Saturday, June 27, 2009

Upon this rock

[Beggars All] "The doctrine which maintains the change...transubstantiation.. is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason...overthroweth..cause manifold superstitions..gross idolatries."

[Bellisario] "What is repugnant is that you reject Our Lord's words which tell us otherwise. Not you or your false confession [i.e. WCF] will ever change His words. Common sense does not give us the Gospel. Our lord did. You and your 'confession' reject Our lord and His words. Common sense tells me to listen to his words."

[TF] "Our Lord isn't the one who invented this concept of transubstantiation. He used a metaphor, but that's too common sense for some folks."

[Bellisario] "Prove He used a metaphor. That is a lie from the devil. Our Lord never said it was a metaphor."

Traditionally, Catholics invoke Mt 16:18 as their major prooftext for the papacy. According to the Catholic interpretation, when Jesus says he will build his church “on this rock,” the rock is a figurative allusion to the person of Peter (and, by extension, his successors).

Now, however, Matthew Bellisario has opened my eyes to the utterly repugnant nature of that inference.

It’s incumbent on the papist to prove that Jesus used a metaphor. To say “this rock” is a metaphor for St. Peter is a lie from the devil. Our Lord never said it was a metaphor.

To the contrary, when Jesus says he will build his church “on this rock,” he means a real rock. An actual, literal rock.

The only remaining question is which rock represents the true rock? Which rock is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic rock? Is it igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic rock?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson Blurred Distinctions

Medved comments on MJ's death.

The king of pop

Michael Jackson was one of those pop cultural phenomena I try my best to avoid. Of course, if you watch what passes for TV “news,” or even wait in the checkout stand, you can’t avoid some exposure. So I have a scattershot knowledge of Jackson, just like I have a scattershot knowledge of some other celebrities.

I’ve also glanced at a few Christian blogs on his death. What is there to say?

One thing that strikes me as how overrated he was. I keep running across the phrase “musical genius.” All I can say is that I don’t define musical genius the way some folks do.

What was it that made Jackson a bigger star than Ray Charles or Tina Turner or James Brown or Al Green or Johnny Cash or Ricky Martin or Henry Belafonte?

Does he have more talent? Charisma? Stage presence? Not that I can see.

At his peak he was a very energetic performer, but that’s a truism of youth. Aren’t we all energetic in our teens and twenties? And there are lots of hyperkinetic performers to choose from.

I guess that in his prime he was a good dancer, but you could say the same thing about a number of other entertainers.

I read about what a great singer he was. Oh, please!

To begin with, if you need a microphone, then you’re really not solo material.

But even by the inferior standards of pop vocalism, I can think of far more talented singers. Take Marion Williams.

So what makes him stand out in the pantheon pop culture? I think it has more to do with a calculated effort to redefine human nature. Transhumanism. Jackson was transhuman. He denied his race. Denied his gender.

Tina Turner isn’t my type, but one thing you can say about her–she’s all woman. There’s nothing ambiguous about her sexual or racial identity.

By the same token, entertainers like Johnny Cash and James Brown exude masculinity.

Entertainers like that are threatening to an ideology which is hell-bent on the subversion, inversion, and perversion what it means to be human. What it means to be male and female.

Take operas and musicals. Although these are often rather decadent, they are also quite heteronormative. Boy-meets-girl set to music.

By contrast, Jackson came to look and sound like a drag-queen. That makes him the poster child of transhumanism. Everything about him was fake. Ersatz. Ambiguous. And he had a lifestyle to match.

It’s a frontal assault on any residual Christian values. The futuristic face of secular humanism.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top news headlines!

(CNN) -- Entertainer Michael Jackson has died after being taken to a hospital on Thursday after suffering cardiac arrest, according to multiple reports including the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press.

In other news of the day, The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Jesus Christ returned to earth today, accompanied by legions of angels.

And now back to our lead story: entertainer Michael Jackson has died after being taken to a hospital on Thursday.


(CNN) -- Entertainer Michael Jackson has died after being taken to a hospital on Thursday after suffering cardiac arrest, according to multiple reports including the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press. CNN will bring you live, nonstop coverage of this developing story.

Due to a giant asteroid, which is scheduled to strike the earth at 10:53 PM EST, thereby extinguishing all forms of life on the surface of the earth, there may be a temporary interruption in our nonstop coverage of the Michael Jackson story. However, CNN has made arrangements with White House Press Secretary to continue broadcasting from the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center to provide live, up-to-the-minute coverage of the Michael Jackson story. Stay tuned!

Time Management, Cinema, And The Danger Of Triviality

John Piper:

I think relevance in preaching hangs very little on watching movies, and I think that much exposure to sensuality, banality, and God-absent entertainment does more to deaden our capacities for joy in Jesus than it does to make us spiritually powerful in the lives of the living dead. Sources of spiritual power—which are what we desperately need—are not in the cinema. You will not want your biographer to write: Prick him and he bleeds movies.

If you want to be relevant, say, for prostitutes, don’t watch a movie with a lot of tumbles in a brothel. Immerse yourself in the gospel, which is tailor-made for prostitutes; then watch Jesus deal with them in the Bible; then go find a prostitute and talk to her. Listen to her, not the movie. Being entertained by sin does not increase compassion for sinners.

There are, perhaps, a few extraordinary men who can watch action-packed, suspenseful, sexually explicit films and come away more godly. But there are not many. And I am certainly not one of them.

I have a high tolerance for violence, high tolerance for bad language, and zero tolerance for nudity. There is a reason for these differences. The violence is make-believe. They don’t really mean those bad words. But that lady is really naked, and I am really watching. And somewhere she has a brokenhearted father.

I’ll put it bluntly. The only nude female body a guy should ever lay his eyes on is his wife’s. The few exceptions include doctors, morticians, and fathers changing diapers....

But leave sex aside (as if that were possible for fifteen minutes on TV). It’s the unremitting triviality that makes television so deadly. What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ. Television takes us almost constantly in the opposite direction, lowering, shrinking, and deadening our capacities for worshiping Christ.

One more smaller concern with TV (besides its addictive tendencies, trivialization of life, and deadening effects): It takes time. I have so many things I want to accomplish in this one short life. Don’t waste your life is not a catchphrase for me; it’s a cliff I walk beside every day with trembling.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Bible of the Apostles

If we agree with the ancient Jews that the LXX translation was a faulty translation, then why is such a substandard text part of Holy, Inspired Scripture? Doesn't the New Testament suggest that the LXX was considered not just trustworthy, but even preferred by the Apostles? This is not out of harmony with the testimony of the Early Church, which regarded it as a sound and inspired translation.

As a Bible believing Christian, facing this dilemma was not easy. I felt that by trying to honestly grapple with textual issues, I was questioning the authority of God's Word. This is not at all what I intended. I simply wanted integrity in my Christian faith. With time, as I struggled through some of these facts, I realized I needed to come to Scripture on its own terms, not on my expectations as a twentieth century Westerner. This desire for integrity aided me as I swallowed hard and proceeded to study the canon of the Old Testament.

The Eastern Orthodox Church has been most faithful to the apostles' Old Testament. They still use the LXX and usually base their translations of the Old Testament on it. Without needing objective proof for the veracity of this translation, they have simply held to what the apostles gave them. Their approach to the canon has not been philosophical or deductive, but spiritual, trusting that God established and is now watching over the Church He established.

There are some serious problems with this argument:

1. Needless to say, our extant editions of the LXX are not identical with the 1C editions of the Greek OT which NT authors had at their disposal. Therefore, it’s anachronistic as well as inaccurate to simply correlate one with the other.

2. As NT scholars have pointed out, NT writers don't simply quote the Greek OT verbatim. Rather, they feel free to reword their source. In that event, they don’t treat the wording of the Greek OT as inviolate.

3.To say NT writers quote the Greek OT doesn’t mean they quote the Greek OT exclusively. Some of their quotations are closer to the MT.

4.We also need to distinguish between NT speakers and NT writers. When NT writers quote NT speakers quoting the OT, they tend to use the Greek OT. But they also do so in settings where it’s unlikely that the speaker himself was quoting from the Greek OT. That would only make sense if they were addressing a Greek-speaking audience.

So this is probably a case in which the writer substitutes a different version for the benefit of the reader, in distinction to the original speaker and his immediate audience.

5. Apropos (4), NT writers quote the Greek OT because they’re writing to Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles. For example the author of Hebrews is addressing Hellenistic Jewish-Christians. Therefore, as a practical necessity, he’s going to use a Greek version of the OT. That’s an unavoidable accommodation to his audience. An exercise in audience-adaptation.

Indeed, his use of the Greek OT may well be ad hominem. Answering them on their own terms by appealing to their own methods and sources.

Classical Arminianism less loving than other varients on Arminianism, or does it lead to means-end irrationality, Universalism or Open Theism?

Jason Pratt said: "But being love, God will keep persisting--including in chastisement and discipline, toward accomplishing re-tribution, re-mediation, re-probation in and with the sinner.”

I take it that this expresses a popular Arminian understanding of God's attitude toward those in hell.

Now add to this classical omniscience, and you either have a means-end irrational God or Universalism or Open Theism. I'm trying to figure out how this isn't so...

(Of course, the Classical Arminian can resort to a retributive view of hell I guess, but then he needs to answer the Universalist's question: How is this God omni-loving? In other words, the Classical Arminian gets hoisted by his own petard here.)

Mother Church or mother of schism?

The Catholic church prides itself on being a beacon of unity in a sea of chaos. It decries the proliferation of religious “sects.” It lays exclusive claim to Jn 17:21-22. It promotes ecumenism, in the one-sided sense of calling on all Christian denominations to return to Mother church.

What’s ironic and indeed hypocritical about all this is that the Catholic church is a very divisive force in Christendom. The Catholic church is a precipitating factor in many “schisms.”

We could run down a very long list. I’ll just cite a few examples to illustrate the point.


Pope Victor unilaterally excommunicated Christians living in the East who celebrated Easter on a different date than Rome. That’s hardly an action that promotes church unity. And it was a completely unnecessary controversy.

The Filioque

At some point the Filioque clause was added to the Nicene Creed, and the church of Rome formalized that addition. I’m not debating the merits of the Filioque. I’m merely pointing out that the actions of Rome were very divisive in that respect.

