Much theological debate centers around the doctrine of election. No one debates whether election is biblical, but they do debate the meaning of election. I believe in what is called unconditional individual election (the Calvinistic understanding). Those who oppose my understanding normally believe in some sort of conditional election or corporate election (or a combination of the two; the Arminian understanding). Corporate election is the belief that God elects nations to take part in his plan, not individuals to salvation. So, when Romans 9 speaks of God’s election of Jacob over Esau, Paul is speaking of God’s choosing the nation of Israel to have a special place in salvation history. They will go on to interpret all of Romans 9-11 in light of this assumption.

However, I don’t believe that Romans 9-11 is talking about corporate election, but individual election. Here are eleven reason why:

1. The whole section (9-11) is about the security of individuals. Election of nations would not make any contextual sense. Paul has just told the Roman Christians that nothing could separate them from God’s love (Rom. 8:31-39). The objection that gives rise to chapters 9-11 is: “How do we know that these promises from God are secure considering the current (unbelieving) state of Israel. They had promises too and they don’t look too secure.” Referring to corporate election would not fit the context. But if Paul were to respond by saying that it is only the elect individuals within Israel that are secure (true Israel), then this would make sense. We are secure because all elect individuals have always been secure.

2. In the election of Jacob over Esau (Rom. 9:10-13), while having national implications, starts with individuals. We cannot miss this fact.

3. Jacob was elected and Esau rejected before the twins had done anything good or bad. There is no mention of the nations having done anything good or bad. If one were to say this is nations that Paul is talking about, it would seem that they are reading their theology into the text.

4. Rom. 9:15 emphasizes God’s sovereignty about choosing individuals. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” The pronoun hon (whom) is a masculine singular. If we were talking about nations, a plural pronoun would have been used.

5. Rom. 9:16 is dealing with individuals, not nations. “So, it does not depend on the one who desires or makes effort, but on the mercy of God” (my translation). theolontos (desire) and trechontos (effort) are both masculine singulars that is why it is translated “the one” rather than “those.” (BTW: I don’t like ESV’s translation of this (man’s) as it is misleading and, ironically(!) supporting of corporate election). It is hard to see national implications at all here. It is about individual desire and effort. The acquisition of God’s mercy transcends the ability of man.

6. Once again, Rom. 9:18, speaking in the context of the hardening of Pharaoh, Paul summaries what he is trying to say using masculine singular pronouns: “Therefore, the one God wishes to have mercy on, he has mercy on. The one he wishes to harden, he hardens” (my translation). It would seem that if Paul was merely speaking about national or corporate election, the summary statement would change from Pharaoh to nations (plural), but the summary here emphasizes the sovereignty of God’s will (theleo) over individuals (singular).

7. The objection in Rom. 9:14 makes little sense if Paul were speaking about corporate or national election.  The charge of injustice (adikia), which much of the book of Romans is seeking to vindicate God of, is not only out of place, but could easily be answered if Paul was saying that the election of God is only with respect to nations and has no salvific intent.

8. The objection in Rom. 9:18 is even more out of place if Paul is not speaking about individual election. “Why does he still blame people since no one can resist his will.”  The verb anthesteken, “to oppose or resist,” is third person singular. The problem the objector has is that it seems unfair to individuals, not corporations of people.

9. The rhetoric of a diatribe or apostrophe being used by Paul is very telling.  An apostrophe is a literary devise that is used where an imaginary objector is brought in to challenge the thesis on behalf of an audience. It is introduced with “What shall we say…” (Rom. 9:14) and “You will say to me…” (Rom. 9:19). It is an effective teaching tool. However, if the imaginary objector is misunderstanding Paul, the apostrophe fails to accomplish its rhetorical purpose unless Paul corrects the misunderstanding. Paul does not correct the misunderstanding, only the conclusion. If corporate election were what Paul was speaking of, the rhetoric demands that Paul steer his readers in the right direction by way of the diatribe. Paul sticks to his guns even though the teaching of individual election does most certainly give rise to such objections.

10. Rom. 9:24 speaks about God calling the elect “out of” (ek) the Jews and the Gentiles. Therefore, it is hard to see national election since God calls people “out of” all nations, ek Ioudaion (from Jews) ek ethnon (from Gentiles).

11. In Paul’s specific return the the election theme in the first part of Romans 11, he illustrates those who were called (elect) out of the Jewish nation by referencing Elijah who believed he was the only one still following the Lord. The response from God to Elijah’s lament is referenced by Paul in Rom. 11:4 where God says, “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” This tells us two things: 1) these are seven thousand individuals that God has kept, not a new nation. 2) These individuals are kept by God in belief as the characteristic of their “keeping” is their not bowing to Baal (i.e. they remained loyal to God).

12. Using the Elijah illustration in Rom. 11:5, Paul argues that “in the same way,” God has preserved a remnant of believing Israel of which he (as an individual) is a part (Rom. 11:1). This “keeping” in belief of individuals is according to “God’s gracious choice” (11:5).


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    438 replies to "Twelve Reasons Why Romans 9 is About Individual Election, Not Corporate Election"

    • Luke

      First off, I think you mean “corporate” and not “cooperate.”

      Though I think you’re misguided in your interpretation of Romans 9, and I think many of your points are very weak (particularly the grammatical ones, given how we use the singular to refer to the plural all the time), I would like to ask you a question:

      If Romans 9 were not in the Bible, would you still be as strong of a Calvinist as you are now?

      The only reason I ask is because this is about the only chapter I’m ever directed to when a Calvinist is trying to persuade me about their theological system. In that sense it’s like 1 Timothy 2 for the complementarian. If you take it out, are you still that dogmatic? Simple question, and I’d like an honest answer.

      • Amy

        But Romans 9 IS in the Bible!!!! There is your honest answer. On a differsnt note, well written (typos and all, for none of us are perfect 😉
        ) C. Michael Patton.

    • C Michael Patton

      Dang spell check! Hit “change all” and look what happens. Thanks!

      I think people point you here because it is the most demonstrative of election. But certainly there are many other places that Calvinists, such as myself, turn to. Shesh, if only the “Those who were appointed to eternal life believed” of Acts 13:48 were in Scripture, I bet there would still be a lot of Calvinists. But John 6 comes to mind for me personally. While there are many passages to turn to beside Rom 9, I think there is also this general elective theme in all of Scripture.

      As well, we would have to do something about our depraved will and the previenient grace is hard to manufacture from Scripture.

      All of that to say that while Romans 9 is the one that stands out more than any other, it is not the only reason for being a Calvinist.

      AND having said that, there are a lot of good Arminians out there as well. I simply believe, with regard to Rom. 9, all that I listed above makes it very difficult to see anything but unconditional individual election in these verses. And I suppose if they are clear enough (which they seem to be), then this is all we would really need.

    • C Michael Patton

      Luke,

      This is kind of a big statement to just throw out there and not justify: “Though I think you’re misguided in your interpretation of Romans 9, and I think many of your points are very weak (particularly the grammatical ones, given how we use the singular to refer to the plural all the time)”

      Which points are weak and why? Remember, many are mutually dependant.

      Grammatical ones? Which? What is weak about saying that a singular pronoun refers to individuals? While it is true that singular pronouns can be collective, it is certianly not that by default! That is why they are sigular. The weight is upon the shoulders of those who claim that the singular is collective. But, as I believe I have shown, it makes much more sense to take them the way they occur naturally, singular = indivuduals (not a collection or nation).

      Finally, what about the apostrophe?

    • Michael T.

      CMP,
      Just a few observation I’ve come across lately in looking at the issue of free will as it pertains to Calvinism.

      There are three primary philosophical views of free will. The first is hard determinism. Under this view free will is completely non existent. Everything is caused by either a immaterial cause and effect or some causal entity. Human beings and all of creation are essentially nothing more then computer programs carrying out their programming.

      The second view is that of libertarian free will. No need to explain as we’ve discussed this many times before.

      The final view is that of compatibilism. This view holds that determinism is compatible with free will – in essence both of the prior two views are true. Human beings are both ordained to do what they do and freely make the decision to do those things.

      Compatibilism is of course the view of the vast majority of Calvinists (with the exception of hyper-Calvinists). From a Calvinistic perspective the first can’t be true since it would inescapably mean that God is the author of sin and the second can’t be true because it treads upon the Calvinistic view of God’s Sovereignty.

      Herein lies my problem. If Compatibalism is a hopelessly illogical and contradictory position then classical Calvinism fails (one must either accept that God is the author of sin or LFW exists). A number of arguments (at least in my opinion) such as Peter Van Inwagen’s Argument from Consequence appear to show forcefully that Compatibilism is in fact a completely contradictory position that is a metaphysical impossibility.

      Thus what is one left with?? Molinism perhaps – but I’m not sure that view escapes the problem.

    • Sam

      1. I think you are making assumptions of the passage that first century readers would not have made. They would not make a distinction between individual and corporate. Paul starts of by talking about the corporate election other Jews. Israel will always be corporate, but Paul goes to define who Israel is, now that Jesus has come. That is where the individuality of faith comes in.

      2,3 The quote from the OT of Jacob and Esau is about nations in the OT context. I do not think Paul is pulling verses out off context. If anything we have not understood him properly.

      4,5 “I will have mercy on whom i will have mercy” was used by God in the OT for calling Israel as a nation. Jews when they read what Paul had written would not immediately assume that Paul was talking about individuals but rather about their election as a nation.

      I would like to respond to the rest of your points. But it would be too long. But please do consider that the Jews did not make distinctions like how we do today between corporate and individual. When we force that distinction on Romans 9-11, we misinterpret it.

    • C Michael Patton

      Just doing my Bible study prep here for tonight and read this:

      Deu 29:2-4
      2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything the LORD did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to his whole country–
      3 all the great tests of strength, the miraculous signs, and the amazing wonders. 4 But to this day the LORD has not given you minds that understand, nor eyes that see, nor ears that hear!

      Pretty strong suggestion of election. I suppose that people might be believers in unconditional election from this alone (at least by implication).

      • Jean Silfort

        But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

        Joshua 24:15

        you calvinist think you can understand the mind of God. Calvin and Wesley were both wrong.

    • C Michael Patton

      Sam, your entire response hinges on a very obscure and undefended statement that the Jews would not have thought of individuals, only corporate entities. Without this assumption, all of your points don’t work. The purpose is justifying that assumption, and not only that, but justifying it in this context. My point show how it is grammatically best to take it as referring to individuals.

      Are you proposing that the Israelites never, philosophically or grammatically, referred to individuals?

      Let me ask you this: Is Romans 14:12 referring to individuals or corporations of people? If individuals, how did you determine such. I know what your answer will be so no real need to answer. It is individuals.

      My point is that if the context is referring to individuals, unless there is compelling reason to my the singular a collective singular, we must stick with the singular. This context (esp. that of the apostrophe) tells us that it is best taken as individuals about whom Paul is speaking.

      If nothing else, you can see this from those who were called “out of” Israel! The 700 in Elijah’s day were certainly individuals being called out of the nation. As well, Paul in 11:1 describes himself as such. These provide illustrations for the argument of Romans 9 and cannot be seen as collective singulars.

    • wm tanksley

      Michael T, I enjoy the type of philosophical argument you’re bringing up a lot. Cool. 🙂

      I can’t respond to you, since you’ve not brought an arguments, but I need to point out that compatibilism does NOT hold that Libertarian Free Will is true (you claimed that it does in your 4th paragraph). LFW holds that human will is entirely self-determining, while compatibilism holds that human will is determined by causes external to itself.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Michael,

      Malachi one speaks election of nations re Jacob and Esau, does it not?

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      Forgive my lack of clarity. I did not mean to imply that compatabilism holds to the truth of LFW since it clearly does not. If you took it that way I apologize. Free will in the compatabilist understanding is quite different from free will in the LFW understanding. Still compatablism does affirm the existence of free will – just not free will in the LFW usage of the concept.

      BTW the argument I brought was Van Inwagen’s Argument from Consequence – I didn’t elucidate it because it is rather lengthy and would require chain posting. You can find information on it just about anywhere though – it’s a very well known argument.

    • C Michael Patton

      Cheryl, yes, but what I have argued above is that due to all 12 points, it seems clear that Paul is not using them in such a way. So many factors point to individual election. I don’t know how election “out of” Israel (point #10) can still refer to corporate Israel, do you?

    • Michael T.

      WM,
      Further note. There are two versions of the argument. If you see “Rule Alpha” and “Rule Beta” used this is an older version.

    • Martin Jack

      hi Mike,

      I’m confused. Aren’t you giving a green light to double predestination with this argument?

      God bless,
      Martin

    • C Michael Patton

      Martin, maybe…did not notice it though. Let me know how so, so I can change my argument 🙂

    • cherylu

      Double predestination?

      That is part of my problem with this whole thing. If God can create one vessel for honourable use and another for dishonourable use, (using the analogy of the potter), and Paul then goes on to say can’t He prepare one vessel for mercy and fit one vessel for destruction? (Speaking of people now). Sounds like double predestination to me.

      I know I asked you about this before, Michael. However, I didn’t think your answer then really got around the issue in question.

      It seems to me if you read the rest of this passage to literally mean predestination of individuals, you have to take this part of the passage to mean double predestination of individuals. I can’t get around it in my own mind. Maybe I am missing something here, but that is the way it reads to me.

    • wm tanksley

      I think you are making assumptions of the passage that first century readers would not have made. They would not make a distinction between individual and corporate.

      You’re actually right, but this is why Paul spent so much time carefully framing the issue to clarify that he was talking about individuals, not groups. Each block of Paul’s argument eliminates another way to consider groups: first, physical descendants; next, people who follow some code of behavior (“before they had done anything”); next, people who justly deserve salvation (Rom 9:14-16); and finally he includes the people who are not even in the original promise (Rom 9:24).

      After he’s finished that list, what group remains?

      -Wm

    • Lee H

      But election gives no security in salvation because many people who thought they were strong Christians have fallen away. And what is you are not one of the elect….. then your a bit screwed, but I suppose that doesn’t matter as long as your saved 🙂 Thats what Jesus would do.

      But away from the reductioad absurdum it seems to me there is only security in the promise of Gods grace, not whether you are under the promise by Gods choice or your own. The only assurance we have is that God is love, but that is good enough.

      As for everything else I don’t mind if it doesn’t apply to nations, it just doesn’t mean that God shows favoritism (or whatever way Calvinism wishes to explain away its injustice).

      In my opinion of course. I have to say I do think thing blog is great….. I obviously at the moment have issues with Calvinism 😛

    • wm tanksley

      BTW the argument I brought was Van Inwagen’s Argument from Consequence

      After some reading… Wow, that was fun. I haven’t gotten to use that math degree in a long time.

      Three problems, then. First, the argument hasn’t been proven; it depends on the truth of what Inwagen’s “Proposition Beta”, which although it appears obvious hasn’t been proven. (I didn’t study Beta very closely.)

      Second, the argument involves a selection from an infinite set, which runs into the question of whether the “axiom of choice” is valid (despite the name, it has nothing to do with free choice). And not only has that not been proven, there’s strong evidence that it cannot be proven.

      Finally and most importantly, the “free will” he’s arguing against is libertarian free will, not compatiblist free will. Bringing this argument up completely defeats LFW and leaves compatiblism untouched.

      -Wm

    • C Michael Patton

      Cheryl,

      I am with you there. I does seem that the potter illustration leads us to double predestination (and it very well might). However, I do see that there are some important grammatical issues that might lead us to just the opposite.

      22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
      23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory–
      (Rom 9:22-23 ESV)

      Notice the parallel here and the important differences. The vessels of mercy are modified by the pronoun “He” and “Beforehand.” This may suggest, due to their absence with the vessels of wrath, that “he” did not prepare them “beforehand.” Then who and when? They prepared themselves in time.

      I speak about this here in my Romans study: http://www.credohouse.org/media

    • C Michael Patton

      Notice, I updated #5. I was looking at this and noticed that the ESV translates it more corporately!

      5. Rom. 9:16 is dealing with individuals, not nations. “So, it does not depend on the one who desires or makes effort, but on the mercy of God” (my translation). theolontos (desire) and trechontos (effort) are both masculine singulars that is why it is translated “the one” rather than “those.” (BTW: I don’t like ESV’s translation of this (man’s) as it is misleading and, ironically(!) supporting of corporate election). It is hard to see national implications at all here. It is about individual desire and effort. The acquisition of God’s mercy transcends the ability of man.

      Here is the way some translations go:

      ESV Romans 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

      KJV Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

      NAB Romans 9:16 So it depends not upon a person’s will or exertion, but upon God, who shows mercy.

      NAS Romans 9:16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

      NAU Romans 9:16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

      NET Romans 9:16 So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.

      NJB Romans 9:16 So it is not a matter of what any person wants or what any person does, but only of God having mercy.

      So much for the ESV being biased toward Calvinism!!! (At least here).

    • mbaker

      But still, vessels of mercy that He has prepared for glory beforehand does not really address the how of it, only the why of it in those those passages. So, vessels of mercy prepared beforehand, in that context at least, can just as easily fit those who made the choice God already knew they would, as some Armianians point out.

    • cherylu

      Michael,

      I haven’t had time to read your Romans study you linked to yet as it is almost supper time here.

      But just a couple of further thoughts here. If the Greek grammar is correct that I read for that word “fitted” it is in the passive voice, which would mean that the vessel here, i.e. the man received the action of “fitting” from somewhere else would it not? Also it is in perfect tense which as I understand it means that it was done once for all in the past and doesn’t need repeating.

      Am I correct on this? And if I am, then how in the world did the man fit himself in time?

      And besides that, how does it work with the analogy of the potter and the vessel he made? The potter did the making and preparing of the clay vessel, but the man that is a vessel of wrath makes himself?

      It seems to me that, unless I am totally mistaken in my understanding of the grammar here, that for the sake of intellectual honesty one either has to accept double predestination of individuals here or understand the whole passage to mean something entirely different.

      Would someone that knows Greek please address this situation??

    • wm tanksley

      Michael, could you please point me to a presentation of Van Inwagen’s Argument from Consequence that you’d consider worthwhile? I spent a while on the last one, and it’s kind of disappointing that it wasn’t the right one. Just paste one into the comment box.

      (I did read some others, but didn’t see anything that appeared difficult.)

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      mbaker,

      “So, vessels of mercy prepared beforehand, in that context at least, can just as easily fit those who made the choice God already knew they would, as some Armianians point out.”

      Not quite. Read vv. 11-13.

      Lee,

      Interesting that your response is exactly what Paul predicts in v. 14: “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!” Me genoito, Lee, me genoito.

      To all:

      I think it’s important to remember the entire context of Paul’s argument. He’s addressing why God’s promises are always fulfilled. Hence, the Roman Christians can know that God will keep His promise to them in salvation. The objection seems to be that God did not keep His promises to Israel, so why would He keep them to us? Paul’s argument back seems to be that God did keep His promises to Israel because Israel doesn’t need to be made up of physical Israelites, but instead of anyone that God chooses to be a part of Israel. In this argument is the idea that God has not chosen a large portion of Israel to believe, but instead has grafted in numerous Gentiles. Hence, Rom 9 is about God having the right to choose whomever He wishes to be a member of the saved Israel. It’s not individual or corporate. It’s both/and; but it starts with the individual being elected into the group for the purpose of salvation.

      I agree that it leads to double predestination, and as one who believes in it, I would offer John 12:39-40, if not the entire Gospel of John that argues that the Church will continue and be secure without the physical presence of Christ and the apostles because God draws His sheep to Himself effectually, to back up Michael’s point from Deut.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I second Wm’s objection. It would be better to think of “free will” within compatiblist Calvinism as “willful choice,” i.e., whatever the person wants to do, he does. What he wants to do, however, is a result of both internal and external causes, depending upon what he wills to do as a self worshiping, fallen human being.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      “But just a couple of further thoughts here. If the Greek grammar is correct that I read for that word “fitted” it is in the passive voice, which would mean that the vessel here, i.e. the man received the action of “fitting” from somewhere else would it not? Also it is in perfect tense which as I understand it means that it was done once for all in the past and doesn’t need repeating.”

      You’re correct about the passive, not about the perfect. The perfect is what’s called a stative aspect, i.e., seeing something as a state rather than seeing or presenting it in procession or wholistically. It doesn’t really tell us when this takes place in time.

    • wm tanksley

      But election gives no security in salvation because many people who thought they were strong Christians have fallen away.

      Election plus “true assurance” gives security in salvation because IF you have true assurance, then your assurance is of eternal salvation, not temporary salvation.

      If you have true assurance, but lack the knowledge that God predestines ALL that he’s elected to be conformed to the image of His Son, then you have no assurance that you will be thus conformed — you simply have to hope you can be good enough on your own.

      But knowing about election can’t give assurance. That’s not its job. John, in 1 John, says that he wrote the book to assure us that we have salvation. Read it carefully.

      it just doesn’t mean that God shows favoritism (or whatever way Calvinism wishes to explain away its injustice).

      I think you need to look at Paul — he’s the one “explaining away injustice” in Romans 9.

      -Wm

    • mbaker

      Two questions I must ask Calvinists, who seem generally loathe to answer it honestly. If you indeed believe God is so sovereign (which I do) how can you on one hand say He created some for pre-election and some for vessels of wrath without saying He didn’t invent sin in the first place? Perhaps not as we consider it , ie. evil, but to accomplish His purposes?

      If we are going to use these verses as a ‘proof’ for the pre-election of Calvinism doesn’t that make God a split personality?

      And here’s the real kicker to me: if God indeed elected for Himself the vessels of mercy and the vessels of wrath beforehand, why did Christ even have to die on the cross in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been sufficient for God to just forgive His elect in the first place?

      And, please, spare me the links explaining that, because believe me I have read them all. But this is one question that still goes unanswered by the majority of Calvinists I know.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      So, would that grammatical difference on the perfect tense change anything about the way those verses in Romans 9 read?

      Because we can’t know the time that it happened, but if it was done to the man by an outside source, does it change anything regarding election? Maybe God didn’t predestine him in the past for wrath, but only made him fitted for wrath sometime in His lifetime? I’m not sure of the implications here at all.

    • mbaker

      And isn’t Calvinism itself about corporate election of a certain number of pre-chosen individuals in the first place, ie. there are only a certain number that God considers His ‘predestined’ elect? I think in this post you are actually disproving your own case!

    • Bible Study

      Did not the Lord say “I make peace and create evil”. God is sovereign and in complete control making one vessel unto honor and another unto wrath. God hardened Pharoah’s heart that he would sin. Had not God hardened his heart to sin against him, he would not have. God is the potter and makes us how he pleases according to his own will.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      I’m not sure of what the implication are for it either. I’ve never thought about it specifically in regard to the grammar there. I was just answering the grammatical question without thinking of the theology it might imply. I’m not sure if really makes a difference or not.

      mbaker,

      I think Michael’s contrast is between individual election, whether corporately decreed or not, and corporate election, where God elects a faceless body of people to be saved and not the individuals who need to choose to be a part of that body.

    • Hodge

      “If you indeed believe God is so sovereign (which I do) how can you on one hand say He created some for pre-election and some for vessels of wrath without saying He didn’t invent sin in the first place?”

      Because God can decree an event to occur without being the one who directly does evil as a part of bringing it about. So God, as most Arminians will admit, decrees the death of Christ on the cross before the foundation of the world, but no one would hold Him to blame for the evil actions of the men who brought it about. He, knowing that men will do evil, chooses beforehand to use their evil inclinations to bring about events and decisions that He Himself purposes for good. He cannot, therefore, be charged with committing sin simply because He is ruler of all things, including the evil decisions of men. Otherwise, we say that it is a sin to be a sovereign God.

      The second question betrays a severe misunderstanding of salvation. God is just. He must bring justice about. He can’t just forgive someone of evil without that evil being dealt with in a just manner. That’s Allah, not YHWH. God must bring justice upon us or His Son, so electing us to trust in His Son is necessary to get self worshiping people to repent and have faith. Election is worthless unless there is a cross that is there to meet us in repentance and faith.

    • Hodge

      (cont.)

      You’re question implies that believing in Jesus somehow merits for us forgiveness. That is not biblical soteriology.

    • mbaker

      Hodde,

      As usual you are assuming a lot and making distractions because you can’t really address the more difficult issues that folks have regarding Calvinism. But then, who I am I, a mere Christian woman, to question you obviously superior beings?

    • clearblue

      I was reading in Genesis lately the story about Dinah’s rape (Ch.34, not because of any fascination with the passage, just because that was where I was reading the Bible).

      Anyway, I was thinking about Shechem, the son of Hamor, who met a nice girl, took her home to bed, offered to marry her (he was more decent than his fellow-citizens), was prepared to be circumcised to fulfil the future in-laws’ desires, and then (with every one else in my town) was brutally murdered in their beds. Where is Shechem right now? In hell.

      It occurred to me that I’m rather glad I was not living in his time and place. Why would I have been any different (in terms of immorality) to a man like that? What hope would there have been for me to avoid hell? Next to none.

      The same goes for the millions of people who lived before Christ – next to no hope for salvation.

      Why then is it that I get to live in a time when the gospel is preached to the ends of the earth and in a situation where I was privileged to hear the gospel (my parents were Christians). Who determines such things as the time and situation in which they live (which largely determines whether they are saved or not)? Only God.

      Here’s a thought, then, for those who don’t like the idea of election. How can it be fair that Shechem (and millions of others like him go to hell), whereas you are saved?

      Why is it fair that God chose one man, Abram, and revealed Himself to Abram and His descendants, with the result that Abram was saved? (I know of Jewish Christians who cannot abide the idea of election, but that is probably the most ironic and illogical position to hold on the subject).

    • Michael T.

      WM,
      I’ll see if I can find a good presentation of the argument online. I’ve read about it in the context of philosophy books looking at free will. I’ll see if I can find one that gives an explanation short enough to post here, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Also the the formulation of the argument with “Rule Beta” is quite out of date.

    • Hodge

      mbaker,

      I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I addressed your objections specifically. Could it be you have a blindness to this issue because it gets your goat for some reason? I hear Arminians continually talk about how THEY cannot understand this or that about Calvinism. Your objections are refuted by the Bible. I can’t help it if you’re offended by that. You addressed nothing I said. Instead, you simply responded with what is, in my opinion, a rather juvenile response to serious refutations of your objections.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      Not sure how your proposed construction of compatibilism would avoid God being the author of sin. Since one does what they most desire, but their desires are determined by past events stretching back to God’s creation of the universe over which they have no control one must conclude that God is the author of those desires.

      1. God created the universe and exercises His influence upon the world in such a way that all events which shall come to pass have been determined by Him
      2. The events of the past which are all causally linked to the actions of God are the cause of Person A’s desire to kill Person B over which Person A has no control.
      3. Person A kills Person B
      4. Since Person A had no control over the past events which shaped their desire to kill Person B, Person A cannot be said to have authored the desire to kill Person B and since one cannot go against what one desires cannot be held morally calpable for the death of Person B. This was all simply a result of cause and effect.
      5. Since God controlled all the past events which lead to Person A’s desire to kill Person B in addition to creating a world where people do what they most desire it seems inescable that God authored the killing of Person B and therefore authored sin.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      The problem is that past events are not the only causes of an act. That’s why we can have a perfect environment made for a man and he can still corrupt it. Now, we could say that all evil decisions are a result of the past event of the Fall, but is the Fall a result of past events?
      Now, I would say that I don’t have a problem with God being indirectly the author of sin, but I do have a problem with this model saying that He must be the direct author, which is what I think the conclusion is implying. The problem is that the argument doesn’t show this. It actually sets up God as the indirect author and then seems to jump to the idea that He is the direct author.
      The other problem I would have is that all models make God the indirect author. The Calvinist model, however, sees Him as the indirect author who then purposes those evil acts that result from His creation as resulting in good and salvation for His people. In other systems, some of them must be seen as purposeless.
      In other words, if God makes a person with LFW, and that person chooses evil, isn’t God to be assigned indirect authorship for that evil that comes about simply because the evil exists because He chose to create a human with LFW who He knew would commit said evil? I don’t see how any system avoids this.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Is seems to me that there is a rather huge difference in giving a person LFW knowing that he will abuse it and make the choice to sin, and God deliberately determining all events that will happen which result in man sinning.

      The second scenario is, in my mind anyway, a much more direct cause of sin then the first scenario is.

    • cherylu

      Hodge and mbaker,

      Are the two of you maybe talking past each other here?

      I think there is more to the question you asked, mbaker, than what has been understood here. From what I know about you, I don’t think it is at all a lack of understanding of salvation that prompted this question. Would rewording or expounding on it help?

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      In the case of a person with LFW that person is an intervening cause. God may be a “but for” cause in a remote sense, but the person with LFW is the proximate cause of the sin. This is no different then a scenario where a parent could be said to be a “but for” cause of their son murdering someone because the parent chose to have the child. The parent is not the proximate cause though.

      In the case of a person without LFW God did an action with full knowledge that this cause would causally lead to sin without any intervenor. It is no different then me programming a robot which will because of the programming build and plant a bomb which will blow up a airport.

      There is a fundamental difference between knowing what someone will do with LFW through omniscience and being the direct proximate cause of that persons actions

    • Andrew Perriman

      Michael, thanks for the stimulating post. I’ve take the liberty of addressing your 12 points in some detail here: http://www.postost.net/2010/10/corporate-or-individual-election-romans-9-11. The space available in these comments was a bit restrictive.

    • Daniel

      “Corporate election is the belief that God elects nations to take part in his plan, not individuals to salvation.”

      Michael, you didn’t present the facts as they are right from the beginning.
      The Arminian understanding of election has nothing to do with nations, it’s about the Church being elected as a group, and about anyone being able to enter that group (the elected Church) if they choose to enter it by faith.

      It’s not like you to present the “other side” facts wrong, but I think you should review this.

    • Daniel

      When I say that everyone may “choose” to enter the elected group that is the Church I also mean that the option has been offered beforehand through the cross, not that anyone enters the Church as they like.

    • C Michael Patton

      Daniel,

      That is not necessarily true. I was arguing about a certain interpretation that is sometimes used by Arminians. But they are not monolithic in this regard. There are three ways that this passage has been taken:

      1. Corporate election…God is electing nations.
      2. Elect in Christ (Shank)….God elects Christ and, therefore, all who are found in him.
      3. Conditional election (sometimes tagged to the former)….God elects those who he foresees will elect him. (Although, this position alone does not help much with the “before they had done anything good or bad” clause. That is why many would tag it with 1 or 2.)

      Hope that helps.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I think you may have a concept of what we believe that isn’t accurate. I don’t believe God programs an individual like a computer. I believe that man falls due to his willful choice brought about by his circumstances. I believe God creates the circumstances that will lead man to choose X instead of Y, but He does not cause the man to choose directly as though the man is restrained from choosing otherwise.
      To give an example, God wants Ahab to go up and be killed in battle, and thus, relieve Israel of his religious oppression. So God creates the circumstances that will lead Ahab to choose to go up to war. God commands an evil spirit to go and deceive his prophets (i.e., telling the evil spirit that he may go do what he also wants to do), and then sends a prophet he hates as the messenger that pronounces judgment upon him, so that he will definitely go up in rebellion against him. Ahab is then killed and Israel relieved of him. So God causes Ahab to go up, as He has determined the end of his life; but Ahab chooses to go up by his own willful decision to do so.
      God is only indirectly a cause because He orchestrates the events that will lead a person of Nature A to choose Action X, but the person is choosing the action of his own will. This is no different than the LFW position, except that the person’s choice may have no divine purpose to it. It happens simply because the person chooses to X instead of Y, but he still chooses because he was given a certain nature by God. The action he performs, therefore, is still brought about because God gave him a particular nature and not another. God still created Environment C and not Environment D. One is simply orchestrated for His good purposes and one is meaningless.
      I think you may be thinking that Calvinists believe that God MAKES the person choose one way or another contrary to his will. That is not what we believe.

    • JasonJ

      If I may I’d like to just list a few books that helped to solidify my understanding of this issue. Some of these books you all may have read but for those few that havn’t maybe these resources would be of interest or value:

      1. The Justification of God – John Piper
      2. Freedom of the Will – Jonathan Edwards
      3. The Death of Death in the death of Christ – John Owen
      4. The Potter’s Freedom 2nd Edition – James White

      Even though Owen’s book addresses primarily particular redemption the logic he applies to his argument I found helpful in others areas of the doctrines of grace.

    • Hodge

      When we come to salvation, however, as opposed to God’s general workings in the world, God must give the individual a new mind, enlighten them, and draw them in with the truth, as He gives them a new love for God’s lordship and truth; but He giving the man an effectual desire and God restraining him to do X instead of Y is a completely different way of seeing things.

    • Hodge

      Daniel,

      The argument primarily made by Arminians about this passage is that it is about God electing nations, i.e., groups; and hence, they apply that to mean that God elects the church as a faceless group. So your claim that Michael is not presenting the position correctly is inaccurate.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      I simply fail to see how God giving man a particular nature that will cause him to choose a sinful act is not God being the cause of that act. Well, to one degree I understand what you are saying. But there is certainly a fine line here. If his nature is so “programmed” that he will only make the one choice, is that choice still not being orchestrated by God who gave that nature?

      If parents could choose to give their children a certain nature before they were conceived, wouldn’t this be rather like a parent saying, “I am going to make this child love cookies so much that they simply will not be able to resist taking and eating a cookie if it is put before them.” And then saying that the child could of chosen to leave the cookies alone and walk away when a plate of them was set before him?

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      By “nature” I’m talking about what gives man the ability to do X or Y. What man is inclined to choose given a particular situation is based upon his nature. For instance, if man is not given omniscience, he will be susceptible to fall for misinformation, i.e., so the man and woman fall for the serpent’s misinformation. We all believe that if the woman was given omniscience enough to know that the serpent was telling lies, then she wouldn’t have fallen for it. So her decision is a result of her nature to some degree. If God is to be blamed for what we do because He gives us a particular nature rather than another one, then one would have to blame Him for the Fall, but we don’t do that because He is not directly responsible for it. That’s overly simplistic, of course, but I’m just bringing that up for an example.
      If God knows man has a fallen nature, and is inclined to do evil, then can He not choose to orchestrate things so that man chooses X instead of Y without forcing the man choose X instead of Y? How is He responsible for directly doing the action? And how is any system free from this?

    • Hodge

      BTW, I just wanted to point out that we’ve strayed from the text yet again, and this is a common occurrence in discussing this issue. This is why Arminians were often accused of being sophists. Instead of discussing the passage, the main objections are that this interpretation could not be true because it smacks against the Arminian’s philosophical objections. We need to discuss what the passage says and submit to it, rather than be thinking how it could not be true, so it must mean something completely different. Our finite philosophy will not bring us to the truth. Otherwise, we are not fallen, there is nothing wrong with our minds and finite experience, and we should have no need of revelation for the purpose of contradicting experience.

    • cherylu

      But Hodge, if you don’t consider the text within the whole Biblical context of it and the implications of understanding it in any particular way within the context of the whole, some pretty strange conclusions can be reached, correct?

      To those of us that question the Calvinist understanding of these chapters and other verses in the Bible, it is because they raise some serious issues with our understanding of the rest of the Biblical context.

      Now I know that it is not true for the Calvinist because he understands much of the Bible, (such as the issue of God’s love, for instance), in a different way.

      But that doesn’t make his understanding of the whole context automatically correct any more then it makes any other understanding of it automatically correct.

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      I found Dr. Dan Wallace’s brief article on the subject helpful too.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      I disagree that the text is all we should look at. If one’s interpretation of the text creates a logical contradiction or requires one to hold to a metaphysical position that is a logical contradiction then that interpretation of the text is wrong. Basically the argument is that compatibilism is really just hard determinism given another name.

      On what you said earlier. I think we are fundamentally robots.

      1. God controls all the variables (i.e. the past events) which shape our desires and nature and therefore our behavior.
      2. We have absolutely no control over those past events or how those events shape us.
      3. Given a set of circumstances we will inevidibly and uncontrollably act in a manner consistent with our desires and nature which have been shaped by past events over which we had no control.

      Compare to my robot.
      1. I control all the variables (i.e. the programming) which shapes my robots behavior
      2. The robot has absolutely no control over these variable or how it shapes it’s behavior.
      3. Given a set of circumstances the robot will inevidibly and uncontrollably act in a manner consistent with it’s programming which has been shaped by me over which the robot has no control.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I’m sorry, but where did you present that there is a logical contradiction? You’re presenting a contradiction with your philosophy, not a logical contradiction.

      Your number 2 is false. The person has control because he chooses, using his own will, X instead of Y. He can choose something else, but he won’t given a certain set of circumstances. He will choose according to what he loves, what he wants to do. How is your system different? I don’t get it. Do you believe man is infinite and exists beyond space and time when he makes a decision? If not, man cannot have the freedom you want him to have, and you end up with him being determined in some way but his environment, nature, etc.

    • Hodge

      “To those of us that question the Calvinist understanding of these chapters and other verses in the Bible, it is because they raise some serious issues with our understanding of the rest of the Biblical context.”

      Then why not bring up other texts to discuss, rather than philosophical objections that “I think God is like A. Therefore, God cannot be like B”? I have no problem with the desire to see Rom 9 in its canonical context, but its immediate context should not be ignored. I believe the immediate context of a Scripture is in harmony with the rest of Scripture, so if one has to ignore or distort it in order to harmonize with one’s view gained from other texts, then the view supposedly gained from the larger canon is false.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      BTW, I reject number 1 as well. Past events and current events are not the only thing that shape our desires.

      And while we’re at it, number 3 is also false. Man does not uncontrollably do anything.

    • wm tanksley

      I’ll see if I can find a good presentation of the argument online.

      All the ones I found fell to the same basic problems I listed above (excluding the Beta problem, which many didn’t mention). The fundamental error is that they _all_ begin by assuming that free will must be libertarian free will in the sense that it operates independently of causation (i.e. that it’s possible to act independently of one’s history). The next problem is that they all assume that it’s possible to select a rule-based subset from an infinite set, which requires assuming the axiom of choice, which (again) is problematic in a proof (although it’s possibly true, it leads to seemingly absurd conclusions).

      Compatibilism does not assume that it’s possible to act independently of one’s history. On the contrary, one’s acts are based on one’s history.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      1. The argument I made earlier to be clear is that compatibilism is a logical contradiction. One must either admit LFW or Hard Determinism. Here I am attempting to show that your understanding is really a form of Hard Determinism. Now if you admit Hard Determinism then fine.

      2. “The person has control because he chooses, using his own will, X instead of Y”

      This statement wants to take any given decision in a vacuum ignoring what lead to that decision. The persons desires and will which determine the choice were all pre-programmed in the first place. If one wants to separate these they can – but the separation is artificial. The desires were determined by programming and the “will” will “will” one to do whatever the individual desires. There still is no intervenor here to get God off the hook. The individual only has a independent “will” from that individuals perspective, just like from the perspective of the individual we appear to have LFW. From the outside perspective though the will and thus the decision were simply programmed. My robot could, in the sense that there is a range of possibilities, choose to not plant the bomb, but it won’t because I have ensured that it lacks the programming (the “will” if you will) to ever make that decision.

