Thursday, March 10, 2011

I trust him with my life

I'm reposting some comments I originally left at Justin Taylor's blog:

steve hays March 7, 2011 at 10:15 pm
On a related note:

steve hays March 8, 2011 at 7:36 am

“As an evangelical universalist, I’m probably not welcome here. But doesn’t this explanation by Dr Piper illustrate perfectly the speculative gymnastics you have to go through in order to avoid the plain meaning of scripture?”

i) As the link to Helm’s analysis demonstrates, Piper’s explanation is not the only option in Calvinism.

ii) What about the speculative gymnastics a universalist must go through to avoid the plain meaning of Scripture on everlasting punishment?

steve hays March 8, 2011 at 9:08 am

“Hi Mr Truth, don’t you love surprises? :) Yes, a lot of people think that about evangelical universalism, so I was being slightly tongue in cheek in addressing the same criticism at JP! I don’t know if you’ve actually read any EU books or tested their arguments against scripture, but most critics haven’t. When I began to study it I was initially surprised at how robust the biblical exegesis in favour of EU is and how surprisingly thin the biblical support for ECT is.”

I’m a critic of universalism. I’ve read (and reviewed) monographs defending universalism by Robin Parry (aka “Gregory McDonald”), Thomas Talbot, Jan Bonda, and Marilyn McCord Adams. In addition, I’ve directly debated Parry, Talbot, and Jason Pratt. Try again.

steve hays March 8, 2011 at 9:20 am
Arminianism has a two-wills problem. On the one hand, Arminianism says God wants to save everyone, Christ died for everyone, the Holy Spirit confers prevenient sufficient grace on everyone.

On the other hand, the Gospel is not available to everyone (unless you go the postmortem evangelism route).

And even more problematic for Arminianism, God foreknew that by making certain people, he’d be consigning them to hell. So in what sense (even on Arminian assumptions) did he will the salvation of those he created in full knowledge of their hellish fate, even though he was at liberty to spare them that fate by refraining from making them in the first place?

steve hays March 8, 2011 at 10:42 am

“Prevenient Grace is God’s drawing, whooing, removal of hearts of stone, giving hearts of flesh. This takes many forms, creation in and of itself is a form of prevenient grace, it’s not just the preaching of the Gospel that draws men( although this is the most commonly God ordained means of drawing) Dreams, visions, are also somemore of God’s forms of Prevenient Grace… That being said, prevenient grace is poured forth on ALL.”

I didn’t say otherwise. The question is whether believing the Gospel is a prerequisite for salvation. If so, even though the Gospel is not available to everyone, then God’s will is conflicted on Arminian grounds. A universal saving will absent a universal provision.

You could suggest that belief in natural revelation is sufficient for salvation, but that wouldn’t be evangelical Arminianism.

“This is only one view of arminianism, the other is corporate. In other words, God doesn’t predistine individuals but rather 2 groups( The world whose final predestination is hell and the church whose final predestination is heaven).”

I didn’t discuss predestination. I didn’t discuss the basis for election or damnation in Arminian theology (whether conditional election or corporate election).

Rather, I made a general point: classical Arminianism ascribes foreknowledge to God. Therefore, God knowingly and deliberately creates some people who will wind up in hell. Hence, he creates some people with the intention of damning them.

Therefore, the Arminian God is conflicted. On the one hand it’s his will that all be saved. On the other hand he wills the damnation of some by making them despite their foreseeable, infernal fate.

steve hays March 8, 2011 at 11:18 am

“What is it with you guys thinking that your interpretation of scripture is so airtight and perfect?…Universalism isn’t going away, as much as you want it to.”

Needless to say, universalists like Thomas Talbott and Eric Reitan are just as certain that universalism is true. Indeed, there’s a category for their position: “dogmatic universalism.”

“…and some sort of competing, schizophrenic attributes within God…”

i) Well, Reformed theologians like Paul Helm have argued that God isn’t schizophrenic. Did you follow the link?

ii) But as far as that goes, isn’t there something schizophrenic about the universalist deity? Does he love everyone? Or does he love to be loved by everyone? He literally puts the damned through hell to coerce them into loving him back. Kinda like the way Annie Wilkes loves Paul Sheldon in Misery. Loving sledgehammers applied to the knees of her beloved captive.

steve hays March 8, 2011 at 11:23 am

“How is this conflicting? God desires that none should perish, but at the same time frees them up to choose.”

If he “frees them to choose,” but knows they will choose to make themselves damn themselves, then he never intended to save them. So why create them in the first place?

If I have a premonition that by giving my son the keys to the car, he will die in a traffic accident an hour later, then you can’t honestly say I was acting to save his life.

steve hays March 8, 2011 at 4:15 pm

“It’s not that He never intended to save them, He desires that, but the sinner has to respond.”

If he creates them foreknowing their doom, knowing all along that they won’t respond, then, no, he had no intention of saving them.

“As far as why He created them in the first place, the better question would be why didn’t He create only people that would receive Him?”

