Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The ice cream parlor at the edge of the alternate world

Last month, Dan responded to something I wrote. Since then I’ve had other things to attend to, like rebutting an Ehrman wannabe (James McGrath). Back to Dan:

“Determinism does rule out possible alternatives. Calvinism isn't equivalant to determinism. Granted some Calvinists hold to exhaustive determinism - the ones who deny God's LFW. But Calvinists who affirm God's LFW deny exhaustive determinism. Granted, for these Calvinists, God not man has LFW. But to the extent that God has LFW, determinism isn't exhaustive.”

I see that Dan doesn’t even grasp the nature of Calvinism. Divine predestination is not self-referential. God is not the object of predestination. The world is the object of predestination. God doesn’t decree himself. God doesn’t predestine himself. God is the subject of predestination, not it’s object.

Predestination has reference to the creature. It applies to contingent things–events. Things which would not be unless God decreed them and instantiated his decree. Occurrents and continuants.

Predestination doesn’t rule out alternate possibilities for God. God can choose among alternate possibilities since, as I already explained to Dan, possible worlds represent the range of divine omnipotence. All the different things that God could possibility do.

Alternate possibilities are a presupposition of predestination, for omnipotence is a presupposition of predestination. God’s ability to instantiate any compossible state of affairs.

Now, because God is timeless, omniscient and wise, if God resolves on a particular choice, then there’s no going back on his choice. God is not indecisive. God was never in a state of doubt or indecision. As a practical and logical consequence of the decree, alternate possibilities are ruled out. But that takes the decree as a starting point. However, the decree is not its own starting point. It presupposes divine omnipotence and omnipotence. God’s omniscient knowledge of his own omnipotence.

Predestination is exhaustive for the creature. The creature can never choose contrary to God’s choice.

“I had already explained this to Paul, but here goes...”

Kane’s definition of choice is consistent with either determinism or libertarianism. It’s about the closest thing you can get to a neutral definition.

Dan has yet to show that there’s anything intrinsically technical or philosophical about Kane’s definition in and of itself. He claims that Kane’s definition is constrained by Kane’s action theory. But he fails to show how the actual wording of the definition is inherently technical or philosophical.

“Kane's definition is fine for discussions, after the definition is understood. It's just not a good idea to assume it's the definition of scriptural terms.”

Neither is the English dictionary. When a translator renders a text into a receptor language, like English, then, by definition, he must use English synonyms, or words that approximate the original Greek and Hebrew.

But the meaning of the words in the English dictionary is based on English usage, whereas the meaning of Biblical words is based on Biblical usage, as well as (to some degree) extrabiblical Greek and Hebrewusage.

If Dan were serious about what “choice” means in Biblical usage, he would do a word-study of Greek and Hebrew usage–and not google words in

“This seems at odds with Steve's claims that ‘Dan is overinterpreting lexical usage and trying to abstract the end-result from the processs’."

Not at all. In depends on whether the English word at issue is a technical word or nontechnical word.

Keep in mind, though, that this whole exercise is a diversionary tactic on Dan’s part since the proper way to determine the meaning of Biblical usage is through word-studies involving Biblical usage.

“How is it that my approach is ‘selectivly technical’ and ‘hicksville’ at the same time?”

Because you’re trying to invest a nontechnical word like “choice” with a technical meaning.

“The dictionary reports a common usage of the term choose, which just happens to rule out determinism. I am not really being all that selective. I simply googled choose and dictionary and's ‘to select from a number of possibilities’ was the first definition in the first link. Granted, at this point I have looked at bunches of dictionaries, but most either use ‘possiblities’ or ‘alternatives’ or both. If I am being techincal, it's because the common usage is technical.”

Once again, Dan is equivocating. Unfortunately, Dan is incorrigibly dishonest. That’s why there comes a point of diminishing returns in debating him.

He makes a false statement. I correct his misstatement. The next time around he repeats the same error as if nothing was ever said to the contrary.

Words like “possibilities” or “alternatives” do not distinguish determinism from indeterminism.

An agent like God can determine another agent’s actions. The fact that the human agent lacks access to several possibilities doesn’t mean the divine agent is under the same limitations.

And keep in mind, once again, that this whole exercise is a decoy on Dan’s part. The nature of human choice should be determined by Biblical theology and anthropology, and not by googling words in

Look at the current debate over the new perspective on Paul. Is the proper way for N. T. Wright and Jacob Neusner to settle that debate to google “justification” in

At one level, I’m grateful to see an Arminian apologist reduced to such an illiterate argument.

“Maybe, but that's what the dictionary seems to be doing. I believe ‘failed attempts’ wouldn't qualify as choices under the dictionary method, since the belief that X was possible was false. Semantically, I can see a case for that. It's a bit awkward to say I choose something, when I wasn't able to execute the choice. If a linebacker stops him, we might say ‘Romo wanted to cross the goal line’, but we wouldn't normally say ‘Romo chose to cross the goal’.Now perhaps this is a failing in the dictionary. Perhaps the dictionary should only talk about things we think are possible (which may or may not be possible), rather than taking about things that are possible. But that's not what it does.”

So where does this admission leave Dan’s original argument?

