Thursday, May 08, 2008

But Bill Hasker Said So

Victor Reppert wrote:

Here is Hasker's definition of determinism:

Determinism: For every event which happens, there are previous events and circumstances which are its sufficient conditions or causes, so that, given those previous events and circumstances, it is impossible that the event should not occur.

Is there something wrong with this definition? After all, Bill Hasker is one of those nasty open theists, who clearly can't be trusted. But the upshot of this definition would be that the decrees of God cause people to do what they do. You cannot have a deterministic world in which God decrees X and not-X occurs. Saying "God's decree doesn't cause people to sin" is just plain ludicrous.
One problem is that Reppert wants to use this to implicate God as doing something immoral. He wants to say that if some human “caused” someone to rape a woman for fun, then that human would be in violation of some moral law. Since some rapists do rape women for fun, and since God “caused” it, then God is immoral.

Furthermore, the decree is the plan. The decree renders the thing certain. Decrees refer to certainty. Providence refers to causality. Those are the means by which the decrees come to pass.

Furthermore, whatever inferences Reppert wants to draw from Calvinism, it can’t be that if God decrees, predetermines, makes certain, etc., any evil event whatever E, then God is morally blameworthy with respect to E:

Acts 2:22-23; Acts 4:27-28

"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. . . Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.

Reppert's formula would implicate God in murder. Make him guilty of murder. Like a man who hires a hitman to kill his wife, thus causing the man to do evil, God "hires" thugs to murder his son, makes sure they'll do it, and it was even premeditated. Thus Reppert's view of God, if the Bible is to be believed, is immoral. The only way out for Reppert is: (a) drop his formula, (b) drop his belief in the inerrancy of these passages, (c) drop his belief in God.

Indeed, Open Theist Clark Pinnock admits that Judas’ betrayal was predetermined. It wasn’t a case of libertarian free will. So was God morally blameworthy for what Judas did?

See, Reppert doesn’t want to debate the text. He doesn’t want to go there. He even goes so far as to declare that he’ll call the Bible errant before giving up his libertarian freedom. “Os Guinness notes that Western Societies ‘have reached the state of pluralization where choice is not just a state of affairs, it is a state of mind. Choice has become a value in itself, even a priority. To be modern is to be addicted to choice and change. Change becomes the very essence of life.’ Personal choice becomes the urgency, or what sociologist Peter Berger called the ‘heretical imperative.’ In such a context, theology undergoes rapid and repeated transformations driven by cultural currents” (Albert Mohler, Hell Under Fire, Zondervan, 2004, 36).

This is Pepsi theology (“the Pepsi choice“). What our generation considers a good man is that standard by which God is judged, not vice versa. Reppert even says, quoting Mill, that what he means when he says ‘God is good’ is the same thing he means when he says ‘Bert is good.’ Today, Bert doesn’t believe in retributive punishment. John did yesterday. Yesterday my God was good. Today he’s bad. Maybe He’ll be good again. Yesterday John believed a good man was discriminate in his most passionate love. Today, Bert says a man should be indiscriminate. He even goes to swinging parties. And, don’t judge him. Good men don’t judge. Yesterday my God was loving, today he’s not.

Another problem is that Reppert runs to an Open Theist to define our position. No need to interact with the likes of Calvin, Turretin, Bavinck, Hodge, Warfield, Vos, Shedd, Dabney, etc. Reppert “intuits” that we’re wrong, so why read the works of Calvinists? Below I’ll quote some Calvinists.