And how do Arminians answer that question? After all, William Lane Craig is a libertarian who’s argued for the existence of possible worlds with libertarianly free agents all of whom freely accept the Gospel. Where everyone is saved with no infringement on their libertarian freewill.

“Let me ask you is your desire in rearing your children to create moral robots?”

So you’d give the car keys to your son, foreknowing that if you give him the keys, he will die in a completely avoidable traffic accident an hour later. Is that your concept of good parenting?

And how does it make somebody a “moral robot” if you spare him from foreseeable harm? You have an odd concept of love, parenting, and friendship.

“Again if God forced the ‘gift’ then it would be a gift…”

For God to refrain from making hellbound sinners is hardly forcing something upon them.

“Your question here is a little off target. I could ask why did God create say a person that is damned before the foundation of the world and ask that person to repent, knowing they can’t , and then holding them responsible?”

i) Yes, you could ask that question. Of course, asking a diversionary question does nothing to exonerate Arminianism. So is this a tacit admission on your part that you can’t defend Arminianism, you can only attack Calvinism?

Remember, you were the one who was charging Calvinism with a dilemma. If Arminianism faces a comparable dilemma, then where does that leave you?

ii) As for the conditions of responsibility, your question begs the question in favor of libertarian theories of responsibility. But you need to deal with the alternative theories, viz. compatibilism, semicompatibilism, hard determinism. Simply positing your intuitive objection to Calvinism is not an argument. And it ignores the extensive counterarguments.

steve hays March 8, 2011 at 4:43 pm

“You are right that Thomas Talbott and Eric Reitan are convinced universalists but they aren’t labeling anyone a heretic are they? If I am wrong, let me know.

Yes, you’re wrong. Thomas Talbott wrote “The Love of God and the Heresy of Exclusivism” back in 1997. So you’ve nicely illustrated the old adage about shooting first, asking questions later.

“In regards to a universalist God being schizo, I think you are mistaken. First of all, you don’t know what hell in the afterlife is going to be anymore than I do.”

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that that’s the case, then a Calvinist could help himself to the same appeal.

“God often uses pain to love us back to him.”

i) Pain can also drive people away from God. So that’s a double-edged sword.

ii) Moreover, Calvinism can also incorporate elements of a soul-building theodicy. Universalism doesn’t hold the patent on that appeal.

“Look, there are a lot of questions that are hard to answer in our Christian faith. Why an all powerful, good God would allow any evil into the world at all? Why do animals suffer when there is no redemptive purpose? We could go on and on…”

Yes, we could. Of course it’s not as if Calvinism is dumbfounded in the face of those objections. I deal with objections like that on a regular basis.

“We aren’t putting God on trial for evil, or pain, or suffering. We are just believing, based up scripture, theology, and reason that God has a redemptive purpose in all of this suffering. We believe that He loves his creation (all of it) even if it is currently mixed up and distorted by sin. We believe he wants to redeem it and he will use whatever means necessary, even coming to earth to get nailed to a cross for it. It’s not all easy to understand, but it isnt schizo.”

You act as if God was just a passerby at the scene of an accident who gets out of his car to rescue a driver from a burning car. As if God is a fictitious character who pops into the story halfway into the story. But why isn’t the universalist God more like an arsonist who starts the fire, then helps to rescue tenants from the burning building?

You can’t level logical objections to Calvinism, then suspend logic when the same logic cuts into your own position. Either the statute of logical limitations applies to Calvinism and universalism alike, or to neither.

“You have to remember that John Calvin himself sought to kill a man in order to protect God’s glory.”

I also remember that William Laud, the Arminian archbishop, had a long list of victims.

steve hays March 8, 2011 at 5:45 pm
Jason Pratt:

“By the same token, why would the loving father quit trying to give the gift?–I mean if he is omni-competent?”

That’s a good objection to classical Arminianism. Making death the cut-off at death is quite arbitrary on Arminian terms. Classical Arminians do this, not because that’s a logical consequence of Arminianism, but because they think Scripture draws the line at the grave.

Of course, as Jason probably knows, some Arminians (e.g. Jerry Walls) are aware of that tension, and relieve the tension by postmortem evangelism. One could argue that that’s a concession to universalism.

However, that has no traction for Calvinism. The Calvinist God doesn’t need more time to save more sinners. Lack of time is not the reason more sinners aren’t saved. God can, and does, save everyone he intends to save here-and-now.

steve hays March 8, 2011 at 6:11 pm

“You are pretty certain you know why God predestines people to eternal torture before he creates them?”

I have no reason to equate eternal retribution with “torture.” You’ve been watching too many slasher films.

“And you are pretty certain how God allows evil to corrupt his good creation yet is not the author of evil?”

That’s a canned objection which I’ve addressed on many occasions.

“And you are pretty certain why animals suffer when there is no redemptive purpose in their suffering?”

I addressed that objection in some detail in response to John Loftus in The Christian Delusion.

