Saturday, April 01, 2017

The Immortal dies!

Apostate Dale Tuggy did a presentation at what is euphemistically called the 21 Century Reformation conference (code language of unitarianism):

1. Since so much of his analysis turns on the definition of terms, I'm going to define how I use my terms:

i) To be a normal human being is to be a composite entity. A complete human being unites a physical body with an immortal, immaterial soul. 

ii) Put another way, I subscribe to substance dualism. I regard the human mind or consciousness as ontologically independent of the body. 

iii) I'm not using "immaterial" in a merely negative sense. Rather, I view "immaterial" as a synonym for mental. 

iv) Human nature isn't something a human being is, but has. A human being is a concrete exemplification or property instance of a human nature. If we view human nature as an abstract universal, then to be human is to be a concrete particular. By "concrete," I mean existing in space and/or time. Angels exist in time, but not in space. Humans naturally exist in both, although humans can exist in time but not in space (the intermediate state).

v) Jesus is a composite individual. Jesus unites a divine nature to a human nature. To be more precise, Jesus unites the divine Son to a human body and rational soul. 

vi) Something can be mysterious without being contradictory or unintelligible. For instance, I have no firsthand experience of what it's like to be a wolf. As a human, I can't assume a lupine viewpoint. I can't think like a wolf. I don't understand lupine psychology from the inside out.

By the same token, sight is the dominant sense in humans, whereas scent is the dominant sense in wolves. I don't know what it's like to perceive world through a wolf's enhanced sense of scent. That experience is alien to me.

As such, there are aspects of lupine nature that are mysterious to humans. But it's hardly special pleading to say that. 

vii) Apropos (vi), we have no direct experience of what it's like to be God. We have no direct experience of what it's like to be a theanthropic person. The hypostatic union is mysterious to us.

That doesn't mean it's contradictory or unintelligible. We know God by description rather than acquaintance. By that I mean, we can grasp the idea of God. We have some understanding of what the divine attributes mean. 

viii) Because God is inhuman, because God is sui generis, we use analogies to understand what God is like. By the same token, we use analogies to understand the hypostatic union. The use of analogies is not unique to explicating the hypostatic union, for we also use analogies to explicate our concept of God. Therefore, it's not special pleading to use analogies to unpack or model the hypostatic union. 

ix) Likewise, we can grasp the individual components that comprise the hypostatic union even if we can't fully grasp the relation. This is analogous to the mind/body problem. Even if we can't grasp how body and soul interact, that doesn't mean we can't define "body" and "soul". 

x) Humans can die because humans have bodies. Humans are normally embodied agents. God can't die because God isn't biologically alive in the first place. By the same token, angels can't die because angels aren't biological organisms. As I define it, only a biological organism is capable of death.

xi) Christ's human nature didn't expire on the cross. Rather, the body of Jesus expired. Human nature is more than a body. Human nature, as I define it, is a composite entity. Although Jesus died, he continued to exist in a discarnate state, between Good Friday and Easter, because he had/has an immortal human soul united to the Son. The death of Jesus did not dissolve the hypostatic union. At both divine and human levels, Jesus continued to exist during the interim between his death and resurrection. 

2. Jesus died in the same sense that ordinary humans die. When a human dies, the body expires, but the soul continues to exist. Consciousness survives. The mind survives. Personality survives. 

3. Tuggy picked on a line from Charles Wesley's hymn "And Can It Be, That I Should Gain," in which Wesley says "'Tis mystery All! Th'Immortal dies". 

A comparable example, which he didn't mention, is the Isaac Watts hymn "Alas And Did My Savior Bleed,"  which says "when God, the mighty maker, died for his own creature's sin."

These are examples of literary paradox. A literary paradox is not a logical paradox, but a literary device. Writers sometimes express an idea in contradictory terms for emphasis or shock value. Watts and Wesley are using paradoxical formulations to express the wonder of the crucifixion, given the Incarnation. 

For Tuggy to pounce on their paradoxical formulations is pedantic and evinces a tin ear for poetic license. A hymn is not an exercise in philosophical theology. The function of a hymn is perlocutionary (to influence the listener) as well as illocutionary (to assert facts). Not just propositional, but performative. 

Tuggy is tone-deaf to the pragmatics of language and the rhetorical strategy of poets and hymnodists. There's more to hymnody than conveying information. In addition, hymns are designed to be persuasive or affective. 

The formulations are paradoxical because they are deliberately simplistic. Watts and Wesley omit to mention the two-natures to make the contrast more arresting. But there's nothing intrinsically contradictory about what they said. There's a missing piece of information that harmonizes the literary paradox.

Finally, Watts and Wesley are operating in the tradition of the communicatio idiomatum (communication of attributes), where what is true of either nature is true of their common property bearer. It's not ascribing the properties of one nature to another nature, but predicating both sets of properties to the individual who shares them. Tuggy knows that, but he dissimulates when addressing his unitarian audience. 

4. Tuggy distinguishes death from annihilation. Depending on the nature of the creature, I think that's a valid distinction. However, if I understood him correctly, he said it's coherent to say that God could kill an angel without annihilating the angel. If that's what he meant, I disagree. 

On the one hand, if a creature is nothing more than a physical organism, then death is equivalent to oblivion. If you kill that kind of creature, it ceases to exist.

On the other hand, by Tuggy's own definition, an angel is immaterial. So the only way to "kill" an angel would be to annihilate an angel. An angel is a discarnate mind. The only thing that could even be destroyed is the angel's mind. That's all it is. An incorporeal mind. 

