Saturday, May 24, 2008

I didn't say that

I didn't say that if Calvinism were to turn out to be true I would call God a fiend. What I did was generate a hypothetical scenario according to which I would say that, a scenario in which my factual beliefs about what the Omnipotent One is really like were to include Calvinism but there were no changes in my present moral beliefs. I said I could imagine a scenario in which my moral values didn't change but I were to discover that this omnipotent being was not good. If that were to happen, then the only morally right thing to do would be to call that being a Fiend. The phrase Omnipotent Fiend comes straight from Lewis's The Problem of Pain, in his discussion of theological voluntarism.

If Calvinism is true then I'm wrong on about 10 fronts: my theory of free will is wrong, my view of moral responsiblity is wrong, my view of the atonement is wrong, my interpretations of Scripture are wrong, my concept of what is good is wrong. Why in the world God would predestine me to have so much screwed up is beyond my comprehension, but then a whole lot of other things are beyond my comprehension as well if Calvinism is true.

Why didn't God just predestine all Christians to be Calvinists, if Calvinism is true? It would have made life a whole lot easier!

35 comments:

Robert said...

Hello Victor,

You wrote:

"If Calvinism is true then I'm wrong on about 10 fronts: my theory of free will is wrong, my view of moral responsiblity is wrong, my view of the atonement is wrong, my interpretations of Scripture are wrong, my concept of what is good is wrong."

Interesting, I would be wrong in exactly the same areas as you. And if it were all predetermined as the calvinists claim then it would be impossible for us to think otherwise than we do in fact do. So why are the calvinists attacking us for holding beliefs that we were predetermined to have, which in fact it is impossible for us to do or think otherwise? And we are lucky, we are christians so at least some of our beliefs were not predetermined to be screwed up. What about the poor folks in other religions whose every false belief and sinful action was also prescripted and predetermined. And then they get to go to hell and be eternally punished for holding beliefs and doing what they were predetermined to do. At least we got lucky in the divine lottery, they didn't get so lucky.

"Why in the world God would predestine me to have so much screwed up is beyond my comprehension, but then a whole lot of other things are beyond my comprehension as well if Calvinism is true."

Amen, preach it brother! :-)

"Why didn't God just predestine all Christians to be Calvinists, if Calvinism is true? It would have made life a whole lot easier!"

Why stop there, if God predetermined everything why did he predetermine for the calvinists themselves to be in disagreements with each other! Want to see some nasty and acrimonious and totally unnecessary squabbling, look at their debates between the supra and infra lapsarians. Or look at the debates between the reformed baptists and the paedobaptists (some don't even consider the others to be reformed due to their baptist beliefs). But it's all OK, all going according to plan, all giving great pleasure and glory to God.

Robert

steve said...

Well, Victor, it’s disappointing to see you go soft on us at the last moment. Manata and I were planning a backyard BBQ for the holiday weekend for a few of our friends—Angel, Buffy, Hellboy, the partners at Wolfram & Hart, as well as the elders at the PCA church he currently attends. You were invited, too. But now it sounds as if you’d feel a bit out of place.

Robert said...

Oh, and Victor I just noticed that Steve Hays posted and won't be having you at his BBQ. I don't know if you know this Victor but Hays is the graduate assistant to a guy named John Frame. In the book ALISTER E. MCGRATH & EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY Frame has an essay titled: "Machen's Warrior Children". Frame writes:

"Machen's children were theological battlers and, when the battle againt liberalism in the PCUSA appeared to be over, they found other theological battles to fight. Up to the present time, these and other battles have continued within the movement, and, in my judgement, that is the story of conservative evangelical Reformed theology in twentieth-century America. In the rest of this essay I will discuss that theological warfare, distinguishing twenty-two areas of debate." (p.117)

Later commenting on how the debates/disagreements are carried on Frame writes:

"Overall, the quality of thought displayed in these polemics has not been a credit to the Reformed tradition. Writers have gone to great lengths to read their opponents words and motivations in the worst possible sense (often worse than possible) and to present their own ideas as virutally perfect, rightly motivated and leaving no room for doubt. Such presentations are scarcely credible to anybody who looks at the debates with minimal objectivity." (p. 145)

Perhaps that is where Steve gets it from.

22 areas of debate between calvinists and all of this mess is predetermined and all of it is giving God pleasure and for his glory? I don't think so.

Robert

Mike Darus said...

