Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Arminian Counter Argument

Victor Reppert wrote a post called "The Calvinist Argument."

This post stands in the long line of posts where Reppert has continually dodged or ignored the responses given to his arguments. What started out a while back as post on why Calvinists can't solve the problem of evil, has degenerated into a a hodge podge of mystery soup. Reppert's in red.

Paul wrote: ii) Again, Reppert misses the argument: If Scripture is infallible/inerrant in what it teaches T, and if my moral intuitions are fallible and tell me ~T, then ~~T.

Here's the center of what I take to be Paul's argument.
Not even close. If one should care to read my arguments, which have all been in response to various points Victor has brought up, one would note that the above has not been "my center."

My center was my theodicy. That was followed by my correcting Victor on his notions of the decree, and offering arguments to show how it wasn't a problematic notion. Next I would say has been my proving that Victor himself asks people to believe things contrary to their moral intuitions. Right after that would be that I have shown examples of people groups that have had different moral intuitions and Christian missionaries have had to break those intuitions on the Bible. Next was my counter-exegesis of the texts Victor has appealed to. After that I would say all the reversals I have done, showing that, even sticking to intuition, Victor's theism asks us to believe things contrary to even his moral intuitions. Victor is simply misleading his readers if he presents the above as "the center" of my argument(s). If he is not misleading them, then he's not bothered to read my posts; or, perhaps, not read them well. None of those arguments has been responded to (except for one attempt to initially respond to my theodicy, of which I have posted 2 follow up posts with no responses).

For any interested, here are my posts (starting with the latest):

Given all of that, it's not clear to me why Victor would call "the center" of my argument some small point.

Furthermore, it is dishonest to parade my claim about as "the center" of my argument given that I made sure in my last post to inform Victor that my answers would vary depending on who I was talking to.

Let's note that Victor said that, for arguments sake, he "granted the truth of Calvinism."

I then said that if you were a Christian, who believed in inerrancy, then the above argument would have to work for you.

I pointed out that if you believed that Scripture was infallible, and you believed that it taught Calvinism, and that it taught that God was good, then you would have to reason: Scripture teaches T, my intuitions say ~T, therefore, ~~T.

Secondly, I have made use of this argument to point out how I can deny Reppert's intuitions. Certainly given that I believe in infallibility, and that the Bible teaches Calvinism and God's goodness, then Reppert's intuitions are wrong.

Moreover, I assumed, though it is not clear anymore, that Reppert was initially trying to give an internal critique against Calvinism. In that case, then I get to pull from inerrancy to show how Calvinism can avoid the problem of evil from an internal position.

Now, as I have said many times, if Reppert wants to argue:

(*) Since libertarian free will is true, and PAP is true, and Arminian exegesis of the texts are true, and . . . is true, then Calvinism can't solve the problem of evil.

Okay, but (*) isn't an interesting claim. Yeah, if those are true, Calvinism has some big problems. I would have never debated the proposition: Given Arminianism, Calvinism is problematic.

Now, if Reppert wants to come at me as an atheist, or as a Christian who denies inerrancy (which is what I'm hoping to draw out for those Arminians who do not deny inerrancy, which is what i hope to draw out to show where Victor must go to answer Calvinism), then I would have different arguments. I've even said so on numerous occasions.

So, drop the inerrancy claim (though it still works to show you how someone who holds to inerrancy can easily deny a moral intuition which contradicts an inerrant teaching). I still have all my other arguments. Those work regardless of the inerrancy claim.

On to Reppert's post:

And here's the problem. Let's allow the the original autographs are infallible. We don't have those. We have a Greek and Hebrew text which has not been inerrantly copied.
Okay, I never claimed otherwise.

Does Victor want to debate the transmission of the texts now? Where’s he going now? I thought we were debating why the Calvinist can't solve the problem of evil.

If they have been reliably copied, then what's the problem?

If a is inerrant, and b says a, then b is inerrant.

We have a texts, lots of them, that are interpreted variously.
So? I've read my Erhman. I'm not scared yet. What is Reppert trying to prove here? That some texts are in error? Which ones? And are they the ones I have been using? What kind of "error"? That there are two different spellings? The very fact that we have "lots of them" work in our favor. As has been pointed out, we suffer from an embarrassment of riches.

The "big leaguers" in Biblical scholarship are divided.
This is tendentious. Which "big league scholars" did he have in mind. Is "big league" a term to invoke fear? Isn't this fallacious? Are we talking inerrancy anymore, or are we talking exegesis and hermeneutics?

