary SBC preacher. The "world" in which Andy was raised is pretty artificial. The people he grew up with lived and breathed inerrancy. But that's not a representative sample of American culture in the 60s-70s. I think he's extrapolating from his own experience. We all tend to use our personal experience as a frame of reference. But can we generalize from that? 

Consider the pop culture in the 60s-70s. Consider the TV fare, movies, and music. Precious little was Christian. Likewise, I'm a product of public education, K-12, during the 60s-70s. Precious little was recognizably Christian. 

When was "The Bible Says So" enough for the pop culture? I don't recall presidential speeches in the 60s-70s citing "the Bible says so" to justify domestic or foreign policy. I don't think presidential speeches in the 40s-50s did that either. Or the 20s-30s. What about network anchormen? What about public school teachers? What about college profs.? During Andy's formative years, I don't think Scripture ever held that status in the pop culture. 

I suspect the "change" that Any perceives has less to do with time and more with place. More about where he grew up and his father's social circle. 

2. When people go to church, they should expect the preacher to take the authority of Scripture for granted. That's a proper expectation. Especially in the context of church, the authority of Scripture ought to be a given. 

To take a comparison, when I was living in CA, I sometimes attended a WELS church. Although I'm a Calvinist, I expected the worship service to take Lutheran theology for granted. It would be unreasonable of me to suppose otherwise. Likewise, if, out of curiosity, I were to attend an Orthodox synagogue for a year, I'd expect the worship service to take Orthodox Judaism for granted. 

3. Andy seems to underestimate how expository preaching, week after week and year after year can, of itself, be a source of faith. How that can, of itself, be a converting experience. For instance, C. Everett Koop became an adult convert by sitting under the preaching of Donald Grey Barnhouse. 

4. Andy says people are judging him by one sermon, which is part of a multipart series. He suggests that he answers the questions he raised in later installments. But here's what he originally said:

If the Bible is the foundation of our faith, then as the Bible goes so goes our faith. This is why you sent your kids off to college and they came back with no faith. If the Bible is the foundation of our faith then it is all or nothing. Christianity becomes a fragile house of cards religion. It comes tumbling down when we discover that perhaps the walls of Jericho did not. In archeology class they're told "we excavated the city of Jericho. By the way there is no evidence that a Hebrew people made some sort of trek from Egypt to Canaan. Do you know there are all sorts of contradictions in the OT? There's all these facts and figures that do not add up. By the way, the Bible seems to teach that the earth is only six thousand years old and everybody knows the earth is 4.5 billion years old and the universe is 14.5 million years old. If the entire Bible isn't true then the Bible isn't true and all of Christianity comes tumbling down.

Consequently, Christians have always felt they had to defend the Bible. If you read broadly however you discover that it is next to impossible to defend the entire Bible. 

Does he really answer all those objections in later installments? How could he when he told us that it's next to impossible to defend the entire Bible? 

5. And, again, look at that statement. This isn't just a question of raising questions in one sermon that will be answered in a later sermon. Rather, he's insistent that it's a mistake to put your faith in the Bible.

6. Then there's the tricky question of the target audience for his sermons. Is it the audience that comes to church? The visible, physical audience in the sanctuary? 

Or is it the invisible, hypothetical television audience? Is he preaching to the congregation, or is he preaching to the camera? Is he preaching over the heads of the congregation to "educated, dechurched millennials"? Is he primarily a pastor, or primarily an evangelist who uses the congregation as a stage prop?

7. Now, I'm far from opposed to apologetics. The bulk of my blogging is apologetical. I wholeheartedly agree with Andy on the importance of apologetics. Churches that neglect apologetics invite a high defection rate. Many of their parishioners are intellectually defenseless. 

8. That said, there's the question of the best medium. It's a bad idea for a preacher to get bogged down in a convoluted debates in the course of a sermon. The spoken word isn't suited to complex analysis. It's hard for listeners to remember or maintain their train of thought. The written word is a better medium for detailed explanations. For systematic comparison and contrast. 

Videos can be another good medium. Take the clever videos by David Wood.  

9. Likewise, it depends on the aptitude of the pastor. Some pastors don't have the aptitude to do apologetics. Indeed, I'm tempted to say that about Andy.

By the same token, parishioners shouldn't lean too much on pastors. Especially the more intellectual inclined parishioners have a responsibility to pull their own load. Overreliance on the pastor is unfair to the pastor. He can't be an expert on everything. 

10. In general, I think pastors should direct parishioners to good apologetic resources on the historicity and inerrancy of Scripture, as well as hot-button social issues. Make that available to interested parishioners. 

