Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Befuddled Arminians

“Does God really want all people to be saved?”

This is not simply a question for Calvinists, but also for Arminians. According to Arminians, human beings have freedom to do or choose otherwise. The outcome could go either way.

If that is so, then there is a possible world for each alternative outcome. A possible world in which a free agent chooses one way, along with another possible world in which he chooses otherwise.

Therefore, on Arminian principles, there ought to be at least one possible world in which all free agents freely choose Jesus.
So, if God loves everyone and wants to save everyone, then why didn’t he create that possible world–rather than a world in which some human beings are heavenbound while other human beings are hellbound?

Or, to recast the issue in less ambitious terms, the Arminian must demonstrate that there is no possible world in which free agents freely choose Christ.

Michael: “Would it not be easier and better just to admit the Calvinist position makes far less sense than the Arminian?”

That would be easier to admit if you backed it up with an actual argument.

“…but he is much more loving, as the Arminian contends (and, by the way, as the Bible teaches).”

How is God much more loving under Arminianism?

Robert: “Now the non-calvinist on the other hand, since we believe that Jesus died for the world (and that world includes both folks who will eventually become believers as well as folks who will never become believers) we do in fact believe that God has the best interests in mind for all people of the world.”

If, according to freewill theism, it is possible for every human being to either accept or reject the gospel, then there’s at least one possible world in which each human being accepts the gospel. Therefore, God could act with everyone’s best interests in mind by instantiating a possible world in which everyone freely accepts the gospel. Libertarian freedom or the freedom to do otherwise (i.e. principle of alternate possibilities) implies that there is at least one such world.

Revrogers: “I would suggest that the ‘love’ relationship between God and the human is more ‘genuine’ in that it was not imposed upon the human by irresistibleness of the grace. The Arminian understanding suggests that all grace is enabling for genuine response to God’s initiating grace (whether common or special). The genuine response of the human is genuinely rebellious in direct response to the offered grace (common or special) and not merely hardwired instinctive original sin but real individual rebellion or it is a grace-enabled ability to plead mercy. God’s initiating enabling grace makes either response more ‘genuine’ in my opinion.”

Which misses the point of my earlier comment. Even on Arminian/libertarian grounds, you are posing a false dilemma. Even if we grant your tendentious characterization of what “genuine” love requires, that doesn’t imply an actual world with hellbound sinners. For if, a la libertarianism, it is possible for human beings to either accept the gospel or reject the gospel, if it is possible for them to either love God or withhold their love, then there’s a possible world which represents each possible alternative. In that case, God could save every free agent by simply creating the possible world in which they freely love him. That doesn’t require the “imposition” of irresistible grace. Rather, that follows from libertarian action theory.

So, explain once again, consistent with your Arminian/libertarian commitments, how Arminian theism is more loving than Reformed theism?

revrogers: “What makes it ‘tendentious’?”

You define love in libertarian terms, which begs the very question at issue.

“How would you characterize and define something being a ‘love’ relationship?”

The unregenerate are like mental patients who can’t help themselves. God isn’t “imposing” on them. Rather, regeneration restores their fallen mind and will to proper working order. A properly functioning mind and will naturally loves the good and hates evil.

Revrogers: “Adam’s properly functioning (’good’) mind and will apparently did not naturally love the good and hate the evil.”

You’re confusing what is natural with what is necessary.

#John1453: “God, who loves His enemies more perfectly than we do, has set the example for us by casting into burning hellfire all those whom He did not elect, who were His enemies because of the sin of Adam their forefather.”

What exactly do you object to? Reprobation? Original sin? Or everlasting punishment?

#John1453: “If He is powerful enough to save people and has decreed what shall come to pass, and does not save all people, then He lacks the desire and is wicked.”

Your conclusion has everything going for it except anything resembling an actual argument.

#John1453: “Wow, gotta love that guy (God, not Calvin or Piper). Just makes you wanna snuggle right up into His loving hands and peek over the edge of His palm at your unelect kids burning in the hellfire and gnashing their teeth. I dunno about you, but it helps me sleep at night after I tuck my own kids into bed.”

Calvinism has no official position on the fate of all who die young. Some Reformed theologians (e.g. Warfield) believe in universal infant salvation.

And why do you think Methodism traditionally practices infant baptism? To wash away original sin. So why do you single out Calvinism? Are you simply ignorant of historical theology in general?

“Ah, the mysterious and gnostic love of God for the people screaming in hell for billions and billions of years as part of His wonderful plan. Makes me all kinda sentimental and gooey inside. If only Armnians would switch over to preaching this stuff, they would find their churches filled to overflowing.”

Since Arminianism traditionally subscribes to hell, why do you single out Calvinism at this juncture?

If “John” is referring to those who have passed the age of discretion, then why would he object to the idea that those beyond the age of discretion are liable to everlasting punishment?

