Monday, March 14, 2011

Big hat, no cattle

steve hays March 12, 2011 at 10:21 am
William Birch March 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm

“So, let me get this straight: Arminians should have a problem with how God sovereignly governs His world (in the manners in which you noted) — not because He ‘must be fair,’ as you so inaccurately put it — because He allows, permits, or even establishes things as they are, not by decree but by His perfect counsel and foreknowedge? Yet, as Calvinism constantly demonstrates, God did not merely foresee and allow or permit all things which come to pass (because then God would allegedly be dependent upon man for His knowledge, as Calvinists argue): He decreed all things which come to pass. He did not foresee or foreknow this or that: He decreed all things which come to pass. And it’s Arminianism that has the problem or burden of proof? Right.”

i) Apparently, Birch can’t follow the argument. For him to highlight perceived problems in Calvinism misses the point, for Jared is taking what Arminians find objectionable in Calvinism as his presupposition, then developing an argument from analogy. Yes, Arminians find various things in Calvinism objectionable. Yet Arminianism is vulnerable to similar objections.

ii) Notice that Birth doesn’t even attempt to defend Arminianism on its own grounds. He simply tries to shift the issue to Calvinism. But that’s a tacit admission that Arminianism is indefensible.

iii) Also, the Arminian God does more than merely foresee the outcome, as if the outcome would happen all by itself. By creating the world and sustaining the world through his concurrent providence, God is a necessary cofactor in the outcome. None of this would happen without the active participation of the Arminian God.

“God has decreed everything, but from our perspective, due to His exhaustive foreknowledge of all things, not merely by decreeing what shall be, and then bringing to pass what shall be, as in Calvinism.”

i) Notice Billy’s tactic of trying to highlight differences between Calvinism and Arminianism. But that’s beside the point. He needs to demonstrate the theodicean relevance of these differences for Arminianism.

For instance, there are different ways of murdering a person. You can use a knife, or poison, or hire an assassin. But highlighting different ways of murdering a person isn’t ipso facto exculpatory.

ii) Likewise, Jared’s post was predicated on God’s exhaustive foreknowledge in Arminian theism. So for Birch to repeat what Jared already stipulated does nothing to resolve the ostensible problems for Arminianism.

“IMO, it’s a desperate attempt at a tu quoque.”

To say it’s a “desperate attempt” is not an argument.

“Let’s get to a much larger and worse issue, that of Calvinism. So, if God has merely decreed everything according to His plan, explain how God decreed the birth of the innocent babies in Israel’s enemies that He decreed to be killed by Israel?”

Notice that he hasn’t actually shown how that’s “much worse.” All he’s done is to summarize the Reformed position. But even if that’s an accurate summary, where’s the argument to show how it’s “much worse”?

“BTW, I thank you for admitting that God has decreed all that evil, and is the Author of Sin and Evil. I could not have asked for any better response from a Calvinist.”

How does Billy define “author of evil”?

If the Arminian God is a cofactor in evil by making and concurrently sustaining a world with foreseeable and avoidable evils, then how does that exempt the Arminian God from the authorship of evil?

“Where we disagree with Calvinists on God’s sovereignty is the manner in which He decreed all things. For Arminians, He decreed all things by His exhaustive foreknowledge of all things.”

That difference is irrelevant to Jared’s post since Jared’s post is predicated on the Arminian God’s exhaustive foreknowledge. To keep repeating something Jared said in his post in no way rebuts his post. Rather, that concedes and confirms a key premise of his post.

For someone who’s been reading and writing about Arminianism for several years now, you’d think Birch could cobble together a better argument.

steve hays March 12, 2011 at 5:05 pm
William Birch
“Birch was trying to communicate that we do not deny any of the alleged ‘problems’ pointed out by Jared. These are only problems in the Calvinist’s mind for Arminian theology.”

Either Birch still doesn’t get it, or he gets it, but pretends that he doesn’t because he has no rebuttal. Did Jared allege that Arminians deny these things? No. That wasn’t the issue.

To the contrary, Jared credits Arminians with affirming these things. That, in turn, raises the question of why Arminians think Reformed predestination suffers from theodicean problems, but Arminian theism does not.

“We do not deny God’s sovereignty. What we deny is that God has meticulously decreed what we shall choose, etc.”

Once again, that’s a nonissue. The question was not if you affirm it, but the theodicean implications what you affirm given your objections to Calvinism.

“I didn’t realize when I commented here that I was obligated to exhaustively defend Arminian theology.”

You didn’t defend Arminian theology at all. And it’s certainly not a problem for me if you leave the Arminian outpost defenseless. I’ll bring the torches.

“Are you or Jared not familiar with Arminianism?”

Once again, Billy, what’s your problem? Do you still not get it, or do you feign not getting it? Was the issue if Arminian theology affirms these things? No. The issue was the theodicean implications of what it affirms.

“We do not deny God’s sovereign right to govern His creation.”

You keep tilting at windmills, Billy. Why is that?

“What we do deny is that God can decree sin or evil, which is exactly what Calvinism teaches — for all things have been meticulously decreed by God, not by foreseen free will choices of His creatures, but merely by His design.”