Tridentine Canon

At the Council of Trent, the Tridentine Fathers were divided over the scope of the OT canon, for tradition itself was divided over the scope of the OT canon. Yet Trent decided to anathematize Christians who rejected the Apocrypha. That was a very exclusionary action.

Assumption of Mary

In 1950, Piux XII elevated the Assumption of Mary to Catholic dogma. This was despite the fact that this dogma lacked any solid foundation in the traditions of the ancient church. Anyone dissident was implicitly forced to leave the church.

Novus Ordo

When, in the wake of Vatican II, the papacy introduced a revised Missal, this was a very disruptive action, and predictably so.

For one thing, Catholic apologists used to invoke the Latin Mass as an emblem of Catholic unity and universality. A Catholic who traveled to any part of the world where the Mass was celebrated would hear the Mass in the same language (Latin). By using the vernacular, this destroyed the unity and universality of worship. (Not to mention additional changes to the Missal.)

Anglican Orders

In 1896, Leo XIII nullified Anglican ordinations. By definition, that was a very exclusionary action.

When the Catholic church takes these actions, there are winners and losers. The winners draw lines which create insiders and outsiders. It generates de facto and de jure schisms.

Now, I’m not saying that’s good or bad. And I don’t have a personal stake in some of these controversies.

My point is simply that the Catholic church has frequently taken provocative actions which disenfranchise many professing believers. The Catholic church has deliberately instigated many schisms through its factious and fractious policies. It uses its unilateral ax to split Christendom into many different splinter groups.

Now, if you’re Catholic, you can claim that all these actions were justified. I’m not debating the merits of each case. I’m simply noting a fundamental tension between the claims of Rome to be a champion of Christian unity, as well as a leader in ecumenical dialogue–on the one hand–and various actions by which she has alienated many professing believers and ejected them from the ranks of the “faithful”–retroactively defined.

Links On The Resurrection

The full, professional video of William Lane Craig's recent debate with Richard Carrier, on the topic of Jesus' resurrection, is now available to view for free online.

Chris Price recently wrote an article on some of John Loftus' research related to the resurrection.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Moore's recommended Bible commentaries

Moore Theological College has a list of recommended Bible commentaries.

The Road to Emmaus

Useful resources on Biblical Theology from The Road to Emmaus. See "Recommended Reading," "Resources," and "Themes in Biblical Theology."

A PAP Test In Action: Ability to Write a Retraction?

The fact that what looks to be like an obviously false position (backed by what looks to be a terrible argument) could seriously debated for an undetermined length of time is one of those things that turns one off towards philosophy, or theology. On the other hand, it’s one of those phenomena that capture one’s interest in the subject(s). Not least of all is the interesting question about how a rational person could be so wide of the mark about what they take to be fairly obviously the case. When one is pondering such questions, it may be wise to avoid reading Sextus Empiricus or (the older) Peter Unger! One might be tempted to throw up their hands in despair, capitulating to skepticism, saying to oneself, “If I’m wrong about something as obvious as this, what about those things I’m slightly less convinced about?” Thankfully, such a conclusion would be unwarranted, and there are good arguments against it. But we still must admit, it’s an odd phenomena, and not one I plan to address here. For as one philosopher puts it: “In the end, we must confess that we have no idea why there is no established body of metaphysical results. It cannot be denied that this is a fact, and beginning students of metaphysics should keep this fact and its implications in mind” (Van Inwagen, Metaphysics, 12).

Now, as this relates to some of the recent discussions on this blog, the above is even more interesting in the situation of Dan the Arminian. He takes it as “just obvious” that the Bible teaches Libertarian Free Will (LFW). So obvious, in fact, that all one needs to see it is a King James and a Merriam-Webster. The Bible uses the word ‘choice,’ and Merriam-Webster defines ‘choice’ in libertarian fashion, thus the Bible teaches LFW. Now, the argument is a tad better than what I just expressed, but only a tad. In this post, I will make one last public attempt to get Dan to admit that his argument was not all he originally thought it to be. Though I find it generally unprofitable to debate Dan on these matters, I still like him. He is my favorite Arminian epologist, I think. Though I am unsure whether Dan will give in, I trust that most of the people who read this post—Arminian or Calvinist—will be bound to admit that his argument has been defeated. I will attempt to show that his argument fails to do the heavy lifting he wants it to do by: (i) offering several general critiques of his argument, (ii) offering an rebutting defeater1 of his main premise, and (iii) presenting libertarian philosophers who disagree with Dan. Before this, however, I will present the gist of his argument.

The Basics of Dan’s Argument

Here are some relevant quotes from Dan:

“the dictionary is better at establishing the laymen, common sensical understanding of terms.”

The American Heritage College Dictionary (3rd edition) defines choose as: to select from a number of possible alternatives. (similar definitions available here and here) Determinism includes the idea that preceding causal forces render all our actions necessary such that they cannot be otherwise. So a “predetermined choice” implies an “impossible possibility” and an “inalternate alternative”. Since the bible states that we have wills and choose, determinism isn’t consistent with the bible.”

“So the dictionary definitions and common sense understanding of the terms do seem to rule out determinism.”

“the bible was written by common men and to the common man (i.e. to the people of Israel and the church, not the semi-compatibilist) and it uses the terms choice and choose.”

Putting these choice quotes together, we can construct an argument for Dan's position as something like this:

[1] The Bible uses the words choice and choose.

[2] The Bible was written by and to the common man.

[3] What common man understands the meaning of a word to be is the meaning the Bible applies to that word.

[4] The dictionary is the repository of what the common man means by any (every day) word.

[5] The dictionary defines choice and choose in libertarian fashion.

[6] Therefore, the Bible means choice and choose in a libertarian way.

[7] Determinism does not mean choice and choose in a libertarian way.

[8] The Bible is infallible.

[9] Therefore, determinism is false.

I take it that this is generally the position Dan defended and I critiqued when we debated it a few months ago. I will now demonstrate, in what I take to be the most cogent way I can express my disagreement, what is wrong with Dan’s argument, besides its obvious falsehood.

I. General Criticisms

1. First, what is the referent of “common man?” It appears to function as a static assortment of people. But statistical claims can, and many times do, represent changing assortments. Dan’s argument reminds one of the joke about the statistical report that a pedestrian is hit by a car every twenty minutes, to which comes the witty reply, “He must get awfully tired of that!” Socialists, when condemning the evils of Capitalism, frequently use the same kinds of “static assortment” arguments. These popular-level arguments not only treat all the wealth in the world as static (using the analogy of a finite, “set” pie), but the groups “poor” and “rich” as static too. However, these groups are changing. At times, those who were once in the “rich” group may find themselves, for various reasons, in the “poor” group, and vice versa. Most Americans, for instance, do not stay within the same income bracket for even ten years. So, these statistical claims are often nebulous, contentless concepts. They are not static. I dare say that how a “common man” in a stoic society defined terms would not be the same as how a “common man” in an Epicurean society defined terms. Forgetting this for now, I will proceed to use the term “common man”, though I question its referent.

2. In line with the above, it is certainly plausible to imagine the “common man” holding to determinism, perhaps through watching some fancy science shows on the Discovery channel. It can also be debated whether the “common man” is consistent here. Some might be inclined to think that the “common man” holds to some kind of weird combination of determinism and libertarianism, not bothering to reflect on the tension.

3. What if the “common man” is wrong? Dan cannot beg the question here, and so his argument could wind up being an argument for the errancy of Scripture since Scripture would be asserting as true what is false.

4. I find it odd to claim that the dictionary sets forth the “common man” understanding of words since the “common man” consults the dictionary more or just as much as everyone else. Wouldn’t they just consult their own minds? Furthermore, why do they so often find out that they are wrong in how they or their friends have been using a word?

5. I deny the claim that the Bible was (solely?) written “by and to” the “common man”. Some very uncommon men wrote the Bible, e.g., Kings, doctors, highly educated Pharisees, etc. In addition, some uncommon men were meant to be recipients too.

6. Apropos 5. I find it very odd, especially coming from an Arminian, to claim that, “the Bible was not written to semi-compatibilists.” I guess the Arminian God is not as fair and omni-loving as we have been told! Calvinists may have "limited atonement" (i.e., particular redemption), but on the above view, Arminians may have a "Limited Intended Audience" for the book that contains salvific (rather than merely general) revelation from God.

7. The “common man” ostensibly defines other words in such a way that we do not think the Bible means what they mean by it. The examples here are too obvious, and numerous, to list.

8. Dan is not an Open Theist, yet Greg Boyd uses the exact same type of argument to point out that the Bible assumes the future is open, unsettled (Boyd, Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, pp. 17-18). Boyd claims that when we think of “deliberating,” we presuppose that the future is open, not settled (and if it is open, God does not know it).

9. Crucial to Dan’s argument is the claim that “common man” are all, each and every, libertarians. If Dan claims that some “common men” are not indeterminist, but determinist, then he defeats one of his premises, or makes the Bible speak in contradictions. To spell this point out, recall that Dan says, “The Bible is written by and to the common man, it means what they mean, since they mean certain words libertarianly, then the Bible so means those words.” Yet if we allow some (even one?) of the “common men” to whom the Bible was written to be determinists, then it must mean what they mean by the words that are the topic of our discussion. However, since there are indeterminist “common men”, then the Bible must also mean what they mean by the words we are discussing! Therefore, Dan must assume that each and every “common man” is a libertarian, which I find highly implausible (and which I will show is false, below). (This also would imply that the "dictionary" is not the sole source for "common mans'" definitions of various (every day) words.)

Given that many of the premises are false, then Dan must admit that his argument is unsound. Besides that small problem, we saw reason to reject the argument as resting on the concept of static assortments, which is false and leaves us with a nebulous concept, as well as requiring one to accept either the (false) view that all “common men” are libertarians, or that the Bible means contradictions. Unfortunately, there are more problems.

II. A Rebutting Defeater for one of Dan’s Main Premises: Folk Beliefs Regarding Free Will

In point nine above we saw that it is a crucial assumption of Dan’s argument that all common men are libertarians. If I find even one that is not, his argument seems debunked. I frequently asked Dan to provide the sociological data that underwrites his assumption. But he never did this, presumably because he thinks it is so blindingly obvious. However, the crucial assumption is false, or at least not nearly as obvious as Dan wants it to be.