5. Tuggy attempted to construct an inconsistent triad

i) Jesus died
ii) Jesus was fully divine
iii) No fully divine being has ever died

Tuggy said there are three combinations. You can believe any two of them but have to deny the third.

But for reasons I've already given, his triad is vitiated by an equivocation of terms. 

6. Tuggy quoted 1 Tim 1:17 & 6:16 as saying "the Father alone has immortality". But he misquoted his prooftexts.

On the one hand, 1 Tim 1:17 doesn't say the Father alone has immortality, but God alone has immortality. It doesn't single out the Father as God. Likewise, 6:16 doesn't say the Father alone has immortality. And Paul doesn't say the titles apply to God in contrast to Jesus. 

7. Tuggy says that if you introduce the two-natures of Christ, it's unclear what points (i) & (ii) of the triad now mean. That's just a "verbal" solution. Just "adding words". 

But there's nothing unclear about that. What it means to die relative to his human nature is that his body died. His soul was decoupled from his body. Those aren't just words, but concepts. 

8. Tuggy reverts to his hobbyhorse about whether it's coherent to posit "two selves one person." He says that when you read the Gospels, Jesus didn't "flip a switch" by "talking in one voice, then talking in another voice."

But as a matter of fact, when we read the Gospels, Jesus makes statements, or the narrator makes statements about Jesus, or normative characters and foil characters make statements about Jesus, that are incompatible with Jesus either being merely human or merely divine. 

9. Tuggy says that according to the two-natures doctrine, Jesus had "two selves; one died and one lived on". But that's inaccurate. The rational soul of Jesus didn't cease to exist. Even if, for the sake of argument, we use Tuggy's "two-self" rubric, both "selves" survived the crucifixion. A human being is not reducible to his body. 

10. Tuggy says the NT never says that when Jesus died, "only the human part died, one of his two natures died but not the other".

But that's the fallacy of question-framing, where you slant the issue by how you cast the issue. To begin with, if death necessarily has reference to the body, because that's the only component which is capable of dying (i.e. biological death), then we wouldn't expect any additional qualification. 

And that isn't unique to the Christology, but includes anthropology. If humans are a union of body and soul, then to say a human dies just means the body dies. That, however, doesn't imply that the human decedent ceases to exist. But the corporeal "part" or component is the only part to which biological death is even applicable. There's nothing more to be said in that respect.

Yet there's exegetical, empirical, and philosophical evidence for substance dualism. In the nature of the case, the phenomenology of death only concerns what is observable. Ordinarily, all you see is a body–be it living or dead. (Even in that regard, there are reported ghosts and apparitions of the dead.) 

Tuggy says that according to the NT, "Jesus as human died". Naturally, since that's the only sense in which a human can die. By the same token, we have animals bodies, but that doesn't imply that we're merely animals. 

Perhaps Tuggy is a physicalist. But the immediate question at issue is whether the idea of substance dualism is incoherent. 

11. Tuggy says that according to the two-natures doctrine, Jesus is "two beings: Jesus in human nature Jesus in divine nature". But that supposedly raises the question, how many Christs there are? One Christ or two Christs? 

I often wonder if Tuggy is playing dumb, or if he really suffers from tunnel vision. To comment on the same individual in different respects doesn't imply that he's "two beings". Rather, these are ways of referring to different aspects of the same individual.

For instance, I can say that Abraham died relative to his body, but Abraham still exists relative to his soul. I'm not positing two different Abrahams, but different components of the same Abraham.

Likewise, I can say that David is the son of Jesse, the grandson of Obed, the father of Solomon, and the father of Absalom without positing four different Davids. Is Tuggy really that thick? His unitarianism commits him to using dumb arguments. Not only is he anti-Trinitarian, but anti-intellectual. The two go together. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

"Salvation by Allegiance Alone"

"Abraham saw my day"

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple (Jn 8:56-59).

What does v56 refer to? Does it denote Abraham's prophetic anticipation? Does it allude to Abraham in paradise? A problem with those interpretations is that Jesus goes onto to indicate, quite provocatively, that he was a contemporary of Abraham at the time Abraham was still alive. Indeed, that he preexisted Abraham. So that wouldn't refer to the heavenly Abraham, but the historical Abraham. An incident in the earthly life of Abraham.  

I think the best candidate is to view Gen 18:2,13 as a Christophany. Even in the original setting, there's a theophanic angelophany. Of the three visitors, two are angels, while the third is Yahweh, in human appearance. That identification would be consistent with other passages in the Fourth Gospel, like Jn 12:41, which posits another Yahwistic Christophany.

The Light of the world

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world (Jn 1:1-9).

V9 is a tricky passage:

1. The syntax is ambiguous. Does the light illuminate everyone coming into the world, or is the light which illuminates everyone coming into the world? 

2. In what sense does Jesus illuminate everyone? Here we have a double entendre. 

i) On the one hand, the narrator identifies Jesus as the lightgiver in the creation account (Gen 1). "Let there be light!" That refers to physical light. Sunlight, moonlight, and starlight. That kind of light is universal. Everyone is illuminated by daylight. By creating the luminaries, Jesus "enlightens" every earthling. 

ii) On one rendering of v9, this means the source of daylight is now coming into the world via the Incarnation. The Creator who, in the past, has been the source of universal illumination (i.e. sunlight, moonlight, starlight) is now coming into the world. The illumination has been ongoing since the world was made. What is new is his entrance into the world.

iii) On another rendering of v9, everyone who is born enters into this ongoing process. It was happening long before they were born. In birth, they now share in the status quo.

iv) In that sense, the light is universal because it denotes literal daylight. Other than the blind, everyone has an experience of light in that sense.

v) But in addition, narrator uses light as a theological metaphor. In that sense, the scope of the light is not universal. Rather, it refers to the revelation of the Incarnate Son, during his public ministry. That has a point of origin at a particular time and place. Insofar as people are exposed to the light in that sense, they react one way or the other (Jn 3:19-21). 

