Thursday, January 29, 2009

Merriam-Webster Said It, That Settles It!

Dan responds again, still trying to prove Arminianism and libertarian free will from the dictionary.

He titles his post, Was the bible written to the common man or semi-compatibilist?. It was written to both, Dan. What, do you think God is biased against a group? He wouldn't address a "love letter" to them? That's not very loving of our Arminian God.

Leaving that aside, again there's not much to respond to, again, so this will be brief.

Dan recognizes he bypassed what I argued the 21st century common man takes to be the meaning of certain terms, and what I argued the specialists in the field of action theory defined choice as. Ignoring that distinction rendered all his posts a non-starter. But, no fear, we have an ad hoc answer here. Dan says that, " if Paul admits the common man thinks of choice as libertarian, he should address the fact that the bible was written by common men and to the common man (i.e. to the people of Israel and the church, not the semi-compatiblist) and it uses the terms choice and choose."

Dan's statement is hopelessly naïve. First, Even if I granted that 21st century common man understands choice in a libertarian way (note we need to define 'common man,' we need to see the sociological reports; indeed, next thing we know Dan will be trying to prove Arminianism from the 2010 US Census!), that doesn't imply that X-century BC Jews thought that way. Indeed, one would think it rather easy to come up with things that were just taken for granted, the "common" way to think, that we (Americans? Chinese? Italians? Ugandans?) do not take for granted today. One example might be the common man's belief that the Messiah would come and serve as a political ruler, overseeing a massive physical army. Another might be the foolishness of the gospel. The gospel is counter common sense. Second, it is common knowledge that at different times common men held different worldviews. In fatalistic Greek societies, you would be hard-pressed to find those congenial to Dan's understanding of terms. Third, it is a slender reed indeed to hand a defense of libertarianism on this common man argument. Dan must grant the possibility that in an increasingly secular society, given the state of public education, and given the direction science is heading; the "common man" will believe this: "All things are physically determined with generalizations and conditionals having 100% probabilities associated with them." Dan must grant this possibility. Since the common man would hold that all is determined in the above way, would Dan then adjust his understanding of the Bible, reasoning that the common men back then thought the same? Fourth, it is nothing other than egregious question begging to claim that the biblical authors thought that libertarianism was true. Given Calvinistic interpretations of many of the OT passages, they would have held to divine determinism. And given that we believe that the God of the Bible is most accurately grasped by a Calvinistic understanding, and given that the writers wrote what God wanted to convey, then God would not want to convey libertarianism. Fifth, as I argued from Kane, the common man also has problems with indeterminate happenings. Dan is cheating. Dan needs to argue, if he is going to be consistent, that "The Bible was written to the common man, and not to agent causalists (e.g., O'Connor), event-causalists (e.g., Kane), or non-causalist (e.g., Ginet) views! So, Dan's argument here is problematic on numerous levels. Indeed, I'd go so far as to say his rejoinder to me is obviously false.

I also marshaled numerous dictionary definitions of 'choice' and 'choose' that do not demand libertarianism. And, I'd add it is ridiculous to suppose that any concept in action theory was even intended to be broached by the authors of those dictionaries. Nevertheless, Dan focuses on one of my definitions, leaving the others undefeated. Dan writes that the problem with my Princeton definition is that "Alternatives can be chosen. This is why I argued that a predetermined choice entails an impossible possibility and inalternate alternative." But the dictionary doesn't mention the word "can" and Dan also ignores hypothetical compatibilists. Is he going to argue that the dictionary weighs in on classical compatibilism?! Furthermore, compatibilists would agree that a different past, or decree, renders those alternatives the possible ones chosen. Is Dan going to argue that the dictionary weighed in on this?! When Dan says, "impossible" what does he mean? Given the decree of God, the alternative is not something that can genuinely be accessed. But there could be other possible decrees. So, what does he mean? And, can he argue that the dictionary supports this? Dan even admits that he doesn't "recall using the term 'genuine access to'" possibilities. Right, and that defeats his dictionary argument.

Lastly, Dan makes a non-sequitur. He says, "Again, if determinism is true, given the causal forces at play, I cannot choose or do counterfactuals." But, that doesn't mean you didn't choose to do what you did. And, again, if libertarianism is true, given the luck, I cannot choose counterfactuals. Choosing requires a certain amount of control that libertarianism doesn't afford. Dan disagrees. Oh well.

Again, Dan doesn't advance the discussion. Indeed, he renders it more problematic. He's making the apologetic resources of Arminianism look rather thin, perhaps flaccid. But, his assessment is, "As for not advancing the discussion, it’s true I go no further than to show determinism is unbiblical." Yeah, he's doing that from the dictionary. Let's cut this argument's head off and be done with it. Citing Dan's favorite,


1. Also called Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. born 4? b.c., crucified a.d. 29?, the source of the Christian religion.
2. (“the Son of Sirach”) the author of the Apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus, who lived in the 3rd century b.c.
3. Christian Science. the supreme example of God's nature expressed through human beings.
4. Also, Je⋅sús  /Sp. hɛˈsus/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [Sp. he-soos] Show IPA Pronunciation . a male given name.
–interjection 5. (used as an oath or strong expression of disbelief, dismay, awe, disappointment, pain, etc.)

The dictionary doesn't say Jesus is the God-man, ergo, he isn't.

The grand fruit of Dan's labors.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. triablogue says it, that settles it!!!! what a condescending blog to think their interpretation of THINGS settles everything..

  3. Sirius -

    Are you serious?

  4. sirius said...

    triablogue says it, that settles it!!!! what a condescending blog to think their interpretation of THINGS settles everything..

    1/29/2009 12:59 PM

    Sirus says it, that settles it.

    What a consescending commenter to think that their misinterpretation of posts settles ascriptions of condescension.