      3. Without going through an entire textbook on the philsophy of quantum mechanics quantum indeterminency appears to allow for free will. Simply put at the quantum level cause and effect completely break down such that only probability exists.

    • Hodge

      Here’s what it should look like:

      1. God controls all the variables (i.e. the past and current circumstances) which work on our desires that are produced from our nature and therefore indirectly can control the outcome of our behavior.
      2. We have absolutely no control over those circumstances, but we do over how those events shape us.
      3. Given a set of circumstances we will inevidibly and act in a manner consistent with our desires and nature which have been shaped by both internal and external factors over which we have control in our response to them; but what we will always choose is in accordance with what God has chosen to occur (cf. 1 Sam 26:12).

      My question to you is how your system explains John 12:39-40? Why could they not exercise their LFW and believe?

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Over the past years when this very issue has been raised repeatedly here on this blog covering slightly different aspects of Calvinism, I and others have gone into great detail about other Scriptures we think Calvinism to be in conflict with. Think back just a bit–is this not so??

      Every time we bring one up, you and other Calvinists simply offer your understanding of the verses which in your minds utterly refutes our understanding. Sometimes the disucssions on one simple point of Scriputure have gone on for days–like issues regarding God’s love for instance. I simply do not have the time or energy to go there again.

      I believe the immediate context of a Scripture is in harmony with the rest of Scripture, so if one has to ignore or distort it in order to harmonize with one’s view gained from other texts, then the view supposedly gained from the larger canon is false.

      Or perhaps one’s view of the immdediate context is incorrect if one has to distort their view of the whole rest of the Bible to make it fit???

      When it comes to a person having free will, it seems to me that your understanding is kind of like reacting by instinct only arrording to nature, circumstances, etc. If that is correct, it sounds a whole lot like the way we expect animals to deal with situations.

      On the other hand, are human beings not creatures that are capable of rational thought and making rational decisions and choices of how to act in any situation? Certainly they may make wrong choices due to misunderstandings etc, but do they not have intellectual powers at all that enable them to truly make choices based on known facts, and not simply doing what they do because of their nature and circumstances? (Like the little girl with the cookie illustration I used earlier). Or do you simply think that their nature and circumstances, etc will make them only choose one way no matter how they think things through?

    • Hodge

      “The persons desires and will which determine the choice were all pre-programmed in the first place.”

      What? This is your problem, Michael. You don’t understand the position. The desires and will of a person are not pre-programmed. The events are determined and God knowing what a person will choose brings about those events by orchestrating circumstances and thoughts that work on a person’s will to choose X instead of Y.

      I second Wm’s response. The only thing you’ve proven is that the adoption of LFW within a compatiblist system would be contradictory. Surprise, surprise. That has nothing to do with man making a non-forced willful decision. You seem to be arguing that either man lives in a vacuum and is not influenced to make decisions one way or the other or he must be programmed like a robot to do what he does. That’s simply a false dichotomy.

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      I think you are missing the point of the argument perhaps. What the Argument from Consequence is attempting to show is that Compatibilism is impossible because it is in fact Hard Determinism. If Determinism is true, determinism is true and no form of free will can be true.

      As to free will do me a favor and define it how you would define free will. You might have done this earlier, but I couldn’t find it.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      “Or perhaps one’s view of the immdediate context is incorrect if one has to distort their view of the whole rest of the Bible to make it fit???”

      The problem is that most Arminians bring up texts that are notoriously taken out of context and ignore the grammar, etc. So the Calvinist giving his “take” on the text is usually just correcting its misuse. That’s a big difference than simply interpreting something one way that could go either way. And I said that if one “has to distort or ignore” the current passage in order to harmonize it, then his or her view of the current passage is false. I don’t see any serious interactions with the text at hand by the Arminians here. I just see philosophical objections based on a vague understanding of other texts in Scripture, and for Michael, quantum mechanics! LOL. 🙂

    • Hodge

      I have a question for Michael or Cheryl. Do you guys believe that man is determined by his sin nature? Does he have free will now, where he can choose and is not a slave to sin who must obey it and cannot choose otherwise because of his love for it?

    • cherylu

      2. We have absolutely no control over those circumstances, but we do over how those events shape us.

      Ha, that is the first admission I have seen from you Hodge that anything that happens to us any way under our control!

    • Hodge

      For anyone interested, Tur8infan has a nice chart I thought on the order of decrees.

      http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=4216

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      We’re under the control of ourselves in regard to sin. That’s why we’re responsible for it. We choose to do it. God simply directs that choice to His purposes. But what of my question to you? Is man a slave to sin because he loves it or can he obey another in his fallen state?

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      re comment # 68:

      Of course man has a sin nature and of course it controls him. BUT and that is a big BUT, if he can not make any decisions at all except according to his sin nature and to sin because he loves it, it would follow that every time a temptation is put in front of someone, he would completely follow it. Men would never restrain their anger and hatred for someone and would kill them if they desired. Unless of course, their fear of the courts was just too great. If a man lusted after another man’s wife he would always follow through on it and have an affair with her because there would be nothing at all to stop him because he was totally controlled by his sin nature and love for sin. If he wanted something in the store and didn’t have the money for it, he would steal it because there would be nothing to stop him.

      He CAN and DOES make decisions contrary to his sin nature every day.

    • Hodge

      So your view of the sin nature is in terms of individual sins rather than the one big sin of ruling himself instead of letting God rule him? Is a man who refrains from being really, really angry no longer a slave to sin in that moment? So what has freed him is his free will, not the cross? I’m trying to understand this in terms of the theology of Romans that discusses this. Do you believe Paul is simply saying that man is more like an employee who can quit and rejoin his employment at any time? Isn’t a slave someone who is under the control of a master? Wouldn’t he only have freedom if his master let him go? Does sin let people go or must it be conquered by Christ in one’s life?

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      If you want people talking to you about the Greek you are probalby on the wrong forum – maybe Sue will show up here, but outside of that it is unlikely. If you want to debate the Greek go over to Olson’s blog or Geisler or Witherington. We all have different areas of expertise. No one here doubts that you are well educated in the original languages etc. etc. (also we are all aware that there are many individuals equally well educated who disagree with you vehemently on the meaning of the text). I’m speaking to you from a place where I have at least some level of understanding and which raise questions about you’re system. On LFW for instance you asked how it could be that any system would exist where things aren’t simply a matter of cause and effect and I answered that at the quantum level cause and effect break down and thus the world isn’t simply cause and effect as it is traditionally understood – seems a reasonable answer. In fact unlike the Arminian-Calvinism debate in Christian Theology you will find exceptionally few individuals in the field of Christian Philosophy who think that compatibilism is a logically valid belief (I’m actually not aware of any that do presently – if you know any I’d love to read their work because I’ve actually been looking for a good defense of why compatibilism isn’t a logically incoherent doctrine). The vast majority now accept LFW of some sort (William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Alvin Plantinga, etc.), even if a very conservative form of it (WLC’s Molinism).

      Now going back to your syllogism in 63 you said “We have absolutely no control over those circumstances, but we do over how those events shape us.” In what sense do we have control over how events shape us? I don’t see how it is possible in a cause and effect universe for us to have any control over this. Our past experiences going back to our very genetic makeup will deterministically interpret these events and thus shape our desires.

    • Ron

      “We need to discuss what the passage says and submit to it, rather than be thinking how it could not be true, so it must mean something completely different.”

      Yes, like how Calvinists deal with passages that clearly contradict limited atonement. 🙂

    • Michael T.

      Re: 68

      Without going into too terribly much detail (since you’ll know what I’m talking about) I’m convinced more and more all the time that the EO got original sin right and Augustine messed up.

    • John

      It seems to me that Romans 9 is saying that God will have mercy on whomever he chooses. It also seems clear from other passages of the Bible that He chooses to have mercy on those have humbled themselves before him in faith – Psalm 32:10. MCP’s quote from Dueteronomy seems to inidcate that God is angry at a nation because he has not given them the ability to obey Him. Does that make sense from a holy and intelligent God’s perspective? Maybe Moses is acknowledging that God could make them understand, but he would rather they obey from the heart. It seems this could be against election. Yes, men will not seek God, but God seeks men and will hold them accountable for responding or not responding. Christ wept over Israel because she did not recognize the time of his coming. Why would he weep if they could not recognize the time of his coming? He knew they would reject him but he seems to assume that it is by their choice, not Gods. It also seems to me men will be judged by what they did with God/Jesus. Is it fair to judge a man for something he could not do? Is that true justice? Also, it seems that love has to involve some degree of choice.

    • Michael T.

      Relevant comments by William Lane Craig can be found here

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8111

    • cherylu

      That article by Craig certainly did a good job of putting my problems and objections to Calvinism into words. The whole determinism issue he talks about is the one that I think flys in the face of the rest of Scripture and for the same reasons that he lists in that article.

      Hodge,

      What is your take on that ariticle?

    • cherylu

      By the way Hodge, you asked us above why we aren’t bringing up other Scriptures that bear upon this discussion. And then later you tell us that usually when other texts are brought up they are taken out of context or grammar is ignored! Great dismissal of all our efforts and hurray for your side!

      So what is the use? According to you, we can’t win anyway ’cause we just can’t get anything right, so why even try? 🙂 Seems we are wrong no matter what we do.

    • Michael T.

      Cherylu,

      Couldn’t agree with you more. “You are taking Scripture or our position out of context” is the universal trump card it seems. Just saying it makes it so. The odd thing is that individuals who are every bit the equal of Hodge and his ilk seem to not think it is taking things out of context at all (i.e. Dr. Craig who has a M.A in Church History from Trinity, and M.A. in the philsophy of religion from Trinity, a Ph.D in Philosophy from the University of Birmingham (England), and a D.Theol. from the University of Munich has stated more then once in a debate the Arminian understanding of 2 Peter 3:9 among other verses as well as the collective understanding of predestination which this post addreses). So one is left deciding who to believe. One position seems to fit nicely with both Scripture (at least the Arminian understanding of it), philosophy and the general human experience of reality while the other introduces all sorts of logical absurdities.

    • Michael T.

      The debate to which I refer can be found here btw. The topic of the debate is whether or not the Christian God exists and Craig’s atheist opponent basically spends his entire first talk railing against the Calvinist God. Rather then disagreeing with his objections Craig agrees to an extent but then goes on to point out that neither he, nor the majority of Christians hold to Calvinism.

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5283

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Going back up the thread here a bit. Of course I don’t believe that the sin nature is conquered by any one’s free will. It is conquered only in Jesus. I was speaking of specific acts of sin which I said people choose to do or not choose to do even if they have a sin nature.

      But back to people being “robots” or not, to use Michael T’s analogy.

      It seems we have heard over and over from Calvinist’s in the past that God is sovereign over every detail that happens in this world. There is not one minute thing that happens in this universe that He has not ordained will happen in exactly that way at that time in that place with that person. Am I remembering correctly? Is that or is that not your understanding of things?

      If it is your understanding, how can you get away from the fact that God is ultimately the cause of every evil thing that happens too and every sin that every person commits? If he has determined that it will happen just the way it does, how can anyone make a decision or act to the contrary?

      Under that understanding, you can say all you want to that George made the decision himself to get mad at his wife today or whatever sin you want to put in that place, but how was it really George’s decision any way if God determined that it was going to take place and set in motion everything from the beginning of time to see that it would take place? Can he really resist the edict of God from before time began and make another choice?

    • cherylu

      Michael T,

      Just a note of clarification here. While I agreed with the reason’s Craig gave for having problems with Calvinism, I am not at all sure that I really agree with or even understand the whole concept of Molinism.

    • Michael T.

      Cherylu,

      Most don’t understand Molinism and I’m not sure I agree with it either (though I certainly find it an attractive middle ground – just not sure it answers the questions). I would suggest the book Craig mentions on Divine Foreknowledge as this is probably the best non-scholarly exposition of the position.

      http://www.amazon.com/Divine-Foreknowledge-James-K-Beilby/dp/0830826521

      Otherwise some articles on his site can be found here

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5220
      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5222

    • Hodge

      Yikes, we’ve all been very busy today, haven’t we? 🙂 Michael, please explain how what I have explained here is different in a Molinistic system where God orchestrates the universe so that men respond the way they would with their LFW so as to have His desired outcome. If God creates the best possible universe where men will make the decisions that bring events to turn in the way He wants them, I fail to see any difference whatsoever in terms of what you are saying.

      Second to this, I don’t really care if I can find a philosopher that holds to compatiblism, since most Christian philosophers I know are Arminian/believe in LFW, not because they are philosophers, but because that is their preset tradition. It’s frankly irrelevant to allude to special authority, which is a logical fallacy, as most philosophers will point out to you. You might as well ask Elijah if he knows any prophets of Baal who believe in YHWH. His answer might be the same as mine, “Who cares?” Philosophers aren’t my authority. You have proven no logical contradiction except for you FEEL like what we are saying is the same as hard determinism. There is no reason for me to doubt the Scriptures which clearly indicate otherwise.

      Third, I wasn’t asking you a question about Augustinian or Pelagian views of man. I was asking you about Paul. Paul says we are slaves to sin and that we are only freed by Christ. How can an unregenerate man be free from sin and choose to do otherwise if he must obey sin? So has Paul got it all wrong too because he doesn’t accord with William Lane Craig?

    • Yahnatan

      CMP,

      Thanks for laying out your case in an orderly fashion. Unless I missed it, you failed to address the fact that most of Romans 11 does speak in plural nouns. For example, how do you read Romans 11:29?

      Best,
      YL

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      “If it is your understanding, how can you get away from the fact that God is ultimately the cause of every evil thing that happens too and every sin that every person commits?”

      God is not the primary cause of a human sinning. The human is. The human is going to sin. He always sins. God simply directs it to specific acts and purposes because He is Lord of all things, not just some things.

      ” If he has determined that it will happen just the way it does, how can anyone make a decision or act to the contrary?”

      Or we can say it this way, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

      To which we should all reply, “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?”

    • Hodge

      BTW, did we miss this?

      “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and UNCHANGABLY ORDAINED WHATEVER COMES TO PASS; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

      Now this is precisely what the Molinist believes!” (WLC)

    • Hodge

      BTW, is the Craig article meant to be a serious offering of refutation? I found it to be a bit of a joke. Apart from the fact that a determinist has to be determined, which of course isn’t an argument against anything, and most of his arguments have no weight. This, for example, does not understand the position:

      “In contrast to the Molinist view, on the deterministic view even the movement of the human will is caused by God. God moves people to choose evil, and they cannot do otherwise. God determines their choices and makes them do wrong. If it is evil to make another person do wrong, then on this view God is not only the cause of sin and evil, but becomes evil Himself, which is absurd. By the same token, all human responsibility for sin has been removed. For our choices are not really up to us: God causes us to make them. We cannot be responsible for our actions, for nothing we think or do is up to us.”

      No Calvinist believes God causes the movement of the human will directly to sin. Man is already sinning continually. God directs it toward a good purpose. People can physically do otherwise. They don’t because they are determined by their enslavement to sin, i.e., their love for self worship. God does not MAKE another person do wrong. They are already doing wrong. God controls the actions their wrong does in order to bring about His good purposes. That is an important point. Human responsibility for sin remains primary because he is the primary cause of his sin. This removes the individual as one of the main factors for a sin taking place. Craig presents it as though the person doesn’t exist in compatiblism and only causation from God and events exist. That is not the case.

    • wm tanksley

      Two questions I must ask Calvinists, who seem generally loathe to answer it honestly.

      Calling your debate opponent dishonest is an unpleasant tactic which should be reserved for strong situations.

      If you indeed believe God is so sovereign (which I do) how can you on one hand say He created some for pre-election and some for vessels of wrath without saying He didn’t invent sin in the first place?

      That’s an interesting question. I’ve never seen the word ‘invent’ used in this connection before. You seem to think it’s bad for God to invent sin. Why? We already know that He creates sinners, and sustains them, and permits them to sin; those aren’t bad for Him to do. We know that it WOULD be bad for Him to force people to sin, or to authorize sin, or to commit sin; we agree that He doesn’t do that. So what does ‘invent’ mean that makes you think particular election makes God do it, and makes it wrong?

      If we are going to use these verses as a ‘proof’ for the pre-election of Calvinism doesn’t that make God a split personality?

      Why?

      And here’s the real kicker to me: if God indeed elected for Himself the vessels of mercy and the vessels of wrath beforehand, why did Christ even have to die on the cross in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been sufficient for God to just forgive His elect in the first place?

      That question applies to all Christians, not just Calvinists. “Why doesn’t God just forgive, instead of having someone die and then people believe in Him? How strange!”

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      1. I am not sure about Molinism. Though I have more knowledge of it then most who have none, I am not sure if it avoids the problems or not.

      2. While you may not care about philosophy apparently philosophy cares about theology. When theology makes metaphysical claims about the nature of reality those claims are either logically plausible or not. If they are logically contradictory (not merely paradoxical) they cannot be.

      3. There is a difference between what the Calvinist claims and what is logically demanded by what they claim. It’s a matter of semantics ultimately. Philosophy looks at Calvinistic beliefs and says that they logically entail hard determinism to which the Calvinist says “no they don’t” and the tail chasing begins.

      4. In Calvinism what shapes the man’s will? It is ultimately cause and effect going all the way back to the fall of man. I’m sorry you don’t escape the charge of determinism simply by stating that in the present state of affairs it “appears” that man is willing to sin. That only raises the question of why that man’s will is the way it is. Eventually one gets back to causal determinism with no independent intervenor being the reason for why things are the way they are. Here let me put it this way. Could Eve have chosen (and I mean in a contrary choice manner) to not take the Apple?? I don’t mean just was it physically possible, but was it metaphysically possible for her to choose to do otherwise when presented by the Serpent with the Apple.

      Furthermore if God simply present situations to man knowing how man will react and that man will respond in sin isn’t God essentially tempting man. Essentially it seems like a case of entrapment.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      ” If he has determined that it will happen just the way it does, how can anyone make a decision or act to the contrary?”

      Or we can say it this way, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” (Remember, Paul never contradicts that anyone could resist His will).

      If you are going to equate those two situations, it seems to me you have just conceded that God is indeed the cause of man’s sin–He determined something involving sin was going to happen just the way it did and no one can resist His will!

      This is one of the very interesting things I find about talking about Calvinism with a Calvinist–you sometimes seem to talk in circles. You seem to deny something on the one hand and affirm it on the other.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      “Eventually one gets back to causal determinism with no independent intervenor being the reason for why things are the way they are.”

      You do realize that Calvinists believe Adam and Eve to have had free will, right? That they were independent “intervenors”? The difference is that I don’t assume that man has transcendence in his decisions. He is determined by three things (this is a bit overly simplistic, but it will suffice): 1. his nature, 2. his environment, and 3. his decisions based upon his nature and environment. God has control over all three, but does not commandeer them like a man programming a robot. If I can offer one more analogy:

      A man is starving to death. He desires to eat more than anything else. God convinces a man to place a plate of his favorite food in front of him. The hungry man eats. Is God programming him like a robot, or is the man acting according to his own free will? I say that God has determined that he will eat and thus moves to send food to the man so that he accomplishes that choice by his own free will. Now, if you wish to say he is bound by his desires. I agree. The difference is that you may see that as something you want to reject, and I see it as completely biblical and a good thing that our God is so powerful that even the willful actions of man, good or bad, are ruled by Him and brought to His own good purposes.

    • wm tanksley

      Molinism has always struck me as an odd thing for a believer in LFW to assert. The short reason is that Molinism requires total determinism of human will, equal only to the “meticulous decree” branch of Calvinism.

      The long explanation:

      Molinism says that God knows (by middle knowledge) every possible outcome of every possible world prior to creating any. But this means that all people’s actions (or at least the outcomes of all their actions) are entirely determined prior to creation, beyond the possibility of anyone, even God, of altering them. And this total determinism is true of all possible worlds.

      One might imagine that this is a philosophical possibility, even though there’s no evidence for it in the Bible. But one can’t possibly imagine that it helps the argument for libertarian free will.

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      Finally, I think you’re confusing philosophy and philosophers, as well as philosophy and logic. Logic is used within philosophy for the most part, but they are not identical, nor are the dictates of logic to be confused with what most philosophers believe. Compatiblism may run counter to philosophers because they have traditions they seek to uphold as well. Many philosophers are trained in either Arminian or liberal programs. Why wouldn’t they come out that way (not to mention that most believe it before they go in)? Compatiblism may run counter to their philosophies. Of course it will; but I have yet to see the logical contradiction. It has not been presented here, nor in the papers you provided. If someone can take the argument as we present it and show a logical contradiction, I’d be happy to look at it; but caricatures aren’t going to convince us.

    • Hodge

      “This is one of the very interesting things I find about talking about Calvinism with a Calvinist–you sometimes seem to talk in circles. You seem to deny something on the one hand and affirm it on the other.”

      That’s because you don’t understand what we’re saying, Cheryl. It’s confusing because you have a set of definitions from which we do not work. Case in point, you think to say that God determines a person to commit a sin, e.g., Pharaoh to disobey Him, that God has MADE him sin. God is determining with knowledge of the man as a sinner already. The man is constantly in sin. I don’t think you’re getting that important point. For God to do ANYTHING with a sinner, He must use the sinner’s actions, i.e., sin in some way; but using it in a predetermined plan, and MAKING the person sin are two completely different things.

    • cherylu

      Well, it certainly sounds to me like John Calvin believed that God actually causes sin. At least I certainly don’t see how one can understand statements like this in any other way.

      Whence that which I have just stated is perfectly plain: that the internal affections of men are not less ruled by the hand of God than their external actions are preceded by His eternal decree; and, moreover, that God performs not by the hands of men the things which He has decreed, without first working in their hearts the very will which precedes the acts they are to perform.

      And how about this one:

      “From this it is easy to conclude how foolish and frail is the support of divine justice afforded by the suggestion that evils come to be not by [God’s] will, but merely by his permission. Of course, so far as they are evils, which men perpetrate with their evil mind, as I shall show in greater detail shortly, I admit that they are not pleasing to God. But it is a quite frivolous refuge to say that God permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the author of them.”(John Calvin, The Eternal Predestination of God, 176).

      And the fall of man was ordained by God too:

      Meantime, I freely acknowledge my doctrine to be this: that Adam fell, not by only the permission of God, but by His very secret counsel and decree; and that Adam drew all his posterity with himself, by his Fall, into eternal destruction.”

      All quotes from this site: http://www.orthodox-christianity.com/?p=340 They are found in his Institutes of Christian Religion and Defense of the Secret Providence of God

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      1. Simply assuming individuals were raised in Arminian traditions or went to Arminian institutions is absurd and amounts to an ad hominem attack. Beyond that it is just plain false. Alvin Plantinga was raised Presbyterian, attended Calvin College, and taught at Calvin Seminary for 20 years. While these institutions have certainly become more “liberal” then your strand of Presbyterianism they are still broadly Calvinistic and certainly were at the time he attended some 55-60 years ago and taught 30-50 years ago. William Lane Craig attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for both of his Masters – again hardly a bastion of Arminianism.

      2. To second what Cherylu said you seem to be an a la carte Calvinist. It’s hard to debate you because you seem to freely pick and choose which portions of Calvinism you wish to affirm and deny. It’s actually a quite frustrating bait and switch routine. As Cheryl points out Calvin Calvinism clearly taught that the Fall of Man was ordained and caused by God, not that Adam and Eve were independent agents with real ability to choose otherwise.

      3. According to the classical Calvinistic view God chooses whom he will with no regard whatsoever to any instrinsic quality of the chosen subject. You seem to contradict this above.

    • cherylu

      Yeah Calvin taught that the fall was ordained by God and John Piper, that very well known, highly respected, much quoted Pastor and Calvinist believes that sin and punishment had to be decreed to be for His glory to best be shown and for the joy of His elect.

      Now I can see where he gets that from in Romans 9, but I think that may be taking what is said there further then intended.

      However, my point again is, if God is not then the ultimate cause of sin in that understanding, who is? If He said sin had to be and so it was, who else could be said to be the ultimate cause of sin?

    • Hodge

      Yes, well, I’ve said before, I’m more of an Augustinian than a Calvinist, but I agree with everything Calvin said there. I think you two are once again importing your concepts into what is being said. Calvin states right there in the quote that God is not pleased with the actions of these men, but He has complete control of them. He is the author of sin in a non-primary, indirect sense, as I’ve said the entire time. I think Calvin would agree.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      The philosophy department at Trinity has been made up of both Arminian and Calvinist professors, and I’m not saying that their Arminian education is the only factor. I said a lot of them already have it before they enter in. I’ve had quite a few friends in the field of philosophy and most of them have been Arminian from tradition, even those who attended what would be on the surface more Reformed churches. I’m not saying that one cannot change his mind either. For instance, Clark Pinnock had obviously run the full circuit. My point is that it seems to be a discipline that is inclined to believe in freedom of the mind and choice by virtue of what is studied and the way it is studied, not by a deep reflection upon the logic of the Scriptures, but due to views of man inherent in our culture that cause us to carry those traditions into philosophical study, a study that argues from what is perceived via experience. It does much of what you do, it takes perceived reality as primary and takes revealed reality as secondary. The logic of the first must accord with the logic of the second, or there is something wrong with the second. That is too much faith in self for me. I cannot resign myself to believe that what I perceive through experience has more authority than what is revealed.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      1. I can’t possibly believe we are reading the same quotes by Calvin. How can one interpret “But it is a quite frivolous refuge to say that God permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the author of them” any other way then that Calvin is saying God is the author of sin? How can one interpret “God performs not by the hands of men the things which He has decreed, without first working in their hearts the very will which precedes the acts they are to perform” any other way then that Calvin is saying that God controls not just the actions of men, but the will which produces those actions? Honestly I find your assertions that Calvin teaches anything less then what me and Cheryl have accused him of is absurd in the extreme.

      2. I think you to some extent confuse continental philosophy with which your lament might be somewhat fair, with the analytic school of philosophy of which the people I have mentioned are a part. Furthermore, do you not perceive Scripture through experience? Is it not your eyes which percieve the text and your brain which then gives meaning to the words on the page?

    • cherylu

      Here is another interesting site with multiple quotes by Calvin. It seems he did some vascillating back and forth on whether he actually believed God to be the author of sin or not. Can’t quite decide what he ended up with there myself.

      http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Complaints/ac_sin.html

    • cherylu

      Regarding my last comment, I think what Calvin ended up saying was that God was the author of sin but was not guilty of sin himself.

    • wm tanksley

      However, my point again is, if God is not then the ultimate cause of sin in that understanding, who is? If He said sin had to be and so it was, who else could be said to be the ultimate cause of sin?

      God created the universe, and is therefore unavoidably the ultimate cause of everything including sin. Clearly, God is not the direct cause of sin, since there’s someone coming between Him and its commission. We need to ask whether God is the moral agent of sin, not whether He’s the ultimate cause.

      Let me set up a different situation in order to explain why God is not the moral agent in human sin.

      Suppose a book publisher publishes a book including a cartoon of Mohammed, and some extremist Moslems riot and kill Christians, claiming that it is blasphemous. The book turns out to be about how volatile some sectors of Islam are, and how they riot and kill on the slightest provocation; thus, the proof is already present to indicate that the publisher took an action whose results they already knew.

      Is the publisher/author guilty of the deaths of those Christians?

      The answer is NO. All of the actions of the publisher were moral (and legal), and the result was an illegal reaction by a moral agent.

      In a similar way, God created us, sustains us even in our sin, has providence over the tiniest details in our life, controls disasters happening (including disastrous results of sin, such as the siege of Jerusalem) to an extent that He says He “creates” them (Is 45:7), and uses the sins of men to accomplish His ends — most especially and clearly in the Bible His redemptive ends.

      But God did not create men as automaton programmed to move without moral reflection. Men would have to do that if they had a detailed plan; God is infinitely greater and did not need that. Rather, God created men as moral agents, who act according to their own desires and opinions. Because men are moral agents, they are responsible for their own actions…

    • wm tanksley

      …if a moral agent does not desire good (as the Bible says we do not desire good), and as a result does evil, that action is the fault of the moral agent, not of any influence on them earlier. Hitler is to blame for ordering the Holocaust, and his parents are NOT to blame for it — whether the cause was that they beat him when he was 3, or because they took him out for ice cream once when he was 3 (in other words, whether his parents were sinful or innocent on their own behalf, Hitler bears his own guilt).

      Because God did not sin in ordaining the universe, and because there is no sin imputed to one who causes a moral agent to make a choice, therefore God does not sin even though the universe contains moral agents who sin.

      Now, there is one more question: how can God accuse a moral agent of sin when that agent was corrupt and unable to not sin? Here the answer seems even more clear. If something is corrupt by nature, isn’t its treatment simply a consequence of its nature? We treat a hamster as an animal because it IS one. We treat a criminally insane person as corrupt because he IS. We do not have to stop and consider whether his actions were wrong; his nature is sufficient.

      One more thing that answers a distinct set of posts, and then I’ll call it a day…

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      Not so according to John Calvin! From the article at the last link I posted:

      Calvin writes: “But of all the things which happen, the first cause is to be understood to be His will, because He so governs the natures created by Him, as to determine all the counsels and the actions of men to the end decreed by Him.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.178, emphasis mine)

      Calvin writes: “But where it is a matter of men’s counsels, wills, endeavours, and exertions, there is greater difficulty in seeing how the providence of God rules here too, so that nothing happens but by His assent and that men can deliberately do nothing unless He inspire it.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.171-172, emphasis mine)

      Calvin writes: “For the man who honestly and soberly reflects on these things, there can be no doubt that the will of God is the chief and principal cause of all things.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.177, emphasis mine)

      That doesn’t sound like man has a whole lot of moral choice to me in Calvin’s scheme of things.

    • cherylu

      And William, Calvin seems to have certainly believed in what is called double predestination too. Here are a couple of more quotes from that site:

      Calvin writes: “First, the eternal predestination of God, by which before the fall of Adam He decreed what should take place concerning the whole human race and every individual, was fixed and determined.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.121, emphasis mine)

      Calvin explains: “God had no doubt decreed before the foundation of the world what He would do with every one of us and had assigned to everyone by His secret counsel his part in life.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries

      So these folks had no choice in which type of people they were to be from before the foundation of the world. How does that give any one a moral choice? Sure his nature is corrupt and he can’t not sin. However, according to Calvin, his nature is that way precisely because God made it that way.

    • wm tanksley

      I see the claim made above (in post #72) that if man is dominated by a fallen nature, therefore man would always fall to every temptation.

      In response:

      First, your argument is essentially fully Pelagian; if it were valid, it would prove that man’s good deeds can merit salvation. This has been denied by the Bible and the Church continuously. I know you didn’t make it that way on purpose, of course; I’ve interacted with you before and know you’re completely orthodox on this topic.

      Second, the corruption of man’s nature is not such that he can neither do good acts nor resist doing evil acts; rather, it is such that he cannot look to God. Because of this, man’s acts are ALL corrupt, even the good acts; the “bad” acts are especially bad ONLY because they violate God’s revealed Law, which was revealed specifically to make man’s corruption evident and undeniable. In an ultimate sense, man’s lawful acts without God are just as bad as our unlawful acts.

      Now, because fallen man is a rebel against God, he will naturally disobey His revealed Law, not because he cannot possibly obey it, and not because he doesn’t want to do anything it says, but rather because he cares more about himself than about the Author of the Law. But although this disobedience results in bad consequences, it’s not the worst sin, and as I’ve explained above, it’s not the true expression of man’s fallenness; rather, it’s the means by which God proves our fallenness beyond any doubt.

      This is what Paul was talking about in Romans 7 when he said that before the Law came we were alive, but when the Law came “sin became alive and I died.” But Paul is clear: the sin was present and active before the Law was shown to us; it simply was not visible to us by any means. Therefore, God revealed the Law, not to make us good, but to make our essential corruption evident.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl,

      That doesn’t sound like man has a whole lot of moral choice to me in Calvin’s scheme of things.

      None of the quotes you cite say anything about whether man has moral choice; you’re drawing conclusions that are not called for by your evidence. They’re all talking about God, not man.

      Furthermore, they’re all attributing to God “first”, “primary”, and “principal” causation, which although it goes a bit beyond the philosophical term of “ultimate causation”, is still not direct causation.

      Finally, none of the quotes you give, including the ones in your second post, are responding to the question of double predestination. They simply didn’t have that in mind, and weren’t worded in such a way to make the distinction clear. That question is a separate one, and to some extent a later one. Calvin’s been quotemined by both sides in that, and I’ve seen quotations that appear to support both sides; I think the fact is that Calvin didn’t think of it and therefore didn’t try to take sides.

      But, when you think about it, the question isn’t whether Calvin personally supported double predestination, but rather whether the person you’re talking to supports it. Of course, if you can prove that he MUST support it, that’s a forgone conclusion; but proving that kind of thing is very difficult, and it’s usually a better tactic to simply ask pointed questions. This is how I witness to Mormons and Muslims — I don’t simply assume that they hold the distinctive beliefs of their religion, but rather I ask pointed questions and interact with their answers. Many of them haven’t realized the implications of their doctrines, and some don’t even know what their doctrines are.

      By the way, Michael T above shows a good example of how to correctly prove that your opponent must accept a distasteful belief in order to assert what he does — although he’s also a good example of why it’s very hard to do that :-).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I think you are missing the point of the argument perhaps. What the Argument from Consequence is attempting to show is that Compatibilism is impossible because it is in fact Hard Determinism.

      That’s what Van Inwagen seems to have intended in his original paper, but from what I see he later realized that his argument actually disproved the notion of free will entirely, because whether determinism or indeterminism prevailed, agent free will would not be the primary cause of an agent’s action. (Wikipedia has a summary of his development; that’s not my first source, but the summary matches well with what I read elsewhere, and makes sense out of what would seem a contradiction otherwise. In short, he used to assert that compatiblism was false and LFW was true, but later realized that the falsehood was in the very idea of free will.)

      As to free will do me a favor and define it how you would define free will. You might have done this earlier, but I couldn’t find it.

      I agree with Edwards and Von Inwagen — free will is a contradiction in terms, or (according to Edwards) at best a gross oversimplification. The only reason I use it is to minimize the length of my arguments.

      Free agency is real; free will is not. Humans are free moral agents in the sense that they are free to exert their will to choose what they desire. The will is not a thing that can possibly be free; a will is a philosophical construct used to describe an agent’s power of choice. As such, it is entirely under the control of the agent and NOT itself free.

      More…

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Ascribing freedom to the will is only correct when it’s shorthand for ascribing freedom to the agent. And the freedom we ascribe to the agent must be very carefully described. Obviously, it’s not freedom to act (since that can be physically prevented); it’s therefore only freedom to choose (which is another way of saying freedom to exercise the will, since the will is defined as the facility of choice).

      Enough for now. Let’s interact on this.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      Twice now I have been writing a comment in reply to you and twice it has somehow gotten deleted! Don’t have the time to do it again, at least not now.

      Must be predestined not to be, huh? 🙂

    • wm tanksley

      I’m sorry, Michael, I just saw that my long post didn’t answer your question. Oops.

      As to free will do me a favor and define it how you would define free will. You might have done this earlier, but I couldn’t find it.

      May I pretend you asked “in what manner can we possibly claim that man is a free moral agent, and therefore can be held responsible for his choices?” If that’s not a correct summary of what you asked (in a way which deliberately doesn’t refer to free will), let me know.

      To answer my rephrasing of the question: Man is a free moral agent because he has desires which are his own, can know moral principles, can reflect on those desires according to those principles, and can act to increase or decrease lesser desires if he has overriding greater desires. (For example, if man loved God more than himself, he could decrease the desire to honor himself to the point that he could choose to honor God.)

      However, this moral agency does not grant man complete freedom. You can clearly see that man does not have complete freedom of action. Man also doesn’t have complete freedom of knowledge (that is, man doesn’t know all moral principles). Man also doesn’t always correctly reason from the moral principles he knows, sometimes because he simply errs, sometimes because he desires ease more than rigorous logic, and sometimes because he hates the true conclusion. Finally, man sometimes can’t act to decrease or increase the correct desires because he doesn’t desire to make that change (i.e. he lacks an overriding desire).

      In the long run, we must attribute this state of affairs to God: He created it originally, allowed the fall in which the wrong desires became established, and knit each of us together in the womb, thus showing that he approves the continuation as things are for now. At the same time, we cannot blame God for our choices; they truly belong to us personally.

      And this is proper.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Just one quick question,

      How do you think free agency gives a person freedom to choose, what I called moral choice, in Calvin’s way of thinking when he says that God works on the affections and will to do exactly what he has ordained is going to happen?

      I have quoted him as saying this in some of my recent comments.

      If God rules their internal affections and works on the will to conform to what He wants done, how is the man in any way free to make a moral choice?? You can say the man is making the moral choice, but it is only the choice that God beforehand has put in His affections and will to accomplish His purposes. Making a choice that has already been made for you is not much of a choice. is it?

      I just don’t get the argument you guys keep making that this conclusion does not follow.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      This is getting kind of humorous. You are reading Calvin with a preset definition of what he means by all of this. To you, it means that God controls the man like a robot and makes him sin. To Calvin, it means that God has decreed the actions of a knowingly perpetual sinful man in order to produce a divinely desired outcome of good. He GOVERNS the will, meaning He rules over the thoughts and decisions of a man. He does not MAKE those thoughts and decisions. I don’t know how to explain it any more thoroughly than I already have. You are misreading us and then acting as though it is we who do not accord with Calvin. Now, I may not explain things the way Calvin does, but I do agree with him. And, for the tenth time I think, God is the author of sin. He is not the direct author, or as Wm put it, He is not the agent that is sinning.

    • wm tanksley

      I said “and this is proper”, and then I ran out of space.

      What if man actually DID have libertarian free will — if man’s will could, at any point, choose otherwise? Then our actions would not be attributable to anything in us (since who we are is constant), but would rather be a property of our will. It would be unjust for God to punish us according to our actions; rather, he should punish our free will. (Bizarre!) Furthermore, if the afterlife is eternal, couldn’t man’s free will change at any time, whether in heaven or hell, to choose the other place?

      Because man’s free agency is in accordance with his heart’s desires, we can be assured that his eternal destiny is fixed because his heart is fixed (and not free).

      This is why Paul says whoever is free from sin is a slave to righteousness. Whoever is free to sin, is a slave unto sin. There is no libertarian middle ground, where one is free to sin or to do righteousness at one’s own discretion.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      And William, just for the record, I am trying to point out the problems I see with Calvinism as a whole, not just with one man’s particular “take” on it. As such it would seem to me that it is only fair and necessary to point out things like what the founder of the whole belief system thinks or what other very well known Calvinists think. When Hodge consistently says that I misunderstand and don’t get the point, what in the world is wrong with pointing out quotes that show that Calvinism, at least in some people’s minds and in the founders mind, says exactly what I am saying it does?

