Sunday, March 01, 2009

Wiktionary exegesis

Dan has responded:

“I didn’t say Calvinists define choose as “You can choose X if it’s your strongest desire”.”

If you didn’t mean that, then your original objection is stillborn.

“I said they avoid the common sense definitions and use exotic, philosophical counter-definitions; like the ones Paul provided. But Calvinists seem to have at least three options: 1) inconsistently hold to common sense definitions, 2) exotic, philosophical counter-definitions, or 3) use boiled down definitions that are missing some (or all) of the essential ingredients in the common sense definitions. If one removes enough essential elements of a definition, they end up with a tautology (choose = choose). Take for example the Wiktionary. Choose means decide and decide means choose. Hence choose means choose. Unhelpful.”

This is another example of Dan’s linguistic ineptitude:

i) To begin with, dictionary definitions are typically tautological. A dictionary will typically define word A by using synonym B. If you then look of the definition of synonym B, it will use synonym A. So, yes, A defines B and B defines A. To “fall” is to “drop” or “descend.”

In cases where a dictionary uses other words (not synonyms) explicate the definition, such as to descend “rapidly,” if you look up the definition of “rapid,” it will, in turn, use synonyms to define “rapid.”

For someone who resorts to the dictionary to prove his point, Dan is remarkably oblivious to how dictionaries actually go about defining words.

Dictionaries presuppose a general knowledge of the language. If you don’t know, apart from the dictionary, what any of the synonyms means, then you won’t understand the definition.

ii) One of Dan’s problems, as I pointed out once before, is that he doesn’t know the difference between a definition and an explanation. To revert to my example, an explanation of what makes falling possible is not the same thing as defining the word “to fall.”

Explanations answer why-questions. Why did I fall from the cliff? Perhaps I was standing too close to the edge and the ground gave way under my weight. That, however, is irrelevant to the meaning of the word.

iii) And whether the “Reformed” definition of choice leaves out “essential ingredients” is simply a question-begging assertion on Dan’s part.

iv) Furthermore, it’s a basic rule of thumb in translation theory that, in a case where the meaning of a word is in doubt, or where the context can’t select for which of several meanings is preferable, then the least meaning is the best meaning. In that event a translator should choose the word with the most neutral sense available Cf. M. Silva, Biblical Words & Their Meaning (Zondervan 1994), 153ff.

In fact, in some cases, Bible translators will transliterate a Biblical word rather than translate it because there’s too much controversy over what constitutes the correct rendering.

For some reason, Dan thinks that he can make confident pronouncements about ordinary language without bothering to acquaint himself with the rudiments of lexical semantics. As a consequence, he commits one semantic blunder after another, and he repeats the same mistakes even after he’s been corrected. That’s not the conduct of a truth-seeker. Rather, that’s the conduct of someone with a foregone conclusion.

“Steve, could you please A) define ‘choose’ and B) explain it.”

i) To choose=to make a decision.

ii) Or, if you prefer a definition from one of your own, how about this:

“A choice is the formation of an intention or purpose to do something,” R. Kane, “Libertarianism,” J. Fischer, et al, Four Views On Free Will (Blackwell 2007), 33.

I trust that Dan is not going to reject a definition of choice by a leading libertarian thinker. That would be special pleading in excelsis.

Notice that there’s nothing in Kane’s definition that involves freedom to do otherwise or alternate possibilities. Rather, Kane defines “choice” in purely psychological terms. And that’s because Kane, unlike Dan, knows the difference between words and concepts.

iii) I don’t think this calls for a lot of explanation since definitions are not explanations.

Of course, depending on whether the agent is human or divine, choice will involve different preconditions. Since God is timeless, his mind was never in a state of uncertainty or indecision. His intent or purpose is timeless. Due to his omnipotence, various alternatives were available to him. Many things were possible. But it took no time for him to “form” an intention or purpose. It’s a timeless intention.

iv) However, if you insist, we could even include “alternatives” in our definition of choice. That doesn’t get you anywhere close to LFW, for there’s a difference between the hypothetical options I contemplate–on the one hand–and whether that process of deliberation matches accessible alternatives in the real world–on the other.

