Friday, April 04, 2008

The automated radio station

“Which is only 'ineffective' in Hays' 'head-in-the-sand effective=irresistible' sense, for the tower has not ceased to be an effective transmitter.”

So, to pursue J.C’s Arminian allegory, a radio tower would remain an “effective transmitter” even in one of those dystopian scenarios where the human race became instinct. For the tower would continue to broadcast its automated signal year after year although there was no longer an audience.

Yet that’s not the intent of having a radio station in the first place, is it? To blanket a global cemetery?

But, hey, if that’s how J.C. wants to define an “effective warning” in Arminian theology, that’s fine with me. For him, a warning would still be effective as long as the radio tower was broadcasting the message to a mass graveyard.

Isn’t Arminian theology wonderful? Even though there are no survivors to hear the warning, the warning is still “effective” and “meaningful” so long as the equipment in proper working order.

Who needs human beings when we have a universal provision for all the rotting inhabitants of the necropolis. Either the warning will deter the skeletons or else the skeletons will suffer the consequences if they disregard the warning, right?

“That's right, even when the warnings do deter people, by Hays' definition, they're 'ineffective' because they don't irresistibly deter those warned, exactly the fallacy I pegged him on. Thanks Hays, we agree with the concept that they don't irresistibly produce effect, but they are effective in that they can produce effect in those who take heed to them.”

J.C. is offering a tautology in lieu of an argument: warnings are effective when they’re effective—except in all other cases when they’re ineffective.

Likewise, a vaccine which is only effective in one case out of 100 is still effective by J.C’s Pickwickian definition, even though it has a 99% failure rate. Hopefully, J.C. isn’t a pharmacist by trade.

And J.C. continues to dodge the question of divine intent. If God foreknows the outcome, then he cannot intend that his warnings have the same impact on everyone—because they won’t and because they don’t.

When God issues a warning, does he intend to deter agents who will be undeterred by his warning? That’s the question.

From a Reformed perspective, his warnings deter the elect while they inculpate or aggravate the guilt of the reprobate.

“I'm sure on some planet where traffic violations are not considered primarily due to irresponsible drivers, but rather to signs that are 'ineffective' because they don't irresistibly cause obedience, Hays' logic is probably deemed very sound. The weakness to his argument is: this is Earth.”

i) But J.C’s appeal to traffic violations presupposes their inefficacy.

ii) Moreover, J.C. is changing the subject, which he does whenever he’s losing the argument—as it, all the time.

The question at issue is not whether the driver is responsible. That’s a diversionary tactic.

Rather, the question at issue is whether the traffic sign is effective.

Remember, J.C. thinks that Calvinism makes the warnings in Scripture meaningless because, in Calvinism, they successfully deter Christians from committing apostasy. By his definition, a warning is meaningless if it’s effective. The more effective it is, the less meaningful it is.

Hence, by his inverted logic, a warning which always succeeds in deterring those it was intended to deter is meaningless.

A “genuine” warning must be futile. To be fully meaningful, it would need to be fully ineffectual.

J.C. first says:

“Hays wanted to argue that God intending a thing for us and providing the means to do it rendered God incompetent if we did not follow along.”

He then says:

“Indicating that God won't let us be tempted beyond what we are able to endure, thus making a way of escape with the intent that we be able to overcome temptation (‘that you may be able to bear it’). The fact that saints don't always follow in God's provision plainly demonstrates that what God intends for our good can be rejected by us to our detriment. Thus, since failure to embrace God's provision is due to our decision, not God's, then it speaks nothing of God's competence, simply that He chooses not to force an effect.”

i) Even if, for the sake of argument, we accept his Arminian deformation of 1 Cor 10:13, this example fails to establish J.C’s claim. For even on this twisted interpretation, it was never God’s intent that his provision actually prevent a Christian from succumbing to temptation.

Rather, his provision amounts to sufficient grace (in Arminian parlance).

And, even on Arminian terms, Christians do not reject sufficient grace. Sufficient grace has its intended effect by empowering them to either accept or reject other things (e.g. the Gospel).

Sufficient grace is efficient in achieving what it was intended to accomplish—by mitigating the impact of origin sin to the point where the human agent is now free to accept or reject the gospel, persevere or lose his salvation.

ii) As to “forcing” an effect,” that’s a tendentiously Arminian characterization of what it would mean for something to be effective.