See, rather than speculating from their own intuitions (shared by others within an Arminian community) and their own phenomenology, some have actually studied folk concepts of free will. Philosophers Eddy Nahmias, Jason Turner, Steve Morris had conducted some studies a few years ago in which they asked two groups of forty laypeople, and one of twenty-five (FW1, FW2, and FW3, respectively), a set of questions. For our purposes, I’ll just cite the results to question two. The second question put to "common men" was:

• Do you think that our actions can be free if all of them are entirely determined by our genes, our neuro-physiology, and our upbringing?

Here are the results:

FW1: 30% said yes

FW2: 48% said yes

FW3: 52% said yes

You will have to read the article to see the reasons for the different percentages. What is clear, though, is that the empirical evidence makes Dan’s argument imply that the Bible is contradictory. To wiggle out of this, he could say that the Bible was only addressed to libertarian “common men” (just like it was not addressed to semi-compatibilists), but I will assume that no one will be persuaded by such a response. Furthermore, the above also wrote a joint paper on the subject in which they claim: “The data seem to support compatibilist descriptions of the phenomenology more than libertarian descriptions. We conclude that the burden is on libertarians to find empirical support for their more demanding metaphysical theories with their more controversial phenomenological claims.”

Previously, Dan had claimed, “My primary argument to Paul was that the common sense notion of “choose” includes the ability to choose non-X, so determinists can’t consistently use the common sense notion of choose” (emphasis mine).

Considering my arguments so far, Dan needs to retract his argument. Unfortunately for Dan, there is still more problems.

III. Libertarian Philosophers Who Disagree With Dan

III. A. My initial response

In response to Dan’s argument from Merriam-Webster, I cited libertarian Robert Kane’s definition of ‘choice’ and concluded that it certainly seemed possible that “choosing” can happen on determinism. In response, and largely because he followed the highly unreliable “Robert,” Dan rejected Kane’s definition for two reasons: (i) Kane is not a substance dualist (Dan even went so far as to assume that Kane must not even be a Christian because of this!), and (ii) the dictionary shows that PAP is essential to the definition of choice.

In response I pointed out that (i) was irrelevant, and (ii) had a couple responses: (a) it seems irresponsible to run to the dictionary and claim that ‘choice’ must have a PAP element to it because Merriam-Webster says so (however, I also cited numerous dictionaries that didn’t include a PAP element), and (b) even so, this is still not enough since many compatibilists can and have held to a notion of PAP. For example, in the above paper by Nahmias et al., we read regarding the PAP phenomenology:

“For instance, Adolf Grunbaum writes: ‘Let us carefully examine the content of the feeling that on a certain occasion we could have acted other than the way we did … This feeling simply discloses that we were able to act in accord with our strongest desire at that time, and that we could indeed have acted otherwise if a different motive had prevailed at the time’ (in Lehrer, 1960, p. 149). J.S. Mill agrees: ‘When we think of ourselves hypothetically as having acted otherwise than we did, we always suppose a difference in the antecedents: we picture ourselves having known something we did not know … or as having desired something … more or less than we did’ (in Boyle et al., 1976, p. 49).”
Nevertheless, all of my counter arguments were to no avail. It seemed Dan had found his perfect argument for LFW, and from that point on, refused to be budged (some would say, “listen to reason”).

III. B. Libertarians who do not find PAP as just a definitional matter

At this point, I would like to take my response here further. In response to (III: ii), I’ll cite what numerous libertarian philosophers have said about Kane’s definition, and most (or all) of them are dualists of some kind. I will draw from various emails or email exchanges I had with some prominent philosophers (Alvin Plantinga, Stuart Goetz, William Hasker, Robert Kane, Charles Taliaferro, and Kevin Timpe). But first, a couple of statements by libertarians who deny (libertarian understandings) of PAP (or that it is part of the “definition” of choice) as essential to libertarianism who I did not interact with.

William Lane Craig: “In that case his choosing A is entirely free, even though the man is literally unable to choose B, since the electrodes do not function at all and have no effect on his choice of A. What makes his choice free is the absence of any causally determining factors of his choosing A.”

Dave Hunt: “It is true that God’s foreknowing Adam’s action, like his causing Adam’s action, leaves Adam with no alternative possibilities . . . divine foreknowledge provides compelling grounds for rejecting (PAP)” (Dave Hunt, Divine Foreknowledge, Four Views, 88, 90).

Timothy O’Connor: Time and time again you see O’Connor claim that the debate is about whether one makes the choices he does libertarianly freely or not. O’Connor understands that even on determinism one can choose, one just doesn’t choose libertarianly freely. If ‘choice’ just meant PAP, then O’Connor would claim that on determinism, no one chooses at all. But he doesn’t (see O’Connor, “Libertarian Views: Dualist and Agent-Causal Theories.” Oxford Handbook of Freewill, ch.15)

III. C. Kane’s Definition of choice and placing the dictionary on holy ground

First, honest libertarians admit that “common men” find indeterminacy problematic at the intuitive level as well, thus Kane:

Robert Kane: "The first step is to question the intuitive connection in people's minds between ‘indeterminisms being involved in something’ and ‘its happening merely as a matter of chance or luck’ (Kane, Robert. "Libertarianism." Four Views on Free Will. Fischer et al., 33).

This means that if we are going to be consistent with the "common man" argument, then we make the Bible problematic if it assumes "common man's" understanding of action. Certainly we wouldn't want to affirm that the Bible means that people make choices due to luck and then are held morally responsible for how things luckily turn out! So, this point makes Dan's argument a wash.

Second, Dan thinks PAP is intuitive, same with the ought-implies-can principle. Granting that, as honest libertarians have pointed out, Frankfurt counter-examples, which rebut PAPs and ought-implies-can, are equally intuitive. Thus David Copp,

David Copp: "...Frankfurt's argument is troubling and puzzling because it brings intuitively plausible counterexamples against an intuitively plausible principle. It forces us to deal with clashing intuitions" (Copp, David. "'Ought Implies Can,' Blameworthiness, and the Principle of Alternate Possibilities." Moral Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities. Ed. Widerker and McKenna, 265).

This makes it even less plausible to pin your hopes on the beliefs of “common men.” I have never ran across a "layman" who didn't respond to a Frankfurt Counter Example by saying something like: "I guess moral responsibility doesn't demand ability to do otherwise."

But, moving along, what is Kane’s definition of 'choice' and what is so problematic about it?

Robert Kane: “A choice is the formation of an intention or purpose to do something. It resolves uncertainty and indecision in the mind about what to do” (Robert Kane, “Libertarian Perspectives on Free Agency and Free Will.” Oxford Handbook of Free Will, p.423).

It is instructive to note the surrounding context. Kane offers this definition in response to some determinists who seem to define ‘choice’ as something determined. He notes this is to solve the debate by fiat! Aside from question-begging, there’s no good reason to accept the definition. One would hope that Dan heeds Kane’s words of wisdom.

Now, Dan thought that part of Kane’s problem is that since he is a physicalist (or at least defends a libertarianism that does not need some kind of immaterial soul); his definition of ‘choice’ was couched in terms to protect his physicalism. In response to whether Kane should change his definition, let’s see what Kane himself says:

R. Kane: “I wouldn't change my definition. The idea that you can prove libertarianism or compatibilism or any other view on fw true by defining terms such as choice in a rigged way is whistling in the dark. We could still make choices in a determined world. We would just not be *ultimately responsible* for the choices we did make.” (Email correspondence)

But since Kane is a physicalist, I guess this still doesn’t count. So let’s see what two prominent non-physicalists have to say on the matter.

A. Plantinga: “Kane's definition sounds right to me.” (Email correspondence)

W. Hasker: “Kane’s definition is fine; I see no need to add to it.” (Email correspondence)

The problem here is that Dan cannot accuse these men of “physicalism,” or being cryptic determinists (as he indicated of Kane).

C. Taliaferro and S. Goetz thought that the biggest problem is that Kane’s definition doesn’t get to the essence of libertarianism, which is fine, but that’s not what Kane was doing. He was defining ‘choice.’ Furthermore, Goetz disagrees with Dan’s entire method, he writes,

“I can’t speak for Charles, but I would not base my belief in libertarianism on passages in the Bible. And I wouldn’t argue against your Calvinism from biblical texts. I believe that the Bible doesn’t teach anything about the issue of free will. It wasn’t written for that purpose, just as it wasn’t written for the purpose of teaching us whether or not we have souls. In short, I believe the Bible is not a philosophical text written to teach philosophy. It doesn’t fail to teach Calvinism because it teaches libertarianism. It simply doesn’t teach anything about the matter of free will.” (Email correspondence)
Lastly, I had the pleasure of corresponding with Kevin Timpe, who also doesn’t think the Bible is a metaphysical textbook. So, in response to the type of arguments advanced by Dan, as well as Kane’s definition, Timpe had this to say:

“On the whole, I think that Kane’s definition is pretty good. I’m inclined to think that there is no single thing as choice, but rather a variety of similar mental acts that go by that name. My dog, for example, certainly appears to decide which toy to play with, which involves various pro-attitudes and perhaps something like beliefs. And I can see no reason why this would be undermined if it turns out that determinism is true. Likewise, I’m pretty sure that I make decisions, and I don’t think I’d have any reason to change that belief if it turned out that determinism were true. So I’m inclined against building the falsity of determinism into the definition of choice. What is at issue, regarding determinism, is not choice per se but free choice. And I think that there are good reasons to think that there can’t be free choices if determinism is true.” (Email correspondence)
To which I responded: “Thank you for your response. I've found that it libertarians grant that determinists do choose even if determinism is true, they just think the choice isn't fee, as you said. This would make the issue depend on more substantive metaphysical issues than the mere definition of choice.”

Dr. Timpe wrote back: “The content of your first paragraph seems right to me.” (Email correspondence)

And so along with the other arguments I offered above, we can see that some of the biggest guns on Dan’s side disagree with him both about the dictionary thing as well as about Kane’s definition. I don’t know about Dan, but it would make me pretty uncomfortable to be at odds with some of the biggest guns on my own side. Heck, it makes me uncomfortable being at odds with Plantinga on almost anything, and I’m not even a libertarian!


I believe Dan’s argument for Arminianism and LFW to be flawed in sundry ways. I have presented my reasons why, and they appear fatal to his argument. His premises seem far too controversial to draw any confident conclusion from, his “primary” argument is false, and he is at odds with some of the biggest thinkers libertarianism has to offer. Dan should concede this point and move on to his (many) other arguments he has for LFW and against Calvinism. Even though I think none of them is successful, each and every are, unfortunately, better than the argument we looked at here.
1 On undercutting defeaters see Michael Sudduth’s entry on Epistemological Defeaters on the IEP,

Monday, June 22, 2009



I've occasionally played with the idea of calling myself a "katholic" (which is Greek for universalist, more or less), in verbal conversation with other Protestants. But that would be even more confusing.