      Again, I am not addressing just one man like Hodge. I am trying to address the system as a whole.

      Does that help? Or am I still just all wrong in my approach? 🙂

    • Hodge

      Let me try another hopeful analogy (I say “hopeful” not because it’s a good analogy, but because I’m hopeful that it will be :))

      Let’s say your kid was swimming in a pool when he wasn’t supposed to do so. You told him not to, and he’s decided to go out and swim in it all day anyway. You lose your keys in the pool, and while he is in the pool, you send another son to go and entice him to get your keys. Now, did you make him disobey you by going in the pool? No, he’s already in the pool. You just created an influence that would have him direct his disobedience to a good purpose. He’s still in the pool via his rebellion. He will still get a smack on the toosh when he gets out; but you have used his evil act for good.

      That is similar to what God does. I don’t believe that God decrees in logical order, not chronological, first for man to sin and then to use it, but rather He decrees what He does in light of man’s sin. The problem is that you are viewing sin as individual actions rather than an entire life of rebellion. Man does not dip his feet in the pool every now and again. He’s swimming underwater from conception to death.

    • wm tanksley

      It seems we have heard over and over from Calvinist’s in the past that God is sovereign over every detail that happens in this world.There is not one minute thing that happens in this universe that He has not ordained will happen in exactly that way at that time in that place with that person.

      You heard that from Christ, not Calvin. God is meticulously sovereign; He approves of everything that happens, and nothing is outside of His control.

      Now, some Calvinists say that God ordained all things from before the beginning of creation; but the Bible isn’t clear and specific on that. It seems like a logical conclusion, but it isn’t clearly stated in the Bible.

      I personally prefer not to come down hard on a conclusion which isn’t directly stated; thus, I side more with the Calvinists who aren’t certain on that question.

      I could see a different possibility: perhaps God ordained from the beginning only the bare minimum the Bible says (which people were elect), and then He created, and then He providentially watches over His creation and acts to ensure that His elect are indeed regenerated, and are indeed presented with the Gospel so that they may choose it (and indeed will choose it, since they are regenerate). This seems to me to be philosophically unlikely (I think Van Inwagen’s argument is convincing), but the argument may not be valid, so I can’t simply dismiss the possibility.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Yep, Hodge, his entire life is one of rebellion because according to Calvin God determined it would be that way before time began.

    • Hodge

      “As such it would seem to me that it is only fair and necessary to point out things like what the founder of the whole belief system thinks ”

      Whose the founder of the belief system? Calvin? That’s not why we call it Calvinism.

    • Hodge

      “Yep, Hodge, his entire life is one of rebellion because according to Calvin God determined it would be that way before time began.”

      God determined that men He knew would choose rebellion would be made and then determined that their choices would be brought to serve His will. He determined who He would leave in that rebellion and who He would save, etc. Sure, I agree with that. Don’t you? Don’t you believe that God determined evil men to crucify Christ?

    • cherylu

      William,

      But Calvin said God ordained all things before the world began, down to the last detail of what every man will do. That presents a huge problem does it not with this whole idea of free agency?

      Now remember, I am talking about Calvinism as a whole here and not just your version of it!

      By the way, it would seem to me that it would present a huge problem for Hodge too, as he said he believes in double predestination way back up there somewhere. (If I remember correctly.)

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I’m talking about experience that is ungoverned by what is revealed versus that which is governed by it. We can experience the Bible, but we also need the Holy Spirit and the Church to interpret it correctly in obedience. God never promised that you will be given the HS and the Church to interpret external truths to what has been revealed.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      “Ordained,” please define.

    • wm tanksley

      Again, I am not addressing just one man like Hodge. I am trying to address the system as a whole.

      I understand, Cheryl; but there are at least three problems. First, since Calvinism is not Catholicism, we do not have an inerrant magisterium; we admit that Calvin may be wrong. Second, as I pointed out, Calvin wasn’t addressing what you were claiming; he didn’t refer at ALL to some of the conclusions you claimed to advance, and only referred indirectly to others. Third and finally, you are not the best interpreter of Calvin, because you’re attempting to characterize him in a short blog comment. A real interaction would have to engage him at length, not merely in a few isolated quotes.

      I do suggest that the best thing to do is to interact with the people here as they profess to believe, rather than attempting to interact with “the system as a whole”. By all means use your knowledge of the whole system to catch us in misstatements, but respect our claims about our own beliefs. After all, you actually DO disagree with us. There’s something interesting to decide here.

      Meanwhile, your ideas about the “entire system” are largely invalid. Calvin wasn’t attempting to address the things you think he was addressing; those were later innovations in thought. Calvin might have (in his head) believed the right thing or the wrong thing; we can’t tell, because he doesn’t seem to have thought it out on paper.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Ooh, interesting! I didn’t notice this.

      Calvin writes: “But where it is a matter of men’s counsels, wills, endeavours, and exertions, there is greater difficulty in seeing how the providence of God rules here too, so that nothing happens but by His assent and that men can deliberately do nothing unless He inspire it.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.171-172, emphasis mine)

      By the way, your emphasis seems to have been omitted — the entire paragraph was italicized.

      What’s interesting here is that your reading is so hostile you miss completely what Calvin is saying. He’s not saying that “the providence of God rules here” or that “the providence of God does not rule here”; rather, he’s saying that “there is greater difficulty in seeing how the providence of God rules here.” His statement as quoted is ONLY about the difficulty of seeing the truth, not actually about the truth.

      The entire passage you quote actually gives almost no information about how Calvin believes. Now, I suspect I know what he believes; but only more context would actually show it. Is he about to say that it’s difficult to see because it’s false, or because something else obscures the truth, or because the truth is more subtle?

      This is an illustration of why quotemining in comments is a poor way to find anything about a system of thought.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Regarding my last comment, I think what Calvin ended up saying was that God was the author of sin but was not guilty of sin himself.

      Keep in mind that Calvin wasn’t speaking English (the language in which the Westminster Catechism proclaimed the God is not the author of sin), and in fact when Westminster proclaimed that the word “author” has a different meaning than it does now (more related to the modern word “authorize” than to the modern concept of writing a fictional book).

      The big question is then not what words you disapprove of, but what concepts. Why is it offensive for Calvin (or myself) to say that God is the author of sin, yet is not guilty of sin? I’ll stand behind Calvin’s statement for this argument — I’m not sure what it is in context, but I’ll interpret it according to my understanding as I’ve given it above.

      If Steven King writes a horror novel, and is therefore the author of horror and sin (in it), is he guilty of that sin?

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      “but respect our claims about our own beliefs.”

      I know you both have your own individual beliefs. Never said other wise.

      But just addressing one person’s individual beliefs is rather like trying to refute the whole system of Mormonism by just speaking to the beliefs of one indiviual Mormon. It just doesn’t work.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge and Wm

      There’s almost too much to respond to here. So I will just make three responses.

      1. WM, I’m aware that Van Inwagen has issues with both Free Will and Compatibilism. Most of the issues of which I am aware about Free Will have been addressed elsewhere by other authors. Not the case for Compatibilism.

      2. Here’s the thing. Either God is in meticulous control of every event which comes about or he is not. If he is meticulously in control then he is in control of every event which contributes to shaping our desires and our will. He is therefore meticulously in control of shaping our desires and our wills. Our desires and our wills then inescably determine how we act given any set of circumstance (circumstance which themselves are determined by God).

      If this is not the case then the Calvinist must at some point place into the puzzle some transcendent human quality which interprets the events and can in some manner choose how to be affected by those events. This is really no different, nor does it create less problems, then the transcendent quality of free will claimed by LFW. In fact one could argue that if human have the ability to interpret events in a non-causal manner, independent of God, then they in some sense have LFW.

      3. I agree with Cheryl here – trying to debate individual people is impossible. Most people (myself likely included) are buffet like in their beliefs. They take some from one place and some from another place. On can only respond to the belief system that is being discussed, not any individual person, in the forum context we are using here. Otherwise we’d have to have a 500 post thread for every single Calvinist that walked in.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      From the Free Online Dictionary:

      or·dain (ôr-dn)
      tr.v. or·dained, or·dain·ing, or·dains
      1.
      a. To invest with ministerial or priestly authority; confer holy orders on.
      b. To authorize as a rabbi.
      2. To order by virtue of superior authority; decree or enact.
      3. To prearrange unalterably; predestine: by fate ordained. See Synonyms at dictate.

      ——————————————————————————–
      Obviously # 2 or 3 are the applicable ones here.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      Quick counter example.

      1. Person A undertakes the following actions with the full knowledge and intent that they will likely lead to the death of Person B.
      2. Person A knows that Person B has a fragile heart condition.
      3. Person A also knows that Person B is deathly afraid of heights and if placed in a high position will uncontrollably panic.
      4. Person A causes Person B to unknowingly climb to a high position (lets just say he said outside the door at the top of the stairs there was a early birthday present).
      5. When Person B goes outside and realizes how high up she is she goes into a panic and dies of a massive heart attack.

      Is Person A morally culpable for murder?

    • wm tanksley

      It seems to me that Romans 9 is saying that God will have mercy on whomever he chooses. It also seems clear from other passages of the Bible that He chooses to have mercy on those have humbled themselves before him in faith – Psalm 32:10.

      Paul is quoting Exodus to say that; but it doesn’t stop with what Exodus taught us. He adds that “it does not depend on desire or exertion.” If God only showed mercy to those who first humbled themselves, then wouldn’t his mercy depend on our desire and exertion? (BTW, Psalms 32:10 doesn’t teach anything like that. It says that God floods the one who trusts with faithfulness. It doesn’t say that every human can trust without help from God.)

      Furthermore, the Bible is very clear, repeatedly and through many authors, that God acted in our favor while we were his enemies — before we humbled ourselves.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      But just addressing one person’s individual beliefs is rather like trying to refute the whole system of Mormonism by just speaking to the beliefs of one indiviual Mormon. It just doesn’t work.

      You’re not going to refute the system of Mormonism by responding to uncontextual quotes in a blog forum. Your idea of Calvinism is fundamentally _wrong_, and the more you argue it the worse you’re going to look to informed Calvinists. You’re accomplishing nothing more than sounding good to your fellow Arminians.

      And you will _never_ present the Gospel to anyone by refuting a system. You have to speak to the person, not the system. Mormons who have their system refuted turn into disaffected atheists, not Christians.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      Regarding comment #129 above and your statement that I totally misunderstood what Calvin was saying there. If you read these quotes below and put the other one from that comment in context, I don’t think I necessarily misread him at all. Saying something is more difficult to see doesn’t mean he doesn’t see it. The quotes below from the same links certainly sound as if he does.

      Calvin writes: “He has plenty of reasons for comfort as he realises that the devil and all the ungodly are reined in by God, so that they cannot conceive, plan or carry out any crime, unless God allows it, indeed commands it. They are not only in bondage to him, but are forced to serve him. It is the Lord’s prerogative to enable the enemy’s rage and to control it at will, and it is in his power to decide how far and how long it may last, so that wicked men cannot break free and do exactly what they want….” (The Institutes of Christian Religion, Book I, Ch.17, Sect. 10

      Calvin also says the will of God is the supreme and primary cause of all things.

      And this: Whence that which I have just stated is perfectly plain: that the internal affections of men are not less ruled by the hand of God than their external actions are preceded by His eternal decree; and, moreover, that God performs not by the hands of men the things which He has decreed, without first working in their hearts the very will which precedes the acts they are to perform. Wherefore, the sentiments of Augustine on these momentous points are to be fully received and maintained. ” When God (says he) willeth that to be done which cannot be effected, in the course of the things of this world, without the wills of men, He at the same time inclines their hearts to will”

      These quotes come from several of Calvin’s writings.

    • wm tanksley

      Michael T, unmistakably yes — person B was not a moral actor in the situation at all, and did not do anything wrong anyhow. Person A was the only moral actor, and although none of his actions were individually wrong, he is guilty of either manslaughter/murder OR negligent homicide, depending on whether he intended his victim to die.

      Here’s another situation:

      Shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theatre. Here the person shouting doesn’t kill anyone, but because none of the actual killers are capable of moral calculation, the guilt reflects only on the moral actor, the person who shouted (even though each of his actions in isolation were not immoral).

      This is in contrast to the example I gave earlier — the Mohammed cartoon. There the initial actor doesn’t do anything individually wrong, but people die as a result — yet he’s not guilty simply because the actual moral calculation is carried out by the people who actually do the killing.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, in response to #137 — you may have missed my earlier posts on the meaning of “primary cause”, “ultimate cause”, and such. You seem to think that they mean “only cause” or “moral cause”. They don’t mean that.

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I believe that God is even more removed than that. I believe God is more like Person A who tells Person B, who wants to get Person C to climb the latter so that the events would bring him to his death, that Person B can go ahead and do so. I believe in the act of an individual sin, there are three beings at work: God, the devil/demonic, the person. That’s what I can get from Job 1 and 1 Kings 22, the only two passages that actually allow us a glance at how God may do this (although we there may be a delineation of numerous human agents in any given act as well).

      So I actually believe that Person B who wants to murder Person C is liable. Person A, since He has the right to give life and take it, is not.

      The other flaw in the analogy is that it assigns a sinful intent to Person A, i.e., God. God’s intent is to use the person’s evil intent and action to bring about good, not evil.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      Many have in the past, and a select few do today, interpret the Bible to mean that the world is flat. Now we could talk all day about why this isn’t so, yet ultimately isn’t it our observation that the world is in fact round which leads us to find these interpretations absurd. Furthermore, even if we argue that it is simply because the Bible is not a science book are we again not making a statement about the content of the Bible based upon logic??

    • Hodge

      BTW, I’m so disappointed my analogy didn’t end the conversation by bringing immediate enlightenment and obedience to the Scripture. Even with all of its flaws, I did love it so. 🙂

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      Ha, ha. I was just thinking you were going to say that. That is so funny. Here’s what i was just thinking I would say in response: 🙂

      Sure, external factors can cause us to look again at the text to see if that’s what the text is really teaching. No one is saying otherwise. It’s when we look back and back and back at the text and it is clear to be teaching X that we don’t deny X because we think Y is true. In the case of your flat earth analogy, we look at those texts, as well as the hermeneutics and concept of the Bible behind the flat earth interpretations, and we are able to see that this is not what the Bible is attempting to teach. We cannot do the same for Rom 9 or John 6, or John 12 for that matter, which btw you have yet to answer.

    • Hodge

      How do we explain God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, even if we say that He does it after Pharaoh does it? What if Pharaoh would have turned afterward? In fact, isn’t that the very reason God hardens? So that he wouldn’t turn?

      What do we do with Egyptians running into the crashing waters of the Reed Sea? If they are choosing on their own using their LFW, why madly run into them?

      What do we do of God causing Saul to fall asleep, or sending him an evil spirit that he knows will try and harm David?

      What do we do with God telling evil spirits to go and lie in the mouths of prophets? Or sending the Assyrians and Babylonians to kill Israel? Or purposely leaving Canaanites in the land of Israel in order that He/they might test/tempt them? What do we do with the evil men who were predetermined to crucify Christ? Or of Christ’s statements that those who believe and do not believe do so because of what God has decided? What do we do with the logical question that if the butterfly effect occurs, how is it that God can control anything if He does not control everything (I know, Michael’s answer is Quantum Physics ;)).

      I see no serious interaction with these texts except to dismiss them, or completely ignore them, in an effort to replace them with philosophical musings, those which come from fallen human minds that are deceitful and sick above all things, which no one seems to grasp.

    • cherylu

      William,

      I have been told repeatedly by you that I am wrong about everything pretty much all day now. My understanding is wrong, my methodology of discussing is wrong, and for goodness sake, I even merited a mini lecture on how wrong I am in any dealings with Mormon’s I might have!!

      I think I have been lambasted about enough for one day. You have succeeded in getting rid of me now. 🙂

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, I’m truly sorry to see you leave. I’d like to interact with you, but as long as you insist on only interacting with your own understanding of a dead man’s writings without accepting corrections from the people who actually do believe what he wrote, you’re only talking to your own side, perhaps even only yourself. (You’re certainly not about to convince Calvin!)

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      Here’s the problem. When I read Calvin I’m sorry I can’t read German, Swiss or whatever language he wrote Institutes and his other works in. I have to read in English and assume that the translators knew what they were doing. I can not take the ordinary meaning of those quotes to mean anything other than what Cheryl asserted them to mean. I simply can’t and herein lies another problem I have with Calvinists. You want to constantly twist the meaning of words.

      So for instance what does it mean when we say God is good?? The understandings of this offered by Hodge and others in past debates means something so far removed from “good” that it would be unrecognizable by any English speaker as being “good”. Calvinists are deceptive in their language. It God isn’t good in the sense of the English word “good” don’t call Him “good”. Find some other word to use in your translation because the English word good is, by the very definition of the English word, not appropriate to apply to the Calvinist God.

    • Hodge

      “So for instance what does it mean when we say God is good?? The understandings of this offered by Hodge and others in past debates means something so far removed from “good” that it would be unrecognizable by any English speaker as being “good”.”

      Oh No, we are not returning to this again, are we? God is a fluffy papa smurf in our society so much that any other concept of God is a twisting of words then. Don’t use the word God anymore, Michael. This is again the idea that Dan addressed on the other post where there is a link between a single concept and a word that, frankly, can carry many concepts, especially when you need to correct someone’s misunderstanding of it. I could find a different word to use, but the false concept of “good” that one has in our culture would continue. So educating one on the biblical use of a concept, while using that term, is more appropriate. But let’s not get into that again.

    • wm tanksley

      God is a fluffy papa smurf in our society so much that any other concept of God is a twisting of words then.

      Very well said. God is indeed good, but “good” does not mean “safe and simple”. Our concepts of moral fault and credit are derived from His image in us, but it’s the true concepts, not the modern wishful thinking distortions — the ethical dilemma, not the gushy compassion that sees only one side of every issue (awww, why does the mean lion have to kill the cute antelope!).

      God in His love created a universe that is NOT a bed of roses. There’s no evidence either in the universe or the Bible that it ever was, outside of the very small Garden of Eden.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I can not take the ordinary meaning of those quotes to mean anything other than what Cheryl asserted them to mean.

      Cheryl didn’t assert them to mean anything; she just threw out a slogan as if they were conclusive refutation. (I’m not saying she always argues like that, by the way.) My response was to ask her what she meant and why she felt that it was insulting to God to say he is the author of sin. She’s never even attempted to answer.

      I simply can’t and herein lies another problem I have with Calvinists. You want to constantly twist the meaning of words. […] Calvinists are deceptive in their language.

      We can’t help it — we’re totally depraved, remember?

      (I’m just joking, but there’s nothing else I can do. This is as shallow of an ad-hominem argument I’ve seen in a long time. Hmm, you take after St. Paul: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”)

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      50 years ago had you stated “John Doe is gay” this would obviously have a drastically different meaning then if today you stated “John Doe is gay”. My point is simply that the “good” you describe does not comport to the present definition of “good” even when people think beyond the lovey dovey stuff (e.g. is someone good for killing a home intruder with a gun threatening his family). I would further assert that your understanding of “good” would not comport to the definition of “good” 100 years ago either. Thus good is an improper term. I’ll let you respond (I don’t really have a choice right), but you are right lets not go there again – obviously you haven’t convinced me before lol.

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      “This is as shallow of an ad-hominem argument I’ve seen in a long time.”

      I would only be a ad hominem attack if it’s was unsupported by examples or was meant to prove that Calvinism was wrong. Since it was neither of these I think the accusation fails. It was merely an observation about the difficulty of debating a Calvinist. One never knows what they mean by the words they use.

    • wm tanksley

      I would only be a ad hominem attack if it’s was unsupported by examples or was meant to prove that Calvinism was wrong.

      I’m sorry, but your argument was a universal, and you brought forth only one example, which you failed to support as an example in any way (you merely asserted that because you know “God is good” therefore Calvinism can’t be true).

      If you’d merely said our arguments were deceptive or twisting words, you could have supported it with arguments; but you didn’t, and didn’t try. If you can’t address our arguments, at least refrain from calling ALL Calvinists lovers of word-twisting and deceivers; limit it to the ones you’re discussing with.

      (By the way, one good reason you couldn’t address my argument would be that they don’t make any sense. If that’s the case let me know, and I’ll admit fault and try to explain. But don’t accuse me of deception or love of word-twisting without evidence — and don’t accuse ALL Calvinists of it ever, because you can never have that kind of evidence.)

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      Oh come on give me a break. If what you say were the nature of an ad hominem attack one could never make any generalization. Furthermore, I believe it was Hodge who stated earlier that “the problem is that most Arminians bring up texts that are notoriously taken out of context and ignore the grammar”. I don’t see how this is any different then what I stated with the exception of the qualifier “most”. However, since the context for my statement was my personal experience in debating Calvinists I don’t see how that qualifier is neccessary. Furthermore, since it would appear most Calvinists hold to the understandings of God’s goodness, free will, authorship of evil, etc. that those I have debated do I don’t see how it can’t be expanded to apply to the generalized whole.

      However, fine I will qualify to satisfy you. “Most” Calvinists I have debated use words and twist them in such a manner that I never know what they mean by the words they use.

    • wm tanksley

      Me included? Does that mean, for example, that the last argument I posted was confusing? (Wouldn’t shock me.) If so, I’ll be glad to take this entire digression to mean “your last argument didn’t make sense to me.”

      I concede that Hodge’s generalization was offtopic and rude, because if he can’t refer to your arguments specifically he shouldn’t make argumentative claims — but it wasn’t comparable, because he at least was talking about what he claimed were typical arguments; your assertion was pointed at the people.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,
      I think Cheryl would agree with me that when we are talking about the meaning of Calvin’s statements above you were twisting them to mean something other than what a normal average person ascribing the normal meaning of the words to the words would say those words mean. Now I guess you could simply argue that the translator did a bad job at translating, however I doubt anyone here has the actual requisite training to make that statement.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      Last time on this: The word “gay” does not need to be redeemed. God is not spoken of as “gay” in the Scripture. Man is not talked about as needing to be “gay,” so I see no need to redeem the word. The word “good,” however is a part of all Christian theology and ethics. It is imperative that we redeem the word and throw out the nonsense that our religious culture believes about it.

      My comments in regard to Arminians is purely my experience with them. This is what they do in my debates with them. Then, when corrected by context or grammar, etc., they simply make the statement that it’s just my interpretation. I’ve never been in a debate with an Arminian who does not do this, so it is a generalization, but one that is often repeated in my experience. I’m sure it is not the case with all Arminians. I will have to retract it now though, since no one seems to want to discuss the Scriptures, and Michael has not as of yet answered my question to him about John 12:39-40. I do apologize if it came off as rude. That was not my intention, as I always try to be as courteous as Papa Smurf. 🙂 I had to throw that one in. 🙂

    • Hodge

      “I think Cheryl would agree with me that when we are talking about the meaning of Calvin’s statements above you were twisting them to mean something other than what a normal average person ascribing the normal meaning of the words to the words would say those words mean.”

      Meaning is in the author’s intent, not the audience’s comprehension. That’s why original languages are more important than translations. Come on, Michael. You know this. If Calvin had specific ideas that were spoken in words that had meanings that are now passe, we should clarify them. You don’t really think we should teach that Jesus wanted the little children to suffer, as the KJV says, do you?

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      Of course authorial intent is key – hence the option that the translators did a bad job (i.e. they didn’t do a good job of communicating the authors intent). However, all we have in the conversation is the bare assertion that the author didn’t mean what the words say. Not much to go on.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      Sure, I’ll concede that point. I’m not an expert on the Institutes and its translators’ use of language. I would, however, point out that most translations on the internet are from the eighteenth century, and the Latin and French in which Calvin wrote may clarify what to Cheryl seems to be a contradiction. My point was to only point out that authorial intent and not the comprehension of the audience is what holds interpretive authority (to the chagrin of the reader-response crowd).

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      I don’t have time or energy either one to stay in this conversation. But I just want to ask a couple of questions here.

      You say that the translations on the internet are mostly from the eighteenth century. Do you know where one can find one online that is a more modern translation? And if so, do you know if they are substantially different in any of the quotes I have posted–different enough to change the meaning of them signifcantly? (Remember both Michael T and I are referring to the differences in understanding of multiple quotes here. Not just the one about God being the author of sin which seems to be brought up repeatedly by either you or Wm. I can see how the meaning of the word “author” may have changed significantly over the years. However, the other quotes seem to me to be more straightforward with a lot less room for changes in meaing of language.)

      And secondly, you both keep asserting that Michael’s and my understandings of those quotes are completely wrong even if we take them as what they say in a very straight forward manner. But as Michael said, you seem to have given us very little evidence to show us why that is the case other then stating, “That is not what we believe and that is not what he meant.” How do you KNOW that is not what he meant?

      I’m sorry, but at this time it seems to me that the reasons given to assure us that we in fact understand his words incorrectly is something like, “Because that is not the way we understand them.”

      Remember, many people besides the two of us understand them in the same way. And do not some of your fellow Calvinist’s even understand him in that way? Are we missing something here?

      Thanks for any help you can give in this area!

    • cherylu

      PS,

      I meant to add that it would seem to me that a man that was a lawyer like Calvin was would be especially careful in his choice of words and how he expressed himself. Which makes me question even more how it can be that what seems to be the plain meaning of his words as Michael has stated were actually intended to mean something else altogether.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      I think you’re wrong about Calvin because of other things I read from him, specifically in the Institutes. You even quoted him as saying otherwise. The difference is that you think he contradicts himself, and I think he can be read in terms of what we are saying. I’m not dogmatic on the point though. My theology is not based primarily on what Calvin says. I just don’t think that its helpful to throw around quotes and then say that he contradicted himself when you haven’t studied the original languages he using or considered the translations and etymology of the words they use. You wouldn’t use the Bible this way without considering what it said in the original, or whether the translation may be off, would you?

      PS There may be an online source of modern translations, but I’m unaware of it. My modern translations of Calvin are all in print form.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      So, do your modern translations in print form say something different then what those quotes say?

      And the only place I said he contradicted him self was the author of sin quote. One time he said God was the author of sin. And another time he said he was not but later (I believe in the same book) seemed to come back to saying that He was.

      So is that the only quote you are referring to? Because it is certainly not the only one Michael and I have been referring to.

      Have to go.

    • Hodge

      Yes, that’s the only one I was addressing. I don’t know if Wm had other things in mind. I was trying to show that by “author,” or “ordain,” etc. Calvin is not necessarily talking about MAKING someone do this or that, or being the direct author of a sinful act, etc.

    • wm tanksley

      Michael, challenging the meaning of words is not even close to what I was trying to do, and I’ve said so again and again. I was trying to ask you why you were quoting Calvin. You seemed to think that what he was saying was wrong, and I was trying to get you to explain why.

      In detail, I was actually trying to do was to challenge your assumption that saying “God is the author of evil” is wrong — I’ve asked why it’s wrong but “creator of evil (people)” or “sustainer of evil (people and events)” is okay (I assume so because the Bible clearly supports both).

      Again, I’m not questioning the translation at all; I’m asking why you guys are quoting it as though it proved something bad about Calvinism as a system. What exactly does it prove?

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      The quotes in question seem to prove that in the Calvinist system (as understood by Calvin) God is the author of sin itself. He creates the will within the individual which then carries out the sinful action. He actively works both the mens rea and actus rea portions of the sin.

    • wm tanksley

      And the only place I said he contradicted him self was the author of sin quote.

      Oh, I didn’t even notice that! Thanks for pointing it out.

      So your point was that Calvin contradicted himself once? And you were trying to use that to take down the entire Calvinist system?

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Thank you, Michael.

      The quotes in question seem to prove that in the Calvinist system (as understood by Calvin) God is the author of sin itself.

      I think the modern word ‘author’ — the one you’re probably meaning — is a very good description of God’s action. Like the author of a great book, God creates a world with a grand arc of story, containing incredibly detailed characters.

      Let me ask you… Is the author of a book guilty (or should he feel shame) for the crimes the characters in his books commit? What about the shameful deeds of the heroes? It seems to me that the answer is “no”. The characters in the book are responsible (within the book) for their own actions. The more powerful the characterization, the more we feel that the characters deserve justice based on their characters — and the more we admire the author.

      If this were the sense in which God is said to be the author of evil (and good), would you find it repulsive?

      He creates the will within the individual which then carries out the sinful action.

      Yes, God creates everything, including man’s will. And man chooses sin (his will goes along for the ride, of course; but don’t pretend man isn’t corrupt in other areas as well). I don’t pretend to know why; but I know this is all precisely described in the Bible.

      He actively works both the mens rea and actus rea portions of the sin.

      You use the term “actively works”, but that’s just not the case. The actual agent (man) actively works; God might be said to indirectly work, but even that isn’t accurate. If I may use the metaphor of authorship again, God authors evil into His story in order to complete the story, not in order to commit evil. Man performs the evil for the sake of the evil act, and intending precisely to execute it in disregard of God.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      1. “Let me ask you… Is the author of a book guilty (or should he feel shame) for the crimes the characters in his books commit?”

      I believe the author is guilty since the author controls every variable which leads to the personalities, desires, and wills of the characters. The characters only are the way they are because the author willed them to be that way and they only do what they do because they were willed by the author to do such a thing. I think this essentially confirms my assertion that the Calvinistic universe is essentially a giant Rupe Goldberg machine where all that is going on is an endless chain of cause and effect. One can be no more morally responsible in such a universe then a deadly bacteria is morally responsible for killing people. I committed the sin not because I chose to commit the sin, but because past action inevidibly effected me in certain ways which gave me certain desires and those desires caused me to will to sin. There was really no choice ever made – just the appearence of choice. In reality it was nothing more then physical and chemical reactions.

    • Michael T.

      2. “You use the term “actively works”, but that’s just not the case. The actual agent (man) actively works”

      Man i no more a active agent then a bacteria. God is the one who authored the desires and will (read programming) which causes man to act the way he does. We only appear to have the capacity of independent thought.

      3. “God authors evil into His story in order to complete the story, not in order to commit evil. Man performs the evil for the sake of the evil act, and intending precisely to execute it in disregard of God.”

      Only because God authored the man in such a way as to desire to commit the evil act. Not because man chose to. I really don’t see how my computer program analagy is wrong here. Perhaps you think of a computer program and simplistic terms, but I am thinking of a branching programming. Man is programmed such that if A occurs he will inevidibly do B or if C occurs he will do D or if neither occurs he will do E. Then God determines what occurs and man simply follows his programming (err desires)

    • Michael T.

      WM and Hodge,

      On a sidebar,

      1. Was the universe determined in such a manner that at this point in time you would believe Calvinism to be truthful?

      2. Was the universe determined in such a manner taht at this point in time I would believe Calvinism to be untruthful?

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      Re # 168, no, I was repeatedly using multiple quotes from Calvin that I saw as problematic, not just the one quote that both you and Hodge seemed to be so focused on.

    • wm tanksley

      I believe the author is guilty since the author controls every variable which leads to the personalities, desires, and wills of the characters.

      Let me get this right: you believe that Shakespeare is a murderer. Not hypothetically, but actually. You believe that Stephen King is a witch and necromancer. You believe that in all those things all these authors (and all other authors) are “actively working” (your words). When I told my son a story about a dragonslaying knight, you believe that I became guilty of actively burning down all the huts in the villiage (and, I suppose, you credit me with actively rebuilding them as well).

      The characters only are the way they are because the author willed them to be that way and they only do what they do because they were willed by the author to do such a thing.

      You might well say that we can sin “only” because God created us; but that’s not quite true. It’s correct that God’s creation is necessary to our sin, but it’s not sufficient. It’s not “only” because of God’s will that we sin; our will is sinfully involved, without which we would not be sinning.

      I think this essentially confirms my assertion that the Calvinistic universe is essentially a giant Rupe Goldberg machine where all that is going on is an endless chain of cause and effect.

      No purpose, no glory, no God? You’re missing more than a few things which are present in the Calvinistic universe. Aside from those: what’s wrong with cause and effect? Moral actions have effects; why shouldn’t they have causes?

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, I asked that with a stated purpose, and you answered the minimal question but ignored the purpose. Do you believe that finding a self-contradiction in a document disproves the entire document? Do you believe that it disproves the entire “system” which the document describes?

      I don’t think that’s the case, unless the document professes to be prophetic.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      I’m afraid I don’t at all get the point of your question.

      To me a self contradiction might prove the author to be confused himself on a point, so that maybe whatever he said on that particular issue couldn’t be used in either refuting or upholding his stance. It wouldn’t bring down the entire system, it would only show that maybe he didn’t know what this point was himself in regard to the system!

      Now if you are trying to show that someone certainly believed something based on one quote alone, and they contradict themselves in that point, then you are going to have a hard time. However that is not the case here. There were enough other quotes given which effectively said the same thing in my mind that I was not resting my case on that one quote at all.

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, my point is that even if you managed to prove a contradiction with Calvin’s text (which is a harder thing to do than you’re pretending, since all you’ve done is present the text without comment or discussion!), your stated goal was: “just for the record, I am trying to point out the problems I see with Calvinism as a whole, not just with one man’s particular “take” on it.

      Yet all you’re doing AT MOST is proving that Calvin didn’t understand “Calvinism” well enough to avoid a simple textually obvious contradiction. That doesn’t “point out the problems with” the entire system; it merely points out problems with Calvin’s take on the system.

      And I also have to stress that it’s harder to prove textual contradictions than you think it is. For example, did Moses contradict himself when he said “thou shalt not kill” and then later ordered that people guilty of certain crimes be killed? He used the same Hebrew word both times…

      Note that I’m not bothering to defend Calvin here; I don’t in the least care. Once you bring an actual charge I might be interested, so long as you’re making reasonable conclusions from the charge. “Calvin contradicted himself” is interesting, since he’s a great and influential writer, but if true it would prove only that Calvin contradicted himself.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      1. Was the universe determined in such a manner that at this point in time you would believe Calvinism to be truthful?
      2. Was the universe determined in such a manner taht at this point in time I would believe Calvinism to be untruthful?

      Your question assumes that the cause of our disagreement is exclusively the past history of the universe (which is purely physical). I do not belive that reality is purely physical. However, let me interpret your question to include all of reality. I don’t think we’ll disagree at this point, I just wanted to prevent you from accusing me of physicalism.

      Then, consider the following premises:

      1. God knows all facts from beginning to the end of time, and He knew them at the beginning. (Claim: God’s Omniscience)
      2. God does not know both a fact and its contradiction at the same time and in the same way. (Law: Non-Contradiction)
      3. An event is fully determined if, given the same facts, it could not have happened otherwise. (Definition: Determinism)
      4. An event that in fact happens would contradict the fact of the event happening otherwise. (Definition: Event Contradiction)
      5. We are actually having this disagreement now. (Claim: Obvious)

      Therefore:

      6. God knew from the beginning of time that we would have this argument right now. (Derivation from “Obvious” and “Omniscience”)
      7. God knew from the beginning of time that we would not NOT have this argument right now. (Derivation from #6 and “Non-Contradiction”)

      Finally:

      8. Given #6 and #7, it follows that the answer to your question must be “yes”.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,
      “Calvin contradicted himself” and the whole discussion of that quote was to me, only a little piece of my argument. My point was NOT at all that Calvin contradicted himself by the way. My point was that, although Calvin at one point said God was not the author of sin, in another place he made that point in those exact words and seemed to come back to it after the contradiction. Bringing up the contradiction was to simply state that possibly he was being misunderstood here. BUT, the other quotes listed very strongly supported that was what he beleived as far as I could tell and that God is indeed the cause of sin in people since he works in their affections and will anything he wants to happen so as to bring it to pass and no one can resist that will. And THAT was and is the major point of my whole argument. Please quite tryng to make one small point of my argument the whole argument. And quit trying to make me say that Calvin contradicting himself brought down the whole system. For the last time, (I hope! 🙂 ) that is not what I was saying!

      By the way, did you really read my last comment? From what you have just said, I seriously wonder!

      This whole discussion has become circular, frustrating, and totally ridiculous.

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      Just to clarify something from my last comment as I didn’t get it edited.

      Calvin’s quotes said that God works in people’s wills and affections so that they do exactly what He wants them to do. I added that part about not being able to resist His will. That is the part where I, like Michael T, see people as becoming robots because when He makes us both to desire to do something and to will to do something in a way that will guarantee that His will gets done, how do we have any choice in the matter?? Sure you can say we do it because WE want to and because WE will to–but the reason we want to and will to is that He has made us to do so. That becomes even more pronounced when you consider that we do it because it is our nature and we can do nothing but sin because of that nature as you keep saying. Remember, we did not choose our nature either. We were born with it. And for the non elect in this system, they have no choice and no possible way to become anything else other then the way they were born.

      1. A person is born with a sin nature through no choice of their own.

      2. A person can do nothing but sin because of that nature.

      3. The person has no way to get away from that nature as salvation and release from that nature is delilberately with held from him

      4. God works in that person’s affections and will in a way that it guarantees his purpose will be done. In other words He makes him desire to do it, and will to do it.

      5. No one can resist God’s working. He is completely sovereign and what He has determined will come to pass.

      (Besides all of that, some Calvinists believe God determined before creation that this person would be a sinner and stuck with this nature that he can’t get away from.)

      Where and how in all of that does this person really make any choice of his own??

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      Perhaps I should clarify my question. Given the past events of the universe and the interventions of God in it is there anyway you could have believed anything other than the truth of Calvinism at this point in time? In other words was there an independent, transcendent choice on your part to believe the truth of Calvinist outside pure cause and effect or the intervention of God? Or put another way still was it the will and command of God that at this moment in time you believe Calvinism to be true?

    • Michael T.

      WM

      1. “Let me get this right: you believe that Shakespeare is a murderer.”

      If Shakespeare had the ability and in fact did actualize all of the characters and events in his book then yes, he is a muderer. Unless you are saying we are all nothing but thoughts in the mind of God and reality doesn’t truly exist then God did in fact actualize the characters and events in his story.

      2. “It’s not “only” because of God’s will that we sin; our will is sinfully involved, without which we would not be sinning.”

      Yet, if one is to believe the quotes of Calvin above and another sermon I heard by John Piper, God wills that we will to sin. So the will itself is determined by God.

      3. “No purpose, no glory, no God? You’re missing more than a few things which are present in the Calvinistic universe.”

      Almost sounds like an argument Arminians make against Calvinism.

      4. “Aside from those: what’s wrong with cause and effect? Moral actions have effects; why shouldn’t they have causes?”

      Of course moral actions have a cause. The issue is whether or not that cause has a transcendent nature to it (e.g. LFW) or is simply the effect of past causes.

    • wm tanksley

      I found an even awesomer self-contradiction from Calvin, by the way:

      (from the blog ‘exotesparemboles‘)

      By nature I love brevity…
      I found this on PAGE 685 (!) of volume 1 in The Institutes of the Christian Religion.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      I completely and totally give up! If all you can focus on here is contradictions in Calvin’s quotes which I have told you repeatedly was not my point at all, what on earth is the point of trying to have a discussion with you at all.