“God gives the saints warnings with the intent of deterring us from wickedness, but if we do not heed them, we suffer the consequences He lists.”

J.C. is confounding two distinct ideas:

i-a) God issues a warning with the intention of deterring wickedness.

ii-a) God issues a warning with the intention of punishing wickedness.

These are not interchangeable propositions. And if you add divine omniscience, then this is how it works out:

i-b) God intends that his warnings deter one set of people.

ii-b) God intends that his warnings inculpate another set of people.

His intent is not the same in each case. The warning is effective in each case, but the warning has a different intent in each case.

(ii-b) is not an effective deterrent. It was never meant to be an effective deterrent in that case.

(i-a) is an effective deterrent. Invariably. 100% success rate.

“Despite Hays' attempts at at rebuttal, the same principle still runs through both, __God gives the saints warnings with the intent of deterring us from wickedness, but if we do not heed them, we suffer the consequences He lists. __God gives the saints a way out of every temptation with the intent that we endure it, but if we do not follow it, we fall into sin and suffer its consequences. __Since Christians do fall into sin sometimes, then by Hays' reasoning, God's provision that He gives to keep us from sin would be 'ineffective,' since it does not net the result intended every time. The fact that we do fail sometimes despite a way of escape being provided denotes that God intends that we overcome sin, but does not unconditionally instantiate it; He instead provides adequate means that we can follow to attain what He desires of us in spite of His foreknowledge that we will not always succeed.”

i) To begin with, we need to ask what sort of temptation is in view, as well as the commensurate consequences of succumbing to said temptation.

If the passage is dealing with a sin short of apostasy, such that any punishment is tempory and remedial (i.e. chastisement), then Calvinism has never denied that a Christian can sin by violating God’s preceptive will. Indeed, Calvinism is opposed to perfectionism.

ii) Hence, this outcome wouldn’t frustrate God’s intent, since—assuming the aforesaid interpretation—it was never his intent that Christians be sinless (in this life). Indeed, he has a purpose in not rendering them sinless or impeccable (in this life).

iii) Incidentally, it’s essential in Arminian theology to distinguish between sin and apostasy. When Arminians come to Heb 6 & 10, they attempt to carefully differentiate between sin and apostasy—since they don’t wish to say that any sin forecloses the possibility of spiritual restoration. So I’m not simply evoking a Reformed distinction.

iv) If, however, J.C. is going to turn 1 Cor 10:13 into an all-purpose paradigm, then he will be unable to draw this distinction.

v) If, on the other hand, we take the passage as havingreference to the peril of apostasy and eschatological judgment (i.e. damnation), then, on J.C’s interpretation, God has simply enabled a Christian to either sink or swim in the lake of fire. Whether or not he drowns is up to the individual swimmer.

vi) That’s not how I interpret the verse. Rather, I construe it to mean that although God will not shield us (the elect) from exposure to temptation (or trial), he will shield us from succumbing to temptation (if we take the sin in view to implicate apostasy).

God will refine us through various trials. That’s a method of sanctification. He protects us from falling, but not from temptation or adversity.

“Futility would indicate no effect at all,”

No, if would be futile if God intended one thing while outcome was otherwise.

"But the secondary effect (e.g. God intends we 'turn or burn') would be greater condemnation for the agent that rejected it.”

That’s good supralapsarian theology. God knew that his warning would have that inculpatory effect on some people in particular, and he issued the warning in order to condemn them. He was gunning for them all along.

“He then levels criticism for me citing Ephesians 5:5 to show that those who are not saved have no inheritance in God's kingdom in relation to Revelation 22:19…Oh yeah, Paul plainly stating that no unrighteous person has any inheritance in the kingdom of God has no bearing when Hays wants false converts to have some anyway, so of course strained comparisons between our eternal reward and the concept of earthly inheritance in the Old Testament are perfectly fine. It's all so clear to me now.”

i) The interpretation of Eph 5:5 is beside the point. Eph 5:5 is not a commentary on Rev 22:19. Notice that J.C. is unable to defend his interpretation of Rev 22:19 from the text itself.

Remember, this was J.C’s chosen prooftext. As soon as I actually exegete the text, he runs away from it.

ii) I’d add that J.C’s reasoning is reversible. I could simply use my interpretation of Rev 22:19 as the hermeneutical grid for Eph 5:5.

iii) And, considered on its own terms, Eph 5:5 is perfectly consistent with Reformed theology.