A man/woman who claims to be a Catholic but supports abortion or gay marriage.

William Lane Craig on freewill

Now as for your argument, I think two of its premisses are false. First, it seems to me that (2) is false, both on philosophical and on theological grounds. Philosophically, I’m persuaded by arguments such as have been offered by Harry Frankfurt that free choice does not entail the ability to do otherwise. Imagine that a mad scientist has secretly wired your brain with electrodes so that he can control your choices. Suppose that in the last Presidential election, he wanted you to vote for Obama and had determined that if you were going to vote for McCain he would activate the electrodes and make you cast your vote for Obama. Now as it turns out, you also wanted to vote for Obama, and so when you went into the polling booth you marked your ballot for Obama, and therefore the scientist never activated the electrodes. I think it’s clear that you freely voted for Obama, even though it was not possible for you to do otherwise. What this thought experiment suggests is that the essence of free choice is the absence of causal constraint with respect to your choices; it is up to you alone how you choose.

Now in the case of God, if God is essentially good, then there is no possible world in which He does evil. But does that imply that God does not freely do the good? Not if Frankfurt’s analysis is right. For God acts in the complete absence of any causal constraint whatsoever upon Him. It is up to Him and Him alone how He acts. He therefore acts freely in doing the good. That God is acting freely is evident in the fact that His will is not inclined necessarily toward any particular finite good; He chooses to do whatever He wants.

Does God love the reprobate?-6

“It would be strange enough for God to even merely desire (without even intention on acting to fulfill that desire) the salvation from sin of entities whom He Himself chooses to ensure can never even have the possibility of being saved from sin. But that might be possible if God is not essentially love; thus God’s choice to utterly not love the non-elect (except perhaps in an incidental and accidental fashion as a side-effect), and thus to refuse to even try to save them from sin, would not be incoherent with some merely emotive desire (assuming God could even have a merely emotive desire, which I deny--and which Calvinists typically deny, too) to save them from sin--perhaps thanks to unessential love.”

“The disagreement (metaphysically speaking) is either about God being essentially true love (which shouldn’t be a disagreement among trinitarian theists), or about God refusing to truly love the non-elect. But if God is essentially love, then He must act in love to objects (at least to personal objects) even when acting in wrath to objects, or else cease to essentially exist; and since we, dependent on God for our existence, are still here to even discuss the question, we can be sure that He does and shall act in love to all sinners.”

So if God is “essentially love,” (or “essentially true love,” which I guess is even better), then God must love all sinners. The underlying argument, apparently, is that God does whatever God is.

But if you grant the premise, then the logical force of the argument is quite expansive. Since God is essentially love, then God must love forks and spoons and pitchforks and forklifts and underwear and Tupperware and wonder bras and coat-hangers and toothpicks and dipsticks and lipsticks and Tupperware and pornography and bestiality and Satanism and Listerine, &c.

“If this is being proposed, however (and I’ve seen Calves and Arms alike attempt this route, in their own distinct ways--denying that God is essentially love, I mean), then we’ve immediately moved back to a more fundamental theological topic: whether God is a substantial unity of Persons acting to fulfill love to one another as the ground of even God’s own independent self-existence. In that case (which is trinitarian theism), and only in that case, God is essentially love.”

Needless to say, this doesn’t follow. If God is love, and God is a Trinitarian God, then God’s love is “fulfilled” (if you wish to put it that way) via his intra-Trinitarian love. There is no need of any extra-Trinitarian love to fulfill his essential love. The essential Trinity fulfills his essential love.

“Because in both cases God is acting in love to the object. Being essentially love, He loves the object and in so loving the object creates and allows it to be a real person.”

The logic of that argument would commit God to creating every possible person or every possible entity.

However, possible persons include eternally damned possible persons. For that’s a logical possibility. Therefore, Jason’s appeal actually undercuts universalism.

“He is not righteous by some automatic or static necessity, but eternally righteous in active choice as the Trintarian Deity upon Whom all reality depends for existence...Being essentially love, being righteousness in His own interpersonal union of self-existence…”

This is where Jason begins to fudge. To say that God is essentially righteous doesn’t carry the same implications as the claim that God is essentially love. Indeed, it introduces a note of essential hostility to whoever is unrighteous.

“Which, incidentally, is why I have seen a few Calvinists go the distance and try to claim that the non-elect are not really persons, only simulacra.”

Since that’s not a logical implication of Calvinism, that’s not “going the distance.”

Calvinism has no problem treating the reprobate as real persons. Because they’re real persons, they’re morally accountable agents. Blameworthy if they do wrong.

“God will respect the person’s own choices insofar as righteousness can respect an unrighteous person: in love. But being love, God will keep persisting--including in chastisement and discipline, toward accomplishing re-tribution, re-mediation, re-probation in and with the sinner.”

This is the deterministic strain of universalism.

““Jason’s God” would be acting at cross-purposes to treat them as non-persons (whether annihilating them from existence or simply ‘forcing’ them to ‘be good’--temporal and thus temporary exceptions otherwise notwithstanding.)”

This is the indeterministic strain of universalism. Jason is a fence-straddler.

“Nope. ‘Jason’s God’ (i.e. the trinitarian God, God self-begetting and God self-begotten and God proceeding in distinct persons of substantial unity) would be ‘working at cross-purposes’ if He chose to keep persons in existence as impenitent rebels without acting toward saving them from rebellion.”

Another illogical comment. God would only be working at cross-purposes by damning some people to everlasting hell if God had also had a contrary purpose to save them. Since I, along with Paul Helm, William Young, and a number of others, deny that God suffers from conflicting desires or frustrated desires, Jason’s riposte has no bearing on my own position.

Does God love the reprobate?-5

by JasonPratt on Sun Jun 21, 2009 9:14 am

“Note: Please remember that I basically gave up on Steve--even though I don’t believe God will.”

Oh, dear! Looks like Jason has consigned me to the ranks of the goats. However, that development isn't nearly as alarming as it appears at first sight. You see, hell is not what it used to be.

If I’m currently on the primrose path to hell, and if is just a temporary way station, then I might as well indulge in some riotous living while I’ve still got the chance to live it up. After all, there’s nothing to lose.

In universalism, sin/sin is a win/win. Since, no matter what I do here on earth I’ll eventually wind up at the pearly gates, why deny myself?

Does God love the reprobate?-4

“I will also take some minutes to consider a peculiar dissonance, which I often find Calvinists making (not all the time perhaps but often); which Steve has made before (as Gene points out in his own commentary to the discussion between Steve and I a few years ago on DangIdea) and which I happened to notice him making again (before he convinced me to give up reasoning with him, etc.; see complaint a few comments above.”

Before I respond to Jason, I’ll respond to Gene. I assume Jason is alluding to something which “Auggy” posted. And I assume this is what he’s referring to:

It seems we universalists do have an appeal because we see everyone as being guilty. WAIT A SECOND....don't calvinists think that too?

I don't think this illustration fares well under scripture. It would seem to me that there is a major flaw in it's parallel.
Here is the problem:
1) The mother does not understand that her daughter is the murderer and the rapist.
2) The mother does not understand that she is the murderer and the rapist.

If under Calvinism God's grace is magnified by showing some mercy when NONE deserved it then ALL DESERVE DAMNATION. I think Calvinists including Hays agrees.

However then the mother has no right to complain that God might love the rapist but not lover her child. Now if the child is not innocent, that is the child was born deserving damnation then God could not love the child and the child is as guilty as the rapist before God.

Is it not the reformed view that the God holds the sole perfect right to love the rapist and hate her daughter. FOR IT IS NOTHING OF THEMSELVES THAT SAVES THEM. So why would the woman complain. It seems Hays could only look to the woman and say, God shows mercy on whom he shows mercy. Thus the rapist can receive mercy while God DAMNS her daughter. in short "Tough Luck!"

I'm not even sure it's fair for a calvinist to use such a illustration.

He's answered nothing of Talbotts argument here. It seems to me that his illustration flys in the face of calvinism.

Several issues:

1.Notice the stark moral equivalence. Imagine if Jason or Auggy were to translate that into pastoral theology. Imagine if they were counseling a rape victim, or the mother of a murder victim–using that argument.

The universalist says to the rape victim: “Yes, you were raped. But, in your own way, you’re a rapist, too! We’re all rapists! So don’t take it so personally. You’re in no position to point fingers at the men who gang-raped you.”

The universalist says to the grieving mother: “Yes, Ted Bundy tortured your daughter to death. But you’re in no position to be so judgmental. You might as well be Ted Bundy. You’re an accomplice. You murdered your own daughter. I mean, we’re all Ted Bundies!”

It’s a good thing that universalism presents a viable alternative the heartless creed of Calvinism, don’t you think?

2.To say that we’re all sinners doesn’t mean we all committed the same sin. It doesn’t mean we all did the same thing to each other.

3.In addition, because Auggy’s either too stupid to get the point, or too blinded by sentimentality to get the point, he misses the point.

I was answering Talbott on his own terms. Auggy’s appeal to Scripture is irrelevant, for Talbott was not invoking Biblical authority. Quite the contrary. Talbott was appealing to his moral intuition as a potential check on the authority of Scripture. If Scripture offends his moral sensibilities, then so much the worse for Scripture!

4.Because Talbott’s parable appealed to moral intuition, I simply constructed a parallel illustration in which our moral intuitions cut against the grain of universalism.

Continuing with Auggy:

I think to simply say it's easy to compose tearjerkers that illustrate opposing positions is not correct. Is there a bright side to Hitler cooking families in ovens? Is there a spin on the holocaust that I'm missing? Perhaps I'm not as creative as our brother calvinists. I'm not able to reach into a bag of tricks and pull out the humor of the nazis commiting genocide upon families. Universalism is the ONLY paradigm I know of that can see a bright side to things. It is the only way I know one can rejoice in the wrath of God and in his salvation of the wicked. If it's not then I want to see Steve or Manata put a spin on the holocaust. After all, all one needs to do is change the illustration, right?

