Archive for May, 2008

God Determines All – A Response to Godismyjudge

May 30, 2008

In response to my recent post (link) on some fundamental problems with LFW, Godismyjudge (Dan) has provided a response (link). This is my rebuttal to his response.

Ultimately, the problem I have with Dan’s response is this: our position is that God sovereignly determines all of history. We don’t have any problem asserting that God also sovereignly determines His own actions in history. We don’t have any problem with the idea of God being locked into his own plan, since His plan is perfectly wise, and it would be unwise for Him to deviate from His own plan.

Now, Dan asserts: “One of the many problems with the Calvinist arguments that LFW doesn’t exist is that if LFW doesn’t exist, God doesn’t have LFW.”

a) One of the many? What are the others?

b) How is it a problem for God not to have something that doesn’t exist?

Dan continues: “But scripture grants no quarter to those who claim that God doesn’t have LFW.”

I understand that perhaps this is intended as a rhetorical flourish, but Scripture does not teach LFW, much less condemn its deniers.

Dan continues: “The first verse in scripture claims that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) We either understand this by faith, or we do not. (Hebrews 11:3)”

a) The reference to understanding this by faith or not doesn’t seem at all germane to the discussion. No one from the Calvinist side would deny that we understand Creation by faith.

b) The reference to Creation is also not particularly germane to the issue. It doesn’t demonstrate God having LFW.

Dan continues: “Consider God’s first action. By definition, no act of God preceded that first act. So no causes preceded that action. Rather, God self-determined that action, by performing it. Thus, contrary to Calvinism, self-determining power exists.”

This argument is logically fallacious. Here’s why. The form of the argument is this:

1. God had a first action.

2. First action means no previous actions.

3. Therefore, no cause before the first action.

This argument is obviously fallacious, because it conflates “cause” with “action.” Although there was no action before Creation, nevertheless God’s nature and counsel, being eternal, preceded the first action. Scripture explicitly speaks of God’s counsel existing “before the foundation of the Earth.” (Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:)

Thus, elsewhere we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3) Thus, there is a cause and explanation for Creation: the Triune God.

The remainder of Dan’s argument is likewise illogical: “Rather, God self-determined that action, by performing it. Thus, contrary to Calvinism, self-determining power exists.”

God determining to do an action is God determining to do something himself. That does not mean that there is no reason or cause why God determined to do that himself. In fact, there is a reason and explanation for God’s creation of the world:

Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

And likewise, God grants no quarter to those who deny that there was a purpose and explanation for his decision to create:

Isaiah 45:18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

And likewise God explains that he created for his own glory:

Isaiah 43:7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.

The other part of Dan’s objection that no such thing as self-determining power exists is a vain objection, because it conflates LFW with self-determination. These are distinct concepts. LFW requires, as Dan admits, that the sum of the preceding causes not produce the effect of the choice. However, self-determination simply requires that all the preceding causes be internal to the actor making the choice. God falls into the category of being self-determined (since he is too great to be caused by His creation, and there is nothing else but God and what God has made), but since His own nature etc. are the basis for his most wise choices, therefore, he cannot be said to have LFW, since there is a reason for his decisions.

Dan continues, by posing some hypothetical objections: “Now the Calvinist might object – how is this to be explained? Does it even make sense? But wait. The scripture says in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Atheists might doubt the existence of a first cause, but it is contrary to the faith to doubt that God created the world in the beginning.”

a) This is a red herring. No Calvinist (well – none I’ve ever heard of) doubts that God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning. I certainly don’t doubt that, and I’m confident that Dan, having followed my blog for a while, is aware of that.

b) The request for explanation is not moot, because Dan is asserting more than that God created the earth in the beginning: he’s asserting that God did so using LFW. Thus, more explanation is required.

c) If, instead, Dan means that we are asking for an explanation of the Creation itself:
– (i) If Dan’s answer is that no explanation can be provided, than LFW has not been demonstrated, since the explanation of LFW would be necessary to demonstrate LFW from Creation; and
– (ii) Scripture provides explanations, but they are not LFW.