    • wm tanksley

      Man i no more a active agent then a bacteria.

      A bacteria is an active agent in what it does. Did you mean to say “moral agent”? Yes, bacteria are not moral agents; but men are moral agents.

      God is the one who authored the desires and will (read programming) which causes man to act the way he does. We only appear to have the capacity of independent thought.

      No, humans in general actually have the capacity of independant thought. This is objectively testable. Bacteria do not. Part of the reason that bacteria are not moral agents is that they objectively lack the ability to reason, therefore lack the ability to reason morally.

      3. “God authors evil into His story in order to complete the story, not in order to commit evil. Man performs the evil for the sake of the evil act, and intending precisely to execute it in disregard of God.”
      Only because God authored the man in such a way as to desire to commit the evil act. Not because man chose to.

      It is completely false to say that man sins “only because” God programmed him to. You might as well say that man sins “only because” God created him. Actually, man sins because he _desires_ to sin, and his desires lead him to _choose_ to sin. I think the Bible makes it clear that man sins because he desires the fruit of the sin more than he wants God.

      The ultimate cause of human sin is indeed God’s act of creation, and prior to that, God’s decree of salvation (because the Bible says God chose us from eternity — I’m not trying to prove individual election, by the way). But this is not the proximate cause of human sin, nor is it the moral cause. We sin because we want to. We reason morally — and reach immoral conclusions — because we hate the truth.

      Criminals don’t get to blame their parents, even if their parents were lousy. Even if their parents were _criminal_, it’s not an excuse.

    • cherylu

      Moderator’s,

      Can anyone tell me how a comment that I requested deletion of because I decided it was inappropirate to post (my last comment) ended up here anyway??

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      I feel like we are talking in circles here.

      1. I say God is the proximate cause of man sinning.
      2. You say God is not the proximate cause only a remote cause and man makes the choice to sin.
      3. I respond that God worked the will and desires of man as well as the circumstances to ensure man sinned. So for instance if man loves the fruits of sin more then God it is only because God ordained that it be so and worked the events of the universe in such a way that it would be so. From the perspective of man, man chooses to sin, but from a transcendent perspective he sins because God worked in him a will and desires which did not permit him to do otherwise.
      4. You simply reassert number 2.

      BTW the criminals parent doesn’t have the power to inescapably destine the works of the child. They can influence and make them a probability, but no irrevocably ordain them as God can.

    • cherylu

      It seems to me that maybe why this discussion seems to keep going in circles here is that we are using fundamentally different definitions of the word “choice” here whether we are talking about LFW choice or not.

      To those of us like Michael and myself, choice necessitates more then one option and the ability to choose more then one option. If there is no ability to choose differently because of limitations of nature (over which we have no say) or God working the choice in our heart in a way to be sure we do His will, that is not choice as we understand the word.

      To you folks of the Calvinist persuasion, it seems you believe we really choose to do something on our own even if no other option or possiblitiy is available to us. At least that is the way this whole thing appears to me. Yes? No?

    • Hodge

      Wait. Everyone stop for a minute. This is the crux of this debate:

      “Sure you can say we do it because WE want to and because WE will to–but the reason we want to and will to is that He has made us to do so.”

      Cheryl,

      I have said it before, you are confusing God indirectly causing a person to do action X with God making/forcing a person AGAINST THEIR WILL to do action X. Our point is that the person wants to do it precisely because he or she has been separated from a salvific relationship with God and wants only to worship him or herself. God then takes that desire and uses it for his purposes, so that the desire to sin is used to produce the action he desires to occur in history (not that he morally desires). You can say with Michael that God set things up that the Fall would occur, but that is still the humans wanting to choose that action. God is not making them do it against their wills, nor is He giving them no other choice. He is giving them choices, but knows perfectly well what they will choose in this or that situation. He then causes that situation to occur and the influences thereof to bring about the desired result. NONE of it is something the man would not have chosen for himself on his own if those circumstances and influences had been divorced from God’s involvement. I think that’s an important point.

      OK, I think I’ve run the course in trying to explain, so I’m going to bow out now. Thanks again to everyone for the good discussion.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Yes, that is the way you see it obviously. The quotes from Calvin however that I brought up (#137) and the sermon from Piper that Michael spoke of tell a different story. And remember, we are not trying to debate just you and Wm as much as you want us to do so!

      In those quotes from Calvin he said that, the ungodly are reined in by God, so that they cannot conceive, plan or carry out any crime, unless God allows it, indeed commands it. They are not only in bondage to him, but are forced to serve him. Notice He commands it.

      And this: Whence that which I have just stated is perfectly plain: that the internal affections of men are not less ruled by the hand of God than their external actions are preceded by His eternal decree; and, moreover, that God performs not by the hands of men the things which He has decreed, without first working in their hearts the very will which precedes the acts they are to perform.

      (Read the above comments for the quotes in a larger context.)

      He commands it and works in their hearts the very will which precedes the acts they are to perform.

      He also says that God is the supreme and primary cause of all things

      So yes they do it with their will, but it is a will that God gave them so they would do it and moreover He commanded it to be done in Calvin’s theology! The very will that makes them do what they do is put there by God–it is His will put into them and He commands that the action be done. So again, WHAT CHOICE DO THEY REALLY HAVE??

    • cherylu

      Caps used for emphasis only in my last comment.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      I think part of the problem is that you and WM don’t completely believe the same thing and you and Calvin don’t completely believe the same thing. Thus me and Cheryl are trying to debate a dozen different positions which believe me is as frustrating for us as it is frustrating to you. At the end of the day though, absent a transcendent choice by a human being to sin at some point in the chain there is only cause and effect with God being the first cause knowing and willing that those effects come about. Now if you claim there is such a choice then you are ultimately claiming LFW of a sort (humans though bound to follow their desires given an event occuring still made a free and independent transcendant choice as to how past actions effected those desires and thus are responsible for the content of their desires since the nature of their desires was not predestined, though was certainly foreknown by God). However, if one claims that the content of our desires was predestined by God then we are back to the earlier analysis (and this is what Calvin at least seems to indicate).

    • cherylu

      I haven’t quite figured out why neither Hodge nor Wm seem very eager at all to discuss what Calvin said or believed. Unless it is because you guys simply do not agree with him?

      It seems to me that it is only reasonable in discussing any theological system of belief to discuss what the founder of the system taught and believed and what is believed to one degree or another by Calvinists today.

    • wm tanksley

      I haven’t quite figured out why neither Hodge nor Wm seem very eager at all to discuss what Calvin said or believed. Unless it is because you guys simply do not agree with him?

      No; because there’s no point in “discussing” an isolated passage in the way you’re demanding. There’s simply not enough to discuss. You’re free to invest your energy into parsing and diagramming those paragraphs if you really want; but there are actual people out here who have read the entire book, believe it, and are willing to discuss it with you, as a whole.

      Let’s suppose we all agreed perfectly that Calvin was wrong in those passages. So what? The people who believe his philosophy would cross out those passages and keep believing.

      If you could get Calvin to apologize that would be interesting, but he can’t.

      I’m glad, BTW, that proving a contradiction isn’t your sole purpose. I’d actually thought it was.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      At the end of the day though, absent a transcendent choice by a human being to sin at some point in the chain there is only cause and effect with God being the first cause knowing and willing that those effects come about.

      Yes, I agree; and I’m fine with that. There may or may not be some kind of “transcendent choice”; I don’t know, and the Bible doesn’t say. But everything else I quoted you as saying is Biblical. Yes, there is cause and effect. Yes, God is the First Cause. Yes, God controls all things. You can deny or assert some transcendent human will (or simply admit that you don’t know), but you still have to admit that God is sovereign over all; not because it’s a philosophical conclusion (although it is), but because it’s explicitly revealed.

      -Wm

    • Bible Study

      I completely agree that God is in complete control. He even said himself in Isaiah that he makes peace and creates evil. God is ultimately responsible for all things. He works all things according to the purpose of his own will. I personally am thankful that he is in complete control. I’d be in trouble if I didn’t.

    • wm tanksley

      Perhaps I should clarify my question.

      Was my reply that terrible? I was pretty proud of it :-). I still am, and I don’t understand why you’re repeating your question below. I’ll try to answer, but I ask that you respond to my previous reply — is my logic wrong? Which proposition do you deny?

      Given the past events of the universe and the interventions of God in it is there anyway you could have believed anything other than the truth of Calvinism at this point in time?

      My previous post answered this “no”.

      In other words was there an independent, transcendent choice on your part to believe the truth of Calvinist outside pure cause and effect or the intervention of God?

      Is there a transcendent choice: I don’t know. How could I know?

      Outside pure cause: I can’t possibly reason without cause and effect. Sorry, no answer.

      Without God: If I said in my heart “there is no God”, I’d be a fool. (I do well enough at that without ASKING for it.) Sorry, no answer.

      (Your other rephrasings I could give a clear answer to. This one I’m completely useless on. Not for lack of understanding, although I’d welcome an explanation of why the transcendence of the will matters so much to you.)

      Or put another way still was it the will and command of God that at this moment in time you believe Calvinism to be true?

      I don’t know what God’s plan is for the future, but I know that his plan is taking place right now. So yes.

      Now, unlike some Calvinists I don’t claim to know that God decreed from eternity past that we’d have this discussion right at this time. I simply don’t know that, although I think it’s a reasonable from a purely philosophical point of view.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      OK fair enough. Here’s is my question. If you believe Calvinism (or anything else for that matter) ultimately because you were determined by external forces (by which I mean an external force engineered the universe in such a manner that it was impossible for you to believe anything other than Calvinism) to believe Calvinism (whether that be by God or some immaterial cause and effect) then why have any confidence whatsoever that what you were determined by external forces to believe is true. One could say that you reasoned your way to it from Scripture, but you were simply determined by a external force to believe that your reasoning from Scripture was accurate. In addition the system of logic you used to reason from Scripture you were also determined to believe by an external force. So why have any confidence whatsoever that that external force determined you to believe the truth?? Now you can say that God doesn’t lie, but you again only believe God doesn’t lie because you were determined to believe that He doesn’t lie.

      Just to be clear this is not an objection directly to Calvinism or determinism for that matter. It simply is to raise the issue that if determinism (of any kind – soft or hard) is true as you have asserted it is an epistemic impossibility to claim to “know” anything since what you think you know you were simply determined by external forces to know and there is no reason to think that those external forces determined you to believe the truth (btw this is also an objection to naturalism in a different form – see the Evolutionary ARgument Against Naturalism).

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      So, you couldn’t of believed anything at this very moment but that Calvinism is true because this is God’s will and command for you right now. Am I understanding what you said above correctly?

      It doesn’t sound to me like there is any choice given you there. Do you believe you had a choice?

      If you believe men make a choice when they decide to sin, can you please explain to me how that works any differently then God’s determing you will believe Calvinism at this point?

      Or is His sovereignty only exercised in such meticulous form in the case of the elect and not in the case of the reprobate?

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      I need to restate part of my last comment. As I reread what you said above, it sounds like you don’t know if you had any choice. Given what you said you do believe though, it doesn’t sound to me like you could have choice.

      Hodge keeps stating that the non elect make their own choices to sin–they do so because it is their will to do so.

      I guess what I am trying to find out is if that is what you believe too, and if it is, how does that fit with the way you believe things are determined for you?

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, simply because God knew from the beginning what I’d be doing now, I know now there was no alternate thing I could be doing.

      By your LFW definition of choice, that means I had no choice. By my definition, I had to make tons of choices in order to get here.

      To me, this seems to completely eliminate the LFW definition of choice, since we know there are actually choices.

      Do you have a rebuttal to the logical argument I presented in comment #179? Which proposition (or logical step) do you reject? If you cannot rebut the argument, you must accept that there is only one actually possible present, from the beginning, and that God knew it. We did NOT have a “choice” to select from multiple possibilities in the LFW sense.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      What I don’t understand is your definition of “choice”. Since you say that things could of happened no other way because of Gods’ command and will, i.e., you could not believe other then what you do, how do you define “choice” in this situtation?

      What choice did you actually make when you could not have done otherwise?

      Choosing to do the only thing available to do because outside factors have made it the only thing possible to do simply is not choice by any definition I know of and it doesn’t fit a dictionary definition either.

      Dictionary definition of choice from here: http://define.com/choice

      1. Act of choosing; the voluntary act of selecting or separating from two or more things that which is preferred; the determination of the mind in preferring one thing to another; election.

    • wm tanksley

      Michael, the fact that I do not have absolute confidence in my conclusions is indeed due to my awareness that my desires may get in the way. This lack of absolute confidence does not translate into radical skepticism simply because, unlike a naturalist, I can appeal to my transcendent designer, the origin of logic.

      The interesting thing about your argument is that it also applies to your own definition of ‘choice’. I admit that I can be sidetracked from proper reasoning by improper desires — but you claim that I can be sidetracked from proper reasoning by transcendent “choices”.

      In the end there’s no difference in confidence in reasoning between my system and yours. Both nicely account for the fact that our reasoned conclusions are not infallible. My system has an advantage in that I can examine my heart for improper desires, and if they’re there I can consider whether they might have influenced my reasoning; your LFW cannot be examined. (But of course, one should not adopt a system because it seems more convenient, but rather because it’s true.)

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      I think you misunderstand the extent of dillemma of your system. As soon as you claim that the universe is engineered in such a way that you cannot believe other than what you do right now (e.g. determism is true) then you have immediately undermined ANY ability to know that what you believe is true. This is not just a matter of ones beliefs not being infallible, but rather that the ultimate likelihood of determism being true is simply 1/the number of possible beliefs on the subject (if in fact anyone has been determined to believe the Truth. Thus while you appeal to a transcendent creator the only reason you believe in a transcendent creator is that you were destined to believe in said creator as while as the nature of that creator. You have no grounds whatsoever if determism is true for believing you were destined to believe the Truth. Remember God destined me to believe that the Arminian understanding of God’s sovereignty is true just as much as he destined you to believe that the Calvinist understanding was true.

      In my system beliefs are certainly not infallible, however one is at least able to independently weigh the evidence and arguments and come to a independent conclusion about what the nature of Truth is rather then being simply destined to believe whatever it is that they believe. While I agree that there is fallibility in this system and one cannot be absolutely certain in their own abilities one can certainly be more certain then a system where all beliefs are simply destined.

    • Bible Study

      Free choice on our behalf is only illusion. We feel we make choices, however God has given us the desire to make the choices we do to fulfill his own will and purpose. God does everything, and without him nothing is done that is done. Even is someone kills, God has had them do it. Whether it be good or evil, God is the one who has ultimately had it accomplished. He is in complete control. We really have no choice, even though we feel that we make choices. God is sovereign. What does all this matter anyway. We know God makes one vessel unto honor and another unto wrath. Who cares? Let’s choose to spend our time witnessing to the lost, or something better than discussing a mute point. God had me post this, if you choose to move on to something more interesting it is God’s will. If you choose to continue this discussion, that is God’s will. What will God do? I don’t know.

    • wm tanksley

      What I don’t understand is your definition of “choice”. […] What choice did you actually make when you could not have done otherwise?

      Cheryl, I know you understand intellectually that LFW is not the only possible definition of “choice”; but above you show that you cannot set it aside even for the sake of discussion.

      To answer your question: I chose between two things, one which I desired more and one which I desired less. I do NOT choose between two alternate futures, because only one future actually exists.

      Choosing to do the only thing available to do because outside factors have made it the only thing possible to do simply is not choice by any definition I know of and it doesn’t fit a dictionary definition either.

      That has nothing to do with either of our definitions. The fact that you and I don’t desire to do evil right now doesn’t mean that evil isn’t possible for us; it merely means that we don’t desire evil.

      Dictionary definition of choice from here: http://define.com/choice
      1. Act of choosing; the voluntary act of selecting or separating from two or more things that which is preferred; the determination of the mind in preferring one thing to another; election.

      Good.

      Two points.

      First, the dictionary isn’t demanding that a choice be between two alternate realities or possible futures; it’s between two “things”, or two ACTUAL realities. I can choose between an apple and an orange, and eat ONE of them; I am not choosing between two alternate futures, one with me eating an apple and one with me eating an orange.

      Second, the dictionary makes it clear that a choice determines which of the two is preferred. But “preferred” is a past participle; we’re choosing the thing that is already preferred, not a thing that will become preferred after the choice. How is it preferred? Because it is the thing that is in conformance with the chooser’s…

    • wm tanksley

      … in conformance with the chooser’s desires.

      (Wow, I was CLOSE!)

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      Bible Study,

      If God had you post that how do you know that what you posted it true since God is also having me post things which say the opposite of what you say? If we are just writing what God has destined us to write then it is just as likely that I am right and you are wrong as it is vice versa. You can appeal to your feelings or Scripture, but you were just destined to have those feeling and understand Scripture the way that you do as well. You can be no more certain that what you were destined to believe is the Truth then you can be about who is going to win the Presidency in 2040.

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      Right now any way I am not arguing or refuting the steps that you listed in #179. I just want to honestly know how you define “choice” given the statements given there and in comment # 198.

      Edit: I didn’t see your last comment before I posted this, so maybe you answered my question.

    • cherylu

      But William,

      How did it get to be in conformance with the chooser’s desires? How did the chooser get those desires? And besides that, you said above that your belief came about because of the will and command of God at this moment. So where do your desires fit in here?

      Or do you believe He only wills and commands what is in accordance with what are already your desires? And if that is the case, how can He know that He will be able to accomplish His will and desires unless they are the exact will and desires He has already given you? (Which is of course what Calvin seemed to claim.) And in which case I ask again, how then is it really a person’s choice if the will and desires are implanted in him by God and he only acts in accordance with them?

      This whole thing seems hopelessly circular to me!

    • wm tanksley

      As soon as you claim that the universe is engineered in such a way that you cannot believe other than what you do right now (e.g. determism is true) then you have immediately undermined ANY ability to know that what you believe is true.

      This is wrong on several levels.

      1. There is no ability to “know that what you believe is true”. None whatsoever. By definition you know only what you actually believe; you do not know an additional fact beyond that, stating “what I know now is True.” Thus, I’ve not undermined anything that actually exists.

      2. Believing in determinism doesn’t undermine truth. Logic and evidence are guides to truth, and both are fully deterministic. They are guides to truth because our universe was created and designed to communicate truth.

      3. I’ve given a proof that there is only one possible future, because God knows it. Your refusal to interact with my written proof, together with your discomfort with the conclusion of the proof, is evidence that you cannot rebut it (since you would if you could).

      This is not just a matter of ones beliefs not being infallible, but rather that the ultimate likelihood of determism being true is simply 1/the number of possible beliefs on the subject (if in fact anyone has been determined to believe the Truth.

      This computation doesn’t have anything to do with truth. I mean no insult, but it’s just babble expressed using the alphabet of math. False beliefs have zero measure, so they add nothing to the denominator. The “ultimate” likelihood of determinism being true is 1 if it’s actually true, zero if it’s actually not. The immediate likelihood of a proposition being true has to be based on the available evidence, NOT based on a simple count of the number of alternatives to it.

      More responses in a moment…

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM

      1. I don’t know for sure what you mean by number 1 in comment 212. The only thing I can say is that by “true” I mean in accordance with ultimate reality when viewed from an external, objective perspective. For instance I can believe the Sun revolves around the Earth, but when viewed externally this is false. However, since we can’t view our beliefs from an external position and what we believe has been determined by external factors we have no way to evaluate their truthfulness.

      2. The system of logic you believe you were determined by external forces to believe as well. The manner in which you weigh the evidence you were also determined to do. There is no neccessity that the logic and evidence you believe be in accordance with ulimate reality. The belief that the universe was designed to communicate truth is itself a affirmative belief which you were determined by external forces to believe – again there is not way to know if this belief is true as you were simply determined to believe it is true.

      3. I haven’t interacted with your “proof” because I didn’t see it as a proof. I simply thought you were explicating what you believe and why you believe it.

      4. On the math issue you are both right and wrong. When viewed externally from a transcendent perspective you are correct. However, we cannot have that perspective and since we were simply determined to believe what we believe (i.e. the universe is such that you could not be anything other than a Calvinist and me anything other than an Arminian at this moment in time) it is a toss up as to which belief is correct.

      4.

    • wm tanksley

      Thus while you appeal to a transcendent creator the only reason you believe in a transcendent creator is that you were destined to believe in said creator as while as the nature of that creator.

      I’ve said nothing about being destined in my proof. I’m using only the knowledge of God, not His effectual decree. (I’m doing this because I wanted to use premises on which we agree.) Thus, I’m not claiming any specific cause of my (our) belief in a transcendent creator.

      The fact that the future is determined does not establish the cause that determines it. It may possibly be God’s brute force extinguishing of alternative futures; or it may be the simple nature of reality (which God created). Meanwhile, even the ultimate nature of the determination doesn’t establish what it was that determined my personal beliefs. Maybe it was God’s cold impersonal plan; maybe it was God’s warm concern for me; and maybe it was my own personality, desires, and the evidence presented to me.

      You have no grounds whatsoever if determism is true for believing you were destined to believe the Truth.

      Of course not. I don’t pretend to be omniscient. And you have no grounds to believe that you’ve lucked out to “Choose” to believe the Truth.

      The difference is that I believe that my process of finding truth is governed by my desires; if I examine myself in the light of Scripture, I can find where my desires are morally wrong, and thereby cast a light on a possible source of error in my logic. Your theory about freedom doesn’t provide that ability; because your choices are governed by something outside of your desires, you can never eliminate the source of error. All you can do is run your logic over and over, and hope your Free Will Chooses to make the right Choice more than it Chooses to make the wrong one (for no reason at all).

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      In # 198 you stated in answer to the question asked:

      Or put another way still was it the will and command of God that at this moment in time you believe Calvinism to be true?

      I don’t know what God’s plan is for the future, but I know that his plan is taking place right now. So yes.

      Then in # 207 you state: First, the dictionary isn’t demanding that a choice be between two alternate realities or possible futures; it’s between two “things”, or two ACTUAL realities. I can choose between an apple and an orange, and eat ONE of them; I am not choosing between two alternate futures, one with me eating an apple and one with me eating an orange.

      Would not choosing to believe that Calvinism is true at the moment be making a choice between two “things” or “two ACUTAL realities”, not making a choice about the future?

      And yet you said that you had to believe that Calvinism was true at this time because of God’s will and command. But how is choosing to believe Calvinism is true or not any different then choosing to eat an apple or an orange?

      I truly do not understand your definition of choice. It seems to me that you keep contradicting yourself here.

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1. I’m not sure what you mean by statement 1 in comment 212 for sure. Perhaps to clarify a bit. By the word “true” I mean in accordance with ultimate reality when viewed from an external perspective. For instance one can believe the Sun revolves around the Earth, however when viewed externally this view is false.

      2. The system of logic one believe was determined by and external force. The way in which one weighs the evidence was determined by an outside force. Neither of these is neccessarily in conformity with ultimate reality. The statement that the universe was designed to communicate truth is itself and affirmative belief which you were determined to believe and there is no way to know the truth of that belief.

      3. The reason I didn’t interact with your “proof” was because I didn’t think it was a proof. I thought you were simply explicating your beliefs. I’ll go back and take a closer look.

      4. You are both correct and incorrect on the math issue. You are correct if one is viewing things with an external, transcendent perspective fully cognizant of all the right and wrong answers. However, we do not and can not have that perspective. Thus since all our beliefs were predetermined, we could not believe other than what we do, and the beliefs we were determined to believe are not neccessarily true, it is a complete toss up as to which view on a subject is the true belief. Thus from our perspective there can be no false beliefs – only possible beliefs.

    • wm tanksley

      How did it [the preferred thing –WDT] get to be in conformance with the chooser’s desires?

      That depends on the thing being chosen. The word “choice” can’t tell us the entire history of every possible choice.

      And besides that, you said above that your belief came about because of the will and command of God at this moment. So where do your desires fit in here?

      God fulfills His Will by many means, one of which is the desires and deeds of fallen man (and unfallen man, and regenerate man).

      And in which case I ask again, how then is it really a person’s choice if the will and desires are implanted in him by God and he only acts in accordance with them?

      How is it a person’s existence if it is entirely due to parents and God? Well, it’s a gift. Thank God for the gift of existence, and thank Him for the gift of desire, and pray that He fulfill them in Himself. Don’t complain simply because you didn’t create yourself, and don’t complain because you didn’t create your desires.

      This whole thing seems hopelessly circular to me!

      Circular is exactly what it’s not. Everything comes down to God.

      LFW is precisely circular: “your” choices are actually chosen by your will, which makes the choices according to its will, according to its will, according to its will… It all either comes down to eternal self-reference, or God, or _nothing_.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      On your syllogism.

      1. I disagree with statement 2. The concept of Middle Knowledge and conterfactuals enters into that. It is not a contradiction to say that God knows what would be if A was true as well as what would be if A was false. Of course the view one has of time (whether the believe the A theory or B theory) also enters into this

      2. I also disagree with your syllogism because it ultimately addresses the wrong issue. Here in this thread we are addressing the concept of determinism. We want to know if the cause and effect nature of the universe along with God’s orchestrations determined inescapably that we would be having this disagreement right now, or if we are trancendently choosing of our own free will to continue this conversation. Your syllogism more addresses God’s foreknowledge and we all agree that he foreknew that we would have the conversation. The issue is whether or not He knows this simply because He can see the future and in that future we would in fact choose of our own free will to have this disagreement or if He orchestrated the universe in a deterministic fashion to ensure that we would have the disagreement.

    • Michael T.

      WM,
      “The difference is that I believe that my process of finding truth is governed by my desires; if I examine myself in the light of Scripture, I can find where my desires are morally wrong, and thereby cast a light on a possible source of error in my logic.”

      Again “you believe”. You believe because you were destined to believe. This is true of the way you evaluate yourself, the fact you believe Scripture is truthful, the fact you believe your desires are morally wrong, everything. One cannot evaluate or do anything outside what they believe and what they believe (in your system) they were simply destined to believe without regard to the truth of that belief.

    • cherylu

      William,

      So my desires are given me by God so that He can accomplish exactly what he wants to accomplish and it will be done exaclty as He has planned.

      So if I desire to murder someone, that desire is given me by God even as Bible Study said above, is that what you are saying? And it is by His will and command that I go do it?

      Or if not, how in your understanding does the “gift of desires” work?

    • wm tanksley

      Would not choosing to believe that Calvinism is true at the moment be making a choice between two “things” or “two ACUTAL realities”, not making a choice about the future?

      This is choosing between the statements “Calvinism is true” and “Calvinism is not true”. Those are the two things. (I shouldn’t have written “two actual realities”; that’s ambiguous and sloppy, and I apologize.)

      And yet you said that you had to believe that Calvinism was true at this time because of God’s will and command.

      This was your phrasing, not mine. Don’t parse it too finely; I’ll be responsible for what I wrote, not what you wrote. I agreed because I don’t want to eternally argue over tiny points in grammar. I could have rejected it by pointing out that the reasons I now choose to believe in Calvinism are not the same as the reasons God created me knowing that I would believe in Calvinism right now.

      To bring this back to the topic of choosing: I’m choosing to assert “Calvinism is true”. I make that choice, in general, because I desire it more than its negation; in specific, because the evidence for it seems stronger to me than the evidence for its negation. God is using my assertion in order to work His will (He says so), and I hope that He’ll come to me at the end of time and judge me faithful in what I’ve been given. I know He won’t hold me responsible for the outcome of His plan; that’s His job.

      But how is choosing to believe Calvinism is true or not any different then choosing to eat an apple or an orange?

      I don’t understand this question.

      I truly do not understand your definition of choice. It seems to me that you keep contradicting yourself here.

      Where? You didn’t point out any contradictions in this message. Why would you accuse me of a logical error without even saying what the logical error was?

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      The question asked by Michael T. was this, Or put another way still was it the will and command of God that at this moment in time you believe Calvinism to be true?

      And your answer was yes

      I fail to see how I drew an incorrect conclusion by making this statement: And yet you said that you had to believe that Calvinism was true at this time because of God’s will and command.

      And here is where it seems to me you contradict yourself. You say what you did was becasue of God’s will and command and that it could not of happened otherwise. And yet you turn around and say you did it because of the reasoning and choice you made yourself because you desire it more then the other choice.

      First you say it happened because God did it and you couldn’t do otherwise.

      Then you say it happened because it is what you desired.

      And you haven’t explained yet how you think the gift of desires works. Do you mean that God just gave us the abiltiy to desire things or did God give you every single desire you have and made some stronger then others either through deliberately orchestrated circumstances or planting them directly in your heart? Maybe the answer to this question will help sort out what I see as contradiction.

    • wm tanksley

      1. I’m not sure what you mean by statement 1 in comment 212 for sure. Perhaps to clarify a bit. By the word “true” I mean in accordance with ultimate reality when viewed from an external perspective. For instance one can believe the Sun revolves around the Earth, however when viewed externally this view is false.

      Your claim was that I’d undermined the ability to know that what we believe is true. I responded that what we believe is entirely what we believe is true. We don’t “know that what we believe is true”. We can investigate it and try to get more evidence, but that will simply change our beliefs.

      2. The system of logic one believe was determined by and external force. The way in which one weighs the evidence was determined by an outside force. Neither of these is neccessarily in conformity with ultimate reality.

      Let’s suppose that’s true about my system. But in your system, your beliefs are produced/determined by an internal force (Free Will). Yet reality is external, not internal; God created it. Thus you have no reason to claim that an external force guided by God is less reliable than an internal one unguided by anything except itself. I’ve already given an example of an imaginary world which is completely determined (by the laws of logic) and yet which reaches is not doomed to falsehood.

      The statement that the universe was designed to communicate truth is itself and affirmative belief which you were determined to believe and there is no way to know the truth of that belief.

      So what? The important thing about THAT statement is whether it’s true, not whether anyone believes it. If it’s false, none of our discussion can possibly reveal truth (whether you’re right or I’m right); if it’s true, our discussions can possibly reveal truth, whether you’re right or I’m right about free will.

      And you DO affirm that statement, as a believer in the Biblical…

    • wm tanksley

      And here is where it seems to me you contradict yourself. You say what you did was because of God’s will and command and that it could not of happened otherwise. And yet you turn around and say you did it because of the reasoning and choice you made yourself because you desire it more then the other choice.

      Ah! I see. Those are not contradictions; they are both true at the same time, but in different ways. A direct parallel to my statement is Joseph’s saying: “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” I could paraphrase this “you meant it for not-good, but God meant it for good.” If my statement is a possible contradiction, then Joseph’s statement is a true contradiction — in my statement the two halves don’t actually disagree, they merely ascribe the same action to different sources. In Joseph’s statement the two halves are direct opposites.

      I CHOSE to do the thing because of my desires, understanding, and reasoning process; yet at the same time, God designed that I do that thing because of His plan and purpose.

      And you haven’t explained yet how you think the gift of desires works. Do you mean that God just gave us the abiltiy to desire things or did God give you every single desire you have and made some stronger then others either through deliberately orchestrated circumstances or planting them directly in your heart?

      Some desires come from my personality; they make up who I am, beyond my ability to change. Others come from my circumstances, beyond my ability to influence. Both of the above categories God gave to me (perhaps working through my parents). Others I inculcated in myself through careful training (or careless repeated sin) — but the desires I chose to strengthen or create, I chose because I desired them to be present in order to attain some earlier desire.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM

      1. The statement that we believe what we believe is true is nothing more then a truism. Of course this is the case for if we believed it was false we would believe otherwise. The point in the discussion is that determism is self-defeating because it logically undermines ones ability to claim to know ultimate reality with any certainty whatsoever (i.e. the truth value of the claim “God is good” must be a complete unknown even though you believe it to be true) since the beliefs one has were determined for them without regard to whether or not that belief is ultimately true.

      2. “Thus you have no reason to claim that an external force guided by God is less reliable than an internal one unguided by anything except itself.”

      The point is that if there is this external force which is determining our beliefs we can’t know which is true. If we independently observe the laws of nature and logic, independently weight the physical and philosophical evidence, and of our own free will make a decision upon that we can have a higher degree of confidence that our belief is correct. This is because at the very least we can be certain that we are observing real reality when we observe laws of logic for instance, rather than simply seeing in reality what the external force has determined us to see to ensure that we would come to the belief that external force has determined for us. However, if you are stating that there is still uncertainty in the system then of course you are correct and I do not deny it. I simply deny that there is no certainty as there is in the case of a determistic system.

    • wm tanksley

      4. You are both correct and incorrect on the math issue. You are correct if one is viewing things with an external, transcendent perspective fully cognizant of all the right and wrong answers. However, we do not and can not have that perspective. Thus since all our beliefs were predetermined, we could not believe other than what we do, and the beliefs we were determined to believe are not neccessarily true, it is a complete toss up as to which view on a subject is the true belief. Thus from our perspective there can be no false beliefs – only possible beliefs.

      This is completely incoherent logically.

      The truth of falsehood of a belief doesn’t depend on how I reached it. It only depends on whether it corresponds with reality.

      Because bare physcial laws don’t care about whether man ever believes true things, a physcialist has to admit that his philosophy denies any possibility of knowing true things.

      Because God does care about whether man believes true things, and because I know that God controls what man believes, I know that there is a possibility of knowing true things.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      3. I’ve already given an example of an imaginary world which is completely determined (by the laws of logic) and yet which reaches is not doomed to falsehood.”

      Of course one can create a imaginary world where their beliefs are true. I can think of a world where Islam is correct, or Buddism, or whatever. Scientists can predict what a universe would be like if various constants (i.e. the ratio of matter to antimatter or the gravitational constant) were different then what they are. The question is whether or not ones views are correct in the real world.

      4. “The important thing about THAT statement is whether it’s true, not whether anyone believes it.”

      Wrong! The important questions is not whether or not it is true directly, but whether or not we can have any certainty whatsoever of the truth value of that statement (which of course I affirm to answer your question – however in my system the way I believe I came to that belief is quite different then in your system). If determinism is true ultimately the only answer one can give is “I believe it to be true, but have no idea whatsoever whether or not it is actually true.”

    • Michael T.

      1. “The truth of falsehood of a belief doesn’t depend on how I reached it. It only depends on whether it corresponds with reality.”

      Of course this is true. However, you are on the wrong question. The question was not whether or not the truth or falsehood of a belief depends on the method by which we came to believe it (to claim this would be to commit the genetic fallacy), rather it is whether or not we can have any degree of certainty that the belief is question is true or false.

      2. “Because bare physcial laws don’t care about whether man ever believes true things, a physcialist has to admit that his philosophy denies any possibility of knowing true things.”

      This is true, but I’m not sure what you think it proves. I asserted as much by bringing up the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism earlier. To elucidate – If all our perceptive skills are the result of a random process who sole determining factor is that those traits which aid survival are passed on we should have no reason to think that our perceptive abilities accurately portray reality to us since it is fully possible for inaccurate perceptions to aid in survival.

      3. Because God does care about whether man believes true things, and because I know that God controls what man believes, I know that there is a possibility of knowing true things.

      These are again affirmative beliefs which you have been determined by external factors to believe. You cannot know with ANY degree of certainty their truth value.

    • wm tanksley

      1. I disagree with statement 2. The concept of Middle Knowledge and conterfactuals enters into that. It is not a contradiction to say that God knows what would be if A was true as well as what would be if A was false. Of course the view one has of time (whether the believe the A theory or B theory) also enters into this

      I’d like to know what you assert as true to replace statement 2. I know of three major possibilities: (1) Molinism, in which God created the best possible world out of all the possible worlds; (2) Open Theism, where God created the best possible starting world based on middle knowledge and is constantly tuning the results based on human’s reactions.

      It sounds like you’d deny Molinism, since it requires a single knowable future. I don’t claim that you’re an open theist (that would be the fallacy of false dilemma), just that I don’t know what your beliefs are.

      Second point in a second reply…

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      All that one has to believe for 2 to be replaced is that God has Middle Knowledge and that counterfactuals exist. This does not necessarily entail a wholesale belief in Molinism or the Neo-Molinist strain of Open Theism. As I have said before I reject Open Theism wholesale. I am still exploring Molinism. As you (I think rightly) have pointed out it doesn’t seem to answer some of the issues it claims to answer. However, I’m still reading material related to it as I personally only became aware of this view less than a year ago so I’m holding judgment for the moment.

    • Michael T.

      I should rephrase the above to be more accurate. I had vaguely heard of Molinism a number of years ago in very broad brush strokes, but only became aware of some of the specifics recently.

    • wm tanksley

      2. I also disagree with your syllogism because it ultimately addresses the wrong issue. Here in this thread we are addressing the concept of determinism.

      But my syllogism does explicitly address determinism.

      Your syllogism more addresses God’s foreknowledge and we all agree that he foreknew that we would have the conversation.

      That’s why I constructed it — because I concluded that we agree on all the premises. You claim to disagree with premise 2 (Which I labeled Omniscience, although our disagreement will probably force me to relabel it, since it would be dishonest for me to force you to deny a point labeled “omniscience” when you don’t actually deny God’s omniscience).

      The issue is whether or not He knows this simply because He can see the future and in that future we would in fact choose of our own free will to have this disagreement or if He orchestrated the universe in a deterministic fashion to ensure that we would have the disagreement.

      The point is that IF God knew from the beginning that we’d have this conversation, THEN the course of the universe was determined from the start. It doesn’t matter how it’s determined; only THAT it’s determined. It doesn’t even matter whether man is in some way transcendent; only that God somehow transcends man.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      “The point is that IF God knew from the beginning that we’d have this conversation, THEN the course of the universe was determined from the start. It doesn’t matter how it’s determined; only THAT it’s determined. It doesn’t even matter whether man is in some way transcendent; only that God somehow transcends man.”

      I disagree with this statement entirely. Simple knowledge of what will happen does not logically entail that that action was determined. God simply knows what we will use our free will to choose, the choices themselves are unrestrained. If we were to choose to use our free will to do the opposite God would have known this as well. God knows both the factual and the counterfactual of our decisions. Simply because he knows which one is the factual does not indicate that he willed or determined that factual to come about.

    • cherylu

      William,

      From #223: Some desires come from my personality; they make up who I am, beyond my ability to change. Others come from my circumstances, beyond my ability to influence. Both of the above categories God gave to me (perhaps working through my parents). Others I inculcated in myself through careful training (or careless repeated sin) — but the desires I chose to strengthen or create, I chose because I desired them to be present in order to attain some earlier desire.

      Thanks for your explanation. I’m still trying to really grasp this though. That last group of deisres you spoke about, the ones you chose to strengthen or create, they were not influenced by God or given you by God but somehow came from your own choice alone?

    • wm tanksley

      All that one has to believe for 2 to be replaced is that God has Middle Knowledge and that counterfactuals exist.

