Saturday, April 18, 2009

The presence of the past

Jason Engwer once did a post on the question of whether God will restore our pets to us. I’d like to approach this question from a different angle and a broader perspective.

In one respect it comes down to the question of whether God values the past, either for himself or for his creatures.

The past is God’s handiwork. Like classic artwork. It reveals his wisdom and power.

The question is whether God regards the work of his hand as essentially disposable. Is it something he does, only to take down, crumple into a ball, and toss into the trashcan of oblivion? Is the past something that, once is past, is not worth remembering or preserving?

Of course, I’m not God, so I can’t answer for sure. But it seems to me that everything he does is bound to possess permanent value–for the simple reason that he did it.

For us, what is past seems to slide out of existence because we can no longer experience the past directly. But that’s because of our position in relation to the past, present, and future.

At present, the past is inaccessible to me. In relation to my present self, the past lies beyond my direct awareness.

That could mean it ceases to exist. Or that could simply mean I’m a timebound creature who can only experience the world one moment at a time.

On one theory of time, the past is just as real as the present. Abraham is still sitting under the oak of Mamre. But that’s not our time.

Yet even if you think the past no longer exists, the answer doesn’t turn on that question. For there’s still a sense in which the past subsists in the mind of God. As his complete idea of the world. The idea he enacted in time and space.

So even if the past is over and done with, it’s still available to God. And if it’s available to God, he can make it, or parts of it, available to others–if he so desires.

In this life, our experience of the world is necessarily limited. Severely limited. We skim the surface of a little bay within a vast ocean.

It all depends on when you live and where you live. You may see a sunset that no one else ever sees–because of when and where you saw it. That unique little moment in time. That particular square of sky and earth.

Then there are many marvels and beauties which go undisclosed. In the words of the poet, “full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

Of course, that’s a bit provincial in the sense that pretty flowers don’t exist merely for the benefit of human observers.

And yet it points to something significant: the world is full of wonders and beauties which, due to our timebound existence, can only be enjoyed by a few people at a time. Or none at all.

Aren’t you a bit curious about the oak of Mamre?

So the question is whether God will share the past, or parts of the past, with his people? This could take various forms.

He could cause us to experience the past. Or he could reintroduce the best parts of the past into the future. And he could also improve on the past.

Indeed, heaven, or the new earth, will undoubtedly be an improvement on what this fallen world has to offer.

And this is not to deny that heaven, or the new earth, may include many novel things as well, for us to explore and celebrate.

Of course, we can only speculate, but it seems unlikely to me that God treats all the treasures of the past as utterly forgettable or disposable. Is this a throwaway world? To be discarded without a backward glance? Does God look upon his handiwork as a beer can or a piece of art? Is the past a junkyard or a museum?

In the world to come, when we are purified from sin, we’d be in a better position that ever to rejoice in all the best that God has done. It will be the first time in our lives that we can truly appreciate the goodness of it all. To see old things through new eyes, as well as riches yet unseen.

Our fallen and fleeting lives afford us such a truncated exposure to all there is. Such a tiny sampling of the whole. A sliver of the Redwood. And in this life, that’s a blessing, too, since a fallen world includes the evil with the good.

I’m not sure what we can expect. But I wouldn’t be surprised if all that best in this world is waiting for us in the next world–restored to vintage condition. Indeed, better than ever. Not to mention many new and wonderful things to come.

Historical writing

[I originally wrote this back in 2009. Rereading this in 2019, my recollections haven't change in the succeeding 10 years.]

In this post I’m going to comment broadly on how liberals and other unbelievers freely impute historical errors to Scripture.

It’s difficult to write accurately about the past. And one major reason is the phenomenon of historical change. Changes come in different shapes and sizes. Big and small. Abrupt and incremental. Big abrupt changes. Big incremental changes. Small incremental changes. And so on.

I’ll begin with a personal example.

Modern Change

i) I was born in Seattle, but grew up on the Eastside. I was born in 1959, but moved out of state in 1999.

I’ve been back there are two occasions since I moved away. And, out of curiosity, I keep up with certain developments via the Internet.

When I was a kid, the Eastside was a bedroom community of Seattle. But it underwent a great deal of change in the 40 years I lived there.

When I was a kid, the Eastside consisted of small towns with a lot of “open space” in-between. Farms and woodlands. Over time, the Eastside underwent a lot of gentrification, urbanization, and suburban sprawl. Towns like Redmond and Woodinville are practically unrecognizable.

When I was a kid, downtown Bellevue consisted mainly of one- and two-story buildings. Two lane roads. Few high-rises. No covered malls.

I spent my growing up years in Kirkland and Juanita.

When I was very young, we used to shop at Roy’s, which was a little mom-and-pop store. After the PX moved in, we stopped shopping a Roy’s because the PX was cheaper and offered a wider selection.

At some point, Roy’s went out of business. Eventually the whole building was demolished and replaced with a gym.

At the corner of the same block there was, at one time, an Arctic Circle fast food joint. It went out of business. Was converted to a private post office.

Across the street was an autoshop that went out of business. It was torn down. A fast food restaurant took its place. Taco Bell? I don’t remember. That went out of business. A Greek restaurant took over.

Behind it was another grocery store–which went out of business. It was taken over by an artsy-craftsy shop.

Downtown Juanita used to have three taverns. Two went out of business.

The PX changed hands many times. Eventually, that shopping center was demolished and replaced with a faux European village.

Juanita used to have a golf course that went out of business. Kirkland purchased the property and turned it into a public park.

Juanita had its own park–Juanita Beach. At one time, Juanita Beach Park had a number of beach cabins–which were torn down.