It’s child’s play to come up with many examples in which the conceivable alternatives I imagine to be possible are not, in fact, available to me. Hence, even if it seemed intuitively obvious to me that when I imagine I am able to do otherwise, I must be able to do otherwise, this intuition is not a reliable guide to a set of live possibilities.

Steve: It does nothing of the kind. In the nature of the case, “common usage” ordinarily is preanalytic. Most language users aren’t metaphysicians. They don’t use a word like “choice” with a lot of conscious, metaphysical baggage. Most folks aren’t conversant with modal metaphysics or Frankfurt examples.

“Dan: Sure it does. The dictionary provides what common usage is; it doesn’t get into why it’s that way. It doesn’t matter if it’s the result of metaphysical analysis, it’s preanalytic or it comes out of a fortune cookie. If that’s common usage, the dictionary reports it. And rather than reporting exotic philosophical determinist definitions of choose, it reports a definition that leaves the determinist saying we never actually choose.“

i) Notice how, in his attempted rebuttal, Dan is quietly conceding some of the very points I made.

ii) Moreover, some words have technical meanings as well as ordinary meanings. A dictionary will report the “exotic, philosophical” sense of a word if, in fact, the word is sometimes used with a technical meaning in scientific, philosophical, or theological usage.

iii) Also notice how Dan equivocates over “never actually choosing.”

As I pointed out before, this fails to draw an elementary distinction between the mental act of choosing and the extramental availability of choice.

I may choose to take Esmeralda to the prom. That’s my decision. To my consternation, I find out that Esmeralda didn’t choose to take me to the prom. At the time I made my choice, I thought she was eligible. I was wrong. Instead, she chose Derrick to be her prom date.

I made a decision– on the assumption that I had a certain freedom of opportunity in my “choice” of a prom date. As it turns out, I didn’t actually have that freedom of opportunity.

Now, if Arminianism were true, there would be a one-to-one correspondence between the mental act of opting for A, B, or C, and the extramental availability of A, B, or C.

But in the “common sense” world that I happen to inhabit, this hypothetical correspondence has a troublesome way of breaking down in actual practice.

“Steve seems to be trying to switch actual possibility for hypothetical possibility, but it doesn’t work because you can’t talk about an actual and a hypothetical at the same time.”

i) To begin with, I’m under no obligation to make sense of Dan’s “dictionary definition.” That’s his problem, not mine.

ii) He also skates over the question of possible for whom? From a Calvinistic perspective, what makes a possible world possible is that it’s possible for God to instantiate that possibility. And that’s because a possible world is a way of explicating divine omnipotence.

“Also, Steve seems to be granting that, given determinism, we don’t actually choose (understanding choose as defined by the dictionary).”

Dan continues to equivocate over key terms. There’s a point beyond which that practice calls his honesty into question. When he’s repeatedly corrected on elementary equivocations, and the next time around he simply repeats the same equivocation, then he’s not debating in good faith.

“The med students restrictions are post-choice, and don’t interfere with volition.”

Notice that Dan is limiting the essential ingredient of “choice” to “volition.”

Hence, by his own admission, choice is reducible to a mental act. Choice doesn’t not entail a corresponding, extramental outcome.

So, according to Dan, you can make an “actual” choice, in the sense of executing a volition (i.e. mental act of the will), even though you can’t actually act on your choice by enacting or acting out your preference. As such, a choice is simply a decision, nothing less and nothing more. It doesn’t require metaphysical access to alternate possibilities. You can make a real choice even though you are unable to carry through with your intentions.