First, God governs all events. He does so mostly positively, but negatively in some cases, namely evil. Wills all of them that are. So the governing is what can be called the “causing.” Not the decree. But there are different ways of governing. Positive and negative. Negative governing is better referred to as “willingly permitted” as opposed to “caused.” But terms like this get problematic as soon as we try to apply them to God, a sui generis being, anyway:

“But is not anyone who is willing for an evil action to occur the cause of that action, or at least an accessorily, and so himself evil? I wish to present two alternative arguments for thinking not. But first, before we look at these arguments, it is necessary to get clearer about the meaning of willing permission” (Paul Helm, Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, p.233)

God positively governs acts which are not evil, …he governs all other acts, evil acts, by permitting them, since he cannot positively govern them. However if such permission is to be consistent with the absence of risk, then it has to be a particular kind of permission of particular actions; the willing permission governs particular action tokens. So one may make sense of the idea of divine permission in a way that is compatible with risk-free-ness if one is prepared to maintain that there are types of actions which God can prevent but which nevertheless he cannot cause, even though he may be willing for them to occur. Then God can only control an evil action by willingly permitting it, by deciding not to prevent it; and the evil action occurs because it is caused by the natures and circumstances of those who perpetrate it; but not by God” (ibid, 233).

“The nature of such permission is well expressed by Augustine:

‘In a way unspeakably strange and wonderful, even what is done in opposition to His will does not defeat His will. For it would not be done if he did not permit it (and of course his permission is not unwilling but willing); nor would a Good being permit evil to be done only that in his omnipotence He can turn evil into good.’

So for X willingly to permit action A is at least for this: for A to be the action of someone other than X; for X to foreknow the occurrence of A and to have been able to prevent A; and for A not to be against X's overall plan. So on this conception God foreknows everything, and unconditionally governs everything, but does not causally determine everything in the sense that he is the efficient cause of everything. Nevertheless, nothing happens that God is unwilling should happen” (ibid, 234)

“But it may still be insisted - somewhat implausibly, it seems to me - that if God willingly permits X, then God is the cause of X. So let us now consider a number of arguments against the claim that if God willingly permit’s the occurrence of an action, then he is the cause of that action” (ibod, 234).

First, the claim that an appeal to divine willing I the sense defined is a case of divine determinism. It is tempting, but I believe crude and misleading, to assimilate the working of such permission into intramundane models of causation, and particularly to general physical determinism. Such willing permission has this in common with determinism: that what is physically determined and what is willingly permitted will each, in virtue of the determinism and the occurrence of what is willingly permitted, come to pass. However, willingly to permit and action is not to cause that action; it is to provide necessary, but not sufficient , causal condition for the action. Whereas physical determinism has a string tendency to be reductionist and has difficulty in finding a place for a range of objects having their own causal powers, the divine willing permission is most certainly not reductionist in this sense” (ibid, 234).

“One way of expressing this difference might be as follows. While it seems clear that intramundane causation is transitive, that if (where A, B, and C are events) A causes B, and B causes C. then A causes C, there is no necessary transivity in the case of any causal aspects or features of the divine willing permission, if there are any (there are some causal features if wicked people are upheld and conserved in being by God). It is not necessarily the case that of God governs by willingly permitting some event B, and B causes C, then God causes C; rather, God may will by permitting that B causes C and so willingly permit C. God’s willing permission is thus not a straightforward case of causation…” (ibid, 235)

So those who hold that God governs whatever comes to pass may nevertheless make a distinction, within the overall government, between what God causes and what he permits. William Hasker says that the central idea of Calvinism is quite simple: ‘everything that happens, with no exceptions, is efficaciously determined by God in accordance with his eternal decrees.’ … To say that everything is risk-freely governed by God is not to say that everything is efficaciously determined by God” (ibid, 235).

“So it is possible that God risk-freely governs whatever comes to pass, and plausible (if God is omnipotent and omniscient) to suppose that he does so. If for any event E, E occurs, then God risk-freely governs E either by bringing it about or being willing for it to occur. Whatever occurs, occurs because God risk-freely governs it in this sense; whatever is true in virtue of what occurs is true because God so governs it. So to say that all events are risk-freely governed by God, while it entails that all events are intended by God, is not equivalent to asserting that, for any event E, if E occurs, then God has caused it” (ibid, 236)

“[God] may willingly permit evil - that is, actualize that possible world in which he foreknows that Jones will do a particular evil act. This is an instance of particular permission; God permits particular acts, as distinct from giving general permission, as when a teacher permit’s a class to write an essay on any topic they choose. And God may do so willingly, not because he is willing for the evil act to occur per se, but because he ordains some wider good of which that acts is a necessary part. The willing permission of evil may in many cases be like the willingness of a parent to allow one of her children to undergo some extremely painful, but necessary, course of treatment (say the removal of a vital organ) to ensure the survival of another of her children by transplanting the removed organ into that child. And God may willingly permit such a particular action, for some further good, though of course without any of the feelings of psychological pressure or tension that accompany such human permittings” (ibid 236).