Victor:
Maybe you could attempt a definition of "good" to make your claim more specific. I wonder if we found out that what we mean by "God is not good" is "God is not being good to me." or "God is not being good to the unsaved (not elect)." There is an insistence by the atheist POE polemicists for God to prevent every bad thing from happening to every person in every circumstance for God to be considered "good." I don't think "omni-benevolence" works. It is not in my theology text books nor is it supported by Scripture. The surprise is Scripture is that God's goodness shows up where it is undeserved and unexpected. The real problem is not that there is too much evil; the problem is that there is too much good. The Psalmist complains that God is too patient with sin.

steve said...

Robert said...

“In the book ALISTER E. MCGRATH & EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY Frame has an essay titled: ‘Machen's Warrior Children’.”

I see that Robert is being incorrigibly unscrupulous as usual. Just about every theological tradition has its share of infighting, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Fundamentalism, Lutheranism, even Anabaptism. It would be easy to cite specific examples.

Robert chooses to single out the Reformed tradition, but one could draw parallel examples from other theological traditions. So Robert is applying his trademark double standard.

Since Frame is a Reformed theologian, it’s not as if he regards Reformed infighting as a reason not to be a Calvinist.

Anonymous said...

You need to be a certain kind of person to be a 5-point calvinist -- the sort of person, e.g., that joins a radical strand of Islam. The kind of person who reads monstrously immoral statements in a holy book, compares them to one's most fundamental moral intuitions, and does a modus ponens on the following conditional:

(*) If this holy book (or this interpretation of this holy book) is true, then my fundamental moral intuitions are wrong.

Whereas everyone else does a modus tollens on (*).

I think Kant was right: the certainty of our most fundamental moral intuitions (e.g., that it's wrong to commit genocide) trump the evidence of the truth of an interpretation of a holy book every time.

This is the same basic intuition Moore had about radical skepticism. He did a modus tollens on the following conditional:

(**) If these epistemic principles are true, then I don't know that this is a pencil.

Whereas the skeptics do a modus ponens on (**).

As Kant was right to do a modus tollens on (*), I think Moore was right to do a modus tollens on (**).

In both cases, it seems to me that the basic idea is that the reasonable person should prefer the more obvious over the less obvious fundamental moral seemings in the first case; fundametal perceptual seemngs in the second).

steve said...

robert said...

“But it's all OK, all going according to plan, all giving great pleasure and glory to God.”

So, according to Robert, all is not going according to plan. Does he mean there was no plan? There are unplanned events? Forrest Gump has a word for that.

Or does he mean there was a plan, but God had to scrap his original plan?

In any event, the reason Calvinists believe in predestination is because we begin with revelation. We don’t begin with the “problems” or “consequences,” and then exclaim: “I can’t believe that!”

It’s child’s play to come up with problems for Robert’s theology, too. Why does God create people who are hellbound? If he knows they’re hellbound, why does he create them in the first place? Wouldn’t it be more merciful to all concerned to refrain from making them?

Why does God allow children to die of cancer? Especially before the days of morphine?

Why does God allow half a million people to die in a tidal wave? Couldn’t he at least warn them that the tidal wave was coming?

Robert likes to raise infidel objections to Calvinism. Where predestination is concerned, he carries on just like Hitchens or Dawkins or Ingersoll. But as Robert reminds us, “Why stop there?”

Paul Manata said...

Victor, some quotes from you:

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2008/04/answering-back-to-god-or-is-it-fred.html

"But shouldn't I nevertheless accept it because it is taught in God's word? God, by definition, is a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. A being who predestines people for everlasting punishment doesn't meet the third requirement, and therefore isn't God. So if the Bible teaches predestination and reprobation, it is not God's word, but only the Word of an omnipotent Fred.

Do you even remember you own arguments?

You didn't say, "If the Bible taught it, then I'd have to change about 10 of my strongly held beliefs." No, you said, "If the Bible ends up teaching Calvinism, then it IS NOT God's word."

Victor, I got dozens more like these.

Let's see what Reppert would tell Jesus if Jesus said his moral intuitions were wrong and there was nothing intuitively wrong with God decreeing evil:

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2008/04/paul-manata-on-calvinism.html

"Paul says he doesn't share my intuitions. Look, given this picture, if you don't have at least notice a prima facie problem with God's conduct from a moral point of view, then you don't need an argument, you need help."

So, if Jesus told Reppert that he didn't share Reppert's intuitions, Reppert would tell Jesus "you need help."