“You are worried that my theology makes God look weak when you are talking about a God who predestined evil, wants to send people to torture people for His own glory, sent his son to die a horrific death on a cross (but not for everyone) and then tells us simultaneously to love our neighbor, pray for those who persecute us, and to turn the other cheek even though he’s just planning to fry the objects of our love and charity for eternity? And my God looks weak?”

i) You’re hung up on “torture”. Why is that? That’s the way infidels like Robert Ingersoll like to smear the Bible. But why assume eternal retribution is equivalent to “torture”? Have you given that serious thought? Or is it just a useful polemical tactic for you to cast the issue in those terms?

ii) You also imagine that you can simply defect objections to universalism by trying to raise objections to Calvinism. But that’s obviously fallacious. When you do this you’re admitting that universalism is indefensible. Therefore, your only fallback is to attack Calvinism, while hoping no one notices that your own flank is exposed.

However, you shoulder your own burden of proof. If you’re going to contend that universalism is morally superior to Calvinism, then you need to deal with the objections head on. Logic cuts both ways.

iii) In addition, it’s not inconsistent for God to shower the reprobate with many common grace blessings in this life. For the lives of the elect and reprobate are intertwined in complex ways. In a common field, sun and rain benefit the wheat and tares alike. Drought damages the tares at the expense of the wheat.

“Your God looks alien on a good day and downright sadistic on a bad one.”

But purgatorial hell is not sadistic. Purgatorial hell is a Disney theme park, right?

steve hays March 8, 2011 at 6:46 pm
Jason Pratt:

“I notice that Annie doesn’t bother to share that misery with him, much less share more than his share of that misery with him.”

I see. So you view the universalist deity more like one of those psychopathic characters in Criminal Minds who makes his victims miserable so that he can commiserate with them.

“Also, Paul is not in fact dependent for his very existence on Annie (though she tries to usurp that role in his life as much as she can); nor is Paul’s rebellion against Annie something that threatens his existence apart from Annie’s grace.”

So if the hostage is totally dependent on his captive, that exculpates the captor.

“I also notice you don’t bring up Annie/Misery examples when discussing things like Hebrews 12 and other places which affirm that God at least can be loving in His chastisements with an eye toward the salvation of the punished one from sin and restoration to fellowship with God.”

Why would I when universalism has no advantage over Calvinism in appropriating that passage?

“But by your own admission elsewhere (including in recent days on this forum, and by reference to the Paul Helm article), you don’t believe God loves the non-elect anyway, especially once they’re in hell.”

True–which is irrelevant to the intended scope of Heb 12.

“So your “Misery” plot analogy totally fails, in one or more ways: either Annie is not situationally parallel to God (which she isn’t, in multiple obvious ways)…”

As I just explained, making her more situationally parallel to the universalist deity makes things worse for universalism.

“…or else she is situationally parallel (which she isn’t) and yet manages to exhibit more stunted love to the one she punishes than God does to the non-elect!”

I don’t think God loves the reprobate.

“Not the best attempt, to say the least, when a Stephen King villain looks more loving (and produces more positive results for that matter) than your idea of God.”

If you prefer, we can drop the cinematic allegory and discuss a real-world example.

Take a teenage prostitute in Bangkok. She was forced from home because her parents had more children than they could feed, and the girls were expendable.

She sells her body for food, as well as drugs to block out the emotional pain of her blighted existence. She’s subject to periodic gang-rape. No one cares what happens to a hooker, least of all the Bangkok police. As a result of her brutalizing experience, she’s a hardbitten atheist.

Up the street is the granddaughter of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. She’s enjoyed every conceivable advantage in life from birth.

When our teenage prostitute is murdered by a John, the universalist God will subject her to centuries of purgatorial hell to make her love him. First he makes her hate him by subjecting her to a hellish life on earth. Then he makes her love him by making her suffer remedial punishment in hell.

BTW, is that your own philosophy of child-rearing?

Would it not seem more loving for the universalist deity to give her a less damaging life on earth, rather than repairing the damage in hell?

Pardon me if I’m a little unclear on the prima facie superiority of universalism over Calvinism.


“Where in scripture does it tell us that foreknowledge is the same as foreordination? Because God foreknows something certainly does not mean He foreordains it to happen.”

A red herring since my argument wasn’t predicated on foreknowledge. Go back and deal with the actual argument.

My argument was predicated on Arminian assumptions: God freely chooses to create a world with foreseeable consequences. These consequences are avoidable inasmuch as God was free to refrain from creating said world.

Therefore, God intended the consequences of his actions. Whatever God does, he intended to do.

“I know that is a common conception held by Calvinists…”

i) I know it’s a common tactic of Arminians to pretend that Calvinists conflate the two, then attack what they deem to be the easier target, since they can’t cope with the argument from foreknowledge.

“…and in holding to that, it makes God the author of sin, and if He authors sin is not His Holiness then tainted?”

i) To begin with, you’d have to define “authorship” in the same sense that historical theology defines “authorship,” then show how Calvinism “makes God the author of sin” according to the historic usage of the term.

ii) You also have to show how Arminianism can avoid making God the “author of sin.” If the Arminian God creates a world with evil foreseeable,  consequences, then God’s fiat is a necessary condition of evil. Moreover, Arminian theology also has a doctrine of concurrence which makes God a cofactor in the evil deeds of the wicked.