Over time, the scope of the light, in that figurative sense, becomes more extensive through evangelism. It begins to penetrate the dark corners of the world, as missionaries bring the Gospel to far-flung parts of the globe. In that respect, the illumination is progressive. 

vi) In neither sense does it refer to inner illumination or general revelation. Literally, it refers to daylight. Figuratively, it initially refers to the public ministry of Christ, and subsequently to evangelism. 

The Muslim dilemma

The dilemma for Islam is that Islam can't be true if Christianity is true and Islam can't be true if Christianity is false. Islam is no alternative to Christianity.

"Spiritual body"

Some people think Paul's reference to a "spiritual body," denotes an immaterial body. A subjective vision. They therefore deny that Paul affirmed the physical resurrection of Jesus. 

But if a "spiritual body" is defined in contrast to a physical body, then a "spiritual body" is synonymous with or indistinguishable from a ghost? Assuming they exist, ghosts have a corporeal appearance. On that definition, Paul would be saying Jesus became a ghost three days after he died, and since Jesus is the template for the Christian afterlife, Corinthian Christians will become ghosts in the world to come. 

But that's a highly implausible interpretation of Paul's argument in 1 Cor 15. Given widespread belief in ghosts in the ancient world, there'd be nothing special about saying Christ or Christians are immortal in that sense. 

If, moreover, "resurrection" is synonymous with ghosts, why would there be any chronological gap between death and becoming a ghost? Wouldn't that happen when the soul separates from body, at the moment of death? 

The Restrained Nature Of The Resurrection Accounts

One reason, among many others, to believe the New Testament's resurrection accounts is their restrained nature. Nobody narrates Jesus' resurrection. Or the appearance to Peter. Or the appearance to James. If anybody narrates the appearance to more than five hundred people (1 Corinthians 15:6), he does so without mentioning that so many individuals were involved.

It's often pointed out that there are some elements present in the resurrection accounts that are unlikely to have been fabricated (females, including one as disreputable as Mary Magdalene, as the discoverers of the empty tomb and the first to see the risen Jesus; the initial unbelief of the male disciples; etc.). We should also note how what's absent often provides us with evidence for the accounts.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Jesus loves me, this I know,

William Lane Craig recently defended Andy Stanley against Albert Mohler:

i) I think the format was inefficient. An interviewer asked Craig to respond to Mohler's interpretation of Andy. So Craig presumes to speak on Andy's behalf, as Andy's interpreter, explaining what Andy really meant. That's very convoluted Too many layers. It would be preferable if Craig just stated his own position without the intermediaries. In addition, Craig is far more sophisticated than Andy, so I can't shake the feeling that he's improving on Andy's position. Craig is putting words in Andy's mouth, then criticizing Mohler for failing to engage Craig's reformulation. But, of course, Mohler wasn't responding to Craig, and he couldn't very well respond to something before it was on the table. 

ii) I found Craig's analysis confused and contradictory. He begins by distinguishing apologetics from theology. Up to a point, there's nothing wrong with that distinction. It's true that in theology we take the authority of Scripture for granted, whereas in apologetics, we assume a burden of proof.

iii) That said, what is the task of Christian apologetics if not to defend the subject matter of systematic theology? Sure, when you're discussing Christian theology with an unbeliever, you don't expect them to concede the authority of Scripture, or to stipulate any particular doctrine. But that's why you provide reasons for the authority of Scripture or the doctrine at issue. 

iv) It's true that when doing evangelism or apologetics, you probably won't lead with Noah's flood, the virgin birth, Biblical creation, or Biblical inerrancy. That's not your opening gambit when initiating a discussion with an unbeliever. If it's just a generic question of the best starting-point, then that's not your first move.  

However, it's often the unbeliever who initiates a discussion of Biblical creation, Noah's flood, the virgin birth, or inerrancy in general. In addition, Christian apologetics is hardly confined to pre-evangelism. The jurisdiction of Christian apologetics is to defend the Christian faith on all fronts. 

v) BTW, one can certainly preach an evangelistic sermon centered on Noah's flood. Indeed, both 1 and 2 Peter outline that approach.

vi) There is, moreover, a basic difference between not mentioning biblical creation, Noah's flood, the virgin birth, or inerrancy because that doesn't happen to crop up in the course of a sermon or apologetic dialogue, and telling someone they are not obliged to believe those things to be a Christian. There's a difference between not telling someone something because there was no occasion to mention it, and telling them that they have no duty to believe it. In the former case, it never came up. In the latter case, you bring it up in order to tell someone that's optional. 

vii) At one point the interviewer recast the issue in terms of the local flood interpretation v. the global flood interpretation. But that's not what Craig said, and it's unlikely that Craig was talking about interpretation. When he mentions the flood in the same breath as inerrancy or the virgin birth, I think it's clear that he's referring to questions of historicity rather than interpretation. 

viii) In addition, there's a fundamental difference between rejecting six-day creationism or a global flood because you don't think that's the best interpretation of the text, and rejecting them because you think the text is wrong. 

ix) Furthermore, even if a person thinks the creation account, flood account, and nativity accounts are intentionally fictional rather than erroneous, that is just as bad in a different way. 

viii) On the one hand Craig indicates that inerrancy is expendable. That belief in the historicity of Noah's flood or the virgin birth is expendable. On the other hand, he says Christians should believe in what Jesus teaches us; as his disciples we accept his teaching regarding Biblical authority. Well, which is it? Optional or obligatory? 

ix) Finally, he says such issues can be decided later once you've made a commitment to Christ. But what does that mean? Shouldn't conversion involve informed consent? Craig makes it sound like signing a contract before you agree to all the terms. Is this a provisional commitment that's conditional on whether you subsequently resolve those issues to your own satisfaction? Is there an escape clause?

