Saturday, April 07, 2007

Would You Chuck The Bad Arguments?

“How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

Herein lies the ancient roots of many atheological arguments, especially pop arguments by amateur internet atheologians. Just because a woodchuck could chuck would, doesn’t mean he would. Perhaps it would be different for each woodchuck. Maybe Bob the woodchuck would chuck 1 pound of wood because Bob doesn’t happen to like chucking wood. But, Jim the woodchuck likes the idea of chucking wood and so he would chuck 100 pounds of wood. Maybe, though, the question just means, if a woodchuck could indeed chuck wood, how much could he chuck. But, then, “would” is used as a synonym for “could.” Thus the twister would read: “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” “Would” usually connotes a disposition or willingness to do something, i.e, “Would you pick up eggs for me while you’re at the store?” So, just because Bob could chuck wood doesn’t mean he would chuck as much as Jim. That a woodchuck could chuck wood doesn’t entail that he would. This is a modal fallacy. Now, before you go getting all upset and say that I’m taking this children’s game too far, remember that I’m just saying that the roots of many amateur atheological arguments have their roots in children’s games. The difference is that the game doesn’t pretend to be making any serious point, and so we can go easy on any in depth analysis.

I’m of course granting the atheist the gratuitous assumption that claims like this:

“At a larger level, if Jesus were God, he could have performed so many real miracles. He could have, for example, eliminated smallpox and a host of other diseases that science is busy eliminating today.”

The argument is basically claiming that Jesus must not have been God because if He was he could have done certain things, and, being supposedly “all-loving,” he would have done those things.

Or, take these myriad claims by John Loftus,

God could reveal himself in every generation in a myriad of ways since he is supposedly an omniscient being.

He could become incarnate in every generation and do miracles for all to see. If people wanted to kill him again and he didn't need to die again, he could simply vanish before their eyes.

He could spontaneously appear and heal people, or end a famine, or stop a war.

He could raise up John F. Kennedy from the dead.

He could provide a blazing cross in the sky.

He could restore an amputated limb in full sight of an crowd of people which would include all of the best magicians along with the Mythbusters and James Randi, who would all find fault if fault could be found.

He could do any and all of the miracles he did in the Bible from time to time, including miraculously feeding 5000 men with their families. The list of things God could do in each generation is endless.

We can find these argumentum ad tongue twistums all over the place, though. One more should suffice.

God could have appeared to Herod in a dream and told him not to kill these children.

God could have killed Herod.

God could have guided the wise men so that Herod would not have felt mocked by them.

God could have protected the babies.

God could have spoken to the murdering soldiers and turned them away from the task.

God could have sent all of these families to Egypt when he sent Jesus and his family there.

God could have made it so that no male children besides Jesus were born during that time.

God could have changed history so that Herod was not king.

So, like we agreed above, just because a woodchuck could chuck wood, doesn’t mean that it would. “Would” implies desire or willingness. I know you “could” pick up eggs at the store for me -- after all, you are going there, and have the money, but I want to know if you will (or, “would”) pick them up for me.

Indeed, we apply this type of reasoning all the time. If a person S gets murdered, then S1 - Sn are not considered suspects just because they could kill S. Now, if S* was willing to or desired to murder S, then we would have a suspect. Just because someone S could do some action A does not imply that S would A.

Now, if S* could not murder S, say, he was a quadriplegic and was 1,000 miles away at the time, attending a dinner with President Bush, then it wouldn’t matter if he desired to. But, we must all agree that just because someone could doesn’t imply that they would. To blame someone for an action, they must have at least been able to do it, but that’s not sufficient to charge someone with a crime.

Thus the atheological arguments must not simply make the rather obvious point that an omnipotent being could do X, Y, and Z, and then enthymematically conclude that God would have done X, Y, and Z if He were really God.

Since could doesn’t imply would, the atheological argumentum ad tongue twistums tendentiously smuggle in anthropocentric notions of what God would or would not do. That is, since could does not entail would, it is tendentious to tell us what God is willing to, or desires to, do; especially if He has not revealed that He is so willing, and you're importing humanistic desires on to God. The atheologian has not taken any of these supposed Divine desires out of Scripture. And, if I may be so bold, I don’t think God told the atheologian what He desired. So, upon inspection, all these (fairly frequent) atheological arguments tell us is simply a autobiographical report of what the atheist thinks God should, or should not, be like if He existed.

They atheist supposes that God is like Jim, our wood-loving woodchuck. And since the atheist knows God’s dispositions, he can then say that God “would” do X, and since He’s omnipotent, nothing should stop Him.

So, take Loftus’ “arguments” (yes, those were intended to be scare quotes). Given the assumption that God wants to reveal himself to everyone in a way that the person would think is acceptable enough to believe -- like God is some puppy clamoring for anyone and everyone’s affection and attention -- then maybe God “would” have reincarnated Himself every subsequent generation, vanishing before their eyes if they tried to kill him. (One must wonder, though, why they would try and “kill him” if Loftus thinks this is such a good way to reveal yourself. I mean, who would want to kill God. Humans would love God if only they had the opportunity to believe in Him, says Loftus. Despite Loftus’ slip, I digress in continuing on…)

Basically, the argument goes like this: “But, but, but, God could save every single person on earth.” We can reply, “Why would you think God would do a thing like that?” Surely the “But, but, but, that would make God a big meany” argument isn’t the comeback here, is it?

The atheist would laugh if police knocked on his door and said that since he merely “could have” murdered his neighbor, they were going to arrest him. The atheist must admit that the mere fact that God “could” X, does not imply that He “would” X. The atheist must show that God is disposed, or willing to, do X. This latter requirement is simply lacking.

Frequently the atheist will say, “Well if I could have stopped 9/11, I would have.” Why? “Well, because then all those people wouldn’t have died.” But here the “willingness” to stop 9/11 is that man, his life, and avoidance of human suffering is the highest good. So we see that the atheist views God as having the same desires as him. God is simply a more powerful humanist. Jehovah is a crypto-humanist! And the atheists say that Christians have made God into their image (yes, that was meant to be sarcastic).

The “God could do X” argument is simply an argument from certain unbiblical assumptions of what God would be disposed or willing to do given that He’s the kind of being the atheist thinks He is, or should be. Since God doesn’t do what the atheist (says) he’d do if he (the atheist) were running the universe, then God must not exist. The atheist is jealous that s/he isn’t running the show. The atheist looks at divinity in a modern, Burger King way; he wants it his way. And since things aren’t done his way, he’ll take to undermining the one in charge. This is Monday morning quarterback atheology. “Oh, he shouldn’t have thrown it to him on that one play.” “Boy, if I were coaching I would’ve went for it on 4th down.” Or, like those clawing for a promotion at a large company: “Smith totally botched that deal, if I had his job I would have handled the Yakazawa’s differently.”

It’s actually sad to see atheists acting like this. Kind of pathetic.

Bottom line, God owns the company. He’s running the show. He has shown that He will judge the world by raising His Son from the dead. This Easter Sunday you should reflect on the fact that Jesus has shown that death isn’t the end of us. Each and everyone of us will stand before God on judgment day. Jesus rose from the dead some two thousand years ago. You don’t have to like it, but it happened. You can trust in Christ as your only hope, or, like a dog returns to his vomit, you can come back on Monday and shop these types of pathetic arguments around some more. Cross your arms, stiffen your upper lip, and throw a big hissy fit because God didn’t give you wings so you could fly or neuter you like Loftus dog. Pout because Jesus doesn’t come back every generation and disappear before people kill him. “Harrumph(!), I won’t believe in God because He won’t ‘provide a blazing cross in the sky.’” Seriously, jokes over guys. Grow up.

Today's Your Lucky Day!

On the heels of Steve's post, which came on the heels of mine, which came on the heels of another one of mine, which came on the heels of Steve's post, which came off the heels of another one of Steve's posts, and which came off the heels of Peter's post, and which was caused - through prior factors that Peter had no control over - by my original post, I now bring van Inwagen's argument in its more developed stage: The Luck Objection.



Kane's requirement that the causation of a choice that is an SFW [pm: self-forming wills] be nondeterministic has drawn the objection that indeterminism located here would diminish the agent's control over the making of the choice. The objection is often couched in terms of luck. (It is so developed by Almeida and Bernstein [2003], Ekstrom [2000: 105], Haji [1999a, 1999b, 2000a, 2000b, 2000c, and 2001], Mele [1998, 1999a, 1999b, and forthcoming], and Strawson [1994].) If the agent's effort of will nondeterministically causes her choice, then, whichever choice the agent makes, there was, until the occurrence of that choice, a chance that it would not occur. If the agent's effort to chose in accord with her moral judgment happens to succeed, the objection goes, then her choice is at least partly due to good luck. In another possible world with exactly the same laws of nature and exactly the same history up until the occurrence of the choice, the agent's (or her counterpart's) effort fails; there, but for good luck, goes she. And analogously, if, in the actual world, the agent's effort fails, then her choice is at least partly due to bad luck. Either way, the choice is to some degree due to luck. And to that degree, the objection concludes, the control that the agent exercises in making the choice is diminished.

Kane's claim that indeterminacy precludes exact sameness has been contested (see Clarke [1999 and 2003b: 86-87] and O'Connor [1996]). And Haji (1999a) and Mele (1999a and 1999b) contend that the argument from luck is just as effective if we consider an agent and her counterpart who are as similar as can be, given the indeterminacy of their efforts. Indeed, the argument might be advanced without any appeal to other worlds or counterparts: given that there is a chance that the effort will fail, the agent is lucky, it may be said, if it succeeds.

A further reply from Kane to the argument from luck appeals to the active nature of efforts of will. When an agent makes an effort to choose to do what she believes she ought to do, she actively tries to bring about a certain choice. When the agent makes that choice, she succeeds, despite the indeterminism, at doing what she was (actively) trying to do. And Kane points out that typically, when this is so, the indeterminism does not undermine responsibility (and hence it does not so diminish active control that there is not enough for responsibility). He describes a case (1999b: 227) in which a man hits a glass tabletop attempting to shatter it. Even though it is undetermined whether his effort will succeed, Kane notes, if the man does succeed, he may well be responsible for breaking the tabletop.

If left here, the reply would fail to address the problem of luck in a case where the agent chooses to do what she is tempted to do rather than what she believes she ought to do. In response to this shortcoming, Kane (1999a, 1999b, 2000b, 2000c, and 2002) has recently proposed a "doubling" of effort in cases of moral conflict. In such a case, he now holds, the agent makes two, simultaneous efforts of will, both indeterminate in strength. The agent tries to make the moral choice, and at the same time she tries to make the self-interested choice. Whichever choice she makes, then, she succeeds, despite the indeterminism, at doing something that she was actively trying to do.

This doubling of efforts of will introduces a troubling incoherence into cases of moral conflict. If an agent is actively trying, at one time, to make each of two obviously incompatible choices, that fact raises a serious question about the agent's rationality.