Dan next provides another hypothetical objection: “Perhaps the Calvinist might backpedal and say, yes God has self-determining power, but man does not. That’s worth discussing, but that statement grants that self-determination can and does exist. Self-determination is logical and all arguments that claim self-determination is illogical are false.”

a) This continues to conflate self-determination and LFW; and
b) Even if self-determination were converted (or convertable) to LFW, the fact that some extraordinary power is logical in God, does not make necessarily make it logical in His creation. To provide an obvious example: it is logical to say God created all things, but it would not be logical also to claim that man created all things. Likewise, it is logical to say that God is the first cause, but that does not mean that it is also logical to say that man is the first cause. In fact, in both cases, the two descriptions conflict with one another.
c) Dan seems implicitly to be adopting part of the atheist objection to the first-cause argument for God’s existence, and turning it on its head. Thus, the atheist objects that if there is an explanation for everything, and that explanation is God, there must also be an explanation for God. Thus, there is no reason to stop the chain of regressive causes at God. Dan, acknowledging that the chain of regressive causes must terminate at God, argues that if the chain can terminate there, it can also terminate other places. The problem with Dan’s inference is that it doesn’t follow: God can terminate the chain of causes, because God himself is uncaused – he’s self-existent. We, however, are not self-existent. We have parents. There is a cause why we are, and there are causes for what we do. We are part of the creation, we are not – like God – the Creator.

Dan next turns to the questions I had raised.

My first question was:

1) Is it the LFW position that the sum (or product) of all preceding causes(including the state of man’s heart) does not determine the choice, but that
given that same exact set of preceding causes (both external and internal) man
could have chosen otherwise? This question is important, because otherwise the
argument is just so much straw-man-defeating, in which we shouldn’t be investing
any time.

Dan answers: “Yes.”

Great. We can move on to the other questions.

Dan, however, decided to additionally provide some further comments: “Again – look at God’s creation. If causal forces preceded and necessitated His creative act, then creation wasn’t in the beginning, was it?”

a) This answer abuses the word “beginning.” There, “beginning” refers to the beginning of Creation. God is timelessly eternal. He has no beginning. There is no absolute beginning, only a beginning of Creation. Furthermore, Scripture speaks of God “before the foundation” and of the existence of the Triune God who existed before Creation, before the beginning mentioned in Genesis 1:1:

Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

b) This answer is ambiguous with respect to “causal forces.” God – the Trinity – are the cause for Creation. God’s wisdom is properly assigned the role of cause in this regard. There were no external causal forces, for such would be impossible, nothing besides God being in existence.

Next, Dan turned to my second question, which is:

2) Can we meaningfully speak of reasons for choices, reasons that explain the choices?

Dan responded: “Yes.”

Great. We can move on to the other questions.

Dan, however, decided to additionally provide some further comments: “Let’s look at the choosing process as Paul describes it in Philippians 1. (21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.)”

Ok … we looked. It should be noted, however, that this is a discourse about a particular choice, not about choices in general. It’s not actually a discussion of the choosing process, which can be discerned from the fact that (in fact) no choice is actually made.

Dan continued: “Paul 1) considered both alternatives, 2) projected the consequences of the alternatives, 3) saw the good aspects of both alternatives and 4) was pressed by both alternatives. Paul identified good reasons to choose either alternative, and both alternatives were influencing him to choose them.”

Ok … no big objection so far.

Dan: “So after the choice, we can identify one as the indeterminate cause or more commonly: “the reason”.”

a) This is certainly not from the text.

b) This doesn’t follow from the text. Dan just made it up.

