Thursday, February 08, 2018


I'll comment on Tim Stratton's attempt to rebut my response:

Au contraire! Hays’s mistake is question-begging. He assumes predestination is equivalent with determinism…Thus, Hays begs the question (a logical fallacy) in favor of his favorite kind of predestination.

Stratton is hopelessly befuddled. He originally said, “Thus, the Calvinist assumes that the means by which God predestines all that He has decreed is via causal determinism.”

So he was attributing a position to Calvinism. Attempting to state what Calvinism represents.

It doesn't beg the question to use Calvinistic definitions when defining Calvinism! The question at issue isn't whether Calvinism is true or false, whether Molinism is true or false, but what Calvinism stands for. Stratton is so lacking in critical detachment that he can't accurately state the opposing position on its own terms. Instead, he confounds his own position with the opposing position when attempting to expound Calvinism. 

Not only was he unable to see his blunder for himself, but even when I explain it to him, he repeats the same blunder. His elementary confusion has yet to sink in. 

However, Molinists have offered a model demonstrating exactly *how* God can predestine all things without violating the libertarian free will of the creature! That is to say, Molinism offers a model of divine predestination which is not fully deterministic. 

Molinism does no such thing. Rather, Molinism posits two controversial assumptions:

i) Human agents have libertarian freedom

ii) God has foreknowledge and counterfactual knowledge of human choices.

As John Martin Fischer explains, Molinism simply takes those two key assumptions for granted:

So, what Hays must do is argue and demonstrate exactly how the Molinist model fails — not merely assert that it is no good or assert that “predestination means the same thing as determinism.” That is, unless he is content with basing arguments on logical fallacies.

All I need to demonstrate is that Stratton's original response to Bignon was poorly-reasoned. That doesn't require me to disprove Molinism. 

Wait! I thought Hays just said that predestination *is* deterministic. Is Hays now denying exhaustive determinism in his next breath? That’s great! But then why does Hays reject my view? That is to say, if I am stating what he already assumes, then he should be praising me instead of arguing against me. 

Stratton's hopeless befuddlement continues. It isn't a question of affirming or denying Calvinism, but defining Calvinism. 

This reminds me of Greg Welty’s “Bullet Bill” thought experiment (tu quoque objection to Molinism) in which Welty argues that Molinism is “just as bad” as Calvinism because it still entails a form of determinism. Well, if that’s the case, then why argue so vehemently against Molinism? 

Stratton's hopeless befuddlement continues. Welty is assuming the Molinist view of Calvinism for the sake of argument, then demonstrating that, even on its own grounds. Molinism falls prey to analogous objections. 

I think it is because these Calvinists know there is a BIG difference between the two views. Namely, the Molinist Model provides an explanation as to how God can predestine all things while allowing humans to possess libertarian freedom — and genuine responsibility — over some things. Calvinism has no access to these goods.

As Fischer details, Molinism provides no such explanation. Rather, it begs the question (see above).

Again, this is merely an assertion! Hays needs to provide an argument demonstrating why the model of the Molinist does not work. Otherwise he is left begging more questions.

Stratton keeps repeating his initial blunder. This is a question of accurately stating what the opposing position (Calvinism) represents. 

That’s an assertion flying in the face of the arguments advanced by Molinists. The burden is now on Hays’s shoulders to not merely assert, but to argue why predestination cannot occur as the Molinist model demonstrates.

Stratton is unable to break out of his initial blunder. He's unable to distinguish between defining a position and defending a position. 

In response to my question about how he understands causation, Stratton quotes That's another blunder on his part. It's necessary to distinguish between the meaning of words and the meaning of concepts. The question at issue is Stratton's understanding of causation. For that, you need a philosophical definition or philosophical exposition, from a philosophical resource, and not

Allow me to clarify: “Any person x” in the first premise refers to a person who actually exists — not merely a person who could, would, or will exist. With this in mind, and if salvation (of those who actually exist) is attained via irresistible grace, then the first premise can be restated without any problem: If any person (x) actually exists, then, for any person x, if God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell, then x will go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell.

i) It's ironic that a Molinist confines himself to actual persons, when so much of Molinism is bound up with possible persons in possible worlds, or the same person in alternate timelines.

ii) Stratton's problem is that he's imputing a position to Calvinism regarding God's (alleged) ability to save everyone. But in that event, the operative concepts aren't those of Stratton but Calvinism. As I pointed out, his formulation was equivocal. 

Premise one continues to stand strong!

