Monday, April 28, 2008

More From Reppert

I assume (hope?) this is Victor's parting shot. I want to group together our back-and-forth so that people can read the debate in chronological order. Make up their own minds. See both presentations. Hopefully, Reppert's latest post was his way of ending this current discussion.

His post is called Calvinism and the burden of proof.

Our whole discussion started off as an attempt to show that Calvinists can't solve the problem of evil. I have met that challenge. Not one of my points has been responded to. Yet the claims about Calvinism still sound out loud and clear.

I think maybe some consideration of exactly what someone is claiming to prove is taken into consideration here.
You claimed to show that "Calvinists cannot solve the problem of evil."

Suppose my goal is to show that it is reasonable for me to reject Calvinism.
That wasn't your original goal. This isn't what you have been on record as stating. I take this statement of yours to be a tacit admission that your initial argument has not been defended or substantiated.

If I'm going for that, then I can make a few points. First, I can argue that compatiblism doesn't look good to me, pretty much for reasons given in Van Inwagen's Essay on Free Will 25 years ago, augmented by Bill Hasker's defense of LFW in The Emergent Self.
Three problems (more, but I'll briefly mention three):

i) Peter van Inwagen also notes problems with libertarian free will too.

But if we know that we are free—indeed, if we are free and do not know it—, there is some defect in one or both of our two arguments. Either there is something wrong with our argument for the conclusion that metaphysical freedom is incompatible with determinism or there is something wrong with our argument for the conclusion that metaphysical freedom is incompatible with indeterminism—or there is something wrong with both arguments. But which argument is wrong, and why? (Or are they both wrong?) I do not know. I think no one knows. That is why my title is, ‘The Mystery of Metaphysical Freedom.’ I believe I know, as surely as I know anything, that at least one of the two arguments contains a mistake. And yet, having thought very hard about the two arguments for almost thirty years, I confess myself unable to identify even a possible candidate for such a mistake. My opinion is that the first argument (the argument for the incompatibility of freedom and determinism) is essentially sound, and that there is, therefore, something wrong with the second argument (the argument for the incompatibility of freedom and indeterminism). But if you ask me what it is, I have to say that I am, as current American slang has it, absolutely clueless. Indeed the problem seems to me to be so evidently impossible of solution that I find very attractive a suggestion that has been made by Noam Chomsky (and which was developed by Colin McGinn in his recent book The Problems of Philosophy) that there is something about our biology, something about the ways of thinking that are ‘hardwired’ into our brains, that renders it impossible for us human beings to dispel the mystery of metaphysical freedom. However this may be, I am certain that I cannot dispel the mystery, and I am certain that no one else has in fact done so.
So the appeal to PvI has its problems for you.

ii) Appeal to Hasker also isn't without its problems. For if you take all of Hasker's thesis, then you'd become an open theist (this has problems if your a Talbottian Universalist, though). Is Reppert going to go on record now and endorse Open Theism? Does Reppert want to hold to Hasker's thesis:

"If God creates persons with libertarian freedom, he will not have exhaustive knowledge of the future..." (Hasker, Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, p.221).


God takes risks if he makes decisions that depend for their outcomes on the responses of free creatures in which the decisions themselves are not informed by knowledge of the outcomes. For if he does this, the creatures' decisions may be contrary to God's wishes. And in this case God's intentions in making those decisions may be at least partly frustrated (ibid, 219).


God is a risk-taker if he endows his creatures with libertarian freedom; otherwise not. Bu libertarian freedom is meant freedom such that the agent who makes a choice is really able, under exactly the same circumstances, to chose something different from the thing that is in fact chosen [...,] this means that there is nothing whatever that predetermines which choice will be made, until the creature is actually placed in the situation and makes that decision (ibid, 219, emphasis original).
It should be obvious that there are some pretty massive problems for orthodox theism traditionally conceived.

But, note Talbott:

Because God is perfectly loving, it is his redemptive purposes for the world (and therefore his will) to redeem all sinners and to reconcile all of them to himself. Because God is almighty and sovereignly controls the final destiny of the created persons, it is within his power to achieve his redemptive purpose for the world. [...] God will eventually redeem all sinners and reconcile all of them to himself. (Talbott, ibid, 280)

. . . it is not enough merely to insist that a free choice requires indeterminism of a certain kind and then leave it at that - as if there were no other necessary conditions for a free choice, which there clearly are. One additional necessary condition is a minimal degree of rationality; and thus condition has the effect of limiting the range of possible free choice. For, as we have just seen, an utterly inexplicable and irrational choice - one for which there is no intelligible motive and the person making it has the strongest possible motive for choosing otherwise - will simply not qualify as a genuinely free choice for which one is morally responsible" (Talbott, idid, 282)
The Talbott quote and the Hasker quote are obviously at odds.