Surely this is Talbott's point. What bright side can be illustrated in a God who makes a person to hate him and demands that person love him and torments that person for hating him? I'll wait patiently for the "bright side" (to coin Monty Python)......It's gonna be a long long eternal wait.

He begins by posing a rhetorical question: “Is there a bright side to Hitler cooking families in ovens?”

Presumably he’d answer his own question in the negative. To answer the question in the affirmative would be to put a “spin” on the Holocaust.

But then, a few sentences later, he says universalism is the only position which can see the bright side to things. Presumably, that would include the Holocaust.

So we have a point blank contradiction within the space of a few sentences.

He’s the one who ends up finding the “bright side” to the Holocaust. What is more, he defines the “bright side” as finding the humor in a situation. So, for Auggy the universalist, the Holocaust is a just a Monty Python flick.

How appealing! Doesn’t that make you want to become a universalist? Doesn’t that make you want to enlist at the nearest recruiting office of universalism? Where can the survivors of the concentration camps sign up?

Since Jason approves of Auggy’s analysis, I think Jason ought to take out some front-page ads in The Jerusalem Post or Haaretz to spread the good news of hopeful universalism.

BTW, the idea of “humor” or the “bright side” was no part of my reply to Talbott. That’s something which Auggy introduces into the discussion.

Turning to Jason:

“Which was, insofar as I have understood from listening to Calvinists (including Steve): The non-elect never have a real choice to do good, yet they are commanded (at least preceptively if not decretively) to do good by the One who also chooses, by His own sole sovereign authoritative choice, to ensure that they shall never even possibly have a choice themselves to do good.”

Due to common grace, the reprobate are capable of doing good. God has preserved a remnant of common decency in the reprobate.

Their inability is more specific. They’re incapable of actual righteousness (in the Pauline sense of the word). That’s also true of the elect–whose righteousness is vicarious rather than personal.

Likewise, the reprobate are unable to believe the Gospel.

“I will note in passing, in Steve’s favor, that his agreement about ‘prevention’ here is consonant enough with his complaints about my use of the term elsewhere. Either way (and in fact more obviously here, having agreed to its use in this case), it depends on a notion of the sinners going their own way without interference from God, which is blatantly false to the theology of supernaturalistic theism (and even blatantly false to other precepts of Calvinism per se)--a notion I immediately and constantly denied ever meaning myself, once Steve brought up the topic.”

i) This is another caricature of Reformed theology. To begin with, it’s not a choice between sinners either going their own way or God “interfering.”

“Interference” is never an accurate description of God’s relation to the world–be it ordinary providence, miracles, or saving grace.

God is not a house-burglar. Rather, he’s the homeowner. God can’t “interfere” in his own world!

ii) In Calvinism, God decreed the fate of the reprobate. That’s not the same thing as passively letting them go their own way. God decreed that outcome. And that outcome occurrs because he decreed it.

iii) Conversely, predestination is not the same thing as prevention. It’s not as if God is holding them back, against their will, from doing what they would otherwise do.

iv) He could prevent them from going to hell. That doesn’t mean he prevents them from going to heaven. These are not synonymous concepts.

v) There is also a difference between a possible person and an actual person. Just by being actual, an actual person does have a destination. A direction in life.

By making a possible person an actual person, God actualizes one particular course of action.

An actual person is going the way God set for him when he instantiated that possibility–to the exclusion of other possibilities.

“But then Steve allows that, if human beings should have any say in the sentencing phase, ‘it’s the victims who should have a say--not some human third party who is not, himself, the injured party.’ I entirely agree--it is one of the points on which Jesus’ own claims of divinity is argued: He forgives people as though He was the one Who is the injured party.”

Notice how Jason twists this into something very different than what I said. And Jason’s agreement does not, in fact follow from what I said.

Jesus is not in a position to forgive people because Jesus is a human third party. Rather, Jesus is in a position to forgive people because he’s the divine Judge.

“And I note that what Steve is talking about, is precisely what we’re told in scripture: that when we are victimized, while we may ask for and expect punishment of the sinner, we are strenuously exhorted to forgive and show mercy, too: or else God will not forgive and show mercy to us for our transgression.”

No, that’s not what I’m talking about. And that’s a popular misinterpretation of Scripture. It’s on a par with quoting verses which say God will give you whatever you ask for. Pratt is operating at the same level as the health-and-wealth preachers.

What we have, rather, are passages in Scripture which state the conditions, and other, blanket passages which are silent on the conditions. The proper way to proceed is to qualify the blanket passages according to the conditional passages. The blanket passages take the conditions for granted.

So, for example, there are passages that state the conditions under which forgiveness is obligatory.

Let’s take Lk 17:3: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”

Notice that in this verse, forgiveness is conditional rather than unconditional. In fact, three conditions must be met:

i) The offender is a fellow Christian or professing believer (“brother”).

ii) The offender is contrite.

iii) The offended party extends forgiveness to the offending party.

Who or what does that exclude? (i) excludes automatic forgiveness for unbelievers. (ii) excludes automatic forgiveness for impenitent offenders. (iii) excludes third-party forgiveness.

It’s still permissible for a Christian to forgive an unbeliever who wronged him, or forgive an impenitent offender, but it’s not obligatory.

Moreover, a Christian has no authorization to forgive an offender who wronged someone other than himself. If John wrongs Jane, then James has no right to forgive John on behalf of Jane. That’s up to Jane.

“Mercy and forgiveness of sinners, both of which involve seeking and hoping for the salvation of the sinner from sin, is our business.”

Jason is being deceitful–as usual. What was the context of my statement? It had reference to the damned.

It’s assuredly not our business to forgive the damned. It’s not our business to extend forgiveness to those from whom God has chosen to withhold his forgiveness.

Such an action would be mutinous and treacherous. It would be siding with God’s enemies in defiance of God’s just judgment. But, of course, that’s exactly what a universalist does.

I said: “There’s a point beyond which compassion is a vice rather than a virtue. It’s decadent and effete. Indeed, there's a point beyond which it's downright evil to empathize with the plight of the wicked.”

To which Pratt replied:

“Yes, and that point is when we stop seeking the salvation of the sinner from sin, one way or another.”

i) Pratt’s view leads to the moral paralysis which is endemic to universalism. We mustn’t be too judgmental because everyone is a sinner. Therefore, we must be equally merciful to the child and the child rapist.

But, as I’ve often remarked, one of the problem with trying to be equally merciful to everyone is that you end up being merciful to the merciless, and merciless to the victims of the merciless. To be merciful to the child rapist is merciless to the child. The child is entitled to justice. Entitled to see retribution exacted on his abuser.

ii) The Bible itself exercises moral discrimination. To take one example of many:

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
and keeps wrath for his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.

Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.
with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries,
and will pursue his enemies into darkness.

Woe to the bloody city,
all full of lies and plunder—
no end to the prey!
The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel,
galloping horse and bounding chariot!
Horsemen charging,
flashing sword and glittering spear,
hosts of slain,
heaps of corpses,
dead bodies without end—
they stumble over the bodies!
And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute,
graceful and of deadly charms,
who betrays nations with her whorings,
and peoples with her charms.
Behold, I am against you,
declares the Lord of hosts,

all who look at you will shrink from you and say,Wasted is Nineveh; who will grieve for her?
Where shall I seek comforters for you?

(Nahum 1:2-3,6,8; 3:1-5,7)

Moving along:

“Even more importantly, Steve’s reply to Victor, if accepted as a principle rebuttal, would instantly argue against the salvation of anyone by God. For all sinners stand before God equally guilty as sinners and deserving (as sinners) of death. I do not hear Steve complaining, though, when it comes to saving him, that God's gracious choice to do so is ‘a vice rather than a virtue; decadent and effete.’ I do not hear him complaining that in the Incarnation and especially in the Crucifixion God is ‘downright evil to emphathize with the plight of the wicked’ --when the wicked one, the assailant of the victim, is him.”

i) If I wanted to be cynical about this, then I’d note in passing it’s quite possible for a wicked man to be thankful for the fact that he got off light while his comrades suffer. A wicked man may sell out his comrades to get special treatment. A wicked man may bribe the captain to reserve a seat on the lifeboat at the expense of another passenger–say a woman or child. Not every survivor suffers from survivor’s guilt. Some survivors can be quite ruthless. That’s how they survive.

And, from the standpoint of universalism, why not? I ultimately have nothing to lose.

ii) In his sociopathic amorality, Pratt fails to distinguish between social duties and religious duties. The fact that everyone is a sinner before God doesn’t mean that everyone wrongs everyone else, much less equally wrongs everyone else. The fact that David is a sinner before God doesn’t mean that David sinned against me. The fact that David wronged Uriah doesn’t mean that David wronged me.

So there’s a principled basis to distinguish between the offending party and the offended party. It’s not all one and the same.

iii) Likewise, Jason, in his sociopathic amorality, fails to distinguish between divine rights and human rights. Even if you think I’m too morally compromised to judge anyone else, that hardly applies to God.

The fact that everyone is a sinner is scarcely an argument for universalism. Quite the opposite: God could justly consign everyone to everlasting hell.

By the same token, since God is under no obligation to be merciful to anyone, much less everyone, God is at liberty to be selectively gracious and merciful.

iv) Remember, too, the context of my remarks. It is evil to feel sorry for the damned. Once God has passed sentence, we should acknowledge his wisdom and justice. Not mumble under our breath or question the verdict.

“That point beyond which God does not go, when still graciously saving Steve’s naturally impenitent hide, is the same point beyond which God does not go when saving anyone else’s naturally impenitent hide, either. God’s wholesale compassion on Steve, the assailant of the victim, is as a sinner; He has no compassion for Steve’s sins. (Or mine either; usually I put me in this place, but I’m not the one trying to pass off the idea of God’s gracious choice to save sinners deserving of death, as being decadent and effete and downright evil.) Consequently, there is no ‘abdication of moral discrimination’ in God’s wholesale gracious compassion (and disciplining, and chastisment!) of Steve.”

Here’s a prime specimen of Jason’s malice and mendacity. He deliberately rips what I said out of context, transplants it to a setting which I did not intend, then acts as if I said something untoward about God.

This is quite calculated on Jason’s part. He’s a bright guy. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows that he’s quoting me out of context, but he doesn’t it anyway–to win at any cost.

And, of course, that reflects the moral cost of universalism. Because he had to forfeit his moral standards to be a universalist in the first place, it comes as no surprise that he employs the tactics of a demagogue. His amoral tactics are the natural outgrowth of his amoral creed.