Dan: “Our self-determining ability required the indeterminate cause and acted in favor of it. “

a) Again, this certainly isn’t from the text.

b) Calling it a cause and calling it indeterminate are at odds. So are calling the ability self-determined and assigning external causes to it. Finally, suggesting that the “self-determining ability” “acted in favor of” an external cause, suggests that was being called a “cause” is actually simply an object to be chosen, and that it is required only in a logical and not a causal sense. In other words, it seems Dan’s argument is that its bare existence is necessary, because non-existent things cannot be chosen (we’ll leave aside Creation for the moment). But that doesn’t seem to correspond at all to what Paul’s talking about. Paul’s talking about two compelling powerful motivations: Christ (to live) and Gain (to die). Dan’s argument would reduce those powerful motivations to utterly powerless motivations, whose bare existence is all that is required.

c) Such an analysis of motivations is adds with our experience and intuition. We know that the motivation of love for one’s wife is stronger than one’s motivation to have a single penny more of wealth, such that if a person’s wife were held hostage for a penny (no other motivations coming into play) everyone who truly loved his wife would pay the penny for her ransom. If someone did not, we’d say that his love was not very strong, or that his avarice was very great. There’s no reason from the passage Dan provided to suppose that this intuition is wrong.

Indeed, to the contrary, our intuition is confirmed by the Scriptures, which provide examples of stronger and weaker loves:

Psalm 52:3 Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah.

Dan continued: “Looking for the reason we choose something is looking for the indeterminate cause our self-determining ability required and acted upon.”

a) That’s an expected statement with the foregoing discussion of Dan’s – but it does not make sense.

b) Specifically, it falls into the problems set forth in my original article (link). It is not the reason for the decision at all, because it has no causal connection with the decision, and it has only a bare existential logical connection with the decision (assuming that such a connection is even required).

c) How can an indeterminate cause entice at all if man is truly self-determined? That makes no sense. Yet we do know that man can be enticed:

Proverbs 1:10 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.

d) Dan seems to be confusing a partial explanation with no explanation at all. In other words, in the case of a Proverbs 1:10 son, if he sins, we would properly assign the reason not only to the enticement of sinners but also to weakness on the son’s part. We would assign both internal and external reasons. Neither is sufficient. Yet neither should be ignored. If someone tried to entice the Queen of England to prostitute herself for a penny, we’d all laugh, because we know (even those of us who hold to LFW inconsistently know this) that such an enticement would not work. On the other hand, credibly offering a penniless teenage runaway (raised in a secular orphanage) $1 Billion for the same thing would be expected to actually corrupt her morals. Why? Because the full set of causes that spur one to act are different in the two cases. We would not hold to the illusion of LFW under those circumstances, and assert that it is truly indeterminate in any meaningful sense. In fact, if we were gamblers, we’d be willing to bet enormous amounts on the QoE declining the penny, and the runaway accepting the billion. Those are both practically sure bets – which we know, because we know the generalities of human nature, and how it is caused to act.

Dan next turned to my third question:

3) If we can, how can we do so consistently with the concept of libertarian free will?

Dan answered: “By admitting that something doesn’t have to determine a choice to be a reason for the choice.”

This is worded a bit oddly. It’s not a question of admission or not. It’s a question of demonstration. It seems that reasons for most things are the things that determine it. For example, if we ask our child for the reason he lit the dog on fire, we’d be scandalized if he responded that the dog was there and so were the matches. Such an explanation really doesn’t provide the reason at all, but rather suggests that the child is unwilling to state the reason. Why is that? Because neither the dog nor the matches provide a motivation for the child to do what he did. They simply provide the opportunity.

In the discussion above, however, Dan has confused motive and opportunity. Opportunity is not the reason, it’s just occasion. Motivation is the reason.

We can see this demonstrated in elemental criminology. Occasion (and its negative counterpart Alibi) address the issue of logical possibility. Means (i.e. weapon) address the issue of physical possibility. Motivation addresses the issue of moral possibility. Now, granted that motivations are sometimes complex – and detective thrillers make much of such complex motivations. Everyone stands to inherit the rich uncle’s fortune, or the butler has been given miserable salary for 40 years, etc. etc. The point, however, is that we recognize the existence of not only logical and physical possibility, but also the existence of moral possibility, and influences on that possibility.

Indeed, that is why there is advertising. Everyone with sense realizes that advertising actually has an effect on people’s choices. It influences, causes, and determines them. It does not fully determine them, because there are other factors (such as the state of the man’s heart). Nevertheless, it does influence them. There is a reason why people go to McDonald’s – and part of that reason is advertising. This seems incontrovertible, yet – it appears – Dan denies it.