A final difficulty for agent-causal views accepts that all they require might be possible. The objection may still be raised that actions produced as required by such an account would be too subject to luck to be free actions. Van Inwagen has raised a similar objection to agent-causal accounts—though without referring to luck—on several occasions (see his 1983: 145 and 2000). Haji (2004) and Mele (forthcoming) present the objection in terms of luck as follows. Recall Leo's decision (section 3.1) to tell the truth. Until he makes the decision, there remains a chance that he will not decide to tell the truth, but will instead decide to lie. Likewise, until he makes the decision, there remains a chance that he will not cause a decision to tell the truth, but will instead cause a decision to lie. Then, in some possible world W with the same laws as those in the actual world, and with the same history up to the time of the decision, Leo decides at that time to lie, and he causes that decision to lie. The actual world, where Leo decides to tell the truth (and causes that decision), and world W, where he decides to lie (and causes that decision), do not differ in any respect until the time at which Leo makes the decision (which is also the time at which Leo causes the decision). There is, then, no difference between these two worlds to account for the difference in the decision, and likewise no difference to account for the difference in Leo's agent causings. Hence the difference between these two worlds is just a matter of luck. But if the difference between these two worlds is just a matter of luck, then Leo does not freely make his decision in the actual world.



Basically, control of action is required for moral responsibility and free will. If the action is due to luck, i.e., nothing determines wether an agent will A or B, and if he A'ed then he is worthy of prase but if he had B'ed he'd be worthy of blame, then it seems the control required for freedom and moral responsibility is only to be found in determinism and a compatibilism.



His philosophical task, then, is to show that a choice may be free, in the sense that it is something for which its agent is morally responsible, even though it was not guaranteed by antecedent mental processes. He must explain how the taking of a decision can be free while not the necessary outcome of the reasoning from which it issues. One might think, however, that I am responsible for choosing, e.g., to support a certain cause only if that mental act is secured by the exercise of my reasoning ability. Moreover, having weighed the cause’s pros and cons as I did, unless I was rationally bound to decide in its favor the outcome of this reasoning process seems inexplicable and, thus, not something for which I should be held accountable: praised or blamed. My decision must be rational if praiseworthy or blameworthy, but (unless I am in a situation like that of Buridan’s ass) how could it be rational if the reasons motivating it are consistent with the opposite choice? A mechanism that could take a set of reasons as the basis for more than one course of action appears erratic. Its exercise, thus, would fail to insure a rational result redounding to my credit or discredit.3 Kane, therefore, faces a dilemma: either some actions are undetermined, in which cases the control and rationality requirements of free agency are not satisfied, or a free agent’s conduct is always determined and explicable in terms of reasons that render irrational all but one course of action, in which case the alternative rational possibilities requirement of libertarian free agency can not be met.4 Alternatively, Kane must respond to the following chain argument:

1. If an act is free, then its agent has control over its performance

2. If an act’s performance is controlled by its agent, then it is the product of a reliable mechanism.

3. If an act is free, then it is rational.

4. If an act is rational, then it is the product of a reliable mechanism.

5. If an act is the product of a reliable mechanism, then it is the necessary outcome of the mechanism’s processing of its antecedents (specifically, the reasons arising in its favor).

6. If an act is the necessary outcome of a mechanism’s processing of its antecedents, then it is produced deterministically.

7. Thus, if an act is free, it is produced deterministically.

- Robert Allen



The future ain't what it used to be!

Paul Manata quoted an objection to libertarianism by Peter van Inwagen:

The basic idea is that if an agent is free in the libertarian sense, then no antecedent condition determines the outcome—so that if you repeat the past, then, sooner or later, the agent would have done otherwise. I’d like to briefly elaborate on the implications of this position.

1.Traditionally, libertarianism involves the axiomatic assumption that I can’t be held responsible for my actions unless I was free to do otherwise.

But as Van Inwagen shows, libertarianism is far more radical than it would initially seem to be. For the logic of libertarianism is not merely that I *could* have done otherwise, but that I *would* have done otherwise. Not merely that I’m free to make either choice, but that I opt for both.

In other words, there’s a possible world in which I leave Keilah, and another possible world in which I stay in Keilah. That’s what it means to have libertarian freedom. That’s how the freedom to do otherwise cashes out. There is a possible world corresponding to each choice. A possible world in which I exercise each option. I didn’t choose one over another. I did both—but not in the same world.

2.This, in turn, raises the question of what individuates the real world from a possible world. What’s the differential factor? Why is only one of my possible choices exemplified in the real world? Or, to put it another way, why do I find myself in a world where I make one choice rather than the other?

Obviously I didn’t instantiate this scenario. For if my choice is what actuates a possible world (or world-segment), then there would be more than one real world (or world-segment) since I make different choices in different possible worlds.

3. So some other agent or agency must be behind which choice of mine sticks. Which possibility plays out in actuality.

For I didn’t get to choose which choice would make the final cut; which choice, out of all the alternative choices which I made in different possible worlds, would be concretely exemplified in space and time. I didn’t get to choose which possible world would become the actual world.

But where does that leave the libertarian assumption about the preconditions of personal responsibility?

4.This, in turn, goes to the question of how the future comes to be. How does the future eventuate?

According to libertarianism, the past does not determine the future. Rather, the agent is in some measure the creator of his own future—and thereby his future existence.

Yet libertarianism doesn’t say that I’m the source of everything that happens to me. I didn’t cause myself to still have a body a minute from now.

So libertarianism has an oddly honeycombed view of existence, as if parts of reality are determined by the past, while other parts are blank spaces waiting to be penciled in by the agent.

This is a very peculiar view of reality. I originate part of my future reality, while other parts are caused by something else. Although I can’t actuate my body from one moment to the next, yet somehow I’m able to actuate other eventualities. I better be careful where I step lest I fall into a hole of nothingness.

5.But it gets even stranger. Not only do I, as a libertarian agent, create a part of my own future, but I can create a part of your future as well. For some of my choices negate some of your choices.

If, for example, you and I both love the same girl in high school, but I’m the one who captures her heart, then I end up creating a very different future for you than you would have chosen had you married her instead of me. (And remember that there’s a possible world in which she does become your wife.)

In that respect, I created your future. Indeed, I created the future you. The person you will be. The future in which you will exist. You would still exist, but apart from my choice, you would not exist in that particular future.

6.As a result, libertarianism confers godlike powers on the agent. Godlike power over his fellow agents. I can enact your future, or parts thereof, without your consent.

But, once again, it’s hard to see how this does justice to the libertarian preconditions of responsibility.

7.In that respect, there is a sense in which, according to libertarianism, the past determines the future. By my past action, in winning the hand of the woman we both wanted to marry, I end up determining a different future for you than you would have chosen for yourself.

But, once more, it’s hard to see how this does justice to the libertarian preconditions of responsibility.

The Unexpected Nature Of The Resurrection

"It is well recognized that the narratives of the passion and especially the crucifixion itself constantly quote or allude to the Old Testament, especially to the words of righteous sufferers in the Psalms. There is an intertextual network that serves to interpret the passion of Jesus by setting it within the experience and the expectation of Israel. But when we read on to the accounts of the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances there are hardly any such allusions. The stories show little sign of following literary precedents, and standard narrative motifs, the building blocks of many an ancient story, are rare. For all the ingenuity of scholars these stories remain strangely sui generis and lacking theological interpretation. None of the standard Jewish formulas or images of resurrection occur. We seem to be shown the extraordinary novum, the otherness of resurrection, through the eyes of those whose ordinary reality it invaded. The perplexity, the doubt, the fear, the joy, the recognition are those of deep memory, mediated, to be sure, by literary means, but not entirely hidden behind the text." (Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], pp. 504-505)

Friday, April 06, 2007


van Inwagen pushed this argument as a libertarian. So, the below argument isn't prejudiced by compatibilist assumptions.



I want to close by explaining why van Inwagen thinks one important group of incompatibilists, those who appeal to what is called agent-causation, do not appreciate the depth and difficulty of the problem of free will. Many philosophers would agree with this judgment for the simple reason that they think that the concept of agent-causation is incoherent, or think that agent-causation is metaphysically impossible. Van Inwagen is inclined to agree with them (although he has no firm opinion on this question), but he has lately stressed a different point. It is this: suppose there is nothing conceptually or metaphysically impossible about agent-causation; suppose in fact that agent-causation is a real phenomenon and that an episode of agent-causation figures among the antecedents of every voluntary movement of a human hand or limb or vocal apparatus. Van Inwagen’s position is that even if this is so, and even if (as some have argued) we understand the concept of agent-causation at least as well as we understand the concept of event-causation, all this does nothing to diminish the mystery of free will. I will try to explain why van Inwagen thinks this by considering a particular human action. Suppose Marie wants to vote in favor of the proposal before the meeting, and that, for this reason, she raises her right hand when the chair says, “All in favor. . .?” Suppose that one of the causal antecedents of her hand’s rising was a certain event in her brain that was undetermined by past events, that the state of her body and her immediate environment at the moment this brain-event occurred was causally sufficient for her hand’s rising, that if this event had not occurred, her hand would not have risen, and that she, Marie, a particular member of the metaphysical category “substance” or “continuant,” was the cause—that is to say, the agent-cause—of that crucial brain-event. The friends of agent-causation, if van Inwagen understands them, believe that these suppositions are sufficient for her having freely raised her hand. If that is so, these suppositions must entail the following proposition: at some moment shortly before Marie raised her hand, she was able to raise her hand and she was able not to raise her hand. But van Inwagen doesn’t see why this entailment should be supposed to hold. In fact, he thinks he sees a good argument for the conclusion that it was not up to her whether her hand rose. Suppose God were miraculously to return the world to precisely the state it was in, say, one minute before Marie raised her hand, and that he then allowed affairs once more to proceed, without any further miracles. What would happen? What would Marie do? Well, if her raising her hand was a free act, and if free will is incompatible with determinism, then we can’t say. We can say only that she might have raised her hand and might not have raised her hand. If God were to cause this episode to be thus “replayed” a very large number of times, it might turn out that she raised her hand in thirty percent of the replays and refrained from raising it in seventy percent of the replays. This much is a simple consequence of incompatibilism, and it brings one of the main reason philosophers become compatibilists into stark relief. It seems to lead us inescapably to the conclusion that on each particular replay, what Marie does on that occasion is a mere matter of chance. And if there are no replays, if there is only one occasion on which Marie is in this situation, it seems to lead us just as inescapably to the conclusion that on that one occasion what Marie does is a mere matter of chance. And if it is a mere matter of chance whether Marie raised her hand, then it cannot have been true beforehand that Marie was both able to raise her hand and able to refrain from raising her hand, for to have both these abilities would be to be able to determine the outcome of a process whose outcome is due to chance. It is true that we have, by stipulation, inserted into this process, this process whose outcome is due to chance, an episode of agent-causation. But, if I may so express myself, so what? That doesn’t change the fact that the outcome of that process was due to chance. If God caused Marie’s decision to be replayed a very large number of times, sometimes (in thirty percent of the replays, let us say) Marie would have agent-caused the crucial brain event and sometimes (in seventy percent of the replays, let us say) she would not have. Surely, then, whether she agent-caused the brain-event was a mere matter of chance? Whether her deliberations were followed by her agent-causing the brain event was, it would seem, a matter of chance; Marie, therefore, cannot have been both able to agent-cause the brain-event and able to refrain from agent-causing the brain-event, for to have both these abilities would be to be able to determine the outcome of a process whose outcome was due to chance—an impossible ability. I conclude that even if an episode of agent-causation is among the causal antecedents of every voluntary human action, these episodes do nothing to undermine the prima facie impossibility of an undetermined free act. Postulating agent-causation, therefore, does nothing to diminish the mystery of free will. Van Inwagen’s conclusion is that incompatibilists had better abandon the concept of agent-causation, and seek a resolution of the mystery of free will elsewhere—if, indeed, there is an “elsewhere.”"