There was a bridge connecting Kirkland to Juanita. The bridge was closed, and turned into a pedestrian thoroughfare. A new road was put in, rerouting traffic around the old bridge.

At the time I lived in Juanita, some of our neighbors died or moved away. Next door, when I was very young, the Rogers had a front lawn with grassy rolling terraces. When they moved out and the Gardeners moved in, the new owners put in rockeries and flowerbeds.

The house where I grew up was torn down. Across the pond, Sand Point Naval based close. Became a public park.

In Kirkland, my parents ran a private school for the fine and performing arts. They bought the building from the Knights of Pythias. At one time the building was used as a livery stable.

Down the street was Central Elementary, where I attended kindergarten. It was later torn down to make way for the new city hall.

Across the street was Kirkland Junior High, where my father taught. Kirkland Junior High consisted of Terrace Hall, Waverly Hall, and some administration offices.

When Terrace Hall burned down, the school relocated to another school building. That, too, was recently torn down and replaced with a new school facility.

At a later date, Waverly Hall caught fire. Terrance Hall and Waverly Hall were bulldozed. The property was turned into a public park.

The elementary school (Thoreau) where I attended 1-3 grade was built in my lifetime and demolished in my lifetime. Another school facility took its place.

The elementary school (Juanita) where I attended 4th grade was demolished. Another school facility took its place.

My old junior high school (Finn Hill) is still there, although it’s undergone some changes since I was a student. They turned the old library into a classroom, and built an extension to house the new library. They moved the portables. They removed some of the trees lining the baseball diamond.

My old high school (Juanita) is still there, but it underwent drastic remodeling after I left.

According to their websites, I notice that both Finn Hill Junior and Juanita High now have security guards on staff–which wasn’t the case when I was a student.

There are other random changes that I recall. When I was a kid, there was a Time gas station in Kirkland. That’s long gone. A convenience store became a Chinese restaurant.

When I was a kid, the residential part of Kirkland consisted of small, postwar, working-class bungalows or modest apartments.

When I was a kid, Kirkland had a naval shipyard. That was eventually converted into an upscale joint with a marina, hotel, restaurants and trendy shops and boutiques.

ii) In addition to my own memories, there are historical photos of Kirkland. Some of these are available online. It can be interesting to compare my recollections with the historic photos.

There are some old photographs of Kirkland Junior High. There are also some old photographs taken from Kirkland Junior High.

I’d forgotten how big Terrace Hall was, and how, up on the rise, it dominated the landscape of downtown Kirkland. I’d forgotten what the waterfront looked like before they put in Marina Park. I’d forgotten those big ugly telephone poles.

I’d forgotten about the A&W, which was across the street from Kirkland Junior High.

From cars, haircuts, clothing styles, and eyeglasses, you can roughly date some of the photographs.

I can also tell where some of these shots were taken. There’s a shot of residential Kirkland, which was taken from the slope of Terrace Hall. There’s another shot taken from the tennis courts below Terrance Hall.

Some of the chronological cues can be misleading. In one shot, there’s a car from the 1930s. However, in the same picture, there’s a female pedestrian dressed in the fashion of the 1950s. So while the car gives you the terminus ad quo, it doesn’t give you the terminus ad quem.

iii) For someone who didn’t grown up on the Eastside, this must all seem pretty boring. Why do I mention all this ephemeral minutiae?

I do it to make a point. For the past is full of ephemeral minutiae. And to write accurately about the past requires a very exacting command of ephemeral minutiae.

Take the historic photographs. Some of these have captions or labels. But suppose all you had was the unadorned photograph.

Would you know where it was taken? Would you know when it was taken? It requires very specific knowledge to identify the location. A very specific knowledge of the time and place.

I can place the A&W in relation to other buildings. The Creative Arts League is right behind it. To the side is a church I used to see all the time coming and going.

I know that two of the shots were taken at Terrace Hall because I myself have seen the area from that location, as a kid.

Yet much of this is long gone. One the one hand, some of the photographs help to jog my memory. On the other hand, my memory enables me to identify these photographs. To place them in their historical setting.

To write an accurate history requires a very specific knowledge of the time and place. And oftentimes, there’s not much margin for error. Things change. It’s very hard to get it right, and very easy to get it wrong. A few years earlier, a few year later, and your description is out of date.

It’s very challenging to write about a time and place distant from your own. So many different ways to slip up. So many little ways to slip up.

I can write a fairly accurate account of my own life because I lived it. I simply describe what I saw. Much the same thing if I rely on the eyewitness testimony of others.

But if I’m a complete outsider in time and place, and have no good insider contacts, it’s almost impossible to pull that off.

iv) In addition, it’s quite possible for an eyewitness account to contain some anachronisms. Due to change, it’s easy to misremember later developments as though they were identical with earlier events. It’s easy to unconsciously retroject the way things are into the way things were. I see things as they are today. Or the last time I saw them. My latest memory may unconsciously map back onto how I picture the way things used to be. I recall what is earlier through the lens of successive memories.

I’m not claiming that Scripture contains anachronisms. I subscribe to the plenary inspiration of Scripture. I am, however, commenting on a fallacious inference by many Bible critics.

Even if, for the sake of argument, the Gospels contained some anachronisms, that wouldn’t mean the Gospels had to be written by authors who didn’t live at that time and place.

For example, famous people often write autobiographies. And because they’re famous, historians write biographies of famous people. Historians make use of autobiographies. The autobiographies contain information that isn’t available in any other source. At the same time, historians, in commenting on autobiographies, keep a running tally of a little mistakes. Where the autobiographer got the a name, place, or date wrong.

v) There’s a flipside to what I’ve been saying. If it takes very specific knowledge of the past to write accurately about the past, then, by the same token, it takes equally specific knowledge of the past to detect historical inaccuracies in a historical account.