In Arminianism, God could save everyone. If you think that everyone has the freedom to either believe in Christ or disbelieve in Christ, then there’s a possible world in which everyone freely believes in Christ. That possibility follows from the Arminian commitment to libertarian freedom. So, if “John” were consistent, he’d admit that God could save them from their hellish fate (in this world) by instantiating a different possible world in which they did otherwise.

#John1453: "I’m just using an argument from logic that has been around since the early Greeks. It’s a pretty standard argument from evil that can be found in any of the latest books by atheists. I just modified it so that it would refer to Calvinist tenets. In its usual form it’s presented thusly":

1) If God were willing to prevent evil but unable to do so, God would be impotent.
2) If God were able to prevent evil but unwilling to do so, God would be malevolent.
3) God is neither unwilling nor unable to prevent evil.
4) There is evil.
5) God does not exist.


Of course, that argument could also be modified to refer to Arminian tenets. Since according to Arminianism, God has libertarian freedom, nothing necessitated God in creating a world where evil exists. God could prevent that outcome by not making our world (or any world whatsoever) in the first place.

So, by your own logic, applied to Arminian tenets, God is malevolent and evil.

#John1453: “So, it is not the case that the logic can be applied to Arminian tenets.”

It follows directly from the second premise of your own syllogism: “If God were able to prevent evil but unwilling to do so, God would be malevolent.”

Yet you admit that God was able, but unwilling to prevent evil: “Yes, God could have decided not to create anything at all. However…”

Therefore, if we hold you to your own words, then God is malevolent and evil by Arminian standards.

If you’re going to backpeddle from a conclusion which is entailed by your own syllogism, then you need to withdraw your syllogism. But, in that event, you can no longer deploy that syllogism against Calvinism without implicating your own position in the same breath.

#John1453 “Anyway, your conclusion would only be true if there were no other grounds exculpating God from malevolency on account of His unwillingness.”

Wrong. My conclusion follows by strict implication from your own syllogism. You’re now having to salvage your argument by conceding that your syllogism was invalidated by suppressed premises. So you now need to reformulate your syllogism to explicate your suppressed premises.

#John1453 “Not true. Libertarian freedom does not imply that there is at least one world in which everyone chooses God.”

Of course it does. That’s a logical implication of libertarian freedom. If libertarian freedom is the freedom to do otherwise in the same situation (which is a standard definition), then the outcome could go either way. If you deny that it’s possible for an agent to either choose A or refrain from choosing A, then you deny that he would have chosen otherwise. You thereby deny the principle of alternative possibilities.

But, in that case, how can you still object to determinism or compatibilism?

If, on the other hand, you admit, a la libertarianism, that it’s possible for an agent to do otherwise, then that commits you to a possible world in which he does otherwise. That possibility can’t adhere in the actual world, for the actual world only exemplifies one future, one timeline, one possible alternative.

Therefore, the alternate possibility must refer to, and be grounded in, another possible world.

As for Molinism, all you’ve done is to expose the incoherence of Molinism.

However, since you bring it up, here is how Thomas Flint, a leading Molinist, defines libertarian freedom: “Necessarily, for any human agent S, action A and time t, if S performs A freely at t, then the history of the world prior to t, the laws of nature, and the actions of any other agent (including God) prior to and at t are jointly compatible with S’s refraining from
performing A freely.” Cf. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, 161n1.

This, of course, is just a formal way of expressing the freedom to do otherwise (or principle of alternate possibilities).

So my argument follows even from a Molinist definition of libertarian freedom.

#John1453 “Given that God is all powerful, God could of course save everyone. However, the question is why He won’t. Under Calvinism, there is no explanation; God is simply capricious. Under Arminianism, God will not because otherwise He could not receive freely given love, nor have his love freely accepted (in the libertarian sense of free).”

That’s a completely ineffective rebuttal since my argument is predicated on libertarian freedom as the operating premise. Try again.

#John1453 “ You’re a bit mixed up.”

We’ll see who’s mixed up.

“What Flint says is true, and it is then the choice of the person, not God, that determines the outcome.”

Determines *which* outcome? Determines the outcome in *which* possible world?

If libertarianism is true, then there is more than one possible outcome. That’s the point. The principle of alternate possibilities.

Hence, there is more than one possible outcome. Hence, there is more than one possible world which corresponds to that alternate outcome.

“And God, being omniscient as to all outcomes, knows which of the free choices that person will make.”

And if the agent is free in the libertarian sense, then the agent not only has more than one choice, but he makes more than one choice–in different possible worlds (or world-segments).

That is what it means to say he could do otherwise. If it could go either way, then there must be a possible world for either hypothetical outcome.

“However, it is not true that there are two worlds, both with libertarian free will, which have identical composition and identical histories but in one world the person chooses freely to perform action A, and in the other world the person freely chooses not-A.”

Is that what I said? No. Different possible worlds represent alternate futures. They may have the same history up to a point, but they fork off at the point where the free agent opts for one alternate timeline or another.