Next, Dan addresses the fourth question:

4) So why not just define Free Will as Calvinists typically do, as man choosing in accordance with his desires?

Dan answers: “We do not object to the idea that we choose according to our desire – when that notion is properly understood.”

It seems Dan has missed the point. The point is captured by the word “just.” Why not just stop where Calvinists stop – where Scriptures stop – and say that man does what seems good to him.

Dan: “What we object to is the idea of determinism.”

a) Actually, from the preceding discussion, it sounds like Dan actually simply wants “self-determinism” over “divine determinism.” That’s not an objection to determinism, per se.

b) On the other hand, if Dan really means that he is opposed to any determinism (and I’m willing to take him at his word on that), the previous objections stand, for it is plain to all that our choices are determined – that there are reasons of a causal nature for our choices. That’s why the penny bribe to the Queen would never work. That’s why thieves throw a steak to the family dog rather than a house salad. That’s why Coca-Cola spends millions on advertising their beverages. Choices, whether human or non-human, have reasons.

Everything that comes to be has a reason why it comes to be, whether that thing that comes to be is something physical – like a statue, or intangible – like a statute. Ultimately, God is the explanation. He is the one thing that exists that did not come to be. He is eternally self-existent – we are not.

Dan finally provided a tangential discussion on what he views as the relation between desire and choice: “Let’s look briefly at the relation between desire and choice.”


Dan: “The Greek term thelo is used for both desire and choice in the New Testament.”

The word choice in the KJV appears in the NT only in Acts 15:7. No form of thelo is used there.

The word choose in the KJV appears in the NT only in Philippians 1:22, but no form of thelo is used there either.

The word choosing in the KJV appears in the NT only in Hebrews 11:25, but likewise no form of thelo can be found there.

The word chose in the KJV appears in the NT in Luke 6:13 & 14:7, and Acts 13:17 & 15:40, and – as the pattern seems to be emerging – none of them use any form of thelo.

The word chosen in the KJV appears in the NT 28 times – not a single one uses any form of thelo.

I couldn’t find any other forms of “choice” used in the KJV version in the NT. In fact, my concordance suggests that all 200 or so times that the word thelo is used, it is not once translated by choose or any form thereof.

I’m sure that Dan’s mistake was an honest one, but it doesn’t seem to have any factual basis.

Dan: “They seem scarcely distinct, but it’s easiest to see the difference between them when you want something but don’t choose it.”

It seems that here Dan acknowledges a difference between choice and desire.

Dan: “Jonathan Edwards saw them both as “willingness”, but desire is “indirect willingness” and has a remote goal and choice is just “willingness” and has a proximate goal. Desire is indirect in that a drunk doesn’t want to avoid drinking, he wants to avoid the bad consequences of drinking. Desire is remote, in that the drunk’s desire is with respect to a future time. “Some day I will stop drinking.””

There’s rather a lot of irony in Dan quoting Edwards in his defense. Edwards, of course, is a notable opponent of LFW and has recently a masterful rebuttal of it in his work, The Freedom of the Will.

Dan: “Understood in this way, saying we choose according to our desire, is really just saying we choose what we choose.”

Now Dan seems to conflate desire and choice again. It’s unclear why, particular since he just provided some distinction between them. Perhaps he was tired and left some portion of the argument out of his blog post.

Dan concludes: “The expression really isn’t helpful, as it doesn’t add anything to our understanding.”

The expression “we choose what we choose” is not helpful. It’s a tautology. This, however, undermines Dan’s earlier position where he was assigning a reason based on an outcome. There, the tautology is: “We choose because we choose,” which is not helpful and is not an explanation at all.

Dan: “But it’s true, so we don’t object to the expression, even if it’s impractical to use it.”

The expression “we choose what we choose” is not helpful, but the expression that we choose what we desire is helpful and practical. It’s helpful and practical a variety of ways. By influencing man’s desires you can influences his choices. Likewise, by associating an object with one or more of man’s desires, you can influence his choice of that object. That’s why some young women weark make-up: to influence the desire of young men. That’s why some young men pump iron, as well – to influence the desire of young women. Ultimately, both such people are making practical use of true, compatible free will.

