Saturday, April 24, 2010


According to Ben:

“Arminians also see foreknowledge as prescience because that is exactly what the word means, prior knowledge.”

I see. And a female insect is exactly what “ladybug” means. (No male ladybugs!) And a pregnant organism that gives birth to pearls is exactly what “mother-of-pearl” means. And a woman who is married to a house is exactly what “housewife” means.

“Calvinists object and see God’s foreknowledge with regards to salvation as fore-loving.”

Actually, I don’t define proginosko as “forelove.” I don’t deny that God loved the elect before the foundation of the world, but that’s not how I define the Greek compound. Rather, I regard the Greek word as a Septuagintal idiom for “choosing beforehand.” And that’s the definition given in BDAG (866b-867a) for proginosko/prognosis in Acts 2:23, Rom 8:29, 11:6, 1 Pet 1:2, and 1 Pet 1:20.

“But there is more that the Calvinist objects to. The Calvinist also believes that God cannot foreknow free will decisions. That is, God can only foreknow what He has decreed to do. God foreknows what He himself will make happen. He knows His infallible plan and intentions and therefore has perfect knowledge of all that will come to pass. Therefore, God’s foreknowledge is based on His eternal decree. If this is the case then predestination comes before foreknowledge, which would seem to reverse the order given in the Bible. Foreknowledge would then be ‘according to’ predestined election instead of election being ‘according to foreknowledge’ as the Bible declares (1 Peter 1:2).”

Of course, that builds on the aforesaid semantic fallacy. But Ben is nothing if not predicable. When he’s wrong, he’s consistently wrong.

And let us remember that Peter and Paul didn’t write “foreknow.” They wrote “proginosko/prognosis.” How the Greek word ought to be rendered is the very point in dispute.

“It should also be noted that many Arminians, including Arminius himself, would not object to foreknowledge in certain passages as having reference to fore-loving. In Rom. 8:29 for instance, they would say that God ‘foreknew/loved’ believers. In other words, God does not simply foreknow the act of faith, but rather foreknows and fore-loves ‘believers’, those who have come to be in union with Christ through faith in Him.”

i) But Rom 8:29 doesn’t say that God foreknows “believers.”

ii) Moreover, Ben is equivocating over the timeframe. When did they become “actual” believers in relation to when God “foreknew” them?

“Given the way that Calvinists understand foreknowledge I am led to wonder just how God ‘fore-loves’ the elect as they claim. It makes sense in Arminianism to say that God fore-loves believers in union with Christ, but does it makes sense to say such things in light of Calvinistic pre-suppositions regarding foreknowledge? I wonder what exactly it is that God fore-loves if Calvinism is the Biblical theology? I see this as a problem for two reasons. First, if God only foreknows things because He first decrees them, then He does not fore-love actual people.”

But if, a la Arminianism, God “foreloves” believers, then God’s attitude is “prior” to their actual existence. The believers whom God foreloves weren’t real people at the “time” he “foreloved” them. And that’s the case whether you disambiguate divine eternality in timeless or everlasting terms. Rather, the Arminian God could only “forelove” future believers–who were not yet in existence.

“He only has a plan or intention of creating people to show love to. These people do not exist except in the mind of God. They are nothing more than a concept. Therefore God does not fore-love the elect prior to creation, but only plans to love some of those that He plans to create.”

It’s a loving act to conceive of people whom you will give conscious, physical existence, and bless in this life as well as the next.

“This is not the case in Arminianism because God is not bound by time and can have perfect knowledge and love of believers in union with Christ as actual people who presently exist to Him, even if they have not yet actually been created.”

i) Calvinism doesn’t have a fundamentally different view of God’s relation to time than classical Arminianism. Both traditions can view God as timelessly eternal.

ii) For the rest, Ben is merely and sheerly asserting his position to be true. Yet he hasn’t shown that his position is even coherent, much less plausible, much less correct.

“Does not his [Schreiner's] view have God electing mere ‘concepts’ in the mind of God? Sure, they may not be ‘abstract’ concepts, but they are still just concepts. They are just a plan in the mind of God and have no existence outside of God’s intentions to bring them into existence at some point in history.”

That’s a blatant misrepresentation of Schreiner’s position. Schreiner wasn’t simply contrasting divine concepts with extramental realities. Rather, he was critiquing the notion corporate election in abstraction to individual election. That God elects a corporate entity without electing the particular individuals who comprise the set.

“Second, we might ask just what exactly God loved about the ‘elect?’ In Arminianism God fore-loves believers with electing love because they are in His ‘beloved one.’ They are loved and elected in Christ as ‘believers’ in Him and for His sake. God has a special love for those who trust in and rely on Him, those who are in special relationship with Him through the reconciliation of Christ’s blood and the obedience produced by faith.”

So, according to Arminianism, God loved us because we first loved him. God loves us because we’re lovable. He loves us if we trust him. A quid pro quo.

In Calvinism, by contrast, God shows his love to elect sinners by cultivating their trust. Our trust is not a condition of his love. Rather, his love conditions our trust.

“This is not the case in Calvinism. Rather, God elects potential personal ‘concepts’ to be put into Christ without any regard to anything in them or about them at all. So just what is it that God loves about them prior to their union with Christ? It cannot be that they bear His image or because they are a special and cherished creation, because God will create far more image bearers for the sole purpose of eternal destruction.”

i) Of course, that’s a trick question. God can love the elect without loving something “about” them.

ii) God doesn’t create the reprobate for the sole purpose of eternal destruction. That’s a typical calumny which Arminians often resort to.

“His love seems arbitrary and meaningless. Why does God love one and not the other?”

The Bible doesn’t say. But if you’re going to pose a speculative question, then here’s a speculative answer: different possible persons will play different roles in a historical narrative. Consider Abraham, Pharaoh, Pilate, &c. Distinctive individuals make a distinctive contribution to the story.

“What makes them differ? Nothing, according to Calvinism, so what does God love?”

Oh, they can differ. All of them are unique individuals. But they are indistinguishable in one key respect: no sinner deserves the saving grace of God.

“It seems to me that if what Calvinism asserts is true then God’s love is very hollow. Our claim to be loved by God amounts to little more than the lucky draw of a divine lottery. It is impersonal and carries very little meaning.”

Another Arminian calumny. A lottery is randomized. Blind.

By contrast, election is intentionally specific. It deliberately singles out particular individuals.

“It is not tied into relationship with His Son.”

Of course election is tied into a relationship with Christ. Christ died for the elect. The Holy Spirit renews the elect to put their faith in Christ.

“It is hard to understand how it is even a choice since there is nothing really to choose if the supposed choice was made only in the mind and plan of God prior to creation. God did not ‘elect’ anyone. He merely planned to create some for hell and some for heaven, and this without respect to anything in them or about them. In fact there was no ‘them’ at all; just a plan or concept. Is that truly the electing love that is described in the Bible?”

i) How is that hard to understand? God can conceive of many different individuals. He can also conceive of the same individuals with different destinies. He chooses which conceivable individuals in which conceivable narratives to realize in time and space.

ii) There’s an asymmetry between election and reprobation. Election is unconditional. By contrast, sin is a necessary, but insufficient, condition of reprobation.

“So what does God love if Calvinistic predestination and election be true? At the very least I think we can conclude that the Arminian view does not de-personalize election but rather emphasizes the personal aspects of foreknowledge and election. We may further conclude that the Calvinistic conception of foreknowledge may actually serve to undermine any personal aspect of election and render God’s ‘love’ for His ‘elect’ as rather cold and empty.”

Well, that nicely summarizes the cumulative fallacies and falsehoods on which it builds.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Loving the damned

A comment I just left at First Things: Evangel:

Let’s set the bar low with minimally orthodox theism. By this I mean, let us grant two things: (i) God knows the future; (ii) some human beings will spend eternity in hell.

One can, of course, deny either or both of these propositions. But, if so, your objections to Calvinism are hardly limited to Calvinism.

So how is it loving for God to create a human being in full knowledge that this sorry individual will spend eternity in hell?

Perhaps you’ll say it’s loving because God gave him a chance to be saved. Okay, but how is it loving to create this individual even though you know that he will refuse the opportunity?

Suppose my younger brother and I are planning to go on a hiking trip tomorrow. But the night before I have an infallible premonition that if we go hiking, my brother will be mauled by a bear. Not only will he be in excruciating pain, but as a result of the mauling he will be blind and bedridden for life.