What's wrong with resolving those issues right up front? What makes them unbelievable now, but believable later on? 

What does Craig think commitment to Jesus means? Is that a bright line–before and after? As a freewill theist, does he think something happens when you make a commitment to Christ? Does that change you in some essential respect? Or is commitment a continuum? Degrees of commitment or gradations of belief? What's the difference between Craig's view and Peter Enns? A difference of kind or difference of degree? 

x) It's important to explain to unbelievers that Christianity claims to be a revealed religion. God spoke to and through the prophets. And Scripture is the revelatory record. You can take it or leave it but it's a package deal. 


I believe Rod Dreher is Eastern Orthodox. I don't share his belief in Purgatorial punishment. 

Evidence of the existence of ghosts disproves atheism inasmuch as atheists typically deny the afterlife. Most atheists, at least Western atheists (in contrast to Buddhist), are physicalists. 

Oddly enough, many Christians agree with atheists regarding the nonexistence of ghosts even though Christians traditionally believe in the immortal soul, which is separable from the body.

Although I think death seals our eternal fate (I reject postmortem salvation), that of itself doesn't imply that there can be no contact between the living and the dead (or the damned). Of course, necromancy is forbidden, but that doesn't mean contact is impossible. And there's an elementary moral distinction between soliciting initiating contact with the dead, which is prohibited, and having the dead initiate contact. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Putting all your chips on the Resurrection

I'm discussed this before, but I'd like to address it in more detail. Nowadays there are prominent Christian apologists who say that if the Resurrection happened, then Christianity is true even if some things in the Bible are false. But I've never seen them spell that out.

Here's the most charitable interpretation of that basic approach. As I recall, back in the 70s, John Warwick Montgomery used to present a multistaged argument like this:

We don't have to begin with the inerrancy of Scripture. Rather, the Gospels are demonstrably historically accurate in general. The Gospels record the Resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus rose from the dead, then he must be divine. And the divine Jesus vouches for the historicity of the OT, as well as promising that the disciples will enjoy inspired recollection of everything he said. (I'm summarizing his argument from memory.)

This seems to be what gave rise to the current approach. And I think there's some merit to Montgomery's argument. Mind you, I don't quite agree with his argument as it stands, because the Bible doesn't treat the Resurrection as direct proof for the deity of Christ. Rather, the Bible typically says the Father raised Jesus from the dead.

Perhaps, though, we could modify the argument by saying the Resurrection is an indirect proof for the deity of Christ. It would be counterproductive for God to raise a false Messiah from the dead, since people would naturally take that as evidence of divine approval. The more so if the claimant predicted his resurrection, because that would be prophetic fulfillment. 

If, therefore, Jesus claimed to be divine, if the Gospel narrators claim Jesus is divine, and if the Father raised him from the dead, then he must be divine. And I think there's a good potential argument there, although it has to be fleshed out. 

However, that's not the kind of argument that the apologists I allude to are using. They've made a crucial change. Montgomery appealed to the Resurrection to prove the inerrancy of Scripture. By contrast, more recent apologists are doing just the opposite: they appeal to the Resurrection to prove the expandability of Biblical inerrancy. Yet there are major problems with that position:

i) If Jesus routinely appeals to the OT as unquestionably true, then you can't simultaneously affirm Jesus and disaffirm the Bible. That's incoherent, for they rise and fall together:

Let us examine then, first of all, His attitude to the historical narratives of the Old Testament. He consistently treats them as straightforward records of facts. We have references to: Abel (Lk. xi. 51), Noah (Mt. xxiv. 37-39; Lk. xvii. 26, 27), Abraham (Jn. viii. 56), the institution of circumcision (Jn. vii. 22; cf. Gn. xvll. 10-12; Lv. xii. 3), Sodom and Gomorrah (Mt. x. 15, xi. 23, 24; Lk. x. 12). Lot (Lk. xvii. 28-32), Isaac and Jacob (Mt. viii. 11; Lk. xiii. 28), the manna (in. vi. 31, 49, 58), the wilderness serpent (Jn. iii. 14), David eating the shewbread (Mt. xii. 3, 4; Mk. ii. 25, 26; Lk. vi. 3, 4) and as a Psalm-writer (Mt. xxii. 43; Mk. xii. 36; Lk. xx. 42), Solomon (Mt. vi. 29, xii. 42; Lk. xi. 31, xii. 27), Elijah (Lk. iv. 25, 26), Elisha (Lk. iv. 27), Jonah (Mt. xii. 39-41; Lk. xi. 29, 30, 32), Zachariah (Lk. xi. 51). This last passage brings out His sense of the unity of history and His grasp of its wide sweep. His eye surveys the whole course of history from ‘the foundation of the world’ to ‘this generation’. There are repeated references to Moses as the giver of the law (Mt. viii. 4, xix. 8; Mk. i. 44, vii. 10, x. 5, xii. 26; Lk. v. 14, xx. 37; Jn. v. 46, vii. 19); the sufferings of the prophets are also mentioned frequently (Mt. v. 12, xiii. 57, xxi. 34-36, xxiii. 29-37; Mk. vi. 4 (cf. Lk. iv. 24; Jn. iv. 44), xii. 2-5; Lk. vi. 23, xi. 47-51, xiii. 34, xx. 10-12); and there is a reference to the popularity of the false prophets (Lk. vi. 26). He sets the stamp of His approval on passages in Gn. i and ii (Mt. xix. 4, 5; Mk. x. 6-8.)