“On the contrary, I think it's intuitive to think something is wrong with the argument that foreknowledge rules out freewill, even if people can't quite put their finger on why. While some questioning on the subject of foreknowledge and freewill is natural, most Christians don’t drop either foreknowledge or freewill. So I think saying common sense says they are irreconcilable is a bit of a stretch. Only a small minority of Christians (Calvinists, Thomast and Open Theists) think that, and in my experience those that do tend to favor philosophy.”

i) It’s amusing to see Dan classify Thomists as a “small minority.” Catholics vastly outnumber Arminians, and Thomism is the default position in Catholic theology.

ii) Furthermore, how are percentages relevant to intuition? Apparently, Dan is claiming that the intuitions of one set of Christians trump the intuitions of another set of Christians. But intuition itself can’t broker that disagreement–since both sides would be appealing to their respective intuitions.

So Dan’s intuitive evidence boils down to the circular claim that some intuitions are more intuitively reliable than other intuitions, and by a striking coincidence, Arminian intuitions just so happen to be more reliable than Thomist, Calvinist, neotheist, or determinist intuitions.

iii) Even more to the point, Dan is prevaricating. The fact that a certain fraction of Christians (whether in the majority or minority) is unwilling to sacrifice either foreknowledge or (libertarian) freedom doesn’t mean that reluctance has anything to do with the intuitive perception of the issue.

Many people will resist a conclusion for reasons that have nothing to do with intuition. Many parents will deny an accusation that their kids are doing drugs, even in the teeth of fairly compelling evidence to the contrary.

“As for Steve’s time-traveling counterfactual ice cream challenge, it seems to amount to nothing more than pointing out we don’t have empirical proof of freewill.”

Even if it amounted to nothing more than that, it’s useful to have that concession in the public record. It’s useful to have a prominent Arminian epologist admit that no human being has had any experience whatsoever of doing otherwise.

“As Christians, of course we believe in many things we don’t have empirical proof for. Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Since the will is part of our immaterial soul, and we don’t have empirical evidence of the soul, why should we be surprised that we don’t have empirical evidence of the will?”

i) So much for “intuition” and the “common man” appeal.

ii) Moreover, I’m not discussing empirical evidence for the existence of the will. Rather, I’m discussing empirical evidence, or the lack therefore, for effects of the will. Doesn’t Dan believe that human volitions have empirical consequences?

“If this is the whole of Steve’s point, it fails to show the counter-intuitiveness of LFW, since it’s a strawman regarding ‘when’. But perhaps there is a bit more to Steve’s claim here. Today is February 22nd. I can’t live to see tomorrow. God willing, I will live to see February 23rd, but by that point the 24th will be ‘tomorrow’. The restriction is definitional, not causal. So even though I can live till tomorrow, I can’t live to it and have it be tomorrow. This is the type of restriction we have on being able to choose otherwise. I can choose the chocolate and I can choose the strawberry. But if I choose the chocolate, the strawberry is ‘otherwise’ and if I choose the strawberry, the chocolate is ‘otherwise’. So while I can choose otherwise, I can never choose otherwise and have it be otherwise. This is not impossibility, it’s incompossibility. So Steve’s statement that it’s something I can’t do (impossibility not incompossibility) is false.”

i) Dan simply begs the question of what is possible on libertarian grounds. Why wouldn’t libertarianism, if true, entail the possibility of time travel? To do otherwise is only incompossible if you can’t repeat the past–up to a certain point, then do something different. But if you have the ability to do otherwise, then you should be able to repeat the past–up to the point where you do otherwise.

So Dan is admitting that agents can’t do otherwise. They can only do one thing–one thing rather than another thing. If you choose A, you can’t choose B. If you choose B, you can’t choose A.

ii) And there’s a practical as well as theoretical issue here. What’s the value of having libertarian freedom if you can never explore the consequences of each alternative in advance of committing yourself to just one course of action? In that event, what’s the benefit of libertarian freedom?