“Those events which God permits he does so in furtherance of some wider consideration with respect to which they are a logically necessary condition” (ibid, 236).

“In talking about God, and particularly about God’s relation to the world, we are talking about a situation which is unparalleled. We have no direct experience of such a relation, but only relations between created things. Our language about God’s causal powers must be qualified, therefore. Thus it is misleading to assimilate the working of the divine decree as understood by a no-risk position to ordinary instances of causation. We need always bear in mind the words of Nicolas Malenbranche, “God is a mind, or spirit, He thinks, He wills; but let us not humanise Him - He does not think or will as we do” (ibid, 240).

“To undermine the point further, both Hasker and I have taken it for granted that divine foreknowledge is incompatible with indeterministic human freedom. It follows from this that if God infallibly knows the future, then no free act is indeterministic. But it does not follow from this, without further argument, that such divine foreknowledge is the cause of the action foreknown. Failing a convincing argument of this kind, we might say that foreknowledge ensures the occurrence of the action in question without causing it” (ibid, 240).

“So words like ‘cause’ or ‘decree’ or ‘permit,’ when used of God the uncreated cause, ate used in rather different ways, with rather different logical implications, from those in which are ordinary notions of cause are used” (idid, 240).

“It needs to be emphasized that to suppose that divine causation must be analogically related to ordinary causation between events is a perfectly general point about divine causation, and is not a case of special pleading on behalf of a no-risk position. For all theists, including Hasker, are faced with the problem of characterizing in a philosophically adequate manner the unparalleled causal feats of God’s creation of the universe ex nihilo, and of his conserving his creation in existence by upholding what he has created. It is hard to see that these are cases of ordinary causation, even supposing that we understand what ordinary causation is” (ibid, 241).

Notice Hasker makes use of the idea that all things are efficaciously caused. But says Dr. Green,

“It ought, however, to be carefully noted here, that all who soundly hold this doctrine maintain that there is a difference always to be kept up between what have been denominated the efficacious decrees and the permissive decrees of God. His efficacious decrees relate to whatever is morally good; his permissive decrees to whatever is morally evil. In other words, his immediate agency, according to his decree, is concerned in whatever is morally good, —his immediate agency is never concerned in what is morally evil. Evil he permits to take place, and efficaciously, over rules it for good,-for the promotion of his glory” ( Lectures On The Shorter Catechism, Vol. I, pp. 180-181.).

So, Reppert has some idea that since God decrees an event, and thus renders the event certain, God is morally blameworthy for that event.

My quotes from Helm clarify certain notions, so he needs to get more precise.

My quotes from Scripture disprove his notion, and so he can give up infallibility.

There’s nothing like an “argument” against Calvinism in Reppert’s posts. We’re simply treated to a series of posts which show an ignorance of Calvinist theology, employ self-excepting fallacies, and laud question-begging position, e.g., libertarian free will, PAP, etc.

As I’ve always said: Yes, if libertarian free will is assumed true, PAP is assumed true, Arminian exegesis is assumed true, then Calvinism has problems.

But that’s hardly an interesting argument, is it?

1 comment:

  1. Was it me or are the foot notes in the text (or rather that "ibids") not quite referring back properly?

    Perhaps it was me, or this third cup of coffee, or that I've been reading all day, but I got confused at times as to what ibid was being ibidded. =)

    Good stuff Mr. Manata.

    It's a shame a Christian grad student in philosophy can be so wrapped up trying to learn the Phil-mind and Epistemology territory that he has no time for his first love (that which pushed him into philosophy in the first place), so it is likewise a blessing to come across posts like this where he can brush up.