Why I believe in global warming

Revelation 8:6-10
6Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
7The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
8The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, 9a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
10The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water—

Revelation 20:7-10
7When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Mount Calvary

Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation. Up this way, therefore, did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.

He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending; and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.

Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, "He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death." Then he stood still a while, to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked, therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks. Now as he stood looking and weeping, behold, three Shining Ones came to him, and saluted him with, "Peace be to thee." So the first said to him, "Thy sins be forgiven thee"; the second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with change of raiment; the third also set a mark on his forehead, and gave him a roll with a seal upon it, which he bid him look on as he ran, and that he should give it in at the celestial gate: so they went their way. Then Christian gave three leaps for joy, and went on singing,

Thus far did I come laden with my sin,

Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,

Till I came hither. What a place is this!

Must here be the beginning of my bliss?

Must here the burden fall from off my back?

Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?

Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be

The Man that there was put to shame for me!

(John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress)

The Dying Thief Rejoiced

For anybody who's interested, I wrote an article last year about the thief on the cross, as he relates to justification through faith alone and some other issues.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

More on TAG and Certainity....

I've been asked to comment on a critique of Van Tillian presuppositional apologetics by Brian Bosse.

But, I won't really be commenting on the actual critique itself as (1) I agree with the conclusion, but (2) think it has been already done by those like Anderson, Byron, Choi, Sudduth, and Welty, and (3) I find the use of all the symbollic logic in the critique rather unnecessary because the same thing has been done without it, as in (2), for instance. This should not take anything away from Bosse's series, and the comments aren't meant to undermine. Brian and I have known each other for a few years now. He was pushing his conclusion back then while I was still a right wing Van Tillian TAGster. I should say, though, that it's not so much a critique of Van Tillian presuppositional apologetics as it is a critique of one argument that some Van Tillians employ. For example, James Anderson would call himself a "Van Tillian," but he wouldn't be touched by this argument. Bosse agrees with this, though, and has stated: "If the Van Tillian removes his claim to “objective, certain proof,” then he is left with a very powerful apologetic indeed. Even though the proof does not meet the strict criteria for objective certainty, that does not mean it is wrong."

What I will do, instead, is comment on some of the discussions on Bosse's critique that is being had on the Puritan Board.

Basically, the claim made from some is that TAG still provides certainty.

Here's how some say the argument is certain:

"The argument is claimed to be objectively certain not because one does or does not hold to the conclusion as infallibly certain but because one should or has not right to deny the premises or the conclusion."

As it is, this is vague. What are "the premises" that one "should not doubt" or "does not have the right" to doubt? How is "should" and "the right to," to be understood here. Say that followers of Allah are taught that it is impious to doubt his word in the Koran, say that no mere human has the "right" to question Allah. Therefore, the Muslim can say they are philosophically and epistemically and objectively certain of it because Allah says that it is so and, furthermore, man "should" not, and does not have the "right" to, doubt Allah's word? Also, what does "infallibly certain" mean? Is there a "fallible certainty?" That is, it's likely to be true, but we could be wrong? So, the argument gives one "fallible certainty." And that means, "the argument's conclusion could be wrong." I think the opponant of the above claim would gladly accept this idea as it is consistent with his argument against strong modal TAG.

From the Christian's perspective, one "should" not disagree with God's word. But, the "conclusion" of TAG is that: "The Christian worldview alone is the necessary precondition required to make experience intelligible." Is this in the Bible? Is it God's word? Mere piety does not entail that we "should" not doubt something.

Furthermore, what is meant by "the Christian worldview," CWV? Has this been spelled out? It obviously isn't the claim that Abraham came from the land of Ur. Michael Butler even agrees with that.

One "should not" doubt the conclusion of TAG only if it's true. But, isn't that the debate? It thus looks like this idea of certainty requires one to accept the conclusion of TAG. Furthermore, mention is made of premises and conclusions. If the argument hasn't been made, then, though one may still believe the conclusion, one hasn't given any one any cogent reason to agree with it. So, "should" we agree with things we have no good or cogent reason to? Do we not have "the right" to doubt the conclusion of an argument which doesn't get to the conclusion, or cannot demonstrate the conclusion?

Lastly, the above smacks of deontological constraints, these constraints have fallen on hard times.

At any rate, since the above subjective considerations of certainty have been weighed and found wanting, let's look at what Greg Bahnsen has to say about certainty. In his article Pragmatism, Prejudice, And Presuppositionalism, PPP, Bahnsen lays out the conditions required for a worldview to provide certainty. Bahnsen says that "if epistemological certainty" is to be achieved, the worldview will need to: (a) avoid the ego-centric predicament, (b) prevent internal incoherence, and (c) be able to solve life's philosophical problems and be applied to the questions of life.

One can ask whether these three things that are said to be required for epistemic certainty are jointly necessary and sufficient. If so, if another worldview can do (a), (b), and (c), then we have a worldview that can provide epistemic certainty. This worldview will, per (c), provide preconditions for intelligibility, and if this is so, then the conclusion of TAG is, at best, not established, at worse, false.

Now, instead of the above quote, Bahnsen provides a quote which he thinks is the criteria for granting a position the honorific title of "epistemological certainty." He takes Frankfurt's stricture:

"The claim that a basis for doubt is inconceivable is justified whenever a denial of the claim would violate the conditions or presuppositions of rational inquiry...since inquiry is fundamentally an attempt to discriminate between what is to be accepted and what is to be rejected, nothing can rationally be conceived which involves denying the necessity for making these discriminations or undermining the possibility of making them." Bahnsen, PPP, p.292

So, say that there is a worldview that has all the features the TAGster says is necessary for intelligibility, but say this worldview has a quadune God rather than a triune one.

The TAGster must critique this worldview, If this worldview, call it Fristianity, can answer (a) - (c) above, then it is immune from Bahnsen's claims that it doesn't provide certainty. Furthermore, in PPP, p.285, Bahnsen says that all such worldviews must be approached internally.

Now, if the TAGster cannot show that Fristianity is internally incoherent, then it looks as if it can also provide these "preconditions." If so, the TAGster has failed to show that one has "no right" to doubt the conclusion. Since this worldview seems to also supply the preconditions for rational inquiry, then it meets Frankfurt's stricture. Furthermore, since all that is different is that it posits a 4-in-1 god instead of a 3-in-1 God, and the worldview has all the other features which as supposed to be necessary for rationality (but, as I said above, the TAgster needs to spell these out instead of saying, "it's a package deal"), and there is nothing I can see about the idea of 4 that is different from 3 for accounting for the one and many, etc., then, according to the TAGster's claim above, the "should not" and "have no right to" doubt this argument.

Now, what's the cash value here? Are we not supposed to be able to know that Christianity is true because of the above? I don't think so. Are we in trouble apologetically? I don't think so. For one, this Fristian move isn't open to anyone as a real option in the debate. Atheists and Muslims alike must reject their worldview to advance the Fristian position as their ability to provide preconditions of knowledge. Christianity still gives a worldview where preconditions for things like knowledge are to be had. So, we can stanrt and end with our worldview. If the only place the sinner can hide is by believing in a made up worldview, I'd say we're pretty good apologetically.

I actually find zero psychological or emotional problems admitting this. Ultimately, at the end of the day, I trust in the word of Christ. The mere logically possibility that another worldview also can provide for preconditions of knowledge does not bother me. I don't see anywhere where God promises that I'll have this kind of certainty. I am called to trust in His word. I don't question it. I should not, and do not have a right to, question it. No man should. I am rational in my belief, and I believe there are many good arguments and reasons for belief. All of these are, and should be, trumped by the testimony of God. That's my highest authority. I am psychologically certain of it. We don't have epistemic certainty because we cannot, as Dr. Sudduth argues, "preclude all possible reasons for doubting the truth of the proposition or belief in question" (emphasis added).

Though it may be offensive, I don't mean to be, those that fight against this seem to have a security blanket mentality. They seem to think that if there is a possibility that they could be wrong, then they cannot know whome they have believed in, and thus might as well become atheists. Talking to friends over the past months, they have admitted that this was the reason they fought against the above considerations.

Now, I admit the possibility that some day one could show the strong modal TAG. One could come up with an actual proof showing that 3-in-1 is necessary. This would be welcomed. At this point, though, we must be honest and admit that it hasn't been done. But I don’t think this is cause for concern for the Christian. Just like the kid on Mr. Mom who was asked to give up his woobie, he found out that the world wasn’t so scary as he had previously thought. He actually came out the better for it. Since I believe Christianity is true, no arguments will knock it down. But, though we’ll win the fight, we were never promised an easy battle. The magic bullet isn’t to be had, so get to training. In fact, after rejecting the strong modal version of TAG I have come to see just how strong the case for Christian theism really is!

Now, that we don’t have cogent arguments against all possible reasons to doubt that the CWV alone provides the necessary preconditions for knowledge does not entail that we should doubt Christianity. It is broadly logically possible that I am a butterfly dreaming that I am a man, should I therefore doubt that I am a man?

Indeed, it can be argued that there are norms of knowledge. Even the skeptic presupposes this in his doubts. So, to doubt presupposes things. I believe a case can be made that theism, esp. Christian theism, provides preconditions for norms of knowledge. The argument for that, though, could also be given by the Fristian. But I don’t let this possibility act as a reason to doubt Christianity. I have no reason to doubt it. Furthermore, it can be successfully argued that given something like Christian theism, we are warranted in believing that our cognitive faculties are successfully aimed at truth. Accepting beliefs like Naturalism and Evolution give us reasons to actually doubt that our cognitive faculties are reliable. Everyone knows that Christianity is the only game in town here. No one really believes that Fristianity is the case. Thus, even given Fristianity, there is no good reason to doubt the argument from the Christian, even if it is not epistemologically certain in the sense of being indubitable in the sense of refuting all possible reasons for doubt.

God made us. We know we’re sinners. Despite the attitudes of the apostate, even he suffers from guilt. The Christian does not doubt God’s word, because we have nowhere else to go, only He has the words of eternal life. The apologetical reasons for our claims are very strong, the atheological reasons against it are exactly as weak. The sinner does not have an excuse, if that’s what you’re wondering. To say he does presupposes that Jehovah will grant that one has an excuse for denying what he knows (God exists) even though there was a broadly logical possibility that another made up worldview could also provide the preconditions for knowledge. To say he does presupposes that what Paul meant by “know” in Romans 1 was “infallible knowledge of the Cartesian sort.” I have no excuse to not provide for my son even though there is a logical possibility that he is a craftily constructed robot from Alpha Centari who needs no care. How much more then does the unbeliever not have an excuse to not believe in God because of the wild possibility that a worldview just like it in all the essential areas, but has a 4-in-1 God rather than a trinity, can “provide for the preconditions of rationality?" So, that argument against denying the strong modal TAG is also found wanting.