And the transposition is false. God does not sympathize with evildoers. God does not think in terms of moral equivalence. Throughout the OT and NT, there is a running distinction between the oppressors and the oppressed.

And a similar distinction is carried over into the afterlife. For God doesn’t save everyone. Indeed, he damns some sinners to undercut the sort of radical chic amorality you find in universalism
Jason is one of those fake humanitarians who views the plight of the criminal class from the balcony of his Fifth Avenue apartment. From the safety of his perch, it’s easy to ooze compassion for muggers who beat up little old ladies and kite their pension check. Did the mugger mug the old lady–or did the lady mug the mugger? It’s all the same. Tout comprendre c'est tout pardoner! Universalism is the plea deal of the psychopath.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Does God love the reprobate?-3

Back to Pratt:

“No, but (at least as a fellow Christian) the onus is on you to include my explicitly stated affirmation of those doctrines--especially when my affirmation comes in the very next sentence (as emphasized above)--and not to pretend that by ignoring what I said you can paint me as disagreeing with what I explictly agreed about.”

In the context of this thread, you cited original sin as if that were an objection to Calvinism. If you don’t think it’s an objection to Calvinism, then your citation is deceptive and irrelevant.

“No, but (at least as a fellow Christian) the onus is on you to include my explicitly stated affirmation of those doctrines--especially when my affirmation comes in the very next sentence (as emphasized above)--and not to pretend that by ignoring what I said you can paint me as disagreeing with what I explictly agreed about.”

No, the only onus on me is to note the function of original sin in your argument. You deployed original sin in objection to Calvinism.

“Really, Steve. How else should I understand your omission of this? That you were you not competent enough to understand that short single simple sentence?”

Really, Jason. How else should I (or anyone else) understand your interjection of original sin at this juncture of your attack on Calvinism? That you were not competent enough to understand your own strategy?

“What part of ‘I agree with those concepts, too’ did you not understand?”

I understand the role of throwaway disclaimers.

“Or did you think my affirmation of the material preceding it was irrelevant to the material preceding it?--after which you made a guess that I must be denying the material preceding my (irrelevant) affirmation of the material?”

I think your throwaway disclaimer is a way to play both sides of the fence. It’s a rhetorical ploy which allows you to then unleash your objection to Calvinism.

“Maybe it was the latter, considering what comes next. But still, you could have bothered to quote my affirmation of the material which you go on to insist that I must be denying.”

I’m not the only conduit of information for your stated position. Every reader is free to follow the URL.

“This is after omitting my explicit short and entirely clear agreement, of course. (For those who haven't understood yet: that big emphasized parenthetical sentence above was omitted by Steve, in order to make it seem like I disagreed against what I was affirming.)”

No, this is a general indictment of universalists. That’s why I cast it in general terms. It’s not specific to Pratt. And it’s not specific to one particular argument which he deployed.

“And when was the last time a militant atheist like Hitchens or Dawkins or Ingersoll even claimed (much less extensively so) to be grouding his position on his acceptance of and belief in orthodox trinitarian theism in itse details?”

That would be the “thin veneer of pious verbiage.”

You drape your infidel position in the lingo of “orthodox trinitarian theism” to lend it a stolen respectability, of which universalism, all by itself, is utterly bereft.

Maybe your fellow infidels are taken in by this transparent ruse. I am not.

“Admittedly, you didn’t quote me much on that, up to this place I just mentioned--usually selectively quoting around it--but then I suppose I wouldn’t have looked so indistinguishable from them.”

This is hardly the first time that you and I have crossed swords. And you are hardly the only universalist I’ve dealt with. The documentation is abundant. Check the archives at Tblog under “universalism.”

Or is there a natural link between universalism and egocentrism, such that when I make a general statement about universalists, you co-opt the reference to your own precious little self?

That, in turn, raises the question of whether you’re egocentric because you’re a universalist, or a universalist because you’re egocentric.

“(Relatedly, when was the last time Hitch, Ingersoll in his writings, or the Dawk, ever emphasized the importance of the salvation of sinners from sin by God's grace?--ever avowed the reality and the importance of the Incarnation?--ever called God's judgment against himself in order to protect his own opponents?!)”

Deep down, you and they share the same paternity. They demonize a God who would consign anyone to everlasting punishment, and so do you. And when I say you “demonize” such a God, I’m not speaking hyperbolically or figuratively. That’s your explicit, stated position.

In fact, you’re actually to the left of Hitchens and Dawkins and Ingersoll in this respect. They don’t believe in the devil. So when they demonize God, that’s figurative on their part. When, however, you say any God who would consign a sinner to everlasting punishment (without hope of reprieve) is diabolical or Satanic, you mean that quite literally. You are literally imputing a diabolical character to God. That makes your comparison even more sacrilegious than anything they could say.

“After reading this, your previously established habit of insisting I believe one thing (that God does not allow and respect, as far as He can, our free choice to sin or not to sin); only admitting I believe something else (that ‘I do think, and have always said, that God gives us the ability to keep rebelling against Him for as indeterminately long as we choose to do so’) when you think you can critique that, too; and then going back to insisting I believe the other thing instead--at best accusing me of flipflopping back and forth on this position when only one of us is painting me that way--looks overly convenient.”

What’s overly convenient is the way you try to play both sides of the libertarian/determinist fence–depending on your opponent. When debating an Arminian or open theist, you draw attention to the inadequacies of libertarian freewill. But when you debate a Calvinist, you level libertarian objections to Calvinism. You have the strike of a two-headed snake.

“As does your attempt at trying to tell your readers that a weakness of my methodology is not to address your arguments, instantly before you start replying to my extensive addressing of your argument. (Whether I addressed it competently may be debateable. The fact that I did address it, and at length, is not.)”

You didn’t address my arguments. Rather, you dodged them. Which you continue to do in this very post.

“As does your attempt at trying to paint me as though I was trying to claim you were attempting to defend libertarian freedom; by quoting me (selectively) from a couple of paragraphs where I was clarifying what I believed. (In answer to a previous insistence on your part about what I must believe.)”

No, you were trying to redirect, and thereby deflect, my argument.

“As does your attempt to paint my belief as though it involves God coercing those He saves, when there is practically no distinction between my belief and yours on this topic (where you deny that, in regard to God’s persistence in salvation and God’s irresistible grace, Calvinism involves God coercing salvation. The only relevant distinction between us on that topic is the scope of who God persistently acts to save from sin.)”

There’s a very salient distinction which you admit in another setting:

“I’m pretty sure Calvinists would say ‘no’. God doesn’t hope to save the elect, He just does it. God doesn’t hope to save the non-elect, He just bars them from the outset from salvation.”

Yet, as I recall, you classify yourself as “hopeful” universalist. You don’t assert dogmatically that God will save everyone. Rather, you imagine that God never gives up on the sinner. He always holds out hope for the sinner’s eventual salvation.


“As does your attempt to distract readers from the salient point of my criticism--God’s responsibility in choosing to ensure that the non-elect shall always be unrighteous, by authoritatively and solely choosing never to give them even the possibility of ever being righteous--by complaining about my use of the word ‘prevention’. As though it must necessarily mean the hinderance of a process that would have occurred without the interference, instead of only can mean that.”

There’s no “distraction” involved when I answer you on your own terms. You chose to cast your objection to Calvinism in terms of divine “prevention.”

For me to expose your abuse of the term (and underlying concept) is hardly a “distraction” when you were the one who chose to frame your objection in just such terms.

“And as though, when I explain that I never intended this meaning (and therefore my “traction” as you put it was never reliant on this meaning), I am supposed to be the one switching terms around and changing the subject.”

You were trying, in your demagogical fashion, to trade on the invidious connotations of “prevention.” Redefining the term while you retain the invidious connotations.

“As does your attempt at getting around this responsibility by using analogies where the agent involved (the state) has and can have no responsibility (or power either), in order to represent God’s relationship to the non-elect.”

The analogy is perfectly adequate to illustrate what does or does not constitute “prevention.”

And you also resorted to finite analogies whenever it suited your own purpose.

“As does your attempt to get around this responsibility…”

There’s no responsibility to get around in the first place. That’s a tendentious assertion on your part. It takes a key assumption of universalism for granted.

I don’t have to get around your self-serving stipulations. Stipulations have no argumentative force–unless both sides agree to the stipulation.

“…by treating the non-elect as though they simply “lack” the power to do good. (They lack it because God chooses for them to lack it. They don’t just simply lack it; and God is not just letting them go along according to their own devices.”

Which is irrelevant to what I actually said.

“He institutes the situation of their existence, and institutes their capabilities, and chooses for them which capabilities they shall and shall not have, directly resulting in whatever ‘devices’ they can and cannot go along according to, and continually acts to keep them in whatever existence they happen to be in. If persons have freedom to choose between good and evil, it’s because God gives it to them. If they don’t have that freedom, it’s because He chooses not to give it to them. If God is authoritatively responsible, by His choice, for an unrighteous entity never even having the possibility of being anything other than unrighteous, then God also has final authoritative responsibility for the permanent unrighteousness of that entity.)”

I see that you can’t deal with my actual argument. Instead, you have a pat objection to Calvinism. When a Reformed opponent like me says something that doesn’t play into your pat objection, you substitute your pat objection for what I actually said–as if that’s the least bit responsive to what I said.

Did I appeal what a possible person would do if left to his own devices? No. Just the opposite. I said there’s nothing in particular which a possible person was going to do. It’s not as if he was going to do one thing rather than another until God preventing him from doing that. A possible person has no default setting.

What God “institutes” is one possible course of action. In so doing, God didn’t prevent the agent from doing something else, as if there was something else the agent intended to do–absent divine interference.

“Let ‘prevention’ be considered too weak a term, and substitute something else.”

Of course, to call it “too weak and term” and then demand a verbal substitution is just another demagogical stunt on your part. It stipulates a question-begging premise (“too weak a term”), then, on the basis of that question-begging premise, demands a verbal substitution. Readers need to keep a close eye on Jason’s sleight-of-hand.

“Correct the term ‘prevention’ if you insist; but keep the authoritative responsibility of God in the status of the sinner.”

I have never denied that God is responsible for whatever happens in his world. To the contrary, I’ve often said that God is responsible. He’s not solely responsible, and he’s not blameworthy, but he’s responsible for everything that transpires.

