Archive for the ‘Triablogue’ Category

Calvinism is Wrong Because Love Must Be Free?

November 2, 2011

I’ve heard an objection to Calvinism along the lines of the title of this post many times.  The argument is that “irresistible grace” is at odds with the nature of God, since God wants us to love Him freely.  Paul Manata has a succinct answer to that kind of argument.

I would like to build a little on my friend Paul’s point.  Often we are told that Calvinism’s teaching on irresistible grace is some equivalent to divine rape.  This analogy is necessarily wrong.  First, rape involves violation of the will of the rape victim.  However, God’s efficacious grace does not violate man’s will, it transforms it.  God’s transforming act of regeneration is not coercion of the will (like a rapist), nor is it a fooling of the will (like a hypnotist).  God actually changes the desires of a person so that they not only no longer hate God, nor imagine they love God, but actually love God.

Second, in addition to the fact that God commands love (which is my friend Paul’s point, and he makes it effectively), God also threatens punishment to those who do not love.  Roger Olson technically may be able to maintain his position that “it must be factually possible for both [parties] to a possible loving relationship to be able to say ‘no’ to the other” (p. 167 per Paul’s post) even in the face of a command.  After all, people in fact do say “no,” to God’s commands that we love God and love our neighbor.  However, if this escape is employed the analogy breaks down.  After all, we would still consider someone a rape victim if they gave consent only after a gun was pointed at their head, even if they technically could have said “yes.”  But the coercive power of the message of Jesus is even stronger than that: “But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” (Luke 12:5)

So, on the one hand, irresistible grace is not coercion and on the other hand God does (undeniably) employ coercion.  So, the objection posed by Olson cannot stand both because it misses the mark and because it strikes a point that Olson must accept as true.  Olson (and other non-Calvinists) have to admit that God employs coercion by threatening punishments on those who do not do as they are told.  Yet irresistible grace is a means that God uses that does not itself involve coercion, but transformation.



Free Will, Advance Knowledge, and God

June 6, 2011

At Triablogue, Paul has posted an item on free will and God’s advance knowledge including an answer to the popular non-Calvinist argument: “Just because God knows in advance that X will happen doesn’t mean God causes or controls that X to happen.” (my paraphrase)

As Paul points out, that argument misses the point. While I like aspects of what Paul wrote, let me put my own spin on this, namely – how can you respond to your friend who uses this argument with you?

First, you can provide some disclaimers. These disclaimers can help remove any straw men that may exist between the two of you. Those disclaimer can be, for example:

1) God’s knowledge of future event X is not itself the cause of the future event X. If God’s knowledge of the future caused the future to be, then God’s knowledge of the future would necessarily entail the future existing as known. We don’t allege this. We don’t claim God’s knowledge causes the future to be.

2) Simply person A knowing the future doesn’t entail person A causing the future to be. We know this, because sometimes God tells men what the future will be. At that point, the men know the future, but – of course – this doesn’t mean that the men cause the future event of which they have advance knowledge.

Once these disclaimers have been provided, you can go on to explain the force of the argument.

1) God’s infallible knowledge of future event X implies that future event X will happen with absolute certainty. God can’t be wrong. Thus, God’s infallible knowledge of future event X means that future event X is guaranteed to happen.

2) If an event is absolutely certain to happen, it cannot be otherwise. This may seem trivial, but it is an important point. If God knows that X will happen, it is certain to happen, and thus cannot be otherwise.

3) An event’s absolute certainty implies an inability of actors to do otherwise. If an event cannot be otherwise, a person cannot bring about the event being otherwise; for if a person could bring about the event being otherwise, then the event could be otherwise. But the event cannot be otherwise, because the event is absolutely certain to be as foreseen.

4) An event’s absolute certainty implies an absence of “Libertarian” Free Will with respect to the event. If we take as an example a particular choice of a free agent, such as man, and if we say this particular choice is known in advance to God and consequently is absolutely certain to happen, then – as we have shown above – the person making this choice will not be able to choose otherwise. But this absence of ability to choose otherwise contradicts the “Libertarian” account of free will. In other words, such a choice is not “free” according to the “Libertarian” model.

Some Immediate Conclusion

1) Because God’s knowledge of the future is absolutely complete, we know that there is no such thing as Libertarian Free Will. There may be free will of some kind, but not of the Libertarian kind, because people are not able to do otherwise than has been foreseen.

2) But, per our earlier disclaimer, God’s knowledge is not itself the cause of the absence of Libertarian Free Will. In other words, what ensures that people cannot do otherwise is not simply God’s knowledge of what will happen. After all, we can have advance knowledge, but no one would reasonably say that our advance knowledge is the cause.