And, so what? It's the arguments, not the numbers, that matter, right?

The best you can come up with on this is "as best I can tell, based on what I take to be the best Biblical scholarship out there, the Scriptures probably teach Calvinism.
The best I can come up with is: "This reading has the best arguments for it, is consistent with the rest of the Bible, is the most reasonable position to take on the matter, etc."

So what?

What's Reppert's alternative? Does he think he can believe whatever he wants to so long as "there's disagreements out there?"

Is this supposed to mean that the most rational position isn't my interpretation?

I mean, people disagree about the resurrection. "Big leaguers" do.

So is Reppert demoted to some kind of quivering heap of uncertainty about the resurrection of Jesus and believers?

There's a difference between radical and reasonable doubt.

The inerrancy of Scripture, which is itself a doctrine open to debate amongst genuine Christians, (though Paul may deny this) does not confer certainty to doctrinal conclusions derived from Scripture, if the derivation is produced by fallible processes.
I know it is debated. And, depends what Reppert means by "genuine Christian?" Since I believe that it is based on the person and work of Jesus Christ that we are saved, through faith alone by grace alone, then it is possible for someone to go to heaven who doesn't hold to my view of inerrancy. Same with Arminians. I expect many non-Calvinists to be in heaven.

I expect many people who were "better than me" to be in hell, too.

That's one of God's good purposes in hell. Shows us all the more that salvation is completely by grace alone, not by works.

And, what does Reppert mean by "certainty?" I have, over and over again in our discussion, not claimed any kind of epistemic certainty. I have not claimed that I have given knock-out arguments that all rational men would be forced to accept just by reading the premises.

That I might be in error regarding a translation doesn't give me reason to think that I am. And, if I believe that the text teaches T, then I should, to be rational, believe that ~T is false. But, much goes into this exegetical process. So, I don't just open my Bible and whatever the text seems like it is saying, on the face, is what it must mean.

So, I put work into my understanding of the text.

The "process" is also reliable. Especially given much of what Plantinga has to say.

Thus, I can know that the text teaches P and not ~P.

Does Victor deny me this? Is he going to set up some infallibilist constraints? Hold me to internalism? No justification without awareness?

Well, we can debate those too, if he wishes.

I guess whether Calvinism can solve the problem of evil now turns on internalism verses externalism with respect to warrant.

If he does not, then:

(**) If I know that the Bible is inerrant in what it teaches, and if I know it teaches T, then if something says ~T, the most rational position for me to take is ~~T.

I can claim what I did in (**) even if I do not have some kind of Cartesian certainty. Even if I don't go on the irreligious quest for religious certainty.

I am not God. I don't have the kind of certainty about my beliefs that he does. Neither does Reppert. Neither do Roman Catholics, despite their protests.

So all of this is really smoke an mirrors. Elementary skepticism invoked as a sophistic ploy to turn the focus off the arguments I've given.

Exegesis is not a hard science, like physics.
So? Neither is our exegesis of Plato. Are we all subjected to massive skepticism about what Plato taught? No one can know what Plato taught anymore?

Neither is my exegesis of Victor's blog posts for that matter. Should I be struck dumb by the very possibility that I might be in error in reading him? Or, can I be warranted, and so also rational, in my beliefs about what he has said? Can I know what he has said?

If I can, why can't I know what the Bible teaches? Especially considering the lack of counter-arguments in our debate? You've not given me reason to doubt what Scripture teaches. And certainly name dropping with the likes of "Witherington" or "some Arminian blogger" isn’t something that should shake my belief. Is it?

On the other hand, not only are my moral intuitions fallible, my physical senses also fallible. Nevertheless I can be reasonably sure that I am typing these words on a keyboard at this moment.
I never denied you could.

But, like you, I can be reasonably sure what the Bible teaches.

Moral intuitions are a legitimate sources of knowledge.
A point I've not only never denied in our discussion, but also have granted.

Faced with what I take to be a strong Calvinist exegetical argument from, say, James White about Romans, alongside a deeply held moral conviction that a God who behaves like a Calvinistic God does would not be good, why am I obligated to follow the exegetical argument instead of the evidence of my moral intuitions?
As I told you, this answer may vary.

Now, if you grant that the Bible is infallible, and you stick to what you said you were doing in your last post which is to grant that the Bible teaches Calvinism C, then you should doubt your moral intuitions because you believe that it is true that C.