What’s utterly impractical is a will that cannot be externally influenced – for which all causes are indeterminate. There’s no use that such a theory can be put too – except – I suppose to stop wasting money on advertising and effort on keeping up one’s appearance. But we all laugh at such an application, because we know that such things matter to men and influence their decisions.

Dan finally repeats his earlier statement: “What we object to is determinism.”

The response to that is already presented above. What is being objected to by Dan is not determinism per se but Divine Determinism (or so it seems from his initial objections). Ultimately, that’s the issue: does God determine all things that happen or not.

Do we accept by faith not only Creation, but Providence.


Psalm 1 – NVBSE Collated

May 29, 2008

In this post, the Nova Vulgata, Bibliorum Sacrorum Editio (available without visible copyright here (link) ) is compared with the Old Latin Version (adopted by Trent and based on the Septuagint) and Jerome’s translation (based on the Hebrew). My primary source for the text of the Old Latin (OL) and Jerome’s translation (H), as well as for Latin textual variants (except as noted otherwise) is Gryson’s Biblia Sacra Vulgata, fifth edition. Additionally, the Clementine Vulgate (C) is referenced, as is the Complutensian Polyglot (P for the main Latin column of the Polyglot or both [where both columns are the same] readings, and P* for the reading provided inter-linear in the Greek column). It should be noted that all punctuation is modern, neither the OL nor H having punctuation in the ancient copies. Although P has punctuation, I have not collated it. I have not collated the line divisions, per se, and P is not arranged with the line divisions in mind.

1 Beatus vir, qui non abiit in consilio impiorum
et in via peccatorum non stetit
et[a] in conventu[b] derisorum[c] non sedit,
2 sed in lege Domini voluntas eius,
et in lege eius meditatur[d] die ac nocte.
3 Et erit tamquam lignum [e] plantatum[f] secus decursus[g] aquarum,
quod fructum suum dabit in tempore suo;
et folium eius non defluet,
et omnia, quaecumque[h] faciet,[i] prosperabuntur.[j]
4 Non sic impii, non sic,[k]
sed tamquam pulvis, quem proicit ventus. [l]
5 Ideo[m] non consurgent[n] impii in iudicio,
neque peccatores in concilio[o] iustorum.
6 Quoniam novit Dominus viam iustorum,
et iter impiorum peribit.

[a] w/ OL, C, & P; H omit (some textual evidence for “et” in H)
[b] for conventu OL, H, C, & P cathedra
[c] w/ H & P, for derisorum OL, C, & P* pestilentiae
[d] for meditatur OL, H, C, & P meditabitur
[e] OL, C, & P* insert quod after lignum
[f] w/ OL, C, & P*, for plantatum H & P transplantatum
[g] w/ OL, for secus decursus H iuxta rivulos P iuta riuos, add C & P* est before secus decursus
[h] w/ OL, C, & P*, for quaecumque H & P quod
[i] w/ OL, C, & P*, for faciet H & P fecerit
[j] w/ OL, C, & P*, for prosperabuntur H & P prosperabitur
[k] w/ OL, C, & P*, H & P omit non sic
[l] w/ H, add OL, C, & P* a facie terrae
[m] w/ OL, C, & P*, for ideo H propterae P propterea
[n] for consurgent OL, H, C, & P resurgent
[o] w/ OL, C, & P*, for concilio H & P congregatione

As you can imagine, this sort of process is time consuming. I hope to have more posts in a similar vein, but I cannot promise them any time soon. One interesting fact emerges that in this psalm, already three variants exist [b], [d], and [n] that seem to contradict the general testimony of the ancient and renaissance Latin versions. Additionally, it should be noted that the NV seems generally to prefer the translations of the LXX to the translations of the Hebrew, where the two differ.


Athanasius thinks the Foundation is What?