Or,

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2008/05/on-intellectual-humility-and.html

"Even if I had a good exegetical argument that Romans 8-9 is teaching predestination, is that necessarily better evidence that this would not be good for God to do.”

But then we have Robert telling us that the Arminian has the better exegesis and so us Calvinists need to "give in." Reppert has made it hard for Robert to defend him.

So, Victor, as I said, I have dozens of other quotes from you. Some aces up my sleeve.

To the extent that you can show some more timid claims only shows how you've been hopping back and forth, from pillar to post in this debate.

Anyway, what I have quoted here, esp. the first quote, makes it *clear* that Reppert has claimed that if God's Holy Word did in fact teach Calvinism, then it COULD NOT be God's word. Not "might not." COULD NOT.

So Robert, will you apologize to Steve and Dominic? Given these quotes, it is clear that their observations were "spot on."

Or, perhaps you want to say that a honest *Christian* could say, "If the Bible taught X, and I thought X was immoral, then it IS NOT God's word, and that being IS NOT God?

Is that what you want to say, Robert?

Say you prove Arminianism from Scripture to a Calvinist and he says, "Okay, Scripture teaches it. Fine. Guess it is not God's word then. Guess that kind of God is not God." What would you say, Robert? You'd have a field day.

Victor Reppert said...

"Paul says he doesn't share my intuitions. Look, given this picture, if you don't have at least notice a prima facie problem with God's conduct from a moral point of view, then you don't need an argument, you need help."

There's a part of this quote you keep overlooking. I said prima facie problem. I didn't say you have to conclude that such a God would be acting wrongly. I said that there is a prima facie problem from the point of view of our ordinary ways of moral thinking.

Victor Reppert said...

Or, perhaps you want to say that a honest *Christian* could say, "If the Bible taught X, and I thought X was immoral, then it IS NOT God's word, and that being IS NOT God?

But isn't that what we would expect from a Muslim in considering the moral credentials of Islam?

I don't see why a good Christian is required to believe in an unconditional belief in inerrancy.
As a Christian, I might believe that Scripture is in fact inerrant, given what I believe it to teach, but might find basis for doubt if I were to discover that it taught something else. I think that most of us can imagine some things that if we dug up the original autographs and found out that they were taught, it would undermine our faith in the God's-word-ness of Scripture.

I think on reflection that I am mistaken in making bold statements about what I would do in some situation that has not come up. I remember a friend in college used to say "If Calvin's God exists, I would insist on being damned. Of course, it would do me no good." That's a tad rash.

But what I am will say is that as far as I can tell, a predestinating God would not be good. I did say that I would have serious trouble loving God or having faith given my current understanding of the good if Calvinism were true. I must also admit that the worst crisis of faith of my entire life was touched off by Calvinism when I was 19. I don't think boasting about what I would do in this or that situation is especially Christian.

Robert said...

Steve Hays wrote:

“I see that Robert is being incorrigibly unscrupulous as usual. Just about every theological tradition has its share of infighting, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Fundamentalism, Lutheranism, even Anabaptism. It would be easy to cite specific examples.”

All this infighting is not evidence of God predetermining every event as you mistakenly believe. Rather, it is evidence that people are freely choosing (in the libertarian sense) to sin. I don’t believe all of this occurs because it is God’s predetermined plan, NO, it is our own freely performed sins.

“Robert chooses to single out the Reformed tradition, but one could draw parallel examples from other theological traditions. So Robert is applying his trademark double standard.”

No, double standard, Reppert made the point about foolish things that supposedly are predetermined by God. I just took it a step further and focused in on you calvinists. If God predetermines everything for his good pleasure and glory as you claim, then why predetermine for even the calvinists to have ridiculous infighting and squabbles? It doesn’t make sense that God predetermined for all of this to occur. On the other hand, if God created us with libertarian free will, then it makes sense, it wasn’t predetermined by God it is our own foolishness in action.

“Since Frame is a Reformed theologian, it’s not as if he regards Reformed infighting as a reason not to be a Calvinist.”

I didn’t say that. The infighting among calvinists is however a reason to reject this claim that God has predetermined every event to occur and that God takes pleasure in these things and that it glorifies Him. Ain’t no way that God is taking pleasure in and being glorified by those 22 separate fights going on among those calvinists. Unless God is glorified and takes pleasure in sin and stupidity on the part of professing Christian believers.

Robert

Robert said...