Now, I have many reasons for believing the Bible. And I have many reasons for rejecting facile attacks on the historicity of Scripture.

But one of my reasons is that, when I run across breezy attributions of historical error to Scripture by modern “scholars,” I think of my own experience.

It would be very difficult to fake a history of what it was like to grow up on the Eastside in the 1960s or 1970s. So many time-sensitive changes to keep track of.

And, by the same token, it would be very difficult for a total stranger to detect these mistakes. Unless you were there, there’s quite a lot that you’re in no position to know.

And these are scholars writing 2000-3500 years after the fact, no less! Last year someone phoned me from the reunion committee (for my 30th high school reunion). We feltlinto a conversation about old times. There was the instant recognition that comes between two people who’ve been to the same place at the same time. A flurry of in-house allusions.

iv) This brings me to a related point. Giving how easy it is to make a misstep when writing about the past, if a writer seems to get most things right, that tells you something. How could he get so many things right unless he was in a position to know just what he was talking about?

Unless he was alive at that time and place. Or unless he interviewed other men and women who were alive at that time and place.

Getting a lot of things right creates a presumption about the writer. He couldn’t do that if he were out of touch. Either he’s describing something he’s seen, or he’s describing it through the recollection of other eyewitnesses.

vi) Corroboration can be either specific or generic. Corroborative evidence can sometimes corroborate a specific detail (e.g. person, place, event), or it can corroborate the fact that things like that happened.

vii) Our surviving evidence for Bible times is quite random. It’s quite surprising that we have as much corroborative evidence as we do, given the random state of the extant evidence.

Ancient Change

Someone might object that my comparison with my own life is disanalogous. Rapid change is characteristic of modernity. By contrast, life is ancient times was far more stable.

To that objections I’d say two things:

i) There is a discontinuity in terms of the amount of information we have. But that discontinuity reinforces my point rather than undercutting my point.

For example, an outsider could reconstruct life in Kirkland in the 1960s by combing through back-issues of the Eastside Journal, day-by-day and year-by-year.

But an ancient author wouldn’t have a resource like that.

ii) Life in the ancient world was subject to many dislocations. In some respects more so than in modern times. Due to trade, migration, warfare, famine, slavery, natural disaster, pandemics, political upheavals, and cultural diffusion, &c., life in the ancient world was quite unstable.

For example, ancient cities didn’t have fire codes, fire hydrants, fire engines, fire extinguishers, sprinklers, &c., to prevent or contain fires.

There were no vaccines to prevent pandemics. No weather forecasters. No airdrops of emergency food rations.

Armies used scorched earth tactics. Cities were razed. No smart bombs.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Choose life

“Clearly the Israelites are given a real choice in this passage [Deut 30:15,19]… This is further demonstrated when we consider Moses’ words in verses 11-14… It is extremely important to notice that Moses tells the people that they are fully capable of making the right choice (which is reinforced by God’s desire that they choose life in verse 19). This militates strongly against any form of determinism, for according to necessitarian dogma it is quite untrue that it was not too difficult for many of them to obey.[3] Those who disobeyed (and many surely did) could not possibly have done otherwise than to disobey if determinism is true. However, Moses made it clear that all who heard his voice were indeed capable of obeying the divine command and firmly rebuked any who might dare to declare otherwise… This passage and numerous passages like it lay waste to the Calvinistic doctrine of exhaustive determinism.”

“Moses now returns to the present time and directs his teaching to the people in the plains of Moab He tells them that the Torah is not something too ‘difficult’ for them; this term in Hebrew conveys the idea of something that is extraordinary and marvelous. The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan gets at the sense of it by rendering the clause as ‘it is not hidden from you.’ The Torah is not in the secret councils of Yahweh, but it has been revealed to the people. It is not too hard to understand and it is not too distant. Indeed, the Word of God is not in the heavens or beneath the earth–it is here among the people.”

“It is not that the law is easy to keep and obey. Rather, this has to do with accessibility and understanding. The law is not incomprehensible, remote, or unintelligible. It is not beyond mankind’s ability to grasp it and to understand it. This truth is in contrast to much belief in the ancient Near East,” J. Currid, Deuteronomy (EP 2006), 270-71.

Universal freedom and universal sin

On the one hand:

It may seem strange to some that there even is a debate as to what constitutes free will. The average person believes that he has free will. Whenever he is confronted with a choice he believes that he can either choose this way or that, and that either choice is a real possibility. In fact, this is what we generally think of when using the word choice. We think of the power to choose between alternatives. But the simple concepts of choice and free will have unfortunately been confused and complicated by Calvinists. As a result of their commitment to exhaustive determinism, Calvinists deny that the will is free in the sense that most people would naturally understand it to be. Yet, they refuse to jettison these commonly used terms despite holding to a theology that denies these concepts as normally understood.

They simply redefine “free will” so that it becomes essentially meaningless as normally understood. It becomes the “freedom” to do what one must in fact do. It is the “freedom” to do what has been predetermined from all eternity for one to do. It is the “freedom” to do what we have been irresistibly programmed to do (and free will has essential reference to “willing” and not just “doing”, i.e one might be hindered from “doing” what he has freely “willed” to do). It is essentially a necessitated freedom (a “freedom” that means “necessitated”) which betrays the inherent contradiction in the Calvinistic use of terms.