May 27, 2008

Recently, David Waltz provided the following alleged quotation from Athanasius, which immediately caught my attention:

“Moreover, aside from these scriptural utterances, let us also consider the tradition and teaching and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, that which the Lord has given, the apostles preached, and the fathers [596A] guarded. This is the foundation on which the Church is established, and the one who strays form it is not a Christian and should no longer be called so…”( Athanasius, Epistola I Ad Serapion – English trans. by Khaled Anatolis, Athanasius, Routledge: London, 2004, p. 227.)] (link to Waltz’s article)

Upon digging in to this quotation, I discovered an interesting fact: the phrase “aside from these scriptural utterances” is not literally present in the standard Greek and Latin texts of Athanasius’ letter to Serapion (ad Serapionem).

(click on the image for a larger size)

In case anyone is wondering, I am using the source text from which Anatolis translated (Migne). I’m not saying that Anatolis’ translation is bad – just not strictly literal. Taken within the broader context of what is being said, the translation is not necessarily bad. Taken out of context, though the translation is misleading. For the word “Scripture” – which is emphasized in Waltz’s argument – is not a word emphasized by Athanasius. Instead, it has been supplied to help the flow of the text by the translator. It’s really aimed at distinguishing the previous Scriptural statements about the Holy Spirit himself from the following about the Trinity. For within the same section (28) Athanasius immediately turns to Ephesians 4:6, Exodus 3:14, and Romans 9:5 – and concludes by establishing what the faith of the Church is by quoting the Lord’s words from Matthew 28:19. It is the baptismal formula and Ephesians 4:6 (over all, through all, in [you] all) that Athanasius calls the foundation of the Church’s faith (see the first part of section 29).

Thus, I think we have to conclude that Waltz’s tag line for the above quotation from Athanasius (“BTW, in the many citations that James provided in his essay from the corpus of Athanasius, he conviently [sic] left out this one”) was a bit misleading at best – for Athanasius not only was saying nothing contrary to Scripture – he was simply turning from one set of Scriptural doctrines to another.

Surely Athanasius does mention the universal church and its traditions – but he does so with respect to their continuing to observe the doctrine of Scripture – the doctrine of Matthew 28:19 and Ephesians 4:6. Thus, to suggest that such a quotation to which one must add not only an explanatory “Scriptures” but an emphasis on that interpolated word was “conv[en]iently left out” is rather absurd.

As an interesting aside, it was brought to my attention that William Webster has commented on this very quotation in his work Holy Scripture – The Ground and Pillar of our Faith, Vol. 2. p. 59. In that place Webster explains: “The tradition Athanasius refers to is the teaching of Christ in Matthew 28, which forms the foundation for the various creeds of the church and therefore the faith of the Church.”


Thoughts on the Will’s Freedom

May 24, 2008

I was listening to an interesting discussion on the will’s freedom, in which the compatibilist noted the following:

1) The standard contemporary definition for Libertarian Free Will is the ability to do otherwise, given all preceding causal factors.

2) Thus, to take an example, if we choose to pull a trigger – we could have chosen NOT to pull the trigger.

3) If we give any reason, or set of reasons, for why we pulled the trigger – it must be that if we had NOT chosen to pull the trigger, the reasons would be the same.

4) But this is absurd.

I hope I’ve summarized the argument well – but perhaps not. Here’s my source (link), which has some interesting further discussion on the topic.

I see some weaknesses with this argument – but exposing them actually demonstrates a slightly stronger argument.

As to (3), it’s rather absurd to imagine that our desire for venison would be BOTH a reason why we chose to pull the trigger and the reason why did not choose to pull the trigger. Instead, we’d probably filter our the “favorable” and “unfavorable” reasons. Perhaps our sympathies stirred up by the movie Bambi would be the reason why we did not choose to pull the trigger – but not our love of venison.

Ultimately, though, we have to realize that in doing so – in filtering the preceding causes based on the actual choice – we are not really giving an explanation for the choice at all. Our love of venison does not explain the choice – it simply relates favorably to the outcome. The goes for our love of Bambi if we do not choose to pull the trigger: we only pick it as a “reason” after the fact.

To think about it another way, if we did not love venison, would we not have chosen to pull the trigger? If the choice is explained by the love of venison, then the answer would seem to be yes. But then, it would appear that our love of venison in some sense determined the outcome. The consistent LFW advocate must say that if the preceding causes had been different, the choice still could have gone either way.