The question at issue is not whether God is (partly) responsible for the sinner–but whether God is responsible to the sinner.

“Not surprisingly, during your extensive attempts at trying to show that my usage of ‘prevention’ is self-incriminating with respect to my own position, you didn’t bother to include the salient point of my criticism: that, per Calvinism (of the sort you’re apparently trying to defend anyway), it is God’s responsibility that these things happen and by His own choice shall never be rectified.”

i) You act as if I have some damaging trade secret which I’m trying to keep under wraps. That’s a failed tactic on your part, for I’ve often blogged on this subject.

ii) ”Rectify” is another prejudicial and pejorative term in this setting. God is responsible for the consequences of his decree. It is not God’s responsibility to “rectify” the consequences of his decree, as if his decree were defective.

“Not surprisingly, you omit this salient point again when trying to portray Arminianism, “open theism” (a type of Arminianism usually), and universalism as having the same critical problem that I’m complaining about in Calvinism. Of course: you can hardly claim that universalism features God choosing to ensuring from the outset that unrighteousness shall permanently exist and never be rectified.”

i) What you’re pleased to call the “salient” point is just a decoy. You equated commands with predictions. I answered you on your own grounds.

Whether some unrighteousness will persist (in hell) is irrelevant to whether you can infer God’s intent from his commands. That’s just an exercise in misdirection on your part, to deflect attention away from your failed argument.

ii) Not only is your diversionary tactic irrelevant to the issue at hand, but there’s more than one just way of dealing with sin.

“At least annihilationists teach that God shall ensure that unrighteousness does not permanently exist…”

“At least?”

If unrighteousness is unacceptable in eternity, then it’s unacceptable in time. The fact that God allows (or decrees) the existence of sin at all goes to show there’s nothing inherently intolerable about the mere existence of sin, whether here-and-now or hereafter.

“Not surprisingly again, when you write (in defense of an argument of yours from a previous comment) ‘Therefore, since the command to believe the Gospel is a special case of divine commands in general, there’s no presumption that when God commands men to believe the Gospel, he issues that command with the intention that all men will obey it’--you once again omit the salient point: God chooses (per Calvinism) to ensure that at least some men will never even have the real desire, much less any actual ability, to obey the command (be that command decretive, prescriptive or whatever) to believe the Gospel, repent of their sins, and be faithful.”

Since that is not a salient point, I omitted no salient point. That’s totally irrelevant to whether you can infer God’s intentions from his imperatives.

You keep trying to shift attention away from your original argument because it fell flat. Introducing this “salient point” will do nothing to reinflate your failed argument.

You keep harping on this “salient point” in hopes of changing the subject and thereby causing readers to forget your bungled argument.

“If you are not trying to avoid this point, it is difficult to see why you keep writing around it when trying to defend against my critiques, considering that this is what I am and always have been critiquing.”

Jason Pratt is a standard issue demagogue. One of the tactics of a demagogue is transference. When a demagogue like Pratt gets caught saying something he can’t defend, he tries to put his opponent on the defensive by acting as if his opponent is avoiding the issue. Pratt’s way of avoiding the issue is to pretend that I’m avoiding the issue.

Pratt tried to turn the command to believe the Gospel into a prediction. I pointed out that for this inference to be valid, he would have to apply the same reasoning to every divine command.

Jason is trying to avoid the implications of my counterargument because it’s irrefutable. So he changes the subject by introducing a red herring which he, like a good propagandist, labels the “salient point”–then affects the pose that I’m avoiding the “salient point.”

See how it works? Pratt resorts to these sophistries when he backs himself into a corner.

“You could have been including it every time. Instead, you seem to leave it out, not indeed at every opportunity, but when it looks problematic to include it (such as when ostensibly comparing Calvinism with Arm and Kath positions, to show that if Calvinism has a problem with violation of God’s commands the other two have the same ‘problem’. Uh, no, the other two do not have that doctrine; even the Arms don’t believe God chooses to always withhold the possibility of doing any good, including repenting and being saved from sin, from sinners.)”

i) Of course, I don’t think it is a problem. It’s a pseudoproblem.

ii) But, to answer Pratt on his own grounds, if we’re going to treat the nonfullfillment of divine commands as a problem for Calvinism, then that’s a problem for the rival positions as well.

iii) In response, Pratt engages in his customary, bait-and-switch tactic.

He points out that there’s a difference between Calvinism and the opposing positions. Gee, what a surprise.

He then acts as if this difference is relevant to the question at hand. It isn’t.

The issue, as he himself chose to frame the issue, is whether we can infer God’s intentions from his commands. Put another way, are commands equivalent to predictions.

The question of whether “God chooses to always withhold the possibility of doing any good, including repenting and being saved from sin, from sinners,” has absolutely no bearing on the actual question at hand.

The real question is a logical one: can you validly infer divine intentions from divine imperatives? You only need a single infraction to invalidate that inference.

Case in point: God forbids murder, yet murder occurs. Men and women murder one another.

Therefore, you can’t infer a divine intent to ensure compliance with that prohibition, from the prohibition itself.

Even if the murderer later repents and becomes a lifelong do-gooder, or everlasting do-gooder, this doesn’t change the fact that God’s prohibition against murder has no predictive value.

It’s not as if God said: “Don’t commit murder, but if you do commit murder, you fulfilled the terms of the prohibition anyway because, at some future date, you’ll repent. So whether you obey the law or break the law, you fulfill the terms of the law!”

There is only one way to ensure the specific fulfillment of that prohibition–and that’s to prevent its infraction. There are different ways of preventing its infraction, but compliance is the only way to ensure the terms of its fulfillment.

“Some of this I could overlook as incaution perhaps; or maybe that you started writing something, got distracted for a substantial period of time, and then forgot to check on what you were even writing about when you got back. (Not that this would be flattering, but it does sometimes happen.)”

This is Jason’s way of covering his tracks as he stages a retreat.

“But when I get to you omitting a simple, short, clear sentence; the omission of which (and only the omission of which) ostensibly allows you to paint me as meaning the absolute opposite of what I had previously written; so that you can compare me not only with rabid atheists but with Satan himself…”

Did I compare Jason to Satan? No. Can he quote me on that? No. I compared him to some other individuals–but not to Satan.

What I pointed out, rather, is that Jason compares God to Satan. He’s gone on record as saying it would be Satanic for God to damn anyone without hope of some reprieve down the pike.

And I brought that up because Jason said he wanted me to refine or redefine the way I classified him. Therefore, I simply took him up on his offer.

“At that point, I have to conclude that you are simply unable, for one or another of reasons, to have any real discussion on the topic.”

I’ll tell you what makes it impossible to have a “real” discussion on the topic. That’s when Jason uses a fallacious argument, the fallaciousness of which is duly exposed, but he lacks the intellectual decency to withdraw his fallacious argument.

“Otherwise, you win: I’ll stop trying to talk with you.”

I guess that’s my cue to break down in tears.

Mathematical possibilities and live possibilities

Continuing with Dan:

“The first statement (that I am faulting determinism because it isn’t libertarianism) is somewhat true, but it would be better to say I fault determinism because I suspect it is libertarianism. I suspect determinists are inconsistent and retain libertarian notions. They say 'choose' meaning what everyone else does (selection between possible alternatives).”

Notice how many times I’ve corrected Dan on this equivocation: “selection between possible alternatives.”

That could either denote a psychological process of deliberating between hypothetical alternatives, and deciding on one–or else involve that metaphysical claim of an open future in which we have the power to choose which alternate timeline to instantiate.

The question at issue is not which position Dan believes is true. The question is Dan’s refusal to clarify his usage, Dan’s refuse to acknowledge basic conceptual distinctions.

When I repeatedly correct him and he repeatedly repeats the same mistake the next time around, and the next, and the next, there are only two explanations:

i) He’s dishonest.

ii) He lacks the intellectual aptitude to absorb basic conceptual distinctions even after someone spells them out.

Whichever explanation is the case, it’s not a good use of my time to keep debating somebody who never advances the argument, who never takes into account what his opponent says.

“It seems Calvinsits use the normal ‘dictionary’ definition of choose but don’t follow this definition through to its logical conclusions.”

Since I’ve had to devote an unnecessary amount of time to this issue, this is another false attribution on Dan’s part.

“The second statement (that I can’t bring myself to evaluate Calvinism on its own terms) is also somewhat true. The Calvinist concept of choice does not make sense to me – I await a clear and precise explanation as to what it is. So I keep looking for Calvinism to make sense; to explain what choose means. But I fail to see how Steve's card player example explains things. Meanwhile (absent a way of understanding the Calvinist concept of ‘choose’), I am beginning to suspect Calvinists are simply inconsistent - confusing themselves and others.”

People can fail to see things because they lack the intellectual aptitude, or else because they lack the motivation.

“If the card player example wasn’t intended to support Steve's claim regarding the ability to choose otherwise, what’s its purpose?”

Once again, what’s there left to say in the face of an opponent who is that clueless? It’s not as if I haven’t explicated the purpose of my illustration in some detail.

Did I cite the example of the gambler to illustrate the ability to choose otherwise? No.

As I explicitly said, I cited the gambler to illustrate the fact that human agents can deliberate over hypothetical possibilities, and decide on one–even though only one of these hypothetical possibilities is a live possibility–and the gambler knows this at the time he’s deliberating and deciding what to do next.

In a deck of cards, many different combinations are mathematically possible. Yet there is only one actual sequence per shuffle. It’s not metaphysically possible for the next card to either be an ace of spades or a king of hearts.

But for all the gambler knows, it could be one or the other. Even though the order of the cards is predetermined by the shuffle, the gambler still deliberates over the mathematical possibilities, and decides on one. And he does so knowing that only one mathematical possibility is a live possibility.

How many times do you need to explain the argument to Dan before he gets it? Dan’s problem seems to be that he’s incapable of even grasping any position that doesn’t agree with his own.

The question at issue is not whether Dan agrees with my argument. Rather, the preliminary question is whether Dan is even capable of grasping it.

“The explanatory power of Steve’s card player example seems dependent on a dissanalogous aspect of the example. The ‘possibility’ Steve talks about is downstream and doesn’t make direct contact with the choice, yet Steve uses the example to explain choice. Steve isn’t talking about the player drawing or not drawing, but rather the outcome of the draw. As Steve notes, the player's choice doesn’t alter the order of the deck, so while he chooses to draw or not, he doesn't choose the outcome.”