11. Andy says:

What is the faith of your children worth? Your grandchildren? Think about it. What is the faith of the next generation worth? I say everything. I say it’s worth any change necessary to ensure the version of faith the next generation leaves home with is the enduring version—the faith of our first-century fathers. The version that was harder than steel and tougher than nails. The version rooted in an event, not a book. So will you consider retooling in order to win some and save some?

i) So Andy hasn't changed his spots. "Faith rooted in an event, not a book." Same false dichotomy. 

ii) In addition, his position invites the oft-repeated saying, "What you win them with is what you win them to". Andy acts as though Christianity is an Arab bazaar, and it's ultimately the buyer, not the seller, who's in control. We bring the price down to the level that the consumer is prepared to pay. But Andy hasn't the prerogative to give people permission to disbelieve the Bible in exchange for their faith. A pastor is a custodian of God's message, not an editor of God's message. 

Andy's afraid that too much truth will drive some people away. Yes, truth has that winnowing effect. But his job is not to win people over by trading away some of the Bible for their faith. The Bible isn't a pile of bargaining chips to barter away. People are not entitled to leverage Christianity. It's a revealed faith. Take it or leave it. 

This isn't a question of apologetic methodology, where both sides arrive at the same destination, but use different routes to get there. Rather, Andy is describing a different destination, not just a different route. 

Thursday, October 06, 2016

One man's meat is another man's poison

The qualification “as much as you properly can” is needed in case one faced a situation where one could promote the flourishing of one person (say Peter) only by withholding the true flourishing of another (say John), or by losing some other good that was even greater in value. I do not believe, however, that God ever faces a situation in which he can promote the true flourishing of one person only by withholding the flourishing of another, nor do I think he is faced with a choice where he might have other goals that are inconsistent with promoting true flourishing. For the true flourishing of all persons is a right relationship with God, so given God’s almighty power and wisdom, he does not have to choose between promoting the true flourishing of Peter, say, instead of John. He can promote the true flourishing of both. Jerry Walls, Does God Love Everyone? What’s Wrong With Calvinism, 30.

Consider a counterexample:

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him (Gen 4:8). 
And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him” (Gen 4:25).

Seth is the replacement child for Abel. If Abel hadn't been murdered, Seth wouldn't exist. Therefore, Seth flourishes at the expense of Abel.

What is more, if Abel hadn't been murdered, he'd presumably father kids of his own. But he died before he had that chance. Hence, Seth flourishes at the expense of Abel's would-be children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, &c.

This doesn't necessary mean Adam and Eve would not have had a third child unless Abel was murdered. But conception is a matter of timing. Throw off the timing, even by a few minutes, and a different child will be conceived. 

We could multiple examples. Because Joseph winds up in Egypt, he marries an Egyptian and has kids by her. Had he remained in Canaan, he'd marry a Jewess and have children by her. The flourishing of his Egyptian descendants comes at the cost of the alternate timeline. 

To recap:

I do not believe, however, that God ever faces a situation in which he can promote the true flourishing of one person only by withholding the flourishing of another, nor do I think he is faced with a choice where he might have other goals that are inconsistent with promoting true flourishing. For the true flourishing of all persons is a right relationship with God, so given God’s almighty power and wisdom, he does not have to choose between promoting the true flourishing of Peter, say, instead of John. He can promote the true flourishing of both.

Jerry has a bad habit of asserting whatever he needs for his theory to be true. 

In freewill theism, moreover, there are sometimes insurmountable obstacles to God getting his way, for human freedom can thwart divine preferences. Jerry admits that in other contexts. 

"The damnable thing about damnation"

Apostate atheist-cum-philosophy prof Keith Parsons attempted to respond to an Amazon reviewer:

As it turns out, the reviewer copy/pasted some criticisms that I raised in chap. 10 of: 

As a result, Parsons is actually responding to me. Not that his replies are very responsive. 

In chapter ten, Parsons assails the traditional doctrine of hell. One basic problem is that he quotes a few passages of Scripture, which he doesn’t bother to exegete. He simply takes his interpretation for granted, then builds on that presumptive interpretation. His entire objection to hell is predicated on the torture chamber model of hell. Without that presupposition, his case collapses. Yet he fails to defend his key interpretation.
I address my critique to the concept of hell as it was defended by some of the most influential and orthodox of Christian theologians and church “fathers,” such as Tertullian, Aquinas, Jerome, Augustine, Peter Lombard, and Jonathan Edwards. The “torture chamber” model of hell, as featured prominently in Dante’s Inferno and innumerable depictions of the last judgment by Christian artists, was, and remains, a prominent element of Christian eschatology. 

The problem is if he equates attacking their concept of hell with the Biblical concept of hell. 

What about my interpretation of scripture? I cannot be guilty of giving an erroneous interpretation since I give none at all. I quote some of the more lurid NT passages about postmortem punishment (Mark 9: 47-48; Rev. 20:10; Rev. 20:15; and Luke 16: 22-24) and note that, though the images of an eternal punitive hell might look like “sick men’s dreams,” as Hume put it, these doctrines were “…thought out with careful deliberation and based upon scriptural authority. (p. 237)” 

Either the "lurid" passages are literal or figurative. If figurative, the next question is what the imagery stands for. 