Larger Conclusions

1) Whatever kind of free will we have, it cannot be “Libertarian” free will. There’s no reason that the term “free will” has to be thrown out, just because we can demonstrate that we lack an ability to do otherwise. There’s still a very real sense in which some human acts are “free will” acts, and others are either involuntary or coerced. This would be a definition of “free will” that is compatible with extensive Divine sovereignty, not one that is opposed to it.

2) There is a larger explanation for both God’s knowledge and our actions. Since God’s knowledge itself does not explain why we choose X and not Y, we should look to a larger explanation. The larger explanation is one that explains both God’s knowledge and our actions. The correct explanation to this is God’s Providence, his most holy and wise and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions.


An Odds Rebuttal

July 23, 2010

Not an odd rebuttal – a clever rebuttal – but one that deals with the question of odds (link to rebuttal). The explanation is important: it shows the silliness of simply assuming that a large number of alternatives (for example, the large number of alternatives to the the truth that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the one true God) is an argument against the truth of a proposition.

The fact that there are 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 false religions is of no more significance than the infinite number of wrong answers to 2+2.


Steve Hays on Liberty’s Schedule of Discipline

June 27, 2010

He’s joking, of course, but I think his points will strike a chord with lots of people who are bewildered by the mildness of Liberty’s decision regarding Ergun Caner (link to Hays’ post).

Resources: Triablogue

April 27, 2010

Triablogue has a wealth of information thanks to its high quality contributers (link to Triablogue). Back in 2007 they kindly featured one of my posts on Molinism (link to the post). Molinism, Arminianism, Romanism, Atheism, and many other -isms are addressed by the erudite blogging team.

Another Consequence of Forbidding Marriage to Clergy

March 11, 2010

We have previously noted that one consequence of forbidding marriage to clergy is that one gets a higher ratio of homosexual clergyman (link to brief discussion). Another consequence is that priests do to nuns the kinds of things that Maria Monk reported (link to Vatican’s acknowledgment that this happens). The report makes Steve Hays’ satire (link) seem not so far from the mark.

These abuses take place in part because of Rome’s unscriptural policy of mandatory clerical celibacy, as Roman Catholic priest and former theologian, Hans Küng, agrees (link). Such a policy is a serious error and is contrary to Scripture, though we acknowledge that it is not an error as to an essential doctrine. If this were the worst error that Rome has, she would still be a true church.

There are, however, many other and worse errors in Rome’s teaching. While Rome’s gospel that involves subjection to the Roman Pontiff and veneration of Mary may not injure the bodies of its nuns, it is something that does far more serious damage – it harms their souls. The way of salvation is through trust in Christ alone for salvation.

(Update: Cardinal Schönborn appears to agree with Hans Küng and this blog)


Steve Hays Responds to Francis Beckwith

October 28, 2009

I enjoyed this article (link) from Steve Hays on Francis Beckwith and his (Francis’) peeve about the label “Roman Catholic.”

Hays on the Atonement

September 14, 2009

Steve Hays at Triablogue has a succinct response to a commonly heard Wesleyan argument against limited atonement (link).

Problems with Paradoxes

July 3, 2009

Over at the Triablogue, in the comments box, Mr. Anderson wrote:

Unless I’ve badly misunderstood it, which is entirely possible, your argument is designed to show that the claim that there can be irresolvable paradoxes is itself a paradox.

Your premise (i) states your opponents’ position, for the second of argument. Your (ii) then apparently tries to deduce some further proposition from (i) (since you say “Given (i)…”). What you deduce from (i) is that the negation of (i) (i.e., that there cannot be an irresolvable paradox) would be “either a paradox or a real contradiction”.

But as I’ve pointed out, this is just a non sequitur. You’ve given no good reason to think this follows from (i).

Perhaps the idea is that, if irresolvable paradoxes are possible, then for just any proposition p we affirm, we must also be prepared to affirm non-p. But again, this is simply a non sequitur. It doesn’t follow from (i) at all. Why think that it does?

One might as well argue that, if irresolvable paradoxes are possible, and we believe that the Earth orbits the Sun, then we should also be prepared to believe that the Earth doesn’t orbit the Sun. The problem, of course, is that we have plenty of good reason to affirm the former and no good reason to affirm the latter. So your suggestion (if I read you correctly) that if the irresolvable-paradox view is true then it must (by its own lights) be on a par with the no-irresolvable-paradox view, begs the question entirely.


Mr. Anderson is no lightweight when it comes to critical thinking, so I’ve taken a good bit of time to mull over his comments. Nevertheless, I see a few problems with his critique, or at least a few weaknesses. Let’s see if I can explain.

Restatement of the Main Argument

The main argument against irresolvable paradoxes is this:

Suppose for the sake of the argument, a first premise

(P1) The situation that both proposition P is true and P is false (at the same time and in the same way) is a possible situation for any given P.