At best, it only "stands strong" on Stratton's definition, but that's not the frame of reference when he attempts to critique Calvinism on its own terms. Stratton is incorrigibly confused on these rudimentary distinctions. 

Since Hays does not understand what is meant by “omnibenevolence”…

I didn't say I don't understand what is meant by that term. Rather, I was asking what Stratton means when he uses the term. “Omnibenevolence” is a neologism:

To be clear, by “omnibenevolence” I am focusing on the fact that God loves ALL people.

Jerry Walls makes a great case against Calvinism and quotes the Calvinist, Arthur Pink to make his point. Walls states that Pink “bites the bullet” and admits the Calvinistic view of God entails that God is not omnibenevolent and that God does not love all people. 

i) Stratton, Walls et al. are welcome to their idiosyncratic terminology. But their tendentious, prejudicial definitions aren't binding on anyone else. 

ii) Pink was a popularizer. If you wish to disprove a position, you need to attack the most able exponents of your position. A weakness of Walls is to attack soft targets. Here's a more sophisticated analysis of that general issue:

To add clarification consider the absurdity of the following claims:

“I can’t believe how much I love my wife; I hope she burns in hell for all eternity!”

“I really love my daughter, I hope she has an awesome marriage with a big family, and finds true happiness on this earth — then I hope she suffers in the eternal fires of hell into the infinite future!”

These are absurd statements because it is intuitively obvious (and a properly basic belief) that if one truly loves another, then one desires and hopes the best for the one they love.

So Stratton has now conceded, in roundabout fashion, that the Molinist God doesn't love everyone. For the Molinist God knowingly creates hellbound individuals. Yet by Stratton's own admission, that's inimical to acting in the best interests of another.  

To be clear, I only argue for this much: if one affirms both that (i) irresistible grace is true AND (ii) that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent (a maximally great being), then this particular view is internally incoherent. If a Calvinist affirms all of the above, then the Calvinist in question is confused. If the Calvinist position necessarily entails all of the above, then Calvinism is incoherent.

Notice how Stratton always makes the same mistake. To be incoherent, Calvinism has to be inconsistent on its own terms, and not on Stratton's terms. Stratton keeps plugging his own Molinist definitions into the syllogism, then concluding that Calvinism is incoherent! This is a methodological failure in Stratton's analysis, yet he's too blinkered to notice his systematic blunder. 

I never made that argument! I encourage Hays to interact with my *exact* words and not straw men. My argument focuses on the perfect LOVE of God and not what may or may not be “good.” Not only does my argument say nothing about “a good God”...

I appreciate Stratton's concession that God needn't love everyone to be good. He just admitted that the Calvinist God is good despite not loving everyone. 

Yep, and although He has the power to be merciful to all people (and He knows how to be merciful to all people), God must not desire the best for all people — even though the Cross of Christ made the best for all people possible to achieve.

Unless Stratton subscribes to postmortem salvation, how does the cross make the best for all people? Billions of people are born outside the pale of the Gospel. 

Perhaps he subscribes to Craig's goofy notion that God instantiated a world where unreached people wouldn't believe the Gospel if given the opportunity. If so, that speculation suffers from two problems:

i) By Craig's own admission, God has no control over what feasible worlds are available to him. So there's no presumption that God has such a world at his disposal.

ii) Craig is careless with counterfactual identity, but when you assign the same person to a different time or place (alternate history), you have to preserve the same genealogy. The same person can't have different parents, grandparents, &c. An essential sequence of antecedent conditions must be maintained.

I don’t know if Hays is agreeing with the “many eminent freewill theists” in which he is referring, but if he is, then he and these folks at least tacitly affirm that God is not always omnipotent or omniscient.

Notice Stratton's persistent inability to think clearly. I agree with freewill theists who argue that libertarian freedom is incompatible with divine omniscience. But that doesn't mean I reject divine omniscience, since I'm not a freewill theist! You can relieve an inconsistency is more than on direction. 

The difference is simple but significant! On indeterministic predestination God knows He has the power (given God’s omnipotence) to create libertarian free creatures who have the ability to make choices that God does not always determine or “make happen.” Given God’s omniscience, God knows how these libertarian creatures (which He has the power to create) would freely choose if He were to create them — even if God chooses not to create them! Thus, if God possesses this power and knowledge, then God can create a world in which He knows how creatures would freely choose. 

It follows that God creates a world in which all is predestined to occur exactly as it freely does occur without God pulling any “supernatural” causal strings. The libertarian freedom of the creature is not violated on this view in any manner. Some things are genuinely “up to us.” God simply knows logically prior to creating us what would be up to us.