I warn my younger brother. But suppose he fails to heed my warning. Indeed, suppose I know in advance that he will ignore my warning?

We then go ahead hiking, and my brother is mauled by the bear.

Was it loving for me to take my brother hiking? Sure, he ignored the warning. But how was it loving for me to take him hiking anyway? If he ignores the warning, wouldn’t the loving thing be for me to cancel our trip?

Indeed, if I foresaw that he was going to disregard my warning, then why would I plan to take him hiking that day in the first place? How is that a loving way to treat my brother?

Sure, maybe he’s a jerk to disregard the warning, but what’s the loving way to treat my jerk of a brother? To let him be mauled by the bear?

And this is trivial compared to hell. Didn’t Jesus indicate that it’s better to never be born than to wind up in hell? So how is it loving to the damned for God to create some people foreknowing that they will spend eternity in hell, even though they’d be better off if he never made them in the first place?

You may say he endowed them with libertarian freewill and gave them the chance to avoid hell. But even if we grant that assumption, how is it loving to them for God to make them when he knows that they will refuse opportunity to be saved? Even though he knows that they will blow their chance to be saved, and even though he knows that they’d be better off if he never made them, he makes them anyway.

Thankless Arminians

kangaroodort, on April 22, 2010 at 5:25 pm Said:

Wrong. J.C. has never said that God is dependent on our choices. What he has said is that God’s knowledge of our choices is dependent on those choices. How could it be otherwise? If God never created us, would he know anything about us? Of course not. So God’s knowledge of us is dependent on their being an “us” to know something about.

Normal Christians thank God, not merely for redeeming them or giving them existence, but for making each one of us the unique individuals that we are. But given Ben's backward view of God's relation to man, Ben can't thank God for making him the person he is. God wasn't responsible for the unique set of character-traits which make him who is he. God could have no inkling of what Ben was like until he made him. Somehow, there already had to be a Ben–like instant coffee. God simply added water, then waited to find out what flavor the coffee was.

This underscores a point I've often made: Arminians want as little to do with God as possible. No more and no less. Just the bare minimum.

Godless Arminians

kangaroodort, on April 22, 2010 at 5:25 pm Said:

Wrong. J.C. has never said that God is dependent on our choices. What he has said is that God’s knowledge of our choices is dependent on those choices. How could it be otherwise? If God never created us, would he know anything about us? Of course not. So God’s knowledge of us is dependent on their being an “us” to know something about.

Two itty bitty problems:

1. It drastically scales back the notion of divine creation. God didn't make us who we are. Rather, we seem to preexist in a Platonic plenum, independent of God, and God's creative role is to merely instantiate "us" in time and space.

2. How does God know what to create in the first place if God can know nothing about us unless there is a created "us" to be known?

What's left for the God's creatorship? At that point, what distinguishes Arminianism from atheism? Is Ben's God the Cheshire Cat?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

For to such belongs the kingdom of God

In a world where people argue to abort children in cases like rape or due to Down syndrome, evangelical Christians offer their witness and testimony:
  1. "Should I tell my child he was conceived in rape?"

  2. This was grace:

HT: Justin Taylor.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is theistic evolution the backstop?

The contributors to Biologos act as if theistic evolution is the thinking man’s alternative to creationism. According to Peter Enns, “Evolution persuasively accounts for the natural world. Scientists recognize its claims as having tremendous explanatory power…Closing off discussion is done in the name of protecting the masses from losing their faith. The irony is that the Church’s failure to encourage open dialogue has led many to relinquish their faith altogether. Such is the case when protecting religious coherence takes priority over preparing the church for the future.”

But even if, for the sake of argument, we accept his favorable characterization of evolutionary theory, one of the problems with his proposed alternative is the illogical move from macroevolution to theistic evolution. What does the explanatory power of evolution have to do with theistic evolution?

Consider the results of a recent poll: “Our study was the first poll to focus solely on eminent evolutionists and their views of religion. As a dissertation project, one of us (Graffin) prepared and sent a detailed questionnaire on evolution and religion to 271 professional evolutionary scientists elected to membership in 28 honorific national academies around the world, and 149 (55 percent) answered the questionnaire. All of them listed evolution (specifically organismic), phylogenetics, population biology/genetics, paleontology/paleoecology/paleobiology, systematics, organismal adaptation or fitness as at least one of their research interests. Graffin also interviewed 12 prestigious evolutionists from the sample group on the relation between modern evolutionary biology and religion…Perhaps the most revealing question in the poll asked the respondent to choose the letter that most closely represented where her views belonged on a ternary diagram. The great majority of the evolutionists polled (78 percent) chose A, billing themselves as pure naturalists. Only two out of 149 described themselves as full theists (F), two as more theist than naturalist (D) and three as theistic naturalists (B). Taken together, the advocacy of any degree of theism is the lowest percentage measured in any poll of biologists' beliefs so far (4.7 percent).”,y.0,no.,content.true,page.1,css.print/issue.aspx

Of course, this doesn’t disprove theistic evolution. But it surely undercuts any prima facie presumption in favor of theistic evolution, as over against naturalistic evolution. If the church embraces macroevolution, how is that a backstop against apostasy?

The gloves are off!

William Craig Lane recently removed his white gloves and offered his bare-knuckle opinion of Calvinism. I emailed him yesterday. Here's what I wrote:

Dear Dr. Craig,

I appreciate all the fine work you’ve done in the field of apologetics, both in theory and practice. However, I take issue with your recent answer in “Troubled by Calvinists.

It is this view, which affirms universal determinism and compatibilism, that runs into the problems you mention. Making God the author of evil is just one of the problems this neo-Reformed view faces.
i) “Author of evil” is a metaphor. In debates over Calvinism, it’s about as meaningful as an inkblot. So you need to (a) define your terms; (b) explain how Calvinism makes God the “author of sin” (as you define it), and (c) explain how that inculpates God.

ii) How does Molinism avoid making God the “author of evil”? If God knowingly chooses to instantiate a world in which evil occurs, then his action is a necessary precondition of the evil consequences. On a counterfactual theory of causation, that makes God a cause of evil. The evil outcome was avoidable had he refrained from choosing to instantiate that world.

At least five come immediately to mind:
1.Universal, divine, causal determinism cannot offer a coherent interpretation of Scripture. The classical Reformed divines recognized this. They acknowledge that the reconciliation of Scriptural texts affirming human freedom and contingency with Scriptural texts affirming divine sovereignty is inscrutable. D. A. Carson identifies nine streams of texts affirming human freedom: (1) People face a multitude of divine exhortations and commands, (2) people are said to obey, believe, and choose God, (3) people sin and rebel against God, (4) people’s sins are judged by God, (5) people are tested by God, (6) people receive divine rewards, (7) the elect are responsible to respond to God’s initiative, (8) prayers are not mere showpieces scripted by God, and (9) God literally pleads with sinners to repent and be saved (Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension, pp. 18-22). These passages rule out a deterministic understanding of divine providence, which would preclude human freedom.
i) One basic problem with your objection is that your prooftexting is illusory. You don’t actually exegete libertarian freedom from the types of passages you cite. You don’t actually show that such phenomena are at odds with Scripture.

All you really do is to cite types of passages, then stipulate that what they describe is at variance with “universal, divine, casual determinism.”

Put another way, you’re not exegeting libertarian freedom from Scripture. Rather, that’s an extratextual presupposition which you bring to the text. These passages don’t make sense to you unless you take libertarian freedom for granted.

But that’s not an argument from Scripture. That’s not a teaching of Scripture, whether explicit or implicit. Rather, that represents your extrascriptural preconception. You may find that intuitively convincing, but don’t confuse that with what Scripture either says or implies.

ii) You need to explain what you mean by (8). If prayers were “scripted” by God, how would that make them “mere showpieces?”

Why should we pray? One reason is that prayer cultivates an awareness of our utter dependence on God. Another reason is that prayer cultivates a spirit of thanksgiving. Yet another reason is that prayer causes somethings to happen which would not have happened absent prayer.