It poses an acute moral dilemma for libertarianism. Haven’t we all told ourselves that, if we could only go back and do it all over again, we would do some things differently? We did what we did at the time because we couldn’t foresee the outcome. We could only know the outcome of A by doing A. But at that point it’s too late to learn from our mistake. The damage is done.

On Dan’s view, the agent is free to choose between door A, door B, or door C, yet the agent doesn’t know what’s behind each door–until he chooses, at which point he’s stuck with that result. So it’s a game of chance. A blind choice. A stab in the dark.

What’s behind the door he chooses? A sports car? A pin-up girl? A man-eating tiger? He can only find out the hard way. His choice is irreversible (as Dan defines “choice”).

“This example is questionable, but even if it’s granted, I am not sure it matters because I don't think most folks first response to ‘ought implies can’ is to think of this or similar examples.”

Is Dan having to admit that what “most folks” find intuitively plausible or implausible is wholly contingent on what example you happen to use to illustrate your claim?

“The scriptural obligation seems counter-intuitive; that we are to love them as Christ loved the church. The movie Fireproof shows how counter-intuitive it is.”

And how does that concession help his case? Isn’t he undercutting his case?

“All translators who had access to English dictionaries translated the words bâcha and eklegomai as choose.”

i) And notice what they don’t do. They don’t translate bacha or eklegomai as “the freedom to do otherwise” or “the power to access and then instantiate alternate possibilities.”

ii) Incidentally, the overwhelming occurrence of these Greek and Hebrew words in Scripture take God as the subject–where God does the choosing. Or, in a far smaller number of cases, God presents man with a choice–where God determines the options. If you were trying to formulate libertarian freedom of scratch, would you begin with such a severely restrictive framework?

iii) In addition, where the verse involves a choice among a range of hypothetical alternatives, it is not the verb alone that carries that concept. Rather, the verse has to spell out the range of hypothetical choice. In and of itself, the verb (“to choose”) doesn’t carry all this metaphysical freight.

iv) Finally, Dan has a simplistic view of who constitutes the audience for Scripture. The audience for Scripture is not monolithic. It doesn’t target just one social class.

For example, many scholars have noted that a complete understanding of various NT books requires a detailed familiarity with the text of the OT. And they’ve also noted, in that same connection, that these literary allusions would be lost on many Gentile readers or listeners–who didn’t have the OT at their literal or mental fingertips.

NT authors are writing on more than one level, for more than one audience. The Christian movement was represented by different social strata. And that’s reflected in the implied reader, to whom the books of the NT are addressed.

To take another example, a number of scholars have noted that Luke is, in part, writing with an apologetic agenda, to demonstrate the legal respectability of the nascent Christian movement. Yet that isn’t directed at the common man, for the common man didn’t make public policy in the Roman Empire. Rather, that’s implicitly directed at Roman officials who might have occasion to read Luke-Acts. Indeed, Theophilus may be a case in point.

Likewise, the Book of Hebrews was addressed to Messianic Jews, not illiterate slave boys. It takes for granted a certain educational level on the part of the target audience.

The Bible expects some readers to be more astute than others. To some extent it’s pitched at a popular level, but it also contains a lot of subtextual subtleties that only a better-educated reader would register. The very fact that Bible writers could read and write put them in something of a social elite at that time and place.

“Hm... I am not quite sure this is accurate. At least some of Calvinism's stronger theologians have called into question the coherence of LFW, which implies God does not have LFW…But if a Calvinist holds God’s decrees were a choice (understood in and LFW sense), then God did truly have alternative possibilities. However, since the decree is done and immutable, it is fair to say all counterfactuals are no longer possible, given the decree. So Calvinism seems unable to maintain the existance of alternative possibilities.”

i) Once again, Dan resorts to his favorite ploy of equivocation. The decree is the logical consequence of timeless divine decision. The fact that the consequence is immutable doesn’t mean that God lacked the freedom to decree otherwise had he chosen to foreordain a different alternative with a different consequence.

