Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Defining causes and determinism: Does God cause sin?

Here is Hasker's definition of determinism:

Determinism: For every event which happens, there are previous events and circumstances which are its sufficient conditions or causes, so that, given those previous events and circumstances, it is impossible that the event should not occur.

Is there something wrong with this definition? After all, Bill Hasker is one of those nasty open theists, who clearly can't be trusted. But the upshot of this definition would be that the decrees of God cause people to do what they do. You cannot have a deterministic world in which God decrees X and not-X occurs. Saying "God's decree doesn't cause people to sin" is just plain ludicrous.

5 comments:

Robert said...

Hello Victor,

“Here is Hasker's definition of determinism:

Determinism: For every event which happens, there are previous events and circumstances which are its sufficient conditions or causes, so that, given those previous events and circumstances, it is impossible that the event should not occur.

Is there something wrong with this definition? After all, Bill Hasker is one of those nasty open theists, who clearly can't be trusted.”

Alvin Plantinga, who is obviously a theist that we can trust, (at least I hope so last time I checked, :-)), defines free will as:

“If a person is free with respect to a given action, then he is free to perform that action and free to refrain from performing it; no antecedent conditions and/or causal laws determine that he will perform the action, or that he won’t.”

That seems to be the converse of what Hasker suggests, so I believe Hasker’s definition is a good one.

Regarding not “trusting” open theists, while I believe they are mistaken about the claim that God cannot foreknow future actions that involve LFW. I would say they are mistaken people, but not necessarily bad or evil people. Though it is unfortunate that certain calvinists, hate the open theists with a passion.

And regarding being a Christian and being mistaken, we all make mistakes; some of us just refuse to ever admit it. And regarding character, some of my friends who are open theists, display greater character than most of the calvinists that I know. These same open theists affirm all of the essentials of the Christian faith including the trinity, the deity of Christ, salvation by faith alone, etc. etc.

In my old age, :-) I look at people’s character first, beliefs second, especially if they are professing Christians. And if they are not loving people, but seem to hate everybody who thinks differently than them, well . . .
Regarding Hasker himself and his writings, I greatly appreciate his books on the emergent self, on divine foreknowledge and his little book on Metaphysics, (and have read other things that he has written), and it is all great stuff and he is a first rate scholar. He is one of those authors that it benefits to read even when you disagree with him, as he presents arguments that need to be dealt with. Even though he is clearly wrong, in my opinion, on the foreknowledge issue.

Robert

Victor Reppert said...

Bill is, of course, one of the major philosophical architects of the AFR and was editor of Christian Scholar's Review when the stem essay for my work on the subject, "The Lewis-Anscombe Controversy," was published. Everything he writes is philosophically top-flight stuff, and even if you disagree, you know by the time he gets through with you that a substantial philosophical case is being put forward.

Anonymous said...

Vic, you make the same arguments that I do, even if you express them differently. I know we have our own differences but I appreciate it. Some of the most mean spirited people on the web toward us apostates are Calvinists. I also consider them to be one of the most deluded Christian sects. The problem is that they have to listen to you and deal with you honestly. Because I am a reprobate and going to hell, then with their God they feel justified in treating me just like their God does, and I find that utterly repulsive. They just don't see it. Their theology not only creates atheists, as Clark Pinnock wrote, but it also motivates me like no other "respectable" theology to debunk the Christian faith.

Edward T. Babinski said...

DOES PHILOSOPHY/THEOLOGY PROVIDE ANSWERS OR RAISE MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS?

Some believe we're created in God's image and furthermore, everything arose solely and directly from God's perfect will and perfect power, and from nothing else. So what "room" would there be for anything "imperfect" to arise if everything arose directly from Perfection? (And that includes imperfect things like "sin," unless "sin" was a "part" of God's will and power in the beginning? I mean, "sin" has to come from somewhere.)

If "free will" is employed as an explanation for why human beings can "sin," then if God has "free will" can God "sin?"

What keeps God from "sinning?" Does he lack free will -- or is something retraining every one of God's possible free will decisions to such a degree that God can never be "free" in the same sense we are?

Do people in heaven have free will or not? If they have free will in heaven will sin arise there too, even among God's righteous?

If people in heaven are restrained by "grace" or "God's favor" to such a degree that they can no longer choose to "sin" then isn't that similar to God admitting that "free will" never was a great idea in the first place and things are better without free will, or via it's constant external restraint?