Moreover, why should we accept your arbitrary restriction? One of Dan’s problems, and a symptom of his linguistic ineptitude, is the fact that he commits the illegitimate totality transfer fallacy. He combines all possible senses of the word “choice” into one collective definition, then he applies that collective definition to every occurrence of the word.

But even in English usage, the word “choice,” has a variety of meanings, and it’s invalid to import every possible meaning into each occurrence of the word. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary offers some of the following definitions of choice: “to determine in favor of a course,” “to decide in accordance with inclination,” “to resolve,” “to will,” “to wish,” “to wish to have,” “to want.”

These definitions refer to merely mental acts. They don’t define choice in terms of action, much less successful action.

Suppose we apply Dan’s illegitimate totality transfer to a word like “run”:

1. to go quickly by moving the legs more rapidly than at a walk and in such a manner that for an instant in each step all or both feet are off the ground.
2. to move with haste; act quickly: Run upstairs and get the iodine.
3. to depart quickly; take to flight; flee or escape: to run from danger.
4. to have recourse for aid, support, comfort, etc.: He shouldn't run to his parents with every little problem.
5. to make a quick trip or informal visit for a short stay at a place: to run up to New York; I will run over to see you after dinner.
6. to go around, rove, or ramble without restraint (often fol. by about): to run about in the park.
7. to move, roll, or progress from momentum or from being hurled, kicked, or otherwise propelled: The wheel ran over the curb and into the street.
8. Sports.
a. to take part in a race or contest.
b. to finish in a race or contest in a certain numerical position: The horse ran second.
9. to be or campaign as a candidate for election.
10. to migrate, as fish: to run in huge shoals.
11. to migrate upstream or inshore from deep water to spawn.
12. to move under continuing power or force, as of the wind, a motor, etc.: The car ran along the highway.
13. (of a ship, automobile, etc.) to be sailed or driven from a safe, proper, or given route: The ship ran aground.
14. to ply between places, as a vessel or conveyance: This bus runs between New Haven and Hartford.
15. to move, glide, turn, rotate, or pass easily, freely, or smoothly: A rope runs in a pulley.
16. to creep, trail, or climb, as growing vines: The ivy ran up the side of the house.
17. to come undone or to unravel, as stitches or a fabric: these stockings run easily.
18. to flow, as a liquid: Let the water run before you drink it.
19. to flow along, esp. strongly, as a stream or the sea: The rapids ran over the rocks.
20. to empty or transfer contents: The river ran into the sea.
21. to appear, occur, or exist within a certain limited range; include a specific range of variations (usually fol. by from): Your work runs from fair to bad.
22. to melt and flow or drip: Wax ran down the burning candle.
23. Golf. (of a golf ball) to bounce or roll along the ground just after landing from a stroke: The ball struck the green and ran seven feet past the hole.
24. to spread on being applied to a surface, as a liquid: Fresh paint ran over the window molding onto the pane.
25. to spread over a material when exposed to moisture: The dyes in this fabric are guaranteed not to run in washing.
26. to undergo a spreading of colors: materials that run when washed.
27. to flow forth as a discharge: Tears ran from her eyes.
28. to discharge or give passage to a liquid or fluid: Her eyes ran with tears.
29. to operate or function: How does your new watch run? Cars run on gasoline.
30. to be in operation: the noise of a dishwasher running.
31. to continue in operation: The furnace runs most of the day.
32. to elapse; pass or go by, as time: Time is running out, and we must hurry.
33. to pass into or meet with a certain state or condition: to run into debt; to run into trouble.
34. to get or become: The well ran dry.
35. to amount; total: The bill ran to $100.
36. to be stated or worded in a certain manner: The minutes of the last meeting run as follows.
37. Commerce.
a. to accumulate, follow, or become payable in due course, as interest on a debt: Your interest runs from January 1st to December 31st.
b. to make many withdrawals in rapid succession, as from a bank.
38. Law.
a. to have legal force or effect, as a writ.
b. to continue to operate.
c. to go along with: The easement runs with the land.
39. to proceed, continue, or go: The story runs for eight pages.
40. to extend in a given direction: This road runs north to Litchfield.
41. to extend for a certain length: The unpaved section runs for eight miles.
42. to extend over a given surface: Shelves ran from floor to ceiling.
43. to be printed, as on a printing press: Two thousand copies ran before the typo was caught.
44. to appear in print or be published as a story, photograph, etc., in a newspaper, magazine, or the like: The account ran in all the papers. The political cartoon always runs on the editorial page.
45. to be performed on a stage or be played continually, as a play: The play ran for two years.
46. to occur or take place continuously, as a movie: The picture runs for two hours.
47. to pass quickly: A thought ran through his mind. Her eyes ran over the room.
48. to be disseminated, circulated, or spread rapidly: The news of his promotion ran all over town.
49. to continue or return persistently; recur: The old tune ran through his mind all day.
50. to have or tend to have or produce a specified character, quality, form, etc.: This novel runs to long descriptions. Her sister is fat too, but the family runs to being overweight.
51. to be or continue to be of a certain or average size, number, etc.: Potatoes are running large this year.
52. Nautical. to sail before the wind.
–verb (used with object)
53. to move or run along (a surface, way, path, etc.): Every morning he ran the dirt path around the reservoir to keep in condition. She ran her fingers over the keyboard.
54. to traverse (a distance) in running: He ran the mile in just over four minutes.
55. to perform, compete in, or accomplish by or as by running: to run a race; to run an errand.
56. to go about freely on or in without supervision: permitting children to run the streets.
57. to ride or cause to gallop: to run a horse across a field.
58. to enter in a race: He ran his best filly in the Florida Derby.
59. to bring into a certain state by running: He ran himself out of breath trying to keep pace.
60. to trace, track, pursue or hunt, as game: to run deer on foot.
61. to drive (an animal) or cause to go by pursuing: to run a fox to cover; to run the stallion into the barn.
62. to leave, flee, or escape from: He ran town before the robbery was discovered.
63. to cause to ply between places, as a vessel or conveyance: to run a ferry between New York and New Jersey.
64. to convey or transport, as in a vessel or vehicle: I'll run you home in my car.
65. to cause to pass quickly: He ran his eyes over the letter. She ran a comb through her hair.
66. to get past or through: to run a blockade.
67. (of drivers or cyclists) to disregard (a red or amber traffic light) and continue ahead without stopping.
68. to smuggle (contraband goods): to run guns across the border.
69. to work, operate, or drive: Can you run a tractor?
70. to publish, print, or make copies of, as on a printing press (sometimes fol. by off): Run off 3000 of these posters. The newspapers ran the story on page one.