Alternate possibilities exist because alternate possibilities inhere in God’s omnipotence. The finite world does not exhaust the unlimited resources of divine omnipotence. There are many unexemplified possibilities: things which it was within God’s power to do, but he refrained from doing.

ii) It would also behoove him to read Cunningham’s article on “Calvinism, and the Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity.” Calvinism is not interchangeable with a necessitarian scheme.

“Since interpretation is simply picking from the range of meanings left open by ‘what it says’, clearly the interpretation cannot contradict what it says.”

Except that Dan defines “what it says” by his common man appeal. Yet, as we will see, Dan abandons the “common man” meaning of words as soon as I cite some of the prooftexts for open theism (see below).

“Open to be interpreted via context (if what it says isn’t specific and is open to interpretation). Context gets bigger and bigger. We should start from the immediate context and move outward (a word, a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, a book, an author….) rather than starting on the fringes and moving inward.”

Except that, for Dan, “what it says” exerts no ultimate control over the interpretation (see below).

“Please see Paul Manata's quotes regarding the Jewish understanding of choice and freedom.”

Since Manata was citing examples of Jewish determinism, how is that documentation the least bit helpful to Dan’s thesis?

“Also, here’s evidence from and extra-biblical Jewish source.”

Why is Dan citing an apocryphal writing which was influenced b y Greek philosophy to bolster his position?

“I don’t find the objector’s argument common sense; I find it absurd to think we can challenge God’s authority.”

Dan’s interpretation (of Rom 9:19) is quite implausible. According to him, Paul’s hypothetical critic is raising a nonsensical objection. But if it were so patently nonsensical, then why would Paul bother to put this objection in the mouth of a hypothetical critic? On Dan’s interpretation, Paul’s audience wouldn’t take the objection seriously. So there would be no reason for Paul to raise it in the first place.

The reason Paul anticipates this objection is because it does have some apparent force, and so he wants to knock it down before someone lodges that objection when Paul is not around to rebut it.

“The objection is why does God blame us since He set the rules and doesn’t have to listen to our input. The issue is God’s authority, not His power.”

No, the objection is not to God, but to Paul. The critic is not objecting to God’s conduct. Rather, the critic is objecting to Paul’s doctrine of God. He takes issue with Paul’s teaching. He’s attacking Pauline theology based on what he deems to be the unacceptable consequences of Pauline theology. He doesn’t concede Paul’s claim. Rather, he’s challenging the veracity of Paul’s claim.

“To read 'who resists His will' as predeterminism is incorrect.”

Irrelevant. My immediate point doesn’t turn on the Reformed interpretation of Rom 9:19). The point, rather, is that whatever you take Paul to mean, his meaning is offensive to common sense. It offends the common sense of the hypothetical critic. And Paul would only bring that up because those sentiments are representative of how real people might react to his teaching.

“Further, if we read ‘who resists His will’ as predeterminism, the objection becomes self-contradictory. It would become Calminian.”

i) Irrelevancy aside (see above), this also exposes Dan’s incompetent grasp of Reformed theology. Even if we assume the Reformed interpretation of this verse (which I do, although that’s beside the point), it’s quite possible for human beings to resist what the Bible teaches about predestination. While they cannot resist the fact of predestination, they can certainly resist the teaching of predestination. Indeed, many human beings are predestined to resist predestinarian doctrine–and thereby expose the folly of fallen man.

ii) In fact, that’s precisely the point. Ironically enough, Pharaoh irresistibly fulfills the decretive will of God in the very process of resisting God’s perceptive will.

“I only opposed the practice of reading technical, philosophical definitions into scripture.”

Au contraire! That’s exactly what Dan does in the case of “choice.” He defines it according to libertarian metaphysics.

“Given the wording, the question isn't if God repents or not. The passage makes it plain that He does. Rather the question is, is God’s repentance the same as man’s repentance.”