P1 actually combines two ideas: (1) irresolvable paradox is possible, where irresolvable paradox is defined by a given statement being both true and false in the same way and at the same time; and (2) paradoxes are not limited to only certain categories of propositions.

If P1 is accepted, and if we further add a second premise

(P2) P1 is a proposition, i.e. a member of the set of “any given P”

then we may conclude

(C1) It is possible that (P1) is also false.

Or in other words, if we accept the existence of unlimitable paradoxes, we must also be prepared to accept at least the possibility of the nonexistence of unlimitable paradoxes.

Enhancement to the Main Argument

The main argument may be enhanced, however, through simplification. One enhancement is as follows:

(P3) Reasoned thought is present IFF (i.e. if and only if) the law of non-contradictions is not violated;

(P4) Paradoxes violate the law of non-contradiction; and

(C2) Therefore, reasoned thought is not present when paradoxes are present.

Responses to Objections

Mr. Anderson’s main objection seems to be to the boundless aspect of P1. Mr. Anderson, if I have understood him correctly, believes in the existence of irresolvable paradoxes, but only within certain bounds. I’m not sure what objection Mr. Anderson would be able to give to the enhancement argument.

Mr. Anderson’s main objection does not appear to be sustainable. It is, of course, handy to say that paradox only exists within special, contained boundaries. And if that were strictly true that would seem to address the problem. Unfortunately, we cannot be assured (within a system that accomodates paradox) that the boundaries themselves are strictly true as opposed to merely paradoxically true.


I don’t see any good reason to accept the existence of irreconcilable paradoxes. Such things, were they to exist, would seem to be outside the realm of rational discussion. Accordingly, it would be odd to call any basis for accepting them a “reason.” Furthermore, I have seen no reason to reject the strongly intuitive position of the universality of the laws of logic and particularly the law of non-contradiction. I also would see no valid reason for setting boundaries on irreconcilable paradoxes if I were to accept them at all. I’m willing to hear arguments for why I should deny the universality of the laws of logic, but so far I haven’t seen any that are logical … and I’m willing to hear reasons to set boundaries on irreconcilable paradoxes but so far, again, I haven’t seen anything beyond simple fiat to support the idea that irreconcilable paradoxes only exist within specific boundaries.


Common Man Argument for Libertarian Free Will (rebutted)

June 26, 2009

Paul Manata has an interesting, if somewhat philosophical, post that seems to sum up most of the major arguments responsive to the “Common Man” Libertarian Free Will (LFW) argument (link). It’s a good article, and I encourage folks who think that there is some merit to the “common man” argument for LFW to read it and be disabused of such an idea. I have a couple minor nitpicks.

1) Manata mentions, but I would more heavily emphasize, that the common man’s definition of “choose” is better represented by essentially the Least Common Denominator of dictionary definitions than by simply the first entry of the most popular dictionary. As such, the common man’s definition does not have as a core aspect the “possible” element that is so key to the Libertarian (in the philosophical sense) argument.

Thus, for example, if one goes to Princeton’s Wordnet and punches in “choose” one gets:

# S: (v) choose, take, select, pick out (pick out, select, or choose from a number of alternatives) “Take any one of these cards”; “Choose a good husband for your daughter”; “She selected a pair of shoes from among the dozen the salesgirl had shown her”
# S: (v) choose, prefer, opt (select as an alternative over another) “I always choose the fish over the meat courses in this restaurant”; “She opted for the job on the East coast”
# S: (v) choose (see fit or proper to act in a certain way; decide to act in a certain way) “She chose not to attend classes and now she failed the exam”

Notice that none of these definitions included the word “possible” or an equivalent concept.

Likewise, Webster’s New World Collegiate Dictionary provides:

transitive verb chose, chosen cho′·sen, choosing choos′·ing

1. to pick out by preference from what is available; take as a choice; select to choose a book at the library
2. to decide or prefer: with an infinitive object to choose to remain

Etymology: ME chesen, cheosen < OE ceosan L gustare, Goth kausjan

intransitive verb

1. to make one’s selection
2. to have the desire or wish; please do as you choose

Same thing. “possible” is not part of the definition, although in one case the word “available” is there, which might arguably be an equivalent concept.

One certainly can find dictionaries that include “possible” in the definition of choose (The first – and only the first – definition in the American Heritage dictionary, for example, has this feature: “To select from a number of possible alternatives; decide on and pick out” – I’ve added the emphasis), but such a feature that is not found in most dictionary definitions of a word can hardly be viewed as the actual “common man” meaning of the term. A better way to assess the “common man” meaning is to look for the commonalities and overlap of the many dictionary definitions.

2) What’s up with the gratuitous reference to Michael Sudduth? :)


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