      Let’s see, #2 was “2. God does not know both a fact and its contradiction at the same time and in the same way. (Law: Non-Contradiction)”

      Wait, are you actually questioning the law of non-contradiction? Was that a typo and you meant to question something else? That’s one of the three fundamental axioms of logic.

      Perhaps you meant to question #4, “An event that in fact happens would contradict the fact of the event happening otherwise. (Definition: Event Contradiction)”. Is that possible to question? (It’s certainly the most awkwardly phrased!) Questioning that might allow you to allow multiple alternate (contingent) futures. The replacement would have to be carefully phrased, probably in multiple parts.

      Or perhaps you want to insert a new premise that I can’t elucidate. I started with the formal definition of middle knowledge, which is “those facts which are neither necessary, nor dependent on God’s will for their truth.” But this argument doesn’t refer to God’s will, nor to necessity; so I don’t see how a premise based on this would fit into the argument at all.

      Let me build a simpler argument; perhaps you can see a problem.

      0. We are having this discussion.
      1. God knew we would have this discussion from the beginning.
      2. God’s knowledge does not fail.
      3. Therefore this discussion could not fail to happen.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Thanks for your explanation. I’m still trying to really grasp this though. That last group of deisres you spoke about, the ones you chose to strengthen or create, they were not influenced by God or given you by God but somehow came from your own choice alone?

      Excellent question. Yes, I had to choose to strengthen those (or weaken others). But, why did I choose to do that? I had some previously existing desire. And that previously existing desire fell into one of those three categories — but at some point early enough in my life, there must have been none of the third category, since it takes time to change the strength of a desire (when it’s possible).

      And of course, there is one or more desires that are maximal — there is no desire stronger — so that I cannot want to change them. There may also be desires that although I could want to change them, none of the stronger desires is of a nature to cause me to want to change them.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      William,

      Given what you have explained above about hos you understand a person’s desires to work, it would seem to me that there may be only a few of those desires that you can really attribute to yourself. Or is that a false assumption?

      And if those desires that are really yours conflicts with something God wants to be done does He not then change them to accomplish His will?

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      On your new argument. This argument again only addreses God’s foreknowledge. It does not show in the slightest why God’s foreknowledge logically must equate with determinism. Sure God knows what will happen, but why does he know. The question is not whether or not your syllogism is true (I agree that it is valid), but rather why is it true. Is Number 2 (in your new syllogism) true because God determined that we have this discussion or because he simply foreknew what we would use our free will to do? Ultimately I think there is a hidden number 5 in you syllogism which is “therefore determism is true” and it is this that I believe to be non-sequitar.

      In any case this doesn’t address in the slightest my objection that one is unable to know anything with ANY degree of certainty should determinism be true.

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      Just to reiterate. The question is not did God know we were going to have this conversation. Rather the question is did He will and determine that we were going to have this conversation?

    • cherylu

      William,

      Just another thought here. In past discussions on P and P regarding this very issue, someone–I think maybe Hodge–kept saying that we chose but we can only chose in accord with our nature. Do you agree or disagree with that? Remember, we have no choice over our nature is it comes to us at birth.

    • wm tanksley

      Given what you have explained above about hos you understand a person’s desires to work, it would seem to me that there may be only a few of those desires that you can really attribute to yourself. Or is that a false assumption?

      Let me ask you a completely different question to provide the answer.

      Do you attribute goodness to God? Righteousness? Holiness? Sovereignty? Love? Immutability? I think the answers to these are all “yes”. Now, did God create any of those attributes within Himself? The answer is clearly “no” — God has always been like that.

      In the same way, my attributes (including my desires) are mine; even though I didn’t make them, they belong to me. So all of my desires are truly mine, just as my body is truly mine even though I didn’t make it.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl: yes, we can only choose within our nature.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Just to reiterate. The question is not did God know we were going to have this conversation. Rather the question is did He will and determine that we were going to have this conversation?

      If I can show that this conversation could not have happened otherwise, then I’ve disproven libertarian free will. That’s my goal in that particular thread.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      “If I can show that this conversation could not have happened otherwise, then I’ve disproven libertarian free will. That’s my goal in that particular thread.”

      From the LFW position it could’ve happened otherwise. We could’ve chosen not to have this coversation. There was no external force (cause and effect or God) which lead to us having this coversation. We chose of our own free will to have and continue having this conversation. We could have just as easily chosen otherwise. Simply because God knew which we choose does not imply determinism. Had we chosen the counterfactual God would’ve known that as well (as well as what would’ve happened if that counterfactual were true).

      Ulimately your argument is this.

      1. God knows what choices we will make
      2. Therefore LFW is false.

      I fail to see how this follows.

    • wm tanksley

      From the LFW position it could’ve happened otherwise. We could’ve chosen not to have this coversation. There was no external force (cause and effect or God) which lead to us having this conversation.

      That’s the problem — God knew about this conversation, not about its opposite. Therefore we could not have chosen otherwise; if we had chosen otherwise, God’s knowledge, which existed from time long before this conversation, would be false.

      (I would agree there was no external force; what drove us was our own desires.)

      Had we chosen the counterfactual God would’ve known that as well (as well as what would’ve happened if that counterfactual were true).

      Unless you switch to open theism, you have to admit that God’s knowledge preexists our choices; therefore, at the time we make them, our choices have only one possible outcome (the one God actually knew).

      This is why Open Theism originated — to attempt to make sense of LFW.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      So my desires are given me by God so that He can accomplish exactly what he wants to accomplish and it will be done exaclty as He has planned.

      Yes.

      So if I desire to murder someone, that desire is given me by God even as Bible Study said above, is that what you are saying?

      The desire that you acted on to murder was indeed given to you by God. Many people murder out of rage, which was given by God, although it was intended and commanded to be used for different purposes.

      Let’s put it this way: are there any crimes that God can’t do anything about? I’d say “no”. God is in control. Nobody gets killed without God’s permission; nobody’s death is in vain.

      And it is by His will and command that I go do it?

      It’s against His revealed will and command; but He will use the fact that you’re trying to disobey Him to work out His will in the plan of salvation which will bring every one of His elect to Him, and will keep them securely there, according to His words.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      The desire that you acted on to murder was indeed given to you by God. Many people murder out of rage, which was given by God, although it was intended and commanded to be used for different purposes.

      So you are saying that if God gives someone rage and they use it to murder someone, the desire itself–the rage–was actually given by God, but the person didn’t use it as God intended?

      So the murder wasn’t God’s plan–only the rage He gave the man but then He took the murder that wasn’t His plan and used it for some other purpose?

      Am I understanding what you are saying? But if that is the case, doesn’t that contradict what you first said in your last comment that He gives us our desires so that He can accomplish exactly what He wants accomplished?

      1. You say God gives our desires so He can do exactly what He has planned in the way He planned.

      2. Then you say He gave a desire but it was used for a different purpose then He commanded and intended. But then He uses the results to accomplish His will.

      Is there not a contradiction there?

      Does He indeed give desires to be used for what He planned, in exactly the way He planned, so that we can do things differently then what He commanded and intended so that what He commanded and intended could in fact be done? (Now there is a mouthful if I ever heard one!) 🙂

      I am still just trying to figure out what you really believe about determinism because it still seems to me that you are contradicting yourself. At least you are if I am understanding what you are saying.

      I must say you seem to have a very complex theology!

    • wm tanksley

      The point in the discussion is that determism is self-defeating because it logically undermines ones ability to claim to know ultimate reality with any certainty whatsoever (i.e. the truth value of the claim “God is good” must be a complete unknown even though you believe it to be true) since the beliefs one has were determined for them without regard to whether or not that belief is ultimately true.

      I’m really trying hard to grasp your point, honest. It’s just not making sense to me. And I understand the argument quite well; I’ve used it. The problem is that it only works if your opponent asserts that our beliefs are the end result of purposeless forces.

      The point is that if there is this external force which is determining our beliefs we can’t know which is true. […] This is because at the very least we can be certain that we are observing real reality when we observe laws of logic for instance, rather than simply seeing in reality what the external force has determined us to see to ensure that we would come to the belief that external force has determined for us.

      Okay, you’re now describing some kind of brain-in-a-jar system, where our free wills are being imprisoned by a deity who feeds us false information in order to force us to come to false conclusions according to his will.

      This is not what I’ve ever said. Our conclusions are utterly predictable based on a knowledge of our desires, our natural thought processes, and the experiences we’re going to have. Because of those things, God can control what our conclusions will be based on the experiences we have and how He creates our natural thought processes and desires. Yet at the same time, God promises that all men know that God the creator exists, and they all “suppress the truth in unrighteousness”.

      God promises to conform those who believe in Christ to His image.

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      I’m now announcing that I’m coming out of retirement. Just kidding. I don’t want to get back into it, but wanted to clarify something. I’ve been following the discussion still.

      Michael,

      The Neo-Theist argument is in an overly simplistic form the following:

      God sees that Michael will do action X on October 12, 2010 before Michael ever exists. He has perfect knowledge that Michael will do action X. He does not cause it, but knows that it, and nothing else, will be chosen by Michael on October 12, 2010.

      Now, the world is made, and many, many years later, Michael comes to the choice of either to do action X or action Y. Does Michael have LFW to do action Y instead of action X, or does what God had foreseen many, many years ago, before Michael ever existed, have to be done by Michael? Can Michael make any other choice than the one that God foresaw before Michael existed? That’s the problem. He can’t. He has to make that one. He cannot make another. God foresaw it many years ago, and so now that he’s come to the decision, he CANNOT choose otherwise.

      I think that’s what William is trying to get at.
      If it’s still difficult, think Minority Report.

      Cheryl,

      I’ve yet to see you grapple with 1 Kings 22 that I have brought up numerous times now. Is God the cause for sending the evil spirit who then lies to the king that then causes the king to believe the false prophets and go up to war so that he dies?

      OK, I’m out. 🙂 Pax

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1. “That’s the problem — God knew about this conversation, not about its opposite. Therefore we could not have chosen otherwise; if we had chosen otherwise, God’s knowledge, which existed from time long before this conversation, would be false.”

      This basically just restates what you have said before. I still don’t see how it logically follows from this that LFW is false. The simple foreknowledge, even infallible foreknowledge, does not logically lead to the conclusion that one did not make a free choice. Like I said if we had used our free will to not have this conversation God would known this as well.

      2. “Unless you switch to open theism, you have to admit that God’s knowledge preexists our choices; therefore, at the time we make them, our choices have only one possible outcome (the one God actually knew).”

      This actually depends on whether one has a A-Theory or a B-Theory of time. My understanding (and in full disclosure this is one of the things I am researching right now because I don’t fully understand the theory of time so my “understanding” is admittedly limited – I’m always amazed at the rabbit trails even a narrowly focused question leads one down) is that if one has a B-Theory of time God’s knowledge of our choices and our choices occur simultaneously since God is a timeless being external to time itseft who sees history all at once. To us they appear to occur in the present, but to God there is no past, present, or future. It all happens at once. This is where I think open theism went wrong (and actually Bill Craig as well – he’s one of the few Christian Philosophers who holds to the A Theory). The view God as in time rather than external to time seeing all of history at once.

    • cherylu

      Hi Hodge,

      Think my brain is too tired right now to grapple!

      Just wanted to say that I “came out of retirement” a couple of days ago to clarify something and here I still am.

      Are you sure you are leaving again??!?? 🙂 This conversation seems to be addicting!

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      3. “The problem is that it only works if your opponent asserts that our beliefs are the end result of purposeless forces.”

      The problem here of course is that you were determined to believe that God is a purposeful being. Furthermore, you were determined to believe in the nature of that God’s purpose. So how do you know with any degree of certainty that those beliefs are true. It all comes back to everything you believe you were predetermined to believe. It is as likely given determinism that all your beliefs are false as it is that they are true.

      4. “This is not what I’ve ever said. Our conclusions are utterly predictable based on a knowledge of our desires, our natural thought processes, and the experiences we’re going to have. Because of those things, God can control what our conclusions will be based on the experiences we have and how He creates our natural thought processes and desires. Yet at the same time, God promises that all men know that God the creator exists, and they all “suppress the truth in unrighteousness”.”

      First off this ultimately describes the immaterial cause and effect you railed against in the first part of your response – I’m a little confused. Secondly this is ultimately non-responsive and doesn’t dispute my point. God is still controlling what you believe and well you believe God to be good, truthful, etc. you have no grounds for believing that since you were simply destined to believe that. Some people believe God is a sadist as well. Why believe they are wrong and you are right? Reason?? They seem to think they are being reasonable. Why think their reason is inferior to yours? Evidence?? The manner in which you interpret and weigh the evidence was conditioned. Revelation?? You were conditioned to understand revelation the way you do. Why think you’re right?

    • cherylu

      Michael T,

      I think we are both a little confused.

      To all,

      Maybe we should all just admit it is one big mystery! As for myself, I don’t think I can call myself an Arminian any more then I can call myself a Calvinist.

      Arminianism puts so much emphasis on choice that they seem to eliminate a good deal of God’s sovereignty and minimize or explain away election in a way that I don’t necessarily think is correct.

      On the other hand, Calvinists seem to emphasize election and God’s sovereignty so much that man’s choice seems to be very minimal at best or totally redefined from any normal meaning of the word. It also seems to require significant change to such concepts as God’s love and His desire for all to be saved that just don’t seem to work in my mind with what I believe the Bible teaches.

      I think there must be some other “ism” that makes better sence out of it all–I just don’t know what it is yet or if it even has a name. Maybe no one can understand the mystery well enough to even name it, I don’t know. (For the record, I certainly don’t believe that Open Theism is the solution at all.)

      That doesn’t mean that I am necessarily dropping out of this conversation by the way. Just stating that I don’t know if we can even understand the truth of all of this and that I don’t see that truth as being found any better in Arminianism that I do in Calvinism.

      I remember a Bible teacher saying once that, “The Bible teaches both man’s choice and God’s election. Now wrap your mind around that one!” I think he might of had the right idea.

    • wm tanksley

      Just wanted to say that I “came out of retirement” a couple of days ago to clarify something and here I still am.

      It’s a low blow, but I have to say it… You have no choice but to debate Calvinists on these forums. Michael’s will seems to be predetermined in this matter. Hodge is completely unpredictable. I’m here of my own free will, of course.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I’m going to go silent regarding LFW versus determinism until you’ve all had a chance to digest Hodge’s contribution. He’s given references that I didn’t know about, so perhaps he’ll make more sense than I have.

      One minor point:

      This actually depends on whether one has a A-Theory or a B-Theory of time.

      Not so much. You see, under an A-theory of time God can’t actually KNOW the future (because the future doesn’t actually exist); all He can know are the implications of the past and present. If the present doesn’t fully determine the future, then God actually has to know all possible outcomes. This means that in order to make prophecies come true, God has to intervene constantly.

      Since we don’t see this happening, it seems somewhat reasonable to suppose that either time is B-theory, or all is deterministic. (It’s conceptually possible to have a nondeterministic B-theory — it results in a tree-structured time rather than a linear time. Every possibility results in a branch in the tree. Of course, on some of those branches prophecies would fail, so God would have to act to prune them.)

      if one has a B-Theory of time God’s knowledge of our choices and our choices occur simultaneously since God is a timeless being external to time itseft who sees history all at once.

      Ah, but in a B-theory future is not different from the past or present; our choices are merely events, not actual branches. What appears to be a live possibility as we’re living the choice, turns out to be a road never taken (and thus not actual).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      This is where I think open theism went wrong (and actually Bill Craig as well – he’s one of the few Christian Philosophers who holds to the A Theory). The view God as in time rather than external to time seeing all of history at once.

      I understand OT’s error (and believe I can even sympathize with it); Dr. Craig’s position is much harder for me to grasp (I’ve tried to study it). I’m fairly sure it’s an error, but it’s complex and hard for me to understand. Dr. Craig is NOT a dummy :-).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      So you are saying that if God gives someone rage and they use it to murder someone, the desire itself–the rage–was actually given by God, but the person didn’t use it as God intended?

      I don’t think God generally gives people gifts of rage, no. God has in the past sent a spirit onto people specifically to commit specific sins. It’s happened. I can’t deny it. But I don’t believe it’s the normal way of God doing things, and I don’t want to leave you with that impression.

      Some people have a stronger sense of justice, or stubbornness, or whatever than others. When that comes out as murderous rage, those people are abusing their natural characteristics in sin and high-handed disregard for God’s image and God’s express law — but they’re not catching God by surprise. God knew what they would do, and He nonetheless created and sustained them so that they would do it, and be condemned in His sight for it, and God would use the consequences of their sin to accomplish His plan.

      So the murder wasn’t God’s plan–only the rage He gave the man but then He took the murder that wasn’t His plan and used it for some other purpose?

      No. I meant that the murder was against God’s clearly expressed commandment.

      But if that is the case, doesn’t that contradict what you first said in your last comment that He gives us our desires so that He can accomplish exactly what He wants accomplished?

      1. You say God gives our desires so He can do exactly what He has planned in the way He planned.
      2. Then you say He gave a desire but it was used for a different purpose than He commanded and intended. But then He uses the results to accomplish His will.
      Is there not a contradiction there?

      Your summary is almost exact; delete the words “and intended”.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      …once that “and intended” is gone, I don’t think there’s a contradiction.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      “Dr. Craig’s position is much harder for me to grasp (I’ve tried to study it). I’m fairly sure it’s an error, but it’s complex and hard for me to understand. Dr. Craig is NOT a dummy.”

      While at least we can agree on one thing. I too have tried to figure out his position or more appropriately understand the logic behind it. I get lost after the first few paragraphs (same goes for the likes of Plantinga) and the popular level works on the subject are simply inadequate to fully explain his position (ditto for the Kalam Cosmological – most of the responses by lame brained atheists on the web only respond to the dumbed down popular understanding rather than the scholarly work). Ultimately that’s why I remain agnostic about the truth of Molinism. Something doesn’t seem right because it doesn’t seem to answer the questions it claims to answer. Yet I can’t fully grasp Craig’s reasoning so it is hard to point out exactly why.

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      Now to what we disagree on. Hodge’s objection is of course a famous one. I’ve heard it repeated often in many different forms. The original philosophical version I encountered in Philosophy of Religion in undergrad goes something like this.

      1. God cannot be wrong in anything he knows.
      2. God knows that I am going to mow the lawn on Thursday
      3. On Thursday I have no choice other than to mow the lawn for to not mow the lawn would make God wrong.
      4. (Implicitly) Either Determism is true or a omniscient god doesn’t exist.

      Another thought experiment example in the form of a general objection to an omniscient being of any kind goes something like this.

      Imagine you ask God what number you are going to write a paper in 10 seconds. God tells you 10 (remember God can’t lie). So you simply add a number to 10 and write down 11.

      I find neither of these to be convincing (as you can imagine. In the first the problem hinges on what is meant by “have no choice”. I think one can replace this step with “On Thursday I choose to mow the lawn of my own free will” and conclude “LFW and an omniscient God exist. I fail and many philosophers fail to see how God infallibly knowing the future precludes libertarian free will. It’s not that one has “no choice” rather it is simply that God knows what you will “freely choose”. But I am just repeating myself again and Hodge is ultimately just repeating your objections from earlier. I don’t see how it logically follows from “God infallibly knows” to “man has no choice”.

      Interesting recent podcast from Craig which directly addreses this
      http://www.rfmedia.org/RF_audio_video/RF_podcast/Objections_to_Belief_in_God2.mp3

    • cherylu

      Since I have no choice but debate Calvinists on these forums, here is my next question!

      So you are saying He deliberately gave desires to man–in order to accomphish His plan in His way. And He did this knowing that man would use the desire He gave in a way He hadn’t commanded–and this is the way He would accomplish His will in the way He wanted it accomplished?

      So, in effect, He deliberately works it so man will sin and this is the way He wants to accomplish His will? (You did say He gave the desires so things would be done in His way). Is this God being the “author” of sin? (Horrors, back to that statement again!)

      If I am understanding you corrrectly, I believe that in legal terms that would be called entrapment, am I right Michael?

      Maybe I am missing something here, but something just doesn’t seem right about this picture.

    • wm tanksley

      Cheryl, I like what you said above; it reminds me of why I originally switched from being a hard-core libertarian free will person to a compatiblist (which I remain now). But you remind me of something I’ve allowed myself to forget: philosophy is fun and perhaps useful, but it doesn’t compare to a humble presence before God.

      Well, back to the philosophical arguments.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      On the time stuff,

      1. Minor squabble. “Since we don’t see this happening, it seems somewhat reasonable to suppose that either time is B-theory” While I get where you are coming from I think simply stating that just because we don’t see God doing something He isn’t doing it is rather materialistic. While I admit I’m not convinced by A-theorists I don’t think it is completely impossible – just implausible (and probably outside of historic orthodoxy as CMP points out on the threat on essentials and non-essentials).

      2. “Ah, but in a B-theory future is not different from the past or present; our choices are merely events, not actual branches. What appears to be a live possibility as we’re living the choice, turns out to be a road never taken (and thus not actual).”

      I’m not completely sure what you mean for this to prove. Perhaps you could explicate it a bit. As far as I can tell when we make a choice we are actually making a free choice. It’s simply from the eternal perspective God knows we made that choice and in fact every choice ever made all at once and concurrently with the choice being made. Thus it is incorrect to say that God’s knowledge of our choices preceded our choices. From God’s eternal perspective the choice I made to go to undergrad, the choice I made to go to Law School, and the choice I will make someday (hopefully) to marry someone all occurred simultaneously.

    • wm tanksley

      So, in effect, He deliberately works it so man will sin and this is the way He wants to accomplish His will? (You did say He gave the desires so things would be done in His way).

      Yes. Nothing is done — not a sparrow falls — without His permission.

      Is this God being the “author” of sin? (Horrors, back to that statement again!)

      Yes, in the modern sense. (Not in the Westminsterian sense.)

      No, in the sense that God is actually restraining sin.

      If I am understanding you corrrectly, I believe that in legal terms that would be called entrapment, am I right Michael?

      No. Two reasons.

      First, remember Paul’s teaching that absent God’s law, there are no sins. The awful things we do to each other are mere social rudenesses, not sins. As David said, “against You, and You alone, have I sinned.” David’s sins caused death and suffering, and wound up rending the kingdom in half — but he saw the Law, and knew who sin is always against. The true sin that we die for is the sin that says in our heart “there is no God”. Our heart (that is, our core, our entire being) is already turned against God by sin of nature and sins of commission.

      Second, God by doing that is not forcing men to do awful things they would never otherwise do. He’s doing two things: first, showing them how awful they really are so that they can see the need for repentance; and second, directing their crimes and horrors so that less evil, and more good, will come of them. The Bible speaks of God restraining man’s sin.

      Man without God’s continuous control would be worse, not better.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      “philosophy is fun and perhaps useful”

      Wow! Another thing we agree on. Though I kinda don’t care for the pounding headache reading philosophers can have a tendency to give someone. Seriously, when it come to sheer brilliance the brightest scientists have nothing on a good philosopher. As though brilliance is both a blessing and a curse.

    • cherylu

      I’m not sure how I see working deliberately so that man will sin to accomplish His will is restraining sin.

      Are you saying that if God didn’t work deliberately so man would sin to accomplish His will, man would find even worse ways to sin? Somehow, working deliberately so man will sin just doesn’t seem to, in general, fit the picture of a holy God.

      Sorry guys, all of this philosophy/theology has fried my brain for the night. It’s late and I am going to bed and hopefully to sleep without dreaming about all of this too.

    • wm tanksley

      In the first the problem hinges on what is meant by “have no choice”. I think one can replace this step with “On Thursday I choose to mow the lawn of my own free will” and conclude “LFW and an omniscient God exist. I fail and many philosophers fail to see how God infallibly knowing the future precludes libertarian free will.

      I’m surprised by this, honestly. I’m a compatibilist, which I’m told is not compatible 🙂 with LFW; but you sound like you hold my position.

      If there’s only one actual possibility that you could actually take, and it’s been fixed at that possibility since the beginning of the universe, it’s still a free choice. This is a statement I firmly believe in.

      Looks like we agree after all.

      Now I just need to ask… How is your version of LFW different from my compatibilism? I mean, obviously mine includes the possibility of a harder form of determinism than yours does, but I’ve never insisted on it; I just don’t know.

      Cheryl has made it clear that if there’s only one possible option isn’t not an actual choice, so she and I still disagree :-).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      So how do you know with any degree of certainty that those beliefs are true. It all comes back to everything you believe you were predetermined to believe. It is as likely given determinism that all your beliefs are false as it is that they are true.

      I just don’t understand this at all. Actually, given your recent declaration I _really_ don’t understand it.

      Why do you say this is the case? Over and over?

      I believe I’ve completely disproven it; I’ve given a possible-world counterexample… You’ve dismissed them all and reasserted it. I’m just completely missing something about your argument.

      The whole thing makes no sense whatsoever to me, but I guess I should start from some starting point:

      Why should the reality of determinism alter the probabilities of beliefs being true? Can you break that down and explain it? It sounds like you’re claiming that determinism changes your beliefs from having an unspecified probability to a 50-50 probability, which smells STRONGLY like an either-or fallacy (where people pretend that a conclusion and its negation have equal probabilities merely because there are two choices).

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1. There is a difference between the compatibilism in the context of divine omniscience with human free will and compatibilism in the context of divine determinism and free will. These are two philosophically distinct areas of inquiry. Compatibilism is a generic term for any philosophical belief in which two things coexist. I affirm the compatibilism of divine omniscience with human freedom, but not the compatibilism of divine determinism with human freedom. Furthermore, I deny that God’s simply knowing what we will choose is determinism of any kind.

      2. Why should the reality of determinism alter the probabilities of beliefs being true? Can you break that down and explain it?

      OK, lets see if I can break it down syllogistically.

      1. Every belief we have we were inescapably determined and willed to believe by an external force.
      2. The external force equally wills and determines the beliefs of both those who believe falsehood and those who believe the truth.
      3. One cannot gain an external perspective outside of themselves to determine whether or not the beliefs they were determined by the external force to believe are true beliefs or false beliefs.
      4. Therefore we cannot know with ANY certainty whether or not the beliefs we have been determined to believe are true or false.

      To make it concrete.

      1. Same as above.
      2. God has willed and determined that you believe Calvinism and I believe Arminianism. One of us is right and one of us is wrong (or we are both wrong perhaps). One is true and one is false
      3. We are both trapped within our determined belief systems and cannot gain an external perspective to determine which one of us is right and which is wrong. Our understandings of the evidence (logic, reason, Scripture, general revelation, etc.) and weighing of this evidence have determined as well
      4. If determinism is true we cannot have ANY certainty about which one of our beliefs is true.

    • Michael T.

      WM,
      FYI I am going to bed now and will probably not be on much tomorrow. I will try to keep up though.

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      One more thing. In case you think I’m pulling this argument out of my rear end. Here is Dr. Craig commenting on determinism in the context of commenting on Calvinism.

      “There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.”

    • wm tanksley

      I still don’t see the connection between your syllogism and the conclusion. The argument actually doesn’t explicitly use any of the premises, it merely wanders through mentioning them and then mentions a conclusion, with no connection or order. Little of the wording of the conclusion is prefigured by the premises; in particular, the phrase “know with certainty” isn’t present elsewhere. I’m not trying to nitpick your argument; I’m not understanding what you’re saying, and I’m hoping that if you can present an argument that follows those rules I might be able to follow it.

      Oh, your argument will also have to address whether any greater clarity is available under LFW (which was not addressed at all before, ever).

    • cherylu

      William,

      Would you say that this article is a good summary of your beliefs, (if you have the time and inclination to read it)?

      http://www.reformationtheology.com/2007/08/compatibilistic_determinism.php

    • wm tanksley

      I like Dr. Craig and listen to one of his podcasts, but he’s AWFUL on the topic of compatibilism. I’ve never heard him actually discuss it; he always changes the subject to incompatible determinism. For example:

      The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe.

      This is false, because of the word “wholly”. This implies that no difference in mental activity exist between the two; no difference in preferences; even an exactly identical thought process took place. And this is not considered true in ANY determinism.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Are you saying that if God didn’t work deliberately so man would sin to accomplish His will, man would find even worse ways to sin? Somehow, working deliberately so man will sin just doesn’t seem to, in general, fit the picture of a holy God.

      That’s what I’m saying, yes. God works deliberately so that man’s sin will work together for good, instead of simply being chaos. He also restrains the extremes of man’s sin.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      That article’s not bad, although I ran across a sentence I couldn’t affirm: Those who believe man has a free will are not compatibilists, but should, rather, be called “inconsistent”. They later use the term “inconsistent Calvinists”, which might have been what they meant there; they also use the term “inconsistent with Scripture”, although they don’t spend enough time to actually justify it.

      However, all in all, it’s an acceptable article, if you find that it clarifies the issue to you. I didn’t find it extremely clear, but it may have worked for you.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      Thanks for reading the article. Just knowing that you call yourself a compatibilist has helped me to understand your postion better then I did before.

    • wm tanksley

      Thank you for asking; I apologize for not having made that perfectly clear. It’s important to our discussion.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1. The reason I think you don’t understand Craig on this is because you don’t understand what he’s doing. Compatibilism preposes that determinism is true. It then proposes that a kind of free will (or whatever you want to call it) that is compatible with determinism is also true. The superior premise in this is that determinism is true and it is this that Craig is attacking.

      2. “This is false, because of the word “wholly”….”

      I actually think this statement by Craig is true and should not be controversial to anyone who holds to determinism of any kind. The fact that anyone believes anything is wholly because God has determined that person to believe that thing. Now perhaps using the word “ultimately” would be better, but I think “wholly” works. If God had not destined and determined you to believe what you believe you would not believe it. I also don’t see how it implies equal brain states at the beggining. It’s just to the extent the brain states are different this too has been determined by God.

      3. Reworded syllogism – I’m really not sure what you are not getting.

      1. Everything one believes they were determined to believe by an external force.
      2. The external force equally determined those who believe truth and those who believe falsehood.
      3. Since we have no independent thoughts outside of what we were determined to think (i.e. the very thought that X is true because of Y is a determined thought) we cannot tell whether or not we have been determined by the external force to believe truth or falsehood.
      4. Since we cannot independently determine whether or not we were determined to have true or false beliefs we cannot claim any certainty about the truth or falsehood of our beliefs.

      I would simply ask – show me how, given the truth of determinism, one could have trancendent certainty about the truth of their beliefs (one could of course experience certainty – but everyone does, even to beliefs we would agree are false)

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      You said,

      If there’s only one actual possibility that you could actually take, and it’s been fixed at that possibility since the beginning of the universe, it’s still a free choice. This is a statement I firmly believe in.

      Cheryl has made it clear that if there’s only one possible option isn’t not an actual choice, so she and I still disagree.

      How do you deal with all of these verses showing that God gave man more then one choice in many cases and expected him to actually make the choice? Was God misleading man here into thinking He had more then one choice when He only had the one that God had ordained ahead of time and that the man, (however you understand it) voluntarily chose of his own will? These verses alone seem to me to totally refute the idea that man has only one choice.

      I Kings 18:21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word”

      Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants”

      Joshua 24:15 “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

      2 Samuel 24:12 “Go and speak to David, ‘Thus the LORD says, “I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you.”

      Isaiah 7:16 “For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”

      (All from the NASB)

    • wm tanksley

      “This is false, because of the word “wholly”….”
      The fact that anyone believes anything is wholly because God has determined that person to believe that thing. Now perhaps using the word “ultimately” would be better, but I think “wholly” works.

      Okay, let me try to explain why this seems so fundamentally dishonest. The entire purpose of your argument is to allow people to realize that determinism undermines the ability to reach conclusions with logical grounds. And yet you throw in a premise which simply assumes that conclusions have unspecified grounds “wholly because God has determined them”. Now, this assumption doesn’t prove your argument so it’s not exactly begging the question, but it’s close to begging the question; if it were exclusively the truth, the only question remaining would be whether it were possible to know that God wanted you personally to reach correct conclusions.

      Now, that’s the reason why this proposition is important to this argument. Here’s the reason why it’s false.

      The whole reason why I believe what I believe is the evidence, the rules of logic, my proper rule-bases reasoning process, my proper creative reasoning, and my improper intrusions on the reasoning process.

      None of those things require that determinism be true or false. Therefore, the results of my reasoning process are not dependent on whether determinism is true or false; and inspection of the above parts of a decision can reveal whether one’s process is more or less flawed. A less flawed decision is worthy of more certainty.

      Because greater and lesser certainty can be assigned to conclusions regardless of whether determinism is true, your argument cannot be true.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      3. Since we have no independent thoughts outside of what we were determined to think (i.e. the very thought that X is true because of Y is a determined thought) we cannot tell whether or not we have been determined by the external force to believe truth or falsehood.

      Okay, I may be seeing your argument. This argument appears to rely on humans being determined to think inconsistent thoughts, so that they will believe things that are against all the evidence, reason, and desires available to them. The reason I say that is that you mentioned “X is true because of Y”, and that thought would be useful to discover an inconsistency in one’s thought process.

      So clearly you’re imagining that a deterministic thought system would be necessarily inconsistent, while an LFW thought system would be only *possibly* inconsistent (that is, if the person thought a little harder they’d see the inconsistency).

      Am I right?

      If so, would you want to add another proposition: “Some people are determined to reach conclusions that are inconsistent with the evidence and reason available to them.”?

      I’m guessing that you’re going to say that LFW doesn’t suffer from that, right? Nobody in an LFW system believes anything inconsistent with the data?

      I would simply ask – show me how, given the truth of determinism, one could have trancendent certainty about the truth of their beliefs (one could of course experience certainty – but everyone does, even to beliefs we would agree are false)

      Could you please explain how “transcendent certainty” differs from “certainty”? And then could you please expand your syllogism to include something about how LFW gives you that transcendent certainty? After all, your argument is supposed to be comparing LFW to determinism.

      I’m still missing the point of your argument, because although I’m starting to guess what it’s trying to say about determinism, I don’t see why it’s a…

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1. It is completely irrelevant how YOU think you came to the belief that you have. How the external force brought about the belief in question is irrelevant. The issue is that you were still determined by an external force to believe that belief. Once you have admitted that determinism in beliefs is true everything else – your reasoning skills, your system of logic, your weighing of the evidence – becomes suspect. These faculties become tools of the external force to manipulate in such a way as to ensure you believe what you were determined to believe.

      2. “None of those things require that determinism be true or false. Therefore, the results of my reasoning process are not dependent on whether determinism is true or false; and inspection of the above parts of a decision can reveal whether one’s process is more or less flawed. A less flawed decision is worthy of more certainty.”

      Basically what you are saying is you followed the evidence and everyone else just ignored it. Yet they would all say the same thing. From their perspective they followed the evidence, logic, reason, etc. and you are simply ignoring it. So what gives?? Ultimately what gives is that God engineered the universe in such a way that you were determined to believe what you believe and they were determined to believe what they believe. How one thinks they came about that belief is irrelevant because ones logic, reason, and weighing (or ignoring) of the evidence is just as determined and engineered as the final belief (if it were not their would be no way to ensure that one came to the belief they were determined to believe).

    • Michael T.

      3. “Because greater and lesser certainty can be assigned to conclusions regardless of whether determinism is true, your argument cannot be true.”

      This is fallacious. One is assigning these certainties from within their determined belief systems. It is ultimately equivalent to the truism that “people believe to be true what they believe to be true”. If someone thought that Christianity had a higher probability of being true then Islam they’d believe Christianity (or be Agnostic on the matter since there is a probability they are wrong either way). However, there is no objective source to determine these probabilities. Only people with determined beliefs (which are as likely to be right as wrong) weighing the evidence according to determined standards (which are as likely to be right as wrong) coming up with determined probabilities (which are as likely to be right as wrong).

      4. Of course people in a LFW system can choose to believe things inspite of the evidence. The difference is they do so of their own free will, not because they were destined too.

      5. I use transcendent to denote something that is unconstrained. So for instance transcendent choice = a choice unrestrained by a external causal force (i.e. God or immaterial cause and effect). One can appear to choose while having all the variables that went into that choice predetermined such that they didn’t really choose – they only appeared to choose.

      By trancendent certainty I mean a type of certainty that isn’t simply the subjective experience of certainty within ones determined belief system.

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      Just a point of clarification. The force of Dr. Craig’s argument if you read it carefully is not that determinism is false, but rather that it cannot be rationally affirmed because it’s affirmation undermines the rationality of the person affirming it. That persons logic, reason, and weighing of the evidence cannot possibly be seen as free and objective, but rather as determined and subjective.

    • wm tanksley

      Michael, I see you posted a reply; but I also see that I didn’t sufficiently emphasize my question: “Could you please explain how “transcendent certainty” differs from “certainty”?”

      The reason I want to reemphasize that is that you admit that “certainty” is available to all under any system, regardless of truth; while you say that “transcendent certainty” is only available under LFW, and apparently only to those whose beliefs are true.

      I know that certainty is an emotion. What is “transcendent certainty”? How does it work?

      Perhaps my confusion is because I don’t understand the thing that you’re saying that only LFW can provide.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      As I said earlier I invented the phrase transcendent certainty. Perhaps objective certainty would be a better phrase that communicates what I mean better. I am simply trying to distinguish what I am talking about from the subjective certainty everyone (Atheists, Muslims, Christians, etc.) experiences about their beliefs.

    • wm tanksley

      How the external force brought about the belief in question is irrelevant.

      It seems relevant, especially if the force brought about the belief in a way that is identical to the created being’s natural workings.

      BUT, perhaps I’m missing the main goal. Let’s hear what “transcendent certainty” really is, and why LFW guarantees it.

      Basically what you are saying is you followed the evidence and everyone else just ignored it.

      Beg pardon, I didn’t intend to say that, and I can’t tell where I miscommunicated to you. I wasn’t talking about “me” and “everyone else”. I have no idea where that came from. Is there any way you could re-read my post and assume that I didn’t introduce “me” or “everyone else”? I don’t know what good those two parties would do in this argument.

      What I was trying to say was that anyone can examine their own or someone else’s reasoning process, starting from the evidence, and search for flaws. The fewer flaws found, the greater the confidence in the results. This is how one recreates an experiment in science.

      I know how cognition works. I just don’t see what LFW contributes!

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      The force of Dr. Craig’s argument if you read it carefully is not that determinism is false, but rather that it cannot be rationally affirmed because it’s affirmation undermines the rationality of the person affirming it.

      I’m aware of how suicide arguments work, yes. And I’ve seen that specific one effectively employed against physical determinists — because they believe that our cognition is determined by impersonal forces that “care” for nothing, least of all correspondence with reality.

      I’ve also seen that argument employed ineffectively, by people who forget to ground it in the “impersonal forces” I mentioned above; the atheist simply counters that natural selection weeds out beings with inadequate cognition. Unless the argument’s wielder counters with the point about impersonal forces, there’s nothing you can do.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Thank you, Michael, but “objective certainty” still doesn’t help me. Certainty is an emotion, a subjective state. Did you mean something like “objective truth”? That is, one’s beliefs actually correspond with the real world?