In other words, the theorists of hell could and did appeal to scriptural authority in support of their claims. Therefore, it is their interpretations of those scriptures that I took for granted, not my own (which, again, I never offered).

Which is the problem. Parsons fails to distinguish the history of reception from what the text meant. Imagine if I critique Hume's argument against miracles based on Doug Geivett's interpretation of Hume. Suppose it's a solid critique given that interpretation. But unless my critique is based on an accurate interpretation of Hume, I have failed to critique Hume's position. Why is it so hard for a philosopher prof. like Parsons to grasp that elementary distinction?

Sure, Parsons can "take their interpretation for granted," but then, if you disagree with their interpretation, his case against hell collapses since he never bothered to show that their interpretation matches the meaning of Scripture. Was it his intention to let Scripture off the hook? His real target was subsequent theological developments and ecclesiastical traditions? 

BTW, I've discussed the Biblical imagery of hell in more detail here:

For that matter, consider all the things we would have done wrong if we thought we could get away with it. That’s culpable, too…
So, you are subject to punishment not just for the sins you actually do commit but for the ones you would have committed had you been given the opportunity. In other words, you are punished for the sins you commit not just in the actual world but in other possible worlds as well. So, if there is a possible world in which you fornicate with [insert favorite sex symbol here] then that is punishable too. Wow. It seems a bit unfair though that you have to suffer the punishment without getting the fun. 

His response is to ridicule the notion of counterfactual punishment rather than refute the notion of counterfactual punishment. So his response is intellectually frivolous. What makes him think that's a ridiculous notion? 

Suppose a dyslexic suicide bomber intends to murder as many Jewish kids as he can at the local yeshiva grade school. Only he mentally reverses the numbers on the address and ends up walking into a police station instead. He's shot dead before he can denote his Shaheed jacket. Although he failed to achieve his mission, is he not culpable for planning and attempting to implement his plot to murder Jewish kids? Isn't criminal intent culpable in itself? Isn't conspiracy to commit murder blameworthy? The fact that he accidentally bungled his homicidal mission isn't exculpatory, is it? Is Parsons so ethically and intellectually shallow that he doesn't think there's a serious issue at stake?

Take another example: there are people who never commit atrocities, but if they happened to be alive at a time and place where they could get away with it, they'd commit atrocities. There are many historical examples in which the breakdown in civil order gives some people license or cover to commit heinous acts they would not commit if that was punishable. The only thing that deters them is fear of reprisal. They are psychos just spoiling for an opportunity. Shouldn't divine justice take that into account? 

He objects to the duration of hell for “finite” sins. But it’s not as if sinners are merely punished for discrete sins. A sinner does what a sinner is. Sins are just the expression of the sinner’s underlying character.Passage of time doesn’t make the guilty guiltless. Once you do something wrong, it will always be the case that you did something wrong. Your culpability doesn’t have an automatic expiration date. You’re just as guilty a year later as you were a moment later. Only redemption can atone for sin.Sinners don’t cease to be sinners when they go to hell. To the contrary, they become even more sinful in hell, since they lose all self-restraint in hell.
At any rate, if it is fair to punish you for your character, then your character must have been freely chosen, right? I mean, if your character is determined by events beyond your control, such as genes and environment, then punishing you for your character would be like punishing you for having gallstones. But if we choose our characters, are we not back with being punished for our “discrete sins,” choosing our bad characters in this case? If it takes bad character to choose to have a bad character, then we seem to be headed for an infinite regress. Or is it enough if there is some possible world where we do have the freedom to choose our characters, and in that world we choose bad ones?As does William Lane Craig, Alex C. affirms that sinners continue to sin after being condemned to hell. This supposedly justifies the continuing punishment of the damned. But do the damned have free will? Alex C. seems to indicate that they do not since he says that they lose all self-restraint. If the damned have no free will, then in what sense can they sin? If they are being punished for the bad characters they developed in life, then we are right back with the question of the fairness of continuing punishment for past sins, not current ones. Or maybe the damned are being punished for the sins they would commit if, counterfactually, they had free will. On the other hand, if the damned do have freedom of will, cannot they exercise that freedom to curtail or greatly reduce their sinfulness, and so no longer deserve the punishments of hell? Alas, Alex C. gives us no grounds for deciding these questions.

i) Notice, first of all, that Parsons fails to even address the fact that mere lapse of time is not exculpatory. 

ii) Apparently, Parsons believes libertarian freedom is a necessary condition of moral responsibility. But, of course, that's hotly contested in philosophy, so why is the onus on me to disprove his operating assumption? Indeed, many of his fellow atheists subscribe to physical determinism. 

iii) Moreover, counterfactual culpability would still be possible on freewill theism. 