Assuming that our prayers are scripted by God, how does that fact obviate the purpose of prayer?

iii) How does Molinism avoid the problem you see with (9)? Say there’s a possible world A in which Judas is saved, and another possible world B in which Judas is damned. If God instantiates world B, then it’s inevitable that Judas will be damned. So in what sense is God still pleading with Judas to repent and be saved? If God really wanted to save Judas, he could have saved him by instantiating a world in which Judas is saved. And if you say that there’s no possible world in which Judas is saved, yet God instantiates a world in which Judas is inevitably damned, then in what sense is God still pleading with Judas to repent and believe? How does your Molinist alterative avoid what you find so objectionable in Calvinism at this juncture?
Determinists reconcile universal, divine, causal determinism with human freedom by re-interpreting freedom in compatibilist terms.
To “reinterpret” freedom assumes a received interpretation of freedom. But any theory of freedom will be a philosophical construct. It’s not as if we have a ready-made definition of freedom which fell from the sky.
Compatibilism entails determinism, so there’s no mystery here. The problem is that adopting compatibilism achieves reconciliation only at the expense of denying what various Scriptural texts seem clearly to affirm: genuine indeterminacy and contingency.
i) You need to define what you mean by “contingency.” In Calvinism, there’s a teleological structure to the decree. Means and ends. One event presupposes another. So what makes you think that Calvinism can’t deal with the passages you cite?

ii) You also need to explain, from a Molinist perspective, the sense in which “genuine indeterminacy” inheres in the actual world, in contrast to possible worlds. Surely you don’t think the actual world combines contrary possibilities from different possible worlds.
2.Universal causal determinism cannot be rationally affirmed. There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.
i) I don’t see the logic of your objection. If your belief in determinism was determined by a mindless external factors, then determinism would undermine your belief in determinism. But if your belief in determinism was determined by a rational God, then how does that undermine the rationality of your belief in determinism?

ii) To say “the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so” is simplistic and equivocal. That confuses the reason he has for believing in determinism (i.e. the thing that makes determinism a persuasive idea to him) with the reason something happens to him.

The reason it rained today isn’t the same reason as the reason I think it rained today. Surely you can tell the difference.

iii) How is a determinate agent unable to weigh the arguments pro and con? To the contrary, a determinate agent would be predetermined to weigh the arguments pro and con. And why do you assume that a deterministic process can’t make use of good reasons to convince a determinate agent that determinism is true?
3. Universal, divine, determinism makes God the author of sin and precludes human responsibility.
Needless to say, you’re begging the question. I find it odd that a Christian philosopher and apologist would keep assuming what he needs to prove.
In contrast to the Molinist view, on the deterministic view even the movement of the human will is caused by God. God moves people to choose evil, and they cannot do otherwise. God determines their choices and makes them do wrong. If it is evil to make another person do wrong, then on this view God is not only the cause of sin and evil, but becomes evil Himself, which is absurd. By the same token, all human responsibility for sin has been removed. For our choices are not really up to us: God causes us to make them. We cannot be responsible for our actions, for nothing we think or do is up to us.
i) Once again, all we’re getting from you are question-begging assertions.

ii) To say that God “moves” people is another metaphor. What do you literally mean by that metaphor? It’s not as if Calvinism subscribes to any particular theory of causation.

iii) Let’s play along with your metaphor of God “scripting” the outcome. When a novelist contemplates a novel, he contemplates various characters who may populate his novel. Not only does he consider different characters, but variations on the same character. There’s a wide range of things which each character could do. What a character could possibility do is only limited by the imagination of the novelist, as well the relation of one character to other characters, and to his fictional environment.

A possible character can do whatever a novelist can make him do, in the fictive sense of all the possible actions a novelist can think of. What is possible for the character comes down to what is possible for the novelist to contemplate. All of the possible actions or events which the mind of the novelist can imagine.

Out of the larger range of hypothetical possibilities, the novelist chooses one set of possibilities to commit to writing about. He instantiates one set of possibilities to the exclusion of others.

There is, however, no prior constraint on what a possible character could do. A merely possible character has no default setting. There is no particular course of action which he would have done. Rather, he could have done any number of things. He could have done whatever the novelist could conceive of him doing.

By contrast, an actual character will only do one thing. At a concrete level, he can only do one thing. In the actual story, the novelist selects one combination of serial possibilities to the exclusion of others. The novelist instantiates one combination to the exclusion of others.

Considered as a merely possible agent, there is nothing either in character or out of character. There is nothing in particular which a possible agent was or wasn’t going to do. There’s a sense in which God makes every creature do whatever it does, but not in the sense of making it do something contrary to what it would otherwise do, of its own accord. For there’s no one thing which a possible agent was going to do, or refrain from doing.

Creation selects for one of these possibilities. Creation causes that possibility to be realized. But it doesn’t cause the agent to do something in the sense of making him act other than how he’d act on his own. It’s not as if a possible agent was going to do one thing rather than another until God intervened. Rather, as a merely possible agent, he could do a number of different things. A possible agent doesn’t have a bias one way or the other in terms of what he’d do. There is no predisposition to do A rather than B, or B rather than A. At this juncture, his field of action is only delimited by what is logically compossible. By what the infinite mind of God is able to coherently “imagine” or conceive in relation to the same basic character.

If God chooses to instantiate that possibility, he does us no wrong. For it’s not as if there was something else we were going to do until he stepped in to thwart it.
4. Universal, divine, determinism nullifies human agency. Since our choices are not up to us but are caused by God, human beings cannot be said to be real agents. They are mere instruments by means of which God acts to produce some effect, much like a man using a stick to move a stone. Of course, secondary causes retain all their properties and powers as intermediate causes, as the Reformed divines remind us, just as a stick retains its properties and powers which make it suitable for the purposes of the one who uses it. Reformed thinkers need not be occasionalists like Nicholas Malebranche, who held that God is the only cause there is. But these intermediate causes are not agents themselves but mere instrumental causes, for they have no power to initiate action.
Well, human beings are creatures, so we have no power to initiate action in an ultimate sense. We are not self-subsistent. You seem to rankle at the very notion of your creaturely finitude.

Hence, it’s dubious that on divine determinism there really is more than one agent in the world, namely, God. This conclusion not only flies in the face of our knowledge of ourselves as agents but makes it inexplicable why God then treats us as agents, holding us responsible for what He caused us and used us to do.
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that your rather tendentious description is accurate, how would determinism fly in the face of our experience as agents? If all our thoughts and actions are predetermined, then determinism would be indetectible. For we’d have no experience apart from determinism to compare it to. A determinate agent could not be mindful of causes his thoughts and actions, for his thoughts and actions are the end-result of determinism. Your objection tacitly assumes a viewpoint of conscious detachment–as if the determinate agent can retrace the process and peer behind the effect to the underlying cause. But a determinate agent would be in no position to discern the “external factor” as something external to himself. That’s a God’s-eye view of the transaction.
5. Universal, divine determinism makes reality into a farce. On the deterministic view, the whole world becomes a vain and empty spectacle. There are no free agents in rebellion against God, whom God seeks to win through His love, and no one who freely responds to that love and freely gives his love and praise to God in return. The whole spectacle is a charade whose only real actor is God Himself. Far from glorifying God, the deterministic view, I’m convinced, denigrates God for engaging in a such a farcical charade. It is deeply insulting to God to think that He would create beings which are in every respect causally determined by Him and then treat them as though they were free agents, punishing them for the wrong actions He made them do or loving them as though they were freely responding agents. God would be like a child who sets up his toy soldiers and moves them about his play world, pretending that they are real persons whose every motion is not in fact of his own doing and pretending that they merit praise or blame. I’m certain that Reformed determinists, in contrast to classical Reformed divines, will bristle at such a comparison. But why it’s inapt for the doctrine of universal, divine, causal determinism is a mystery to me.
i) You resort to the type of prejudicial, emotive, and incendiary invective which I ordinarily associate with men like Hitchens, Dawkins, and Ingersoll. And your emotionalism clouds your judgment.

ii) I don’t see that you operate with a Biblical view of love. In Scripture, human beings are fallen beings. Sick. Like a mental patients.

You can’t expect informed consent from somebody who’s clinically insane. Rather, he requires therapy to restore his sanity.

iii) Seems to me that in Molinism, God is like a child who decides which set of toy soldiers to take out of the toy box. The toy solider didn’t get to choose which possible play world would be the actual play world. If a toy soldier finds himself in the real play world, he didn’t choose to live in that world. He didn’t choose his fate. Rather, God made that choice for him.

iv) Evidently, you don’t trust God enough to write the story of your life. But in that event, you don’t trust God with your own life. You don’t seem to think God is wise and benevolent. You want to be your own novelist. You can’t stand to be a creature.