For most people this does not seem at all like freedom in the sense that people normally understand it when speaking of free will. In fact, most people understand that a will that acts by necessity is the opposite of a free will. Yet Calvinists want to take the opposite of free will and render that the proper definition of the term. [1]

Arminians, on the other hand, are able to work with standard definitions in using terms like “free will” and “choice”. To speak of free will is to speak of the power of self-determinism in a person. A person wills to either do this or that, or neither as the case may be. When we use the term “free will” we are describing the freedom the person has to choose from available options. The will is free in so far as it is not necessitated. If the will can only move in one direction, and no other directions are possible, then the will would not in that case be properly called “free”. Freedom of the will has reference to the will’s ability to freely choose. A free will is free from necessity. It has alternative power. [2]

It may be better to simply focus on the reality of choices. To speak of a choice is to speak of an agent deciding between two or more possibilities. Again, this is the standard definition that most people take for granted when speaking of choice or the action of choosing. Where there are options to choose from there is choice. If an option is not available, then it ceases to be an “option”, and choice, in that case, ceases to be a possibility.

But, again, things are not so simple when dealing with those who are comfortable using words in ways that are incompatible with (and often the polar opposite of) standard definitions. Calvinists and necessitarians still often want to speak of choices and choosing (there are some Calvinists that freely admit that such language is incompatible with Calvinistic determinism, but at present they are in the minority). But according to Calvinists all of our “choices” have been predetermined by God from before creation and before we were ever born or confronted with anything to choose from. If this is the case, it seems clear that “choice” is emptied of meaning.

If the only course of action available for a person in any given situation is the course of action predetermined by God from eternity, then one never really has a “choice.” The person can only do what he or she must do, and think what he or she must think. The only course of action truly available is the predetermined one. If that is the only course of action truly available, then there is nothing for the person to choose from and therefore there is, in fact, no “choice” at all.

This is an uphill battle for the Calvinist because we all believe that we make choices every day in numerous situations. We recognize that when only one course of action is available, we do not in that case have a choice. Some Calvinists who recognize this difficulty resort to focusing on the distinction between “having” choices and “making” choices. They tell us that while we never have a choice we still make choices. But it is at once apparent that it is quite impossible to “make” a choice without first “having” a choice. One simply cannot choose (making a choice) if there is no choice to be made (having a choice).

The Calvinist who wants to make such illogical distinctions is then forced to define “making” a choice in an illusionary fashion. He might argue that making a choice has reference only to one’s cognitive perception (conveniently forgetting that, according to Calvinistic doctrine, even the course of one’s cognitive perceptions is meticulously predetermined). As long as that person believes he has a choice he can make a choice. But this assertion betrays the need for having a choice in order to make a choice since the Calvinist recognizes that the person must at least “believe” or “perceive” that he has a choice before he can “make” a choice. Furthermore, if Calvinistic determinism is true, then even cognitive “options” are not real options if the mind can only move in a predetermined and necessitated direction.

On the other hand:

We know that all believers do fall to temptation at times (i.e., sin), and fail to make use of the way of escape provided for them by God in His faithfulness.

On the one hand, everyone has the freedom to do otherwise. On the other hand, everyone, including every single Christian, sins some of the time.

Isn’t that a rather incongruous combination of claims? Universal freedom to do otherwise leads to universal sin.

Here’s a population curve from the Christian era (which doesn’t include the pre-Christian era):

Year Population
1 200 million
1000 275 million
1500 450 million
1650 500 million
1750 700 million
1804 1 billion
1850 1.2 billion
1900 1.6 billion
1927 2 billion
1950 2.55 billion
1955 2.8 billion
1960 3 billion
1965 3.3 billion
1970 3.7 billion
1975 4 billion
1980 4.5 billion
1985 4.85 billion
1990 5.3 billion
1995 5.7 billion
1999 6 billion
2006 6.5 billion
2010 6.8 billion

Now, according to kangaroodort, every one of those billions and billions of people had the freedom to do otherwise, and yet, without exception, every one of those billions of billions of people fell into sin throughout the course of their lives.

Of course, I’m a Calvinist, so I’m using to redefining freedom in a way that renders the concept essentially meaningless and all, but it strikes me as an odd sort of freedom to do otherwise that never ever does otherwise. A universal freedom to do otherwise that yields a uniform result. In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I’d almost suspect that such a freedom was...illusory.

If every roll of the dice comes up sixes, then what point may we reasonably conclude that the dice are loaded?

Defining the freedom to do otherwise

Arminians speak of the freedom to do otherwise as if that were a transparent concept. But it’s actually quite tricky to pin down. Here are some popular, but defective, attempts to explicate the concept:


Suppose a certain person in fact did not go to Boston this morning, but suppose it seems that he could have done so. We want to say that though he stayed in Providence, he could have done otherwise — he could have gone to Boston. Surely the statement that he could have done otherwise does not mean merely that it is logically possible that he did otherwise, for superhuman and miraculous bits of behavior are logically possible. But we don't want to say, of a person who failed to perform a miracle, that he could have done otherwise. Nor does our statement mean that it is epistemically possible that the person did otherwise. In a case where we lack information about what a person might have done, we may say that it is epistemically possible for us that he did otherwise. This is consistent with its being the case that his performance of his actual act was entirely necessary and unavoidable.

Some have said that ‘can’s are constitutionally iffy. On a simple version of this view, to say that someone could have done otherwise is just to say that if he had chosen to do otherwise, then he would have done otherwise. Chisholm points out ([P&O], 56–7) two reasons why this is wrong. First, suppose the person was capable of traveling in any direction and easily could have gone to Boston; but suppose in addition that he did not know the way to Boston. If he had chosen to go to Boston, he would have ended up in New London. Then it is correct to say that he could have gone to Boston, but incorrect to say that if he had chosen to go to Boston, he would have done so. Secondly, suppose the person is incapable of choosing to go to Boston. Maybe he is overwhelmed with fear of Boston. But if nothing else prevents the trip, it will be correct to say that if he had chosen to go to Boston, he would have gone, but it is incorrect to say that he could have gone to Boston.