Parsons objects to credal requirement. However, no one goes to hell for disbelieving in Jesus. Disbelief is an aggravating factor. But the hellbound are already lost. Refusing the gospel isn’t what renders them damnable.In Christian theology, nobody can be saved unless he knows and accepts the gospel. This doesn’t mean nobody can be damned unless he knows and rejects the gospel. Rather, to be lost is the default condition of sinners. To be lost is not a result of spurning the gospel. To the contrary, it’s because sinners are lost in the first place that they desperately need to be saved.If a drowning swimmer refuses the lifeline, that’s not why he drowns. He’s already drowning. The lifeline was his opportunity to avoid drowning.
Alex C. says that “Refusing the Gospel is not what renders them [the hellbound] damnable.” This seems to say that refusing the Gospel is not sufficient for damnation. But further down he says, “In Christian theology, nobody can be saved unless he knows and accepts the gospel.” The way to symbolize “Nobody can be saved unless he knows and accepts the Gospel” would be ~(x) [◊Sx & ~(Kxg & Axg)] which is equivalent to (x) [~(Kxg & Axg] ~◊Sx]. But salvation and damnation are the only two possibilities, so ~◊Sx Dx, where Dx is “x is damned.” So, (x) [~(Kxg & Axg) Dx] by hypothetical syllogism, so not knowing and accepting the gospel is sufficient for being damned. Hence, Alex C. seems to contradict himself.

It's odd that Parsons is unable to draw a rudimentary distinction. To say no one can be saved apart from faith in Christ doesn't entail that someone is damned because they fail to believe in Christ. Those are not convertible propositions. That oversimplifies the comparison. Suppose a convicted murder is offered a stay of execution, but refuses the offer. Is he put to death because he refused the stay of execution? That's a misleading way of putting it. It's not as if refusing a stay of execution is, in itself, a capital offense. Rather, the capital offense was the underlying murder. He is punished for committing murder, not for refusing a stay of execution. 

Perhaps, though, he would admit that nonbelief is sufficient for damnation, but his point is that other things are also sufficient, and that, in fact, sinners are already damned by those other things before they decide not to accept the Gospel. But I never denied that other things might be sufficient for damnation. My complaint rather was that belief is necessary for salvation. 

But if they are already damnable for other things before they refuse the Gospel, then they are not entitled to forgiveness in the first place. It is hardly unjust if they suffer damnation for things they did apart from that additional consideration. Moreover, their very refusal is insolent. 

Salvation is denied those who do not accept certain propositions. For this condition to be fair and reasonable it must be the case that those required propositions are so obviously and undeniably true that no rational person can fail to believe them when they are given a fair and unbiased hearing. 

As an atheist, Parsons will naturally deny Christianity is "so obviously and undeniably true that no rational person can fail to believe them when they are given a fair and unbiased hearing." That just means he's judging Christianity from the viewpoint of an atheist. But that involves a much larger debate. 

Evangelicals and voting

Synopsis of Why Should I Believe in Christianity?

The inestimable James Anderson has posted a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of his new book, Why Should I Believe in Christianity?

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Accidental beliefs

I'd like to respond to one of Spencer Toy's objection from another angle:

This I think truly exposes the fatal flaw of the Calvinist’s embrace of Divine determinism. As William Lane Craig has stated, once a person embraces determinism of any sort a strange vertigo sets in. One very well may believe true things, but only because they’ve already been determined to believe those things just as much as their opponents have been determined to believe false things. In such a system, nothing can be rationally affirmed.

It isn't clear what Toy is attempting to argue. He says that if someone has been determined to believe true things while someone else has been determined to believe false things, then nothing can be rationally affirmed. But he doesn't spell out why that's the case. He puts the emphasis on determinism, but he fails to explain how that's germane.

For instance, suppose we changed this to: "Someone may accidentally believe true things just as much as their opponents may accidentally believe false things." How would that change Toy's conclusion, and why? If your beliefs are the result of chance rather than determinism, why isn't that a reason to be skeptical?

Perhaps this is what Toy is trying to get at: if each side is determined to believe what they do, then they can't tell which side is right and which side is wrong. And in that event, nothing can be rationally affirmed. If that's what he's gesturing at, I'd say a few things:

i) What's the warrant for rationally affirming something? What about if I can point to evidence for my belief? Or give reasonable explanations for my belief? In many situations, that's the best that can be expected. We don't have apodictic proofs for most of our beliefs, including many important beliefs. Certainly evidential apologetics, which Toy espouses, doesn't demand that.

ii) If I can't know that I'm mistaken, does it follow that nothing can be rationally affirmed? Take memories. We are hugely dependent on memory. Yet memory is fallible. In many cases, if I misremember something, I can't detect my mistake–because memory is all I have to go on. Although in some cases I may have access to independent information that enables me to corroborate or correct my memories, in many cases, the memory is all I have. Does it follow that nothing can be rationally affirmed on the basis if memory, just because there are instances in which I can't tell if I'm mistaken? Given our tremendous reliance on memory, that would entail a devastating degree of skepticism. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

What’s Wrong With Jerry Walls’ Argument Against Calvinism

Does much learning make you mad?