“I don’t believe you are correct on your assumption of William Lane Craig, but I do not hold to such a concept, can you throw me a link on Craig that would verify that?”

”Can I answer that will posing the following: why does God in His foreknowing not prevent the same your son from getting the keys knowing full well he is going to die?”

That simply paraphrases the original question since, in the original question, the parent stood for God. So your variant does nothing to advance the argument one way or the other.

“Bottom line God does issue Grace in all of these situations, but doesn’t force us to reach out and grab it.”

“Forcing” is hardly equivalent to preventing. And it’s also tangential to the issue of divine intentionality. Perhaps you already forgot the point of the illustration.

The question is whether the Arminian God intends to save the hellbound. The example of the father and son is designed to illustrate the issue of intentionality. If a father foresees that by giving his son the car keys, his son will die in a traffic accident, did the father intend to save his son’s life? The answer should be obvious.

To say God doesn’t “force” his grace on sinners is a non sequitur. Try to engage the actual argument.

“Well salvation is a gift, but God is forcing the gift on the sinner in Calvinism…”

That’s a persistent caricature of yours, but I’ll continue to ignore it since it’s just a red herring.

I’m not discussing how the Arminian God saves sinners. I’m discussing how the Arminian God never intended to save the damned. You keep confusing distinct issues.

We could go onto to discuss compatibilism, &c., but it’s better to nail down one thing at a time. Otherwise, no progress is made.

steve hays March 9, 2011 at 8:25 am

“Christ draws all, but there is no need to give the gospel to those who resist God’s drawing grace at pre-gospel stages. If someone responds to God’s grace to the point that they are ready to hear the gospel, we can trust God to get the gospel to them, whether through missionaries or radio or dreams or visions or whatever means. God gives more grace and light to those who respond to the grace and light he gives them. So the fact that not all have access to the gospel now does not gainsay God’s genuine desire for them to come to him. Nor is this the only answer to your point, though it is the one I favor. Compelementarily, God has given us the mission to reach the world.”

So God brought the gospel early on to white Europeans since white Europeans were responsive to pre-gospel stages, but God withheld the gospel from sub-Saharan Africans until about the 19C because sub-Saharan Africans were unresponsive to pre-gospel stages. According to “Arminian,” some races are spiritually superior to others.

“If God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person, otherwise His foreknowledge of what the person will do would be wrong (since the person would not in fact do what God knew he would do; indeed, God’s foreknowledge of the person’s existence would be wrong as well!), and God cannot be wrong.”

So “Arminian” denies the freedom of future contingents. The future is not open-ended. The future could not go either way. Rather, the future is inevitable. What will be will be. Arminian fatalism.

“Moreover, God can only know actual things abput people who will actually and certainly exist at some point. He cannot know what someone who never exists would do; there is no person there to ever know anything about.”

i) To deny counterfactual knowledge denies alternate possibilities. Yet libertarian freewill is predicated on alternate possibilities.

Moreover, the Bible ascribes counterfactual knowledge to God (e.g. 1 Sam 23:6-10; Jer 38:17-18).

ii) “Arminian’s” reply is also a red herring. He has yet to show that God wills the salvation of those whose doom he foresaw.

“Hell, but he unconditionally decides that they will commit all the sin they end up in Hell for and that they will reject his gospel and that they will therefore end up in Hell, and he decrees it to be, and they can do no other than he decrees. So more than creating them knowing they will go to Hell, in Calvinism, he unconditionally decides that they will do all that is necessary to go to Hell and makes it so that they must do that and end up in Hell. He predestines their sin and that they go to Hell for what he irresistibly causes them to do. It is astounding to me that anyone believes that.”

i) The decree is not a cause. The decree is a plan. A plan is not a cause.

ii) “Arminian” also needs to show that predestination “causes” the reprobate to do something other than what they were going to do had he not predestined them to a particular course of action.

steve hays March 9, 2011 at 6:35 pm

“First, the gospel may have reached a number of sub-Saharan Africans, those who responded to God’s drawing. We can’t know how many it reached through means other than major missionary endeavor.”

i) What do you actually know about the history of Christian missions in sub-Saharan Africa? Or do you just invent the history you need to dovetail with your theological requirements?

ii) Of course we’d know if it reached many. That would have historical consequences.

iii) You also have a habit of resorting to ad hoc speculations to deflect objections to Arminianism. But, of course, if you’re going to play that game, then the Calvinist can also resort to ad hoc speculations to deflect objections to Calvinism.

“Second, God’s drawing is part of the process of him bringing the gospel to people. So it is misleading to characterize the situation as God withholding the gospel.”

If sub-Saharan Africans weren’t systematically evangelized until the 19C (give or take), then, by definition, God withheld the gospel from them for centuries even though he evangelized the Europeans far earlier.

“Third, it is not simply a matter of God bringing the gospel if one is thinking of missionary spreading of the gospel, since this enterprise involves human free will actions.”