As to identical composition, to remind you, once more, a defining feature of libertarian freedom is the ability to do otherwise given the very same preconditions.

“A person can only freely choose one, not both, and God knows what is chosen.”

Can only make one choice per possible world. That’s because each possible world (0r segment thereof) represents an alternate possibility. This doesn’t mean a libertarian agent only makes one choice. Rather, he only makes one of those choices in a given world. Not that there is only one given world in which he can choose.

“You may disagree, but that is what Molinists believe.”

You’re the one who introduced Molinism, not me. I was discussing the implications of libertarian freedom. It’s not as if Molinism has a monopoly on possible worlds.

#John1453: “Your ‘hence’ is a non sequitur.”

That’s an assertion, not an argument.

“And I know of no one who argues for libertarian free will that would agree with you.”

That’s an anecdote, not an argument.

“It does not follow that there must be a possible world for either hypothetical outcome, at least not if one holds to the principle of bivalence (which most people do hold to, including most philosophers and most who believe in libertarian free will). For example, tomorrow there either will or will not be a sea battle depending on the choice of the admiral. A free will libertarian would argue that both are possible.”

“Both possible” in relation to *what*? The actual world? The actual future? They can’t both be possible in relation to the same outcome since contrary outcomes would be incompossible. Both could only be possible in relation two different possible worlds. Your position also has no way of grounding unexemplified possibilities.

“Both those who believe in simple foreknowledge and Molinists agree that God knows what the outcome will be because he knows the actual future. What will occur is the actual future (e.g., the sea battle occurs), and God knows that.”

That assumes the very thing you need to prove. If the future is open-ended, then there is no one outcome to be known prior to the event.

“Anyway, if one believes in bivalence (as I do) then there cannot be two true outcomes of a future choice.”

Which, once again, misses the point. They cannot both be true in reference to the same world. But different possible worlds represent alternate futures. That supplies the truthmaker for counterfactual statements–without which counterfactual statements lack truth-value. Yet libertarianism is knee-deep in counterfactuals.

“In logic, the semantic principle of bivalence states that every proposition is either true or false. The principle of bivalence can be stated more formally as: For any proposition P, either P is true or P is false. This principle is related to the principle of contradiction and the principle of the excluded middle.”

True or false for *what*? For each possible world, every proposition is either true or false. But that restriction obtains *within* possible worlds, not *between* possible worlds. There is no contradiction in saying that what is true in one possible world may be false in another. Try again.

#John1453: “In regard to no. 1, steve’s reply does not help his position, in that after I assert that what he says does not follow, I then go on to explain why. Steve’s reply fails to show how his conclusion follows.”

i) To the contrary, I specifically countered “John’s” explanation.

ii) Likewise, I’ve explained in some detail how the conclusion follows. “John’s” bare denial hardly amounts to a disproof.

“In regard to no. 2, the fact that no one else argues as steve does is good evidence for the conclusion that steve, being the odd one out, is wrong.”

i) A headcount is not an argument. Indeed, it’s a tacit admission that someone can’t defend his position by reasoned argument.

ii) Also keep in mind that this is just another assertion. “John” has offered no statistical evidence to back up his statistical claim.

“Neither Molinists nor simple foreknowledge-ists believe that the future is open ended. They believe that the choices of humans are contingent facts, but they both believe that the future is, and has been, fully determined by God (because of the content and nature of His knowledge).”

i) Arminians emphatically deny that divine foreknowledge implies divine determinism of the future.

ii) ”John” continues to equivocate over the future. He still doesn’t grasp the issue. The question at issue is not whether the actual future is open-ended. Rather, in libertarianism, there are alternate possible outcomes. The actual world actualizes one possible outcome. But this is by no means to obviate the open-ended character of the future at the level of possible worlds. And that is how the freedom to do otherwise cashes out. Does “John” even understand the principle of alternate possibilities?

iii) Apropos (ii), this, in turn, raises the question of whether God can know in advance which possible future is the actual future.

iv) Even if “John’s description of Molinism were accurate, that’s beside the point since the question at issue is not merely the descriptive question of what Molinism claims to be the case, but the evaluative question of whether Molinism is coherent. Can Molinism consistently make good on its claims?

Remember that Molinism is a compromise position which tries to finesse libertarian freedom and divine sovereignty. Whether it’s successful in that endeavor is a standing bone of contention.

“Even open theists would agree that the ultimate end is determined, and that many of the events along the way to that end are determined.”

That’s vague and equivocal. The point at issue is not whether natural events like earthquakes are determined, but whether God predetermines human actions. This is something open theism denies. Indeed, it goes further and denies that God even knows what human agents will do.

“Steve hays seems to use ‘open ended’ to mean ‘contingent’, but they are not the same concepts.”

That’s not how I’ve defined my terms.