Hillary's alternate reality

"A modest proposal"

I will comment on this article:

For the record, I know you from the inside out. I’m not only a historian of evangelicalism, I’m also a child of it: born and raised, and then born again. I “asked Jesus into my heart” when I was a kid. I memorized large portions of the Bible. I spent time as a homeschooler, and in the 1990s I had a life-sized photograph of Ronald Reagan on my dorm wall at Bible school.

Since that doesn't correspond to my own background, it would be best for Gloege to avoid stereotyping his target audience. It's presumptuous and often inaccurate.

So, here’s my question, and I want you to answer it honestly. What matters more to you: making abortion illegal or reducing the number of procedures that occur each year?

i) Beware of giving "honest" answers loaded questions. Questions that oversimplify the issues. Questions that pose false dichotomies.

ii) It's not as if Christians currently have a viable choice between reducing the number of abortions per year and outlawing abortion. At present, it isn't politically feasible to ban abortion across the board. And that seems unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. So we're attempting to restrict abortion in various ways. Gloege's alternatives are artificial. That's not even in the cards. 

iii) To set this up as a choice between reducing abortions and restricting abortions is prejudicial. Those are not opposing strategies. Legal restrictions on abortion reduce abortions. 

Or let me put it another way. Which is the better society: one in which abortions are illegal and punished when they occur (because they will), or one in which the surgical procedure is legal, but largely unnecessary?

i) That's ambiguous. If push comes to shove, the priority is saving babies rather than punishing wrongdoers. In a sense, that's "better".

ii) However, a society that refuses to punish wrongdoers is an unjust society. In another sense, that's worse.

We already know how to decrease the abortion rate: make contraception easy to access. 

We already have easy access to contraception. 

Several studies have noted that the majority of women seeking abortions earn less than the poverty level (that’s about $16,000 annually for a family of two). In fact, while the abortion rate has dropped at other income levels, it has increased among those in poverty.

That evades the question of why they are poor. To my knowledge, that's because they tend to be single moms and high school dropouts. 

We could easily go further. Why not advocate for a basic income (something arch-conservative economist Milton Freedman suggested years ago)? 

Isn't that just a euphemism for welfare queens? 

And throw in a few condoms.

How does Gloege propose to make men use condoms if they don't want to? 

Are we afraid anti-poverty programs will create dependent people? Afraid it will be too expensive? Afraid free birth control will lead to increased sexual activity outside of a committed relationship? We can argue about all that if you want. But let’s hold off. 
Just remember: we are talking about reducing abortions. And abortion, you regularly tell me, is no different from murdering innocent children. 
Think about that for a second.

i) I don't need Gloege to tell me to "think about that for a second," as if that's a brand-new thought. He needs to avoid patronizing his target audience.

ii) A culture of dependence is a hotbed for murder. Consider the homicide rates in Chicago. Welfare contributes to the disintegration of the black family. Women don't need to marry. Women don't need a male breadwinner. And it lets fathers off the hook. The taxpayer picks up the tab. 

Fatherless boys are at much higher risk of juvenile delinquency, including murder. Gloege's "modest proposal" reinforces a vicious cycle. 

Shouldn’t we be willing to pay any price?

Actually, no. Policies that bankrupt the country hurt everyone–except the ruling class–including children. Likewise, we shouldn't create a totalitarian state. That's bad for everyone–except the ruling class.

Now tell me: do you really believe what you say? If so, isn’t preventing a holocaust worth a compromise in social or economic policy?

i) That begs the question of whether his "modest proposal" would prevent a holocaust. 

ii) His proposal amounts to extortion. It's like a bank heist gone bad. The robber takes hostages. Threatens to kill them unless $10 million is wired to a Cayman account his name and he is flown by private jet to a country without an extradition treaty. Obviously, we can't give in to extortion. Not because we don't value the lives of the hostages, but because rewarding extortion fuels ever more extortion.

iii) Likewise, if women figure out that they can use the threat of abortion as a bargaining chip to demand goodies, where does that end? What if they demand that the gov't build them a McMansion? Domestic servants? A Mercedes? 

Our last pro-life president launched a war because of a hunch about some aluminum tubes. It cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. Why not spend something to fight poverty and perhaps reduce abortion in the process?

That's a brainless liberal trope. To begin with, using bad examples doesn't prove anything.

National defense is a necessity, not a luxury. You spend what it takes. We can debate how much we need to spend on national defense. We can debate military priorities. We can debate foreign policy. But military spending isn't optional. You have to allocate adequate funds for national defense. So it isn't comparable to the welfare state. 

I also ask because the pro-life movement has been working on outlawing abortion for, what, thirty-five or forty years now? How’s that going?

i) That's circular. It would be going better were it not for people like Gloege.

ii) The "war on poverty" has been going on for fifty years now. Ever since LBJ's Great Society programs. How's that going? 

Look, I know you are suspicious of Planned Parenthood. You think it’s a business (it’s not) whose “profitability” relies on abortion services (it’s actually only a small part of what they do).