“But even by that comparison, inheritance that was taken from those who did not remain faithful to the old covenant was their own inheritance.”

J.C. is equivocating. An heir can be disowned. That’s not taking the estate away from him. He never came into his inheritance in the first place.

Not to mention that some heirs were never eligible. They came to the funeral under false pretenses.

“Going back to what John actually said, the holy city is reserved only for those whose names are in the book of life…Which merely being a 'member of a community' cannot confer.”

True, only the elect will take possession of the New Jerusalem. To merely be a member of the First Church of Loadicea doesn’t guarantee you a seat at the table, for the Messianic banquet.

“Exactly, and since no unbeliever has any inheritance at all in God's kingdom, then we who do have a heavenly inheritance stored up for us possibly being 'cut out of the will' establishes the fact of conditional security nicely.”

John didn’t say a Christian could be removed from the book of life. Rather, whether or not your name was ever inscribed in the book of life will be evidenced by your eternal fate—for better or worse.

John uses a great many metaphors in the Apocalypse. Each on needs to be taken in context.

“Sure He can, provided He does not bestow said benefit irresistibly (or 'effectively' in the language of Hayseedian), it would simply mean that God foreknows that some will resist the good He intends for them by His offer.”

J.C. is equivocating again. The benefit is not the offer of the gospel, but what the gospel offers.

Does God intend to confer that benefit on those who will never be beneficiaries of the offer?

Not only don’t they benefit from the offer, but, by J.C’s own admission, their refusal becomes the basis for their condemnation. In their case, the underlying intent of the offer is malevolent rather than benevolent.

In his lucid moments, J.C. talks like a Calvinist.

“God states His intention that He is with them to deliver them from the king of Babylon; but then He also states the consequences He would bring upon them if they did not obey Him, which unfortunately for them, were rather harsh.”

But he didn’t deliver them. Hence, he had no intention of delivering them. For even on Arminian assumptions, he foreknew the outcome. As such, Jer 42:10-12 is inculpatory.

“Yeah right, as opposed to all the empirical evidence Hays has tendered.”

Where’s the “empirical evidence” that God transcends time? Where’s the “empirical evidence” that timelessness entails future knowledge?

“I don't think the idea that the infinite God who transcends time and can operate outside the flow of time can fully comprehend a contingent 'time line' more clearly than we can a simple number line is very far-fetched at all.”

There is no future “timeline” in libertarianism. There is only the past. A linear succession of past events, predicated on past decisions by free agents.

But there is no future timeline. The future could be A, B, C, D…

In libertarianism, there are possible future timelines.

“Feel free to disagree, but there isn't any biblical or tenable logical evidence to the contrary. For all his ferocious yapping, Hays still can't produce a single solid reason why God's omniscience would be limited if libertarian decisions are a reality.”

i) To begin with, J.C. has yet to make a case for his position. He merely posits that divine timelessness (over which he equivocates) enables God to know the future. Since he presents no argument to show how timelessness entails omniscience, there’s nothing for me to argue against.

ii) Even so, I’ve presented a number of arguments as to why divine timelessness is insufficient to explain God’s knowledge of libertarian choices. J.C. has never presented a counterargument.

It’s clear that J.C. hasn’t bothered to do any reading in philosophical theology on the issue at hand.

“Trying to establish limits on the possibilities of the living God's knowledge by drawing a very vague comparison to a non-living fractal -- an infinitely recursive dumb argument. Nice one Steve!”

I’m responding to J.C. on his own grounds. He thinks that timelessness somehow explains how God could know future libertarian choices.

So I cited the example of a timeless entity (the Mandelbrot set). How does the property of timelessness contribute to knowledge of the future?

Once again, there are two issues here:

i) Does timelessness contribute to the knowledge of the future?

ii) Does timelessness contribute to the knowledge of an indeterminate future?

J.C. has made no progress in establishing (i), much less (ii).

He needs to establish both propositions to make good on his claim.


  1. J.C. just doesn't know when to give up!

  2. “Feel free to disagree, but there isn't any biblical or tenable logical evidence to the contrary. For all his ferocious yapping, Hays still can't produce a single solid reason why God's omniscience would be limited if libertarian decisions are a reality.”

    Actually, I went into a detailed argument for him showing why his argument is specious. He ignored it. Originally, I thought he was ignorant. Now I know he's just dishonest.