      So is the “holy grail” here actually “objectively true beliefs”? If so, how does LFW help one achieve them (in a way that deterministic thought processes cannot)?

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1.
      “What I was trying to say was that anyone can examine their own or someone else’s reasoning process, starting from the evidence, and search for flaws. The fewer flaws found, the greater the confidence in the results. This is how one recreates an experiment in science.

      I know how cognition works. I just don’t see what LFW contributes!”

      A. The question is if the belief was determined how were the steps leading to that belief not determined?? And if the steps (logic, reason, etc.) leading to that decision were themselves determined (and were equally determined for those who reach the opposite belief) why trust your reasoning faculties.

      B. The concept that the fewer flaws one finds the more likely the result is of course another truism. The question is were the reasoning capacities by which you discovered those flaws determined as well – if determism is true they would have to be. And if they are determined why trust that they are accurate?

      2. “And I’ve seen that specific one effectively employed against physical determinists”

      The nature of the determining entity is irrelevant since the only way one knows the nature of the determining entity is through beliefs they were determined to have. Thus God could be a sadist and just determined me and you to believe that He was good. Or the force could really be impersonal and the cause and effect simply caused us to believe it is personal in nature. One can’t know.

    • Michael T.

      3. “So is the “holy grail” here actually “objectively true beliefs”? If so, how does LFW help one achieve them”

      I think this is a fair assessment depending on where you go with it (I’m never quite sure if we are on the same page in our meanings). If all beliefs are determined all that exists is subjectivity within ones determined belief. Objectivity of any kind cannot exist. If LFW exists then there is something transcendent about humanity which allows us to freely weigh the evidence and come to a decision (which is not to say that ones prejudices play no role – they just aren’t the determinitive factor in how one decides and we can go against them). Thus while I would agree that pure objectivity does not exist even with LFW, there is a much, much higher degree of objectivity then the pure subjectivity of a deterministic system and thus one can have a higher degree of certainty about their beliefs.

      4. I would be interested in your response to my assertion that if determism is true both our beliefs and the faculties we use to come to those beliefs are determined – thus we shouldn’t consider the faculties we used to have any objective authority.

    • Michael T.

      Oops posted something here that was related to something else. My bad…

    • cherylu

      William,

      I’m still wondering how you respond to Scriptures like I quoted above where God is asking people to choose between several different options given your statements that there is only one possible “choice” available at any given time–the one that has been determined by God–and your belief that having only one option available to us is still a “choice”.

    • wm tanksley

      A. The question is if the belief was determined how were the steps leading to that belief not determined??

      Exactly my point! And here’s another element: not only are the steps determined and the belief determined and the outcome determined, but God cares about them all. He’s not leaving out steps (say, because he doesn’t care about them); He cares about all the steps.

      And if the steps (logic, reason, etc.) leading to that decision were themselves determined (and were equally determined for those who reach the opposite belief) why trust your reasoning faculties.

      Because you can examine your reasoning process, and other people can (if you document it) examine your reasoning process. And finally, at the transcendent extreme, there is a loving God who lives and is the Truth, and calls us to know Him.

      B. The concept that the fewer flaws one finds the more likely the result is of course another truism. The question is were the reasoning capacities by which you discovered those flaws determined as well – if determism is true they would have to be. And if they are determined why trust that they are accurate?

      You keep assuming that your desired conclusion is ineffably true. It’s only true if the reasoning process that God’s determined us to have is inherently wrong.

      The nature of the determining entity is irrelevant since the only way one knows the nature of the determining entity is through beliefs they were determined to have.

      What we know about “the determining entity” is irrelevant. The thing that matters is Who the determining entity actually is. God exists objectively, not subjectively.

      Now, if I were to claim that God was irrational or non-rational, you would be correct to claim that my argument committed suicide: I couldn’t possibly know that, because I couldn’t possibly know anything.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      So God has determined one set of Christians to know the truth about Him and one group of Christians to know a falsehood about Him? With all of the diametrically opposing beliefs and shades of belief in the body of Christ today, that seems to be the conclusion one would likely come to. But yet you say God calls us to know Him. Or is He giving us all just a glimpse of the real Him even if our glimpses seem to be totally opposed to each other?

      Seems to me that Michael’s whole point here is, how do you know if the way God has determined for you to know Him is the truth, or if the truth is the way God has determined me to know Him, or if the truth is the way God has determined Michael to know Him, or if the truth is the way God has determined that Joe down the street know Him, etc, etc, etc.???

    • wm tanksley

      If all beliefs are determined all that exists is subjectivity within ones determined belief. Objectivity of any kind cannot exist.

      False. Objective truth still exists. It’s an open question whether our subjective beliefs can be brought into correspondence with objective truth; that depends on the nature of the determination, not on simply whether we’re determined.

      If LFW exists then there is something transcendent about humanity which allows us to freely weigh the evidence and come to a decision (which is not to say that ones prejudices play no role – they just aren’t the determinitive factor in how one decides and we can go against them).

      The problem here is that this ALSO depends on the nature of the transcendent. If LFW is conformed to ultimate reality, then yes, the conclusions will be more conformed to reality (and thus true). If LFW is independent of reality, then the conclusions will NOT be more true; you’re as likely to “choose” the wrong thing as you are to choose the right thing!

      Thus while I would agree that pure objectivity does not exist even with LFW, there is a much, much higher degree of objectivity then the pure subjectivity of a deterministic system and thus one can have a higher degree of certainty about their beliefs.

      All conclusions are subjective because they belong to the subject. Whether they conform to the object depends on how they are reached.

      4. I would be interested in your response to my assertion that if determism is true both our beliefs and the faculties we use to come to those beliefs are determined

      My response is that this is exactly what I’ve been saying all along.

      – thus we shouldn’t consider the faculties we used to have any objective authority.

      This does not follow. Absurd non sequitur. I believe I’ve answered this completely elsewhere.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I’m still wondering how you respond to Scriptures like I quoted above

      I say “Those are all true. I agree with them.”

      If you want to interact, you’ll have to explain how you interpret the verse. It’s not enough to storm me with verses; I’ve read them all, and they’re all part of why I believe what I believe.

      It’s probably best to start with a single verse rather than attempting an avalanche.

      I’ll give an example for you in my next comment, based on one of your verses. I’ll pick one that’s hard for me.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      If I didn’t make myself plain, I am sorry. I thought I did. Every single one of those verses is a verse where we are commanded to make a choice between several possible options.

      So how do you interpret God giving us that choice in any or all of these verses when you have said that we really have no choice at all–there is only one possible thing we can choose, that which God has predetermined in the past?

      I am saying that God gives us choice in those verses, choice like Michael and I both understand choice, choice between more then one option. Not choice as you seem to define it which seems to be the freedom to voluntarily choose the only option really available to us.

      Forgive me if I seem dense here. But wrapping my mind around your understanding of these issues is not easy for me at all since they are so totally opposite of the way I understand things. And for that matter, the way I see the reality of “choice” working.

      (And remember, the way I understand all these things has been determined for me by God, so how else could I understand them anyway??) 🙂

    • wm tanksley

      I Kings 18:21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word”

      Literally, “How long are you going to limp around on two crutches?” No choice implied or stated.

      Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants”

      Deut 30 says that they will experience all the curses and blessings, they will turn away, and that they will come back. This is a prophecy, not a mere choice.

      Joshua 24:15 “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

      Joshua grounds this not on their free choice to serve God, but on whether they find service to God “disagreeable”. The only choice is which of the foreign Gods they will serve. Joshua, like Moses before him, promises the Hebrews that they will turn from God (and they do!).

      2 Samuel 24:12 “Go and speak to David, ‘Thus the LORD says, “I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you.”

      Note that first, these are all punishments, not moral goods. Second, David answers that he trusts the mercy of God, not of man; David _prefers_ one not by LFW, but because of inherent desires (good desires!). This shows the character of David; he does it because he’s a man after God’s own heart.

      Isaiah 7:16 “For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.”

      Note that refusing evil and choosing good requires not transcendent will, but rather knowledge…

    • wm tanksley

      (Wow, that truncated at the very end of the last sentence. I wish the “characters available” box worked in this editor.)

      Anyhow, as you can see, I couldn’t find a verse in there that challenged me, so I replied to all of them. None of them even SEEM to teach that there are multiple choices of good and bad and that the past can’t tell which one we’ll pick.

      The best for your thesis is one you quoted was at the end of Deuteronomy; but in context, it’s VERY clear in saying that the people will NOT stay with God. (The one at the end of Joshua says the same thing, but it’s clear from that very verse that it’s not about libertarian choice, but rather about desires.)

      With that said, I want to add a clarification about the nature of the argument between us. Unlike Michael, you believe that it’s only a choice if there are more than one completely possible options. Michael admits that God’s knowledge constrains the true possiblities to just one, and yet he asserts LFW. I’m not sure I understand his position; it seems inconsistent… But I wanted to clarify that there’s a difference between you two. For short, I’d call your position “real contrary choices” and his position “LFW”. You also believe in LFW, but you additionally believe that LFW actually must have both possibilities, and actually eliminates all but one of them, and could have done otherwise without restraint.

      (I don’t presume to dictate your position to you: am I right?)

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Forgive me if I seem dense here.

      Good heavens, how can anyone discuss all this philosophy and seem dense???? 🙂

      If anyone seems dense, it’s myself: I’m still not understanding anything about the argument Michael has been patiently presenting. (I hope that recently I’ve managed to strike at the core of the argument, and we can finally discuss something substantial.)

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Of course people in a LFW system can choose to believe things inspite of the evidence. The difference is they do so of their own free will, not because they were destined too.

      That specific exercise of free will, IN FACT, makes their conclusions objectively FALSE. Believing that you exercised LFW therefore doesn’t let you know that you are objectively correct. In effect, LFW uncorrelates you from objective reality, because LFW is utterly subjective. (At least as you’ve presented it; there are versions of semi-LFW which are correlated to truth, but by definition this is a constraint.)

      One can appear to choose while having all the variables that went into that choice predetermined such that they didn’t really choose – they only appeared to choose.

      Be careful — for the sake of this argument you have to assume that “choose” may or may not mean unconstrained choice. I would say that such a person made a real choice that was compatible with determination.

      By trancendent certainty I mean a type of certainty that isn’t simply the subjective experience of certainty within ones determined belief system.

      By your above discussion, you could also mean “unconstrained certainty”. Neither of these definitions helps me, unfortunately. Certainty is an emotion, and thus inherently subjective.

      You also haven’t explained how LFW could possibly acheive it; in fact, your explanation takes it away.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      I find your argument that these verses don’t speak of choice to be (to borrow a word you or Hodge or both have used in referring to something Michael or I have argued) absurd. 🙂 Don’t mean to be harsh. Just don’t get your reasoning there at all.

      To you all choices good/bad, what we believe, everything, is determined by God. So why eleminate these verses because you say that don’t refer specifically to a choice of good or bad??

      And I do not agree with your interpretation of the Deut verses at all. God did set all of these before them, and He did tell them to chose which they would do as far as I can tell. I don’t think that is a prophecy. The whole discussion was on what happens if they obey and what will happen if they turn away. Then they are told to choose.

      And if I have followed Michael’s reasoning correctly, he believes that the reason that we are seen, (according to you) to have only one choice at the time we make it is because God saw what choice we were going to make–knew the choice we would make ahead of time out of the available choices. Not that there was only one thing we could chose from. Am I right Michael?

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1. “You keep assuming that your desired conclusion is ineffably true. It’s only true if the reasoning process that God’s determined us to have is inherently wrong.”

      The problem is not whether our reasoning processes are right or wrong, but rather can we know it is right or wrong. We were destined to believe our reasoning processes are right regardless of their being right or wrong. Therefore, we cannot know if our reasoning processes are right or wrong.

      2. “Now, if I were to claim that God was irrational or non-rational, you would be correct to claim that my argument committed suicide: I couldn’t possibly know that, because I couldn’t possibly know anything.”

      The problem is not what you claim, but rather that the belief you have about the nature of God was determined. Thus you cannot know the nature of God because you could have just as easily been determined to believe falsehood about the nature of God. You are going in circles – trying to use determined beliefs about the nature of the determining entity to prove the nature of the determining entity.

      3. “False. Objective truth still exists.”

      I do not think I denied objective truth still exists – just that it cannot be known at all in a deterministic system.

      4. I honestly don’t believe you’ve answered my objections adequately. Specifically you have failed to show how, if determinism is true, one can have any certainty about the nature of the determining entity since ones beliefs about the nature of the determining entity, as well as the process by which they came to those beliefs, were determined.

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      To expound on things a little bit – let’s say you came to believe determinism was true through the following logic (simplified I know)

      1. God exists
      2. Jesus was the Son of God
      3. Jesus treated Scripture as the Word of God
      4. Jesus as God cannot lie
      5. Scripture is the Word of God
      6. Scripture teaches determinism
      7. I therefore believe determinism.

      As soon as one states 7 to be true the whole logic is thrown off because it now becomes this.

      1. I was determined to believe God exists
      2. I was determined to believe Jesus was the Son of God
      3. I was determined to beileve Jesus treated Scripture as the Word of God
      4. I was determined to believe Jesus could not lie
      5. I was determined to believe that Scripture is the Word of God
      6. I was determined to believe that Scripture teaches determinism
      6. I was determined to believe determinism.

    • cherylu

      William,

      I made this comment above, I find your argument that these verses don’t speak of choice to be (to borrow a word you or Hodge or both have used in referring to something Michael or I have argued) absurd.

      I sincerely wish I could delete that sentence from this thread. Even if it was said with a smiley face, it could certainly come across as inflammatory. I will have to admit it was quite snarky of me to say it. We have all been having a very congenial conversation here and I do not want to see that change. I apoligize for what I said and hope you will forgive me.

      Hodge,

      That apology has to extend to you too as your name was brought up in my comment. I am sorry.

    • wm tanksley

      I find your argument that these verses don’t speak of choice to be (to borrow a word you or Hodge or both have used in referring to something Michael or I have argued) absurd :-). Don’t mean to be harsh. Just don’t get your reasoning there at all.

      I understand completely, but this will be tested by your rebuttal of my interpretations, not by your broad claims about ALL the verses. (I smiled at your word ‘absurd’ also — I have a sense of fair play, and you’re playing fair.)

      So why eliminate these verses because you say that don’t refer specifically to a choice of good or bad??

      I’m not eliminating anything. I’m reading them in context and looking at exactly what they say. Challenge any of them.

      And I do not agree with your interpretation of the Deut verses at all. God did set all of these before them, and He did tell them to chose which they would do as far as I can tell. I don’t think that is a prophecy. The whole discussion was on what happens if they obey and what will happen if they turn away. Then they are told to choose.

      Yet the first verses of the chapter explicitly say that they WILL turn away and they WILL be punished, and it promises that after they turn away they WILL turn back and be gathered. How can you say that’s not a prophecy?

      Now, the rest of the chapter is true as well — the terms of the law are clear, and set out before them where they can touch them. We’ve all obeyed the Law at some point in our lives. When they obey, they receive life; when they disobey, they receive death; and in accordance with the declaration at the beginning of the chapter, they as a society will prove God right by doing both.

      It is indeed a choice; but it’s a choice compatible with God’s prophecy at the beginning of the chapter, and hence it’s a compatibilist choice. (That doesn’t REQUIRE that LFW isn’t true, by the way; it merely means that neither one…

    • wm tanksley

      So God has determined one set of Christians to know the truth about Him and one group of Christians to know a falsehood about Him?

      How should I know what God has ordained? All I can say about that is what I see: there are many Christians (including people who have endured in the faith to death!) who hold contradictory opinions to one another.

      I can also see that God says that no man frustrates God’s will. Are you suggesting that this fact is against the will of God?

      I don’t know whether God “ordained” this in the sense that He wanted this result and smiles as He sees it. I rather think that as with the crucifixion, He looks past it to see an ultimate purpose for which it’s only the means. But I don’t know; I don’t see into the mind of God.

      But yet you say God calls us to know Him. Or is He giving us all just a glimpse of the real Him even if our glimpses seem to be totally opposed to each other?

      Yes. That seems to be a paraphrase of 1 Cor 13, for example: “we know in part…”

      Seems to me that Michael’s whole point here is, how do you know if the way God has determined for you to know Him is the truth, or if the truth is the way God has determined me to know Him, […]

      We don’t have direct access to objective truth. Our knowledge is mediated through our senses, through the physical world, through written revelation… We can investigate; but we can’t KNOW in the way you’re implying.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      I see more fully what you mean now about the prophecy part of the Deut chapter. The first part of the chapter is certainly a prophecy. I was speaking of the context from about the middle of the chapter on. And however you want to define the choice there, it still seems to me they were given a choice between two options, to choose life or to choose death. Yes God knew they would choose both at times and said so, but He did tell them to choose between the two. Is that not a choice? When God told them to choose, was He not really offering them a choice?

    • wm tanksley

      The problem is not whether our reasoning processes are right or wrong, but rather can we know it is right or wrong. We were destined to believe our reasoning processes are right regardless of their being right or wrong. Therefore, we cannot know if our reasoning processes are right or wrong.

      Maybe I have a couple of different approaches to this.

      First: Remember CS Lewis, in the Abolition of Man (I think) making reference to the fact that there is a distinction between thinking about thought, and thinking by means of thought? This isn’t exactly his point in his elegant and facinating essay <a href="http://www.pseudobook.com/cslewis/wp-content/uploads/2006/09/meditation.pdf, but it’s beautiful and reminiscent. In short: you’re confusing the means by which we think with the thoughts we’re thinking. We can’t believe that our thoughts are true or false at the same time we believe that something else is true. We have to first believe about the thing, then switch topics to thinking about our thoughts about the thing. And the activity we perform when thinking about and judging our thoughts is the same sort of activity we perform thinking about the thing!

      Second: suppose I write a logical argument on paper. I determined every proposition and evidence. Is the argument on the paper false merely because I wrote it on paper? Then why is an argument written on my mind by someone else false merely because He wrote it? Yes, some arguments people write on paper are false. Does that mean they’re false BECAUSE they’re predetermined? You actually have to study the argument before assuming it’s false, regardless of whether it’s in a human brain or on a paper.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      You said (about the presence of determinism): “Objectivity of any kind cannot exist.”
      I responded: “False. Objective truth still exists.”
      You answered: “I do not think I denied objective truth still exists —just that it cannot be known at all in a deterministic system.”

      But “objective truth” isn’t the same as “reality”. Objective Truth is a quality that a proposition may have. A proposition may be held in a human mind, and if so, is called “known”. If the value of the proposition for all values of all free variables matches reality for the equivalent variables, the proposition is objectively true, whether it’s held in a human mind or not.

      Determinism doesn’t enter into it.

      Specifically you have failed to show how, if determinism is true, one can have any certainty about the nature of the determining entity since ones beliefs about the nature of the determining entity, as well as the process by which they came to those beliefs, were determined.

      Yes, I’ve explained. You become certain by examining your thoughts very closely to see how well they conform to the laws of logic and the rules of evidence. Even better is having other people examine them so that the examination is independant of your personal desires; better yet is examining them with new data; better yet is having hostile witnesses examine them…

      This has nothing to do with determinism or LFW.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      To expound on things a little bit – let’s say you came to believe determinism was true through the following logic (simplified I know)

      This is simply the genetic fallacy. Because the argument came from a determined mind, you simply discount it; no argument given. You might as well discount all arguments you read on paper.

      Furthermore, you not only discount the argument, you discount all the propositions, automatically attaching the disclaimer “I was determined to believe that” as though that disclaimer affected the truth of the thing being disclaimed.

      No, you can’t do that; you still have to think about the argument as such.

      Now, if you can show that the argument commits suicide, that’s perfect. An argument with the hidden premise “Everything, including all logic, is a result of the meaningless interplay of atoms in motion” commits suicide — not because atoms in motion cannot contain true propostions, but because there is no grounding for us to be able to use the rules of logic, since atoms in motion don’t care about logic. But God does care about the rule of logic; by making a statement “Everything, including all logic, is a result of the deliberate plan of God” I do not commit suicide, because the grounding for the meaningfulness of logic is located in God.

      You claim that I only believe in God because I’m determined to do so; but that doesn’t refute my argument, because my argument DOES include God. You’re refuting a completely different argument from mine; you’re refuting an argument that’s self-refuting because it excludes the possiblity of truth being grounded in ultimate reality (God).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      When God told them to choose, was He not really offering them a choice?

      Yes, exactly; it’s a choice that’s compatible with predetermination.

      You’ve got to understand: even hard determinists don’t disbelieve in choice. They disbelieve in the ideas (1) that human choices are uncaused and (2) that human choices destroy potential realities. They believe that humans make choices!

      Most people who believe in LFW find this incomprehensible; they use terms like “REAL choice”, as though someone were proposing “fake choice”. The problem isn’t real choice versus fake choice; the problem is to figure out what “choice” actually is.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      ” the problem is to figure out what “choice” actually is.”

      And I have been trying to figure out just what you guys mean by “choice” and how it all fits in with what the Bible means by choice for quite some time now!

      Like I said before, and as Michael too has said in the past I believe, your understanding of choice is certainly not any usual understanding of the word or the dictionary definition either for that matter. That I don’t suppose necessarily makes your understanding wrong–but it certainly makes it much more difficult for any one else to grab a hold of it or to accept it as the valid one!

    • cherylu

      William,

      Could you maybe define “choice” as you understand it in the Biblical sense? Put it down as plainly as possible here in black and white in one place?

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1. On C.S. Lewis. First let’s note that C.S. Lewis was a strong believer in the existence of LFW and I think this essay reflects that perspective.

      2. Second I think the reasoning when applied to a deterministic system is circular. One uses determined reasoning processes to come to a determined conclusion. One then uses yet more determined reasoning processes to criticize and evaluate that conclusion. Now these reasoning processes could be accurate in the sense that they reflect ultimate reality, but they could just as easily be wrong and your determined thoughts make you believe it conforms to ultimate reality.

      3. “Does that mean they’re false BECAUSE they’re predetermined?”

      Absolutely not, however one has no way of knowing that they are false. I have never claimed that a belief is false simply because it is determined and if I have said something that lead you to believe that I was careless. One can still come to beliefs that are true in a deterministic system, it’s just from the perspective of the person they should have no reason to think that they have the true beliefs as opposed to someone else. That is the very nature of a suicide argument.

      4. “But “objective truth” isn’t the same as “reality”. Objective Truth is a quality that a proposition may have.”

      You really are nitpicking here. There is a difference between objective Truth existing, one holding that objective Truth, and one knowing that they hold objective Truth. The argument of a post-modern for example is (in most cases) not that Objective Truth doesn’t exist, not that some people don’t hold to beliefs that are objectively True, but rather that one can’t know with any degree of certainty that the beliefs they hold are objectively true. This really isn’t that hard.

    • Michael T.

      5. “You become certain by examining your thoughts very closely to see how well they conform to the laws of logic and the rules of evidence.”

      Yet the laws of logic one believes are equally determined, as are the rules of evidence (and there is significant disagreement among humanity as to what should count as evidence), as is the way in which you weigh the evidence. When someone looks at what you believe and finds it unconvincing what is the factor that lead to the difference? There may be more, but I can only think of a few. A) They were externally determined to ignore the evidence. B) The were externally determined to accept evidence you rejected or reject evidence you accepted. C) They were externally determined to weigh the evidence differently then you weighed the evidence. D) least likely I admit – they were externally determined to use different logic processes then you used.

      5. The genetic fallacy is committed when one claims a belief is false because of how it was formed. Again read William Lane Craig’s argument because he is careful not to do this. If I have done this at some point I didn’t intend to. The argument is not that Calvinism is false, but rather that if it is true one cannot have any certainty about its truth value. This is different then saying it is false.

      6. “But God does care about the rule of logic; by making a statement “Everything, including all logic, is a result of the deliberate plan of God” I do not commit suicide, because the grounding for the meaningfulness of logic is located in God.”

      Grounding in a belief in a God who cares about logic does not matter if determinism is true. Sure that God “could” care about logic, but the only way one has come to believe that is through determined beliefs. One cannot be sure they are right and those who say God doesn’t care about logic are wrong. Again I’m not proving Calvinism wrong here just stating that if it is true one cannot know its truth.

    • Hodge

      LOL. Cheryl, no problem. I laughed at the comment. I take no offense, for that would be absurd. 🙂

    • wm tanksley

      your understanding of choice is certainly not any usual understanding of the word or the dictionary definition either for that matter

      You posted a dictionary definition, and I explained how my definition was EXACTLY that (remember: “which item is preferred”). Your definition also matches — the dictionary is intended to give common ground, not a means of settling philosophical debates once and for all.

      As a matter of fact, and I know you deny this, but in order to distinguish your definition of “choice” from mine, you have to say a LOT more than you think. In your imagination, every time anyone (including the Bible) says the word “choice” they’re supporting your definition. In reality, all they’re doing is saying the word, and may or may not support your definition. In reality, a person who’s supporting LFW has to define choice as “the power of contrary choice”, or “choice not determined by history”. Most people don’t think about choice that way, and in fact most people would find it absurd because they know that their choices ARE assisted by history (of course, I concede that they’d find ANY philosophical definition of choice absurd, so I don’t count that against you).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Could you maybe define “choice” as you understand it in the Biblical sense? Put it down as plainly as possible here in black and white in one place?

      Prior to making a choice, we have a purpose (many purposes, actually). I often refer to these as “desires”, and the strength of the desire is related to how much the person wants the purpose. When we see things, we evaluate them according to how well they’ll help us meet our purposes. Sometimes in order to get one thing, we’ll have to reject some other thing (possibly forever, possibly just for now). That’s a “choice”: accepting one thing and rejecting all others.

      We perform a choice according to our “desires” or “purposes”.

      Consider that another word for “choose” is “decide”; the two are almost synonyms. A choice made with thought and wisdom is a decision, one might say. But thought requires prior premises, so it’s not libertarian; therefore a good decision is not an exercise of LFW. You (by your definitions) would therefore have to say that every good decision is not a choice, which most people would find absurd.

      Now, look how important words like ‘purposes’ and ‘desires’ are in the Bible. Here’s a search for ‘purpose’ and/or desire that goes across versions (so verses show up if they’ve ever been translated as “purpose”; awesome study tool, by the way). I think you’ll have to agree that in the Bible, one’s purposes are more important than one’s choices; after all, one’s choices may fail to acheive one’s purposes, but God sees what you intended. And one does not choose one’s purposes in the same way one chooses between items — after all, one’s purposes are the very grounds of one’s choices!

      (One more search for you… Out of space…)

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Hi William,

      Thank you for that.

      Not sure that I will be interacting here much at all today or even really digesting what you just said for what I consider a very wonderful reason. I am waiting to hear from my son that my new grandaughter has arrived! So my thoughts are pretty much elsewhere.

      OTOH, maybe continuing our conversation here will become a way to ease the tension of the wait! But right now I can’t seem to get into this conversation at all.

    • wm tanksley

      Here’s a search for ‘choice or choose or willing’.

      Compare this search to the previous one. The majority of uses of ‘choose’ or ‘will’ are either in histories (where the use is simply common, no hint whether libertarian choice is intended); or about how God’s choices always come to pass; or about how man’s choices are limited. There are very few that even appear to suggest that man can simply choose anything, and as we’ve seen, the best one you found turns out to be directly associated with a specific prophecy of failure in that choice (and a promise of redemption by God).

      What you should be looking for especially is universal statements, like “all My purposes will come to pass”, rather than particular histories, like “Judah chose the mountainous land” (sorry if I made that last one up).

      What do you think?

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      Your first link does not work.

    • wm tanksley

      I am waiting to hear from my son that my new grandaughter has arrived!

      Yay! Congratulations!

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Odd… It looks like a link but doesn’t click. Wonder what I did. Sorry!

      Here’s try #2. Should find purposes and/or desires.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      1. On C.S. Lewis. First let’s note that C.S. Lewis was a strong believer in the existence of LFW and I think this essay reflects that perspective.

      I don’t recall Lewis’ perspective, but in this essay he’s clearly talking to a physicalist and pointing out that even if they’re absolutely correct they’re still not thinking about thought correctly. So no, it deliberately doesn’t reflect his LFW perspective (which I don’t recall but see no need to argue).

      2. Second I think the reasoning when applied to a deterministic system is circular. One uses determined reasoning processes to come to a determined conclusion.

      You seem determined to say things like that. Will you please address my actual arguments, in order to show that they are invalid without first assuming that they are invalid?

      Now these reasoning processes could be accurate in the sense that they reflect ultimate reality, but they could just as easily be wrong and your determined thoughts make you believe it conforms to ultimate reality.

      We could indeed be fooled by a careful puppetmaster. That would be a deterministic system. But it’s not the only type of deterministic system! The system my argument proposes and requires is completely incompatible with that, because it’s a compatibilist system. Specifically, it’s compatible with human free choice in the sense that human choice is performed by evidence, reason, and sin. In short, we are ‘determined’ only in the sense that we act according to our nature. Our minds follow their own natural law just as much as the rest of creation follows its natural laws.

      -W

    • wm tanksley

      And here’s the kicker. You’re claiming that merely because SOME deterministic models can result in suicide arguments, they ALL must: but be consistent: there’s a LFW model that commits suicide as well. It’s the ‘brain-in-a-jar’ model, where the free spirit is trapped inside a body whose senses are lying to the spirit (possibly under the influence of a malignant power).

      With consistently incorrect information, your freedom of will can’t help you.

      If ONE deterministic model poisons all the deterministic models (which is logically wrong, but presuming that for the sake of argument), then this ONE LFW model must poison all the others.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      You just made this comment, In short, we are ‘determined’ only in the sense that we act according to our nature. Our minds follow their own natural law just as much as the rest of creation follows its natural laws.

      In an article that I linked to above that it sounded like you basically agreed with, the following statement was made:

      In light of Scripture, (according to compatibilism), human choices are exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism

      Here is the link to that article again: http://www.reformationtheology.com/2007/08/compatibilistic_determinism.php

      You have stated before unless I don’t remember correctly at all after all of these hundreds of comments, that everything comes back to God–that He is the determning factor in all things. Correct?

      So how do you reconcile your statement quoted above from your recent comment and the quote from that article and what I remember you having said here in the past? It seems there may be a contradiction here. Or are you saying that God only determines our desires or actions for us according to our nature?

      If the later is the case, I will ultimately have to come back to the statement that we did not determine our nature or have any influence on it–we were born with it. So everything is still determned for us.

      By the way, our girl arrived late yesterday afternoon, a healthy and alert little one. Praise be to God!

    • wm tanksley

      One can still come to beliefs that are true in a deterministic system, it’s just from the perspective of the person they should have no reason to think that they have the true beliefs as opposed to someone else.

      But they DO have reasons to think they’re true: specifically, the reasons they think they’re true! The evidence they’re holding may be wrong, but it’s the best evidence they were able to get, and it’s the same evidence they’d get if they had LFW. The laws of logic can’t be different in an LFW universe, so that hasn’t changed. You can’t claim that the corrupting nature of sin is different without denying a fundamental Christian doctrine.

      So they can examine these reasons, and they can search their heart for sin… They can even step back and look at their reasoning process, or write it down and have someone else do it for them.

      That is the very nature of a suicide argument.

      That’s not how a suicide argument works. A suicide argument happens when if it’s actually true, it’s CERTAIN that an assertion of truth has no value. This isn’t true with compatibilist determinism; it’s only strictly true with hard fatalism (not even hard determinism neccesarily works that way, since we can be hard-determined to work logically, as a computer can be). Now, you want to deny me the compatibilsm I assert, but when you do that you’re merely rejecting my argument and substituting a strawman, NOT making it commit suicide.

      Non-compatibilism commits suicide if it says that we reach decisions independently of the laws of logic and/or evidence. If it claims that, there’s no logical reasoning that you can show to convince anyone of your “conclusion”, since you admitted that it’s reached independently of reasoning. Note that “non-compatiblism” includes both varieties of determinsim AND non-determinism. (LFW doesn’t usually make that assertion, so it doesn’t commit suicide.)

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      I don’t know that I will have much time to give to this discussion any more. I am not ignoring the links or questions you left yesterday. Just don’t have what it takes to “go there” right now.

    • wm tanksley

      You have stated before unless I don’t remember correctly at all after all of these hundreds of comments, that everything comes back to God–that He is the determning factor in all things. Correct?

      Correct.

      So how do you reconcile your statement quoted above from your recent comment and the quote from that article and what I remember you having said here in the past? It seems there may be a contradiction here. Or are you saying that God only determines our desires or actions for us according to our nature?

      God only determines our nature and our environment (and He does so as our creator, not as a intervening meddler); our nature then determines our acts. God designs and creates our natures (and all the inputs that go into them) so that our decisions will be in accord with His plan.

      If the later is the case, I will ultimately have to come back to the statement that we did not determine our nature or have any influence on it–we were born with it. So everything is still determned for us.

      Yes, this is true by the definition of “nature”. It’s also true by definition of “environment” (or “evidence”, same thing). God creates our nature, and we cannot change it (if we could, it wouldn’t be a nature).

      LFW’s claim is that there’s something _else_ in us, something that doesn’t follow any nature at all; something that God created, but without any design and without any constraints. The Reformed view (Calvinist, Lutheran, Reformed Baptist, etc.), in contrast, says that everything created was designed by God, including our wills, and everything is governed by Him.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      By the way, our girl arrived late yesterday afternoon, a healthy and alert little one. Praise be to God!

      How wonderful! Train her well!

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      “You really are nitpicking here.”

      No, I’m not; I’m responding directly to your objection to me, so I can’t be nitpicking (although I may have missed the point of your objection). But let’s move on.

      The argument of a post-modern for example is (in most cases) not that Objective Truth doesn’t exist, not that some people don’t hold to beliefs that are objectively True, but rather that one can’t know with any degree of certainty that the beliefs they hold are objectively true.

      (That paragraph seems to me like a non-sequitur, but I’ll use it to continue the discussion.)

      Okay… But are they wrong, and why?

      I think they’re wrong because their demand for certainty is unreasonable and ill-formed. But I think you’re wrong for the same cause.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      I think you must still be misunderstanding me or something because you continue to make the absurd statement that God cares about reason etc. etc. I will simply pose some questions because that’s about all I can other than simply repeat what I have said. Your objections just seem hopelessly circular to me.

      1. If everything is determined (including our thoughts, logic, reason etc.) how can we know that these things were determined to accurately convey to us reality??

      2. If we were determined to believe that God cares about logic, reason, etc. how do we know that this belief reflects reality?

      Now here is what I see. You assume that God cares about logic and use this to prove that logic and reason accurately represent reality. You then use logic, reason, evidence etc. to bolster the claim that God cares about logic. I can’t help but find this circular. All these thing were determined. In your system IF God cares about logic, how would one know they were right and those who claimed that God is a illogical sadist are wrong??

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I’m unclear about something you’re presenting. I was reminded of it when Wm said this: “With consistently incorrect information, your freedom of will can’t help you.”

      Do you believe that the will must be transcendent, above creation? If so, is God not the only transcendent being we know of? Are humans transcendent, and how exactly is that possible? Is there transcendence connected to God to where he makes it possible for them to transcend their cultural biases, love for sin, lack of education, lack of understanding the information they do learn, mental deficiencies, etc.? If their transcendence is reliant upon God, are they not determined?

      I was just curious how you would answer these questions without falling prey to your own objections.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      Springing off of my last comment: I think if you view reason and God’s choices this way, it might help understand one model:

      A marble is set on a slated surface and begins to roll. A glass is placed at the end of the room by the individual who placed the marble where he wished. The marble begins to take its own course set by variations in the flooring, debris, etc. and steers “off course.” The individual then cups his hand in the path of the marble so that it goes in the other direction. Then it begins to overcorrect and he must cup his hand again and it ricochets off and again begins to go in the direction of the cup’s opening. He is able to direct it into the cup, even though outside forces to him directed it, including the nature of the marble itself.

      Now, imagine the marble had a mind and also chose where it wanted to go based on the debris, curvatures in the flooring, etc. Is God not able to hedge the marble from going off course without being accused of taking away its free will? Obviously, it cannot go wherever it wants; but you don’t believe that man is able to go wherever he wants either, do you? You do believe that God prevents him, either by the nature He gave to him, or by limiting his circumstances and means, right? So if the marble with a mind is free within certain boundaries, then it is still free. I am free to go outside if I wish. I am not free to go to the Bahamas right now. I wouldn’t claim that my freedoms have been ripped away and that I am hopelessly a puppet because I have been limited.

      So does your view of LFW allow for limitations, both external and internal, placed there by God, either directly or indirectly via circumstance, or do you believe that man must be free from all limitations, external and internal, in order to be truly free?

    • wm tanksley

      Yet the laws of logic one believes are equally determined,

      Are you saying there’s as much variation in belief in the three laws of logic as there is in belief in which false God one worships? Even granting your premises, this isn’t true.

      as are the rules of evidence (and there is significant disagreement among humanity as to what should count as evidence), as is the way in which you weigh the evidence.

      That’s more fair of you than the last one, but observation shows that some methods are more effective in the real world than other methods. Again, examination of one’s methods, whether in light of one’s own ideas, or in light of the results of applying them, or by other people, clarifies one’s sense of confidence in the ideas reached by those methods.

      When someone looks at what you believe and finds it unconvincing what is the factor that lead to the difference? There may be more, but I can only think of a few. A) They were externally determined

      You’re looking only at the indirect, remote causes. You might as well say that the cause is “they speak the same language” or “they were born”. The DIRECT cause is that they found it unconvincing because of some perceived defect in your logic or conclusions.

      And here’s the stumper for you: to get the to agree, you don’t try to make them exercise LFW. Instead, you attempt to correct their logic! Why would you do that if you thought that all truth hinged on LFW?

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Obviously we are coming at things from such a differnce of perspective here that I doubt we are ever going to agree.

      But frankly, I fail to see how your hypothetical marble above had any “choice” at all. It was placed on the slanted surface by an outside force, at precisely the place the outside force wanted it to be. It’s course is determined, at least in part, by the circumstances (debris, etc) it is placed in. And if it actually had a mind and decided where it wanted to go based on the circumstances around it, that would be at least partial choice. But then you hasten to add that the one who placed it there kept redirecting it’s course to the exact spot he wanted it to go until it arrived there.

      So as I see your analogy, the only choice the marble had was to TRY to go somewhere else then where it was directed. An effort that was completely stopped and it was promply redirected to go where the one that placed it there wanted it to.

      Where exactly was it’s choice or where did it chose where it wanted to go? (Other then to try and not succeed because of outsider redirection.) I just don’t get it at all.

    • wm tanksley

      I think you must still be misunderstanding me or something because you continue to make the absurd statement that God cares about reason etc.

      You’ve just refuted an argument which explicitly specifies that God doesn’t care about reason. Congratulations. Meanwhile, my argument specifies that God does care about reason.

      This means that you’ve refuted a strawman.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I thought of a better refutation.