Although these quotations are taken by our Lord more or less at random from different parts of the Old Testament and some periods of the history are covered more fully than others, it is evident that He was familiar with most of our Old Testament and that He treated it all equally as history. Curiously enough, the narratives that proved least acceptable to what was known a generation or two ago as ‘the modem mind’ are the very ones that He seemed most fond of choosing for His illustrations.

ii) Likewise, Christianity can't be true if OT Judaism is false. To be true, Christianity must fulfill the OT. Christianity can't be true unless OT Judaism is true. 

But Judaism can't be true if the call of Abraham is fictional, if the Akedah (Gen 22) is fictional, if the Abrahamic covenant is fictional, if the Joseph cycle (Gen 37-50) is fictional, if the call of Moses is fictional, if the Exodus is fictional, if the Davidic covenant is fictional, &c. 

So where to these apologists draw the line? Their position is ominously similar to "progressive Christians" who say you can discount most of the reported miracles in Scripture. The only miracles you really must profess to be a Christian are the Incarnation and Resurrection. 

iii) In addition, the Christian faith isn't based on bare events, but interpreted events. Not surprisingly, the NT contains extensive theological interpretation regarding the significance of the Resurrection. What's the divine purpose behind that event–as well as other events in the life of Christ (e.g. the Crucifixion)? 

What is Calvinism?

i) When we discuss theological traditions, the tendency is to concentrate on what's distinctive about that tradition. There may be individual distinctives, or there may be a distinctive package. We tend to focus on what differentiates that tradition from the alternatives. That can be misleading inasmuch as there's more, much more, to a theological tradition than what distinguishes one tradition from another. 

ii) That said, let's consider the distinctive features. What is Calvinism? At the most general level, Calvinism takes the view that everything happens for a reason. Every event, whether physical or mental events, serve a purpose. Indeed, everything happens for a good reason, including–or especially–bad things. Some events may be intrinsically evil but instrumentally good.

iii) But what is necessary for everything to happen for a reason? In order for everything to be purposeful, to have an explanation, there must be a master plan, in which every event is coordinated in a part/whole, means-ends relation. Everything happens according to plan. God wrote the plot. 

I should add that this isn't unique to Calvinism, but holds true for other predestinarian traditions (e.g. Thomism, Augustinianism, Jansenism). 

If there are unpremeditated events, then everything doesn't happen for a reason. Some events are brute facts–like sheer luck, which can be good luck or bad luck. Pointless things happen. Tragedies happen that serve no purpose. By chance, the victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

When Calvinism says everything is predestined, that means everything happens for a reason. The alternative is that some, many, or most events have no specific rationale. In that regard, they are random events. Inexplicable events. 

iv) In fairness, a freewill theist might say everything happens for a general reason: namely, the overarching value of libertarian freedom. But freewill theists typically denounce the idea that some tragedy or atrocity was "God's will". So they deny that every event–especially evil events–happens for a specific reason, or serves a particular purpose. 

v) That's a definition of Calvinism at the most general level. Of course, that cashes out in more detailed terms. There's the particularism of grace. Unconditional election and reprobation. Limited atonement. 

In theory, critics might not find Calvinism so objectionable if it  merely took the view that everything happens for a reason, but in a world where evil occurs, they find that more principle more contentious. And they think reprobation is evil in its own right. 

vi) One objection is that it's cruel for the Calvinist God to save only some people when he could save everyone. But bracketing other issues, that's equivocal. Let's pick a figure out of thin air for discussion purposes. Suppose, in the actual world, the elect are 70% of humanity while the reprobate are 30% of humanity. Could the Calvinist God save the 30% in addition to the 70% if he so chose? 

That's far from clear. Although there are possible worlds in which everyone is elect, those have different genealogies than a world in which 70% are elect and 30% are reprobate. If the 30% were elect, they'd make different choices in life. They'd produce different family trees. It wouldn't be saving the same 30% in addition to the same 70%, for almost no one would be the same. In a world where everyone is elect, different people are born into that world due to the choices of their elect forebears.  

The upshot is that none of the heavenbound people in a world where 70% are elect would even exist in a world where 100% are elect–assuming death seals your eternal fate. A critic might say the Calvinist God could still save the lost after death, but that moves the hypotheticals outside the boundaries of biblical orthodoxy. 

vii) Another objection is that it's a miscarriage of justice for God to punish agents for sins he predestined them to commit. And that might strike many people as prima facie counterintuitive. However, it's often the case that we can't properly assess a potion in isolation. Rather, we need to compare to the alternatives. 

What does it mean for human choices not to be predestined? When freewill theists say humans have libertarian freedom, does that mean our choices are ultimately uncaused?

Consider dice. Predestination is like loaded dice. The outcome is certain every time, ahead of time. 

The alternative is fair dice. It's not that the outcome is strictly uncaused. The laws of physics apply.

Rather, each throw is causally independent of the preceding or succeeding throw. In that sense, the outcome is random or uncaused. Every time you throw the dice, it's like the first time. A particular outcome doesn't make the next outcome more or less likely. Each time you throw the dice, you might roll different numbers or the same numbers. So it's arbitrary in that regard. In effect, every throw is a fresh start, no matter how often you threw the dice. 