Some would say that I make “possibility” more ultimate than God’s say-so. But, this (a) presupposes that God has indeed said “the CWV alone provides for the preconditions of intelligibility,” and (b) that, even if the Bible does say this, that I deny that it does. Denying that one can show that p, does not entail that one denies that p. My claim is that no one has shown this, but this does not entail anything problematic for the Christian apologist. This is simply a point of intellectual honesty, not of making possibility more ultimate than God's say-so. God's say-so is ultimate for me. When he tells me things, that's good enough for me. Indeed, if the Bible doesn't claim what the TAGster does, and the argument can be shown to be false (as it stands) then, actually, the Christian apologist's position and reputation are actually strengthened by dropping a bad argument. The argument can be amended, and then employed in a way not subject to a (as of yet) unanswerable critique.

Catholic Confusion at the Very Top

Catholic Confusion at the Very Top by David Palm

Running scared

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College Prep

Most of us know about the spiritual cliché of the young man (or woman) who grows up in the church, and promptly loses his faith as soon as he goes to college (or seminary). This is due, in large part, to a lack of adequate preparation.

Below is a reading list which should lay a foundation for a well-informed faith in Scripture. A few comments and caveats:

Always get the latest (revised) edition of any work.

Bauckham is a moderate rather than inerrantist. Still, he’s very useful. The same thing could be said of Craig Evans.

Blomberg’s Historical Reliability of the Gospels is especially useful from the standpoint of hermeneutics. Most so-called Bible “errors” and “contradictions” are due to an artificially wooden notion of what the author was aiming at. Such allegations disregard literary conventions and the like. Blomberg is very good at presenting what might be called a hermeneutic of inerrancy.

Wait until he comes out with the second, revised edition of this title.

Long is in some ways the OT counterpart to Blomberg on the hermeneutics of inerrancy.

Collins is an OEC. I often disagree with him. However, when he’s good, he’s very good.

Walton is also an OEC. There are times when he accentuates the continuity between the OT and ANE to the expense of discontinuity. In general, though, he does an excellent job of enabling the modern reader to “hear” the text the way the original audience would have heard it. We can go seriously astray when we take our own cultural outlook as the point of reference.

JETS has a couple of book reviews which outline the strengths and weaknesses of the titles by Kitchen and (the multi-authored) Provan/Long/Longman:

A Survey of Old Testament Introduction
by Gleason Archer

Is The New Testament Reliable?
by Paul Barnett

The Birth Of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (After Jesus)
by Paul Barnett

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony
by Richard Bauckham

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels
by Craig L. Blomberg

The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel: Issues & Commentary
by Craig L. Blomberg

Luke 1:1-9:50 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
by Darrell L. Bock

Luke 9:51-24:53 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
by Darrell L. Bock

Acts (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
by Darrell L. Bock

Introduction to the New Testament, An
by D. A. Carson (Author), Douglas J. Moo

Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, And Theological Commentary
by C. John Collins

Genesis: Volume 1 (Evangelical Press Study Commentary)
by John D. Currid

Exodus, Volume 1: Chapters 1-18 (An EP Study Commentary)
by John D. Currid

Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels
by Craig A. Evans

New Testament Introduction (Master Reference Collection)
by Donald Guthrie

Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition
by James K. Hoffmeier

Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition
by James K. Hoffmeier

A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew
by Craig S. Keener

The Gospel of John: A Commentary (2 Volume Set)
by Craig S. Keener

On the Reliability of the Old Testament
by K. A. Kitchen

Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective (Encountering Biblical Studies)
by Andreas J. Köstenberger

Art of Biblical History, The
by V. Philips Long

Reading And Writing In The Time Of Jesus
by A. R. Millard

A Biblical History of Israel
by Iain W. Provan, V. Philips Long, Tremper Longman

Exodus (The New American Commentary)
by Douglas K. Stuart

The First Edition of the New Testament (Print on Demand)
by David Trobisch

Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible
by John H. Walton

The NIV Application Commentary Genesis
by Dr. John H. Walton

The scientific consensus on global warming

Global warming petition and explanation.

Big Bang or Big Bust?

An open letter to the scientific community.

The Lord Of All

"He that hung up the earth in space was Himself hanged up; He that fixed the heavens was fixed with nails; He that bore up the earth was borne up on a tree; the Lord of all was subjected to ignominy in a naked body - God put to death! the King of Israel slain with Israel's right hand! Alas for the new wickedness of the new murder! The Lord was exposed with naked body: He was not deemed worthy even of covering; and, in order that He might not be seen, the luminaries turned away, and the day became darkened because they slew God, who hung naked on the tree. It was not the body of our Lord that the luminaries covered with darkness when they set, but the eyes of men. For, because the people quaked not, the earth quaked; because they were not affrighted, the earth was affrighted. Thou smotest thy Lord: thou also hast been smitten upon the earth. And thou indeed liest dead; but He is risen from the place of the dead, and ascended to the height of heaven, having suffered for the sake of those who suffer, and having been bound for the sake of Adam's race which was imprisoned, and having been judged for the sake of him who was condemned, and having been buried for the sake of him who was buried." (source)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Contemporary Compatibilism

Steve posted below on Classical Compatibilism. I'll post on Contemporary Compatibilism. Hoping to bring the concept up to today, but recognizing that this brief post will not do the job justice. However, this will be, as in Steve's post, "a place to start." I guess I can start with drawing a contemporary distinction between semi-compatibilism SC and compatibilism proper CP.

SC is the view that determinism is compatible with moral responsibility, but not compatible with freedom to do otherwise.

CP is the claim that determinism is compatible with freedom to do otherwise.

I think most Calvinists who call themselves compatibilists actually are, more properly, defined as semi-compatibilists.

Classical compatibilists said, in an unrefined way, that all that is required for freedom is "ability to do what one wants to do." But, this has seen attack. For example, some people suffering from mental disorders do "what they want to do" yet we wouldn't say that they acted freely in these instances.

Contemporary compatibilists have sought to refine this idea, ruling out cases like the above. One such answer is that of Fischer. This can be called "Reasons-Responsive Compatibilism," RRC. The discussions about RRC are myriad, in depth, and detailed. I'll offer an "enough-to-get-started" quote from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

A reasons-responsiveness theory turns upon dispositional features of an agent's relation to reasons issuing in freely willed action. Appropriately reasons-responsive conduct is sensitive to rational considerations. The view is not merely that an agent would display herself in some counterfactual situations to be responsive to reasons, but rather that her responsiveness to reasons in some counterfactual situations is evidence that her actual conduct itself — the causes giving rise to it — is also in response to rational considerations. SOURCE

Now, there are a few things that sparked discussions leading to contemporary compatibilism. In interest of time, I'll mention one of them - Frankfurt Style Counter examples, FSC's. Names after philosopher Harry Frankfurt, the thought experiments ask us to imagine cases where a person S does an action A, and S did A of her own decision, i.e., she was not coerced, and S, in some of these experiments, was morally responsible for A. A classic example is,

Jones has resolved to shoot Smith. Black has learned of Jones' plan and wants Jones to shoot Smith. But Black would prefer that Jones shoot Smith on his own. However, concerned that Jones might waiver in his resolve to shoot Smith, Black secretly arranges things so that, if Jones should show any sign at all that he will not shoot Smith (something Black has the resources to detect), Black will be able to manipulate Jones in such a way that Jones will shoot Smith. As things transpire, Jones follows through with his plans and shoots Smith for his own reasons. No one else in any way threatened or coerced Jones, offered Jones a bribe, or even suggested that he shoot Smith. Jones shot Smith under his own steam. Black never intervened. SOURCE

Thus, for obvious reasons, many have concluded that FSC's are decisive refutations to a widely held libertarian constraint on free will called, in contemporary literature, PAP's: Principle of Alternate Possibility. Some, not willing to give up libertarianism, have rejected PAP's as a necessary feature of what is entailed by making a free choice. Theologically, we can also see how the notion of PAP isn't easily accepted by the Calvinist. God has determined the end from the beginning, and no one can thwart his plan. Many libertarians would hold that the historical past could have been exactly the same (including God's decree), yet S could have done other than S did in this world. Or, given the Calvinist notion of depravity, sinners cannot please God in their sinful nature. They do not have the ability to please God. But, they are still responsible, and Scripture says that they do what they do freely, i.e., without coercion (Acts 2 comes to mind, for one example).

Thus SC's think they have good reasons to believe that "freedom to do otherwise" is not necessary for free will or moral responsibility. S does what S wants to do, given the appropriate RRC, and these seem to satisfy requirements for freedom. So, the SC denies any "freedom to do otherwise" constraint. This does need to be specified in more detail, though. For example, there are different senses of "can" as used in "he can do otherwise." One way the compatibilist can agree that S "could" have done otherwise is by claiming that S was physically "able" to do A. Somewhat analogous, there is a sense in which Jesus' bones "could" not have been broken since Jehovah prophesied that they wouldn't be. But, there is another sense where they "could" have indeed been broken - they weren't made of steel. Jesus wasn't Wolverine. He had human bones and human bones "can" be broken. Thus, physically, an unregenerate "can" accept Christ since he can physically say the words "I trust and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." But, in another sense, he "cannot" (cf. John 6:44). So, "can" all men accept Jesus, sic et non.

Next, contemporary compatibilism has made interesting strides in regards to how one can be morally responsible for doing something that he was determined to do.

SC denies that determinism is compatible with "ability to do otherwise," (not all contemporary compatibilists agree. So, this is why I think Calvinists should be SC's) but they say that determinism is compatible with moral responsibility. Again, this is a detailed maze of arguments and counter-arguments. A person is morally responsible when she can not only do moral right and/or wrong, but also is accountable for her actions. Thus a person is a fitting subject of praise or punishment.

Contemporary compatibilism is very entrenched in this debate. Many think it is incoherent to punish or reward someone for doing what they were determined to do. Or, to punish or reward for simply acting according to some pre-determined nature. Interestingly, some say that you shouldn't beat your dog for panting, yet they give an "atta boy" to their dogs for "being loyal." Besides my canine digression, a contemporary distinction is drawn by Fischer regarding SC's view of moral responsibility being compatible with determinism. He makes a distinction with respects to Regulative Control RC and Guidance Control GC. And agent with RC can regulate between different alternatives. An agent with GC brings about her conduct, even if there are no other alternatives to her actions. Here in GC we see the denial of PAP's which were, you will recall, allegedly (and decisively IMHO) refuted by FSC's. Furthermore, invoking views of secondary causation like those found in the Westminster Confession of Faith allow for agents to guide their actions. Moreover, that all is determined by God does not mean that agents can't guide or bring about their actions. So, that S determined that S* would A does not imply that S did A instead of S*. For example, Acts 2 tells us that it was not God, but then lawless men, who put Jesus to death. We are also told that God foreordained this. Thus we see that S foreordaining that S* would do A does not imply that S* isn't the one who does A.