On Talbott's view, we could rewind the tape 1 million times, and if we know that one choice has the strongest reasons for it, and the other apparently irrational reasons for it, we could predict the outcome.

Furthermore, it seems desire and motive and rationality are factors that predetermine what free, morally responsible choices will be made in these kind of situations. Since those things are something whatever, then Hasker's claim that "this means that there is nothing whatever that predetermines which choice will be made" is false. Or, perhaps Talbott's is.

At any rate, the libertarians aren't unified.

iii) Given the "nothing whatever" view of Hasker's, one could name drop like Reppert and appeal to Mele et al. in bringing up the luck objection. Oh, PvI brought up this objection too. So, Reppert seems to have some inconsistencies in his authorities that he used to show that he doesn't have the burden.

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.

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
Moving along:

In my view Frankfurt counterexamples are just better and more sophisticated devices for taking one's eyes of the fact that if determinism is true everyone's actions are the inevitable result of causes outside the agent's control, and that if this is so, it is unjust to treat agents as if they were responsible for those actions in the final analysis.
i) What control? Guidance or regulative? Is Victor up-to-speed on what he's rejecting?

ii) Funny, the control argument is also made by indeterminists against libertarians. If correct, then if Victor is going to be consistent he must deny the moral responsibility of libertarian agents. Or, he can recognize that this is a weak way to argue that he doesn't have burden. Of course people think their side has the best arguments, especially when they don't study the other side.

iii) All this is, is a case of hand waving. Victor's denigrating a position rather than dealing with it.

Second, I can point out that as I see it, the glory that God receives in predestinating the lost to eternal punishment is obscure. "Glory" as I understand it, is an audience-relative term. God manifests has attributes, but to whom? To Himself? He is already aware of his own attributes. To the lost? The can't possibly appreciate it. To the saved? Surely, the saved can be brought to a realization that they are there by God's grace without having to damn anyone. So the "greater good" achieved in damning people strikes me as just obscure. Now obscure doesn't mean impossible.
I've already responded to this ad nauseum. Victor hasn't bothered to rebut my defeaters. Steve Hays has corrected him on this point too. And so has Gene Bridges in Reppert's own combox.

So, this point can't serve to show that Calvinists have the burden.

And, let me quote Reppert, in headline lettering:

All I want to say is that the possibilities that occur to us humans from our own limited perspective probably do not exhaust all of God's options. -Victor Reppert

Apparently when it comes to this Calvinist situation, this particular finite human, with his limited perspective, has exhausted all of God's options!

Thirdly, while I do understand hell as a possible outcome so long as people continue to disobey and God, out of respect for their freedom, refuses to forcibly convert them, I do not understand hell as deserved retributive punishment for all sin. That is, I understand a "natural consequences" view of hell but not eternal retribution per se.
So? What Victor "understands," especially minus attendant arguments, hardly constitute the Calvinist having the burden. And, in fact, since the majority of evangelical Christians hold to punishment view of hell, then this could hardly be used to show that Calvinism has the burden!

And, Talbott has God "forcibly converting" people. Does Victor want to go on record as denying Tom Talbott's Universalism? he can't keep moving from pillar to post

Lastly, I guess we can deny Reppert's unjust God. That just doesn't sit well with my intuitions!

Finally, Calvinism has the consequence that, for those whose loved ones are lost, God intended forever to frustrate the prayers of those who earnestly desire the salvation of their nearest and dearest. Desire for the salvation of others seems to be a holy thing, yet God intended from the foundation of the world to deny these earnest prayers? This just seems deeply puzzling.
Is Reppert a Universalist? If not, then he prays to a God who is too weak to save those loved ones Reppert prays for. He "kept trying" but always failed. Jesus came down with the intention to save everyone, but failed. If Victor sets his mind to do something, he can do it. Not God. And, God would be means-end irrational, especially given foreknowledge of libertarian free agents. If one knows that his end cannot be acheived, to continue to use those means to bring about that end is agent irrational.

Or, if he is Universalist, why does Reppert pray for them? They're going to be saved no matter what. Reppert's position has the consequence that all the prayers for the lost are pointless. At the least, all the fretting over their eternal destiny is.

Is a prayer that I be the most wise man in the world a "holy thing?" Isn't more wisdom a good thing. Should I pray for God to make me the smartest man alive? I would use it for his glory. For his kingdom. To, among other things, confound the arguments of atheists. Why doesn't God answer my prayer!?

And, I love my goldfish too. Surly God will allow him into heaven. After all, heaven will be the place where there is no more sadness. And to be there without Nemo would make me one unhappy camper! God wouldn't frustrate those prayers.

The Apostle Paul prayed for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. Wasn't that a "holy prayer?" But God frustrated it.

In the end, we pray like Jesus, our Lord:

Matthew 26:39
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."