“Further, as I have indicated, neither Molinists (e.g., W.L. Craig) nor those who hold to simple forknowledge (e.g., D. Hunt-the one with the PhD) believe that the future is open ended in the sense that steve hays sets out, i.e., unknown outcome.”

i) Once again, “John” fails to distinguish between the description of a claim and the evaluation of the claim.

ii) He is also trying to shift the focus of the discussion. The question of whether or not God can foreknow the counterfactuals of freedom is ancillary to my original argument. The question at issue is whether there is at least one possible world in which libertarian agents freely believe in Christ. And, therefore, whether the Arminian God is more loving than the Calvinist God when the Arminian God could save everyone without infringing on their libertarian freedom, but chooses, instead, to making a world containing hellbound sinners.

“Steve hays does not appear to understand the principle of bivalence nor how possible world theory works, but this is not the place for a mini lesson in those concepts (unless it is desired by readers).”

Because “John” doesn’t have a real argument, he resorts to promissory arguments. The check is in the mail.

“In short, however, if a person makes a choice at a certain time, e.g. biting an apple, and that choice represents the true history of the world, then there is no possible world with the exact same history up to that point in which the person does not bite the apple.”

To the contrary, that’s exactly how libertarianism asserts. Remember Flint’s definition, which I quoted above. According to Flint, libertarian freedom is definable by the fact that the preconditions don’t determine the outcome. Under the very same preconditions, you could have a different outcome.

Consider another standard definition of libertarian freedom by a leading libertarian philosopher (William Hasker):

“By ‘libertarian freedom’ is meant freedom such that the agent who makes a choice is really able, under exactly the same circumstances, to choose something different from the thing that is in fact chosen…libertarian freedom is inherently indeterministic. This means that there is nothing whatever that predetermines which choice will be made, until the creature is actually placed in the situation and makes the decision,” Contemporary Debates in Philosophy, 219.

It follows from Flint’s definition and Hasker’s alike that the history of the world could be identical up to the point at which the free agent makes his next choice, yet different futures remain in play. Although the actual world instantiates just one possibility to the exclusion of the others, the future could go either way at the level of possible outcomes, which inhere in different possible worlds (or world-segments). And that is how libertarian philosophers unpack the freedom to do otherwise.

“Some nonChristians have speculated that the universe is continually forking off and every logically possible world thus exists (either always and at the same time, or as progressive branching), but such arguments are not relevant for discussions of future knowledge involving the Christian God (i.e., one who possesses maximal compossible attributes). [note that I said ‘logically possible’, not ‘alethically possible’].”

That objection is muddled in two respects:

i) A Christian can subscribe to the multiverse. Don Page is a Christian physicist who has written in support of the multiverse.

ii) More to the point, the question at issue is not the physical existence of forking paths, but forking paths as possible worlds (i.e. abstract objects). As (Christian) libertarian philosopher Robert Kane explicates the concept:

“Open alternatives lie before us…This means we could have chosen or acted otherwise…If Jane believes her choice is a free choice (made ‘of her own free will’), she must believe both options are ‘open’ to her while she is deliberating. She could have chosen either one…But that means she believe there is more than one possible path into the future available to her and it is ‘up to her’ which of these paths will be taken. Such a picture of an open future with forking paths–a garden of working paths, we might call it–is essential to our understanding of free will,” Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics, 285-86.

Kane’s explanation directly contradicts “John’s” contrary assertion about the relation between past and future in libertarian action theory.

“John” seems to lack even a nodding acquaintance with the standard libertarian literature–although that’s the position he claims to be both representing and defending. Either that or he doesn’t grasp what the writers are saying.

“It appears to me that steve hays is unfamiliar with the concepts and literature necessary to engage usefully on this issue and out of his depth.”

Notice that I’m the one who’s actually documenting my claims from the relevant literature. “John” is simply pounding his fist.

#John1453: “Note that Kane is writing from Jane’s perspective; to her all of the paths are open to her while she is deliberating.”

Wrong! Kane is using Jane to articulate the concept of libertarian freedom. This represents Kane’s position, as a libertarian action theorist.

“That is not God’s perspective under either simple foreknowledge or Molinism.”

For some reason, “John” keeps trying to recast the issue. The starting point is not middle knowledge or simple foreknowledge. The starting point is libertarian freedom. If you take libertarian freedom as your operating premise, then the next question is what does that imply?

Remember the question headlining Justin’s thread? Does God really want to save everyone?

Arminian commenters immediately began to pounce on Calvinism. I, however, pointed out that if you subscribe to libertarian freedom, then there’s at least one possible world in which everyone freely believes in Jesus. Yet God doesn’t make that world. Instead, he makes another possible world containing a large number of hellbound sinners. In that event, is the Arminian God more loving than the Calvinist God. That’s the question.

You can pose the same question for any form of freewill theism. The same question is applicable to Molinism. Indeed, William Lane Craig admits the existence of possible worlds in which everyone is saved. He justifies the creation of a world in which everyone is not saved on the grounds that more people are saved overall, even if that comes at the expense of the damned.