Thus, for Fischer, it is only GC that is necessary for moral responsibility. RC could not be necessary for morality given FSC's. GC assumes what is called Source Control. Source Control simply maintains that the agent must be the source of his actions in some important or crucial way. Many incompatibilists have constructed an argument against Source Control theories (remember, the Confession says that there is a sense that we cause our actions, hence I find a source theory there). The key premise for the argument is:

A person acts of her own free will only if she is its ultimate source .

Obviously "ultimate source" would need to be defined, but most Christians (libertarians included!) must deny that we are the ultimate source of our actions. Furthermore, it is an "important way" to be involved in bringing about your conduct if you are a means in bringing it about. Calvinism says that God works through means. He does not accomplish ends irregardless of the means. This is fatalism. Fischer employs an actual-sequence RRC mechanism which is fully possessed by the agent (i.e. it is his own mechanism) and issues in the agent’s guidance control over his own action. Thus the agent brings about his actions in an important way, even though s/he is not the ultimate source of said actions.

Lastly, some have asked about whether our choices are “real” given determinism. I admit I don’t really understand the point. Isn’t a choice “real” if it occurs at all? Furthermore, before me I have a Ruth’s Christ steak and a plate of cheese and crackers. There are two options and, given Semi-Compatibilism, I have the ability to choose whichever one I want to. So, I choose, of course, the sizzling and mouth tantalizing steak from Ruth’s Chris (which sizzles because it is on a plate that is about 500 degrees, and is cooked in butter). This was pre-determined. Given God’s decree, I could not have actually picked the cheese and crackers. I could not because as, say, Isaiah 46:10 tells us: “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure';” God declared that I would pick the steak, He cannot be wrong, hence I could not have, in a libertarian way, have chosen the cheese. But, did I not “really” chose the steak? After all, that’s what I wanted.

I think we can take our cue from Jesus. Before I explain, allow a brief digression, and apologies to those who aren’t familiar with the eschatological terms. I think one of the best lines I have ever heard was in a debate between gene Cook and Hyper-preterist H.L. James. Now, H.L. was kind of ridiculing the idea of a bodily resurrection. He pointed out that Jesus had holes in his hands, and so asked if Gene would have tattoos, scars, or things like that in heaven. Gene’s voice and response was unforgettable. In a humble sounding voice, he meekly replied: “If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.” Now, I don’t think Gene think we will have said scars, but even if we did, so what. Our Lord has them. Of course he has them for theological reasons that we don’t need to get into. My point in all this is to talk about a choice Jesus made. If it’s “good enough” for Him to cal it a choice, then it’s “good enough” for me to call my choices, choices. If it’s “real enough” for Jesus, it’s “real enough” for me.

In John 6:70 Jesus tells us that he chose all 12 disciples, yet one, speaking of Judas, was the devil. In John 13:18 Jesus tells us that he chose Judas, along with the other 11, “so that the Scriptures may be fulfilled.” Now, this shows that it was pre-determined that Judas would betray Jesus. We are told in Hebrews 6 that it is “impossible” that God can lie. So, was it “possible” that Jesus could have, in a libertarian way, chosen rabbi Larry over Judas? If Jesus had libertarian free will, wouldn’t his “choice,” to be real” have to be between at least two live options, both of which were possible to actuate? If it was “possible” that Jesus could falsify Jehovah’s prophecy, God would have turned out a liar. But, this is “impossible,” therefore it seems “impossible” that Jesus could have chosen otherwise. Yet. Jesus calls it a “choice.” Hence if my choices aren’t real, neither was Jesus.’ If the libertarian doesn’t allow me to have a “real” choice, so what? If it is good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.

As many can see, the debate is a detailed and rigorous one. If the contemporary Christian wants to engage in a contemporary defense of our basic beliefs about God, His sovereignty, and man's responsibility, s/he would do well to study some of the contemporary literature. We should not sit back, at least those interested, while the Arminian makes headway in the area of analytic philosophy, making many of us look sloppy. I feel it can only strengthen our extremely strong theological case if we learn to employ contemporary philosophic arguments for compatibilism (semi, for us) and moral responsibility in light of determinism. Furthermore, many Arminians simply will avoid Scripture in the debate, and it would serve well to be able to answer them on their own grounds. Lastly, the above is, as I said, a rough and ready, all too brief, discussion of contemporary compatibilism. I recognize that many can find fault with the above. My main goal was to briefly explain some of the language and ideas used in contemporary debate, and possibly spur future interest. Hopefully I at least achieved the latter.

Classical compatibilism

Since, in modern times, Calvinism is generally associated with compatibilism, and since that term is frequently used at T-blog, it might be helpful to offer some basic definitions. According to classical compatibilism:

“To be free, most compatibilists have insisted, means in ordinary language (1) to have the *power* or *ability* to do what we will (desire or choose) to do, and this entails (2) the absence of *constraints* or *impediments* preventing us from doing what we will, desire, or choose. The constraints or impediments they have in mind include physical restraints, lack of opportunity, duress or coercion, physical or mental impairment, and the like.”

“What do they say about the freedom *to do otherwise*? It is also defined by classical compatibilists in terms of (1) and (2). You are free to do otherwise than meet your friend when you (1) have the power or ability to avoid meeting him, and which entails in turn that (2) there are no constraints or impediments preventing you from avoiding the meeting (e.g., no one is forcing you at gunpoint to meet him)."

"It does mean you *would* do it, *if* you wanted or desired to do it. Thus they hold that (1) and (2) entail a third feature of classical compatibilism, namely, that terms such as *can*, *power*, *ability*, and *freedom* should be given a *conditional* or *hypothetical* analysis: (3) that an agent can (has the power, is able, is free, to) do something means that the agent would do it, if the agent wanted (or desired or chose) to do it."

“To say ‘you could have done otherwise’ would only amount to the counterfactual claim that you would have done otherwise, if (contrary to fact) the past (or the laws) had been different in some way, for example, if you had wanted or desired or chosen otherwise."

R. Kane, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (Oxford 2002), 12-13.

Contemporary compatibilism has developed a number of further refinements, but that's a place to start.

Her Holiness: The Bishopess of Rome

“The extraordinary partnership between Pasqualina and Pope Pius XII lasted 41 years and included all of Pius’s pontificate which ran from 1939 to 1958. During this time—a time when the Vatican had to face some of the greatest crises of recent history—this nun was the very closest confidante of the pope.”

“Often referred to behind Vatican Walls as ‘La Popessa,” Sister Pasqualina—who was born in August 1894—wielded an unprecedented power in the Vatican—so much so that more often than not, priests and bishops (and sometimes even cardinals) would seek her permission before applying for a papal audience; this was especially so when Pius fell ill for extended periods,” N. Bello, The Incredible Book of Vatican Facts and Papal Curiosities (Liguori 1998), 214-15.

“She took dictation from him every day, even writing pages in his private diary and editing his official papers and speeches. Pius often discussed critical matters with her, seeking her views on problems he had to address officially,” ibid. 217.

“She had a lot to say on all complex matters. This was true in the case of the future Pope Paul VI, then Monsignor Montini, who was transferred to Milan in move that surprised even most of the Vatican insiders; they knew, however, it had been orchestrated by Pasqualina. ‘La Popessa’ did not like Montini all and had frequently exchanged angry words with him, with Pius often having to intercede to smooth down one squabble or another. That Montini remained without a red hat [i.e. cardinalate] while he was archbishop of Milan was another example of Paqualina’s influence that incensed many clerics at the Vatican,” ibid. 218.

“Even more dismaying to Tisserant [the Vatican pro-secretary of state] was the day he had an appointment with Pius on an urgent matter, and his appointment was canceled because Pasqualina had given the Pope’s time to Gary Cooper and Clare Boothe Luce, who were in Rome for just a few hours. The dean of cardinals often had to wait up to 60 days before he could see the pope, simply because Pasqualina decreed it,” ibid. 220-21.

Another time she kept Bishop Angelo Roncalli (Later to become Pope John XXIII) waiting for more than an hour while she gave priority to Clark Gable, then a major with the liberating American forces in Rome. The MGM star, who did not have a previous appointment, was allowed into the pope’s office despite the fact that Roncalli had been summoned to the Vatican by Pius on a pressing matter,” ibid. 221.

Pope Lunaticus

“Pope Pius XII suffered from a number of imaginary illnesses. Among other idiosyncrasies, he had a complex about houseflies, which he bad-mouthed as carriers of diseases. Whenever he sought to swat a fly in his office or bedroom, he chased after it with a flyswatter that he carried at all times on a belt underneath his robe.”

“Among his imaginary illnesses were a chronic toothache of mysterious origin, irregular pulse, and a suspected heart condition, bilious attacks or some other liver disorder, and anemia.”

“Pope Pius XII cleaned his teeth many times during the day in a long and complicated ritual—first brushing with toothpaste made especially for him by a chemist, then washing out his mouth with a strong astringent, and finally massaging his gums with sterilized cotton swabs that he dipped in a disinfecting solution.”

“Convinced his gums were bad and listening to none of the advice from competent Vatican doctors, Pius found a Roman dentist who prescribed a “remedy” for the pope’s “bad gums,” which unfortunately was chromic acid—a strong preparation also used to tan hides. Not only did this cause his gums to become more and more sensitive but also it gradually, over the years, worked on him like a slow poison, causing stomach disorders, spasms of the diaphragm and his well-known attacks of hiccups,” N. Bello, The Incredible Book of Vatican Facts and Papal Curiosities (Liguori 1998), 55

“Believing that wine was not only good for digestion but also important for one’s health as a medicine, Pope Pius XII drank at least one glass of wine every day he was in office: on trips he carried a personal flask under his papal robes,” ibid. 26.

“Pope Pius XX did not like the idea of stepping on any kind of insect. And so, during the walks he took in the papal gardens on almost every afternoon of his pontificate, the gardeners—unknown to the pope—kept his path clear by praying insecticide ahead of time,” ibid. 27.

“A penny-wise but pound-foolish administrator, Pius XII diligently watched every dime the Vatican spent. To save on the electric current, for instance, he often made the rounds of the papal apartments flicking off the lights,” ibid. 50.

Habemus Papam!

The Shepherd of the Lord's whole flock is the Bishop of the Church of Rome, where the Blessed Apostle Peter, by sovereign disposition of divine Providence, offered to Christ the supreme witness of martyrdom by the shedding of his blood. It is therefore understandable that the lawful apostolic succession in this See, with which "because of its great pre-eminence every Church must agree", has always been the object of particular attention.