A telltale instance of Dan’s hermeneutical naïveté. Suppose we applied his reasoning to another verse of Scripture: “He will cover you with his feathers” (Ps 91:4).

By Dan’s logic, we’d have to say, given the wording, that the question isn't if God has feathers or not. The passage makes it plain that He does. Rather the question is, are God’s feathers the same as pigeon feathers.

Contrary to Dan’s flatfooted literality, it’s very much a live issue whether or not God is actually repentant. Do we construe the passage literally or anthropomorphically.

“While ‘if, with the benefit of hindsight, he could do it all over again, God would not have made mankind in the first place’, holds good of man’s repentance, I don’t think it does of God’s repentance.”

But that’s not “what it says.” That’s not the common man meaning of the passage. Dan didn’t get that from the actual wording of the verse. He didn’t get that from looking up the word “repentance” or “grief” or “sorrow” in the Wiktionary. He didn’t get that from consulting a Hebrew lexicon, and then opting for the rendering that best fit the context–assuming the lexicon gave more than one meaning for the Hebrew word. Dan’s appeal to the common man is just a charade.

“The repentance in this case seems to be that up until that time God wished His creation to exist and flourish, but based on their sinful state, He decided they should not exist but rather should be destroyed (Noah and family excepted). This does not entail that God would have redone things differently, only that from that moment on He willed things to be different.”

This is special pleading on Dan’s part. On the common man view, the notion of repentance involves regret for past actions. You regret having done that. And implicit in that reaction is the wish that if you could turn back the clock, you wouldn’t do the same thing all over again.

“Though God has an overall plan for all time, that does not mean He cannot will X from T1 to T3 and then nonX from T4 to T6. Rather, His will from T1 to T3 and T4 to T6 is included within His overall plan. So the overall plan does not change. Please note this is not an explination of Gen 6, rather it's reconcilation of Gen 6 with other truths.”

He’s right–that is not an explanation of Gen 6. And that’s the problem. His attempt to square Gen 6 with other truths doesn’t follow from the “what it says” level of text–especially in relation to his Wiktionary methodology.

“The grief relates to man’s sins, not over His prior choice to create.”

That is not “what it says.” Indeed, that is in direct defiance to the explicit wording of the text: “And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth,”

The text doesn’t say that God grieved over man’s sin rather than grieving over his prior decision to make man. Instead, the text says both, and it links the two. God regretted having made man because he was so upset over man’s subsequent iniquity.

This is not a small point. Remember what Dan said? “Since interpretation is simply picking from the range of meanings left open by ‘what it says’, clearly the interpretation cannot contradict what it says.”

But Dan isn’t “simply picking from the range of meanings left open by “what it says.” Dan isn’t making a selection from the range of meanings supplied by the dictionary. Quite the opposite: Dan is disregarding the specific wording of the text; disregarding the explicit assertions of the text. In addition, his interpretation is despite the common man meaning of the key terms.

Yet Dan solemnly warned us that “doing so seems to leave the scripture open to almost an unlimited amount of interpretations (as opposed to just a few). This seems to deliver a deathblow to the clarity of scripture.”

So Dan’s bait-and-switch interpretation delivers the deathblow to the clarity of Scripture.

“The grief is not a physical emotion, since God is a Spirit, and does not have a body.”

That has absolutely nothing to do with the meaning of the word.

“Rather it tells us that God wills for us not to sin and hates our sins.”

“It” tells us that? What’s the “it”? Not the word. The word (“grief,” “sorry,” “repentance”) doesn’t tell us that. And the text as a whole (Gen 6:6) doesn’t tell us that. Not at the “what it says” level. And Dan’s interpretation is in spite of the “what it says” level.

“The passage does not deny God foreknew the event,”

If we go along with Dan’s Wiktionary exegesis, then it clearly does deny God’s foreknowledge of the event. Notice the temporal indexical: “now”. “Now I know…”

So God’s knowledge of the outcome is subsequent to, and dependent on, the outcome itself.