This also means that inevitably, the results of throwing fair dice will sometimes coincide with the results of throwing loaded dice. Likewise, odds are that random choices will sometimes coincide with predestined choices. In that case, would it be unjust for God to punish an agent for a predestined choice of that coincided with a random choice? 

viii) Conversely, is it just for God to punish an agent for a random choice? Suppose a psychopathic kidnapper took a man's wife and kids hostage. But he gives the man a chance to save his family by throwing dice. If the outcome is six or above, the kidnapper won't shoot them. If the outcome is below six, the kidnapper will shoot them. 

But isn't that grossly unfair? The results of one throw are arbitrary inasmuch as each throw might be different. Why should the first and only throw be decisive? 

If freewill theism is true, aren't our choices like that? If I roll the dice at noon, I'd get one outcome. If I roll the dice at 11:59, I might well get a different outcome. Likewise, if I roll the dice at 12:01. Yet the God of freewill theism holds me to one particular throw, even though it's by chance that any particular outcome occurs. Picking one particular throw out of a hypothetical sequence, where if the pick was sooner or later, the results would chance. 

Suppose a free agent (in the libertarian sense) made a different choice than the predestined choice. But his actual choice, if random, is arbitrary.Given the opportunity to role the same dice multiple times, the results might differ every time. So why privilege or absolutize the actual choice? Isn't that an artificial sample? Why make that the cutoff when, if he repeated the trial under the same circumstances, the results might turn out differently? Why select for that particular throw as if that's somehow definitive? 

ix) However, a freewill theist might object that I've caricatured libertarian freedom. An astute freewill theist will concede that we don't approach decision-making as blank slates. Although our choices may not be predetermined, there are factors that predispose us to opt for one choice rather than another.

On that view, the alternatives aren't confined to fair dice and loaded dice, because libertarian choice is more like throwing biased dice. Unlike loaded dice, which make one outcome inevitable, or fair dice, which make every outcome equiprobable, biased dice make some outcomes more likely than others. 

But I don't see how that refinement helps the freewill theist. In that event, is it just for God to punish the agent for his choice unless the agent wasn't equally free to choose one thing rather than another? I'm not saying I agree with that. I'm just considering the libertarian position on its own grounds.  

Zoological diversity

Monday, March 27, 2017

What does panta denote?

Freewill theists need to be more flexible about universal quantifiers ("all"). They seize on pas/panta to prooftext universal atonement, yet that's frequently employed as a hyperbolic or idiomatic generality. To take some Johannine examples:

"Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them" (Jn 8:2).

Does this mean every human being came to the temple that morning to hear Jesus? 

How about: "All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them" (Jn 10:8).

Is Jesus saying all the OT prophets were thieves and robbers? Hardly. 

Or this: "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:35).

Does every human being know that? What about people who don't know any Christians? 

Or this: "Jesus answered him, 'I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret'" (Jn 18:20).

Did that include Jews living in the Diaspora (e.g. Rome, Alexandria)? 

What about: "And they came to John and said to him, 'Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him'" (Jn 3:26).

Or this: "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" (Jn 4:29).

Or this: "So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast" (Jn 4:45).

Nazca lines

My response to a particle physicist on Facebook:

Brian Colquhoun 
Not really; that's just an argument from ignorance. Things boggle my mind every day. That makes the case that I don't understand something for whatever reason, and not that it points to some purpose.

Would you say the same thing about Nazca lines? These are puzzling because it's unclear how the artists are able to draw these patterns when they couldn't see the pattern from ground level. So should we infer that these are made by humans, or is that an argument from ignorance? Should we instead presume that these are natural patterns? 

Brian Colquhoun
There isn't any reason to suppose we're anything other than matter.

You mean, other than the hard problem of consciousness, precognition, psychokinesis, veridical apparitions, veridical NDEs, veridical OBEs, terminal lucidity, demonic possession, and John Lorber's hydrocephalic patients? There are multiple lines of evidence for substance dualism.

Brian Colquhoun
That doesn't necessarily mean that's definitely the case and can't be shown otherwise, but matter is all we know about.

Really? What about abstract objects, viz. numbers, logic, possible worlds? Even W. V. Quine resigned himself to being a "reluctant platonist". Likewise, Roger Penrose, although agnostic, is a mathematical realist.

Occam's rusty razor

From an impromptu Facebook debate I had with an atheist:

Isn't that amazing? I've proven I'm blue. Of course, when my proof meets evidence, I'll be a liar, but for now, I've used logic to show that my childhood worldview is correct. #TeamBlue"

Your faux syllogism fails to distinguish between validity and soundness.

The biglyest hole in apologetics is the presupposition that all these pious biblical figures were not simply making things up.

That's not just a presupposition. Rather, "apologetics" provides supporting evidence.

When it comes to Occam's razor…

Occam's razor doesn't predict for what reality is like. The principle is merely that we shouldn't postulate more entities than are necessary to explain things. But that doesn't tell you in advance how many entities are too many or too few. 

Atheists resort to intellectual shortcuts like Occam's razor without understanding the principle.

...and our understanding pre-scientific people

Prescientific people can be reliable eyewitnesses. 

...the most likely conclusion to phenomena which violate seemingly natural rules of the universe, is that they were making it all up, exaggerating, or grossly misstating something"

Except that you fail to give any reason for why the most likely conclusion regarding reported phenomena that "violate natural rules of the universe" is that reporters were making it up. Thanks for consistently begging the question. 

Fact is, our knowledge of how the universe operates is based on observation. If observation includes reported phenomena that "violate" the ordinary course of nature, then that has as much epistemic merit as observation regarding the ordinary course of nature.