Like the sting videos? 

I get it; I know Margaret Sanger was in the eugenics movement and said some things. I don’t know, maybe she was a baby Christian or something. (Kidding, sorry, bad joke.)

Does he think that makes a productive contribution to the discussion?

How about this: if Planned Parenthood opposes anti-poverty programs to save its “abortion business,” I’ll join your fight to have it completely defunded. And I’ll admit you were right all along.

More extortion.

Meanwhile, I simply can’t shake the suspicion that the pro-life movement is more interested in controlling women’s bodies than it is in preserving life. And, yes, I know this is a longstanding canard of the pro-choice movement. And I know you’ll insist you are sincerely concerned about life. I know, because that was me back in the day.But if you really, truly, believe that a fertilized egg is equal to an infant, then you need to prove it.

i) I have nothing to prove to the likes of Gloege. His approval is not my standard of comparison. I'm under no obligation to convince him of my pure motives. He's nobody to me. 

ii) Moreover, he's framed the issue in a way that systematically begs the question. It's not incumbent on me to play his game when he uses marked cards. 

Because when you repeatedly oppose programs that reduce abortions, it makes it look like your concern for “life” is a convenient cover for “control.”

i) He hasn't even tried to demonstrate that welfare and other social programs reduce abortion.

ii) He ignores the role of private charities. 

iii) If he thinks that's a convenient cover for "control," he needs to provide an argument to justify his conspiratorial suspicions. So he thinks prolifers oppose abortion to control women? Is that it?

Keep in mind that childcare often involves men as well as women. Take child support payments. What do prolifers get out of "controlling" women? If their motives are underhanded, you'd expect men to desert the prolife movement since many men prefer sex with no strings attached. Promiscuous men support abortion. 

So, let’s settle the question once and for all. What is your end goal?

One goal is to reduce the murder rate in general (see above).

Let me put it this way: because you are sincerely concerned about life, why not simply work for free access to birth control and anti-poverty efforts and then see what happens.

i) We've already seen what happens. Tried and failed. Repeatedly.

ii) If "poor" women can afford cellphones and cable TV, why not contraception?

iii) What about deadbeat dads? Before we make taxpayers pick up the tab for someone else's child, shouldn't our priority be making parents raise their own kids? 

iv) That also means giving fathers a stake in the process, like joint-custody. 

If you can’t stomach more federal programs or higher taxes, I suppose I understand.

i) Gov't doesn't have any money of its own. It comes from wage-earners. Gloege acts as though people who work hard don't actually need the money they make to live on. Yet many people life paycheck to paycheck. 

ii) When you keep raising taxes, you produce an economic death spiral. Businesses become less profitable. They must pay their employees less. That, in turn, lowers tax revenue. 

iii) Social obligations are concentric. I have a greater obligation to my wife than to your wife. I have a greater obligation to my elderly parents than to your elderly parents. It's not hypocritical to prioritize caring for my own dependents. And if more people did that, it would be better for everyone concerned. 

If an elementary school catches on fire, I will rescue my own kid first. That's not that the other kids are intrinsically less valuable. But my primary duty is to my own kid. After I get him out of harm's way, I may refocus on saving other kids. Mind you, I still have to be careful about risking my own life because I have dependents to support.

It's not hypocritical to simultaneously oppose abortion while opposing social policies that threaten my financial ability to care for my wife, kids, or elderly parents. It is not hypocritical to care about the wellbeing of strangers, or protecting the innocent, even if there are limits to how far I'd go. If I see a teenager drowning in a river, and I'm a strong swimmer, I have a prima facia obligation to save him. If, however, the river is infested with crocodiles, I might not risk it. That doesn't mean I think his life is worthless. But I may have multiple social obligations, including prior obligations. If I'm the sole caregiver for an elderly parent, I must avoid hazardous activities that would endanger my parent. In balancing different duties, higher duties take precedence. I can care what happens to a stranger without taking a bullet for him. Charity comes in degree. 

Maybe, in the end, we both believe abortion is simply a medical procedure with a touch of moral ambiguity. 

That certainly shows you where Gloege is coming from. 

An open question to presuppositionalists

I'm going to comment on an article by a guest contributor to Frank Turek's website:

It is my understanding that according to the Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture, human reasoning is so totally depraved that any effort to understand or believe the Gospel is futile. 

That's inaccurate. It combines two different claims in one statement. These need to be distinguished:

i) The unregenerate cannot believe the Gospel

ii) The unregenerate cannot understand the Gospel

Calvinism affirms (i) but denies (ii). According to Calvinism, the unregenerate are able to understand the Gospel. The impediment to the Gospel isn't primarily intellectual, but ethical. They are unreceptive to the truth of the Gospel. 

Unless and until the Holy Spirit regenerates the reprobate mind, a person will continue to suppress the truth regardless of how well it is articulated or argued for.

True, but we need to distinguish between a capacity to understand and a willingness to believe what one understands. They reject it because they understand it, and it rubs them the wrong way (e.g. Jn 3:19).