And why did I use that example? As usual, Dan can’t follow his own argument. I was responding to Dan’s intuitive appeal. He said: “I reject the switcheroo as common sense, since it seems to be motivated by deterministic assumptions and it rules out some intuitive underpinnings of LFW. It may well be true that we don’t have imperial proof of libertarian freewill, but that doesn’t mean LFW isn’t intuitive. Normally we think we can choose the options we contemplate. Perhaps we are deceived and it’s an illusion, but believing so seems counter-intuitive.”

I then cited an obvious counterexample:

And, at the risk of stating the obvious, I can imagine many “possibilities” which are impossible for me to realize.

For that matter, we often make choices on the basis of what we thought were possible outcomes which, in hindsight, turn out to be beyond our reach.

I may decide to become a med student. At the time I think I can afford med school. But due to an economic crisis after I enroll, I’m forced to drop out of med school before I graduate.

I though that alternative was a live possibility. I was wrong.

Surely the “common man” has extensive experience in overestimating his abilities. How many middle-aged men come to the uncomfortable realization that they will have to lower their expectations. That they will be unable to achieve all the goals they set for themselves when they graduated from high school?

And yet, at the time they were setting these goals, they honestly thought these were realistic objectives. That’s one of the humbling aspects of real life. The rude recognition that you’ll be unable to make good on all your ambitious plans.

If intuition is Dan’s criterion, then LFW is false since LFW is counterintuitive. Just ask the guy who’s having his midlife crisis.

How did Dan respond? He said: “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’”

So, as Dan defines it, a real choice includes the power to realize the outcome of choice: otherwise, it doesn’t qualify as a real choice. He offered an outcome-based definition of libertarian freedom.

I then bring in the illustration of the card player. The card player is deliberating over what to do next. He has no control over what the next card will be. No control over that future outcome.

The identity of the next card is determinate. Predetermined by the shuffle.

But he doesn’t know the outcome before it unfolds. He only knows the odds. He therefore deliberates over the mathematical possibilities–even though he knows that only one mathematical possibility is a live possibility.

“The point is that the ‘possibility’ in the card player example is impersonal, and nor something the card player can effect. That's why this type of possibility isn't suitable for explaining choice.”

That’s a completely arbitrary restriction on Dan’s part:

i) Human beings typically make choices in light of their concrete circumstances. And their circumstances are often impersonal.

ii) If Dan doesn’t think the freedom to do otherwise or choose otherwise includes the power to effect the outcome, to get what we chose, then what does libertarian freedom amount to?

Consider the choice of a career. I choose to either be a doctor or baseball player. At the time I think I can do either one.

Suppose I choose to become a doctor. Unbeknownst to me, I’ll be unable to complete med school because my finances are going to fall through.

Suppose I choose to become a baseball player. Unbeknownst to me, I’ll suffer an injury which prevents me from realizing my dream.

Did I have the ability to make good on either choice? No.

On the one hand, does this mean my choices don’t qualify as real choices?

On the other hand, what’s the value of the ability to do otherwise or choose otherwise if I have no control over the outcome?

“The card player has some notion of what choice means.”

Which misses the point. Does Dan go out of the way to miss the point?

The gambler goes into the game knowing in advance that his choices have no effect on the order of the cards. And yet his choices are made with a view to the order of the cards. He doesn’t know the order. And he can’t control the order.

But he knows the odds. He considers the mathematical possibilities–even though only one mathematical possibility is truly open at the time of play.

“While two actuals are impossible, alternative possibilities are not. Steve seems to be speaking about two actuals, but my statement was about alternative possibilities.”

Which card is the next card? Are there alternate possibilities? In this case, only one logical alternative was ever in play (at that particular time).

“It’s difficult to see how Steve’s comment is responsive or undermines my argument that one cannot positively assert twofold possibilities (even in the epistemic sense of possibility) without undermining determinism.”

Talking to Dan is like talking to a brick wall. Did I say a determinist is asserting twofold possibilities? No.

What I said, rather, is this: there may be several abstract possibilities, but only one live possibility. Since a determinist can’t anticipate which abstract possibility is a live possibility in advance of his deliberations or decisions, that metaphysical restriction doesn’t prevent him from making choices.

A gambler plays his cards as if the future were open even though he knows the future is closed–insofar as the order of the cards is predetermined by the shuffle.

Playing the cards as if the future were open is entirely consistent with the determinate order of the deck since several different sequences are mathematically possible, and the gambler doesn’t know which mathematical possibility is the live possibility. But he knows the odds. So he takes a calculated risk. (I believe the technical term for this deliberation is “carding”.)

“The only way I could see Steve’s comment as being at all relevant would be if he is stressing the negative aspect – not knowing which is impossible (as opposed to thinking that given what I know this is logically possible).”

Which is exactly what I said.

“The problem is that Steve himself has used ‘possibilities’ in positive assertions, not just negative assertions. Using possibilities in positive assertions undermines determinism; as we have seen. The card player can't form a positive assertion like: ‘given what I know these two things are possible’ or ‘my information about these two things logically reconcile without contradiction’. As soon as he does, he undermines libertarianism.”

What the card player can do is to figure the odds. That figures in his process of decision-making, even though the outcome (i.e. the next card) is determinate.

“What does that have to do with the card player’s abilities? This really highlights the problem noted above. The ‘possibility’ in the card player example is impersonal, and nor something the card player can effect. Choice is a power of the agent, we choose what is within one's power.”

As usual, Dan can’t keep track of his own argument–much less the argument of his opponent. It goes to his definition of choice. What “counts” as a real choice.

And that, in turn, goes to question of whether a determinist can make choices. When a gambler plays cards, is the sequence of the deck open-ended? Could the next card either be an ace of spades or a king of hearts?

In terms of mathematical possibilities–yes. In terms of metaphysical possibilities–no. Even though the outcome is a done deal, this doesn’t prevent the gambler from making choices with a view to the outcome.

“We can’t transplant the epistemic sense of ‘possible’ in the card player example into the definition of choice. Steve can’t shift from third person to first. You can’t move from ‘chocolate is possible’ to ‘I can choose chocolate’. While you can move from 1st to 3rd, you can’t move from 3rd to 1st person. In other words; “I can choose chocolate’ entails that in light of my abilities ‘chocolate is possible’. But ‘chocolate is possible’ in an epistemic sense does not entail ‘I can choose chocolate’ and has nothing to do with the agent’s abilities.”

i) Choice takes an object. It often takes an impersonal object.

If Dan is going to restrict choice to the psychology of the agent, then that’s entirely consistent with determinism.

ii) But libertarian freedom is normally defined by Arminians as an ability effect one timeline or another. You choose between alternate future timelines. Whichever alternate timeline you choose will become the actual timeline for you.

“Again, I am not sure if Steve is attempting to describe Molinism or present a reductio ad absurdum argument. If he’s describing it, the description is inaccurate.”

I see that Dan is powerless to actually deal with the logic of what I said.

“While it’s true God is choosing the whole world, that world includes us choosing some small part of it”

Dan is equivocating. In Molinism, God knows what we would do in any situation. That’s not the same thing as what we will do. What we would do is not synonymous with what we will do. The possibility does not entail its actuality.

What we will do has reference to the actual world. And that is up to God. In Molinism, the agent doesn’t choose what he will do–only what he would do.

God chooses what the agent will do by choosing which possible world to make the actual world. So in the actual world, the future is not open-ended.

“On the other hand, if Steve was providing a reducto ad absurdum argument against Molinism, it’s hard to tell just what it might be. When Steve says ‘the actual world actualizes either A or B’ he substitutes ‘the actual world’ for people’s choices. It's like he's personifying the actual world. What are we to make of such an argument? The world doesn’t possess us, nor force our wills.”

Is Dan trying to be obtuse? It’s not as if I didn’t specify exactly what I meant. The actual world is God’s choice of which possible world to actualize.

“Freedom to do otherwise in the very same situation isn’t a conventional definition of LFW, the normal definition is the ability to choose otherwise.”

It isn’t possible to have a rational conversation with Dan when he doesn’t even know the standard terminology of libertarianism. When he hasn’t even mastered his own side of the argument. To take one example:

“Two features of free will were mentioned earlier that seem to imply its incompatibility with determinism–(a) it is ‘up to us’ what we choose from an array of alternative possibilities and (b) the origin or source of our choices and actions is in us and not in anyone or anything else over which we have no control. Most modern arguments for the incompatibility of free will and determinism have proceeded from feature (a)–the requirement that an agent acted freely, or of his or her own free will, only if the agent had alternative possibilities, or could have done otherwise. Let us refer to this requirement as the AP condition (for ‘alternative possibilities) or simply AP. (It is also sometimes called the ‘could have done otherwise’ condition or the ‘avoidability’ condition),” The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 10.

“The case for incompatibility from this AP (or could have done otherwise’) condition has two premises:

1. The existence of alternative possibilities (or the agent’s power to do otherwise) is a necessary condition for acting freely, or acting ‘of one’s own free will.’

2. Determinism is not compatible with alternate possibilities (it precludes the power to do otherwise),” ibid. 10-11.

Continuing with Dan:

“I agree with Steve’s premise (two possible worlds), but the conclusion does not follow. God enables us to choose, so while we ultimately depend on His power, He can’t force us to choose something.”

This is just a straw man argument. Did I say or imply that, according to Molinism, God is “forcing” us to choose something? No.

What I said, rather, is that, according to Molinism, a human agent lacks the freedom to do otherwise in the actual world.

“God knows the future, not by it being predetermined, but rather directly. We should not denigrate God's epistemology to our level.”

This is a rhetorical evasion rather than a rational counterargument. And I’m merely considering the implications of Dan’s own epistemology.

“A possible person is more than God’s conception in the same way an actual person is more than God’s actual power. So unless we embrace pantheism, we are in some way distinct from God.”

Once again, this is simply obtuse. It fails to distinguish between a possible person and an actual person–even though I’ve repeatedly drawn that very distinction.

A merely possible person is not distinct from God. A merely possible person is a divine idea.

An actual person is distinct from God. Why is Dan unable to comprehend the most elementary and obvious distinctions?

“Whether choice relates to multiple mental resolutions or multiple outcomes or both; in any case determinism is undermined.”

Notice the fatal equivocation. How does he define choice? In terms of mental resolutions or multiple outcomes?