And how exactly can anyone be said to have "free will" at all if God knows everything, or if everything exists in God beyond temporality? Then everything is "one thing" in God's perfect knowledge and cannot be otherwise.

Ed
Edward T. Babinski

Robert said...

Hello Edward,

I want to comment on some of your comments about the free will issue.

You begin with:
“DOES PHILOSOPHY/THEOLOGY PROVIDE ANSWERS OR RAISE MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS?”

Now Edward I do not know your educational background, but my experience as both a student and a teacher is that you cannot think without asking questions. So if philosophy and theology raises questions, that is a very good thing.

Would you agree that asking questions is a good thing?

“Some believe we're created in God's image”

That would include me.

“and furthermore, everything arose solely and directly from God's perfect will and perfect power, and from nothing else.”

No, there are other wills and persons in the universe besides God. So the claim that everything is now perfect and God’s will is always being done on this earth is not accurate. But some day it will be like that on this earth, the Bible calls that the New Heavens and New Earth. N.T. Wright has written a recent book where he talks about it. He is a very good Christian scholar; you should check him out if you are interested in that subject. His new book is available at all of the bookstores I have seen it at Borders and Barnes & Noble, etc. etc.

“So what "room" would there be for anything "imperfect" to arise if everything arose directly from Perfection?”

Lots of room if finite/created things have wills, make their own choices, and can even make wrong and even dumb choices.

“What keeps God from "sinning?" Does he lack free will -- or is something retraining every one of God's possible free will decisions to such a degree that God can never be "free" in the same sense we are?”

We sin when we transgress His will, He does not transgress his own will. Regarding what “restrains” God, God acts in line with his perfect character so you might mean that his own character “restrains” him.

You speak of him never being “free” in the “same sense we are”. What does that mean? Does “free” according to you mean being without restraint or constraint? So you think we are free because we have no restraints while God has restraints? That is clearly mistaken as we have lots of restraints and constraints on us. As finite created creatures we have definite limitations or as “Dirty Harry” puts it: “a man’s got to know his limitations.”

Edward are you a limitless being, with no restraints or constraints ever put upon you?

And if you are not a limitless and completely unrestrained being, then what does your having free will mean?

“Do people in heaven have free will or not?”

Depends on what you mean by “free will”. I mean by “free will” that we have and make choices. And yes in Heaven I believe we will both have and make choices. I do not believe we will sin there as Jesus said that we ought to pray that God’s will is done on the earth as it is in Heaven, presumably meaning that it is always done perfectly in heaven. Our capacity to have and make choices is connected to our range of choices. If I am able to have and make certain choices and not others that does not mean that I do not have free will. It means I have a limited range of choices. I believe that in heaven our range of choices will not include sins. So we will be able to act freely making choices but will never sin.

“If they have free will in heaven will sin arise there too, even among God's righteous?”

Just answered that one.

“If people in heaven are restrained by "grace" or "God's favor" to such a degree that they can no longer choose to "sin" then isn't that similar to God admitting that "free will" never was a great idea in the first place and things are better without free will, or via it's constant external restraint?”

You are confusing our range of choices (what choices are available to us: which can be affected by things like restraint and constraint) and our capacity to have and make choices (free will).

Why would God need to restrain us if our range of choices in heaven will only involve good choices and not sins?

If a Father gives his toddler the choice of a carrot or a granola bar (and not candy). And that is the available choice, then the toddler whichever way they choose will choose something more healthy and not something unhealthy like candy. The child has free will with regard to the two choices of a carrot or granola bar and choosing candy in that instance is not part of their range of choices.

If a Father can do that with his toddler, are you claiming that God cannot do that, or something similar with us in heaven?

And if “free will” involves having and making choices, then that is a good thing **both** here and in heaven. Again, the range of choices may vary from here to there, but in both places we will freely perform our own actions.

Edward do you believe that it is a good thing to have and make your own choices?

“And how exactly can anyone be said to have "free will" at all if God knows everything, or if everything exists in God beyond temporality? Then everything is "one thing" in God's perfect knowledge and cannot be otherwise.”

People have proposed different answers to that question. Have you read the literature? Are the present answers not satisfying for you? Have you rea Plantinga’s “On Ockham’s way out” for example?

Robert