71. to process, refine, manufacture, or subject to an analysis or treatment: The doctor wanted to run a blood test. The factory ran 50,000 gallons of paint a day.
72. to keep operating or going, as a machine: They ran the presses 24 hours a day.
73. to keep (a motor) idling for an indefinite period: On cold days he would run the car motor to prevent stalling.
74. to allow (a ship, automobile, etc.) to depart from a safe, proper, or given route, as by negligence or error: He ran the ship aground. She ran the car up on the curb.
75. to sponsor, support, or nominate (a person) as a candidate for election.
76. to manage or conduct: to run a business; to run one's own life.
77. Computers. to process (the instructions in a program) by computer.
78. (in some games, as billiards) to continue or complete a series of successful strokes, shots, or the like.
79. Cards. to lead a series (of one's assured tricks or winners in a given suit): He ran the heart suit before leading spades.
80. to expose oneself to or be exposed to (a chance, risk, etc.): Through his habitual lateness he ran the danger of being fired.
81. to cause (a liquid) to flow: to run the water for a bath.
82. to fill (a tub or bath) with water: She ran a hot tub for him.
83. to give forth or flow with (a liquid); pour forth or discharge: The well ran 500 barrels of oil daily.
84. to charge (an item or items) as on a charge account or to accumulate (bills) to be paid all at one time: He ran a large monthly tab at the club.
85. to cause to move easily, freely, or smoothly: to run a rope in a pulley.
86. Golf. to cause (a golf ball) to move forward along the ground after landing from a stroke: He ran his ball seven feet past the hole.
87. to sew or use a running stitch: to run a seam.
88. to cause stitches in (a garment or fabric) to unravel or come undone: to run a stocking on a protruding nail.
89. to bring, lead, or force into a certain state or condition: He ran his troops into an ambush. They ran themselves into debt.
90. to drive, force, or thrust: to run a nail into a board; to run one's head against a wall; to run one's hand into one's pocket.
91. to graze; pasture: They run sixty head of cattle on their ranch.
92. to extend (something) in a particular direction or to a given point or place: to run a partition across a room; to run a telephone cable from Boston to Buffalo.
93. Carpentry. to make (millwork) from boards.
94. to cause to fuse and flow, as metal for casting in a mold.
95. to draw, trace, or mark out, as a line: to run a line over a surface; to run a line through a word.
96. to cost (an amount or approximate amount): This watch runs $30.
97. to cost (a person) an amount or approximate amount: The car repair will run you a couple of hundred at least.
98. an act or instance, or a period of running: a five-minute run before breakfast.
99. a hurrying to or from some point, as on an errand: a run to reach the store before it closes.
100. a fleeing, esp. in great haste; flight: a run from the police who were hot on his trail.
101. a running pace: The boys set out at a run.
102. an act or instance or a period of moving rapidly, as in a boat or automobile: a run to shore before the storm.
103. distance covered, as by racing, running, or during a trip: a three-mile run.
104. an act or instance or a period of traveling or moving between two places; trip: a truck on its daily run from farm to market; a nonstop run from Louisville to Memphis.
105. Computers. a single instance of carrying out the sequence of instructions in a program.
106. Golf. the distance that a golf ball moves along the ground after landing from a stroke: He got a seven-foot run with his chip shot.
107. a quick trip for a short stay at a place: to take a run up to New York.
108. Military.
a. bomb run.
b. any portion of a military flight during which the aircraft flies directly toward the target in order to begin its attack: a strafing run.
109. Aeronautics.
a. the rapid movement, under its own power, of an aircraft on a runway, water, or another surface.
b. a routine flight from one place to another: the evening run from New York to London.
110. beat (def. 40b).
111. an interval or period during which something, as a machine, operates or continues operating: They kept each press in the plant on a 14-hour run.
112. the amount of anything produced in such a period: a daily run of 400,000 gallons of paint.
113. pressrun.
114. a line or place in knitted work where a series of stitches have slipped out or come undone: a run in a stocking.
115. onward movement, development, progress, course, etc.: the run of our business from a small store to a large chain.
116. the direction of something or of its component elements: the run of the grain of wood.
117. the particular course, order, or tendency of something: the normal run of events.
118. freedom to move around in, pass through, or use something: to allow one's guests the run of the house.
119. any rapid or easy course of progress: a run from trainee to supervisor.
120. a continuous series of performances, as of a play: a long run on Broadway.
121. an uninterrupted course of some state or condition; a spell: a run of good luck; a run of good weather.
122. a continuous extent of something, as a vein of ore.
123. an uninterrupted series or sequence of things, events, etc.: a run of 30 scoreless innings.
124. a sequence of cards in a given suit: a heart run.
125. Cribbage. a sequence of three or more cards in consecutive denominations without regard to suits.
126. any extensive continued demand, sale, or the like: a run on umbrellas on a rainy day.
127. a series of sudden and urgent demands for payment, as on a bank.
128. a period of being in demand or favor with the public: Her last book had a briefer run than her first.
129. a period during which liquid flows: They kept each oil well on an eight-hour run.
130. the amount that flows during such a period: a run of 500 barrels a day.
131. a small stream; brook; rivulet.
132. a flow or rush, as of water: The snow melting on the mountains caused a run of water into the valley.
133. a kind or class, as of goods: a superior run of blouses.
134. the typical, ordinary, or average kind: The run of 19th-century novels tends to be of a sociological nature.
135. an inclined course, as on a slope, designed or used for a specific purpose: a bobsled run; a run for training beginning skiers.
136. a fairly large enclosure within which domestic animals may move about freely; runway: a chicken run.
137. Australian. a large sheep ranch or area of grazing land.
138. the beaten track or usual trail used by deer or other wild animals; runway.
139. a trough or pipe for water or the like.
140. the movement of a number of fish upstream or inshore from deep water.
141. large numbers of fish in motion, esp. inshore from deep water or up a river for spawning: a run of salmon.
142. a number of animals moving together.
143. Music. a rapid succession of tones; roulade.
144. Building Trades.
a. the horizontal distance between the face of a wall and the ridge of a roof.
b. the distance between the first and last risers of a flight of steps or staircase.
c. the horizontal distance between successive risers on a flight of steps or a staircase.
145. Baseball. the score unit made by safely running around all the bases and reaching home plate.
146. a series of successful shots, strokes, or the like, in a game.
147. Nautical. the immersed portion of a hull abaft the middle body (opposed to entrance ).
148. the runs, (used with a singular or plural verb) Informal. diarrhea.

