Tuesday, September 24, 2013

God's vineyard

"What more was there for me to do for my vineyard than I have not done with it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?" Isaiah 5:4 
Compatibilist: Well, you could have given us irresistible grace so we would have "most freely" [See Westminster Confession 10:1] yielded grapes pleasing to you. 
Maul Panata Molinist: Put me in the circumstances I would have freely believed. 
Jerry Walls Of course there may not be any such circumstances in any feasible world. 
Maul Panata Of course it's possible God could not give them irresistible grace.

Also, I say that response confuses epistemic with metaphysical possibility.
But, also see this:

Jerry Walls When the smoke clears and the dust settles, I would not be surprised if the two views left standing are Open Theism and Calvinism. 
Maul Panata Jerry, I think you and I just found common ground there! 

Apropos your comment, I find it interesting no one has asked why a God with infallible foreknowledge of future contingents expected the vineyard to yield grapes? 
Jerry Walls Well, that could be anthropomorphic language, or expected in the sense of "would like to have seen it" 
Maul Panata But once we start doing that, Calvinists can employ similar outs. But the force of the "gotcha" seemed to rest on taking phrases woodenly literal. 
Jerry Walls Well, there does seem to be more involved in God doing all he can to elicit good grapes. And there are NUMEROUS passages in the prophets and elsewhere, where God emphasizes how he sent prophets, warnings, and so on over and over, which seems to imply he really wanted Israel to respond positively. So I don't think taking "expect" in the sense I suggest opens the door in the way you suggest. "Preferred" or "would have liked" is a reasonable reading of "expected," at least in English. Not sure if the Hebrew would suggest a different meaning. Lawson Stone, any thoughts here? 
Maul Panata Well, for the Calvinist you are suggesting "what more was there for me to do?" is the problematic part, not the expect part. At least that's what is indicated by the "Calvinist" response to God's question. Right? You're saying "God is sincerely asking that. It's a woodenly literal question. He's requesting information. The Calvinist has an answer: 'You could have given them irresistible grace." This is the sense on which your gotcha rests, right? 
Jerry Walls Yes, and on that matter, my point stands, irrespective of how "expect" is understood. Straightforward meaning is not the same as "woodenly literal." I think the essential point here is that God did indeed enable, encourage, and prefer a different response, and that this makes FAR more sense given libertarian freedom than compatibilist. And the same with many other passages in the prophets where God expresses disappointment, frustration, and the like. Even if there is some degree of anthropomorphism in the disappointment (and maybe there is not), the essential point stands.

A few quick observations:

i) Jerry is used to surrounding himself with cheerleaders. Used to attacking soft targets. But the moment he encounters real competition, his snappy one-liners don't fare as well.

ii) Jerry's prooftext is also inconsistent with his belief in postmortem evangelism. If there was nothing more that God could have done for them in the past (which is the context of the divine exclamation), then recourse to postmortem evangelism implies that God didn't do everything he could have done at the time he said this. 

Isa 5:4 is a present statement (at the time it was spoken) about God's past provision. So if God has already done all he can, there's nothing more he can do in the future (i.e. after death). Conversely, if postmortem evangelism is true, then that entails the inadequacy of God's past, premortem provision. 

iii) There are passages in which God forewarns a prophet that his message will fall on deaf ears. God is telling the prophet ahead of time not to be disappointed by a negative response. Preparing his messenger for that foreseeable outcome. So why would God send a prophet to preach repentance if he "really wanted Israel to respond positively" when he gives the prophet advance knowledge that the message will be spurned?

And that's even before we get to the classic hardening passages. 

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