This seems to close any loophole for the person to claim that there are reasons for human choices.

But perhaps the LFW advocate will seek refuge in the idea that there is no reason or explanation for human choices. The choice just exists. There are two responses:

1) Our intuitions strongly oppose such an idea. Every young heart in (as yet) unrequited love has believed that it is possible to influence the decisions of love’s object. Every hyponist (and most of those watching) believe it is possible for the hypnotist to influence his subject’s decisions. Every advertiser thinks its a good investment to advertize, because it will influence human decisions. Every crook who has tried to bribe a judge has thought he could influence human decisions. Is all that collective intuition wrong? It certainly could be. I don’t mean to suggest that human intuition is always right – the fall has corrupted men’s minds. But isn’t it worthy of careful consideration?

2) And when we turn to a standard that we trust, Scripture, don’t ‘we see the same thing? Doesn’t Scripture explain human choices? Doesn’t Scripture specifically warn judges NOT to take bribes? If it does, can we reject that?

I suppose a third option is to insist on partial, or incomplete libertarianism. That is to say, choices are determined, but only partially. But what on earth does that mean? How is something being partially determined work? How’s partial determination different from no determination?

The argument here seems to be, give 10 judges a dollar and 9 out of 10 will render you a favorable decisions – but there is that 10th guy who still renders just judgment. Isn’t this more easily explained though as the gift having a different effect on different people – and not by the people’s choices being only partially determined?

In other words, isn’t it the case that we can more easily explain the matter as any given cause being only a partial explanation, but the sum of all the causes (including the condition of the preson’s own heart) being the full explanation? After all – that’s what we’d do with the case of a pharmaceutical. Ten people take, nine recover, but one does not. Does that mean that the recovery was not caused in the 9 cases? Or does that mean that somehow the body itself has free will to accept the effects of the drug? Surely not. It means that some people’s bodies (or diseases) are different. The drug has an effect, but the sum of the effects is different in different people, so the drug doesn’t always cure.

These arguments seem to leave no room for “Libertarian” Free Will. Nevertheless, I invite my firends who insist that men have the “ability to do otherwise” (regardless of all preceding causes) to consider the matter with a few questions:

1) Is it the LFW position that the sum (or product) of all preceding causes (including the state of man’s heart) does not determine the choice, but that given that same exact set of preceding causes (both external and internal) man could have chosen otherwise? This question is important, because otherwise the argument is just so much straw-man-defeating, in which we shouldn’t be investing any time.

2) Can we meaningfully speak of reasons for choices, reasons that explain the choices?

3) If we can, how can we do so consistently with the concept of libertarian free will?

4) So why not just define Free Will as Calvinists typically do, as man choosing in accordance with his desires?


Let the Nations be Glad, by John Piper, in Farsi

May 24, 2008

Terry Maveus, at Desiring God, reports the release of Let the Nations be Glad, by John Piper, in Farsi. John Piper has a lot of good things to say: he’s a great preacher, if not always a careful or systematic theologian. (link to Terry’s article, as well as to information on how to get the book)

KJVO vs. KJV Translators

May 22, 2008

A while back I came across the following article that is germane to the KJVO debate (link). This article relies on the testimony of the translators themsevles in discussion the issues. Doug Smith appears to have prepared this as part of a series – though I don’t recall seeing the rest of the series. If he is still in the process of preparing it, I hope he’ll continue, as this topic continues to be of importance.


Sad News for the Chapmans

May 22, 2008

The famous singer Steven Curtis Chapman is reported to have lost a daughter. Apparently she was accidentally killed by her older brother. From what I understand, Mr. Chapman professes faith in Christ – let us pray that God will comfort him in this time of grief.

Comments on this post (both here and via backlinks) are closed.

Chaldean Catholics take a Stand Against the Bible and Historic Catholicism

May 22, 2008

Chaldean Catholics (a non-Latin “rite” of Roman Catholicism) have condemned the death sentence for the murderer of their late archbishop.

From the mouth of their Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni:

“Monsignor Rahho, would not have accepted the sentence. Christian principles say it is not allowed to sentence someone to death, and instead it invites us to forgiveness, reconciliation and justice.”