Suppose we generate a collective definition in which we combine all the different senses of run. Suppose, finally, we apply this synthetic definition to Bible verses using the English word “run.” Would that make sense? The question answers itself.

If Dan were a serious thinker, he’d make a minimal effort to consider obvious counterexamples to his arguments. But, no, he’s too lazy to do that. Instead, he leaves it to his opponent to do the spadework. Maybe I should charge him by the hour.

“No. This is the switcharoo to square the dictionary with determinism.”

I don’t accept Dan’s dictionary method of resolving essentially philosophical disputes.

Moreover, dictionaries are neutral on determinism.

“Steve exhanges possibilities for what we think are possilities.”

For that matter, Dan’s appeal to common usage is self-refuting–since many writers and speakers are determinists. For example, many human beings are fatalistic. Therefore, if a dictionary samples popular usage, that would include the usage of determinists.

Determinists use the word “choose” too, you know.

“A determinist wouldn't even think they were possibilities; she would think they might be possibilities, only as a result of our her ignorance of what has been predetermined. So a possibility is being exhanged for ‘I don't know if this is a possibility or not’.”

Of course, this argument either proves too much or too little. For a libertarian doesn’t know what hypothetical alternatives are viable alternatives unless he tries to act on his mental choice. And libertarians also discover that not everything they thought was feasible was feasible. Both libertarians and determinists discover what is possible for them by acting, or trying to act, on their mental choices.

“I have always taken LFW on faith.”

So you’re a libertarian fideist. Fine. Thank’s for the damning admission.

That admission would have saved a lot of ink on both sides of the debate if you’d volunteered that admission at the outset. Pity I had to waste so much time to wring it out of you.

“If choice requires a one-to-one correspondence, then only cases with a one-to-one correspondence are choices.”

Not my argument. I didn’t say that choice requires a one-to-one correspondence. What I said, rather, is that if you’re going to justify the libertarian definition of choice by appealing to intuition, then that entails an equipollent relation between what you imagine to be possible and what turns out to be possible for you.

“’Failed attempts’ wouldn't be choices.”

You’re backpedaling from the intuitive argument for libertarianism. The intuitive argument for libertarianism involves the inference that if we can conceive all these possibilities, then only plausible explanation is if these conceivable possibilities are, in fact, live possibilities.

Once, however, you are forced to concede that many of the hypotheticals we mentally review when we make a choice were never in the cards, then you’re also forced to concede that intuition is not a reliable guide to the scope of human freedom.

“Of course, if determinism is true, there is never a one-to-one correspondence, so we never choose.”

That’s another one of your trademark equivocations. Do you do this because you can’t make an honest case for your own position, or do you do this because you lack the critical detachment to even grasp the opposing position?