If C is true, then ~C isn't.

But perhaps you don't believe the Bible is infallible? That's where you have to go to deny the force of Calvinism, say.

As I said, in this case some other arguments would be required.

Those would be all the ones I've been giving you in our debate. The ones that have been ignored.
So, given that I'm only clarifying here what I made clear in my last post and other places, wouldn't you say that it was uncharitable and unfair to act as if "the center" of my argument against all people whoever was just to say, "Shame on you Mr. X, you disagree with Jesus" as I beat them over the head with my Apologetics Study Bible?

I might change my moral convictions if I think the case is very strong.
And depending on what other beliefs you hold, one very strong case would be:

(***) Sam believes the Bible is not in error in what it teaches. Sam believes it teaches Calvinism and God's goodness. That went against Sam's admittedly fallible moral intuitions. Sam studied the Bible. He still came to the conclusion that it taught Calvinism. According to Sam's belief policies, Sam has a strong case for denying his previous moral intuitions.

Besides that, with you, I have offered a theodicy. I have reversed many of your points. All I have seen on your end is the continued re-asserting that "Calvinism flies in the face fo your moral intuitions."

As I said, if you want to dig your heels in the sand, stick your fingers in your ear, then there's not much I can do.

But if this is all you are going to do, why try to argue against the Calvinist and write a post on why we can't solve the problem of evil because they conflict with your moral intuitions that you refuse to budge on.

And, if you reject the Bible's teaching, and its inerrancy, and your ability to rationally believe, and know, what it teaches, then tell me what kind of "strong case" would you accept? What would convince you that Calvinism isn't horrendous? And how does all I've said on the matter not at least answer all of this?

The only way such a general rule can by justified is if we make an illegitimate transfer from the inerrancy of Scripture to the inerrancy of conclusions derived from Scripture.
That's odd. Scripture says that, for example, [1] "If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you will be saved."

No where does Scripture say, [2] "Victor Reppert believes on the Lord Jesus Christ."

But, it would seem that if [2] were true, then [3] would be inerrant: "Victor will be saved."

Again, it seems that Victor's rule implies this questionable Assumption:

[A] That S might be wrong that P means that S is wrong that P.

At any rate, the main point here is that Victor has simply misunderstood my arguments in many, many ways.

On the one hand I've tried to show that Victor's argument against Calvinism doesn't work. I've even shown that he could keep his intuitions while still not idicting Calvinism, I've shown that his intuition argument is arbitrarily employed. I've shown offered disproofs by counter-example showing that his view of theism even contradicts moral inutitions he holds. I've answered all his exegetical arguments. On the othe rhand, Victor keeps finding new ways to re-state that Calvinism flies in the face of his moral intuitions. Okay, we've heard that, loud and clear. Is that all to our discussion? Are we free to move on?


  1. One of the assumptions here is that the exegetical analyses of laypersons are sufficiently competent to provide, let us say, I high degree of probability that certain conclusions are correct.

  2. Reppert is now grasping at straws.

    Incidentally, I was formerly a strong Arminian for the same reasons Reppert relies upon. I am now a strong supralapsarian - for exegetical reasons- but my intuitions are honestly now strongly aligned with that position.

  3. Victor,

    You are still not even addressing the arguments I've given you. Why are you focusing on this point? I even went to lengths to explain its role in the broader argument. Aren't you even going to take my comments into account?

    I would also like to know what your comment has to do with "how the calvinist can't solve the problem of evil."?

    And, there's more than just simply your assertion of what is assumed.

    There's that whole thing called the Protestant Reformation.

    Since when did you become Catholic? I need the magisterium to interpret the Bible for me?

    What about the Spirit's role?

    There's much history behind these points. The assumptions behind it is what, for instance, what spurred Protestants to invent the printing press. Get the Bible into the hands of the lay people!

    Translation of the Bible into the common tongue is also underwritten by the presupposition that the common man can understand Scripture.

    Furthermore, your assumption isn't even correct, philosophically.

    Since my reading of the experts functions as a case of knowledge by testimony, and my cognitive faculties are functioning properly, I don't see the problem.

    Testimonial knowledge is transitive.

    The warrant transfers.