Another account of ‘could have done otherwise’ makes use of the concept of sufficient antecedent causal condition. We might think that when we say that someone could have gone to Boston instead of staying in Providence, what we mean is merely that at some earlier time this morning, his trip to Boston was causally indeterminate — there was no sufficient causal condition either for his going to Boston or for his not going to Boston. Chisholm argues against this idea, too. Suppose another person was lying in wait in Chelmsford. Suppose this other person would have freely interfered with our man's travel plans if he had tried to get to Boston. Then it would not be correct to say that the man could have gone to Boston, but it would have been correct to say that there was no sufficient causal condition then in place that would have prevented the trip.

1 Cor 10:13

I’ve been asked to comment on this claim:

This passage and numerous passages like it lay waste to the Calvinistic doctrine of exhaustive determinism. Passages like these are simply incompatible with such a doctrine, while the intentional language of such passages fits perfectly with the Arminian account of free will, and the accountability attached to the exercising of that God given power to choose. The alternative to a libertarian view of these passages has the unfortunate and inevitable consequence of making God into a liar who deceives His people into believing they are capable of making the right choice, when in reality it is impossible for them to choose at all. A predetermined choice is not a choice at all since it is the only course of action available. The best the Calvinist can offer is that God gives the illusion of choice while controlling the person’s every thought and action to conform to His infallible and irrevocable eternal decree. Consider 1 Corinthians 10:13,

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

The implications are obvious and unavoidable. Those who fail to resist temptation have only themselves to blame, since God provided a way of escape.[4]

The verse plainly tells the believer that God is faithful, and that faithfulness is demonstrated in the fact that God will not allow the one tempted to be tempted beyond the ability to endure (i.e. resist) that temptation.[5] But how does such a promise comport with exhaustive determinism? We know that all believers do fall to temptation at times (i.e., sin), and fail to make use of the way of escape provided for them by God in His faithfulness. If Calvinistic determinism is true then their yielding to temptation was predetermined from all eternity, and could not possibly have been avoided. In that case, it is simply not true that the temptation was not beyond their ability to endure, nor was it true that God faithfully provided a way of escape. How could there be a “way of escape” for those who were predetermined to fall according to an eternal and irrevocable decre

What’s so odd about this claim is the way in which kangaroodort infers something from the text that simply isn’t there. The text says nothing about Christians succumbing to temptation. And what it does say moves in the opposite direction.

The prospect of Christians succumbing to temptation is not something that kangaroodort got from his prooftext. So what does his prooftext prove? It can hardly prove that Christians succumb to temptation, since that is absent from the text. And, what is more, that cuts against the grain of the text.

Now perhaps kangaroodort would salvage his assertion by claiming that other verses of Scripture speak to the issue of Christian sin.

No doubt that’s true. But that’s not the same thing as exegeting 1 Cor 10:13. You can’t find something is a verse which isn’t there–even if you can find it in some other verse.

And you can’t simply import what is said in one verse to what is not said in another verse as if both passages are addressing the same issue. Ironically, kangaroodort’s grand prooftext illustrates the polar opposite of what he labors to prove. Did someone sneak into the evidence room when his back was turned and empty the box?

We need to interpret 1 Cor 10:13 on its own terms, in light of its own wording and the surrounding context. And when we do the detail work, this is what we come up with:

“It is not clear whether this verse is to be understood generically of every trial that a Christian may face, or the eschatological trial involving one’s salvation? The noun ekbasis, ‘way out,’ certainly could mean the latter, the eschatological trial, but Christians may also rely on God for the ekbasis of lesser struggles throughout the course of life. In this context, Paul seems to be thinking primarily of trials involving idol meat or seduction to idolatry,” J. Fitzmyer, 1 Corinthians (Yale 2008), 389.

“An examination of the context (1 Cor 10:1-12,14-22) indicates that the temptation specifically in Paul’s mind here is idolatry or apostasy. The Lord will not allow his people to fall prey to apostasy,” T. Schreiner, The Race Set Before Us (IVP 2001), 266.

In sum, this verse is not talking about temptation in general. Rather, it’s talking about the specific temptation to deny one’s faith–of which idolatry was a paradigm-case throughout Scripture. And it says that, due to God’s fidelity, a Christian can never give in to that particular temptation.

Far from being a prooftext for libertarian freewill, this is a prooftext for the perseverance of the saints.

Despite his hyperbolic verbiage and sanctimonious tone, kangaroodort is making totemic use of Scripture. He pays lip-service to the words of Scripture in swelling, self-congratulatory rhetoric, but his interpretation doesn’t begin to represent a close reading of the text or context.

He’s like a man standing in the doorway of an empty warehouse, gesticulating about his discovery of contraband merchandise within. Well, I’ve examined every square inch of the warehouse with a flashlight, and the evidence is entirely wanting.


On Tuesday, State Rep. Betty Brown (R) caused a firestorm during House testimony on voter identification legislation when she said that Asian-Americans should change their names because they’re too hard to pronounce:

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

Brown later told [Organization of Chinese Americans representative Ramey] Ko: “Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”

Rumor has it that Rep. Brown has also sponsored a bill in the state legislature which mandates that Bible translators simplify certain OT names. The list included:


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lepidopteran torture

For years the Bush administration lied, stonewalled, and obstructed justice to conceal its ghastly record of torture, but the ACLU has finally blown the lid on the cover-up. And the truth is even worse than we could possibly imagine:

The Obama administration will not prosecute US intelligence officials involved in harsh interrogations of terror suspects, the president pledged on Thursday.

The 2002 Bybee memo...also approved a request to lock Abu Zubaydah in a confinement box with an insect. The memo says: "You have informed us that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Abu Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him."