During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, and above all during the time of the election of the Successor of Peter, the Church is united in a very special way with her Pastors and particularly with the Cardinal electors of the Supreme Pontiff, and she asks God to grant her a new Pope as a gift of his goodness and providence. Indeed, following the example of the first Christian community spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 1:14), the universal Church, spiritually united with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, should persevere with one heart in prayer; thus the election of the new Pope will not be something unconnected with the People of God and concerning the College of electors alone, but will be in a certain sense an act of the whole Church. I therefore lay down that in all cities and other places, at least the more important ones, as soon as news is received of the vacancy of the Apostolic See and, in particular, of the death of the Pope, and following the celebration of his solemn funeral rites, humble and persevering prayers are to be offered to the Lord (cf. Mt 21:22; Mk 11:24), that he may enlighten the electors and make them so likeminded in their task that a speedy, harmonious and fruitful election may take place, as the salvation of souls and the good of the whole People of God demand.

In a most earnest and heartfelt way I recommend this prayer to the venerable Cardinals who, by reason of age, no longer enjoy the right to take part in the election of the Supreme Pontiff. By virtue of the singular bond with the Apostolic See which the Cardinalate represents, let them lead the prayer of the People of God, whether gathered in the Patriarchal Basilicas of the city of Rome or in places of worship in other particular Churches, fervently imploring the assistance of Almighty God and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit for the Cardinal electors, especially at the time of the election itself. They will thereby participate in an effective and real way in the difficult task of providing a Pastor for the universal Church.

“The first Pope John XXIII [1410-15] was officially booted out of office for ‘notorious incest, adultery, defilement and homicide,’ together with the discovery that his mistress was his brother’s wife. To keep the pope’s scandalous behavior from becoming public, John XXIII was sent to Tusculum, where he served as a cardinal-bishop for our years, during which time he s reputed to have seduced more tha 200 nuns, maidens, married women, and widows,” N. Bello, The Incredible Book of Vatican Facts and Papal Curiosities (Liguori 1998), 11.

Pope Benedict IX (1032-1044), who first became pope at the age of 14, was the only man to be pope three times. The first time he abdicated was to marry. After returning as pope for a second period in office, he abdicated for a second time when he sold his papal seat to his godfather. Then he became pope again. All this took place before Benedict reached the age of 30,” ibid. 36.

The Bankruptcy of the Secular Golden Rule

In comments on this post, I engaged in dialogue with Interlocuter (under various names, although the conversation is easy enough to follow).

Interlocuter originally said:
Most atheists use simple premises to base their morality upon: perhaps even your "golden rule". This golden rule is obviously a common ground/basis for morality between Christian and atheist, is it not? We can agree that this principle will work to accomplish our goal of goodness.
To this, I responded:
No, because the atheist has no reason to follow the Golden Rule. It is alien to his worldview.
Interlocuter finally responded:
What an odd thing to say. My self-interest to be treated fairly would obviously motivate me to follow and implement this rule of morality. The law of symmetry / prisoner's dilemma applies to morality very well: moral systems cannot be one-way streets, and just cooperation (symmetric treatment) is integral.

It makes perfect sense to me.
Since Interlocuter is a fairly “typical” secularist, this provides fertile ground for me to demonstrate the bankruptcy of the Golden Rule in Secular ethics. The Golden Rule, again, is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Christian ethics has a reason to hold to this concept: everyone is created in the image of God. Furthermore, as a Divine Command Theorist, I also argue that the bare fact that God commands it establishes its morality already.

However, Interlocuter does not hold to Christian ethics. S/he is a secularist. The question therefore is: how can the Golden Rule be established in secular ethics?

Interlocuter’s shot is to say: “My self-interest to be treated fairly would obviously motivate me to follow and implement this rule of morality.” I’m not sure if by “self-interest” Interlocuter seeks to invoke Rand’s “rational self-interest” (i.e. “selfishness is a virture”) philosophy. Either way, this does not work to establish the claim, as the very sentence contains presuppositions that Interlocuter has not argued for.

Consider it: “My self-interest to be treated fairly” is the reason given for the Golden Rule. Fairness, at face value, seems to be identical to what the Golden Rule requires in the first place, so this is little more than saying, “My desire for the Golden Rule establishes the Golden Rule.” Not a very compelling argument. But let us suppose that “fairness” doesn’t mean simple equivalence to the Golden Rule.

What is “fair” treatment; and even more important, why ought fairness be practiced? Let us examine some possible meanings for “fairness” as used contextually in a moral sense. Perhaps Interlocuter means, “I want to get what I deserve.” The question remains: does being nice to someone morally require them to be nice to you? If not, then this sense of fairness does not hold. The Golden Rule would have no “teeth” to it. If being nice does require that person to be nice to you, then you are forcing them to do a certain behavior toward you, which seems to violate the very principal of the Golden Rule in the first place! The only way that this moral imperative could require someone to obey the Golden Rule is if there is a pre-existing standard above the Golden Rule that establishes the necessity of fairness. In short, this idea of “fairness” cannot establish the Golden Rule because it requires a presupposed hidden morality already functioning in the first place.

Perhaps Interlocuter means “equal.” That is, s/he desires to be treated in an equal manner as everyone else. But this meaning would cause even more problems for Interlocuter. After all, people are not equal in any empirical trait. Some are stronger than others, some are smarter, etc. Equality cannot become the basis of the Golden Rule unless it is between co-equal people. In other words, if a strong man picks a fallen rock off a weak man, he cannot rationally demand the weak man pick up a fallen rock off the strong man should their positions be reversed. The Golden Rule, in such a circumstance, can only apply to equal relationships. It cannot function except in such places as both people are able to do the same behavior. As such, altruistic behavior cannot be explained (that is, when someone sacrifices, getting nothing in return, this violates Interlocuter’s fairness as defined by equality).

Given Interlocuter’s statement on “The law of symmetry,” however, I would wager that the concept used here is one of reciprocity. While closely linked to the above meanings of fairness, we can perhaps distinguish it here. Since secularists are incapable of transcending the individuals, however, the only sense of reciprocity that can occur is an agreed sense. That is, two (or more) people enter a quid pro quo deal, wherein one person says, “I will do X for you, if you will do X for me.”

The problems with this concept are the same as the above. Again, the people must be in co-equal terms or it will not apply (e.g. the strong man cannot say, “I will lift the boulder off you if you do the same for me” to the weak man who is incapable of lifting the boulder). Furthermore, this lacks the “teeth” needed because it fails the simple question: “If someone reneges on this ‘contract’ is that behavior immoral?” Again, it can only be immoral if there is a higher morality in place—one that requires an adherence to this idea of fairness.

None of this helps Interlocuter out in establishing the grounds for a secular Golden Rule. Instead, all it shows is that Interlocuter must presuppose a higher morality than the Golden Rule to enforce the Golden Rule! As such, this cannot be the basis for Interlocuter’s morality! His/her morality exists at a more foundational level than this.
Finally, it is perhaps most telling that Interlocuter’s defense begins: “My self-interest to be treated fairly…” Such reasoning makes it impossible to extend morality beyond Interlocuter. In such a system, morality is only Interlocuter’s subjective selfish opinion. Since Interlocuter is the only person who has his/her subjective selfish opinion, this morality cannot transcend Interlocuter.

Thus, we see that Interlocuter’s morality is a) presupposing another more foundational morality to enforce it, and b) completely subjective and therefore would violate the Golden Rule if Interlocuter were to enforce it!

God's Purpose According to Election: Paul's Argument in Romans 9

Steven M. Baugh on Romans 9.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Uncharted freedom tires

The redoubtable Calvindude did a post on freewill which has long since disappeared into the archive. However, the debate continues apace in the combox. Here is my side of the debate.

steve said...

henry said…

“If he were consistent with his theological determinism he would admit that if all events are predetermined then the reality of choice is an illusion. In each and every situation we find ourselves we may think that we could actually choose from among available alternatives, but in reality, since every event is predetermined, we can only do the one action which we were predetermined to do in a particular situation. And if we are only able to do that one action, then we do not have a choice.”

But in reality, we can only make one choice at a time even if our choices were not predetermined and we had a variety of live options.

So why, even on your own grounds, is it necessary to have a number of unexemplified alternate possibilities if the choice you make is the choice you were going to make all along?

steve said...


Whether you subscribe to determinism, predeterminism, or indeterminism, there is only one actual future.

Even if you think a human agent helps to create the future, there is only one actual future.

So that is the only future that was ever going to be. You may not think that this is the only future that had to be. But it does come down to just one future. Just one outcome.

Hence, there is only one future choice you were actually going to make. This is irrespective of what preconditions you posit for that outcome.

That being the case, why do you assume that freedom of opportunity or freedom to do otherwise is morally essential or even morally significant?

It might be morally significant if the outcome you would have chosen differs from the actual outcome. But suppose they are the same?

steve said...

Henry seems to have a problem thinking outside his own little box. For purposes of this discussion, I’m not presenting or defending my own theological position. Rather, I’m posing a more general, philosophical question as it bears on his underlying assumptions.

On any view you take, whether libertarianism, soft determinism, or hard determinism, there is only one actual future. So there is only one action you were going to perform.

This doesn’t depend on whether you always intended to do that. It doesn’t depend on a particular chain of causality.

Rather, I’m merely posing a question about the fact that there is only one actual future, and hence, only one future action that you can take at a time, in which case, that’s the only thing you were ever going to do.

If that is the case, then why is it morally significant to have unexemplified alternate possibilities? Alternate possibilities which you were never going to act on.

Suppose you're given an apparent choice between Door A and Door B. Unbeknownst to you, Door A is locked. So you didn't have a "genuine" choice. You couldn't go through Door A even if you wanted to.

Yet, suppose you choose Door B. And since you choose Door B, that was the only door you were going to choose. That's the only door you were ever going to choose.

In that event, what does it matter if Door A was locked or unlocked? It would only matter if you tried to choose Door A. If you tried to open Door A, and failed, because it was locked.

steve said...


“I am not the one who has God in a box claiming that he cannot know the future choices of human persons unless he predetermined all of them. That is your imaginary box,not mine.”

Henry appears to have difficulty sorting out who said what. In the course of this thread, I’ve never said whether God’s foreordination is or is not a prerequisite for his foreknowledge.

i) Since, however, he raises the issue, I would note that, in Isaiah 40-48, God’s foreordination is a prerequisite for his foreknowledge. God knows the future because he planned it, and nothing can thwart his plan. So my box is the Bible.

ii) And, of course, an open theist would say that Henry is putting God in a box by insisting that God must know the future to control it.

“Seems to me the more important question is whether alternatives to the actions which we choose to perform ever exist (or are doable).”

How is that more important if their existence is morally inconsequential?

“It is no use discussing why these unrealized alternatives exist, if it has not been first established that alternatives exist when we decide from among alternative actions.”

Sigh. Someone else who can’t follow his own line of reasoning. Traditionally, the primary appeal of libertarianism has been the intuition that alternate possibilities are necessary to ground responsibility.

Now, Frankfurt-type examples of the sort mentioned by Manata have forced some libertarians to reconstruct libertarianism.So the question of whether alternative possibilities are morally significant is quite germane to the case for or against libertarianism.

After all, it’s not as if we enjoy independent access to alternate possibilities. For even if these “exist” (whatever that means), they cannot be simultaneously realized—otherwise they wouldn’t be *alternate* possibilities. So even if we could act on one, we cannot explore all of them. Therefore, we have no direct evidence for the existence of alternate possibilities.