Steve Hays wrote:

“So, according to Robert, all is not going according to plan. Does he mean there was no plan? There are unplanned events? Forrest Gump has a word for that.”

I do not believe that every event is predetermined and part of a single all encompassing plan that predetermines every event. I believe that God has plans, but not that everything is predetermined.

“Or does he mean there was a plan, but God had to scrap his original plan?”

Again, that assumes a single all encompassing plan. No, I would say that God has a set of plans and He is working in every situation according to those plans (or purposes if you prefer).

“In any event, the reason Calvinists believe in predestination is because we begin with revelation. We don’t begin with the “problems” or “consequences,” and then exclaim: “I can’t believe that!””

I start with revelation too and you will not find TULIP taught in the OT, and in the NT the only way you arrive at TULIP is if you proof text from certain verses (primarily Romans 9 and Ephesians 1) and reinterpret other verses (e.g. John 3:16, 1 Jn. 2:2, etc. etc.) that contradict TULIP. If you examine early church history you will not find TULIP until you arrive at Augustine.

“It’s child’s play to come up with problems for Robert’s theology, too. Why does God create people who are hellbound? If he knows they’re hellbound, why does he create them in the first place? Wouldn’t it be more merciful to all concerned to refrain from making them?”

God doesn’t create people and cause them to be hell bound (that is calvinism and your gruesome doctrine of reprobation), that is their choice. Regarding some of your why questions, why don’t you ask God why He does what he does? I believe that God allows us to sin and allows evil events to occur, but that is far different from Him predetermining for evil and sin to occur and taking pleasure in it.

Your next series of questions sound just like the questions that I hear from atheists:

“Why does God allow children to die of cancer? Especially before the days of morphine?

Why does God allow half a million people to die in a tidal wave? Couldn’t he at least warn them that the tidal wave was coming?”

And again I would make a distinction between allowing things to occur and predetermining for things to occur. I do know that Jesus said in the world we would have tribulation, so why as Christians do we expect then for God not to allow any evil events or sins to occur. I also see looking at the apostles that he prevented their deaths on multiple occasions, and yet if church tradition is correct, 11 of the 12 apostles were martyred. Where in the bible does God ever say or promise or imply that we will never have problems and that he will prevent all evils and sins from occurring?

“Robert likes to raise infidel objections to Calvinism. Where predestination is concerned, he carries on just like Hitchens or Dawkins or Ingersoll. But as Robert reminds us, “Why stop there?””

Actually the objections I raise have been raised by both Christians and nonbelievers, this suggests not that these objections are false but that they are universal and also show that most of us have the same moral intuitions. So whether we are believers or unbelievers we recognize that if God is as the calvinists claim him to be then he is not loving, not good, not kind, not merciful, and he also misleads us in his revelation because he tells us things such as that he loves the world and sent Jesus for the world and that he desires for all to be saved. When in reality those things are not true.

Robert

Paul Manata said...

Victor Reppert said...
"Paul says he doesn't share my intuitions. Look, given this picture, if you don't have at least notice a prima facie problem with God's conduct from a moral point of view, then you don't need an argument, you need help."

There's a part of this quote you keep overlooking. I said prima facie problem. I didn't say you have to conclude that such a God would be acting wrongly. I said that there is a prima facie problem from the point of view of our ordinary ways of moral thinking.

8:14 PM

*************

Victor,

I'm not overlooking anything.

Jesus, since he knows all things, *especially* wouldn't have a "prima facie" problem.

So, since Jesus wouldn't have a prima facie problem, you would tell him he needs "help."

And, you also said "at least", which indicates you should have *more than* a prima facie problem.

Anyway, I haven't overlooked anything and, as you can see, my point still goes through.

Paul Manata said...

Victor, you quote me to the effect:

"Or, perhaps you want to say that a honest *Christian* could say, "If the Bible taught X, and I thought X was immoral, then it IS NOT God's word, and that being IS NOT God?"

And then you respond:

"But isn't that what we would expect from a Muslim in considering the moral credentials of Islam?"

i) This was said to *Robert* whi I *know* isn't going to give up inerrancy to beat Calvinistic arguments. Robert has said: If Jesus or the Bible teaches X, then you should believe it."

ii) I would expect this from a Muslim. Other than this being an attempt to poinson the weel, what's the argument?

iii) This is why I give, as my main apologetic, *internal* critiques against Islam. Ultimately, those are the best to give against any ultimate system of thought.