Bybee says the plan would be to trick Abu Zubaydah into thinking he was about to be stung. "You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect, such as a caterpillar, in the box with him," Bybee wrote.

"Through these memos, Justice Department lawyers authorized interrogators to use the most barbaric interrogation methods, including methods that the US once prosecuted as war crimes," Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Project, said in a statement."

Bart Interrupted: part 5

Ben Witherington has posted part five of his review of Bart Ehrman's Jesus, Interrupted.

Spies R Us

To: Ben Douglass
From: Spies R Us
Re: Our Vatican plant

Dear Mr. Douglass,

Thanks for your fine work discombobulating Mr. Armstrong. As you know from his dossier, he’s pretty unstable to begin with. It doesn’t take very much to push him over the edge.

Of course, the Armstrong case was just a test-case. During a double agent’s probationary period, we test cadets on minor leaguers like Mr. Armstrong.

Your performance evaluation has been exemplary over the last six months. Now that you’ve completed your internship, we’ll be reassigning you to a more important case. You’ve been booked on a flight to Rome–where you’ll be assuming your new role as chief-of-staff to the Prefect for the CDF. The mission profile is on your BlackBerry.

P. S. Your fee has been wired to a Caiman account in your code name.

Dispatches from the true church, evening edition

Matthew Bellisario said...

"The footnotes are not that important here. I also find them to be pretty liberal in the new edition of the NAB. That being said I do not think that it is Dave Armstrong's fault that this is the case. The fact is that the NAB is the approved translation that is being used now in the US, by the Church in the ordinary Latin Rite."

"The Game"

One of my contacts at the Vatican has just informed me that Mel Gibson is making a movie starring Dave Armstrong. Although the details are still a bit sketchy, here’s a plot synopsis, along with the cast of characters.


Nicholas Van Orton (Armstrong) is an amateur Catholic apologist and used hot-tub salesman.

On Nicholas' 48th birthday, his younger, rebellious, brother Conrad (Douglass) presents him with an unusual gift–a game offered by a company called Consumer Recreation Services–promising that it will change Nicholas' life. The nature of The Game is unclear at first, but it appears to be a sort of live action role-playing game that integrates directly into the player's real life.

After taking a lengthy psychological test and a physical exam, Nicholas is informed that CRS has rejected "his application" for The Game. However, he soon discovers the Game has not only begun, but it begins by focusing on a key traumatic moment of Nicholas's life when he witnessed his “friends” turn against him.

Evidence mounts that The Game is actually an elaborate and dangerous scheme. Each time Nicholas thinks he has uncovered the truth, he finds a new layer of complexity to it.

The game escalates into a no-holds-barred assault on everything Nicholas values, and his carefully ordered life seems to be disintegrating around him as The Game takes control.

He encounters an employee of Consumer Recreation Services, a waiter who calls himself Christopher (Swan), who at first assists him in escaping from the clutches of the increasingly violent CRS operatives, but after a series of narrow escapes and repeated attempts on his life, Nicholas realizes he has been drugged by Christopher. He regains consciousness in a burial crypt in Southern Mexico in a symbolic premature burial, all the while knowing that his miracle-water hot tubs have been confiscated by Christopher and his associates. The Game is now revealed to be an elaborate scam by the “trads” and the “fundies” to make Nicholas miserable.

Nicholas returns from Mexico to San Francisco by hitchhiking and begging rides, and as he believes that he has been alienated from his friends and his trusted lawyer, Nicholas comes to a realization about his life. But he becomes increasingly desperate and retrieves a hidden handgun from his ransacked home. He locates a Game employee and threatens him. With the employee's security clearance, he heads directly into the offices of The Game and takes Christopher hostage.

Security arrives and opens fire. Several of the staff are hit, falling over. Christopher and Nicholas escape to the roof of the company's skyscraper, and he demands answers. Christopher appears surprised by the gun, anxiously telling Nicholas that CRS had provided an automatic for him to use, yet he is carrying a revolver. He says that The Game's company thought it had replaced any real firearms Nicholas could access with unloaded fakes. He insists that the Game is just a hoax, and that his friends and family are waiting on the other side of the steel door, ready to celebrate his birthday. As the steel door opens, surprising the frightened and almost hysterical Nicholas, he fires without looking, only to reveal that he has shot his brother, who was holding a bottle of champagne and dressed in a tuxedo to celebrate Nicholas' birthday, and the successful conclusion of The Game. Several of the staff who have been shot appear again, unharmed.

Stricken with remorse and guilt (and exhaustion), Nicholas walks to the edge of the skyscraper's roof and steps off. He crashes through the glass ceiling of the ballroom. However, he lands safely on an airbag placed there for just that reason, and a doctor and rescue workers quickly restrain him and check him over, brushing bits of breakaway glass from his face and eyes. Then he finds his family and friends awaiting his scheduled arrival, and The Game is revealed to have just been a complex game after all. None of his miracle-water hot tubs has been confiscated, the gun was indeed reloaded with blanks, and his brother is very much alive. As they embrace, Conrad confesses that he arranged the extremely expensive Game as a way to shake his brother back to reality and help him to learn to enjoy life again.

As the party is in full swing, Nicholas meets several of the guests who were operatives in the Game. When he asks about Christopher, Conrad tells him that he is outside about to depart in a cab. Nicholas runs outside and talks to him about his part in the Game. He invites Nicholas to have coffee with him at the airport before he flies to Australia for his next assignment in the Game. Nicholas's Game appears to finally be over (but he cautiously looks over his shoulder, as he isn't sure).