Unfortunately for Stratton, his indeterministic version of predestination is still deterministic. Suppose there's a possible or feasible world in which Judas does not betray Jesus. But Judas didn't get to choose which of those scenarios will be actualized. God didn't offer him a choice. Indeed, God couldn't offer him a choice since Judas doesn't exist at that stage. He's just a possible person. 

If he winds up in a real world where he betrays Jesus, that's up to God, not Judas. It was God, not Judas, who chose which feasible world to instantiate. If, moreover, God instantiates the timeline in which Judas betrays Christ, then Judas can't do otherwise. There may be a possible world in which Judas did something else, but that's not the actual world. 

The kind of knowledge I am specifically arguing for is what the premise specifically states. I am focused on the knowledge gained via the process of rationality (rationally inferred knowledge).

Why should we accept Stratton's arbitrary definition? What about tacit knowledge? 

With that said, experiential knowledge and inferential knowledge are vastly different.

Yes, they're different. Why should we accept Stratton's artificial restriction on what counts as a process of rationality? 

Here’s what Hays seems to be determined to miss: if all thoughts and beliefs are determined via an external cause, then no thought or belief is genuinely “up to” the thing Hays calls “I”. No, all of his thoughts and beliefs are ultimately determined by something or someone other than Hays. Hays has no ability — EVER — to think otherwise about anything. Moreover, all of Hays’s judgements, evaluations, and weighing of propositions and other data is not up to him but something external to him. Because of this, Hays stands in no epistemic position to know if Calvinistic compatibilism really is the inference to the best explanation — he can only assume it! But assuming one’s beliefs to be true is not an argument that they are true. No, this is the fallacy of question-begging and does not ground knowledge claims (See The Vanishing “I”).

The laws of logic aren't up to Stratton. Does this mean Stratton is in no epistemic position to know anything? 

If God determines one’s thoughts and beliefs about ALL things then evidence is irrelevant. It does not matter how good the evidence or arguments are for Molinism; if God has already determined Hays to be a Calvinist — and he has no ability to think otherwise — then Hays is forced to believe Calvinism is true even if it is really false! He has no way to KNOW if his determined thoughts are any good or if his beliefs about his thoughts or his thoughts about his beliefs are good, bad, better, worse, or true. None of them are up to him and they are all determined by things other than Hays. This includes the very thought Hays has right now regarding my statements!

I appreciate Stratton's unconditional surrender. He just conceded that there's no probable or even possible way to disprove Calvinism. If Calvinism is true, but he's a Molinist, then he was determined to believe Molinism, even though (ex hypothesi) Molinism is false. He has no ability to think otherwise. By his own admission, Calvinism is indefeasible! 

Moreover, if causal determinism is true, Hays does not really ever make a genuine choice. That is to say, “choice” is illusory or “in name only” on his view. Given the definition offered above regarding cause and effect, his so called “choice” is better referred to as an “effect.”

Let's compare Stratton's homemade definitions with some real philosophers, who happen to be leading freewill theists:

A choice is the formation of an intention or purpose to do something. It resolves uncertainty and indecision in the mind about what to do. Robert Kane, Four Views on Free Will (Blackwell 2007), 33.

The experience of choosing–of seeing alternatives, weighing their desirability, and finally making up one’s mind–is not any different whether one is a libertarian or a determinist. For while determinists believe that there are sufficient conditions which will govern their choices, they do not know at the time when they are making a decision what those determinants are or how they will decide as a result of them. So, like everyone else, they simply have to make up their own minds! As a result, the difference between libertarian and determinist lies in in the interpretation of the experience of choice, not in the experience itself. W. Hasker, Metaphysics (IVP 1983), 37. 

Notice that choice is consistent with determinism on those definitions. 

God can determine some to possess true beliefs. The point that I am making is that if exhaustive divine determinism is true, then you lose any justification to think your determined thoughts and beliefs are any better (let alone true) than the next guy who God causally determined to disagree with you. 