Hence, the arguments for their existence are indirect, such as arguing from responsibility to alternate possibilities.

“This is why I have been discussing the reality of choices.”

You don’t get to dictate the terms of the discussion.

“Choices cannot exist unless alternatives exist because to make a choice, select, decide, is to do so from among available alternatives.”

This simply begs the question in favor of libertarianism. And, as Peter has pointed out, it also equivocates over what makes a choice a choice.

“In my previous post I gave some reasons why alternatives are important for moral purposes, and you chose to ignore them all.”

Yes, because they’re nullified by the question I’m asking, unless you can answer it.

“The presence of both alternatives we choose to do and alternatives that we did not choose to do, but could have done, is good evidence for the reality of choices.”

You don’t have any evidence for that since you can only make one choice at a time. Hence, you don’t know if the other apparent options were live options or not. You never tried that doorknob.

One of the problems is that you’re confounding imagination with alternate possibilities. The fact that you can imagine alternative scenarios, and the further fact that this figures in your moral or rational deliberation, does not, of itself, mean that you could actually have done otherwise.

“Regret by the way presupposes that we could have done otherwise, that we had a choice, and that we believe that we chose wrongly.”

No, it merely presupposes an active imagination. We can imagine having done otherwise.

“When Jesus is about to be arrested he claims that he could call a legion of angels to deliver him. Did he do so? NO. But his appeal to an ‘unexemplified alternative’ is evidence of His power and authority.”

You’re tacitly assuming that divine and human freedom are analogous. The fact that Jesus could do something doesn’t me that you or I could do the same thing.

“In the so-called warning passages in Hebrews, assuming rightly, that we cannot lose our salvation. Some calvinists will speak of these warnings as pointing to ‘unexmplified alternatives’ that are useful for sanctification purposes. So again, ‘unexemplified alternatives’ can be instructive. In the story of Keilah where David is told about what would happen if he stayed (an unexemplified alternative), based on this information he then decides to leave Keilah. Knowing the ‘unexemplified alternative’ was useful for him to know.”

A Calvinist doesn’t deny alternate possibilities. That’s not the question.

The question, rather, is whether these possibilities are indexed to the agency of man or God. From a Reformed standpoint, a counterfactual is something that could have been otherwise had God chosen to decree otherwise.

“But none of this has much of a bearing on what I have been emphasizing, which is that exhaustive determinism eliminates the reality of choices.”

Another one of Henry’s problems is the assumption that by merely annexing an adjective to a noun, like *real* choices or *actual* choices, he has presented a metaphysically tenable or meaningful distinction.

“I have asked you repeatedly if you think there are ever situations in which actual choices can occur if every event has been predetermined by God and you won't answer that question.”

This is simplistic. Can a man choose contrary to what God has decreed? No. Are the reprobate free to either believe or disbelieve the gospel? No. Can the saints in heaven commit apostasy? No. Can the damned repent? No. Can Pharaoh resist the hardening of God? No.

On the other hand, human beings are free to follow their strongest desire as long as they have the opportunity to do so.

steve said...


“The Isaiah passage is a good one to present to open theists as in in it is made clear that God knows the future. But the claim that ‘foreordination is a prerequisite for his foreknowledge" is merely the statement of a calvinist presupposition.”

Wrong. That linkage is made in Isaiah itself.

“Calvinists commonly believe/assume that the reason God knows the future is that He predetermined it in its entirety. Other christians do not hold this assumption.”

What other Christians assume is not an argument.

“Regarding the idea that God accomplishes his purposes this is clearly stated in scripture. However, the idea that God predetermined every event is yet another assumption, again not held by the majority of christians throughout church history. Particularly in the centuries before Augustine we do not see christians espousing either of these assumptions.”

For some unstated reason, you seem to think this historical appeal is important. It isn’t.

Consensus is not the rule of faith. People are not the rule of faith. Revelation is the rule of faith.

The fact that you feel the need to retreat into this historical appeal shows what a weak hand you have.

“The idea that God predetermines all events is in fact the controlling presuppositon of the calvinist system.”

Calvinism doesn’t have just one controlling presupposition. We are only discussing the predestinarian aspect of Calvinism because that’s what *you* want to talk about.

“It is one thing to say that God accomplishes his purposes and quite another to say that every event that occurs is predetermined by God.”

Scripture says both.

“I think it is even more basic than that: we control our actions and often make selections from alternatives so we reasonably conclude that our choices are real. If our choices are real, if we really are able to choose from among various alternatives that are available, we conclude that our actions are freely performed and not exhaustively determined. We see evidence of the reality of choice in both our own experience as well as in scripture.”

You’re simply repeating yourself. I’ve addressed all these claims—as have others.

“If we are not going to speak of choices as involving selections from among various available alternatives, then not only are we denying the meaning of the word, we are denying our universal and almost constant experience.”

Once again, you have nothing new to say. Both hard determinism and soft determinism are well aware of this appeal, and both of them can account for the experience on their own terms.

“Frankfurt cases are imaginative stories involving interveners whom we do not encounter in everyday experience.”

That’s irrelevant. It’s a limiting case. Its function is to undermine the intuitive presumption that freedom to do otherwise is a precondition of responsibility. You thereby lose *your* controlling presupposition. You can no longer object to determinism in *principle*.

“If the word choice and the reality which it represents are eliminated from the discussion this begs the question for the determinist.”

You have a problem when it comes to interacting with anyone who doesn’t already share your precious assumptions. No one is eliminating “choice” from the discussion.

The question at issue, rather, is our concept of what makes a choice a choice. And, as I’ve said before, using adjectives like “real” or “genuine” is not an argument.

“We seem to experience choices between actual and available alternatives constantly. How do we account for this phenomena?”

Once again, you’re simply repeating yourself without advancing your original argument, or addressing the counterargument.

“Is it real? In which case exhaustive determinism is then false.”

i) As Manata, for one, has demonstrated, compatibilism can process this experience.

ii) Moreover, your argument cuts both ways. If exhaustive determinism is true, then your inference is false.

“Or if not real, and merely illusory, why does scripture even use the language of choices and could have done otherwise/should have done otherwise?”__

i) You are reading more into Scripture than is there. Libertarianism is not a Scriptural teaching. At best, libertarianism would only be a possible inference from Scripture. An extrascriptural way of grounding certain Scriptural statements. A metaphysical presupposition.

ii) But that inference is ruled out by many other Scriptural teachings involving predestination, providence, original sin, &c.

iii) One of the stated functions of preaching in the Bible is to harden the audience. It does not assume that the listener could do otherwise. To the contrary, its purpose is to harden his heart against the truth.

iv) You yourself are very dismissive of certain hypotheticals. You dismiss Frankfurt-type cases as mere thought-experiments. And, indeed, they are. They are imaginary scenarios which have, as of yet, no real life counterpart. But, in that event, why should we take your own hypotheticals any more seriously?

v) Even if a conditional or counterfactual statement implies a possible world in which that scenario plays out, this doesn’t mean that the human agent is in a position to actuate that possible world. I can conceive of many apparent possibilities which I am quite unable to actuate. I can imagine a bodacious blond in a Duisenberg. But, unfortunately, I’m unable to will my hypothetical into existence.

“I do not believe that either our experience or scripture is misleading us.”

To the contrary, you have written off many major teachings of Scripture to salvage libertarianism.

“Whenever we consider multiple alternatives we use our imagination. And this consideration of various alternatives is critical for our deliberation and reasoning. But either we can do these various alternatives or we cannot. Experience and scripture say these alternatives are real: theological determinism must claim them to be merely imaginary.”

So, according to Henry, whatever we can imagine, we can do. All I can say is that, if that’s the case, then we must suffer from a pretty limited imagination. Certainly the world I see out the windows bears precious little resemblance to the imaginary world of Ray Bradbury or Cordwainer-Smith.

“Most of our lives when we move our hand one way it goes that way, and if we move it the other it goes that way. So either this is a very powerful delusion or it is reality.”

Once more, Henry has no grasp of compatibilism. And how far does he plan to take this example? Ants and cockroaches move left or right as well. Do they also have freewill?

Likewise, computer chess programs make apparent choices. Do you ascribe freewill to computers too?

“I say it is reality you say it is imaginary.”

Actually, I never said it was imaginary. Rather, I simply pointed out that your conclusion was underdetermined by the evidence. That imagination alone could account for rational and moral deliberation.

“This also has very practical consequences for example in your denial of the reality of regret.”

The “reality” of regret as in what? The *feeling* of regret?

“When people regret they are convinced they could have done otherwise. You negate this by saying of regret: ‘No, it merely presupposes an active imagination. We can imagine having done otherwise.’ Again you deny a universal human experience because of your system of determinism.”

In point of fact, this is transparently false. What people frequently regret is that they were unable to rise to the occasion. They would have done better if only they were better. They regret their lack of control over their own emotions.

Someone who’s hooked on drugs or gambling or pornography may profoundly regret his addiction. And what exacerbates his regret is that he lacks the willpower to kick the habit. He hates what he’s doing. He hates himself for doing it. He hates what he’s doing to himself and his loved ones. He can see the dire consequences of his actions. And yet the urge to do it is irrepressible.

The most charitable interpretation of Henry’s statement is that he’s very young, naïve, and inexperienced. But for those who haven’t led such a charmed life or sheltered existence, the source of bitter regret is not that we could have done otherwise, but that we couldn’t bring ourselves to do otherwise.

“For you, since you *assume* exhaustive determinism, every thing that occurs is exactly what God predetermined to occur so possibilities are ‘indexed to God’ alone.”

You continually make the false and foolish imputation that a Calvinist merely “assumes” exhaustive determinism. Try not to flaunt your ignorance of Reformed theology.

This is an exegetical finding with many lines of evidence. Some online materials include:,,PTID314526|CHID598016|CIID1731702,00.html

The standard Reformed commentary on John's Gospel is by D. A. Carson.

The standard Reformed monograph on Rom 9 is: J. Piper, The Justification of God: An Exegetical & Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23.

The two standard Reformed commentaries on Romans are by Tom Schreiner and John Murray.

And that’s just for starters.

“It is impossible for those preselected to be damned to ever be saved. They have no possibility of being saved. And as their every action is predetermined by God according to you. They live a life of sin and then are eternally condemned for performing the very sins which God planned for them to commit [since according to your determinism their every action is predetermined, they can never do otherwise than they actually do].”

This is true as far as it goes. But it oversimplifies the issues by omitting many other things. Predestination does not select for any particular model of causality. And predestination is not a coercive force.

“Most christians told that this is what your assumption of exhaustive determinism leads to, will rightly reject this view and its underlying assumption.”

This is a purely emotional appeal, which is the last resort of the scoundrel. You reject the witness of Scripture because you dislike the consequences.

“Your whole system is driven by the *assumption* of complete determinism.”

No, we’re discussing determinism because that’s what you want to discuss. It’s not the be-all and end-all of Calvinism. It’s a necessary feature of Calvinism. But there are many other equally important things we believe in.

“Yes and they need to be aware that according to your determinism even their desires like everything else is predetermined by God.”