So in the Arminian lottery, sub-Saharan Africans lose since God couldn’t convince missionaries to go there. Whether you’re saved or damned is the luck of the draw. Europeans got lucky.

“In harmony with his attempt to saddle Arminianism with Calvinism’s problems, he assumes that being responsive to the gospel comes from being spiritually superior. Apparently he thinks he was superior for believing the gospel.”

On Arminian grounds, yes. From an Arminian standpoint, everyone has sufficient grace, but some take advantage of sufficient grace while others do not. So the differential factor lies in the human agent.

“But Arminianism does not regard yielding to God’s grace or believing as coming from spiritual superiority.”

How does “Arminian” account for the racial disparities in the ethnic and geographical distribution of Christendom? He’s already chalked that up to the fact that some people are responsive while others are not. Therefore, he must think white Europeans are more responsive than sub-Saharan Africans.

Historically, that would mean white Europeans are generally more receptive to the gospel than black Africans (or Chinese, or Arabs). So, yes, that amounts to a theory of racial superiority–given his Arminian assumptions.

“So are we to conlcude that according to Steve/Calvinism, God loves some races more than others?”

God is more gracious to some people-groups at sometimes than others. In OT times, God was more gracious to Israelites than Iroquois.

In the course of church history, it moves around. Right now the global South is the epicenter of Christian growth. For instance, Christianity is currently dying in Europe, but burgeoning in China.

“I don’t deny the freedom of future contingents. I deny that future free actions are irresistibly predetermined. Steve’s argument falls on the crucial and basic distinction between certainty and necessity.”

Show where my argument was predicated on “irresistible predetermination.”

“It is simply that what will be does not *have to* be that way. It could be otherwise, given the freedom of the agents involved.”

Which contradicts your earlier claim that “If God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person otherwise His foreknowledge of what the person will do would be wrong.”

In that case the future actions of the human agent can’t be open-ended. If the outcome is uncertain, it can’t be known.

“Also, Steve calls the the future not being open-ended, not being able to go either way, being inevitable, fatalism. But that is the cAkvinuist position. So Steve seems to implicitly admt that Calvinism is a form of fatalism.”

It’s fatalistic for an Arminian to say that God can only know the future, not control the future.

“I did not deny counterfactual knowledge in general, but counterfactual knowledge of nothing (i.e., of ‘people’ who never exist; it is even inaccurate to talk about ‘people who never exist’ because the point is actually that ‘they’ never exist; indeed, there is never ever any ‘they’ to speak of; to say that God knows what someone who never exists would do specifically is nonsensical).”

i) All you’re doing here is to parrot an argument by Ben Henshaw–an argument that even his Arminian cohort Brennon Hartshorn handily dismantled in the combox:

ii) In addition, you lack even a rudimentary grasp of modal metaphysics. Possible persons and possible worlds are abstract objects. They do, indeed, “exist,” but their mode of subsistence is suited to abstract objects. They are unexemplified in time and space. That’s the distinction. An actual person a possible person actualized.

iii) It’s by no means “nonsensical” to say that possible persons can be objects of knowledge. God has ideas of possible people. When God creates a person, he creates a person according to his idea of that person. He instantiates his idea. The actual person corresponds to his idea.

“Which I fully agree with. But notice that that counterfactual knowledge is of people who exist.”

No. The counterfactual referent is not to actual people in this world-segment, but to their counterparts in two (or more) possible world-segments.

“Scripture tells us that he desires the salvation of all. That is even the point that Piper and many Calvinists incoherently concede.”

Quoting Scripture does nothing to show that Arminian theology is internally consistent. Indeed, you’re dodging the logical implications of Arminian theology.

In Classical Arminianism, God foreknows the future. God freely creates the world. God was free to abstain from making the world. God foresees that if he makes certain persons, he will send them to hell. Therefore, explain, from the Arminian assumptions I just mentioned, how God wills the salvation of those he knowingly creates with a hellish denouement awaiting them.

“Let’s get this straight: you are denying that God’s predestining decree is the ultimate cause of all that happens? That which happens does not happen because God decreed that it be so? What is the relation between God’s predestining decree and what takes place then? Can anything ever happen other than God unconditionally decided to decree? And if not, if everything happens according to what God first decreed and cannot be otherwise than he decreed, then how can you say that his decree does not cause what he decrees to come to pass? You seem to be advocating an abnormal, eccentric Calvinist position, unless you are playing around with some sort of formal lexical technicality that when explained will be tantamount to just what I said.”

i) Does a blueprint cause a building to rise from the ground up? No. Even though the building corresponds to the blueprint, the blueprint didn’t cause the building to form.

ii) What causes things to happen are primary causality and secondary causality.

iii) If you wish, you could use a broader definition of causality, such as:

“E causally depends on c if and only if, if c were to occur e would occur; and if c were not to occur e would not occur.”

If, however, you use that definition, then the Arminian God caused sin and evil by both making and concurrently sustaining the world.