That's not just a Calvinist distinction. This is corroborated by experience. It's very common for people to reject unwelcome truths out of hand. People tend to accept what they are predisposed to accept and reject what they are predisposed to reject. We see this all the time in the culture wars.

In addition, the Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty entails that God causally ordains all things that come to pass.

I don't know what Toy means by "causally ordains". What does "causally" add to "ordain"? What does "ordain" add to causally?

It would be clearer to say that God predestines or predetermines whatever happens. Or, if you wish to use causal language, we could recast that in counterfactual terms: nothing happens unless God planned for that to happen. 

There is no sense in which God merely “permits” things to occur. 

There is a sense in which God permits things to happen. God permits what he doesn't prevent. 

It is true, though, that God doesn't merely permit things to occur.

Everything that comes to pass, to include the unbelief of the reprobate, comes to pass because in so happening God will bring the most glory to Himself.

The notion that God does things to "bring glory to himself" is often misstated or misconstrued. God doesn't do anything for his own benefit. God has nothing to gain by what happens in the world. Events reveal the glory of God, but they don't add to God's glory. Rather, God does things for the benefit of the elect.

Here in lies a problem I don’t believe the Presuppositionalist will be able to get out of.

We'll see about that.

Still, while an understanding of this may lead to a Calvinist carefully weighing the decisions he makes in the future, he still must acknowledge that all events in the past have occurred the way they did due to the Sovereign Decree of God.

True. However, let's forestall a common confusion. As even an arch freewill theist like William Hasker:

Before going into the arguments for determinism, it is necessary to remove some misconceptions about the determinist position. To begin with, it must be emphasized most strongly that determinists do not deny that people make choices…Furthermore, the experience of choosing–of seeing alternatives, weighting their desirability and finally making up one’s mind–is not any different whether one is a libertarian or a determinist. For while determinists believe that there are sufficient conditions which will govern their choices, they do not know at the time when they are making a decision what those determinants are or how they will decide as a result of them. So, like everyone else, they simply have to make up their own minds. The difference between libertarian and determinist lies in the interpretation of the experience of choice, not in the experience itself, W. Hasker, Metaphysics, 37.

Determinism involves what lies behind the decision-making process. Often unconscious factors. 

This being said, I would like you to consider someone like Dr. Frank Turek who is not a Calvinist and uses the Classical Apologetics method. Based on the admission of Reformed theologians themselves, it seems to me that a Calvinist has to believe that ultimately the reason that Dr. Turek is in error regarding God’s Sovereignty and the proper apologetic method is because God has not granted it to him to understand these things.

True. Of course, the same dynamic applies within Calvinism. For instance, some Calvinists affirm the eternal generation of the Son while other Calvinist disaffirm the eternal generation of the Son. They can't both be right. God predestined that one Calvinist would be right about that while another Calvinist would be wrong about that.

Just as the reprobate man’s fallen reason can never lead him to God, neither can Dr. Turek’s reason lead him to the truth of Reformed theology unless and until the Holy Spirit grants it to him to understand it.

I'm not sure what Toy means by the "Holy Spirit granting it to him to understand it". Calvinists don't have extra information, supplied by the Holy Spirit, that Turek lacks. This is not about regeneration or even illumination. Rather, is about predestination and providence. For instance, God uses social conditioning to cultivate certain beliefs. 

If Dr. Turek persists in his error, he does so only because God has sovereignly determined before the foundation of the world that he would be in error…

True. Again, though, predestination is different from the distinctive work of the Holy Spirit. 

...for through Dr. Turek’s theological errors God will bring the most glory to Himself. 

Theological error can be a  foil for theological truth. It provides a contrastive background. 

In other words, you can REASON from the text.

Calvinism doesn't deny that people can reason from the text of Scripture. 

Of course our human reasoning is fallen. That’s why the Holy Spirit has to reveal the truth to us. I can know that my exegesis is correct because I begin epistemologically with God. Having put my faith in God thanks to the Holy Spirit’s regeneration, I can be confident that God has revealed the truth to me.

There may be some lay Calvinists who put it that way, but that's confused. 

i) The Holy Spirit doesn't reveal the true interpretation of Scripture to a reader. At most, sanctification can make a reader more receptive to what Scripture says. 

ii) "Beginning epistemologically with God" is about the justification of knowledge. Epistemic justification. That's a separate issue from exegesis. 

BTW, many lay Arminians say the Holy Spirit reveals the true interpretation of Scripture. That's a part of folk evangelicalism. 

But if that’s the case how could you ever confidently know that anything you believe is true? I suspect you’ll say because God has revealed it to you, but that would just be arguing in a circle. You just admitted that if God wants someone to be in error then they will certainly be in error, including me and including you! How can you know that what God has revealed to you isn’t an error so that He can bring more glory to Himself by your being incorrect?