“Under those two theories, God knows which path Jane will take.”

Once again, “John” is unable to distinguish the descriptive question from the evaluative question. The question at issue is not merely what those two theories stipulate to be the case, but whether one or both are internally coherent with all their operating assumptions.

“But she can only choose in one way, and there is no other universe in which she chooses the other way.”

Which is a point blank denial of libertarian freedom. If “John” wants to deny libertarian freedom, that’s fine with me. However, he’s been attacking Calvinism right and left. Yet it’s very difficult for him to attack Reformed combatibilism if he’s going to repudiate libertarian incompatibilism as well. At that point, what is his standard of comparison?

“Under simple foreknowledge and Molinism there is no other universe with the exact same prior history and constitution in which Jane makes the choice differently.”

That statement directly contradicts Flint’s definition of libertarian freewill, and Flint is a leading Molinist. It also contradicts Hasker’s definition.

“So Kane does not contradict me, at least not in that passage.”

Kane isn’t stating the position of either middle knowledge or simple foreknowledge. That’s not his starting point. His starting point is libertarian freewill. The next question is what libertarian freewill allows or disallows.

I’ve now cited three libertarian action theorists (Flint, Hasker, Kane) whose definition of libertarian freedom directly contradicts the position of “John.” Yet “John” is attacking Reformed compatibilism. If, however, “John” rejects libertarianism and compatibilism alike, then what is his fallback position?

“It is, of course, possible to imagine other theories in which the above description is not the case, but those theories would not be simple foreknowledge or Molinism (which is what Hays began his attack on).”

“John” is rewriting the history of the thread. I didn’t begin by attacking middle knowledge or simple foreknowledge. Go back to where I entered the discussion. I began by discussing the universalistic potential of freewill theism:


“Hays gives the example of the multiverse, which is fine, but that is not what was underdiscussion and the failings of the multiverse are not the failings of Molinism or simple foreknowledge.”

i) Once again, “John” is rewriting the history of the thread. I’m not the one who brought up the multiverse. He did. I was responding to his introduction of that issue into the exchange.

ii) Moreover, he did that by confusing the concept of forking paths with the concept of the multiverse. While the multiverse is one way to underwrite the garden of forking paths, the two concepts are hardly synonymous. Kane is using the garden of forking paths to illustrate libertarian action theory, not physics.

iii) Furthermore, the “failings” of Molinism or the multiverse were not the point at issue. The issue was the way in which libertarian freedom implicates the possibility of a world in which everyone freely believes the gospel.

iv) Finally, “John” said the multiverse was inconsistent with Christian theism. I simply pointed out that you have professing Christians like Don Page who think otherwise.

So let’s recap the real issue: according to freewill theism, does God want everyone to be saved? If libertarian freewill creates the possibility of a world in which everyone freely accepts the Gospel, yet God chooses not to make such a world, but instead, makes a world in which many sinners will spend eternity in hell, then in what sense does God want to save them? It lay within his power to do so without stepping on their libertarian toes. And, in that case, how is freewill theism more loving than Reformed theism?

#John1453: “None of the three philosophers cited by Hays (Flint, Hasker, Kane)states that proposition, which Hays does not appreciate.”

A red herring. The question is whether, given a standard definition of libertarianism, such as they supply, an Arminian can demonstrate that there is no possible world in which free agents freely choose Jesus. For if there is even one possible world in which everyone is saved, yet God chooses to instantiate a different world in which some individuals are damned, then in what sense is Arminianism more loving than Calvinism?

This is a question of logical implications, given a libertarian premise. What does that premise logically allow or disallow?

Given his commitment to libertarian freedom, can the Arminian (or Molinist) rule out a possible world in which everyone is saved?

“Libertarian free will is not defined by the number of possible futures, but by the manner in which a human makes a choice. In particular by the constraints on that choice or lack thereof.”

That’s a false dichotomy. Libertarian freewill is defined by the agent having at least two viable alternatives at his disposal: in the same situatio, he can either choose A or refrain from choosing A.

If his choice is constrained in the sense that only one path is open to him, then he lacks libertarian freedom.

“However, in the true history of the universe the person in question will only choose one thing. There are not two (or more) true / actual histories of the world. There are many logically possible histories, but only one actual one.”

“John” is apparently saying that in the actual world, an agent only has one path open to him. I agree with that. But, then, I’m a Calvinist. When “John” makes statements like that, he is repudiating libertarianism. In that event, what is his objection to Calvinism?

“In both simple foreknowledge and Molinism, God is limited in what worlds he can create by the actual choices of the people that inhabit those worlds.”

People don’t make actual choices in possible worlds. For merely possible worlds have not been actualized.

It would be more accurate to say that so-and-so does one thing in one possible world, and another thing in another possible world.