    Here's a part of my review of the book _Paradox in Christian Theology_:

    Therefore, scriptural teaching can function as a basis for warranted belief in Christian doctrine. Now Anderson wants to explore how individual Christians can be warranted in believing the statements of the Trinity and the Incarnation found in the respective orthodox creeds. Anderson proposes four paradigmatic ways in which doctrinal beliefs can be warranted. The boundaries are not sharp, and some Christians may exhibit elements of more than one way:

    [1] The first way provides the epistemic basis for the other three. A Christian studies the text of Scripture, accurately interprets the texts, and comes to the warranted conclusion that some set of propositions is in harmony with some Christian doctrine. The Holy Spirit is no doubt involved in this process. The believer also makes use of good exegetical tools, e.g., background study of the culture, history, writings, and other exegetical desiderata, makes use of commentaries, logic textbooks, etc., in order to better interpret the text of Scripture. On this first case, a Christian is warranted in believing Christian doctrine because he has directly studied the text of Scripture in a scholarly way, and he can explain and defend his reasoning to others.

    [2] The second paradigm case is this: A person with a warranted belief in the inspiration of the Bible is presented with the Scriptural basis for a doctrine by someone falling under heading [1].This person reflects on the teaching and has a grasp of the reasoning involved.32

    [3] This case is simpler still, and is still dependent on [1]. A Christian with a warranted belief in the inspiration of Scripture is warranted based on trustworthy testimony by a parent, professor, or church leader that a certain doctrine is taught in Scripture, and so infers that this doctrine is true. Knowledge by testimony is transitive. That is, if the testifier here knows what he testifies (say that his knowledge transferred over from someone in [1] (or [2]), and [1] came from studying the testimony of an infallible God), and then the testifiee knows what has been testified to. The warrant transfers. The Holy Spirit could also play a role, removing sinful tendencies to doubt, and strengthening beliefs.33

    [4] This is the simplest case. One Christian accepts a doctrine as true purely based on reliable testimony from another Christian with a warranted belief in that same doctrine. This belief is not held by inference from other beliefs, but is warranted nonetheless. Children learning from their parents fit this bill.34

    On these four ways taken together, we can account for the principle way in which warranted beliefs in Christian doctrine are formed, on the assumption that belief in inspiration is also warranted (which Anderson has argued that it is). This view also includes the warrant strengthening activity of the Holy Spirit. Thus, there really is not anything novel in this approach, says Anderson. Thus, if fundamental Christian beliefs can be warranted, so can beliefs in Christian doctrine based on this extended-extended A/C model.

    Pretty clearly, I could be in situation [2] or [3] and, with other factors, can be strongly warranted in believing the conclusions of the experts.

    An expert would be in case [1]. His warrant would transfer to my positiojn in [2] or [3].

    So, you're not only historically incorrect, theologically incorrect, I think you're philosophically incorrect as well.

    This argument is where you are trying to make a stand. It's actually a fallacious shifting of the burden and also an ignoratio elenchi.

  4. “And here's the problem. Let's allow the the original autographs are infallible. We don't have those. We have a Greek and Hebrew text which has not been inerrantly copied.”

    Now he’s desperate. Dan Wallace just debated Bart Ehrman and there was no doubt (even amongst those who were undecided before the debate) that Wallace proved that the New Testament text was indeed reliable.

    “The "big leaguers" in Biblical scholarship are divided.”

    Not so fast. If you pick up Ehrman’s “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture” and compare its conclusions to that of his “Misquoting Jesus”, you will quickly find out that Ehrman says one thing to the public and another to the scholarly community.

    “The inerrancy of Scripture, which is itself a doctrine open to debate amongst genuine Christians, (though Paul may deny this) does not confer certainty to doctrinal conclusions derived from Scripture, if the derivation is produced by fallible processes.”

    Yeah, but the other side doesn’t have much of a case.

    “Exegesis is not a hard science, like physics.”

    Theories of physics change from decade to decade, but Scripture stays the same. Based on that, which do you think is a better foundation for knowledge?

    “Faced with what I take to be a strong Calvinist exegetical argument from, say, James White about Romans, alongside a deeply held moral conviction that a God who behaves like a Calvinistic God does would not be good, why am I obligated to follow the exegetical argument instead of the evidence of my moral intuitions?”

    Because you also have a sinful nature that is informing your intuitions (not to mention the fact that Reppert probably still doesn’t get what the Doctrine of Reprobation actually is). Oh, and by the way, I intuit that you’re wrong.

  5. From The Princess Bride:

    Vizzini: Let me put it this way: have you ever heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates?

    Westley: Yes.

    Vizzini: Morons.