You're thinking of religion.

No, I was thinking of your syllogism, which is a non sequitur. Apparently, you think that's analogous to religion. If so, your syllogism fails in yet another respect inasmuch as you're attempting an argument from analogy minus the argument. 

Sure - when they write things that likely occurred.

I see. What about this: 

You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight... I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance that I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!

I take it that you discount Richard Feynman's report since that's so unlikely to occur. 

But talking snakes and proxy angels didn't.

i) What do you even mean by "proxy angel"?

ii) The account of the Tempter in Gen 3 isn't based on eyewitness testimony. The narrator wasn't there to witness that event, and there's no reason to suppose he got that information from someone who was, so your example misses the point. 

iii) I doubt the Tempter was a talking snake. The name of the Tempter is probably a pun. The Hebrew word is a triple entendre. It can mean "snake," "diviner," and "shining one". 

The fact that something has an animal name doesn't ipso facto make it an animal. Consider animal names for Indian braves, or animal names for sports teams.

Speculations should always be 0.

i) So much for theoretical physics, forensics, &c. 

ii) In any event, I wasn't referring to speculations but observations. 

If you have to speculate, speculate as economically as possible.

So you automatically discount the multiverse. 

Don't violate nature

So you think we should ban water pumps, airplanes, dams, &c. Mustn't credit gizmos that violate the ordinary course of nature. 

and don't propose mechanisms that are not established.

What "mechanism" did I propose?

That's how Occam's razor works.

That would rule out the establishment of a novel mechanism. Is that how Occam's razor works? So much for new technology.

Please spare me your faux authority on the matter

Because I should defer to your faux authority instead?

Occam's razor tells us that we should not speculate when it's not necessary."

Since I wasn't speculating, that's a red herring. 

Coupled with the fact that these things don't happen…

Circular reasoning.

For example, the Apostle Paul claimed to have received quite a lot of information from 'revelation' from supernatural realms. Is that really the most likely way he got his information? Really?"

Since that accounts for his otherwise inexplicable conversion, yes

It would mean anyone's facts are as good as anyone else's.

You're confusing the credibility of a reporter with what is reported. 

Should I believe accounts of bigfoot? Leprechauns?

i) Since you're using some testimony evidence to evaluate other testimonial evidence, do you have a noncircular criterion? 

ii) And if bigfoot sightings were as well-documented as some miracles, then you ought to believe it. 

What if we know that the writings of this otherwise honest person had been copied, translated, and copied again?"

i) Protestant theology, and even modern Catholic theology, doesn't rely on translations, but the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

ii) Yes, we have copies. Thousands of copies. Copies diverse in time and place. Many independent copies. We can compare and contrast the copies. They preserve the same essential message.

Improbable things happen all the time, but the reason you selectively choose to believe one collection of improbable events over another is not a good strategy. When you are emotionally invested in the truth of one collection of improbable events over another (ie Christianity over the Hermetics, Gnostics, Egyptians, Babylonians, Native Americans, etc), you've surrendered skeptical inquiry in favor of dogma... Not a good strategy for getting the right answers... But hey, you feel it in your heart right?

Apparently, Claason operates with the ignorant notion that Christianity rules out non-Christian miracles. And I haven't appealed to what I feel in my heart.

One wonders why the all-powerful, all-knowing oz would have built in such a predictable defect as cancer, which exploits these mechanisms.

Why classify cancer as a "defect" rather than a way to prevent overpopulation among animals and cull weaker specimens, so that stronger specimens will reproduce. In relation to humans, the Fall makes humans liable to disease.

The origin of life

Jonathan McLatchie recently did a webinar with Intelligent design theorist and young-earth creationist Paul Nelson:

Between about about the 1 hr 46 min mark until about 2 hr 18 min, Nelson had an impromptu debate with Darwinian biologist and militant atheist Zachary Moore.

i) I believe Moore's impediment is the assumption that direct causation is impossible. For X to cause Y, there must be an intervening physical medium.

That, however, exhumes the ancient conundrum of infinite divisibility. Take particle physics. You can keep down down lower scales of matter and energy, but if you insist that cause-effect transactions require an intervening medium, then there's no ultimate explanatory terminus, for there must always be some physical medium in-between the cause and effect to facilitate the transaction.

ii) Another one of Zach's impediments, which Nelson kept returning to, is Zach's failure to distinguish what constitutes a scientific explanation given an ongoing cyclical process from what constitutes a scientific explanation of how that cyclical process originated. The fact that we may commonly require identification of a natural "mechanism" given the existence of a cyclical process does not imply that such a demand is reasonable to account for the given itself.

iii) Zach also missed the point of Nelson's SETI illustration. The point is that we'd be justified in inferring that signals from outer space transmitting Pi are the product of an advanced alien civilization even if we didn't an inkling about the technology by which they were able to transmit a signal that distant. You don't require the identification of a mechanism before you're warranted in inferring design or intelligent agency.

Gregory Boyd on Calvinism

Boyd covers a lot of ground in 10 minutes. These aren't necessarily verbatim quotes, but paraphrasing the gist of what he said.

1. "The majority were predestined to hell."

Calvinism has no official position on what percentage of humanity is hellbound. For instance, Warfield thought the majority will be saved.

2. "The Calvinist God is duplicitous"

It isn't clear to me how much of this is from John Wesley and how much is Boyd's. 

Consider the analogy of a novelist, director, or video gamer who creates a villain. It isn't duplicitous for him to create evil characters, because he also creates good guys to defeat the bad guys. There are countless novels, movies, and TV dramas on that theme. Does that makes the novelist or director guilty of duplicity? 