“But it does seem to indicate that the basis of God’s knowledge was the event. So likewise, the basis of His foreknowledge was the future event.”

If God’s knowledge of the outcome derives from the outcome, then God is ignorant of the future. He only knows the future when the future is past. He only knows the future after the fact.

“Similar to Gen 6, before Moses’ intercession, God willed to destroy Israel. After, He willed to spare them…Though God has an overall plan for all time, that does not mean He cannot will X from T1 to T3 and then nonX from T4 to T6. Rather, His will from T1 to T3 and T4 to T6 is included within His overall plan. So the overall plan does not change.”

But that’s not “what it says.” It doesn’t distinguish between God’s “overall plan” and his will at any particular time.

Not only is Dan interpolating that distinction into the text–his interpolation is at variance with the text. At the “what it says” level of the text, God changed his plan because Moses persuaded him to change his plan. So this is not the same thing as sticking with the same long-range plan all along. Rather, God is ditching his own plan and adopting Moses’ plan instead.

“This one is different and admittedly more challenging. No conditions were given, but apparently there was an implicit condition.”

If no condition is given, you can hardly say an implicit condition is “apparent.” To be “apparent,” it would have to appear somewhere in the text. Once again, Dan disregards the “what it says” level of the text.

“Perhaps God was only saying that the disease was deadly.”

Imagine if a Calvinist helped himself to these ad hoc qualifications to defend Calvinism. Dan and his fellow Arminians would be all over his case.

“But if it is ‘thought’ and ‘will return to me’, the we could look at this statement as a metaphor (part of the overall metaphor) representing God as a husband seeking to bring back his unfaithful wife.”

You can’t get that interpretation from Wiktionary exegesis.

“’Nor did it come into my mind’ refers to God’s command, not their sinful act. God did not think of Himself commanding them to burn their sons, but He did know that they could and would.”

But that’s not “what it says.” The text attributes two distinct things to God: he didn’t command child sacrifice, and–what is more–that outcome didn’t even cross his mind. The second attribution is not reducible to the first. For the second intensifies the divine repugnance.

To say God “did know that they could and would” is not something Dan is getting from the text, but something that Dan is imposing on the text–in the teeth of what it actually says.

“It seems that Jonah and the Ninevehites understood there to be an implicit condition in the prophecy (Jonah 3:9, 4:2).”

But that’s not “what it says.” Rather, it tells us that God repented in light of the outcome. To the man on the street, that’s something you experience when you didn’t anticipate the outcome. In light of unforeseen circumstances, you adapt to the new circumstances.

If we stick with Dan’s hermeneutical principles, then God is making things up as he goes along. Improvising on the fly.

Dan then refers the reader to his same failed strategies on Gen 6 and Gen 22 to explain away the man-on-the-street meaning of Num 14:12,20; Deut 8:22; 1 Sam 15:10-35; 1 Chron 21:15, & 2 Chron 32:31.

Let’s take stock. I never conceded that Calvinists are guilty of investing biblical words with philosophical meanings. We don’t do that. To the contrary, Dan is the one who’s guilty of doing that.

In addition, Dan is quite unable to consistently apply his Wiktionary/common man approach to various prooftexts for open theism.

I, of course, have my own approach to said passages (which I’ve discussed on more than one occasion), but that’s a separate issue. For now I’m merely answering Dan on his own grounds. He used his Wiktionary/common man approach to attack Calvinism. Assuming, for the same of argument, that it disproves Calvinism (which is not the case), then it also disproves Arminianism.

Indeed, it disproves Arminianism is a way that it doesn’t disprove Calvinism since a Calvinist doesn’t operate with Dan’s hermeneutical grid. So it disproves Arminianism while leaving Calvinism unscathed.


  1. "I said they avoid the common sense definitions and use exotic, philosophical counter-definitions; like the ones Paul provided."