“On Calvinistic assumptions, the reprobate could never do anything differently than he does because it was God who decided what he would do…”

Because “Arminian” can’t deal with my actual arguments, he has a habit of substituting a different proposition in its place. Let’s go back to what I actually said:

“Arminian” also needs to show that predestination “causes” the reprobate to do something other than what they were going to do had he not predestined them to a particular course of action.”

I use the word “cause” because you use the word “cause.”

To say:

“a reprobate could never do anything differently than he was predestined to do”

is not equivalent to:

“predestination makes a reprobate do something other than what he was going to do (absent predestination).”

Those are not convertible propositions. So go back and interact with my actual formulation.

steve hays March 10, 2011 at 9:36 am

“I did not say it reached many, but that we don’t know how many were reached. We just don’t have that information, and God is capable of reaching people apart from missionary endeavor. We hear of many unbelievers seeing visions of the Lord or otherwise miraculously being exposed to his truth. The point is simple.”

The simple point is that if sub-Saharan Africa had been evangelized to the same extent as Europe, you’d have a comparable effect.

“Again, I just disagree. As I said, God’s drawing is part of the process of him bringing the gospel to people.”

i) One problem is the way you invent artificial dichotomies, where God’s “drawing” is prior to evangelization, and evangelization is contingent on a prior phase of drawing.

ii) And it still doesn’t solve the ethnic/geographical discrepancy, since you believe the same processes are in play for both people-groups throughout church history. So you have to explain why one people-group is more responsive than another.

“Since it is due to people’s responsible free will actions, then it is not some sort of lottery or luck.”

Since you can’t follow your own argument, I’ll have to explain it to you. There are three parties to the transaction: God, the missionary, and the unreached.

Both the missionary and the unreached are free agents. However, you made the evangelization of the unreached contingent on whether God can cajole missionaries to evangelize them. If missionaries refuse to go to sub-Saharan Africa, then the unreached lost the Arminian lottery. Europeans got lucky.

“Moreover, given my other comments, getting the gospel would not be contingent solely on those actions of others. It is also due partly to how one responds to God’s grace.”

And by your argument, sub-Saharan Africans are less responsive than white Europeans.

“But again, in your Calvinist view, it has nothing to do with the person and would seem to be up to the luck of the arbitrary divine draw.”

Mercy is not equivalent to a lottery. Mercy involves the personal discretion of a personal agent. And it presupposes the unworthiness of the recipients.

“You seem to have a tactic of taking what is solidly true and unpalatable of Calvinism and trying to smear Arminianism with it. But it just doesn’t stick to Arminian theology.”

Actually, Arminianism has proven to be quite sticky in my exchanges with you.

“And your attempt underscores how profound the problems are for your view/Calvinism.”

You keep repeating that claim as if it’s self-evidently true. But repeating your Arminian assumptions doesn’t make them true.

“You largely don’t even try to defend Calvinism against such charges, but seem to recognize much of them as true and so are trying to drag Arminian theology down into the same pit of trouble.”

i) Maybe it’s just your ignorance, but I’ve had many face-to-face debates with Arminians (posted on my blog) where I defend Calvinism. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel ever time I discuss the same issues.

ii) However, you’re the one who initiated an attack on Justin’s post. In so doing, you assume a burden of proof. It’s sufficient for me to answer you on your own terms.

iii) The problem you and other hostile commenters have is that you imagined you could take a free shot at Calvinism and escape unscathed. You didn’t expect to encounter serious resistance. Now you’re having to figure out how to retreat without sustaining fatal injuries.

“The differential factor lying in a person does not imply spiritual superiority since Scripture is clear that faith is non-meritorious.”

Quoting Scripture does nothing to resolve internal tensions in Arminian theology. You have yet to account for the ethnic/geographical discrepancies in their response to the gospel. Why is one people-group underrepresented while another people-group is overrepresented? Invoking libertarian freewill won’t do the trick, for that operates on individuals rather than collectives.

“Well actually, sub-Saharan Africans seem to be more responsive at present.”

Which is easy to explain if the systematic evangelization of sub-Saharan Africa only got underway in the 19C.

“There are probably a host of reasons, much contingent on free human actions.”

So why is one people-group more responsive than another people-group? Is one group freer than another? Wiser than another?

“But for Steve’s Calvinist view, on his logic, God must love White Europeans more than sub-Saharan Africans.”

Perhaps you lack the aptitude to follow my argument. As I already explained to you, grace can operate sequentially rather than simultaneously. God favored more Jews in OT times, but favored more Gentiles in the course of church history–at least up until now. A synchronic total can be the same as a diachronic total. Do you finally understand this time around?

“Again, since Steve claims to be granting Arminian assumptions, it does not. because on Arminian assumptions, receiving to God’s grace and believing do not come from superiority.”

It is wise to accept the gospel, and foolish to reject the gospel. Therefore, by Arminian lights, white Europeans were wiser than black Africans (and other underrepresented ethnic groups).

“Which on Steve’s/Calvinist premises is a way iof saying that God loves some races more than others.”