Once more, Billy, simply comparing and contrasting Arminianism with Calvinism does nothing to solve the problem of evil for Arminianism. Yes, there are differences. But the question at issue is whether the differences are germane to the problem of evil.

“You gotta love the ‘Arminian God’ bit. Can we call your view of God the ‘Calvinist God,’ as though He is to be differentiated from the God of our Lord Jesus Christ? Just asking.”

Do you really need me to explain it to you? We’re comparing Arminian theism with Reformed theism. Therefore, I use distinguishing terms to distinguish the two positions for ease of reference.

“We agree with this third point wholeheartedly. Our doctrine of divine concurrence is exactly that. Since in Him we live and move and have our being, whatever we freely choose to do, He concurs with it and we thereby carry it out.”

So Arminian theology makes God a coconspirator in sin and evil. An accomplice to evildoers. And why is that morally superior to Calvinism?

“But in Calvinism, God has decreed what we shall do — not by our own free choices futurely foreseen, but by merely by His decree — and we carry it out according to His sovereign timeline.”

Once again, Billy, differentiating Arminianism from Calvinism does nothing to absolve Arminianism. Do you think people should be free to do whatever they please? If you and your wife were taking a stroll through the park, and a mugger attacked your wife, would you allow him to get away with it? Would you concur with his free choice. Or would you defend your wife?

Why do you fail to see how shallow and inadequate your responses are in addressing the problem of evil from an Arminian perspective?

“Again, and Arminianism is seen to have the same problem(s) regarding God’s sovereignty?”

You have yet to show how your metaphysical distinctions are morally salient.

“Arminius admitted that when God concurs with a person, when he or she sins, He does so not with delight, not according to a necessitarian decree, but because He has created a world in which free creatures make their own (at times sinful) decisions.”

Well, among other things, that’s simplistic. A child-killer may act freely (as you define it), but it’s not as if the child freely consented to be murdered. So why does the Arminian God concur with the murderous free choice of the child-killer rather than concurring with the desire of the innocent child not to be murdered? You seem to think that merely summarizing the rudiments of Arminian providence ipso facto exonerates Arminian providence.

Here’s a situation with two “free” agents–the child and the child-killer. And what the child wills conflicts with what the child-killer wills. The child-killer wills to kill the child while the child wills to live. So why does the Arminian God concur with the will of the child-killer rather than the will of the child?

“And did I not explicitly define ‘author of evil’ when I wrote above, responding to Dave Miller (March 11, 2011 at 6:58 pm), “What does it mean to be the ‘author’ of anything but that the individual is the originator of a thing.”

On that definition, the Arminian God is the originator of sin and evil, for he originates the world in which sin and evil transpire.

“But God’s decree of all things, in Arminianism, is based on His allowing people to make free will choices — He decrees what He knows we shall freely choose to do, and He weaves everything thereby according to a plan for the ages.”

i) No, he doesn’t decree what he knows we shall do. Rather, he decrees what he knows we would do (and will do) if he chose (or chooses) to make a world in which those foreseeable events transpire. It’s not as if Arminians think the world is inevitable, do they? That would be necessitarian.

ii) No, he doesn’t simply allow people to make libertarian choices. Rather, he allows (and enables, via his providential concurrence) some free agents to violate the freedom of other free agents. He allows (and enables) the child-killer to violate the child’s freedom of choice.

“I fail to see how that is a ‘problem,’ so to speak, for Arminian theology.”

Surely you’re not serious. How is the problem of evil classically stated? “Why did God allow it?” “How can God allow that to happen?”

For you to say God allows evil to happen is not a solution to the problem of evil. To the contrary, that’s how the problem of evil is typically formulated.

“Do you not see how polar opposite those two confessions are, and how offensive this Calvinistic view is to God’s honor and character, and how Arminianism alleviates God of this very difficult problem of decreeing what we shall do?”

There is nothing to see since you never present an argument. Merely stating the respective positions is not a reason to prefer one over the other. You haven’t shown what is wrong with Calvinism or what is right with Arminianism. You haven’t given us a single reason for either conclusion. All you’ve done is to repeatedly summarize both positions and to compare both positions. That’s not an argument, Billy. That’s merely exposition. We’re waiting for you to get beyond exposition to analysis.

steve hays March 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm
William Birch
“And this — among numerous other reasons — is what makes dialoguing with Steve Hays next to impossible.”

Actually, Birch’s problem is simpler: he’s incapable of arguing for Arminianism, and he’s incapable of arguing against Calvinism. He merely describes the two positions, as if a bare description proves one position is true while the other is false.

“What Jared and Hays are actually doing is admitting that Calvinism inherently has the problem of God being the Author of sin and evil, but they 1) neither want to admit it, or 2) want to scream to everyone else: “Hey, Arminians have the same problem.’”

What Birch is trying to do is win by labeling the other position. I haven’t admitted or denied that Calvinism makes God the “author of sin” since that phrase is a cipher. It’s not an intellectually serious way of framing theodicean issues.

Notice, too, that Birch is dodging the question of whether Arminianism makes God the author of sin–by his own definition.