Other issues aside, the logical alternative to divine determinism is not some form of indeterminism. Rather, the logical alternative is some naturalistic form of determinism, like social conditioning or biochemistry.

steve said...

1. Notice that Henry simply ignores many objections which Peter, Manata, and I have raised to his position.

2. In addition, why should we agree with his claim that God causes his actions? Does Henry regard God as a composite being, so that you can subdivide God into actions which are the effect of his "self causes?"

3. And even if we accepted (2), for which Henry offers no supporting argument, why should we further assume that divine and human agency are sufficiently analogous for Henry's further inference to hold?

steve said...

henry said...

"The Bible however does not say that all events are predetermined by God."

Actually, it does. Trying reading the online article by Warfield which I referred you to.

"I will drop my “PAP libertarianism, when the Bible drops its passages which refer to the reality of choices, free will, being able to do otherwise."

This is typical of a weak opponent. Henry raises an objection, his objection is answered, then he repeats the very same objection without bothering to interact with the counterargument.

"The Bible presents passages suggesting that some events are predetermined it also presents verses that some events involve real choices from among available alternatives."

i) He continues his vacuous and question-begging habit of using adjectives ("real," "genuine") as a substitute for a reasoned argument.

ii) In addition, he's evidently unacquainted with the literary background for these "alternatives." This is a literary convention which goes back to the covenantal format of Scripture. As one scholar observes:

"Many comparisons have been made between the Mosaic codes in the Pentateuch and cuneiform law codes from the third-millennium BC...Not only do both employ the conditional 'if-then' clauses, but many of the laws are nearly identical," Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, 576.

Scripture uses conditional clauses because Scripture is covenantal, and conditional clauses were a stock feature of that literary genre.

"Our experience also presents both of these kinds of data."

As I've pointed out before, this is demonstrably false. We only get to do one thing at a time. Hence, we have zero experience testing each alternate possibility. Hence, there's absolutely no experimental evidence that we can actuate alternate possibilities.

steve said...

Let's briefly amplify one of Manata's points. Libertarianism classically includes the freedom of contrary choice, i.e. the agent is free to choose between either good or evil. But if this is untrue of either God and/or Christ, then Henry's attempt to use divine freedom as the exemplar of libertarian freedom for man backfires badly.

steve said...


"Steve says that he answered my objection (i.e. the Bible verses which show the reality of choices, free will, being able to do otherwise), and that I repeat the same objection without interacting with his counterargument. Big problem needs to be made explicit here: I **never** presented these verses. So how is Hays answering an objection that has not even been stated yet? This is highly presumptuous. How do you know that you “answered” someone’s argument if they had not even madetheir argument?"

It's a pity that Henry is so forgetful. Earlier in this same thread he referred to the admonitions in Hebrews, along with 1 Sam 23, as prooftexts for his position.

"Regarding my use of adjectives, we have to use adjectives to make proper distinctions."

Which is not the point. The point, rather, is his use of adjectives as if they were arguments.

"For example, if someone thinks he can choose certain alternatives (and those alternatives are available to the person) we could call that a **genuine**, or **actual** or **real** choice because the alternatives are doable by the agent, within his power to do. On the other hand, if the person thinks that he can choose certain alternatives and none of those alternatives are doable by the agent, or within his power to perform, we could call that 'unavailable alternatives' or 'illusory alternatives' to convey the fact that these alternatives are not available for the agent to do."

Which illustrates my point. His use of these adjectives assumes the conclusion of an argument he has failed to make. So his usage is prejudicial.

"Hays brings up the “if-then clauses” present in the OT anticipating that this is one of my arguments for the reality of choices in scripture. The fact that I have written **nothing** about If-then clauses in any of my posts and that this subject has not been discussed in this thread until Steve brings it up, indicates that now Hay is putting words in my mouth."

Two issues:

i) As I just pointed out, Henry can't remember his own argument. And I'd add that the admonitions in Hebrews have their precedent in the Mosaic covenant.

ii) And even if he hadn't brought it up before, I don't have to lag behind my opponent. I reserve the right to skip ahead and cut to the chase.

"It is significant that Hays brings up the subjunctive mood, which refers to events which are conditional in nature. In a completely predetermined world, such as Steve believes to be the case, where there is no free will in the libertarian sense, there are no contingent events, all events are necessary events in which nothing could possibly be otherwise as there are no choices, no alternatives."

As I pointed out before, this doesn't entail libertarianism, for counterfactuals can be indexed to the divine will rather than the human will. Once again, Henry is simply repeating himself rather than addressing the counterargument.

What we have in Calvinism is the conditional necessity of all events. They are bound to happen, for God decreed them. But God could have decreed otherwise.

Predestination does not obviate contingency. Rather, it's a question of what the outcome is contingent upon. In Calvinism, it's contingent on the divine decree. It would be helpful if Henry made an effort to acquaint himself with the opposing position.

"There would be no need or usefulness in using the subjunctive mood in such a world. And yet our languages contain statements in the subjunctive mood, because this reflects the **fact** that some realities are conditional, dependent on actual choices occurring or not occurring."

An obviously lame argument since it's possible to construct many linguistic statements which are inactionable. If I could go back in time, I'd like to hear George Whitefield preach. Does this mean that I can actually go back in time to hear George Whitefield preach?

"In scripture often when a conditional is present, the resulting event is something connected to a human individual’s choice (i.e., If you repent, God will turn from judgment; If you obey, then you will be blessed; etc. etc.). So God’s response is sometimes conditioned upon the choices made by the people."__

But that's not the final explanation. For Scripture attributes human choices to God's ulterior plans and action.

"This is further evidence of the reality of choices, unless you claim that the invitations and commands to respond were appeals which the people could never respond to ('illusory invitations', 'illusory promises')."

He continues to miss the point. This is a literary convention, not a metaphysical claim—just as a sonnet is a literary convention.

"Calvinists dream of having such a **demonstrable proof**. A sort of mathematical equation showing the non-reality of free will and choices. There is no such thing. And if Hays had it, or was familiar with it, he’d already have happily paraded it before us. But there hasn’t been any such parade or anything even close. Hays has made no such demonstration, nor even attempted to do so. His claim is merely an unsupported dogmatic assertion."

i) Not an assertion. I have, in fact, argued that point in my replies to Henry. Once again, he seems to suffer from short-term memory loss.

ii) Then he tries to erect a straw man argument by redefining my statement as "a sort of mathematical equation." That was no part of my argument.

"He starts with the claim that 'we only get to do one thing at a time'. First, there are cases of multi-tasking, but assume that he is right, and let’s put these aside."__

Is he trying to play coy? In context, my statement has reference to the question of alternate possibilities.

"Doing one thing at a time does not negate the reality of the deliberation and actual choice from among alternatives which resulted in that **one** action occurring. In many of our experiences the resulting **one** action is the outcome of a process of deliberating and considering and evaluating multiple available alternatives. Examples of this process would include the words we use to express our selves, daily decisions, where we will vacation, where we will go to school, what books we will read for recreation, the moves we make in a chess game, and on and on and on."

As I've said before, this doesn't rise above the level of the imagination. We can imagine alternate possibilities, and the consequences of each. And we can imagine many things which we are unable to actuate. (Or does Henry suppose that every figment of the imagination must correspond to a real world situation?)

Once more, all we get is Henry's broken record. No attempt to address the counterargument.

"The next statement indicates a major misunderstanding of the nature of choices: 'we have zero experience testing each alternative possibility'. This is misunderstanding the nature of intentional actions. Intentional actions involve consideration of various available actions (i.e. deliberation) and then the person chooses one of the actions which he intends to actuate."

For which an active imagination will suffice.

"We do not have to **test** every alternative possibility before we choose the **one** action we end up doing. Nobody thinks that way, lives that way, or makes decisions that way. This is disconnected from our actual decision making reality."

As usual, Henry can't follow his own argument. The point at issue is not whether we have to test every alternative possibility to make a choice. Rather, the point at issue is whether we have any evidence for either the "reality" of alternative possibilities or the availability of alternative possibilities absent actual experience with alternative possibilities.

"Experimental evidence for our **lifetime** continuous experience of actuating our own choices?"

Henry never fails to miss the point. Let's go back to one of his own examples:

"In the story of Keilah where David is told about what would happen if he stayed (an unexemplified alternative), based on this information he then decides to leave Keilah. Knowing the 'unexemplified alternative' was useful for him to know."

Does David get to experiment with both? Does he get to try out each scenario? Is it possible for David both to stay in Keilah and leave Keilah at one and the same time? No.

So David has no "actual" experience of alternate possibilities. Therefore, David has no "real" evidence that he could have actuated either scenario.

Could God have actuated the alternative? Yes—providing that he had decreed otherwise.

"First, this is precisely the kind of statement materialists such as Dennett or Flanagan make in regard to the reality of intentional actions by a self, or immaterial human soul. This is a statement of **scientism**, the claim that unless some piece of knowledge derives from the scientific disciplines, it cannot constitute reliable or accurate information. Implying that if something is not physical and capable of mathematical description and so in some way observable by means of observational equipment, it cannot be real or exist."

Unfortunately for Henry, this doesn't begin to follow from what I said. Perhaps Henry has a limited command of the English language. Maybe, for him, the word "experiment" automatically connotes "scientific" experimentation.

If so, then he doesn't know the history of English usage. "Experimental" is synonymous with experiential. 18C divines used to speak of "experimental religion." That was not a scientific classification.

Henry then carries on and on with his faulty understanding of English usage, so I'll skip over the rest of his mini-diatribe.

"We would find people making one selection at a time and we would find that they consistently appear to be in complete control of the deliberation, selection, and actuation of alternative possibilities."

Two or three more errors:

i) To say that an agent can make a selection does not imply that an agent can actuate reality. A more theologically orthodox explanation is that God foreordains our choices and then actuates our choices. The future is what we choose it to be because God foreordains our choices, and actuates the future consistent with his decree, inclusive of the choices he foreordained for us.

ii) Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that the human agent actuates reality, he never ever actuates *alternate* possibilities. Alternate possibilities are incompossible. That's what makes them "alternate" possibilities. They are mutually exclusive. The agent has zero experience doing what Henry claims for him.

So even assuming, for the sake of argument, that the agent can actuate reality, there is no evidence that he can actuate more than one reality. Actuate more than one future.

iii) And even if, ex hypothesi, an agent could do so, there is no evidence that he could so. No evidence that these apparent alternatives were ever in play. Were ever live options.

"This is a major reason why Calvinism/exhaustive determinism will always be an extreme minority position among human persons."

No, the major reasons are as follows:

i) Many people are just as illogical as Henry.

ii) Many people simply dislike the idea of predestination.

"One of the reasons that Calvinism is a tough sell is because it requires that we deny, put under the rug, hide in the closet, our whole lifetime of daily experiences."

It is to Calvinism's credit that it doesn't pander to humanistic self-flattery, our overweening pride, and our delusions of godhood.

"It is surprising that Calvinists are shocked when their views are rejected by most people."

Can Henry quote any Reformed theologians who are "shocked" by this phenomenon?

The rest is more of Henry's broken record. It was a trite tune to begin with, and it doesn't improve with repeated hearings.