And the fact that, according to Molinism or Arminianism, God’s choice of what world to create is constrained by what human agents will do or would do does nothing to show that there can be no possible world in which free agents freely choose Christ.

If there are no possible worlds in which Judas either betrays Christ or remains faithful to Christ, then it’s not possible for Judas to do otherwise. In that event, you deny libertarian freedom. And, since I’m a Calvinist, that’s fine with me. However, that denial does nothing to help “John” make his case against Calvinism.

“For example, there is an intrinsically possible world in which Peter freely affirms Christ in precisely the same circumstances in which he in fact denied him; but given the counterfactual truth that if Peter were in precisely those circumstances he would freely deny Christ, then the possible world in which Peter freely affirms Christ in those circumstances is not feasible for God. God could force Peter to affirm Christ in those circumstances, but then his confession would not be free.”

Both possible worlds are feasible since, in both possible worlds, Peter acts freely. He acts just as freely in the possible world where he’s faithful to Christ as in the possible world where he’s faithless to Christ.

Therefore, God would not be “forcing” Peter to affirm Christ by instantiating a possible world in which Peter freely affirms Christ. Peter could freely opt for either alternative under precisely the same circumstances.

So, whichever outcome God instantiates is consistent with Peter’s libertarian freedom.

“The important point is that God cannot create a world in which a person chooses to do other than what God knows she will do in those exact same circumstances. Though it is logically possible for someone to do A or B or C, etc. in those circumstances God knows that the person will do A.”

There is no one thing a libertarian agent will do in different possible worlds. Even Craig, in the every passage which “John” cited, is explicit on that point: “He knows, for example, that in some possible world Peter freely denies Christ three times and that in another possible world Peter freely affirms Christ under identical circumstances, for both are possible.”

According to Craig, it could go either way. Indeed, there are possible worlds which encapsulate each of these alternate outcome.

“So, it may be that there is a world in which everyone freely comes to Christ, but the only such world is one in which God must lie, or the world must end in 3 A.D., or some other factual circustance that God, in His wisdom, does not want to actualize. We cannot know God’s reasons for choosing to create a world in which everyone does not come to saving faith, but we do have confidence that God has good reasons for doing so or that such a world was not possible. Neither way is libertarian free will defeated.”

Notice that “John” is now backpedaling from his previous denials. He now admits the possibility of a world in which everyone is saved. Yet God didn’t create such a world. Instead, he made a world in which everyone is not saved. So how is Arminianism (or Molinism) more loving than Calvinism?

“Furthermore, the Calvinist is no better off than the Libertarian; indeed her position is worse. The Calvinist position is worse because God determines the future by decree, and so could simply decree that every person be saved. Moreover, under Calvinism saving faith is irrestible since God first regenerates the heart of the person that is saved. Under Calvinism God is not limited by the true conditionals of freedom (i.e., by what a person will do under specified circumstances).”

i) “Not better off” is a far cry from “John’s” original allegations. “John” is retreating from his prior position.

ii) Moreover, “John” hasn’t shown that Calvinism is worse off. He says that under Calvinism, God could “simply decree that every person be saved.”

Yet he’s also quoted Craig saying there’s a possible world in which free agents like Peter can do otherwise under identical circumstances. So, for “John” to show that Calvinism is worse off than libertarianism, he must show that there is no possible world in which the damned in the actual world freely chose Christ in a possible world.

“So, in heaven we will be delighted with God that He has used some of our loved ones (children, parents, grandparents, best friends, etc.) as a means of displaying His wrath forever and ever. We’ll be pleased that God didn’t save them even though He could have.”

“Even though he could have saved them.” But, to draw an invidious contrast between Calvinism and libertarianism on that score, “John” needs to demonstrate that it was impossible for God to do so on libertarian grounds.

“Even if there is a feasible world in which everyone has libertarian free will and comes to saving faith, the fact that we do not have such a world means either that it is not feasibly possible or that this world, one in which everyone has freee will but not everyone is saved, is better for some reason that God only knows.”

False dichotomy. It means that “John” should go back and question his a priori commitment to libertarian action theory.

#John1453 “Hays has already forgotten a previous post of mine on this thread in which I indicated that normally people engage in a productive discussion by actually reading the posts carefully and interpreting them charitably, by which it is meant that one looks for an interpretation that makes sense and for the strongest interpretation. Doing so would help Hays overcome his penchant for shooting from the lip.”

“John” has already forgotten all his uncharitable remarks about Calvinism.

“In his post of November 23, 2009 at 9:06 am Hays calls my reference to the three philosophers he cited a ‘A red herring.’ If that is so, then it equally applies to his use of them, which is what prompted my reply.”

Not at all, since I cited them to establish a premise, not a conclusion. Try again.