All you’ve done in this case is to impute your libertarian definition of freedom to the determinist, then conclude on the basis of your libertarian definition that if determinism is true, we never have a choice.

Surely you don’t think such a blatantly fallacious objection advances the argument, do you?

“But if LFW is true, sometimes there is a one-to-one correspondence, and so sometimes we choose. So even if we grant the argument regarding failed attemps (which I don't), it still doesn't eliminate LFW, it simply limits the cases in which we choose to a smaller subset.”

i) Failed attempts destroy the intuitive argument for LFW. The intuitive argument for LFW infers that we have a range of viable choices from the fact that we can contemplate a range of choices. We can imagine doing X or Y, and there’s no outward impediment to doing X or Y.

Once you sever the link, you lose the intuitive argument. You can arbitrarily deny that failed attempts count as real choices, but you pay a high price for that denial.

ii) If determinism is true, there is sometimes a correspondence between what we think we can do and what we can actually do. We find out what is possible by doing something. Whatever we do is possible. Action is the way we discover what was possible or not.

iii) If you deny that failed attempts count as genuine choices, then the determinist can help himself to that ad hoc restriction as well. In that case, the determinist is uniformly successful in realizing each and every one of his choices. So how does your qualification lend any support to libertarianism?

“I am not sure how Molinism is relivant to the current discussion, but in any case Steve's statement is a false dichotomy - a person can be both classic Arminian and Molinist.”

No, he can’t. Classic Arminianism operates with simple foreknowledge rather than middle knowledge.

“I am not quite sure if this was intended as a ‘reducto ad absurdem’ argument against Molinism or a description of Molinism. If it's a description, it's an incorrect summary of Molinism.God does not choose between possible worlds, He chooses between hypotheticals (sometimes called feasible worlds). Further, the agent is able to choose between possible worlds. God knows they will not (and would not), but they still can choose other possible worlds. God's choice (decree) does not elimitate the alternative possibilities. I think Steve is confusing ‘would’ with ‘can’.”

To begin with, Dan is in no special position to explain Molinism to me. I’ve debated Molinism with academics like Daniel Hill and Terrance Tiessen.

Let’s compare Dan’s makeshift definition with some standard definitions or expositions:

“[Molinism] affords God a means of choosing which world of free creatures to create,” William Craig Lane, “The Middle Knowledge View,” Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, 122.

“One of the most useful concepts for the explanation and evaluation of middle knowledge is that of possible worlds. The basic belief that things could have been different is commonly described as belief in many possible worlds. Each complete set of possible states of affairs (or way things could be) is a possible world, and although there is an extremely large number of possible worlds, it is not infinite (some states of affairs are impossible), and only one is actual (the way things are).”

i) Notice that both writers take recourse to possible worlds.

ii) In addition, God is the agent who chooses which world will be the actual world, and God is also the agent who actualizes a possible world.

“Here's how it works. Let's say there are 3 possible worlds (one in which I choose chocolate, a second in which I choose vanilla, and a third in which the I don't even go to the ice cream parlor.) God looks at the set of worlds and ‘runs a hypothetical scenario’ in which I am in the ice cream parlor. The result is hypothetical Dan, who can choose either chocolate or vanilla, chooses chocolate. God says, ‘that's what I want’, and He creates that world.”

Like I said, God makes the ultimate choice, and not the creature. God chooses which possible world to actualize, and God actualizes the possible world of his choice.

The human agent doesn’t get to choose which of the three possible worlds (to use Dan’s example) will become the real world, and the human agent doesn’t actualize any one of the three.

So, under Molinism, the human agent has no real freedom of choice. No freedom of opportunity. He merely has different wishes. He wishes one thing or another. But he doesn’t determine which wish, if any, will come true.

“God created the world He saw in the scenario and it's just like the world in the scenario. In the scenario, hypothetical Dan was able to choose chocolate or vanilla (i.e. had access to 2 possible worlds), so actual Dan can choose chocolate or vanilla (i.e. has access to 2 possible worlds).”

i) The Dan in a merely possible world is not a real person. He’s just a divine idea. And since he’s not a real person, he’s not a real agent. He makes not actual choices. Rather, God thinks of Dan making a choice, which is hardly the same thing as Dan making a choice. A possible agent doesn’t do anything–except in terms of imaginary action. It’s akin to the relationship between a novelist and the fictitious characters he conceives in his own mind.

ii) Moreover, actual Dan doesn’t have access to possible worlds, for actual Dan only obtains in the actual world, and the actual world reflects the divine actualization of one possible world to the exclusion of other possible worlds. That’s a fundamental difference between a possible world and an actual world. Actual Dan can’t choose contrary to the actual world. Rather, the actual world exemplifies one particular choice. Actual Dan can’t undo the actual world by opting for another. Not under Molinism.

iii) Furthermore, Dan seems to envision a situation where, in each possible ice cream parlor, possible Dan contemplates all three alternatives, but chooses a different option in each case. That’s the only sense I can make of his statement that possible Dan has access to the other two possibilities–which he rejects. Possible Dan is considering all three possibilities at once.