Steve Hays

Liberal leeches

Peter Enns recently did a typically patronizing piece on “Why We Fight About This” over at BioLogos. This is how he casts the issue:

The conversation stirs up emotions….Passions run high because evolution is threatening. Some Christians feel threatened…When people feel that their sense of coherence is threatened, conflict is not far behind. We do not move to dialogue but protectionism. We stop asking whether something is true and rather react out of fear. The more credible the threat, the more we circle the wagons and maintain at all costs our sense of coherence….Evolution also threatens Christians who feel they must take the Bible literally. In the face of such a threat, the motivation to protect is strong…The shame is that many people desperately want the conversation happen. Stifling the discussion to maintain coherence will not do. Closing off discussion is done in the name of protecting the masses from losing their faith. The irony is that the Church’s failure to encourage open dialogue has led many to relinquish their faith altogether. Such is the case when protecting religious coherence takes priority over preparing the church for the future…For some Christians, evolution provides such a threat, and a lot of heat is generated as a result. But many other Christians are seeking venues that support open dialogue. Such open dialogue, in my opinion, cannot be avoided much longer.

By way of comment:

1.His post is a study in polemical insincerity. On the one hand he pretends to be soliciting an “open dialogue.” On the other hand, he stereotypes the opposition. He casts his side as the voice of reason while he casts the other side as emotional reactionaries who can only cling to their fearful faith.

Of course, that’s a stock debater’s tactic. A heavy-handed attempt to put the opposition on the defensive. Make them look weak. But if you’re going to resort to these tactics, then you’re burning bridges rather than building bridges.

2.Ironically, his rhetoric is reversible. Theistic Darwinians feel threatened by the religious right. By the conservative Christian establishment. The coherence of their religious synthesis is threatened by positions on their right.

If Enns ever questioned the truth of macroevolution, he clearly stopped asking those questions long ago. Biologos “circles the wagons,” “stifles discussion,” and “closes off discussion” by its studied refusal to engage the arguments of young-earth creationists or even old-earth creationists.

They resist an “open dialogue” because they, too, have a position to protect. Theistic evolution is the stopgap that keeps them from taking the next final step to naturalistic evolution.

3.It’s also duplicitous for Enns to frame the issue in terms of theistic evolution over against a literal interpretation of the Bible. For, from what I can tell, contributors like Peter Enns and Paul Seely have no reservations about the literal interpretation of Scripture. They take Scripture literally, and they take Scripture to be literally wrong.

4.In addition, it’s not as if theistic evolution represents the intellectually respectable alternative to special creation. Does the scientific evidence point to theistic evolution rather than naturalistic evolution? If macroevolution is true, and if the scientific evidence points to theistic evolution, then why are so many evolutionary biologists atheistic? How can Enns explain that? Surely he won’t explain this as a conspiracy on the part of the scientific establishment to suppress evidence for the existence of God.

5.Enns and his cobelligerents cast themselves in the role of courageous pioneers. But this “conversation” has been going on since the 19C. And in some ways it antedates the 19C.

6.Nothing prevents theistic Darwinians from starting their own seminaries or denominations. It’s not as if theistic evolution is illegal.

But, of course, that goes to the dilemma of the religious left. Liberal denominations are dying denominations.

Liberal leeches need a conservative host to survive and thrive. A conservative host to feed on. They can’t survive on their own inner resources.

But they bleed the host dry. They kill their source of sustenance. That’s their conundrum. They need a living host to leech off of. But they kill the host in the process.

Liberals aren’t seeking peaceful coexistence with conservatives. Liberals aren’t tolerant of dissent. Like termites, they worm their way into conservative institutions, then hollow them out from within. Once in control, they oppress the faithful.

They only use the language of “dialogue” as a softening up exercise to lower resistance and gain entry. Once inside, they proceed to stage a coup d’etat and establish a liberal regime.

7.This isn’t simply a question of how we interpret Gen 1, or Gen 2:7, or Gen 6-9.

This is ultimately a question about God’s presence or absence in the world we inhabit. Not merely, Did God do what the Bible says in did in Gen 1 or Gen 2 or whatever, but, Does God ever do anything even like that? Is the world a closed system? Or is the world an open door to God? Does the traffic move in both directions?

Passages like Gen 1 and 2,or 6-9, aren’t isolated instances of God interrupting the continuum. Rather, passages like this are situated in a larger outlook regarding God’s immanence–as well as transcendence. A God who is near, as well as a God who is far. A God who speaks and acts. The living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

8.Peter Enns may fancy himself the leader of a movement. Riding the crest of the wave.

But when you get right down to it, we are all very small. We live, we age, and we die. Others take our place. Life goes on without us.

Take W. V. O. Quine. The late Harvard philosophy prof. In his heyday, his every word commanded an audience from the intelligentsia. He set the agenda.

But in the end, time passed him by. In the end, he was just a feeble old man in hospital bed. Just another moribund mortal.

His son has a website dedicated to his famous father. Chock-full of eulogies.

But what good are eulogies? Tributes by the dying to the dead. What good are glowing eulogies to the deceased?

You and I lead little lives. Ultimately, all we have to live by and die by is God’s Word and God’s grace.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jugulum on anti-Calvinism

April 20th, 2010 | 4:33 pm | #123

Others will as confidently say it is evil for God to send people to Hell for any reason. They will reject “your God” as evil with all the hatred and vitriol that you show toward the Calvinist understanding of God. All because they hold their understanding of “good”, “love”, and “evil” as infallible and uncorrectable.

As long as their hold their private judgments as above correction, they will continue hating the true God, based on their distorted vision–hating goodness itself.

Reject Calvinism as long as you’re persuaded Scripture teaches otherwise, and allow Scripture to refine your understanding of everything. Even assuming you happen to be right about everything, I can hardly imagine that this kind of pride would please God.

Osborne on "Calvinists"

Last March I emailed Grant Osborne in inquiry. Since he never responded, I'm posting my inquiry here:

Dear Dr. Osborne,

In your response to Buist Fanning (in Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews), you refer to “the better recent Calvinist interpreters (Hughes, Lane, Guthrie, Ellingworth, Carson, Fanning)” (232). And back on p220 you refer to “several of the best Calvinist commentaries, like Lane and Ellingworth.”

I’m puzzled by your classification:

1. What makes you think Ellingworth is a Calvinist? What did he say in his exegesis of Heb 6 & 10 to suggest to you that he’s a Calvinist?

2. What makes you think Hughes is a Calvinist? What did he say in his exegesis of Heb 6 & 10 to suggest to you that he’s a Calvinist?

I believe that early on, Hughes was a Calvinist. But he repudiated Calvinism in his later book The True Image.

And while he was, for a time, a visiting prof. at WTS, that institution discontinued his services when he came out with The True Image.

3. I’m especially puzzled by why you’d classify Lane as a Calvinist. He clearly defends the Arminian interpretation of Heb 6 & 10 in his commentary. What did he say in his exegesis of Heb 6 & 10 to suggest to you that he’s a Calvinist?

Over and above his commentary, Lane was dean of the religion dept. at SPU, an institution affiliated with the Free Methodist Church. And after he stepped down from the deanship, he became the Paul T. Walls Professor of Wesleyan and Biblical Studies. Doesn't look like the resume of a Calvinist.

So what’s the basis of your classification?

Steve Hays

UNCG Outreach Report 4-20-2010

Today we were unable to engage in open-air preaching once again since a UNCG booth was set-up in the Walker Avenue circle behind Jackson Library. We also had less time to spend on campus as I had other work that needed to be done. Nevertheless, we witnessed in some detail to a homosexual, had several interesting conversations with professing Christians, and discussed the gospel with a respectful and friendly Buddhist named Nick.