For clarification, let's compare Stratton's claim with some real philosophers:

It has been argued that any argument for determinism would be self-defeating. For suppose a scientist discovers an apparently cogent argument for determinism. He will conclude that he has been caused to believe that his argument is cogent. But when we discover of people that they are caused to hold beliefs—e.g. as a result of the way they were educated, or of subjection to drugs—we do not regard them as having a rationally justified belief. To be rational in adopting a belief we have to do so freely, i.e. uncaused, the argument goes. So no one can ever be justified in believing determinism to be true. For one who believes determinism to be true must believe his belief to be caused and so unjustified. (There is a statement of this argument, subsequently retracted, by J. B. S. Haldane in his Possible Worlds, Chatto and Windus, London, 1930, p. 209. For references to other statements of it, including one by Epicurus, and discussion thereof, see K. R. Popper and J. C. Eccles, The Self and its Brain, Springer, New York, 1977, pp. 75 ff.) This argument has, I believe, no force at all. The mere fact that our beliefs are caused is no grounds for holding them unjustified. Exactly the reverse. I argued in Chapter 7 ["Beliefs"] that to the extent that we regarded them as uncaused or self-chosen, we could not regard our beliefs as moulded by the facts and so likely to be true. The point is rather that if we see some belief to be caused by a totally irrelevant factor (e.g. a belief that I now am being persecuted being caused by something irrelevant in my upbringing) then we rightly regard it as unjustified. But a belief that determinism is true could be both caused and justified, if caused by relevant factors, e.g. hearing relevant arguments. Richard Swinburne, The Evolution of the Soul (revised edition) (OUP, 1997), p. 233, fn. 2.

There is one thing I will say, which is that there is a quotation by J. B. S. Haldane...The quotation runs like this: "If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true...and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms."

Now I want to consider the quotation all by itself. Let us suppose that it makes sense to say that mental processes–and this means everything they are inclined to call mental processes–are determined, determined wholly, by the motions of atoms in one's brain. That is, let us forget about the difficulties that might be raised about this. I mean the difficulties of taking about mental processes and when they are supposed to be determined.

In order to keep any such difficulties out of view, let us consider an analogous supposition, namely that it makes sense to say that linguistic marks–that is, marks that are parts of a language as they occur in a printed book–are wholly determined by the machinery that printed the book. Well, it might be a book. I don't think this book [in my hand] has got any pencil notes in it or anything that might be linguistic matter that isn't printed.

This analogue has the advantage of certainly making sense, that is, that the linguistic marks occurring in this book are wholly determined by the machinery that printed the book. And indeed, it's got the advantage of not just certainly making sense, but of being true. Only we wouldn't dream of saying: if that is true, we have no reason to suppose that any of the things said in the book are true or are false, or anything like that.

Well, this illustrates the way in which a thought–a thought that somebody puts forward–trades on a mysteriousness about its objects. In the case of Haldane's remark, the mysterious objects are "mental processes"; "If every bit of every mental process is determined by motions of atoms, then I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true". If we change the example to something lacking the mysteriousness of "mental processes", for example to the existence of the print in a printed book, as I have in my analogue, then we observe two things. First, that the supposition that this is wholly determined by the machinery, the printing machinery, is true. And second, that that has no bearing whatever on whether anything said in the book is true, or whether we have reason or no reason to think so. Elizabeth Anscombe, "C. S. "Lewis's Rewrite of Chapter III of Miracles." Roger White, Judith Wolfe, & Brendan Wolfe, C. S. Lewis and His Circle: Essays and Memoirs from the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society (Oxford University Press 2015), 15-16.

As they explain, determinism per se doesn't undermine rationality. 

That is not only false (as noted above) but completely absurd! If God created human beings in his likeness (Genesis 1:26-27), then we would be immaterial minds (souls) who were free to think. That is to say, when humans engage in free and rational thinking, then we approximate to God’s perfect standard of knowledge (which He desires ALL people to possess (1 Timothy 2:4).

We're treated to Stratton's Micky Mouse prooftexting, but there's no exegetical justification for his assertion that the imago Dei implies immaterial minds and libertarian freedom. That's treating the imago Dei as a cipher, without regard to context, and then stuffing it with his preferred philosophical anthropology.

No, it is libertarian freedom which allows one to take their thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) before bad thinking takes them captive (Colossians 2:8). When we fail to use our freedom to think correctly we sin and get stupid! God’s revelation allows free thinkers to not remain in our sin and stupidity. Now we have an option to think freely and make correct conclusions (or not).

Stratton misses the point. If according to libertarian freedom, beliefs and choices are underdetermined by reason and evidence, then our beliefs and choices are random and irrational. By Stratton's lights, a sound argument can never be logically compelling. 


  1. Steve Hays got owned--just kidding!

  2. Oh good grief.

    No, Tim, Welty is not saying that Molinism is 'just as bad' as Calvinism. Welty demonstrates that, on its own terms, Molinism is in *no better position than Calvinism*.

    There's a glaring difference here.