Dave Armstrong as Nicholas Van Orton
Ben Douglass as Conrad Van Orton
James Swan as Christopher
James White as Jim Feingold
Shawn McElhinney as Samuel Sutherland
Gerry Matatics as Anson Baer
Steve Hays (cameo appearance)

A Disingenuous Orthodoxy: Why I Am Everything But a Calvinist Unless Calvinist Means Any Ole Christian

Mclaren offers some words of wisdom to help out those making the church uncool in his blog post Calling All Calvinists.

The terms Calvinist and Reformed can have wildly different meanings, depending on who uses them.
Of course, this is entirely uninteresting. So can the term, 'Christian'.

For example, some of the most misogynist and some of the most feminist folks I know would see their views as being inherently Reformed.
Just like some of the most polytheistic or unipersonalistic folks I know would see their views as being inherently Christian.

So, when people tell me they're Calvinist or Reformed, I generally ask them what they mean.
Does Mclaren ask this while rubbing his chin with his finger and thumb, pretending he has just asked something profound? Or does he ask arms akimbo?

One line of response goes to TULIP (an acronym for five points of a type of deterministic Calvinism) and the Westminster Confession and a list of things they're against. Folks in this camp seem eager to repeat and redo faithfully in the 21st century exactly what Calvin said and did in the 16th.
1. A type of "deterministic Calvinism?" As opposed to, what, an indeterministic Calvinism? Well then, isn't this risible; jejune too. With these kinds of Procrustean dismemberments of basic units of language, postmodernism seems downright rote, rigid, determinate, and modern. Boorish too. On this analysis, if indeterminists count as Calvinists, then monopersonal modalists count as Christians. And why not allow polytheists too? Indeed, I could see a Unitarian write something similar: "I often wrap my fingers around my chin after someone tells me they are a Christian, let out a sigh, ponder it for a bit, and then ask, while letting out a lot of air, slowly and semi-confused, 'What do you mean by that?' One line of response goes to the trinity (an fancy way of saying polytheism) and certain creeds of the early, oppressionistic Church and a list of things they are against and an even larger list of things they're for so as to show that church and God is cool--Jehovah is my homeboy."

2. Ironically, Mclaren tells us that he is "against" this kind of Calvinist.

3. Can we have any names of these Calvinists? And, is Mclaren using hyperbole when he claims that "they" want to redo everything today in the exact same way as Calvin's day? Even the language? Long beard, 'n all? Or does Mclaren just mean the "theology?" But again, we must ask if he is being hyperbolic. I know some hard-core Reformed baptists who hold to Tulip, even call themselves Calvinists, and have most of the nasty stuff in their confession as is in the Westminster Confession. Yet they do not want to redo paedobaptism. Or, are you particularly nasty if and only if you baptize babies?

4. What if the Westminster Confession is true? How come that question doesn't even make it into consideration. Now, I'm not making any claims that it is true all and sundry, mind you. But what if it is? And, what if one believes that it is? Or, is this kind of talk just wrong-headed in today's world? Irrelevant? Well, okay, I guess if this claim is true I can accept it. Read that sentence again. And second time if need be, until you get it.

The other line of response refers to the Lordship of Christ over all of life, the priesthood of all believers, the absolute importance of God's grace, and the integration of faith with every dimension of human enterprise ... seeming more eager to imitate Calvin's general example, seeking to translate into our times what Calvin generally sought to do in his times, even when that means disagreeing with specific things Calvin - and many Calvinists - have said and done.
Since every Christian could affirm this, Mclaren wants to deny the Calvinist any demarcating feature. On Mclaren's warped use of language, 'Calvinism' turns out to be identical with 'Arminianism' as well as any ole hoi polloi version 'Christianity'. Basically, to be a Calvinist means you must deny anything that uniquely makes you Calvinist. Upon analysis, this turns out to be a veiled attack against Calvinists, arguing that the only way to be a cool Calvinist is to not be a Calvinist. Once you do this it's still okay to call yourself a Calvinist. Mclaren's calling all Calvinists to a Roman Christianity. A Roman Christianity says that you can call yourself whatever you want, worship whatever deity you want, so long as you don't claim your way is right to the exclusion of all others. See, the cool Calvinist is a 'Calvinist' who "denies specific things Calvin - and many Calvinists - have said and done. Read, who "denies all those offense things I dislike in Calvinism."

The TULIP/WC group tends to include my most passionate, persistent, and grandiloquent critics. I, of course, am not alone in finding myself in the polemical cross-hairs of these energetic folks who have rightly earned the nick-name "Machen's warrior children."
Yet the author of the piece to which Mclaren links holds to TULIP and much of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

It is doubtful Mclaren even read Frame's paper. One should not be too proud to identify with those in the cross-hairs of these energetic people considering it was "born in the controversy over liberal theology." Furthermore, those in the cross-hairs are fellow Reformed. Thus, Mclaren cites as relevant something irrelevant. Odds are he did it to seem cognoscente. He came off looking knavish. But perhaps the biggest problem is that the article makes clear that the critiques came because of the motto "truth before friendship." Putting aside questions of interaction and debate (though I have the feeling Jesus would agree with this sentiment), can't Mclaren see that to say Machen's Warrior Children have put you in their cross-hairs is to say that they think you are making false claims. Does all your jovialness and glad-handing even matter if you're flat-out wrong. As the emperor would say, they "believe you are mistaken, about a great many things." That's why Mclaren is in the cross-hairs. If Mclaren is wrong about a great many things, even important things, then what is his post supposed to accomplish? Well, it's meant to claim that they are wrong without having to do the hard work of showing it. Maligning and marginalizing those you disagree with, without showing where they are wrong, and without showing why you are right, is just to be uncivil. I mean this in the same sense as Os Guinness's book: The Case For Civility. You know, the one you wrote the praise blurb on the back for? Or, did you also not read that piece?