3. "God says he loves everybody but then damns the majority to go to tell."

Boyd is imputing a freewill theist assumption ("God loves everyone") to Calvinism, then positing a contradiction. But that's due to confusing his own position with the opposing position. 

4. "God tells us to love everybody, but he doesn't. Makes God hypocritical. Doesn't practice what he's preaching."

i) There's nothing intrinsically hypocritical about commanding something contrary to what you yourself do. If I drink beer, but don't allow my 5-year-old to drink beer, is that hypocritical? 

ii) God commands Christians to love our enemies, and God loves his enemies. Calvinists can and do affirm Rom 5:6-10). Although God doesn't love all his enemies, he loves some of his enemies.

I'd add that it isn't possible for Christians to be equally loving to everyone. You can't be equally loving to school children and and a schoolyard sniper or suicide bomber. 

iii) That said, there are two fundamental asymmetries to take into account. To begin with, Christians are supposed to show mercy to others because we were shown mercy (Cf. Mt 18:21-35). But it hardly follows that God is supposed to show mercy to others because he was shown mercy. So the rationale for why Christians are commanded to love sinners has no parallel in the case of God.

iv) In addition, God is the eschatological judge. So he has a different role to play. "Vengeance is mine, I will replay" (Rom 12:19). That stands in contrast to Christian duties.

5. "God commands us to resist sin but predestines sinners to sin."

In Calvinism, God doesn't only predestine sinners to sin. God also predestines some sinners some of the time to successfully resist sin. 

6. "God says he hates evil but predestines evil"

That's simple-minded. God can hate evil in its own right, but predestine evil as a means of achieving particular goods that can't be realized apart from evil. 

7. "He predestines the evil we're supposed to fight".

Once again, that's like a novelist who scripts an evil scenario, then scripts the heroes to defeat it. There's nothing inconsistent about that.

8. "Freewill is true because God gives choices"

i) What does Boyd mean by libertarian freedom? Does he mean are choices are uncaused? If so, then our choices are just a roll of the dice. Each time you roll the dice you may get a different random outcome. You don't even get to take your chances; rather, chance takes you.

ii) Determinism is consistent with choice. Determinism is consistent with deliberation.

iii) Deuteronomy is conditional. It describes consequences for alternate courses of action. That's perfectly consonant with determinism (or predeterminism). If you do A, B will happen–but if you C, D will happen. 

9. "Humans can thwart God's will–Lk 7:30"

That fails to distinguish different senses of God's "will". In context, Lk 7:30 is referring to obligations. They disdained John the Baptist's prophetic call to repentance. But shirking our duties doesn't imply that we can thwart God's will in the sense of God's plan for the world. In context, this has reference to a prophetic message. 

10. "In the Bible God wants everyone to be saved–2 Pet 3:9"

As Richard Bauckham documents in his commentary, Peter is using stock language drawn from the OT regarding God's patience for the Jews. That stood in contrast to the larger world of the ancient Near East. By analogy, Peter is referring to God's patience for Christians.

11. "God loves everyone–1 Jn 2:2"

If Boyd thinks cosmos is a synonym for "everybody." But is that consistent with Johannine usage? 

i) If so, then 1 Jn 2:15 ("Do not love the world or the things in the world") forbids Christians from loving everyone?

ii) What about "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil" (Jn 7:7). 

If you think cosmos is synonymous with everybody, then that includes Christians, in which case, according to Jn 7:7, Christians hate Jesus. 

iii) What about "even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you" (Jn 14:17).

But if cosmos means everyone, then no one believes in Jesus. No one receives the Spirit. Yet that contradicts the second sentence. 

iv) "Jesus answered him, 'I have spoken openly to the world'" (Jn 18:20). 

Did Jesus speak to every human being during his 2-3 year public ministry?

v) "I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world" (Jn 17:9).

But if cosmos means everybody, then Jesus is praying for everyone and not praying for everyone, which is contradictory. 

vi) What about 1 Jn 5:19 ("We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one"), where the first clause, which refers to Christians, stands in contrast to the second clause, where the "whole world," lies in the power of the Devil? But that can't be synonymous with everyone, since Christians are excluded from that comparison.

12. "We break God's heart"

That reflects Boyd's open theist hermeneutic, where he refuses to make allowance for anthropopathic expressions.

13. "God loves everybody"

What's so great about universal ineffectual love? What's the practical difference between that and God not loving everyone? According to Boyd, the damned would be damned whether or not God loved them. 

14. "We're not puppets"

That simply begs the question against determinism, using a simplistic, tendentious metaphor.

15. "God desires a real relationship"

To take a comparison, do pet dogs choose to love their owners? Do they have a "real relationship" with their owners? 

16. "Go doesn't force you to choose him"

That's either incompetent or demagogical. If God causes the human response, there's no force. Force implies resistance. 

17. "Tragedies aren't God's will"

How is it supposed to be better to say tragedies happen for no good reason?

18. "God didn't predestine natural humanitarian disasters"

But the open theist God could prevent those humanitarian catastrophes. Just give people advance warning. 

19. "God didn't predestine the Holocaust, kidnapped children, suicide bombers"

But the open theist God could step in to prevent or stop those evils. 

20. "For God's glory"

In Calvinism, God doesn't do anything for his own glory in the sense of amassing glory for himself. God has nothing to gain. It's all for the benefit of the elect.

21. "God doesn't cause evil"

According to a standard philosophical definition of causation, the open theist God does cause evil. Divine nonintervention ensures the evil outcome. Inaction can cause something just as surely as action.