A Homosexual Man

Upon approaching this young man with a gospel tract, he was kind and polite, but refused to take my tract. I asked him why he refused it, and he shook his head and mumbled something under his breath. I then asked, "What do you think about God, religion, etc.? Where do you stand on these things?" and he responded, "I believe in a creator, I'm just no sure which one is the true god" and so I started talking to him about Christianity. He said that he basically left the Roman Catholic Church because they did not affirm his homosexuality. He also noted that a heretical preacher that we have crossed paths with before named "Brother Ross" had been on campus the day before preaching "nonsense" and telling him that he was going to Hell. He then said something interesting: "I know that you're not like the other guy, you're pretty cool because you show respect to other people even though you disagree with them." I then asked him if he was familiar with what the Bible teaches regarding homosexuality and he admitted that he was and then showed some familiarity with a few OT verses by quoting them. It was then that I explained to him that according to the New Covenant Scriptures, it is not only homosexuals who will not enter the kingdom, but idolaters, drunkards, fornicators, thieves, the covetous, revilers, swindlers, and other types of wicked people aren't going to make it either (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

I pointed out that Romans 1:25ff doesn't only condemn homosexual behavior, but also condemns a whole other list of sins and sinners and that homosexuality is one among many types of behaviors that God hates. Given that he had a Catholic background and I was unsure what his exposure to the Biblical gospel was, I then proceeded to explain the good news to him. He was able to hear some of it, but he had to leave since his transit bus showed up. Overall, he was receptive, though his body language initially showed that he was put off a bit by my clear denunciation of homosexuality. Nevertheless, he seemed to mellow out when he learned that I wasn't going to single his sin out more than any other sin that Paul lists in 1 Cor. 6:9-10 or Romans 1:25-32. I pray God will use something I said to open this young man's eyes to the truth of his sin and the greatness of God's mercy and grace found only in Christ.

More "Evangelicals" Who Can't Explain the Good News

If I had a dollar for every professing Christian that I interact with on a weekly basis that can't explain the gospel, I'd have my weekly lunches funded for the rest of my working life. Sadly, most of them seem to be put off by the fact that I would respectfully ask them to explain the gospel to me. For example, today I had a conversation with a campus blood drive worker who was taking a smoke break in the front quad area. I introduced myself, handed her a tract, and then asked her if she knew how a person is reconciled to God. She said, "Ask for forgiveness and pray" and I said, "Pray to whom? Ask for forgiveness from whom?" and she looked at me like I had just called her a name. I then explained, "I meet many people who have different understandings of what the word "god" means, so, if you would, please explain to me which god I need to ask forgiveness from." She then nodded and said, "Christianity" to which I said, "Okay, so how can I be reconciled to the God of Christianity?" and she gave the same answer. I said, "Is that it?" and she said, "Yep, that's it." I then asked her "Do I need any information about sin, God's righteous judgment, and Jesus' work on the cross?" She said, "I gotta go, break time's over." I thanked her for her time and she was on her way.

"You just need to ask for forgiveness . . ."

There is no question that forgiveness is essential to reconciliation with God, but what does that mean to most professing American evangelicals? Thanks to Charles G. Finney, I fear that it is more akin to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism than Biblical Christianity, especially given the answers that I receive when I probe beyond the surface. The idea that I "just need to believe" is contradicted by James 2:19. Your faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed and in the Bible, saving faith is not equated with mere intellectual understanding. This is where a Reformed understanding of saving faith can be helpful. Most Reformed theologians have generally agreed that saving faith constitutes three things:

1. Intellectual knowledge (noticia) - This is knowledge that people are sinners and that Jesus came to save sinners from God's impending judgment for the sins that they have committed against Him (i.e., the basic gospel message, cf. Romans 10:17).

2. Assent to that knowledge (assensus)- This is when a person not only understands the propositions in number 1 above, but they also agree to said propositions; i.e., that they are historically factual.

3. Trust in Christ's work alone (fiduccia)- This is when they move beyond agreement to ownership. In other words, they not only agree that the gospel events took place in history but they embrace those historical truths for themselves by trusting in Christ alone to reconcile them to God. This naturally includes repentance as well, for trusting in Christ is to decidedly not trust in your own works, your own ways, and your own autonomous thinking to reconcile you to God; hence, you turn (Gk. metanoia - repent) from your ways to God's ways.

Telling me to "Just ask for forgiveness and pray" doesn't tell me who Jesus is, what He came to do, and why any of that is important. Nearly any religion with the concept of the divine can do that. If I am a lost sinner, I need to know that I've offended, Who I've offended, and how I can be reconciled to the One whom I've offended. Anything else is hopelessness.

A Friendly and Respectful Buddhist

Nick was a genuinely nice guy, and we hit it off well since both he and I enjoy training in Mixed Martial Arts. I was also able to approach him easily today because he respectfully confronted me off to the side several weeks earlier while I was open-air preaching to ask me if my goal was to respectfully and lovingly address people when I preached to them. I told him that was indeed my desire, and he shook my hand and thanked me for my respectful approach and was on his way.

Hell . . . a repulsive doctrine

Today, I saw him walking from the Elliot University Center, reintroduced myself, and thanked him for his kind comments several weeks ago. He said, "I'm not a Christian, but I really appreciate the way you guys conduct yourselves out here." I then asked him why he wasn't a Christian and he initially said that he had a problem with God answering Elisha's condemnation of a group of youngsters by His sending two female bears to tear them to pieces (2 Kings 2:23-24). I then asked him what standard he was using to judge God's actions as immoral and he then admitted that he was an atheistic Buddhist. He then noted that he essentially rejected Christianity because of the doctrine of Hell. He said that he could never love and worship a God that would send untold millions to eternal torture with no possible reprieve. I explained to him that Hell was not torture as such is the coercing of an individual through painful stimuli to gather important information or to indulge sadistic pleasures (cf. Ezek. 18:32; 33:11). Instead, I took several minutes to explain that Hell consists of eternal, conscious torment; an eternal torment that is warranted because sinners commit crimes against the infinitely just God of the universe and that the just Judge of the universe must punish crimes that are committed against Him or else He's no longer good and just. He still objected, and so I then pressed him again to provide a moral standard by which God should be judged. He could offer none, and so I patiently demonstrated that his moral relativism refutes itself and is related to his epistemological relativism, which undermines his ability to argue against Christianity in the first place. We had some discussion about this for probably 15-20 minutes, and he admitted that he didn't have any answers. I then gave him the gospel, he listened well, and we respectfully parted ways.


I would appreciate your prayers for Nick as well as our efforts at UNCG. We praise God for the opportunity afforded us to continue doing these things and hope that believers are encouraged by these reports. Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Out-Hitlering Hitler"

I'm going to repost some comments that I left at First Things: Evangel:

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 11:13 am | #1
There are a number of things we could discuss, but for now I’m curious about these two statements:

“Did God choose a predetermined number of human beings to bring to ultimate bliss, and alternatively select a predetermined and far more numerous group of humans on whom to inflict incalculable eternal suffering…Or perhaps the whole ‘I’m in, 95 percent of humanity is out” is just fine.’”

Where do you come up with these percentages? Do you think that’s an honest and accurate depiction of Reformed theology?

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 11:28 am | #2
Incidentally, folks like you wonder aloud how Calvinists can stomach Calvinism, yet you recycle these stale, oft-refuted objections and caricatures of Calvinism. So why do you find it mysterious of Calvinists find your cliche-riddled objections unconvincing? You’re making no good-faith effort to seriously engage the other side. So why would you expect us to be impressed?

Who’s your target audience? Clearly you’re not attempting to open a dialogue with Reformed believers. Are you merely preaching to the choir? Is that your goal?

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 11:33 am | #3
“If Calvinism, especially in its supralapsarian form—which argues that God foreordained the eternal fates of humans not yet created in a world not yet created, never mind fallen…”

Just as a point of historical theology, what makes you think that supralapsarianism teaches double predestination, but infralapsarianism does not?

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 11:52 am | #8
Johnny Dialectic

“What do percentages matter?”

Why does truth matter? Apparently, it doesn’t matter to Johnny Dialectic.

However, some of us actually think it’s important to truthfully represent a position we presume to discuss and critique.

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 11:55 am | #9
Johnny Dialectic

“What do percentages matter?”

Since they figure in Sacramone’s argument, they matter to his argument. Isn’t that obvious?

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 11:56 am | #10


Eastern Orthodoxy=heresy.

Gee, that was easy.

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 2:16 pm | #26
Dale Coulter

“On a Reformed continuum, the worst defenses of the position, it seems to me, tend to come from those Reformed thinkers who have embraced divine voluntarism and its concomitant divine command theory. Calvin is in this camp.”

He is? That’s been disputed by scholars like Michael Sudden and Paul Helm. Where’s your counterargument?

“This is why EO folks think that all talk of ‘merit’ in the west tends to miss the point. No matter how much effort humans put into the process, they simply cannot make themselves incorruptible or immortal; it is beyond what creatures can do.”