      1. If everything is determined (including our thoughts, logic, reason etc.) how can we know that these things were determined to accurately convey to us reality??

      We can be CERTAIN, because (get this) any argument that assumes that the conveyance from reality to us isn’t reliable, immediately commits suicide.

      So understand clearly: my argument proposes that reality is predictable and understandable. In that I agree with you.

      2. If we were determined to believe that God cares about logic, reason, etc. how do we know that this belief reflects reality?

      Because if we assume the contrary we find that the argument commits suicide.

      Now here is what I see. You assume that God cares about logic and use this to prove that logic and reason accurately represent reality. You then use logic, reason, evidence etc. to bolster the claim that God cares about logic. I can’t help but find this circular.

      No, I’ve never used the one to support the other. I’ve advanced them as two distinct points: I might add that they’re two distinct points that you yourself accept unconditionally, so it’s especially strange for you to claim that I can’t.

      All these thing were determined. In your system IF God cares about logic, how would one know they were right and those who claimed that God is a illogical sadist are wrong??

      In any system of any kind, anyone who claimed that God is illogical would find his opponents pointing out that his argument committed suicide, because supposing that it were true, we could never know it or anything else.

      This is a concrete inability to know, not your mystical claim of a lack of “transcendent certainty”.

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      Apparently my first comment ended up in the desert with that plane from “The Event.” Oh well. 😉

      Cheryl,

      My question was whether you guys believe that someone does not have any boundaries to his free choice. If he does, then I fail to see how your view of LFW is different than mine or William’s. Does God decide where and when a person is born? Does He put them in places where they will not hear the gospel? Does He put others in places that they will? Does He do everything He can to give them the most accurate information possible, or does He leave so many in darkness in regard to both knowledge and understanding the knowledge they acquire? In essence, I don’t see how your or Michael’s views don’t require a part of man to be infinite, and if so, reliant upon God, which then, again, has God as the determining factor of what they will choose.

      BTW, the most common form of LFW does not believe that an individual is bound by anything internal or external, but must have a transcendent choice at all times. Hence, it was more popular in the modern age when people were inclined to buy into objectivism, etc.

    • Hodge

      BTW, I’m just jumping back in because I’m bored, as my book is in typesetting and I am in a state of limbo. I threw that shameless plug in just for you, Cheryl. 🙂

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      All I could gather from the reply above is that you assert that God MUST care about logic, because if the opposite were true one would commit intellectual suicide by admitting it.

      So what?? Asserting a priori that God is logical and cares about logic does absolutely nothing to prove that He actually is logical, nor does it establish how we can know that He is logical. Your simply making a bald assertion in an attempt to avoid comitting a suicide argument without actually showing how we can actually know that God is logical when all our beliefs about the nature of God have been determined. As I’ve stated earlier in a determined system your assertions and beliefs are POSSIBLE, the question is how would we know it to be true if our beliefs, logic, reason, evidence, and weighing of the evidence by which we arrived at that conclusion are all determined.

    • wm tanksley

      All I could gather from the reply above is that you assert that God MUST care about logic, because if the opposite were true one would commit intellectual suicide by admitting it.

      No. The _argument_ commits suicide only if the argument itself relies on the claim that God is irrational. My argument does not rely on that claim; on the contrary, my argument doesn’t mention it at all. If you could show that my argument implicitly required it, I’d have to admit that my argument committed suicide (by undermining all logical grounds).

      But the undisputed fact is that my argument does NOT require God’s irrationality. Therefore your insistence that I allow it is completely beside the point.

      Asserting a priori that God is logical and cares about logic does absolutely nothing to prove that He actually is logical

      Correct. But I know you’re not ignorant of suicide arguments, because you’re attempting to use one on me. You’ve not proven that determinism eliminates confidence; rather, you’re trying to prove that assuming determinism eliminates the ability to rely on our conclusions. Unfortunately, you’ve merely said that without showing it, and it’s not in fact true.

      You admit that believing in an irrational God eliminates logic. I don’t have to prove it. From there, by a standard suicide argument, I point out that you can’t argue that believing in an irrational God is as good as believing in a rational God. It’s not; because the moment you do that, you undermine the logic of your own argument.

      THEREFORE, in a deterministic world, an argument in which one side had to suppose an irrational God would be over immediately.

      Your argument style has been weak; you’ve been attempting to “tar” my argument with weaknesses from a position that I don’t even _have_ — and that you admit all along isn’t true. If you can’t prove that my argument is weak based on its own assumptions, you’ve failed to prove…

    • wm tanksley

      …If you can’t prove that my argument is weak based on its own assumptions, you’ve failed to prove that it’s weak.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM Tanksley,

      1. A position which simply assumes a priori that God is reasonable is not enough to make it better then a argument which holds that God is illogical if one has no objective way in that system of determining that one is more likely then the other. In other words if one has a system of belief in which epistemically the belief that God is reasonable is just as likely to be true as the belief that He is unreasonable, then this belief system is equally as untenable as a system in which He is outright unreasonable.

    • Michael T.

      WM

      What happens when I can’t sleep…Of course af 4:40am I don’t claim sanity so I’ll check this tommorrow.

      1. Everything is determined including our reasoning capacities (you said this not me)

      2. People who believe truthhood and people who believe falsehood (from the perspective of ultimate reality) have been equally determined to believe what the believe. (again you said it not me)

      3. People who believe the truth and people who believe falsehood both think they have come to to their beliefs through reason (simple observation that most people believe they are sane and have sufficient reasonable grounds to believe what they believe)

      4. People would change their belief if they thought that the belief was brought about through erroneous reasoning (Simple observation that people don’t believe that which they belief is erroneous)

      5. Ones reasoning skills cannot be trusted if those skills are incapable of recognizing an error in reasoning

      6. If ones reasoning skills cannot be trusted one cannot trust the conclusions reached by those reasoning skills

      7. People who believe falsehood have committed an error in reasoning (implication of 3 and the fact that people believe mutually exclusive beliefs)

      8. People who believe falsehood have been determined to commit an error in reasoning. (from 1 and 7)

      9. People who have been determined to believe falsehood will not recognize that they have committed an error in reasoning. (from 4 and 8

      10. Our reasoning skills cannot be trusted (from 5 and 9)

      11. Our conclusions reached through reason cannot be trusted (from 6 and 10)

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I’m again unclear in what you’re arguing (and I’ve followed the conversation). Are you saying that you can trust your reasoning and have certainty apart from God in a LFW system? If this is what you are saying, how does this accord with the biblical ideas that man’s reasoning leads him in the wrong way because of his 1. limitations as a human being, 2. limitations as a sinner, 3. ability to be deceived by outside forces, 4. ability to be deceived by internal desires, 5. presuppositions that may be false and govern his arguments?

      I’m again just not sure how your system escapes anything you desire it to escape.

    • wm tanksley

      1. A position which simply assumes a priori that God is reasonable is not enough to make it better then a argument which holds that God is illogical if one has no objective way in that system of determining that one is more likely then the other. In other words if one has a system of belief in which epistemically the belief that God is reasonable is just as likely to be true as the belief that He is unreasonable, then this belief system is equally as untenable as a system in which He is outright unreasonable.

      If I take this as written, it sounds like you’re saying there’s no such thing as a suicide argument: that you have to exhaustively prove all facts, never being able to dismiss an argument merely because it relies on the truth of a proposition which would make all reasoning impossible. This is a very strange thing for you to say, since you’ve been attempting to frame a suicide argument against me.

      However, I see a tiny phrase in there which hints at an interesting belief. Are you suggesting that the belief that God is unreasonable is differently acceptable under determinism than under LFW? You don’t clearly say… It doesn’t make any sense to me, but can you elaborate on whether you actually believe that?

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      5. Ones reasoning skills cannot be trusted if those skills are incapable of recognizing an error in reasoning

      Your argument breaks down here. Our reasoning skills are actually capable, even though not _perfect_, at finding errors in reasoning. We are finite creatures.

      And given that our reasoning skills are not perfect, either our conclusions will be flawed according to God’s plan, or they will be flawed according to random coincidence. Either way, they will be flawed. This doesn’t eliminate the possibility of finding truth, it just means we won’t always be right in everything, and if we need to be right we need to think very carefully.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,
      1. “However, I see a tiny phrase in there which hints at an interesting belief. Are you suggesting that the belief that God is unreasonable is differently acceptable under determinism than under LFW?”

      Actually I didn’t mean to say that, rather I meant to say the opposite. The belief that god is REASONABLE is acceptable under LFW, while the Truth of the statement cannot be known under determinism.

      Now that being said I think there is a degree of Truth in what you stated above. If god is ultimately unreasonable this would not matter if he is not determining all that comes to pass and humans are capable of reaching independent judgments (now of course I am talking about god generically here).

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      I agree with your objection to 5 here – I’ll rework it a bit.

    • Michael T.

      WM,
      Attempt 2

      1. Everything is determined including our beliefs and reasoning capacities (you said this not me)
      2. People believe mutually exclusive beliefs. (simple verifiable fact)
      3. Mutually exclusive beliefs cannot both be true (law of non-contradiction)
      4. People who believe the truth and people who believe falsehood both think they have come to their beliefs through reason (simple observation that most people believe they are sane and have sufficient reasonable grounds to believe what they believe)
      5. People would change their belief if they thought that the belief was brought about through erroneous reasoning (Simple observation that people don’t believe that which they belief is erroneous)
      6. Ones reasoning skills cannot be trusted if those skills have been externally rendered incapable of recognizing errors in reasoning
      7. If ones reasoning skills cannot be trusted one cannot trust the conclusions reached by those reasoning skills
      8. People believe falsehood (from 2 and 3)
      9. People have been determined to believe falsehood (from 1 and 8
      10. People who believe falsehood have committed an error in reasoning (from 4 and 9)
      11. People who believe falsehood have been determined to commit an error in reasoning. (from 1 and 10)
      12. People who have been determined to believe falsehood will not recognize that they have committed an error in reasoning. (from 5 and 11)
      13. People who believe falsehood have been determined to not recognize that have committed an error in reasoning (from 1 and 12)
      14. Our reasoning skills cannot be trusted (from 6 and 13)
      15. Our conclusions reached through reason cannot be trusted (from 7 and 14)

    • wm tanksley

      Awesome, Michael. I’ll reply probably tomorrow, I hope. My gist, I think, will be to show using your own logic and axioms that our reason cannot be trusted, even if we don’t believe determinism is true. Since this is impossible, your logic cannot be valid. (I’m just giving a teaser here, not attempting to prove it.)

      In post 352, by the way, am I clear that you believe that if the foundation of all existence, God, were irrational, you would expect the laws of logic to exist and be directly applicable by its creation to Its creation? (I find that to be a direct absurdity.)

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      Assuming god is irrational for a moment (I of course don’t believe he is). This doesn’t 1) mean that he is always irrational, or 2) that he can’t create rationality on accident. Let me illustrate. Bobby Fischer is considered one of the better Chess Players of all time. When playing chess he was completely rational, however he was also a completely irrational anti-semite. The guy was certifiably nuts when it came to his political and racial views.

    • Wade T.

      ====
      Then, consider the following premises:

      1. God knows all facts from beginning to the end of time, and He knew them at the beginning. (Claim: God’s Omniscience)
      2. God does not know both a fact and its contradiction at the same time and in the same way. (Law: Non-Contradiction)
      3. An event is fully determined if, given the same facts, it could not have happened otherwise. (Definition: Determinism)
      4. An event that in fact happens would contradict the fact of the event happening otherwise. (Definition: Event Contradiction)
      5. We are actually having this disagreement now. (Claim: Obvious)

      Therefore:

      6. God knew from the beginning of time that we would have this argument right now. (Derivation from “Obvious” and “Omniscience”)
      7. God knew from the beginning of time that we would not NOT have this argument right now. (Derivation from #6 and “Non-Contradiction”)

      Finally:

      8. Given #6 and #7, it follows that the answer to your question must be “yes” [the universe is determined such that a disagreement would happen].
      ====
      The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises, and it actually appears to be a form of the modal fallacy. Roughly, a modal fallacy is where the modal operator (e.g. the attribute “necessary” or “possible”) improperly changes scope. For example, where “necessarily” means “it couldn’t have been/can’t be otherwise:”

      1) Necessarily(If I drank a root beer, then I drank a root beer).
      2) I drank a root beer.
      3) Therefore, necessarily, I drank a root beer.

      “If I drank a root beer, then I drank a root beer” is necessarily true. However, “I drank a root beer” is not necessarily true (it could have been otherwise). Similarly, the argument below also makes the modal fallacy:

      1) Necessarily(If God knows I will do X, then I will do X)
      2) God knows I will do X.
      3) Therefore, necessarily I will do X.

    • wm tanksley

      Michael, regarding your syllogism:

      While responding to your argument, I ran into some issues which I couldn’t simply fix on my own. Let me present the first, and perhaps we can agree on a rephrasing. (The rest come later, and may be changed if we agree on something here.)

      6. (originally) Ones reasoning skills cannot be trusted if those skills have been externally rendered incapable of recognizing errors in reasoning

      This premise is highly questionable; I for one don’t accept it (so it simply won’t work as a premise for your argument). The problems with it are: (1) external influence is beside the point, compatibilists don’t believe that; (2) incapability is beside the point, we’re finite and capable but only so much time and effort to spend making perfect judgments; (3) the purpose of reasoning isn’t to find absolute truth, but rather to find conclusions consistent with the premises.

      I have a hard time proposing a replacement, since this is your axiom. Everything I’ve considered proposing doesn’t lead to a good argument for you, and that’s not your fault :-).

      We might start by breaking down #6 into smaller bites. What makes a capability (like reason) trustworthy?

      6a. A skill can be trusted if it works consistently for its primary purpose.
      6b. The primary purpose of reasoning skills is to find whether proposed beliefs are consistent with the rest of the individual’s beliefs.

      (Oops, 6b is TRUE, but doesn’t help you; a belief being consistent doesn’t make it true. Your argument doesn’t address whether people believe internal inconsistencies.)

      Do you have a suggestion?

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Michael, I don’t know how to take your argument/admission regarding the rationality of God. You unmistakably place a vastly higher importance on the freedom of man than you do on the nature of God, and I’m confused. Let me try to count off a few problems I see:

      1. Libertarian freedom isn’t directly related to reasoning: much reasoning is constrained (and can be done by trivial computer programs). In fact, reasoning could be (in principle) replaced by a computer with huge storage capacity that would just map all possible questions to the best possible answer. So I don’t see why libertarian freedom should in itself matter.
      2. Irrationality is directly related to reasoning, obviously.
      3. God is the ground of all being; any quirks in His nature should normally affect anything and everything.
      4. Man is not the ground of all being.
      5. The locus of the irrationality we’re discussing would have to be in the areas we’re discussing. We’re not talking about a God who insanely thinks he’s a chicken but CAN create valid rules of logic; we’re simply talking about whether God can create valid rules of logic. So yes, if you’re going to propose that God is irrational for the sake of argument, it’s pointless to claim that you’re proposing it for some area aside from the laws of logic, since the laws of logic are what we’re discussing.
      6. As for creating rationality on accident: I’m not sure what your definition of “confidence” is that you’ve been talking about this whole thread, but I know that it can’t possibly involve logic being correct “by accident”.

      In context, of course, I’m talking about your statement “If god is ultimately unreasonable this would not matter if he is not determining all that comes to pass and humans are capable of reaching independent judgments.”

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1. I’m trying to understand what you mean here when you say you don’t accept it. Do you mean you don’t accept it as a premise (meaning reasoning skills can still be reliable even though they have been externally rendered incapable of recogizing falsehoold)? Or do you simply mean that a compatibilist does not believe that we are in fact externally rendered incapable of recognizing falsehood?

      If the first one is the case then I don’t really know what to say. It seems self-evident that something which is externally determined to believe falsehood and not recognize the errors in ones reasoning that lead to believing that falsehood is not in any way a reliable way for determining truth. I would need a counter example or something to make me think otherwise.

      If the second one is the case then I fully understand that, however I think you miss some of the points of the axiom one of which is demonstrating that the compatibilist system neccessitates that our reason be externally determined to not recognize falsehood. I do not bring in 6 until I’ve demonstrated in 13 that this is the case.

      2. As to the purposes of our reasoning skills. It would appear to me self-evident that there ultimate purpose is to assist us in coming to an understanding of ultimate reality. If they do not do this what good are they? Simply saying they help us determine if a belief is consistent with a existing belief strikes me as minimalistic. They do this, but they also inform us when a current belief is inaccurate or not founded upon sufficient reasonable grounds. Now of course if the reason is bound then it can’t do this, but that puts the cart before the horse. Also does this in some ways undermind the general rationality of the human race?

    • wm tanksley

      Wade, I like how you put that. I’m not committing the exact fallacy you list; but I was assuming a mechanism for God’s knowledge which, since it isn’t explicitly given in the Bible, isn’t mine to assume. I suppose this amounts to a “false dilemma”.

      It’s reasonable to propose that God’s knowledge is mysterious, and that we don’t know how it works with counterfactuals. My reasonings that the explanations don’t hold water are merely philosophical, and are too remote from the evidence to bring strong conviction with them.

      At the same time, we know with fairly strong certainty that God doesn’t merely know all possible things with no distinction: rather, God knows that the actual things will be actual. God’s knowledge doesn’t change with passing time. This means that the future isn’t being changed with passing time, either. Whatever else our actions are doing, they’re neither teaching God anything, nor changing time. (And, the Bible adds, they’re not thwarting any of God’s purposes.)

      If our wills have some mysterious power, then, it’s NOT the power of contrary choice.

      -Wm

    • Wade T.

      wm tanksley said,
      ====
      At the same time, we know with fairly strong certainty that God doesn’t merely know all possible things with no distinction: rather, God knows that the actual things will be actual. God’s knowledge doesn’t change with passing time. This means that the future isn’t being changed with passing time, either. Whatever else our actions are doing, they’re neither teaching God anything, nor changing time. (And, the Bible adds, they’re not thwarting any of God’s purposes.)

      If our wills have some mysterious power, then, it’s NOT the power of contrary choice.
      =====
      If by contrary choice you mean libertarian free will, what is the argument (premises + conclusion) for that? In light of the modal fallacy I mentioned at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/10/eleven-reasons-why-romans-9-is-about-individual-election-not-cooperate-election/comment-page-8/#comment-41731 I simply don’t see how that follows from divine omniscience.

      Incidentally, how do you get those nice vertical dark yellow bars I saw at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/10/eleven-reasons-why-romans-9-is-about-individual-election-not-cooperate-election/comment-page-8/#comment-41646 ? Also, is there a “friendly” way to post links?

    • wm tanksley

      Wade, to put the green bar to the right of some text, go to the beginning of the text, type <blockquote>, then go to the end of the text and type </blockquote>. (If you’ve seen any HTML this will be familiar.)

      Proper links are much harder, so let me know if that makes sense to you first.

      -Wm

    • Wade T.

      I’m a computer science major and have used the “blockquote” technique quite a few times before. So let’s see if it works:

      Somebody said something and there should be a groovy bar to the left of this paragraph.

      Cool. Thanks for the help.

    • wm tanksley

      Wade, I use the term ‘contrary choice’ to denote the specific type of LFW which I believe is completely contradicted by the fixity of God’s plans, according to my argument above. There may be another type of LFW that is not invalidated simply because it has only one possible future. (Michael pointed that out to me.)

      I’m also not committing the modal fallacy, at least as you’ve described it. I’m not assuming our actions are necessary at all. They’re not. But neither do they cause God’s omniscience to know about them, because the cause cannot follow the effect.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Okay, if you’re a (fellow) CS, you’ll know about anchor and href and tags and attributes and so on. You can take it from here :-).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Michael, when I said I didn’t accept it I gave three numbered reasons in the same paragraph. You could start with those. You did mention one of them, the fact that external influence isn’t part of the compatibilist ‘scheme’. Nothing in your argument proves anything about ‘external’; you apparently simply assume without even stating that the determination is done by means of direct externally originated force.

      I’d recommend replacing #6 with a series of propositions that define “trust”. There’s a gaping hole there in your argument, and something that I’ve asked you about many times. You seem to assume that only external forces can possibly undermine trust, but when I look at your argument, I see that your premises seem to point out that human’s reasoning skills simply cannot be “trusted”. I’m guessing that “trust” for you requires total certainty.

      I’m pretty sure you’re putting too much reliance in your arguments on the power of reason — I wondered about that before, since your arguments don’t even mention experience and revelation, both of which are important factors in reaching truth (without experience reason has nothing on which to operate). I note here that you assume reason has some kind of ultimate purpose. If it did, the purpose would be God’s purpose, because He’s the only ultimate being (and this purpose would support my argument, not yours). There is no being named ‘Reason’ to have an ultimate purpose. The immediate purposes of reason come from the beings doing the reasoning. The correct purpose of reason — the one in line with its capabilities — is to find inconsistencies and incompleteness in one’s beliefs. An incorrect purpose is to expect it alone to lead one to total truth.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1.

      . Nothing in your argument proves anything about ‘external’; you apparently simply assume without even stating that the determination is done by means of direct externally originated force.

      This is because my argument is designed to be generic. It could be used both for God or for a immaterial cause and effect. However, I think it is quite obvious that this is the case

      1. God is an external force
      2. God determines all that comes to pass
      3. My reasoning that Arminianism is correct is flawed
      4. God determined that my reasoning with regards to Arminianism be flawed (from 2 and 3)
      5. My flawed reasoning with regards to Arminianism was determined by an external force. (from 1 and 4)

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      I see that your premises seem to point out that human’s reasoning skills simply cannot be “trusted”. I’m guessing that “trust” for you requires total certainty.

      I would actually agree with this criticism to a degree and have thought about modifying the argument a touch to mean that in a deterministic system we cannot have ANY certainty that our reasoning is not flawed (this would simply require adding some pronouns). In LFW I would agree we cannot have complete certainty (this side of heaven complete certainty about anything if virtually non-existent) of our reasoning faculties. Yet the relative degree of certainty would appear, at least to me, to be higher since to the extant we ignore evidence, or adopt absurd rules of evidence which lead to errors in reasoning, we do so of our own free will. In LFW we are fully capable of recognizing our errors, but choose of our own free will not to see them, in determinism we have been externally determined to not see the errors (it may appear that we are exercising free will – but every variable leading to the error in reasoning was controlled in order to ensure that the error was made).

    • wm tanksley

      1. WM, I’m aware that Van Inwagen has issues with both Free Will and Compatibilism. Most of the issues of which I am aware about Free Will have been addressed elsewhere by other authors. Not the case for Compatibilism.

      The philosophical debate is still raging, as such debates tend to; I was able to find a LOT of back-and-forth on the topic very quickly (this link is to Stanford’s encyclopedia). Most of the treatments mention that compatibilism is pretty much the standard view, with incompatibilists being a minority.

      The recent literature, according to the above link, is dominated by incompatibilists (since Inwagen, according to another biography that I’ve lost); but the above link says “… compatibilists … have, for the most part, been pre-occupied with defending free will against those who argue that free will is either impossible or empirically implausible regardless of whether determinism is true or false.” In other words, although the modern literature does tend to favor incompatibilism, it favors exactly the opposite type that you favor, those who believe full determinism is true and free will is an utter illusion.

      In fact one could argue that if human have the ability to interpret events in a non-causal manner, independent of God, then they in some sense have LFW.

      It’s amazing how far people will go to prove themselves independent of God. We are not.

      Therefore we do not have LFW in any sense which would allow us to transcend God. I don’t deny our ability to transcend physical causes (although I make no positive claim either); I deny only the ability to transcend God.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      3. I’ve already given an example of an imaginary world which is completely determined (by the laws of logic) and yet which reaches is not doomed to falsehood.”

      Of course one can create a imaginary world where their beliefs are true.

      That’s not the point — the point is that even hard determinism is totally compatible with logical correctness. The determining factor for logical correctness is the logical correctness of the designer, NOT any kind of free will.

      The important questions is not whether or not it is true directly, but whether or not we can have any certainty whatsoever of the truth value of that statement

      We gain certainty by using the belief to make predictions, and then testing those predictions. You used the term ‘independent’ loosely before, but there’s a strict sense in which it’s useful. Independent observations are ones which are not dependent on each other’s results, nor on the observer.

      Libertarian free will theoretically decouples the observer from previous causes (which sounds nice), but observational independence requires only that the observer be decoupled from the observed events, and LFW doesn’t offer that at all.

      If determinism is true ultimately the only answer one can give is “I believe it to be true, but have no idea whatsoever whether or not it is actually true.”

      Even if determinism is not true you’d still have to say something like that (in no case, however, do you have “no idea”; instead, you have incomplete information, which is not the same as NO information). Humans do not have direct access to reality (there’s always something in the way). It’s a waste of time to say every time we open our mouth, so it’s wise to replace saying that with instead adopting an attitude of humility and openness to correction.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Simple knowledge of what will happen does not logically entail that that action was determined. […] Simply because he knows which one is the factual does not indicate that he willed or determined that factual to come about.

      I admit that the argument from God’s knowledge doesn’t eliminate the entire question of determinism. My purpose in that argument is merely to point out that the contrary-choice argument is entirely contradicted by God’s knowledge. Whatever LFW might give us, it cannot give us the ability to choose between more than one equally existing (or equally nonexisting) futures. There is only one future that God knows to be factual, and that is the only future we have.

      But this means that the ‘reality’ of the choice under libertarian definition is in question, because a real entity should have actual future effects, even if it doesn’t have past causes.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      This is because my argument is designed to be generic. It could be used both for God or for a immaterial cause and effect. However, I think it is quite obvious that this is the case
      1. God is an external force
      2. God determines all that comes to pass
      3. My reasoning that Arminianism is correct is flawed
      4. God determined that my reasoning with regards to Arminianism be flawed (from 2 and 3)
      5. My flawed reasoning with regards to Arminianism was determined by an external force. (from 1 and 4)

      God is not, of course, a force, but you probably meant to say that He uses force, and I’ll simply allow that for the sake of argument (although it’s only correct if ‘force’ is left hopelessly vague). But in your #2 God does not cause most things by means of external force. God causes most things by their own natures. The most obvious and common example is the “natural world” — the laws of nature, as they’re commonly known.

      An example of this type of causation is the formation of an infant in the womb; the Bible clearly attributes this formation to God, but the formation is unmistakably directly caused by the parents’ genetic codes and chemical interactions, and although God has the power to miraculously intervene, His creation clearly does not require that.

      Now, even though God knit together the baby in the womb, is it accurate to say that God does that as an “external force”? NO! God does this from the very nature of childbearing, which He created.

      God also created our nature, and when we act according to our nature, although we are indeed fulfilling the plan of God, we are not being externally compelled by God: we are doing exactly as we wish.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      Wow it’s been awhile. I’ll respond as best I can, but I’m not sure which posts you are pulling some of these from and I don’t have the time to read through all 300 comments to find them.

      1. I have read the article in the Stanford Encyclopedia. That article (at least from what I can tell) does a good job of summarizing the positions but is a lacks precision with the current state of philosophy. Of the top of my head I can think of virtually no philosophers, Christian or secular, who hold to compatibilism or think it logically coherent. The debate these days is in large part between LFW and hard determinism.

      2. Just to define terminology what do you mean when you say you deny the ability to transcend God?

      3. On the alledged incompatibility between contrary choice free will and divine omniscience please read here. Although I hadn’t recognized it as being a modal fallacy before Wade pointed it out I think this article makes the case. http://www.iep.utm.edu/foreknow/#SH6a

    • Michael T.

      WM

      4.

      Now, even though God knit together the baby in the womb, is it accurate to say that God does that as an “external force”? NO! God does this from the very nature of childbearing, which He created.

      This is fine, but I think in reality you are simply hiding God’s direct external force here. He created and controlled all the variables to ensure that husband and wife would have intercourse at exactly the right time as to ensure that a certain sperm and a certain egg would meat up which would then set into motion everything according to prearranged laws which God also set up. This is an external force determining what is going to happen (and more importantly what we are going to believe) no matter how far you try to remove God from it. If I program a robot, to program a robot, to program a robot, to blow up a shopping mall, I am guilty of murder and terrorism all the same. There is no break in the causal chain.

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      God also created our nature, and when we act according to our nature, although we are indeed fulfilling the plan of God, we are not being externally compelled by God: we are doing exactly as we wish.

      If we were given our nature by God, and we will in a deterministic fashion, always behave according to that nature, then how can one be morally responsible? When Jeffrey Dahmer murdered and raped 17 men and boys he was simply following the programming (i.e. nature) God had determined him to have. Whe Hitler slaughtered millions of Jews he was simply folloing the programming God determined him to have. And equally when Mother Teresa helped thousands on the streets of Calcutta she was simply following her programming. None of these are any more morally blameworth or praiseworth then if a robot had done these things accoding to its programming.

    • wm tanksley

      This is fine, but I think in reality you are simply hiding God’s direct external force here. He created and controlled all the variables to ensure that husband and wife would have intercourse at exactly the right time

      Whoah, I clearly failed to state that I meant you to read that example apart from metaphysical determinism. I’m not talking about free will here; I’ll get to that after we discuss sovereignty.

      I’m explaining how God’s sovereignty over natural law applies even while natural laws are in force. Natural laws apply because God created them to apply, and therefore we ascribe to God the results produced by the continuous operation of natural laws.

      God knit King David in his mother’s womb. We know that this happened naturally, the same way it happens for all of us; yet God did it. Both statements are true.

      My body healed my broken hand; the same way an atheists’ body would. God is responsible for both.

      Extending this obvious truth to moral statements is more complex, because of moral blame. So let’s discuss first the simpler question.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Of the top of my head I can think of virtually no philosophers, Christian or secular, who hold to compatibilism or think it logically coherent. The debate these days is in large part between LFW and hard determinism.

      The Garden of Forking Paths disagrees.

      But after closely reading van Inwagen’s essay posted at his home page, I have to say that he’s probably the cause of this apparent change. The problem is that it’s only an apparent change, not an actual one.

      The Compatibilism I believe in (and Edwards championed) is a compatibilism between moral accountability and determinism. The Compatibilism Inwagen discredits is a compatibilism between “the free-will thesis” and determinism. He seems to have proven that the free-will thesis is equivalent to Libertarian Free Will in its wildest form (the power of contrary choice), and is therefore completely incompatible with determinism almost by definition.

      I agree with van Inwagen on the need for clear terminology, although I’m mildly unhappy with the terms he happens to have chosen. His document on the subject “How to Think about the Problem of Free Will” at his home page is worth reading.

      Inwagen states in that essay that the following three positions are plausible:

      1. Free will (LFW) and determinism are compatible.
      2. LFW and indeterminism are compatible.
      3. Moral responsibility does not require LFW.

      I align with Inwagen in choosing #3 as the one most likely to be true. So would Jonathan Edwards and most or all of the Calvinists I know of; so do the philosophers you call “incompatiblist” (which before Inwagen would mostly have been called compatiblist).

      Frankly, I don’t see how it’s possible to affirm #1 under Inwagen’s definitions. LFW is inherently nondeterministic.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Um… My post about Inwagen disappeared. I suppose that’s good, because it contained an error with respect to Inwagen’s current position.

      The bad news is that he’s now a believer in incompatibilist free will ;-). The good news is that he’s now a Christian. The interesting news is that he’s a non-dualist (man is made of matter only). (His paper on the Resurrection is fascinating.) See the papers on his website, in particular “How to Think About Free Will”.

      By his definitions, this means that he believes that free will exists, free will is incompatible with determinism, and therefore the universe is not deterministic. He admits that the arguments for the incompatibility of free will with indeterminism appear solid, but he believes that they will be found false.

      In order to keep my terms compatible with Inwagen’s, I have to stop using the term ‘free will’ to describe my position, which I consider unfortunate, since I believe in free will in the common sense; I simply don’t agree that the will of man performs independently of prior events. But let’s carry on, because I’ve just used a term Inwagen didn’t define: “will”.

      If free will is the ability to do otherwise, then will must be the ability to do. But this is obviously ambiguous. I propose that will should be the ability to intend to fulfill some of one’s existing desires. (Free will then has an obvious definition which appears perfectly in conformance with Inwagen’s free-will thesis: in short, to be able to intend otherwise, or at length, to intend to fulfill either other existing desires or to intend to fulfill them otherwise than one actually did.) This doesn’t commit us to a theory regarding the strength of desires, nor the claim that there’s a single strongest desire, so I think freedom is preserved.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      One other thing that was lost from my reply: the blog “The Garden of Forking Paths” points to a survey of philosophical papers, and they say that 59% are compatibilist.

      I’ve been entirely unable to find any information about the Consequence Argument being modified into an undisputed form, EXCEPT as a bare claim in HowThinkFW.doc that it’s undisputed. The various philosophical encyclopedias do show modifications that were made after Beta was disproven, but those modifications uniformly weaken the argument to allow it to be gotten around.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      Few things

      1. If you are simply saying that there exist physical laws created by God by which things work of course no one is going to deny that (well some would of course deny the created by God part). I honestly don’t know where you want to go with that since I deny that physical laws determine all that comes about (and I think you would too as otherwise one is left with a broadly deistic god, not the God of the Bible).

      2. Those are interesting statistics you give. I would be interested to know their methodology and who they are polling and especially from what time period. As I’ve indicated elsewhere compatibilism was all the rage at the beggining part of the 20th Century and didn’t come under attack until the 2nd half. It was none other than Alvin Plantinga who declared it dead (I’ll see if I can find the quote – but I’m kinda busy).

    • wm tanksley

      If you are simply saying that there exist physical laws created by God by which things work of course no one is going to deny that (well some would of course deny the created by God part). I honestly don’t know where you want to go with that since I deny that physical laws determine all that comes about

      No. I’m saying that God’s ordinary providence is seen by us as Natural Law. We know the law of gravity; we know that a sparrow with a massive heart attack will die (I guess). When that sparrow has a heart attack while in the air, it falls; God worked no miracle, but the sparrow’s fall is according to God’s will. God worked through the nature that He created. (BTW, this is providence, NOT predestination; I find it Biblically questionable to claim that God predestined meticulously, although it’s philosophically possible, I suppose.)

      I think, for impersonal things like natural law, that you will find this unobjectionable, and I’d expect we’d disagree when it comes to personal agents. I’m mainly asking so I can know where you stand.

      As for compatibilism… I think the people declaring it dead tend to redefine it, as Inwagen did. By his definition I think Jonathan Edwards would be a hard determinist, which I find undescriptive. I don’t find Inwagen offensive; it seems most of the people he’s interacted with find his definitions useful.

      I don’t see how it’s possible to believe that what Inwagen calls “free will” (and most people would call “libertarian free will”) is compatible with determinism. I find it odd that Inwagen wouldn’t admit the existence of disagreement on the nature of the will (i.e. its role within a human).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      2. Just to define terminology what do you mean when you say you deny the ability to transcend God?

      Your definition of free will requires transcendence. My only claim is that God’s control (sovereignty) is over free will. Therefore, if we disagree at all, we disagree because you believe that free will transcends God’s sovereignty.

      3. On the alledged incompatibility between contrary choice free will and divine omniscience please read here. Although I hadn’t recognized it as being a modal fallacy before Wade pointed it out I think this article makes the case. http://www.iep.utm.edu/foreknow/#SH6a

      Brilliant and clear. I’m spending a long time on this.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      if we disagree at all, we disagree because you believe that free will transcends God’s sovereignty.

      I don’t think we would disagree on that necessarily so much as we would disagree on the definition of God having sovereignty. CMP gave a good description of some of the options here.

      http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2009/02/what-do-you-mean-when-you-say-god-is-sovereign/

    • wm tanksley

      van Inwagen cites the following as a summary of the Consequence Argument in a current paper on his website:

      If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of those things (including our present acts) are not up to us.

      But he’s deeply wrong. An event is ‘up to us’ if it could have happened differently (or not at all) without our willing action. Whether willing is deterministic doesn’t and can’t matter to this definition; it applies fairly and across the board to all understandings of time, nature, and will. Our actions are up to us in the deepest possible sense, and the consequences of our actions are also up to us. Happily, this definition does not beg the question of whether we can be held morally accountable in a deterministic world; that’s left as a different but still important question.

      The Consequences argument therefore doesn’t reveal any truth; it merely restates the fact that a deterministic universe has only one future. And this we already knew, and it didn’t settle the argument.

      Another thing I realized from reading Inwagen … His discipline in disparaging the abstract noun ‘libertarian free will’ is admirable (again, see the “How to Think About Free Will” document on his website), but he needs to take that discipline to the next step. ‘Free will’ also shouldn’t be discussed as a noun. Instead, ‘will’ should be defined, and the property ‘free’ should be defined as it applies to ‘will’, and then we can discuss whether it legitimately applies.

      Oh, and I discovered the new term for my compatibilism: “semicompatibilism” or “narrow compatibilism”. We believe that whether the will is free or not, morality is…

    • wm tanksley

      … Ahem. Sorry.

      Oh, and I discovered the new term for my compatibilism: “semicompatibilism” or “narrow compatibilism”. We believe that whether the will is free or not, morality is compatible with determinism.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I don’t think we would disagree on that necessarily so much as we would disagree on the definition of God having sovereignty.

      I think that actually IS the deepest source of our disagreement, actually. You’ve made it very clear that you have profound philosophical reasons for believing that the human will must be transcendent, and that this need requires that it transcend all determination, including divine.

      At any rate, with respect to this specific discussion, our disagreement IS on the interrelationship between those two.

      CMP gave a good description of some of the options here.

      I respectfully disagree; I don’t think he kept his categories clear. He mixed up the concepts of God’s eternal decree (which he called a “plan”) and God’s providence and put the resulting mess onto what looked like a continuum (even though it’s not). His definitions were reasonably clear, and I do appreciate that.

      With that said, though, how does this rebut what I said? I concede that we may have different definitions of how God’s sovereignty works; that doesn’t eliminate the fact that we have different understandings about how sovereignty relates to human willing.

      To be clear on my definition: I believe that God exercises meticulous providence, in that nothing whatsoever happens without His willing it (down to the fall of a sparrow or the loss of a hair on your head), and that His will is directed towards making all things work together for good for His people.

      What do you believe on the topic, since you say it’s important?

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Michael, back again for the last of your posts that I bookmarked for later reply (whew). I hope you can get around to my responses above. By the way, be careful: the “blockquote” which we both freely used before no longer works. It’s still visible in Google Reader, but not in the blog itself — I’m switching to using italics, but old blockquotes are now completely indistinguishable from the surrounding text. Ew.

      You said:
      In LFW […] the relative degree of certainty would appear, at least to me, to be higher since to the extant we ignore evidence, or adopt absurd rules of evidence which lead to errors in reasoning, we do so of our own free will.

      First, this is false on its face: even in the LFW situation some errors are involuntary, at least because we’re finite and don’t have time to check for all errors.

      Second, every belief system regarding the will except illusionism says this about man. The only difference is what they mean by it.