It’s just a fact that in OT times, God showed greater favor to Israel, by adopting Israel, than he did to Israel’s pagan neighbors–not to mention ancient denizens of the New World. If you have a problem with that, then you’re impugning God’s character.

“But that same argument could be given in response to your claims about racial superiority. If some peoples are more receptive to the gospel than at other times in history, and you think that this shows God does not love some races more than others, then it would seem on your own logic that your argument about racial superiority does not hold up. On the same logic it could not be said that some races are superior.”

Arminianism locates the differential factor in the libertarianly free human agent. Calvinism does not. Therefore, you’re comparing the incomparable. Nice try. Try again.

“I was not saying that your argument was predicated on that, but explaining that you mischaracterized my view. You claimed that I denied the freedom of future contingents. But I didn’t.”

You denied the freedom of future contingents when you said, “If God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person otherwise His foreknowledge of what the person will do would be wrong.”

Moving along:

“Another false conclusion. Since God’s foreknowledge of free human actions is contingent on what those free people will do in the future, God’s foreknowledge cannot be wrong. It simply mirrors what will happen. That in no way conflicts with the freedom of the agents.”

i) In which case they can’t be free to do other than what he knows.

ii) However, you’ve also said that God can’t know what nonentities will do. But what humans “will” to is an existential proposition about the future. Yet they don’t exist in the future. They only exist in the present.

Indeed, they don’t exist at all unless God brings them into being. So, on your own assumptions, how can God know what nonentities will do? What they do can’t be known unless and until they exist.

iii) On a related note, libertarianism is committed to A-theory presentism. On the B-theory, there’s a sense in which people exist in the future, but on that view, the future is a given. So that’s incompatible with libertarian freedom.

“But I didn’t deny that it is certain. It is certain, but not necessitated by anyone other than the free agent.”

If the outcome is certain, then it can’t go either way. Indeed, your own position as a type of necessity. As David Widerker points out:

“Since in them God is assumed to be infallible, the fact D(B) occurs at T is entailed (in the broadly logical sense) by the prior fact of God’s believing at T’ that D(B) occurs at T (T’ is early than T) In this sense, D(B) can be said to be metaphysically necessitated or metaphysically determined by that belief of God,” The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 328.

And the Boethian maneuver won’t save the day for you either, as philosophers like David Hunt and Linda Zagzebski have detailed.

“On his own logic, Calvinism is a form of fatalism.”

i) Wrong. In Calvinism, God doesn’t know a future he can’t control. Rather, God knows the future by controlling the future. In no sense is that fatalistic.

ii) In your Arminian theory, by contrast, God’s knowledge is fated by the future actions of his creatures. Indeed, his very actions are fated by the future actions of his creatures, for he’s unable to refrain from creating what he foresees, and what he foresees is contingent on what his (human) creatures will freely do.

“Third, Arminians don’t say that God can only know the future not control it. He can do whatever he wants.”

Which contradicts your two prior statements: “If God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person otherwise…God’s foreknowledge of free human actions is contingent on what those free people will do in the future…”

In that event, God can’t do whatever he wants. You’ve twisted yourself into knots.

“And I believe that Ben refuted Brennon’s objections.”

And I believe that Brennon refuted Ben’s objections.

“You can try to dress it up with philosophical language, but ‘people’ who never exist, ummmm, never exist. That’s true by definition. There are no such ‘people’. The point is that they never exist, and there is not even a ‘they’ to speak of. The difference is one of potentiality vs. actuality.”

You haven’t presented a counterargument. All you’ve done is to repeat yourself while blowing past the argument I gave.

“I don’t think that is how God creates people generally. You need to substantiate that.”

Well, you don’t state how you think God creates people generally. You present no alternative.

“Moreover, what you are talking about God is planning the person.”

So we’re back to the Arminian lottery. God doesn’t have a preconception of what he makes. Not a clue. Instead, God turns the crank on the basket, reaches into the basket, and pulls a ticket at random, then sees what it says. Is that it?

“The biblical text represents the knowledge being about actual people, what would such and such people do given this or that contingency…If the Bible says God knew what the men of Keilah would do, then it is the men of Keilah that involved, not different people who are mere counterparts in a merely possible world.”

What they “would” to has reference, not to the actual world, but two or more alternate timelines–one of which will become a part of the actual world. For what they “would” do includes what they won’t do. Contrary-to-fact propositions. Unexemplified possibilities. For only one “would be” becomes what “will be.”

“I know about possible worlds language, but do not think it is helpful.”

If you reject possible worlds, you reject alternate possibilities–in which case no one can have the freedom to do otherwise.

“How am I to show that God desires the salvation of all apart from Scripture? The word of God must be the final word in matters of truth/doctrine.”

The fact that Arminians quote Scripture doesn’t show that Arminian theology is coherent with Scripture. Arminian theology contains a set of propositions with logical implications. Quoting Scripture doesn’t resolve the self-contradictions inherent in Arminian theology. Indeed, all you’ve demonstrated is that Arminian theology as a whole contradicts its own prooftexts.