There is more to original sin than corruption and mortality. There is also culpability. Unrighteousness.

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 2:20 pm | #27

“Non-Calvinist theology is the theology of the Early Church. The Early Church received its theology from the Apostles. They got it from Jesus. Calvinist theology goes back to one man who developed his doctrines 1500 years after Christ. Yes, this is very easy.”

Calvinism is the theology of Isaiah, Paul, and John. Calvinism received its theology from Jesus and the Apostles. By contrast, Orthodox theology represents the backdated tradition of men. Yes, this is very easy.

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 2:26 pm | #29
Anthony Sacramone

“Perhaps all we can do in the end is admit that the construction of economies of salvation and ‘golden chains’ out of the hidden will of a hidden God who is outside of time can only and always be provisional.”

Calvinism doesn’t construct soteriology from the “hidden will” of God. Rather, Calvinism constructs its soteriology from the revealed soteriology of Scripture, as well as the revealed promises of the Gospel.

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 2:29 pm | #31
Anthony Sacramone

“But unlike with a lottery ticket, figuring out your election status left you with nothing to cling to but a purely subjective notion of the operation of the Holy Spirit within your life.”

The practical question is no different in Calvinism than evangelicalism generally. Do you have saving faith?

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 2:32 pm | #32
Anthony Sacramone

“Especially one whose obsession with his own glory reduces every person to nothing more than an adornment. If this is true…”

Well, Jeremy Pierce is both a Calvinist as well as a contributor to Evangel, and he’d take issue with your characterization. Have you read his material on the glory of God?

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 2:46 pm | #34
Anthony Sacramone

“(Whether non-elect infants go to hell has been a long-fought controversy within the Reformed world, admittedly, but there’s nothing it its confessions or theology that seriously argues against it.)”

And there’s nothing in its confessions or theology that seriously argues for it.

However, the question of infant salvation isn’t just a question for Reformed theology. In terms of historical theology generally, the premise of infant baptism is that assumption that infants are born in a state of original sin, so they require baptism to absolve the guilt of original sin. Otherwise, unbaptized babies are damned.

So, by your logic, just about every paedobaptist tradition (e.g. Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist) worships a “monster” who “out-Hitlers Hitler.” Is that the point you were trying to make?

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 2:49 pm | #35

“Show me where the Early Church taught Calvinism.”

Why should I care? There’s no correlation between antiquity and truth. There were heresies in NT times. Some NT epistles are directed at heresies.

What concerns me is not what the “Early Church” taught, but what the Bible teaches.

And, of course, your appeal to the “Early Church” begs the question inasmuch as early heretics claimed to represent the true church. So you need some independent criterion to justify your identification of the “Early Church.”

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 3:00 pm | #37
Dale Coulter

“Reformed theology, especially in its supralapsarian expression, makes the problem almost insurmountable because it suggests that God set in motion a chain of events leading to the fall of humanity.”

How does that distinguish supralapsarianism from infralapsarianism, exactly? In infralapsarianism, God also decreed the fall? The supra/infra debate involves the teleological order of the decrees. That’s the point of contrast, and not that God decrees the fall (or damnation) in supralapsarianism, while not decreeing those events in infralapsarianism.

I have to wonder where some commenters get their information?

For that matter, how does this distinguish Calvinism from Arminianism or Molinism? In Arminianism, if God made a world in which the fall was a foreseeable consequence, then he set in motion a chain of events leading to the fall of man.

Likewise, in Molinism, if God chose to instantiate a possible world in which the fall occurs, then he thereby set in motion of a chain of events leading to the fall of man.

What I’m encountering in this thread are many elementary misstatements of Reformed theology, along with an illogical grasp of the alternatives.

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 3:35 pm | #40
Dale Coulter

“I’m not sure how to respond to the “more to original sin” statement because I don’t understand the point of the claim. Maybe some clarification?”

Biblical hamartiology and soterilogy has a forensic dimension that your leaving entirely out of account.

Sin doesn’t merely leaves us liable to death. It leaves us guilty before God. Morality as well as mortality.

Now maybe your EO filter screens out that central strand of the Biblical witness but it is there, all the same.

So I don’t see that you can swap in corruption/mortality categories for merit/demerit categories (or their Biblical equivalents).

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 3:45 pm | #42

“Steve, You have essentially conceded the argument. History doesn’t matter to you. God’s people do not matter to you. Living the Scriptures does not matter to you. You are the pope. The church is in your image and likeness. The faith was once for all delivered to you.”

Bible history doesn’t matter to you. And church history points in all different directions.

The Eastern Orthodox don’t have a monopoly on “God’s people.” Sorry to disappoint you.

The EO don’t live the Scriptures. They live their traditions.

Your pope is the Greek Fathers and 7 ecumenical councils. My “pope” is God’s word. I like my “pope” better than yours.

You’ve made the church in the image of EO representatives.

The “faith once delivered” is an allusion to a NT text, not postbiblical traditions.

I’d also note that I have yet to see to present a single argument for your position. What distinguishes you from a Mormon who merely stipulates the truth of his position? All you’ve done is to posit that EO is true. Well, anyone can do that.

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 4:00 pm | #45
Dale Coulter

“It seems to me that if you posit that prior to the decrees to create or permit the fall, God decreed to elect some to salvation, then you’re in for a rough time with respect to getting out of the problem of evil.”

Since that’s not an actual argument, there’s nothing to get out of.

“However, if you want to claim it’s the same, be my guest.”

Did I say that were the same? No. In context, I said they were the same in reference to the fact that, either way, God decreed the Fall. Some commenters don’t seem to be conversant with what the supra/infra positions actually represent, even though they act as though they do.

“It’s also misleading to keep using the tag Arminian as though everyone who rejected Reformed theology was or is a follower of Arminius.”

Well, since I didn’t use it that way, there’s nothing misleading about my usage.

“On the Molinism bit, I would have to say that I disagree with that particular read of Molinism. God knows that given counter factuals of creaturely freedom, a person placed in a particular set of circumstances will do X. However, such counter factuals must unfold over the course of history. In other words, God does not by an act of will set in motion a predetermined order of events that unfold in a particular way. God sets in motion a series of events that can unfold in a variety of ways given counter factuals of creaturely freedom.”

i) If God knows what a person will do in a given situation, and God creates that situation, then it will unfold accordingly.

ii) In Molinism, God is not instantiating a wide-open scenario. Rather, he’s instantiating one possible world to the exclusion of another (or other) possible alternative(s). It’s not two or more possible worlds bundled into one actual world–as if contraries are simultaneously instantiable.

“And finally, even if you think I’m making “elementary” mistakes, let’s please be more charitable in calling me out on them.”

That comment didn’t single you out.

However, if you’re concerned with charitable discourse, you might redirect your concerns to Sacramone, who went out of his way to use the most incendiary invective he could think of.

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 5:26 pm | #59
Dale Coulter

“Your description of Molinism seems to assume that God directly creates every possible scenario when, in fact, that is not what happens.”

i) No. Remember that I’m responding to the metaphor of “chain reaction.” By definition, a chain reaction is a case of indirect causation. A indirectly causes E because A causes B, which causes C, which causes D, which causes E.

ii) And I didn’t say the Molinist God creates “possibilities.” Rather, I said the Molinist God creates actualities by choosing which possibility, or set of possibilities (i.e. possible world) to instantiate.

“There is a possible world instantiated with a number of possible scenarios within that world. Out of these possible scenarios history unfolds as creatures are presented with counter factuals of creaturely freedom.”

You’re blurring possibility and actuality. Possible worlds or world-segments represent alternate possibilities. These are abstract objects. When the Molinist God instantiates a possible world, that’s a complete, self-contained, and consistent set of concretized possibilities, in contrast to unexemplified alternate possibilities.

God is selecting from contrary alternatives when he instantiates a possible world, not combining contrary alternatives in the same world–which would be incoherent.

Not all possibilities are compossible. An actual world can’t exemplify incompossible alternatives.

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 5:31 pm | #60

“My point was made when it went conceded that the historic consensus of Christian history knows not Calvinism.”

There’s no such thing as consensus in church history.

“However, I think all of us can see that Church history matters.”

Beginning with NT church history.

“The fact that the Church did not hold to Calvinism should tell us something.”

Yes, it tells us something about groupthink, institutional inertia, and the fact that theological dissent wa criminalized.

“Did it really take 1500 years to discover the truth?”