    Dan is dishonest. The initial definitions I provided, which were not *counter* definitions, were in a post I wrote where I showed that given even libertarians understanidng of "choose," choosing is not problematic on compatibilism. Dan responded to his own side by quoting the dictionary and then saying that the Bible was written for the common man, therefore it had Websters understanding of choose in mind.

    I was doing something enitrely different and it was *Dan* who changed the debate to citing dictionary definitions to counter the definitions his own side gave.

    I then provided *counter* definitions from the dictionary. Dan chose to ignore all of these and go with the dictionary definitions that went his way. So, he was dishonest on this score too.

  2. But it does seem to indicate that the basis of God’s knowledge was the event. So likewise, the basis of His foreknowledge was the future event.

    Earlier,when I asked Dan how God can know the outcomes of indeterminate objects of knowledge without them instantiating (eg. the future), Dan said he didn't know. I can accept that as an honest answer.

    However,here's a good place to draw attention to the problem that Dan needs consider:

    Dan says that the basis of God's knowledge was the event.
    Ergo, the basis of His foreknowledge was the future event.

    Here's the missing part of the equation: Dan needs to answer this question: What is the basis of the event.

    If the basis of God's knowledge is the event (ergo did for His foreknowledge) then the basis of God's foreknowledge is a determinate object of knowledge. But that's NOT the issue with respect to foreknowledge. Nobody denies that God knows what determinate objects of knowledge are. Rather, the question arises with respect to the basis of the events themselves. Until they are instantiated, God cannot know them if the basis of such knowledge is the events themselves. How then does God know with certainty which events will come to pass if the objects of knowledge themselves are indeterminate in nature? To say that the basis of God's foreknowledge is some future event is to say that the basis of God's foreknowledge is a determinate object of knowledge,not an indeterminate object of knowledge, yet to say that these events are dependent upon indeterminism, is to say they are indeterminate,not determinate objects of knowledge.

    It is high time for Dan to simply admit that LFW is not an exegetically derived action theory and admit that LFW and certain foreknowledge of future events do not go together.

  3. Steve, Just out of curiousity, do you use voice recognition software? Some of your typos give that impression, e.g., "is a fall" should be "in a far."

  4. Dan said,

    “On the contrary, I think it's intuitive to think something is wrong with the argument that foreknowledge rules out freewill, even if people can't quite put their finger on why. While some questioning on the subject of foreknowledge and freewill is natural, most Christians don’t drop either foreknowledge or freewill. So I think saying common sense says they are irreconcilable is a bit of a stretch. Only a small minority of Christians (Calvinists, Thomast and Open Theists) think that, and in my experience those that do tend to favor philosophy.”

    Actually, he ripped much of this off from Hunt's chapter in Four Views on Foreknowledge. Funny, since Hunt critiques Dan's molinism. Anyway, in tghe szame book Craig says that there is a prima-facie conflict - so why didn't Dan include Molinists above? dan is either ignorant of or dishonest with the facts.

    Also, Boyd &c. believe that they are taking the clear teaching of _Scripture_ and formulating their position. Boyd cites many verses he thinks demonstrate his view, especially the clear teaching that God changes and meets some future events and actions for the first time with his creation. Indeed, this bolsters the idea that God is love. So, Open Theists match Arminians like Dan Scripture for Scripture, then play the Arminian card more consistently than the Arminian.

    Besides, as Helm notes, it is plausible to think that the denial of a philosophcial position is a philosophical position. And Dan reads Scripture denying our philosophical position that foreknowledge is incompatible with libertarian freedom, which is itself a philosophical position. At any rate, Dan's given away the farm. When asked how God can foreknow the libertarian actions of men, he says, "I don't know." So Dan admits the problem and admits ignorance. He should allow this move to others. So, from now on, I will say that freedom is compatible with determinism, I just don't know how.

    Actually, most American Christians believe God predestined things to happen - where this means determined in advance - and that man also has libertarian free will. They chalk it up to "mystery."

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