That, however, doesn’t follow. If three possible worlds represent three different choices, then possible Dan doesn’t have to contemplate all three possibilities in any one world. He can come into the ice cream parlor having already made up his mind about chocolate or vanilla. Indeed, in the possible world where he chooses chocolate, he doesn’t even need to consider vanilla. All he’s thinking about is a chocolate ice cream cone. There may be another possible world in which he also considers vanilla, but that doesn’t carry over for every possible trip to the possible ice cream parlor. Possible worlds semantics does not imply that in each possible world a possible agent will contemplate alternate possibilities. Rather, the basic idea is that each possible world represents a distinctive possibility. A road not taken in another possible road.

“It's a switcharoo to change from things we can do to things we think we can do.”

Once again, Dan can’t keep track of his own argument. I’m commenting on Dan’s intuitive argument for libertarian freedom. By definition, an appeal to intuition involves an introspective appeal to our mental life. Intuition is not something we do–in the sense of extramental acts. At most, intuition includes hypothetical options which we think we can do. It’s a mental act. It may be a mental act about extramental actions, but intuition itself is just a mental act.

“But bypassing that... alternatives are two or more things we can choose, not two or more things we can do.”

Notice that Dan is restricting an alternative to something choose-able rather than do-able. But if we accept that restrictive definition, than an agent could have a wide range of alternatives from which to choose, even though he couldn’t do a single one. How does Dan think that distinction advances his case for libertarian freedom?

“But bypassing that as well... If determinism is true, we don't have alternatives and if one is a determinist, he can't think he has alternatives.”

Is this Dan’s attempt to be cute? To offer a cutesy, question-begging one-liner in lieu of a real argument?

Even libertarian philosophers know better than to mischaracterize determinism is that fashion. For example:

“Before going into the arguments for determinism, it is necessary to remove some misconceptions about the determinist position. To begin with, it must be emphasized most strongly that determinists do not deny that people make choices…Furthermore, the experience of choosing–of seeing alternatives, weighting their desirability and finally making up one’s mind–is not any different whether one is a libertarian or a determinist. For while determinists believe that there are sufficient conditions which will govern their choices, they do not know at the time when they are making a decision what those determinants are or how they will decide as a result of them. So, like everyone else, they simply have to make up their own minds. The difference between libertarian and determinist lies in the interpretation of the experience of choice, not in the experience itself,” W. Hasker, Metaphysics, 37.

Continuing with Dan:

“How can they appear to be alternatives, if one believes in determinism?”

Determinism is perfectly consistent with apparent alternatives.

“If determinism is true, a person can't choose otherwise.”

As usual, Dan is equivocating. A predestined agent can contemplate different hypothetical courses of action. And the hypothetical he chooses to act upon always turns out to be the hypothetical that God decreed to be. Indeed, God decreed the agent to choose that hypothetical option.

A predestined agent doesn’t know in advance which hypothetical is a live possibility. But the apparent alternatives influence his choice of the viable alternative. So they serve a purpose. Although they are merely apparent, they are still functional in the deliberative process. Psychologically useful.

There’s nothing unusual about this. Take a card game. Given the cards that are on the table, face up, along with the cards remaining in the deck, a gambler will decide to bet or to fold based on the possible and probable combinations which remain outstanding.

At a metaphysical level, only one of these ostensible possibilities is a live possibility. For the cards in the deck are (randomly) arranged in just one sequence at a time. But the gambler doesn’t know which combination is the actual combination. At an epistemic level, several combinations are still possible. Are still in play.

That calculation affects his choice. Even though the possible hands which he contemplates are mostly impossible hands (given the actual, albeit unknown, order of the deck), he is still making a choice based on the apparent alternatives which are available to him.

“But if a person is a determinist, he can't think he can choose otherwise. He can't think he can choose either chocolate or vanilla.”

In the deliberative process, apparent alternatives can affect the choice of the one feasible alternative. I don’t know what hand my opponent has. I don’t know what card will be dealt next.

I can’t change the order of the deck. The deck can’t be otherwise that in is (for this particular round). But although I can’t choose an alternate possibility which is at odds with the actual sequence of the cards, I can take the possible combinations into account (‘possible’ in the epistemic sense). Indeed, it’s unavoidable that I’ll take all the variables into consideration–depending on my skill, as a card player.

“His ignorance of what he has been predetermined to do may lead him to think ‘I might be able to eat chocolate but if so, I can't eat vanilla and I might be able to eat vanilla, but if so I can't eat chocolate’, but he couldn't consistently think of chocolate and vanilla as alternative possibilities.”

He doesn’t have to believe that all of the apparent possibilities are live possibilities for all the possibilities–real and apparent–to figure in his decision. In fact, we often make decisions when we’re in the dark as to which apparent options are viable options. In the decision-making process, we don’t always enjoy the luxury of knowing in advance which apparent possibilities are live possibilities. That’s something we often learn about belatedly.

I allow a certain amount of time to get to an appointment. Unbeknownst to me, there’s going to be a traffic accident on my way to my appointment. That, in turn, leads to a traffic jam. As a result, I’m late for my appointment, or miss my appointment.

“If libertarianism is true, there sometimes is and sometimes isn't an equipollent; if determinism is true, there's never an equipollent.”

If predestination is true, then there’s an equipollent relation between the choice I make and the choice that God decreed.

“But if a person is a determinist, it makes no sense to even think they have alternatives.”