“More importantly, however, I pointed out that the three philosophers he cited do not support his contention; Hays has not replied differently. I don’t expect a reply on that point because Hays is incorrect.”

i) “John” hasn’t shown that I’m incorrect, since I never cited them to establish my conclusion. Rather, I cited them to define libertarianism. “John” is simply burning a straw man.

ii) Moreover, John is the one who’s incorrect, since he defends libertarianism, but does so in a way that contradicts the standard definition.

“I’ve tried to educate him with the following two facts:”

Just to set the record straight, I’m the one who’s been tutoring “John” on his own side of the argument. I’m the one who had to quote libertarian philosophers to correct his misdefinition of libertarian freedom. “John” has been playing catch-up.

“(1) libertarian free will does not necessitate that conclusion.”

i) It doesn’t need to “necessitate” that conclusion. Rather, it’s sufficient that unless “John” can disprove that conclusion, then he can’t claim that Arminianism is more loving than Calvinism. “John” is illogically attempting to shirk his burden of proof.

ii) Moreover, “John” cites Craig, yet Craig grants the possibility of a world in which everyone is saved.

“And (2) none of the three major Christian approaches to libertarian free will (simple foreknowledge, Molinism, open theism) necessitate such an approach.”

“John” is chronically unable to distinguish claims from implications or descriptions from evaluations.

“And all the varieties of open theism explicitly reject that proposition.”

i) I never said open theism implicates that proposition. But unless “John” is an open theist, that’s a diversionary tactic.

ii) Moreover, John would have to argue that open theism is more loving than Calvinism. If so, where’s the supporting argument?

“I’ve provided quotes from philosophers in support, but to no avail.”

Quoting someone’s opinion is not, itself, an argument. Moreover, the opinion is subject to rational scrutiny.

“I will try once again, again using W.L. Craig.”

I already responded to “John’s” prior citation of Craig. Craig ends up corroborating my position, not “John’s.”

Notice that “John” doesn’t attempt at any point to offer an actual counterargument to anything I’ve said. Instead, he resorts to tendentious characterizations of the exchange. This is a backdoor admission that he has no counterargument.

“It all depends on how creatures would freely behave in various circumstances, which is beyond God’s control.”

Which is irrelevant to the point at issue. God doesn’t have to control their behavior. As long as their behavior involves alternate courses of action (in different possible worlds), God can instantiate one or another of their freely-chosen actions.

“…Plantinga pointed out that for all we know such a world may not be feasible for God. Indeed, for all we know, all the worlds which are feasible for God and which involve as much good as the actual world also involve as much evil.”

i) If “John” is reduced to saying “for all we know,” then that cuts both ways. For all we know, there is such a world, and for all we know, there is no such world. If, therefore, “John’s” last-ditch appeal is an appeal to ignorance, then, by his own admission, he’s in no position to say whether or not Arminianism (or Molinism) is more loving than Calvinism.

ii) At the same time, transworld depravity fatally compromises the principle of libertarian freedom. If there’s no possible world in which free agents freely do right, then agents lack the freedom to do otherwise. In that event, how can “John” attack Reformed compatibilism or determinism?

“No, they are not both feasible because in those exact circumstances Peter will make his choice to do one or the other. In those exact circumstances Peter will always make that choice because that is the choice he makes.”

i) That’s not what Craig said. Just the opposite: “He knows, for example, that in some possible world Peter freely denies Christ three times and that in another possible world Peter freely affirms Christ under identical circumstances, for both are possible.”

So it’s not the case that Peter always makes the same choice. Rather, he makes both choices–in different possible worlds.

ii) And if, pace Craig, “John” says there is no possible world in which Peter ever chooses differently, then it isn’t possible for Peter to choose differently–which which case “John” denies libertarian freewill.

“Or, if one is an open theist…”

i) Unless “John” is an open theist who is attacking Calvinism from that particular standpoint, this is a stalling tactic on his part.

ii) And to say that God can’t know the counterfactuals of freedom hardly shows how open theism is more loving than Calvinism.

“Under simple foreknowledge or Molinism God knows what people will choose (or ‘would’ choose if one prefers to state it as a conditional).”

Which doesn’t mean they make “actual choices” in “possible worlds.” Rather, it means that if God actualizes a possible choice (of theirs), then they make an actual choice in the actual world.

“Thus God could not create that world and expect Peter to affirm Christ, because affirmation of Christ is something God knows Peter will not do.”

“Will not do” in which world? If Peter enjoys libertarian freedom, then there’s a possible world in which he affirms Christ, and another possible world in which he denies Christ. Craig even stated that, in the passage which “John” quoted. John is unable to follow the explicit claims of the very sources he cited.

“Given that Hays chief argument fails, his submissions have no traction.”

As usual, “John” substitutes a tendentious characterization for a counterargument. Unable to defend his position, all he can do is editorialize.