“That God concurs when a person desires to do evil, because He a) doesn’t stop it, or/and b) gives them ability to perform said evil by not killing them (or making them unable to perform said evil)…”

But that distinction is no solution to the problem of evil. Doing wrong is wrong. However, failing to prevent wrongdoing can also be wrong. If a commanding officer allows a subordinate officer to murder a POW, the commanding officer is culpable even though he himself didn’t murder the POW. He is culpable for failing to stop the subordinate officer from murdering the POW.

Likewise, giving someone the ability to do wrong when you foresee that they will use the ability you’ve given them to do wrong can also be wrong. If an arms dealer sells weapons to a terrorist even though he knows the terrorist will use the weapons to kill innocent men, women, and children at a shopping mall, then the arms dealer is culpable.

So Birch has yet to present a credible alternative Arminian theodicy.

“…does not implicate God or blight His holy character or nature.”

Birch is not entitled to claim that for Arminianism. If he’s going to level moralistic attacks on Calvinism, then he can’t beg the question in favor of Arminianism.

“Yet Calvinists and Calvinism will have us believe that God can decree a person to sin, decreeing both primary and secondary causes, and still is not the Author of sin and evil.”

The “author of evil” is just a rhetorical decoy. Birch bandies “author of evil” as if that’s culpable. Yet he has offer no reason to show that even if God were the “originator” of evil (which is true on Arminian grounds), that it’s culpable to be the originator of evil. Where is Birch’s argument?

“Why? Because Steve Hays says so! He has spoken.”

That is simply a lie. I gave a supporting argument for my statement. Where is Birch’s counterargument?

“That God allows a measure of freedom, whereby people freely choose to perform evil, without His having previously decreed that free people perform evil, actually is a ‘solution’ to the problem of evil — not that it is a viable ‘solution’ for Hays, mind you. What shall God do in a world which has been established by Him wherein people make free choices — free choices even to do evil — and makes people responsible for their free choices? Shall He stop them from making and carrying out free choices? We think not.”

That’s a false dichotomy even on libertarian grounds.

Which is better–that the child-killer be free to kill the child, but be held responsible for his actions, or that the child be free to live? Invoking freedom is no solution, for even on libertarian grounds, someone’s freedom will be infringed. The child wishes to live, the killer wishes the child to die. The child’s freedom of choice and the killer’s freedom of choice can’t both be upheld. For the child chooses to live while the killer chooses to murder.

So, Billy, how is the freewill defense “actually a solution to the problem of evil”?

Moreover, if human agents are truly free to do otherwise, because there are possible worlds in which alternate timelines play out, then why doesn’t the Arminian God create the possible world in which libertarian agents freely do good?

“You all will pardon me if I no longer engage with Hays. His statements are really too ridiculous to wrestle with.”

The face-saving bravado of the sore loser.

steve hays March 13, 2011 at 10:39 am
“So, Calvinist God decrees the child killer to kill the innocent child?”

Yes, the Calvinist God has a master plan for the world. This includes evil events. Evil events are evil in themselves, but they can also be a source of good. Take the experience of Joseph, who was betrayed by his brothers, enslaved, then imprisoned, before he rose to the prime ministry–in which position he saved his own family and many others from famine.

What’s your alternative? Do you think evil events are unplanned events? Do you think things simply happen that God never intended to happen? Is the world a runaway train?

ii) Likewise, how do you think that’s worse than the Arminian God foreseeing a preventable tragedy, like a murdered child, but not intervening to preempt the tragedy, and, indeed, facilitating the tragedy by creating and enabling the killer?

“Why hold the child killer responsble since his behavior was decreed by God? Holding him responsible denotes that we believe he had a choice.”

That begs the question. Since people only make one choice at a time, why do you think it’s essential for them to have options they never act on?

Suppose I stand before three closed doors: A, B, and C. Suppose all three are unlocked. In principle, I can open any one of them. But I only choose B.

Conversely, suppose, unbeknownst to me, that A and C are locked. I can’t go open them even if I wanted to. But if I was only going to open B all along, if I wasn’t going to open A and C anyway, then what does it matter if I couldn’t?

I made the choice of opening B even though, unbeknownst to me, I had no other choice. But how is that relevant unless I intended to exercise a different option?

“If all the horror on earth is by God’s specific decrees then it has to be good even if it is evil.”

That’s simplistic. Take the crucifixion of Christ. Was that good or evil?

“So why would God want to ultimately avenge what He decreed? Would He not be seeking vengence upon Himself in a way because He decreed these specific things to be so in the first place not giving those doing evil any free will choice?”

Why does a novelist make the villain come to a bad end when the novelist created the villain in the first place? Because the fate of the villain serves a dramatic purpose in the larger narrative.

“What you are describing is a God that forces some to do unspeakable evils and then punishes them eternally for it.”

Now you introduce the word “force.” Where did that come from? Are the wicked acting against their will?

111 steve hays March 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm

“You realize, Steve, you are implying that God spent all that time in the OT speaking to the Isrealites to come back to Him when all the time He was making sure most would not.”

You mean like this?

Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.
(Isa 6:10).

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