      Third, why should you believe that things reached by “our own free will” should be more reliable than things reached through other means? Certainly you’d have to admit that a decision reached through logic in which every possible branch taken was completely inevitably proven best would be an optimal decision; but in that case no “free will” ever comes into play.

      To wrap my objections together, I have to say that your premise seems to be, fundamentally, that the best possible grounds for certainty is man’s free will. But this isn’t the case; the grounds for the possibility of believing that we can reach certainty is singular, and it’s the fact that the creator of reality is also the creator of our senses through which we perceive reality and our minds by which we reason about reality. There can never be grounds for believing that we have already reached certainty, only for believing that truth is reachable; and we believe it not because of who we are, but because both we and reality are created…

    • wm tanksley

      (Oops, I see the new blog gives no warning when replies go too long. This is going to be difficult.)

      When I got myself cut off, I was saying:

      …and we believe it not because of who we are, but because both we and reality are created by the same loving God.

      Your earlier responses said that my beliefs were suicidal in the sense that once supposed, all beliefs become ungrounded. Let me remind you that this argument is no longer available to you, since you’ve admitted that believing in divine determinism is (according to you) not total abandonment of certainty, but rather a lesser certainty.

      -Wm

    • Michael

      WM,

      1. “But he’s deeply wrong. An event is ‘up to us’ if it could have happened differently (or not at all) without our willing action. Whether willing is deterministic doesn’t and can’t matter to this definition; it applies fairly and across the board to all understandings of time, nature, and will. ”

      Ahh but here you are deeply wrong (at least in my opinion). Our natures and wills are simply the product of past events which were not up to us. In his summary here Van Inwagen simply skipped the steps of saying that our actions are deterministically caused by our wills and our wills are deterministically caused by our natures and our natures are determistically caused by past events. Thus nothing is “up to us” and Inwagen’s objection holds. This is just another case of what I like to call “hide the determinism”. All you do is simply remove the determining entity a few steps from the action. Yet since all the actions between the ultimate cause and the effect in question are mechanistically determined your just trying to hide it.

      2. I’ll have to look into semi-compatibilism but I suspect that it is a position that most compatibilists hold anyhow. I would still like to know though how a robot I programmed can be morally calpable for it’s actions and I somehow escape culpability. It becomes even more absurd if I’m the one holding the robot morally culpable for the actions I programmed it to do.

      3. I, like most Arminians, take the providential oversight view of sovereignty. I do not believe God meticulously controls everything that happens.

      • wm tanksley

        Thanks for the reply, Michael… Always interesting to read.

        In his summary here Van Inwagen simply skipped the steps of saying that our actions are deterministically caused by our wills and our wills are deterministically caused by our natures and our natures are determistically caused by past events. Thus nothing is “up to us” and Inwagen’s objection holds.

        That’s the problem. Inwagen skipped the steps that actually matter. He skipped the only steps that actually matter: the steps that attach the event/action to the person doing and willing it.

        The critical point is his definition of “up to us”. The term originates in a Greek phrase that appears in Aristotle; Inwagen sees it such that an action is “up to us” if and only if its cause lies exclusively within us, uncaused and unaffected by prior historical events.

        A compatibilist definition of “up to us” is an event which is a result of an action I desired to perform, and actually did perform. That’s all. This can be proven in court.

        This is just another case of what I like to call “hide the determinism”. All you do is simply remove the determining entity a few steps from the action. Yet since all the actions between the ultimate cause and the effect in question are mechanistically determined your just trying to hide it.

        This is a false accusation. [Semi]compatibilists hide nothing in their model of moral behavior. Our theory of morality fits neatly into legal theory as well; we hold a personal culpable if they did it, and wanted to do it (mens rea et actus reus). We don’t look further to see if there was a reason they wanted to do it; the buck stops with the moral actor (although it’s possible to dodge the bullet by claiming to not be a moral actor, specifically by pleading insanity or incompetence).

        This is how our legal system works — in other words, when it comes down to actual crime and punishment in practice, the world is semicompatibilist.

        2. I’ll…

    • wm tanksley

      2. I’ll have to look into semi-compatibilism but I suspect that it is a position that most compatibilists hold anyhow.

      That was my point — this was the normal position called ‘compatiblism’ before Inwagen. But I need to not grumble, this is the direction modern philosophy has moved, and I should catch up with it. I’m glad you pointed this out to me. I actually like Inwagen.

      I would still like to know though how a robot I programmed can be morally calpable for it’s actions and I somehow escape culpability. It becomes even more absurd if I’m the one holding the robot morally culpable for the actions I programmed it to do.

      If your robot can reason morally and direct its own actions with enough freedom to perform data-gathering to support further moral reasoning, it’s culpable for its own actions. If you built the robot to perform actions regardless of its moral reasoning, that’s not the robot’s fault.

      There are two major ways in which your robot will fail to be a moral actor in the same way we are. First, it will not be as well designed as we are. Second, you are not a grounding cause of morality.

      The first problem is that you’re not going to be able to program your robot to reason morally (nobody’s managed it yet). Once that gets solved, the basic moral laws have to be correct, and we know we do poorly with THOSE. You’ve got to do this in a finite time, and build with materials that you understand only finitely well. There will be flaws, and the result will not be under full control.

      The second sort of flaw is that if you hold your robots responsible, you’re holding them responsible for God’s moral laws, not your own. I grant that they’re the same laws God wrote on our hearts, but we still don’t have the full authority that God has to enforce them. Our authority to hold humans responsible is either obvious and limited (training children) or is delegated from God (punishing crime).

      -Wm

    • Michael

      WM,

      1. Your definition of “up to us” is something that’s not up to us at all. I see no way that it was up to me to choose to sin when God deterministically caused my nature which deterministically controls my will which deterministically causes my actions. Nothing in this is “up to me”. I am no more ultimately responsible for my actions then the moon is ultimately responsible for revolving around the Earth. Whatever moral reasoning capacities I may possess are themselves determined and to the extant they are faulty they were determined to be faulty by God. In such a context one must wonder if our reasoning capacities and even our wills themselves are illusory, nothing more then deterministic chemical reactions in our brains. At the end of the day divine determinism really seems no different then the attempts of atheists to explain everything by reductionist mechanistic cause and effect (see the comedic video CMP posted today).

      2. “although it’s possible to dodge the bullet by claiming to not be a moral actor, specifically by pleading insanity or incompetence”

      And this little fact undermines your entire case. Where we feel that someones reasoning capacities are undermined we do not hold them responsible in many cases even though they met both the mens rea and actus reus requirements. Ultimately in your system of thought we are all controlled by uncontrollable compulsions to act the way we act just as an insane person is.

    • Michael

      3. On my robot example

      A. Ultimately what is moral reason??
      B. Let’s assume that God is programming the robot and He can program the robot to reason morally, but also programmed it so that once it came to a conclusion about the morality of an action it would always do the immoral action. Is it still morally culpable simply because it knows right from wrong?? Or must it legitmately be able to choose right from wrong? I think Justin Martyr addresses this
      http://thearminian.net/2010/10/16/saturday-devotion-justin-martyr-on-responsibility/. Secondly how would this excuse the culpability of the creator. Remember you not only have to get man on the hook, but you also have to get God off the hook.
      C. Real life is even worse then the example in B because not only is God ensuring that one will choose the evil He is placing the events in place to ensure the exact evil acts that will occur.

    • wm tanksley

      1. Your definition of “up to us” is something that’s not up to us at all.

      If I read you literally, I have to agree with your characterization of my definition. “Up to us” cannot be by definition up to us, because that would lead to a necessary infinite regress. The things we choose are up to us; the choosing itself cannot be. Otherwise, we would choose a thing by choosing the choice that chooses the thing by choosing the choice that chooses the choice that chooses the thing by… (ad infinitum).

      Nothing in this is “up to me”.

      But when I read the rest of your argument, I see only the fallacy of begging the question. You’re doing nothing more than telling me that my definition is invalid because it doesn’t match your definition. I’m sorry, I can’t let you do that. You have to argue against me using logic, not using bare assertion.

      Whatever moral reasoning capacities I may possess are themselves determined and to the extant they are faulty they were determined to be faulty by God.

      Our faculties are finite and not aligned with God. We both agree on both of these points. You also have to admit that we don’t choose our own capacities. At that point you either have to admit that God chooses our capacities, or nothing does (it’s just an accident). What’s your decision here? Who is in control, God; or nothing?

      And this little fact undermines your entire case. Where we feel that someones reasoning capacities are undermined we do not hold them responsible in many cases even though they met both the mens rea and actus reus requirements.

      Even if your characterization were exactly correct, it wouldn’t undermine my case in the slightest; you must concede that things are normally exactly as I’ve described them, and this situation only applies to abnormal humans.

      But your characterization is vastly oversimplified. This sort of inability is not merely the absence of desire or the presence of errors in moral reasoning;…

    • wm tanksley

      Sorry. I was saying:

      But your characterization is vastly oversimplified. This sort of inability is not merely the absence of desire or the presence of errors in moral reasoning; it’s an entire inability to reason morally. Even sociopaths don’t get excused (they merely are unable to feel shame).

      Ultimately in your system of thought we are all controlled by uncontrollable compulsions to act the way we act just as an insane person is.

      This is not anything proposed by my system of thought, nor is it anything you’ve shown as a consequence of my system of thought. You’ve got to do better than that.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Are you asking me what moral reasoning is? I suppose I’d say that it’s reasoning which incorporates ‘should’ to deduce ‘will’.

      B. Let’s assume that God is programming the robot and He can program the robot to reason morally, but also programmed it so that once it came to a conclusion about the morality of an action it would always do the immoral action. Is it still morally culpable simply because it knows right from wrong?? Or must it legitimately be able to choose right from wrong?

      This amounts to a compelled action AGAINST the alleged agent’s moral reasoning. Compatibilists reject compulsion.

      I think Justin Martyr addresses this
      http://thearminian.net/2010/10/16/saturday-devotion-justin-martyr-on-responsibility/.

      He’s arguing against fatalism, not Augustinianism. If you take this as an argument against Augustine, his conclusion is heretical: that our actions which deserve merit can save us. Salvation is not the result of merit, but of grace.

      C. Real life is even worse then the example in B because not only is God ensuring that one will choose the evil He is placing the events in place to ensure the exact evil acts that will occur.

      There are two crucial points here. First, God isn’t simply “placing events”. He’s creating moral agents. Second, God isn’t purposing evil; He’s purposing good by using the evil that the moral agents willingly commit.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,
      1. How is something which is a determined event “up to me”? I am not truly reasoning or truly making a choice, rather I am following a computer program which determines how I will reason and how I will choose. How could that ever be said to be truly reasoning? Furthermore, how can the agent determining the event not be morally culpable for the event occurring.

      2. “You also have to admit that we don’t choose our own capacities”

      I think I would disagree with this. We freely choose to ignore the evidence which would influences our moral reasoning and thus leads to the corruption of our moral reasoning. Now if you are simply saying that we didn’t choose whether or not we have the capacity for moral reasoning I would agree.

      3. States do of course have various tests for determining whether or not someone is not guilty by reason of insanity. However many states, and most legal scholars and psychologists hold that one is not guilty by reason of insanity when there actions are the result of a “irresistible impulse” (the test often used is whether or not the defendant would have still committed the crime if a police officer were standing right next to him). In your system our natures are determined by God, our natures control our will, and our will deterministically controls our actions. Thus all of our actions are ultimately an “irresistible impulse”. Person A given situation X at time Y will always commit action Z.

    • Michael T.

      Wm,

      4. “This amounts to a compelled action AGAINST the alleged agent’s moral reasoning. Compatibilists reject compulsion.”

      A. I disagree here. People choose to do things they know are wrong all the time myself included. According to compatibilism God has determined that they will do this. Thus he has determined that they go against their own moral reasoning

      B. Just as an exercise let me change the scenario just slightly. God creates the robot with defective moral reasoning such that it will inevitably reach the conclusion that killing Jews is not only a morally permissible action, by a moral obligation. The robot is further programmed to follow all actions it believes to be morally obligatory and thus tries to exterminate every Jew in the world.

      C.
      1. Is a defective moral agent still a moral agent?
      2. We will evil only to the extent that God determined that we will evil. It is just programming again. Furthermore if God is simply using evil for the greater good one must wonder if the actions are truly evil.

    • cherylu

      Would someone tell me how to get the rest of the comments besides the first 50 to come up if any one knows?

    • wm tanksley

      1. How is something which is a determined event “up to me”?

      As I’ve explained, [semi]compatibilists hold that the two are compatible. If you’re going to refute that, do so — or show that it’s incoherent, or something. You’re not going to accomplish that by denying it. I’ve showed that judicial work doesn’t deny it.

      Let me show you in the Bible. (A) God determined that Esau wouldn’t receive his birthright before he’d done anything good or bad (including selling it for pottage). (B) God told Moses that Pharaoh wouldn’t listen before he ever came before him. (C) God told all Israel that they’d disobey the Law and be scattered in Deut 30.

      All three of these are clear examples of divine predestination AND choice. There are many other examples where there’s divine predestination with ambiguous mention of choice, for example: “the king’s heart is in the Lord’s hand; He turns it wherever He wills.”

      I am not truly reasoning or truly making a choice, rather I am following a computer program which determines how I will reason and how I will choose.

      Many effective people do use a decisionmaking algorithm to help them make “better” choices. Would you say they’re not truly reasoning or making a choice? If you knew all the information they knew and the algorithm they deliberately followed, you could reproduce their decision.

      How could that ever be said to be truly reasoning?

      How could you claim it’s not? Keep in mind that people who want to improve their decisions try to develop more consistent algorithms!

      Furthermore, how can the agent determining the event not be morally culpable for the event occurring.

      They are — but they’re culpable for THEIR intent in the event, not for the intent of the actor.

      BTW, a capacity is something we don’t choose. I don’t choose my IQ or emotional strength, and have little control over my attention span.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      We freely choose to ignore the evidence which would influences our moral reasoning and thus leads to the corruption of our moral reasoning.

      Wait a moment. Freely? That perhaps begs the question. How about we start by agreeing that we _willfully_ choose? Then we can ask what that means: WHY do we so choose?

      A compatibilist would say we always have a purpose, including when we ignore evidence: for example(s), one might be laziness (paying attention to evidence takes work), another might be dislike of change (the evidence might require changing a cherished belief), another might be greed (the evidence might be in someone else’s favor) and still another might be dislike of consequences (the evidence might be that there is a God and I’m not honoring Him).

      Do free-will choosers NOT have purposes when they ignore evidence? I don’t know what it feels like to make a free-will choice; I’ve never observed myself in that situation. I always have some kind of cause for my final decision. I can explain it, and I consider it an objectively good decision and explanation if when I explain it, the person I’m talking to decides the same way. Would that make sense if I believed in free will? It doesn’t seem that way to me; I’d expect the person to decide freely, not constrained by MY explanation.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Michael, I recognize that the ‘insanity defense’ is a useful touchstone for your argument, but I want to spend some time going over the normal course of law. I’ll respond to your argument, but I do want you to look over my arguments above, and see if you can agree that normally, the law says that intent plus commission equals guilt.

      I emphasize this because this is thousands of years old, and very well established. NO court has ever required the prosecution to prove that the accused “could have chosen otherwise” in any libertarian sense.

      The insanity defense, on the other hand, is fairly new, and its effects so far are not pretty, even though the theory behind it is humane. C.S. Lewis, of course, is famous for condemning the insanity defense’s HUGE flaw: it gives the condemned into the hands of the state not for a just punishment, but until the state or experts decides he’s cured, which can be indefinite.

      As a compatibilist, I would rather have a proper sentence for the crime be given, and allow the condemned to plead that he be given treatment in addition to the punishment — and that the expense will be worth it to the state and society. This way, if the condemned decides that the cure is unjust, he can simply demand that the cure stop, since justice can still be fulfilled.

      But I digress.

      Keep in mind, though, as a background: the insanity defense is rarely used, almost never successful, and when it is, it’s HUGELY controversial. The public HATES it.

      You were saying: However many states, and most legal scholars and psychologists hold that one is not guilty by reason of insanity when there actions are the result of a “irresistible impulse” (the test often used is whether or not the defendant would have still committed the crime if a police officer were standing right next to him).

      That hasn’t been US Federal law since Hinkley got off on an insanity plea — Congress changed the law due to public outcry.

      But the idea there of…

    • wm tanksley

      (Ow, this reply was way too long. I got cut off before I even started answering your question.)

      That hasn’t been US Federal law since Hinkley got off on an insanity plea — Congress changed the law due to public outcry.

      But the idea there of an irresistible impulse is one where the person actually willed to NOT do the action because they wanted to do right, but found themselves doing the action anyhow. This is NOT what any theory of will proposes, even illusionism; thus, you’d have to struggle to associate it with one.

      In order to make a plea under this test, the accused must say that they knew it was wrong, actually intended not to do it, but found themselves doing it anyhow.

      This test therefore can’t reveal anything about any theory of willing, because it checks for a sickness that operates at a more powerful level than the will of the accused.

      In your system our natures are determined by God, our natures control our will, and our will deterministically controls our actions. Thus all of our actions are ultimately an “irresistible impulse”.

      Not in that sense, no. I claim that our actions are chosen by our will, which operates according to our desires. The mentally sick person with the “irresistible impulse” has a compulsive action override their willing; this is why they call it irresistible. If it were in accordance with their conscious desires it wouldn’t be resisted and thus wouldn’t seem irresistible.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I had claimed that your morally reasoning robot was being compelled rather than acting compatibly, and you replied:
      A. I disagree here. People choose to do things they know are wrong all the time myself included. According to compatibilism God has determined that they will do this. Thus he has determined that they go against their own moral reasoning

      First, your robot isn’t *merely* doing something it knows is wrong. It’s simply directly contradicting its own moral reasoning. Imagine your robot desired fuel; it knew that it should attempt to keep going to do its job; then it would therefore not refuel. Unlike us, it’s not obeying its desires at the expense of its moral law; it’s actually disobeying everything to do something it doesn’t want.

      Second, doing something you know is wrong is the result of moral reasoning; it’s not a contradiction of moral reasoning. You do it because in your moral reasoning you place your invented moral laws above God’s, and your desires above God’s commands.

      B. Just as an exercise let me change the scenario just slightly. God creates the robot with defective moral reasoning such that it will inevitably reach the conclusion that killing Jews is not only a morally permissible action, by a moral obligation. The robot is further programmed to follow all actions it believes to be morally obligatory and thus tries to exterminate every Jew in the world.

      Your question is, “is this robot a moral agent”. Assuming everything we’ve agreed, yes. And it’s culpable for its actions, and a look at its mens rea will confirm that it actually intended to commit the actions of mass murder, and would do so again. I would add something I missed mentioning in most of my past comments: the robot’s programmer is also compatibly responsible. I don’t have a good intuition for that, since we don’t in fact deal with that situation in our daily life, but let’s suppose that the programmer would be held 100% to account for the…

    • wm tanksley

      (I was saying:) let’s suppose that the programmer would be held 100% to account for the exact same actions, as though the moral agent were an inert tool. (This seems plausible to me.)

      So after the robot’s trial, God is brought before the tribunal, and asked the same questions as were established for the robot: “Did you intend this catastrophe?” Next He is asked: “What moral laws were you following in order to cause these deaths?” He is then asked, “What, if any, purpose did you have in causing these deaths?” And finally, He is asked: “Is there any evil that can possibly come from your causing these deaths?” I can briefly answer these questions from the Bible; can you predict what they are?

      C. 1. Is a defective moral agent still a moral agent?

      Yes. If not, we’re not moral agents. In a real sense, every finite being is defective.

      Furthermore if God is simply using evil for the greater good one must wonder if the actions are truly evil.

      This is an important point, but you’re pretending that God’s intentions are the same as the agent’s committing the act. God intended Christ’s crucifixion, and so did the Jewish leaders; does this mean that Judas and the Jewish leaders intended it for the same reason that God did?

      John 6 says that Jesus knew who would betray Him. Couldn’t Jesus have sent Judas away to reduce the temptation? Acts 2 says that the crucifixion was according to God’s predeterminate plan. Doesn’t this mean that God intended — and Jesus actually knew — that Judas specifically would do this TERRIBLE sin?

      Did God excuse Judas because God’s plan specified him as the one who would deliver Jesus over?

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1. I’m sure you are well aware that Arminian’s have different interpretations of those passages. While I know you don’t buy those interpretations (otherwise you’d be an Arminian) I do.

      2. “Many effective people do use a decisionmaking algorithm to help them make “better” choices”

      A algorithm they’ve come up with, not one which was forced upon them. That is the key difference.

      3. “WHY do we so choose?”

      LFW does not imply that there are not factors which influence our choice. At the same time LFW does posit that those factors only “influence” our choices and do not mechanistically determine them. In other words our choices are to some extent or another transcendent as I’ve stated before.

      4. The underlying assumption of most criminal justice systems is that we have libertarian free will and we freely choose to commit the crimes we commit. Now there are no doubt factors which influence ones proclivity towards crime. Yet we do not assume that those factors deterministically cause one to commit a crime. If one was simply fated to commit a crime one could not be blameworthy for that crime.

    • Michael T.

      5. “Unlike us, it’s not obeying its desires at the expense of its moral law; it’s actually disobeying everything to do something it doesn’t want.”

      No I have simply programmed it to desire to do that which is wrong. Thus whatever conclusions it reaches about what is good it will desire not to do.

      6.. “Your question is, “is this robot a moral agent”. Assuming everything we’ve agreed, yes.”

      And here is where we part company and I think most people would agree. Basically you are denying the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (which is ultimately what semi-compatibilism does). The funny thing is that principle is exactly what Justin Martyr was articulating in the quote i posted earlier, as well as a number of other Early Church Fathers (Irenaeus, Methodius, etc.).

      7. “So after the robot’s trial, God is brought before the tribunal…”

      If the answers are as I suspect then the robots actions were not actually evil. Even though the robot thought he was doing evil and intended for its actions to be evil that is irrelevant. The actions he took were good. Think back to the law. If I intend to help an old lady across the street thinking it unlawful and evil I’m still not going to be prosecuted for a crime even though I thought I was committing one.

      8. Our understandings of how things work with regards to the Crucifixion are drastically difference. Did God know what would happen? Of course. Did He actively work to ensure that Judas or the Jewish leaders would be evil? Absolutely not.

    • wm tanksley

      Back on Nov 1, Michael said:

      1. I’m sure you are well aware that Arminian’s have different interpretations of those passages. While I know you don’t buy those interpretations (otherwise you’d be an Arminian) I do.

      Well… I have to admit that was a blunder on my part. Nobody should ever simply post Bible verses and pretend to have made a point. I apologize.

      A [decisionmaking] algorithm they’ve come up with, not one which was forced upon them. That is the key difference.

      I’m not proposing the use of any force; you are incorrect to use that term. But that’s a side point. Your claim was that being non-free would make decisions ineffective. Let me give you a counterexample. I work for the government as a contractor; as such, I follow a process they call “acquisition” (just kidding; a better link would be “acquisition“). I do not have free will NOT to use that process when I’m involved in something that the government defines as acquisition. Does that mean that all my acquisition decisions are ineffective, uncertain, or wrong?

      4. The underlying assumption of most criminal justice systems is that we have libertarian free will and we freely choose to commit the crimes we commit.

      I’m disappointed that you would simply dismiss the evidence I’ve attempted to use to show that criminal justice assumes a compatibilist view of free will, and you wouldn’t cite a scrap of evidence. As I’ve explained, until the modern concept of “insanity” no recorded criminal justice system has ever attempted to formulate a test that shows whether a person “could have done otherwise” or met any other distinctive criterion of LFW; but they do build tests which meet distinctives of semi-compatibilism (that culpability depends only on doing the deed and wanting to do the deed).

      Furthermore,…

    • wm tanksley

      (…)

      Furthermore, whenever the modern idea of insanity is known to have been used, there is ALWAYS a popular revolt; people hate the idea that someone might be considered not guilty even though they did the action and intended to do it.

      Now there are no doubt factors which influence ones proclivity towards crime. Yet we do not assume that those factors deterministically cause one to commit a crime.

      Nor do we assume that they don’t. We don’t have to — we simply act as though semi-compatibilism were true, such that it doesn’t matter whether LFW is true or not.

      If one was simply fated to commit a crime one could not be blameworthy for that crime.

      Fate isn’t the same as determinism. A fated crime would lack mens rea, by the way.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      No I have simply programmed it to desire to do that which is wrong. Thus whatever conclusions it reaches about what is good it will desire not to do.

      Would it be fair for me to assume the following: the robot knows “thou shalt not murder” is a moral law (along with other moral laws), but the robot desires to violate moral laws, as such.

      And here is where we part company and I think most people would agree. Basically you are denying the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (which is ultimately what semi-compatibilism does).

      Of course I am. Are you aware that you’re directly begging the question? You’re actually telling me that I’m wrong, simply because my assumptions fail to lead directly to your assumptions. My assumptions contradict your assumptions; only one of us is correct.

      If the answers are as I suspect then the robots actions were not actually evil. Even though the robot thought he was doing evil and intended for its actions to be evil that is irrelevant. The actions he took were good.

      No — the robot knows murder is evil, and therefore finds an innocent person in order to willfully kill him. Did I miss a crucial point of your scenario or something?

      8. Our understandings of how things work with regards to the Crucifixion are drastically difference. Did God know what would happen? Of course. Did He actively work to ensure that Judas or the Jewish leaders would be evil? Absolutely not.

      That “absolutely” is an unwarranted assumption that strikes at the heart of this discussion, of course. When Peter says that Jesus was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, what does he mean? When he goes on to say “you executed Him” and “Jesus whom you crucified”, they respond with obvious guilt and distress, even though Peter just said that His death was God’s predeterminate plan.

      It really seems that Peter intended to tell the people that Jesus’ crucifixion was God’s…

    • wm tanksley

      (I came SO CLOSE! I was saying:)

      It really seems that Peter intended to tell the people that Jesus’ crucifixion was God’s plan, AND that the people were guilty of it, in a compatiblist manner. I admit that Peter might have meant something else — do you have a proposed meaning for this?

      -Wm

    • Michael

      1. “Fate isn’t the same as determinism. A fated crime would lack mens rea, by the way.”

      What is the difference between fating that someone commit a crime and fating that someone desire to commit a crime which deterministically causes them to commit a crime?

      2. “Would it be fair for me to assume the following: the robot knows “thou shalt not murder” is a moral law (along with other moral laws), but the robot desires to violate moral laws, as such.”

      That is more or less correct. I programmed the robot to be able to reason morally in the same way that a human reasons morally. I then programmed it to desire to do that which is evil such that it would deterministically do the opposite of which it believed to be morally good.

      3. “Of course I am. Are you aware that you’re directly begging the question? You’re actually telling me that I’m wrong, simply because my assumptions fail to lead directly to your assumptions. My assumptions contradict your assumptions; only one of us is correct.”

      No I’m not begging the questions. Rather I’m stating that denying the Principle of Alternate Possibilities seems to go directly against something many in the Early Church stated as being necessary for moral responsibility. You aren’t wrong because you don’t agree with me. Rather the fact that you seem to be directly contradicting the writings of no less the four Early Church Fathers in the first 300 years causes one to wonder how a Christian could deny this.

    • Michael

      4. No — the robot knows murder is evil, and therefore finds an innocent person in order to willfully kill him. Did I miss a crucial point of your scenario or something?

      Yet if God has willed the murder from all eternity with the intent of using that murder to accomplish His plan how is the murder really evil?? When all the facts are known will it not in fact be a good thing that Hitler murdered millions of Jews since without that God’s perfect will could not have been accomplished?

    • Michael

      5. On Acts 2. I’m not sure how it is logically follows from the fact that God planned for Christ to die that the individual acts of those involved were also predetermined. I mean I’ll admit that your interpretation here is possible. I just don’t see how it is necessitated by this passage. Furthermore, this seems at the end of the day to be another facet of the debate Calvinists and Arminian’s have over God hardening Pharaoh’s heart works. Same idea different situation.

    • cherylu

      Have you guys read the latest post by Michael Patton that involves Calvinism “where the rubber meets the road”? It is about the possiblity of marrying the wrong person.

    • wm tanksley

      Michael said (while assuming my position for the sake of argument): “Yet if God has willed the murder from all eternity with the intent of using that murder to accomplish His plan how is the murder really evil?

      Ah! Yes, you’re saying that ultimately all acts are good, since they have good consequences. The problem is that this isn’t how evil is defined. Evil is a corruption of good, and because there can be no corruption of ultimate good, there is no ultimate evil. But this doesn’t mean that there is no evil.

      Crime in specific and evil in general is both an action and a mental state: in fact, the mental state is the crucial one of the pair, as shown by the 1st and 10th commandments (and as shown by Christ’s preaching on all the other commandments). This is, I believe, why all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags before God: He sees our heart and knows the reason we’re doing them.

      Anyhow, therefore, the murder is “really” evil not because it’s ultimately evil, but rather because it’s evil. And the murderer is really guilty not because he intended and executed an ultimate evil, but because he intended and executed evil.

      God, on the other hand, by intending and executing His plans (including that murderer’s crime in them) is not intending or executing evil, but rather is intending and executing ultimate good.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      What is the difference between fating that someone commit a crime and fating that someone desire to commit a crime which deterministically causes them to commit a crime?

      Fatalism is impersonal and incompatibilist. A fated action will be performed regardless of the person’s desire. An action performed without criminal desire isn’t a crime; one without sinful desire isn’t a sin.

      Looks like we agree on our poor robot’s situation, by the way. What do you think of my scenario regarding bringing God into court, above? Do you think those are reasonable questions, and ones that can be answered from the Bible? I do.

      No I’m not begging the questions. Rather I’m stating that denying the Principle of Alternate Possibilities seems to go directly against something many in the Early Church stated as being necessary for moral responsibility. You aren’t wrong because you don’t agree with me. Rather the fact that you seem to be directly contradicting the writings of no less the four Early Church Fathers in the first 300 years causes one to wonder how a Christian could deny this.

      I’ve interacted briefly with your claims about one of them (I pointed out that he appears to be addressing fatalists, not protocalvinists). I don’t know what you’re going to claim about the other three. It’s extremely risky to import ancient authors into modern discussions; you have to carefully look at their context to see what they’re actually trying to deny, rather than assuming they’re trying to affirm your viewpoint.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      On Acts 2: it’s undeniable that Judas’ acts were predetermined, from John 6. It’s not clear for all the others, but it is clear for him.

      But look at Peter’s argument. He says that God preplanned Christ’s death, and at the same time he heaped blame for it on all present. They had minor roles in the death itself, but they responded with pleas for repentance. So Peter is blaming them for a specific event which God had planned and determined all along, and they are agreeing that they are to blame.

      My point is: how does Peter’s argument fit into your theory? A compatibilist would be very comfortable assigning blame for God’s planned event to everyone who participated in it. An incompatibilist would seem to have to be very uncomfortable with that, though. Right?

      Or… If not… Wouldn’t this suggest that God’s preplanned crucifixion of Christ might not happen, if all the people nearby chose of their own free will to not participate in it?

      -Wm

    • Michael

      WM,
      Going to reply quickly and then I’m probably going to have to quit this conversation – I have 2 weeks to get a summary judgment opposition brief together so I’ll be a tad busy.

      1. My argument is not that all things are good because they have good consequences. Rather my argument is that all things are good because God has willed them to be. If God is truly a being of maximal and ultimate goodness he cannot will anything that is truly evil. As a result evil only exists from our perspective.

      2. “Fatalism is impersonal and incompatibilist. A fated action will be performed regardless of the person’s desire. An action performed without criminal desire isn’t a crime; one without sinful desire isn’t a sin.”

      Fatalism can be this, but not necessarily. Your system just expands things by making ones will and nature fatalistically determined such that they actually desire to commit the actions they commit. So instead of simply the actions being fated the actions as well as ones mental state in committing those actions has been fated (you know it’s odd that I once heard a Calvinist pastor refer to the whole Esau/Jacob debacle as “fate” – in fact I think Caedman’s Call refers to this as fate in a song as well).

    • Michael

      3. On hauling God into Court

      God would be guilty of murder. Our Court systems do not recognize that the ends justify the means. The questions you ask of God are irrelevant. The only relevant questions are 1) did you kill John Doe??, and 2) did you intend to kill John Doe? Whether or not you intended for something good to come out of John Doe’s death (e.g. his kids would be free of an negative influence in their lives and come to know God and become missionaries that would convert hundreds of people) is irrelevant. Hitler thought killing all the Jews would bring about good results too.

      4. On ancient writers.

      A. The people who these writers were addressing were various. Most of the time it was the Gnostics which had significant variation in their beliefs. Some likely did believe in pure fatalism
      B. Ultimately who they were addressing is irrelevant, it is rather what they were addressing, which was various forms of determinism. What makes their response relevant is their way of addressing them was almost to verbatim recite the Principal of Alternative Possibilities, something Calvinism must deny.

      5. I honestly find nothing in John 6 or Acts 2 which is not fully explained by God choosing to actualize this universe as opposed to any other. God knew from all eternity the free choices individuals would make if he chose to actualize this universe including how Judas, and everyone else would respond to Jesus.

    • wm tanksley

      Michael, good luck with getting the case ruled on favorably.

      In reply to:

      1: Unfortunately, although evil is not ultimate, neither is it an illusion. The Bible teaches this in many places. And that what God means for good people can do for evil also is described. I’ll content myself to cite Josephs’s famous saying, and although you may not need to read it as implying compatibilism, you can’t deny that that the same thing the brothers meant for evil (and was in fact evil) was also meant by God for good (and was good).

      2: You can define “fatalist” to mean anything you wish. It ceases to be a negative description when you define it positively, though.

      3: I said nothing about the ends justifying the means. That’s a straw man. I said that the human doing the killing is the one whose desire is to kill an innocent person, not God. God does not desire to kill an innocent person; death is the penalty for sin, and is earned the instant the sin occurs. In addition, it occurs to me that as creator, God does have the right to kill humans, directly or by proxy; He will do so justly in all cases, but He has the right regardless.

      4B: If we’re going to go into interpretation, let’s pick ground rules. I’d say that the authors you cite should be saying something that’s grounded on at least apostolic authority, and preferably should be saying something about something scriptural. I understand my responsibility to not introduce novel doctrines, so I do respect what you’re doing here… But interpreting fallible speakers is just as hard as interpreting Scripture, and less rewarding.

      5: Yes. That’s God’s eternal decree. But my point wasn’t merely that God had decreed everything before time (actually, I’m not even sure about that; you’re more determinist than I am), but that Peter assigned blame to the crowd for the exact same event that Peter said was God’s predetermined plan, and the people accepted the blame.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      “God intrinsically knows” sounds like you’re saying that it’s in God’s natural knowledge exactly what this real universe is; but that means that the way the universe is now is necessary to God. That means, in turn, that God had to create the universe this way. I’m sure that’s not what you meant, but I don’t know what you actually meant.

      God’s knowledge needn’t have intermediary, but it does have to have grounding (correspondence with reality).

      …If you do come back, I’ll be watching this thread via RSS. Why not :-). Or you could hop into Paul’s thread; he’ll be back about the same time.

      -Wm

    • Paul N

      when Christ addresses the Churches in rev, is he talking about corporate salvation or individual salvation?

      We can argue that Paul is not talking about corporate salvation but fact is that the scriptures used are dealing with nations.

      One must harmonize scripture for though one may say that we are chosen we can see that Christ hope was that all would come to know Him.

      Matt 23:37
      O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [thou] that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under [her] wings, and ye would not!

      Now Christ said YOU WOULD NOT.

      If command a man to catch a ball with his hands and he has none, I would be a mad man.

      Calvisnims puts forth the notion that the Children of Israel couldnt have turned but Christ says that they couldve. Its plain as day.

      People say that the reprobate cannot turn but somehow leave out what the bible says in the first place in scripture that reprobate is mentioned.

      Romans 1:28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

      They first knew God but rejected Him.

      How is it that a man who is a sinner can know God, how is it that sinners can know something is wrong? Calvinist will use the fact the heart of man is totally wicked and say that man cannot turn to God. However scriptures tells us plainly that God has put something in the heart of man though he is wicked.

      Romans 2:15Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their CONSCIENCE also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

      Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

    • James S

      I second the contention that the ESV is has some major translation errors, and it is the last bible I would use for study purposes.
      I amazed at how many people fall all over themselves recommending this translation, its as if they stand to make some money from my purchasing it.

      I’ll stick with my old NASB until someone comes up with a better study bible. I also still use my King James for some passages. There are a couple important ones that only the KJV gets right, but I wouldn’t say it gets everything right. (The one major thing it gets right that all the others miss is Revelation 1 where it basically says that the angel gave John these revelations by SIGNS & SYMBOLS. If the rest of the translations would get this passage right instead of only the KJV, we wouldn’t have so many silly people demanding we take these things literally, as many in the dispensational camp do).

    • Romel Bagares

      In my view, the 11 reasons given here all reflect the individualistic ethos that permeates so much of American evangelical thinking. Paul, a Jew to the core, would have been writing here with a keen sense of the communal and the community at the back of his mind. Further, to speak of the election of nations here, in the NT sense, would not refer to the ethnic groups or races but to the new Israel — the church! It therefore makes more sense to say that Paul was speaking here of corporate election.

    • wm tanksley

      Looks like I missed some discussion.

      The idea of corporate salvation as presented above is a category error: you’re assuming that corporate entities can be justified by grace or resurrected after death. This aspect of salvation is unique to humans, not to corporate entities. God does promise and threaten corporate entities, but not with the same promises. Jerusalem was cursed to be utterly destroyed (but some were saved from her by the preaching of the apostles, who endured to the end and then ran for the hills). The churches in Revelations were threatened or promised corporate blessings — and in some cases their members were promised personal blessings (or threatened).
      Romans 9 breaks it down: the Jews were given a corporate blessing, but not all individuals were blessed.
      -Wm

    • […] Twelve Reasons Why Romans 9 is About Individual Election, Not Corporate Election | Parchment and Pen __________________ Ephesians 2:8 – For it is by His unmerited favor through faith that you have been saved; it is not by anything that you have done, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:9 – It is not the result of what anyone can do, so that no one can boast of it. [Williams NT] […]

    • […] The doctrine of election raises many other questions and views.  For example, it is popular to argue that Romans 9 (and Ephesians 1) argue for “corporate election.”  In other words, some say that Paul doesn’t teach that God selects individuals for salvation but rather selects to within groups.  Unfortunately, this is not consistent with Scripture.  Again, Dan Wallace offers thoughts.  Another theologian offers “12 reasons why Romans 9 is about Individual Election, Not Corporate Election. […]

    • […] why Romans 9 is about individual election rather than the Arminian idea of corporate election: Twelve Reasons Why Romans 9 is About Individual Election, Not Corporate Election | Parchment and Pen __________________ "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My […]

    • Herman W.

      Unless you’re a first century Jew, Romans 9 wasn’t written to you. It wasn’t written for you. And it surely was