I can just imagine the Sanhedrin using the same argument at the trial of Christ.

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 5:44 pm | #61
Dale Coulter

“OK, I need to know how someone who holds to a supralapsarian position can claim some sort of causal concurrence between the divine will and the human will with respect to the fall. It seems to me that an infralapsarian position can because it sees the fall as involving a permissive will on God’s part. In the supra position, God is actively bringing about the fall of humanity, not by permission. So, one option for the infra position has been removed by the supra position to my mind. Maybe I’m wrong here.

i) There are no passive decrees. The decrees don’t merely allow things to happen. They ensure their occurrence.

ii) The basic distinction in the supra/infra debate is over different teleological arrangements. What presupposes what? What’s a means and what’s an end?

iii) Then there’s the question of how God implements his plan. Broadly speaking, that involves fiat creation, providence, and miracles. Primary and secondary causes.

iv) But the Bible doesn’t have a philosophical theory of causation, and there are various theories of causation. Calvinism isn’t committed to any particular theory of causation.

Theologians frequently avail themselves of the philosophical resources of the day, as well as the “scientific” models and metaphors available to them. And that, of course, varies from one time and place to the next.

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 7:20 pm | #67
Dale Coulter

“I really don’t know what you mean by concretized possibilities when God instantiates a possible world.”

Mere possibilities don’t exist in time and space. To concretize possibilities is to exemplify them in time and space (or at least in time).

“My point was that the possible world God chooses to actualize or instantiate, contains within it a set of possibilities, which are only actualized as history unfolds.”

Which doesn’t mean a set of contrary possibilities.

The abstract ensemble of possible worlds is like a garden of forking paths. An actual world instantiates one of those paths.

“So within world A, there are a number of scenarios that could unfold given creaturely decisions. This is not to confuse the possible with the actual.”

Except that it does. To say that within world A are contrary possibilities is to embed two or more possible worlds (or world-segments) within the same actualized possible world–which is incoherent.

“A number of scenarios that could unfold” represents different possible worlds for different branching possibilities–not different forking paths which occupy the same concrete reality. Different timelines are represented by different possible worlds, and vice versa.

To select one possible world from many, then realize that possible world, is to realize that possible world rather than some contrary set of possibilities.

“You seem to keep assuming that once God instantiates a possible world, then all events in that world are already determined in some Reformed way.”

No, they are determined by God’s selection of one to the exclusion of another (or others).

“That is, God’s making an actual world necessitates God’s making all possible events within that world actual.”

I didn’t discuss how God brings about all events, whether directly or indirectly. That’s not the issue.

steve hays
April 19th, 2010 | 7:41 pm | #68
Dale Coulter

“When I said permissive I was merely echoing Jerom Zanchius’ own language when he says that God decrees to permit the fall. Yes, the decree itself represents God’s active will insofar as it expresses divine purpose/intention (teleology as you put it), but the will is to permit it.”

A “decree to permit” is not the same thing as merely permitting it (“bare permission”), as if it would happen all by itself unless God actively intervened to prevent it.

“This move allows Zanchius to attempt to reconcile how God wills something and yet humans will it through concurrent causality as the decree is actualized in time.”

In supralapsarianism, it’s not as if human agents are forced to act against their will. There is no sense of compulsion.

And, in supralapsarianism, human beings are secondary agents. They can and do various things. They also deliberate.

“As I said, to my mind, this complicates the problem of evil considerably because it attributes the introduction of evil into the world ultimately to the a divine act (not what God knows, but what God actively wills to be the case).”

Your terminology is very imprecise. The decree is a divine “act” in the same of a mental act. On the other hand, it’s not a divine act in the sense of a creative act.

And it’s hardly adequate to say that God merely foreknew the Fall. God is the Creator. If the fall was a foreseeable consequence, then God introduces evil into the world by knowingly creating a world in which the Fall will occur.

At the same time, this is a necessary rather than sufficient condition. Counterfactual causation (i.e. unless A occurs, B will not occur).

“If God stacked the dominos in such a way that the fall happened necessarily, well, you’ve got a problem.”

That depends on what you mean by “necessarily.” Unless you’re an open theist, it follows that if God chooses to create a world in full knowledge of the outcome, then the foreseen world which he makes will unfold exactly as he foresaw it.

“Molinism does not lead to this position.”

Except that it does. If God chooses to instantiate the set of possibilities known as world A rather than the set of possibilities known as world B, or vice versa, then those and only those possibilities will eventuate.

The "Calvinists are mean" meme

Opponents are Calvinism work hard to popularize the image of Calvinists as a bunch of meanies. Thankfully, anti-Calvinists are distinguished by their irenic discourse. To take one recent example:

If Calvinism, especially in its supralapsarian form—which argues that God foreordained the eternal fates of humans not yet created in a world not yet created, never mind fallen—is true, then most of us are lost, and not just because, in the words of Dirty Harry, we don’t feel particularly lucky, but because we are asked to love a monster. A deity who out Hitler’s Hitler in a blood-thirsty self-preening is too repellant to contemplate, never mind adore. Especially one whose obsession with his own glory reduces every person to nothing more than an adornment. If this is true, let’s please stop talking about the sanctity of human life. In this horrific scheme, there is nothing more expendable than a human being. “I need more glory—throw another baby on the barby!” (Whether non-elect infants go to hell has been a long-fought controversy within the Reformed world, admittedly, but there’s nothing it its confessions or theology that seriously argues against it.)

The Historical Roots Of The Reformation And Evangelicalism

(This is an updated version of a 2008 post. Some of the links below will take you to different articles than the corresponding links in the 2008 post did. I've put the links in alphabetical order. Note that some of the threads linked below have relevant material in their comments section, not just in the article that begins the thread.)

Apostolic Succession
Assumption Of Mary (Part 1)
Assumption Of Mary (Part 2)
Assumption Of Mary (Part 3)
Assumption Of Mary (Part 4)
Augustine And Roman Catholicism (Part 1)
Augustine And Roman Catholicism (Part 2)
Augustine And Roman Catholicism (Part 3)
Baptismal Regeneration
Biblical Inerrancy
Biographical Sketch Of Origen
Biographical Sketch Of Thomas Bilney
Biographical Sketch Of William Tyndale
Canon Of The New Testament (Part 1)
Canon Of The New Testament (Part 2)
Canon Of The Old Testament (Part 1)
Canon Of The Old Testament (Part 2)
Church Infallibility
Clement Of Alexandria And Roman Catholicism
Clement Of Rome And Roman Catholicism
Confession Of Sins (See The Third Post In The Comments Section Of The Thread)
Contradictions In Roman Catholic Belief And Practice
Development Of Doctrine (Part 1)
Development Of Doctrine (Part 2)
Development Of Doctrine (Part 3)
Development Of Doctrine (Part 4)
Diversity Of Beliefs In Roman Catholicism At The Time Of The Reformation
Ecclesiology (Part 1)
Ecclesiology (Part 2)
Ecumenism (See The Fourth Post In The Comments Section Of The Thread)
Eternal Security
Eucharist (Part 1)
Eucharist (Part 2)
Eucharist (Part 3)
Eucharist (Part 4)
Identifying Christians Before The Reformation
Ignatius And Roman Catholicism
Infant Baptism
Infant Salvation
Irenaeus And Roman Catholicism
Josephus And Roman Catholicism
Liberalism In Roman Catholicism
Lollard Support For Reformation Beliefs Prior To The Reformation (Part 1)
Lollard Support For Reformation Beliefs Prior To The Reformation (Part 2)
Marian Beliefs Of The Protestant Reformers
Mary And Christmas
Mary In Luke's Writings
Miracles In Roman Catholicism (Part 1)
Miracles In Roman Catholicism (Part 2)
Moses' Seat
New Eve
Oral Tradition
Other Marian Beliefs
Papias And Roman Catholicism
Patristic Exegesis
Perpetual Virginity Of Mary
Perpetual Virginity Of Mary And Children Of Joseph From A Former Marriage
Perspicuity Of Scripture
Prayers To Saints And Angels
Prooftexts For Roman Catholicism
Prooftexts For Roman Catholic Mariology
Protestantism In Early Church History
Sinlessness Of Mary (Part 1)
Sinlessness Of Mary (Part 2)
Sinlessness Of Mary (Part 3)
Solas Before The Reformation
Sola Scriptura (Part 1)
Sola Scriptura (Part 2)
Sola Scriptura (Part 3)
Sources Of The Patristic Era Other Than The Church Fathers
Studying The Church Fathers
Tertullian And Roman Catholicism
Veneration Of Images
Waldensian Support For Reformation Beliefs Prior To The Reformation (Part 1)
Waldensian Support For Reformation Beliefs Prior To The Reformation (Part 2)
Waldensian Support For Reformation Beliefs Prior To The Reformation (Part 3)
Woman Of Revelation 12