You keep repeating the same simpleminded objection. Repetition doesn’t make a fallacious argument gradually sound.

“Since alternatives are a part of the definition of choosing, the definition of choose rule out determinism.”

Only on your tendentious, libertarian definition of what alternatives are and how they function.

“But even the retreated (switcharoo) understanding of alternatives to ‘what we thought were alternatives’ doesn't work. Since it makes no sense for a determinist to think he has alternatives, it makes no sense for a determinist to think he can choose.”

Tell that to a poker player.

“I agree with this statement, but it doesn't answer my questions or explain your statement about time-travel or lingering possibilites.”

Merely stating that it doesn’t answer your questions or explain my statement is not an argument.

“My comment was a description, not argument.”

Which is one of your chronic problems.

“While your previous statement about God and time was one I agreed with and I don't think it explained our differences here; this comment about God's timelessness might. God's decree and/or creation of the world starts time. Once time starts, God is in it.”

That conclusion doesn’t begin to follow from your preceding remarks.

“God has alternative possibilities before creation and does not after creation. For man, the change from one moment to the next is associated with the lapse of possibilites. For God, it's the change from being outside of time to being in time.”

So you say. Where’s the argument?

“But let's say you're right and God remains timeless after the inception of time. This leads us to question if time itself is real, since apparently God doesn't see things that way.”

Does this also lead you to the question whether space itself is real, since God is not a brick?

Time is a real condition for creatures.

“Further, so long as the decree logically precedes the act, alternative possibilities have still lapsed. Given God's decree, there are no possible alternatives.”

Yes, given God’s decree. That doesn’t make his decree an ipso facto given. His decree is the logical consequence of his choice.

“So it still does not make sense to use possible alternatives (indexed to God) as a core ingredient in defining man's choices (logically and/or temporally after the decree).”

Saying it doesn’t make sense is not a sensible argument. It’s just a tendentious denial. Where’s the supporting argument?

“Further still, one questions if God ever had alternative possibilities (temporally or logically), since they seem to entail change.”

How do alternatives entail change? Most alternatives remain unexemplified possibilities.

“It's very relevant. The ‘value’ and rewards are eternal, not temporal. Matthew 6:25-34”

i) That’s hardly specific to Molinism or Arminianism. A Calvinist could lodge the very same appeal.

ii) So you’re still dancing around the issue. It’s an objection specific to your own position. Libertarians contend that freedom to do otherwise (or choose otherwise) is a precondition of moral responsibility.

But unless you foreknow what the various alternatives entail, then you can’t make an informed decision. So, once again, what’s the value of having all these live possibilities at your disposal when you don’t know what they amount to? Absent the knowledge of their respective consequences, you lack the requisite information to make a considered choice between one alternative and another.

“No question remorse is one of the definitions, but it's not the only one. Change of heart and remorse are alternative definitions. You cited some Engish translations that translate naham as sorry, but other versions translate it repent. Interestingly, the newer translations (and dynamic equivalants) tend to go with ‘sorry’, and the older ones tend to favor ‘repent’. The LXX, Vulgate, Tyndale, Webster, KJV, ASV, Youngs, and Darby all go with repent. Translations aside, the Hebrew itself allows for either change of heart or remorse. I disslike ‘sorry’ as a translation, because it's too specific and misses the range of meaning in the Hebrew naham.”

i) Oh, so under pressure, Dan ditches the collective definition for a selective definition. If that’s good enough for Dan, then that’s good enough for me. There are several definitions of “choice” in the Oxford English Dictionary (see above) which don’t define choice in terms of selecting from alternatives or possibilities.

ii) Dan says he dislikes “sorry” as a translation, yet he previously assured us that we should trust English dictionaries to settle meaning of “choice” in Scripture since translators know and use English dictionaries.

“The denotation for divine repentance is not the same as it is for God's repentance, unless you think God, like man, sins, and physically reacts. God has a change of heart, not because of His own sins, but due to His hatred of ours. God previously saw mankind and said "it is good", now He sees mankind as only evil. So before He wished to have a creation, now He wishes their destruction. That's the change of heart from one intention to another, and it's not due to God's sins, but man's.”

The word “repentance” (whether in English or Hebrew) doesn’t take on a different meaning when applied to God rather than man, or vice versa. That’s irrelevant to the lexical meaning of the word. Once again, Dan jettisons his primary argument when it’s subjected to a bit of hull pressure.

“At the beginning of time, God knows the whole of time.”

Does this mean that, apart from God’s creation of the world, he’s ignorant of time, whether in part or in whole?

“Not so. In popular usage knowing what will happen means your knowledge of what will happen corresponds to what will happen.”

Dan is confusing a theory of knowledge with a theory of truth (the correspondence theory). To say that what constitutes true belief is correspondence between the belief and the object of belief is not at all the same thing as how we know the object of true belief.

“Of course, there's usually some degree of uncertainty for us, but we judge the truth or falsehood of future tense propositions based on outcomes.”

If we know the outcomes. In the case of human beings, we know the future outcome when the outcome is past.

“What Steve is talking about doesn't seem to be a common topic of discussion, but it would be better described as knowledge of causal forces and relations rather than knowledge of the future.”

In the case of God, God’s knowledge of the future is grounded in God’s knowledge of his decree for the future. Indeed, to deploy Dan’s own theory of truth, the decree exactly corresponds to what will happen. Therefore, knowledge of the decree entails knowledge of what is decreed.