The question at issue is not what God (allegedly) desires, but whether the Arminian theologian is consistent.

“I have already explained it, and answered your objections to my explanation. I would just refer you to what I have said in my posts.”

In other words, when your back is to the wall, all you can do is repeat yourself. To say you responded is unresponsive, for I interacted with your prior response. Therefore, defaulting to your prior response is unresponsive to my counterargument.

If you offer a reply, and I draw attention to flaws in your reply, it does you no good to refer the reader back to your previous reply. For I already engaged you on that level. You therefore need to advance the argument. You need to explain how my critique of your previous reply was inadequate.

Your refusal to do so at this stage of the debate signals the fact that you’ve exhausted your repertoire of pat answers. You have nothing in reserve.

Let’s review the Arminian dilemma: By making hellbound sinners, God dooms them to hell. Indeed, foredooms them to hell. God knows that by creating them he is thereby damning them.

And whatever God does, God wills to do. God wills the outcome of his actions. God intends the consequences of his deeds–including dire consequences.

For the consequences are both foreseeable and avoidable. It lay in his power to refrain from creating a situation with that result.

Therefore, on Arminian assumptions, God didn’t intend to save the hellbound.

“Re: some of Steve’s comments about divine decrees and cause, I posted further comments that addressed this issue, but Steve has not interacted with them. (He might not have seen them before he responded.) So I will leave it to him to respond to those further comments.”

All you did was paraphrase something you said before, without making a substantive revision.

“That seems to be trying to win a point by claiming victory rather than giving substantive argument.”

No, it’s not a bare claim. I documented your substitution. You’re not arguing in good faith.

“No I don’t. Why would I? Did you read what I said? I answered this directly, but you almost seem to have not read it. This is ironic in light of your comments about dealing with your arguments.”

To the contrary, I gave a specific response to your specific claim. That’s in the public record. Just scroll up a ways. It’s all there for all to see.

“Moreover, there is no reason why you should decree what I have to show, particularly when it is not even relevant to what we are discussing.”

i) You’re welcome to duck the arguments you can’t refute. That’s a tacit admission of defeat on your part.

ii) Asserting that it’s irrelevant doesn’t make it irrelevant. If you think it’s irrelevant, then you need to argue for your contention.

iii) And it’s clearly relevant to what you said,since my response was tracking your statement.

“I completely agree that they are not the same. I never said they were. Your comments about it are odd and off topic.”

So you admit that they’re not the equivalent, yet you substituting a different proposition for what I said, then proceeded to attack your substitute position as if that’s equivalent to attacking what I said.

steve hays March 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm

“On Calvinistic assumptions, the reprobate could never do anything differently than he does because it was God who decided what he would do (via his decrees made in eternity) and rendered it necessary and certain by his sovereignty. The insuperable problem for Calvinism in this area continues as strong as ever…”

Notice that “Arminian” hasn’t even attempted to show how this constitutes an insuperable problem for Calvinism. All he’s done is to summarize his understanding of reprobation, then declare this to be an insuperable problem. He assumes what he needs to prove.

His modus operandi is just like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who deem it sufficient to cite passages from the OT they find offensive, then wax indignant that anyone could believe the OT. Even if his summary were accurate, he hasn’t given a reason to think Calvinism is false.

“Indeed, the attempt only highlights how serious the problems for Calvinism are.”

Once again, notice his modus operandi. He stipulates that these are “serious problems” for Calvinism. But he hasn’t made a case for his verdict. All he’s done is summarize his understanding of Calvinism, then express his disapproval. But that’s not an argument. That’s just his tendentious opinion. Where’s the argument?

“For in the Calvinist view, God does not merely create people he knows will end up in Hell, but he unconditionally decides that they will commit all the sin they end up in Hell for and that they will reject his gospel and that they will therefore end up in Hell, and he decrees that it should be, and they can do no other than he decrees. So more than creating them knowing they will go to Hell, in Calvinism, he unconditionally decides that they will do all that is necessary to go to Hell and makes it so that they must do that and end up in Hell. He predestines their sin and that they go to Hell for what he irresistibly causes them to do by his sovereign implementation of his eternal decrees.”

i) It’s fallacious for him to infer that if election is unconditional, then reprobation must be unconditional. Where’s the argument?

ii) The term “irresistible” is customarily applied to regeneration.

iii) He also acts as if drawing a contrast between Calvinism and Arminianism automatically exonerates Arminianism. But to say things like “So more than creating them knowing they will go to Hell…” does nothing to show that merely “creating them knowing they will go to hell” exculpates Arminianism.

“It is astounding to me that anyone believes that.”

Calvinists believe that because we, unlike Arminians, have faith in God. We trust God with our lives. We trust God to plan our lives. We trust God to have a good purpose for whatever befalls us.

Arminians don’t think God is trustworthy. They doubt his wisdom and providence. They want to plan their own lives.

If you can’t trust God with your life, how can you trust him for eternal life?

1 comment:

  1. The utter blindness of Arminian apologists never ceases to amaze me.