"In fact, recent research on the Reformation entitles us to sharpen it and to say that the Reformation began because the reformers were too catholic in the midst of a church that had forgotten its catholicity. That generalization applies particularly to Luther and to some of the Anglican reformers, somewhat less to Calvin, still less to Zwingli, least of all to the Anabaptists. But even Zwingli, who occupies the left wing among the classical reformers, retained a surprising amount of catholic substance in his thought, while the breadth and depth of Calvin’s debt to the heritage of the catholic centuries is only now beginning to emerge….There was more to quote [from the church fathers] than their [the reformers'] Roman opponents found comfortable. Every major tenet of the Reformation had considerable support in the catholic tradition. That was eminently true of the central Reformation teaching of justification by faith alone….That the ground of our salvation is the unearned favor of God in Christ, and that all we need do to obtain it is to trust that favor – this was the confession of great catholic saints and teachers….Rome’s reactions [to the Protestant reformers] were the doctrinal decrees of the Council of Trent and the Roman Catechism based upon those decrees. In these decrees, the Council of Trent selected and elevated to official status the notion of justification by faith plus works, which was only one of the doctrines of justification in the medieval theologians and ancient fathers. When the reformers attacked this notion in the name of the doctrine of justification by faith alone – a doctrine also attested to by some medieval theologians and ancient fathers – Rome reacted by canonizing one trend in preference to all the others. What had previously been permitted also (justification by faith alone), now became forbidden. In condemning the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent condemned part of its own catholic tradition….Interpreters of the New Testament have suggested a host of meanings for the passage [Matthew 16]. As Roman Catholic scholars now concede, the ancient Christian father Cyprian used it to prove the authority of the bishop – not merely of the Roman bishop, but of every bishop….So traumatic was the effect of the dogma of papal infallibility that the pope did not avail himself of this privilege for eighty years. But when he finally did, by proclaiming the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on November 1, 1950, he confirmed the suspicions and misgivings of the dogma’s critics. Not only is Scriptural proof obviously lacking for this notion, but the tradition of the early Christian centuries is also silent about it….In asserting their catholicity, the reformers drew upon the church fathers as proof that it was possible to be catholic without being Roman. Study of the fathers thus became an important part of the Protestant panoply as well. In fact, the very word 'patrology' as a title for a manual on the church fathers and their works is a Protestant invention, first used by Johann Gerhard (d. 1637). When Protestant liberalism developed during the nineteenth century, one of its principal contributions to theological literature was its work on the fathers. The Patrology of the Roman Catholic scholar Johannes Quasten and an essay by the Jesuit scholar J. de Ghellinck both reveal the dependence even of Roman theologians upon the scholarly achievements of Protestant historians, the outstanding of whom was Adolf Harnack (d. 1930). Although the generation of theologians after Harnack has not been as interested in the field of patristic study, Protestants have not completely forgotten the heritage of the fathers. Meanwhile, Roman Catholics have begun to put an assessment upon the fathers that differs significantly from the traditional one. Instead of measuring the fathers against the standards of a later orthodoxy, Roman Catholic historians now interpret them in the context of their own time. This means, for example, that a church father like Origen is no longer interpreted on the basis of his later (and politically motivated) condemnation for heresy, but on the basis of his own writings and career….The study of the church fathers is now a predominantly Roman Catholic building, even though many of the foundations for it were laid by Protestant hands….the heritage of the fathers does not belong exclusively to either side. Roman Catholics must acknowledge the presence of evangelical or 'Protestant' ideas in Irenaeus, and Protestants must come to terms with the catholic elements in the same father." (Jaroslav Pelikan, The Riddle Of Roman Catholicism [Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1959], pp. 46-49, 51-52, 78, 83, 195-196)

The Gospel Of Paul And Evangelicalism In Luke 18

For those who haven't yet listened to it, I recommend John Piper's recent discussion of Luke 18:9-14 at the 2010 Together For The Gospel conference.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

It's Still Not Possible

I will be the first to acknowledge that I didn’t expect my previous post entitled Is It Even Possible? to have anywhere near the responses it did have. When it dropped off the main page, I was only interacting with two other people and didn’t think it was worth doing a follow-up post. However, when I suggested moving the conversation to e-mail, several others jumped in expressing their desire that the topic remain public.

If anyone has not read the previous post, I would recommend it; however, I will also give an overview of my argument as well as the counterarguments below.

The original question I looked at was simple: “Is it even possible for God to actually create a being that can make a non-determined choice, or does the brute fact of creation render that impossible?” To shorten it a bit, we can ask: “Is it possible for God to create a being capable of a non-determined yet also non-random choice?” I argued that it is impossible, and in the comments went so far as to say that the only type of being capable of making a non-determined, non-random choice is one that is self-existent (namely, if it is possible, only God can do it).

The reasoning is fairly simple and since you can read the original argument, which used an illustration and more laymen language, I will present it here in a more precise way than I originally did. (Also, please note this argument assumes Christianity to be true.)

1. Let the faculty that produces a choice in an agent (whether that be the will, the mind, the soul, or whatever) be X.

2. Let X be created (that is, X is not self-existent).

3. Let C be a choice of X such that the statement “X chose C” is true.

Given the above:

4. If X is created, then X was created by something other than X (definition of “created”).

5. X could not create itself (implications of 4)

6. X has properties that enable X to produce choices (per 1).

7. The properties of X that produce choices are either a direct result of creation or they are accidental features.

8. If the properties of X that produce choices are accidental features, then X was not created with the intention of X producing choices.

9. If X was not created with the intention of X producing choices, then the ability of X to make choices cannot be ascribed to the creator.

10. Christians do ascribe the ability of X to make choices to the creator.

11. Therefore, Christians cannot hold that the properties of X that produce choices are accidental features.

12. Therefore, the properties of X that produce choices are a direct result of creation (from 7 & 11).

13. Since C is a choice of X, then either C originates in some fashion in the properties of X, or C is accidental to the properties of X.

14. If C is accidental to the properties of X, then X did not intend for C to occur.

15. If X did not intend for C to occur, then X did not choose C.

16. Premise 15 contradicts 3.

17. Therefore, C must originate in some fashion due to the properties of X.

18. The properties of X are a direct result of creation (restatement of 12).

19. Therefore, if X chose C, then C is made, in some fashion, due to a direct result of creation.
There have only been three counterarguments presented to me thus far (well, four if you count “You’re wrong” statements as an argument, which apparently some people do). The first is to insist that just because we can’t do it doesn’t mean God can’t do it; the second is to say that there is some feature of the soul that gets around this problem; the third is to fall back to quantum mechanics.

To examine these in reverse order: Quantum mechanics does take away the determinism of physics, but only by adding an element of randomness into the equations. Yet my argument has never claimed that choices couldn’t have arisen from random behavior—yet if they did arise from random behavior, then the will wouldn’t properly be considered to have been making the choice. (In my above argument, this would be premises 14-16.)

Secondly, to say that there is some property of the soul that gets around the problem is wishful thinking. As I’ve demonstrated above, it doesn’t matter what X is composed of. There are only two relevant issues: 1) was X created and 2) did X make the choice? If X did make the choice (that is, C is not random) and X was created, then it follows that the choice is, in some fashion, a direct result of the creation of X, no matter what X is.

This is true, mind you, even if the human will is sui generis (which it is not), which leads us to the first objection. Just because man cannot do something obviously doesn’t mean God cannot do something; but there are certain things that are simply impossible to do by definition. A bachelor cannot be married, a square cannot be round, and a created will cannot make choices independent of the properties of its creation.

So the counter that “God has sui generis will, so why can’t humans?” fails because even if we embrace the contradiction and stipulate that man has sui generis will, it is must be a sui generis will that is created. Again, the only way to avoid the logic of the situation is to assert that man’s will is self-existent. If it is created, no matter what physical or immaterial properties are created, then my argument stands.

And with that, I open up the comments once more for continued discussion.