By contrast, Dan leaves divine foreknowledge groundless.

“Yes, but knowing it as past, before it happens.”

If Dan thinks it’s possible to know a future event before it is past, then, by definition, such foreknowledge would be an indirect rather than direct knowledge of the future. And God’s self-knowledge of his decree fits that bill to perfection.

“Caused and ‘based on’ are not equivalent. The future does not cause God's knowledge, since God's knowledge is immediate.”

That’s an assertion, not an argument. God enjoys an immediate knowledge of the decree since the decree is a divine idea. God’s knowledge of the decree is self-knowledge, a knowledge of his own mind.

By contrast, time, or future time, is an extramental entity. A mode of finite creatures. In the nature of the case, an extramental entity cannot be the object of immediate knowledge. Only one’s mental life can be the object of immediate knowledge.

“That's inductive and can never amout to knowledge of the future.”

This is yet another assertion in search of an argument. If God causes the future, then how does that not amount to a knowledge of the effects? Does God cause something without knowing what the result will be?

“Steve seems to be denying that the future is the basis of truth of statements about the future.”

Dan continues to confuse a theory of knowledge with a theory of truth.

“It's interesting Steve thinks I am sticking to the text of Romans 9:19 too closely.”

Is this another one of Dan’s efforts to be cute? Cutesy, question-begging one-liners are no substitute for counterarguments.


  1. Steve,

    Off topic, I definitely think Triablogue or another outfit should do an in-depth review of Rene Salm's "The Myth of Nazareth". It needn't be hundreds of pages like "This Joyful Eastertide" but it's just out in paperback and atheists WILL be reading it and using it as ammo. If you know anyone familiar with biblical archeology you should show it to them.

    Here's the guy's website:

  2. It all sounds a little too angry for me.

  3. Roger,

    When a disputant has a track-record of failing to argue in good faith, there's nothing wrong with pointing that out.

    The emotional or moral tone of Scripture is quite varied. It's not all hearts and flowers.

    Too many Christians have a self-imposed speech code that is far narrower than Biblical discourse.

  4. Too bad this shirt isn't available anymore.


  5. Steve Hays: "Since then I’ve had other things to attend to, like rebutting an Ehrman wannabe (James McGrath)."

    Thanks for taking the time to rebutting James McGrath, an Ehrman wannabe.

    Here's his review of Ehrman's book, "Jesus Interrupted".

  6. So Calvinism denies that God has libertarian free will? I recall Steve saying in various old posts that God has "counterfactual freedom." God's degrees are eternal, does that also mean that God's acts are eternal? If so, then wouldn't the creation of the world be eternal too? If God's acts are not eternal, then how can God then create? If they aren't eternal, then would God have to be in tme? Since, to create, in human setting and language, most often involves action in time. As we all know, Arians of all sorts use the same point to deny the eternality of the Son. Since, under normal speach, begetting is something that happens in time whereby previously there is no child, and then afterwards there is. Hence, they argued (and sang), "There was a time when the Son was not." That's why the orthodox views of "eternal sonship" and "eternal generation" are rejected by many cults.

    These two issues seem to be related in that, the denial of God's timeless eternality implies that Christ was begotten in time. In which case, some kind of Arianism or Semi-Arianism would be true.

    One way I've tried to reconcile this is to say that while God's being is eternal, God's consciousness is temporal. But then, the Bible teaches that God's knowledge is omniscient, or at least that God's knowledge of future events is infallible. Which would seem to deny temporal consciousness.

    If we as Calvinists affirm a B theory of time such that the entire creation of creation (past, present, future) "is/was" made completely, rather than some sort of temporal continuous creation/occasionalism, how does that solve the problem? How can creation not be corellative to and with God such that it's an eternal emanation of God?

    What of Jonathan Edwards suggestion of divine idealism whereby creation is actually something that is not external to God, but rather in God's mind. Which implies that "creation" is anthropomorphic of divine imagination. In which case, it leads to similarities to Eastern religious claims that creation is God's dream. Which we, as Christians want to reject since historically we believe creation ex nihilo and that creation is separate from God. And that that's why God is above, beyond, and distinct from his creation (i.e. transcendant). Yet, we also affirm that God is immanent in some way since Paul wassn't hesitant to quote pagans by saying "In Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Aratus?).

    There must be some Christian books that deal with these issues. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of them. Any suggestions folks?

    I'm willing to accept these problems as the sort of mysteries that Van Til referred to which we cannot answer because of our finitude. Nevertheless we all agree that we've got to do our best to answer such problems lest we become "mystery mongers" and end up with "paradox paralysis" (as Douglas Groothuis likes to say).

  7. From the standpoint of a timeless being, there was never a time when the world (he made) did not exist.

    From the standpoint of the creature, the world had a first moment. Time is internal to the spacetime continuum.

    The person of the Son is timeless, just like the Father and the Spirit.

  8. "There must be some Christian books that deal with these issues. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of them. Any suggestions folks?"

    Yes. God, History, Dialectic @ addresses your concern directly. Also Free Choice in Saint Maximus the Confessor both by Joseph P. Farrell.

    So when is Steve going to pick up and read JPF? ;)