"I don't see why a good Christian is required to believe in an unconditional belief in inerrancy."

One reason is that Jesus did, and it is taught in Scripture. Inerrancy is a necessary by-product of Inspiration.

So, if one could show a "good Christian" that this is what the Bible claims, that this is the belief Jesus held, then they should believe it. After all, the Bible is our covenant document. God rules his people by his word, and inerrnacy is the norm for doing theology. Otherwise you're doing speculatheology.

IOW, a "good Christian" shouldn't have a lower view of Scripture than Christ.

Anyway, we've got off track. This post was about "I didn't say that." I have shown clearly that you have.

"As a Christian, I might believe that Scripture is in fact inerrant, given what I believe it to teach, but might find basis for doubt if I were to discover that it taught something else."

This is vague. Of course we could dream up possible defeaters for the Bible, say, it was shown that it in fact taught that square circles existed and it was not equivocating on a term or that we didn't have a reason to believe that there may be an unarticulated equivocation so that we could still hold the in-tension-doctrines on faith, on the testimony of our cognitive exemplar. Our epiistemic superior.

But those kinds of things would make me disbelieve the *system*.

It's not inerrancy that is lost, it's Christianity!

" I think that most of us can imagine some things that if we dug up the original autographs and found out that they were taught, it would undermine our faith in the God's-word-ness of Scripture."

Right, we can dream up some wild scenarios, but in these cases we cease to believe in Christianity not, simply, inerrancy. We at least lose an epistemicological base from which we can believe any doctrine taught in the Bible.

"I think on reflection that I am mistaken in making bold statements about what I would do in some situation that has not come up."

Well, that's good.

My only purpose in this post is to point out that you *did* in fact say some of the things I attributed to you. You've said other things too, but it's been back and forth.

My main point was to provide an argument tyhat justified Steve and Dominic's claims about your profession of being a Christ follower.

Given sone of the things you've said, you can see why they would say what they did. There was some cause.

If you want to retract, claim that if Jesus told you that X was true, then you would believe it, then that's a respectable position to take.

As I've said, Victor, if you find no Scriptural basis for belief in Calvinism - and you've studied the issue out - then I can respect a Christian who claims that his conscience is bound by the word of God, and he just does not see Calvinism taught in the Bible. In fact, he finds the opposite.

That is the Christian way.

"But what I am will say is that as far as I can tell, a predestinating God would not be good. I did say that I would have serious trouble loving God or having faith given my current understanding of the good."

Okay, but unless you interact with the arguments we've put forth in response to this, this strickes me as irrational. You have undefeated defeaters for your position. Now, perhaps they are not defeaters because you are not *aware* of them. But all that means is that you didn't read our posts.

"I must also admit that the worst crisis of faith of my entire life was touched off by Calvinism when I was 19. I don't think boasting about what I would do in this or that situation is especially Christian."

I hope we've been able to show you how we can address your concerns.

On a personal note: I was raised in an Arminian church. I dropped Christianity in my early youth. I thought it was laughable. I asked pastors and my elders how I could really end up in heaven if God knew I was going to hell. How could I choose otherwise than God knew? Also, the hypocrisy and fluffy Christianity is those circles is rampant.

After years of drugs and engaging in violent activities, crimes, etc., I spent about 8 months talking to a Calvinist. Calvinism is what brought me to a saving belief in Christ. To an intellectually honest Christianity. Seeing my life in light of God's sovereign plan for all things, gave it meaning. There was a purpose for all of those evils I did.

Paul Manata said...

sorry for the spelling errors. off to church and I was hurrying and I don't have time for a spell checker.

steve said...

robert said...

“All this infighting is not evidence of God predetermining every event as you mistakenly believe.”

A straw man argument. I never said that theological infighting was evidence for theological determinism. The primary evidence for theological determinism is the witness of Scripture.

Rather, I drew attention to the breadth of theological infighting in various theological traditions to show how unscrupulous Robert was to single out Calvinism.

“I just took it a step further and focused in on you calvinists. If God predetermines everything for his good pleasure and glory as you claim, then why predetermine for even the calvinists to have ridiculous infighting and squabbles? It doesn’t make sense that God predetermined for all of this to occur.”

i) To begin with, I don’t begin with “what makes sense.” I begin with revelation. Where theological method is concerned, you’re a humanist at heart while I’m a Biblicist at heart. You begin with your autonomy while I begin with the word of God. I like my starting point better than yours. Sorry that my theological method is too Christian for you.

ii) Does Robert think there’s sin in heaven? If God can prevent sin in heaven, he can prevent Christians from sinning here on earth. So why does God allow it here and now? Does that make sense? Doesn’t that weaken the church’s witness to the world?