“From start to finish I have maintained that there are some worlds that are not feasible for God to make and that a world in which everyone freely follows Jesus appears to be one of those (that are not feasible).”

i) “Appears to be?” Yet another example of “John’s” backpedaling.

ii) If he’s going to contend that freewill theism is more loving than Calvinism, then he needs to actually demonstrate that a world in which free agents freely choose Christ is impossible. I await the argument.

iii) Moreover, if such an argument were successful, it could only succeed by denying the libertarian freedom of the agents in question. So “John” has backed himself into a lose/lose dilemma.

“Hays simply states, ‘False dichotomy’. If anyone can spot it, I’d appreciate it. Right now I’m left with the impression that English is not Hays native tongue.”

Simple: this is how “John” set up the dichotomy:

““Even if there is a feasible world in which everyone has libertarian free will and comes to saving faith, the fact that we do not have such a world means either that it is not feasibly possible or that this world, one in which everyone has freee will but not everyone is saved, is better for some reason that God only knows.”

Notice how this takes the libertarian premise for granted. But that needs to be consistent with the additional stipulation that freewill theism is more loving than Calvinism. If, however, God creates a world in which some agents are damned even though there was a feasible world in which everyone is saved, then that’s not the most loving arrangement for the damned. So “John” needs to decide which horn of the dilemma to tackle. Is God able, but unwilling, to make a world in which every one is saved–in which case God is unloving towards the damned? Or is God willing, but unable to do so because such agents lack the libertarian freedom to do otherwise?

“My arrival at my current belief that God has given humans libertarian freewill is a result of reading Bible passages such as: Deuteronomy 30:15… Jeremiah 21:8, 9.”

But if “John” subscribes to simple foreknowledge, then God created a world with foreseen outcomes, in which case the outcome cannot be otherwise in the actual world. If he foresaw what we were going to do in this world, and he created this world, then the outcome can’t turn out any differently.

Likewise, if “John” subscribes to Molinism, then if God instantiates possible world A, we can’t do in actual world A what we did in possible world B. To instantiate one possibility thereby precludes another possibility.

#John1453 “Yes, and my point was that not only did you define libertarianism incorrectly, you also cited those three philosophers incorrectly as support. They do not support or agree with you definition.”

That’s just self-serving rhetoric in lieu of any counterargument.

“Craig makes a clear distinction between intrinsically possible worlds and feasible worlds, which Hays conflates.”

Far from conflating them, I specifically interacted with that dichotomy.

“Craig also states that some worlds are not feasible for God to create, which Hays denies.”

i) That’s something I didn’t affirm or deny. And that doesn’t get “John” anywhere. Since an “infeasible” world is definable as a world which God cannot instantiate, the appeal is viciously circular. So invoking infeasible worlds does nothing to advance the argument. It’s just a way of paraphrasing a question-begging claim.

ii) Moreover, even if this dichotomy were abstractly tenable, the application of that dichotomy to any specific case requires a specific argument to show that the case in question is, indeed, infeasible. Merely asserting something to be infeasible is not an argument. “John” needs to argue for his postulate.

“Hays idiosyncratic use concepts and terms unlike the manner used by philosophers is making things difficult.”

More self-serving rhetoric in lieu of any counterargument. “John” is bluffing his way through the debate.

“God cannot instantiate one or the other of the freely chosen actions, because in any given circumstance a person will only make one choice, though that choice is causally free and not determined by God.”

i) Yes, God can instantiate one or the other. What God cannot do is instantiate both in the same world at the same time. The simultaneous instantiation of alternate possibilities is incompossible. But that’s irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

ii) Both possibilities are *alternately* feasible. That’s what makes them alternate possibilities.

iii) To say that in any given circumstances a person will only make one choice misses the point–as usual.

Alternate possibilities pair off with possible worlds (or segments thereof). Will only make one such choice per possible world. And the agent will only make one such choice in the actual world.

However, that restriction takes the choice of the actual world for granted. Given the actual world, only one alternative will eventuate.

That, however, doesn’t impose a prior constraint on which possible world God chooses to instantiate in the first place.

“But as time progresses she will only choose one of the options and after the moment of her choice has happened she and everyone else (not just God) will see what she did choose.”

“As time progresses” is a statement about the actual world, not one or more possible worlds–from which the selection of the actual world is made. “John” still doesn’t get it.

“The choice is now in the past and cannot be changed.”

i) The accidental necessity of the past is irrelevant to whether or not the future is open or closed. That’s a separate issue.

ii) Moreover, to the extent that “John” keeps chipping away at the freedom to do otherwise, he undercuts his own objection to Reformed compatibilism or determinism.

“God’s foreknowledge is as if he were seeing her choice as a past choice, as something it had become.”

i) If “John” is now inferring that foreknowledge entails the certainty of the outcome, then that undermines libertarianism (unless he goes the open theist route).

ii) He’s also sidestepping the issue of God’s counterfactual knowledge, which is not about what someone will do in the real world, but what is done in different possible worlds.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. This is probably longer than somebody's dissertation on this topic. Where are the footnotes?