That's analogous to the Cartesian Demon. If, however, that's a problem for Calvinists, then that's no less a problem for freewill theists. Toy said "Here in lies a problem I don’t believe the Presuppositionalist will be able to get out of." But once you float hypotheticals like that, everyone is in the same boat. Toy could say that conclusion only follows from Calvinism, and he rejects Calvinism, but that's "arguing in a circle", for if God wants Toy to be in error about freewill theism, then Toy has no independent frame of reference to see the error of his ways. So his objection either proves too little or too much. 

I have asked this question to Calvinists before and never received an answer with any more substance than, “You just don’t understand Calvinism!” or “It’s more diamond shaped than that!”

Depends on who you're asking. If I wanted to understand open theism, I wouldn't ask a roommate who happens to be an open theist. Rather, I'd read books by noted exponents of open theism like William Hasker and Alan Rhoda. If I wanted to understand Arminianism, I wouldn't ask a layman who attends a Wesleyan church. Rather, I'd read books and articles by noted exponents of Arminianism like Thomas McCall and I. H. Marshall.

This I think truly exposes the fatal flaw of the Calvinist’s embrace of Divine determinism.

Notice that Toy is raising an a priori objection to Calvinism. Even if the Bible clearly taught Calvinism, Toy will reject the witness of Scripture because he thinks Calvinism suffers from a "fatal flaw". 

As William Lane Craig has stated, once a person embraces determinism of any sort a strange vertigo sets in. One very well may believe true things, but only because they’ve already been determined to believe those things just as much as their opponents have been determined to believe false things. In such a system, nothing can be rationally affirmed.

i) That's a popular philosophical blunder. Determinism doesn't make beliefs ipso facto irrational. If beliefs are determined by an unreliable belief-forming process, that would make them irrational–but if beliefs are determined by a reliable belief-forming process, that would make them rational. Determinism alone is neutral on the rationality of beliefs. Even an eminent freewill theist like Swinburne concedes that fact:

It has been argued that any argument for determinism would be self-defeating. For suppose a scientist discovers an apparently cogent argument for determinism. He will conclude that he has been caused to believe that his argument is cogent. But when we discover of people that they are caused to hold beliefs—e.g. as a result of the way they were educated, or of subjection to drugs—we do not regard them as having a rationally justified belief. To be rational in adopting a belief we have to do so freely, i.e. uncaused, the argument goes. So no one can ever be justified in believing determinism to be true. For one who believes determinism to be true must believe his belief to be caused and so unjustified. (There is a statement of this argument, subsequently retracted, by J. B. S. Haldane in his Possible Worlds, Chatto and Windus, London, 1930, p. 209. For references to other statements of it, including one by Epicurus, and discussion thereof, see K. R. Popper and J. C. Eccles, The Self and its Brain, Springer, New York, 1977, pp. 75 ff.) This argument has, I believe, no force at all. The mere fact that our beliefs are caused is no grounds for holding them unjustified. Exactly the reverse. I argued in Chapter 7 ["Beliefs"] that to the extent that we regarded them as uncaused or self-chosen, we could not regard our beliefs as moulded by the facts and so likely to be true. The point is rather that if we see some belief to be caused by a totally irrelevant factor (e.g. a belief that I now am being persecuted being caused by something irrelevant in my upbringing) then we rightly regard it as unjustified. But a belief that determinism is true could be both caused and justified, if caused by relevant factors, e.g. hearing relevant arguments. Richard SwinburneThe Evolution of the Soul (revised edition) (OUP, 1997), p. 233, fn. 2.

ii) Moreover, Toy fails to consider the alternative. If beliefs are the result of indeterminism, then true beliefs are accidentally true. Whether I believe truth or falsehood comes down to luck of the draw. 

I know that there is more to be discussed, but I don’t believe it is helpful at this point to simply appeal to the Scriptures that a Calvinist would use to defend their view of Divine determinism. Doing so would presume that you are engaging in proper exegesis, which can’t be the case if you are relying on fallen reasoning capabilities…

That's a popular misconception of Calvinism. Calvinism doesn't deny that readers can use reason to engage in proper exegesis. Not only can the regenerate use reason to engage in proper exegesis, but the unregenerate can use reason to engage in proper exegesis. Some secular Bible scholars interpret the Bible more accurately than some Christians. 

…and can’t be rationally affirmed if you are relying on God to have revealed the truth to you.

Again, I don't know what Toy means by God revealing the truth to you. Does he mean a propositional disclosure? If so, Calvinism denies that God conveys extra information to Calvinists in particular or the regenerate in general. 

Simply put, it is impossible to begin epistemologically outside oneself. 

True, but that's distinct from warranted belief. Epistemic justification can certainly include criteria that are external to oneself. Indeed, that's a hallmark of evidentialism–which Toy espouses.

Unless we assume that our reasoning capabilities are generally reliable, arguments about any topic can’t go anywhere.

That piggybacks on Toy's persistent misconception of Calvinism. It's a systematic error that vitiates his entire analysis.