Furthermore, husbands are supposed to love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Love of spouse is a discriminating love. Just like I don't go around cheating on my wife, Jesus doesn't cheat on those he died for. His bride.

The greatest love instantiated is that someone lay down his life for his friend. To do this for everyone makes this superfluous. That Jesus didn't die for some is actually a way that he could show the greatest love. If I buy my son a toy, he feels special and loved. If he finds out I did the same thing for all the children in the world, no so much anymore.

Thus, even when it comes to Victoir's favorite doctrine, Calvinists have it. We have a more loving world.

Again, Victor, you need to stop thinking that you have God and his infinite plan all figured out. That if God doesn't do things Victor's way, then he's less than God. You need to heed your own advice: All I want to say is that the possibilities that occur to us humans from our own limited perspective probably do not exhaust all of God's options. -Victor Reppert

All of these points require further defense, and I do know that the resident Calvinists have responded to them.
I have responded, and you could actually take the timeto read my posts and respond to them:

The above starts with the latest and the last one is the earliest.

But if we grant that at least some of us think in the above ways, we are left with what seems to me to be a heavy burden of proof to support a case for Calvinism. Does it meet that standard? If there were scholarly consensus on these matters, then perhaps it could, but there is no such consensus.
Basically, at the end of the day, what started out as a fine brash hypothesis has died the death of a thousand qualifications.

The initial claim that:

Calvinists cannot solve the problem of evil.

Has become:

Calvinists can't solve the problem of evil if you assume libertarian free will, PAP doctrine, Arminian exegesis. And if that's not enough: if you have moral intuition against Calvinism, and don't bother responding to the arguments in response to the moral intuitions, dig your heals in the sand, stick your fingers in your ears, perhaps stick your tongue out, and refuse to believe that that kind of God is good. Add to that massive misunderstandings of Calvinism. Admitted ignorance of the subject. Inability to represent their position. Then, couple that with the objector being "in the throes of doubt." A weakened view of, or denial of, inerrancy. Question the reliability of the Bible and its transmission through history. Deny laymen the ability to grasp the Bible are strongly believe any doctrine.

Yes, if you include all of that(!), then Calvinists can't solve the problem of evil . . . externally, at least.

Is this really what you want to claim?

Arguing that an opposing view is irrational is always the hardest thing to do. But I think I have shown here that I have good reason to impose a high burden of proof on Calvinist exegesis here, at least so far as I am concerned.
i) You can't just "deny" our exegesis. You actually have to put up some of your own. Has James White said to one interlocutor: "Some kind of meaningful argumentation from the text itself needs to be presented. As we have seen, none has been offered. Instead of positive, edifying exegesis, we get this kind of philosophical double-talk:" push out your lips and shake your head and say, "I just don't have those intuitions."

ii) I have offered more than "exegesis." And, I invoked a theodicy that Arminians have employed, the skeptical theist theodicy. I also added some unproblematic notions to it. I also have shown that you ask people to believe things contrary to their "intuitions." So, your arguments seem clearly arbitrary. To keep harping on the exegesis point, even though I have defended it without a response from you, is to minimize and ignore probably 80-90% of all my arguments.


  1. Calvinism is the only system that properly addresses the "problem of evil."

    I think Vincent Cheung's writings on this are very good, although I disagree with his "ordo salutis" writings.

    God bless


  2. I agree about Calvinism.

    As far as Vincent Cheung goes, you may want to check out this site:

  3. I think you are making a mistake. You assume that if I accept Hasker's argument for incompatibilism of free will and determinism, that I must accept his arguments against the compatibility of foreknowledge and freedom. But these are distinct arguments, and the only thing they have in common is that they were defended by the same guy. Similarly van Inwagen. PVI has arguments against compatibilism which are sufficiently strong in his own mind that, even though he thinks there is something mysterious about libertarianism, it is nonetheless preferable to soft determinism.

    You might as well say that if someone accepts some arguments of mine against naturalism, that they ought also to endorse my case against Calvinism. I was endorsing particular arguments by those people, not all sorts of other things they might have written.

  4. I don't assume that. Just point out to people where the people you appeal to go with their arguments. There's more baggage there than you're leading on about. beliefs affect other beliefs. All that jazz.

    I think you're giving a lopsided view of things.

    And, if you can simply *cite* Hasker as giving good arguments for libertarianism, then I will likewise *cite* him as giving good arguments that show where you must go if you accept his arguments for libertarianism.

    PvI also gave an argument against libertarianism that neither he, nor you, have been able to answer.

    So, your sources zero each other out, IMO.

    And, if some of your arguments against naturalism *entail* some of your arguments against Calvinism, then I'd say that if someone did endorse the first set, they logically should endorse the second. Or get rid of the entailment in some way.

    Anyway, I think you're picking on a rather small point of my post, don't you think?