The other kind of Reformed Christians are much more irenic and include many of the wisest and most thoughtful Christians I've ever met. A great example of this tribe's Reformed thinking can be found here. I hope and pray many in the former camp will migrate to the latter camp in the years ahead.
We have seen that upon analysis this simply means that there are no uniquely irenic or wise Calvinist or Reformed. That's not nice. Hybels Warrior Children!

But the question to ask is, why does Brian get stingy rather than stay "generous"? Didn't he tell us: "The last thing I want is to get into nauseating arguments about why this or that form of theology (dispensational, covenant, charismatic, whatever) or methodology (cell church, megachurch, liturgical church, seeker church, blah, blah, blah) is right (meaning approaching or achieving timeless technical perfection)." But now he cares about the right way to be a Calvinist! Consistency is a will-o-the-wisp.

It turns out that Mclaren isn't really generous. Indeed, his title is disingenuous:

"Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, anabaptist/anglican, methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian."

doesn't mean what it looks like it means. Everyone makes it in besides the traditional Calvinist!

The martyrdom of Dave Armstrong, R.I.P.

[Dave Armstrong] I've long noted the fundamentalist - "traditionalist" kinship. "Trads" often think like either fundy Protestants or liberal Catholics…And he was using your same principle of extreme separationism, that unites your mentality (in THAT respect) with fundamentalist and anti-Catholic Protestants.

There’s some truth to this statement. For there is a certain level of affinity, of shared values and common concerns, between religious conservatives with varying religious affiliations.

Why does Armstrong act as if that’s a damning observation, or a damning association?

Conservatives recognize the voice of fellow conservatives. There’s a degree of family resemblance. In some important respects they have more in common with each other than with liberal counterparts in their own theological tradition.

Both White and Doe have been using Ben Douglass left and right as a pawn in order to make fun of Catholics and throw out silly and groundless criticisms.

He's using you as a "useful idiot." The sooner you see this the better.

You certainly are being used as one by both White and Doe. They love to pick out a Catholic who may disagree with another Catholic on one thing or another (generally "traditionalists," which is why they continue to this day to talk about Gerry Matatics, even though he is no longer even a Catholic), as if this has anything whatever to do with doctrinal, magisterial unity that we have and they don't have.

You're free to have your own opinions, of course, but you should object (in their venues) to their cynical use of you in this fashion. They're trying to pit us against each other and do a version of "good cop bad cop." Can't you see this? Is it not blatantly obvious?

i) It’s true that Protestant epologists like me will play one Catholic off against another. I don’t know why Armstrong is so incensed by that fact. After all, Catholics constantly play one Protestant off against another (the “scandal” of denominationalism).

ii) Moreover, we didn’t create these divisions. These are preexisting divisions within Catholicism. Indeed, that’s on display in the study Bible to which Armstrong contributed his “inserts.”

iii) Furthermore, it’s inconsistent of Armstrong to treat this as a purely cynical ploy. While we do exploit these divisions for apologetic purposes, Armstrong also admitted (in the form of an accusation) that “trads” and “fundies” think alike in certain respects.

So it’s not as if we’re merely using the “trads” as a wedge. By his own reckoning, “trads” and “fundies” are, to some degree, genuine cobelligerents.

Your own argument can be thrown back against you, too, in any event, by nothing how you are participating on an anti-Catholic blog: whose owner thinks neither you nor I are Christians: that we belong to a false and heretical church, are not regenerate, and don't believe in the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

You aid and abet his purposes and send mixed messages to his readers by providing comfort to Doe's attempts to lie about me and about the Church.The falsehoods, misrepresentations and outright lies on Doe's blog are certainly at least as harmful than some stray footnotes in the NAB that few probably read anyway. So how can you justify your appearance there, agreeing with those who are enemies of the Church? You're not even there disagreeing with them. You're there agreeing, based on what I think is fallacious and misguided reasoning, over against your friend and an orthodox Catholic. And that is unethical and causes scandal. You're participating directly in that by not recognizing how they are using you (complete with pathetic fawning admiration and compliments towards you, for their agenda-driven purposes), and not speaking out against it. Hopefully you will now. In the meantime, you are aiding the falsehoods that that blog is devoted to promulgating.

There are two basic problems with this tirade:

i) Armstrong is falling back on the Mafia code of silence. It’s your duty, always and everywhere, to present a solid front to the world.

This mindset has been the undoing of many secular and religious institutions. For fear of scandal, we must conceal the awful truth.

And, of course, the ironic consequence of his mindset is that, not only does the underlying scandal eventually leak out, but the cover-up becomes the cause of additional scandal.

ii) The other problem is that, in his irrepressible egotism, he turns this into a dastardly deed of personal betrayal. So it’s no longer about loyalty to the truth of God; rather, it’s about loyalty to the person of dear old Dave. His response is laden with bitter envy and resentment.

Given his deep-seated suspicions, I’d advise dear old Dave to take some elementary precautions. He should begin wearing a suit of armor so that he can shield himself from all of the two-faced friends turned foes who lie in wait around every corner to stab him in the back. I trust that he already inspects the closet and checks under the bed before turning out the light. Even then it must be hard to fall asleep as he contemplates all the treasonous “friends” who are plotting against him.

Given the sinister alliance between “trads” and “fundies,” he should hire a private eye to do background checks on his butcher, baker, and grocer. As an added precaution, he should also retain the services of a food taster just in case the cashier swaps out the good mushrooms for bad mushrooms while Armstrong is momentarily distracted by a staged diversion.

When you’re as monumentally important as dear old Dave, you can never be too careful. Danger lurks where you least suspect it. Never let your guard down!

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.