Warduni is clearly wrong. One immediately recalls both the Old Testament law for Israel, which included the death penalty, as well as the historical practice of the Roman Catholic church for many years of advocating for the use of capital punishment (both in situtations in which we would deem proper, and in situations that we would deem improper). For those that need an example, consider the account of the trial of Giordino Bruno (link to Vatican’s own reproduction of the account on the Vatican website)

For those who prefer Scripture, it is written:

Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

The death sentence for murderers is Biblical justice – and failure (by the king) to execute justice is not pleasing to God:

Deuteronomy 19:13 Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee.

Christians are called to personal forgiveness, but it is still the duty of government to put away the guilt of innocent blood from the land by executing God’s justice on murderers. That has not changed in the New Testament. For that reason Paul writes that:

Romans 13:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

May God have mercy on us, who deserve such justice from Him,


Thanks to Bill Cork of Oak Leaves for pointing out this article.

C. Michael Patton discussion Sproul on 6 Day Creationism

May 22, 2008

Even while astrophysicists are rejoicing at the observation of the birth of a supernova, a much more interesting cosmological discussion is being had by C. Michael Patton over at Parchment and Pen (link).

The author explains that apparently noted Reformed author R.C. Sproul has taken (in 2006) a stand in favor of the traditional, literal six day creation account. The reason is obvious: if you read the text exegetically, there is no other conclusion you can come to.

I realize that, as Sproul notices, there are other possibilities for interpretations of Genesis 1 vetted: but none of them can stand on an exegetical method. Thus, those who advocate other views really ought to try to come to grips with the fact that they have not derived their view from Scripture, and consequently that they should perhaps rethink their view.

Objection 1: The Day-Age and/or Gap Theories are not Inconsistent with the Text

I realize that the immediate objection from those who hold alternative theories of the text will be that their theories do not conflict with the text. They may argue that they can build a consistent interpretation of Genesis 1 (and the rest of Scripture) based on their theory.

We Answer:

Yet those theories are not derived from the text. Indeed, such a “not inconsistent with” standard is the standard used by “traditionists” for every novel doctrine that they wish to impose. It is not a valid way of doing textual interpretation. That one can interpret the text of Genesis 1 in some non-exegetical way, and then craft an answer (using similar mechanisms) for the rest of Scriptures does not surprise us. It simply shows a willingness to make the theory fit — it does not demonstrate the theory actually fitting. It does not let the text speek for itself.

Objection 2

The other main objection we are wont to hear is “the Bible is not (at least primarily) a Science textbook.”

We Answer:

We agree, but distinguish. While the Bible is not primarily a Science textbook, the Bible is an historical source. While it certainly is treated as though it were “Science” in the popular media, Cosmology is an historical study – and claims (such as the claims that the recently observed supernova birth is 80+ Million years old) about cosmology are historical claims.

Natural sciences, by definition, exclude the supernatural. Thus, it is more proper to turn this objection on its head and respond that Science is not primarily an historical method. This is especially true when it comes to miracles. From the Bible, we know that miracles do occur. The account of the world’s and man’s creation in Genesis is portrayed in supernatural terms. God spoke – and it was so. Thus, we should not expect purely naturalistic investigations to jive with the account of Creation, just as we should not expect purely naturalistic investigations to jive with the account of the Resurrection of Christ, or the Virgin Birth.

Praise be to God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth!


Two Interesting Posts on Relics

May 21, 2008

Erik, the Irish Calvinist, and Dr. James White, of Alpha & Omega Ministries, both have interesting posts today on the topic of relics. Erik’s post (link) focuses on the continued trade in relics, while Dr. White’s post (link) provides some additional comments addressing the fact that this is superstitious nonsense.

While the articles focus on Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy has its fair share of relics as well. I’m told that the remains of the supposed saint “John of Shanghai and San Fransisco” are the only viewable Orthodox relics in the U.S. (in San Fransisco). Wikipedia provided the following photograph which purports to be a photograph of his partly decomposed corpse. (No venerating, please.)

Praise be to the God of the Living!


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