You can’t lay it at the doorstep of libertarian freedom—since you presumably believe that libertarian freedom is still in force in heaven. Otherwise, the saints would be “puppets” and “robots,” right?

iii) Theological infighting is perfectly compatible with predestination. God foreordains sin, including theological infighting, to magnify his grace. If even Christians continue to fight among themselves, then clearly any good in us comes, not from us, but from God.

(Mind you, not all theological disagreements are sinful. There can be honest disagreements.)

So there is a rational explanation, consistent with Calvinism. However, I don’t begin with my autonomous reason. Rather, I begin with divine revelation. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

“On the other hand, if God created us with libertarian free will, then it makes sense, it wasn’t predetermined by God it is our own foolishness in action. “

There’s no reason to assume that libertarian freewill *entails* sin or folly. At most, it would only would involve the *possibility* of sin or folly.

And even then, this doesn’t mean that God has to choose a possible world in which that possibility plays out. Robert will have to come up with far more of an argument if he thinks that he has a rational alternative to the “nonsensical” position of Calvinism.

“The infighting among calvinists is however a reason to reject this claim that God has predetermined every event to occur and that God takes pleasure in these things and that it glorifies Him. Ain’t no way that God is taking pleasure in and being glorified by those 22 separate fights going on among those calvinists. Unless God is glorified and takes pleasure in sin and stupidity on the part of professing Christian believers.”

That’s an impious reason to reject predestination. The truth or falsity of predestination is a matter of revelation, not Robert’s humanistic, armchair objections.

And his objection is false on its own grounds. Libertarian freedom doesn’t entail sects or schisms or denominations. There are possible worlds without a Christian history at all. And why does he assume that all possible worlds with a Christian history *entail* theological infighting?

If he defines libertarian freewill as the freedom to do otherwise, then he can’t very well claim that theological infighting is *inevitable*. If it’s inevitable, then it’s unavoidable. Then what becomes of the freedom to do otherwise?

Logically, then, there must be one or more possible worlds, even on a libertarian scheme, in which there is no theological infighting. So what sense would it make for God to pick this world?

Anonymous said...

A great line from the blogger Steve: "...I don’t begin with “what makes sense.” I begin with revelation."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

who revealed what should "make sense" to you?

steve said...

robert said...

“I do not believe that every event is predetermined and part of a single all encompassing plan that predetermines every event. I believe that God has plans, but not that everything is predetermined.”

Notice that Robert is ducking the question. We already know that Robert denies predestination. That’s not question at issue.

The question is whether Robert thinks that everything is going according to plan. He correctly imputed that position to Calvinism. Since he rejects Calvinism, he must believe that everything is not going according to plan.

Does he therefore believe in unplanned events—from God’s perspective?

“I would say that God has a set of plans and He is working in every situation according to those plans (or purposes if you prefer).”

That’s how I’d expect an open theist to answer the question. God has a set of contingency plans. If plan A falls through, God has a backup plan.

But Robert says that he believes in divine foreknowledge. So why does he think that God has a “set of plans” rather than a comprehensive plan?

“I start with revelation too and you will not find TULIP taught in the OT.”

Actually, it’s not difficult to find TULIP in the OT, but even if it weren’t there, revelation is progressive. So what?

“And in the NT the only way you arrive at TULIP is if you proof text from certain verses (primarily Romans 9 and Ephesians 1)”

That’s a gross understatement of the evidence.

“And reinterpret other verses (e.g. John 3:16, 1 Jn. 2:2, etc. etc.) that contradict TULIP.”

I’ve been citing scholars on Johannine usage who are not card-carrying Calvinists.

“If you examine early church history you will not find TULIP until you arrive at Augustine.”

Notice that it didn’t take him any time to get away from Scripture. Because his Scriptural case is so weak, he had to pad it out by appealing to church history. Is Robert Greek Orthodox? I don’t think so. He only quotes church history when it suits his purpose.

“God doesn’t create people and cause them to be hell bound (that is calvinism and your gruesome doctrine of reprobation), that is their choice.”

But, according to your own position, God chooses to create them in full knowledge of their eternal doom. The fact that you think reprobate is “gruesome” does nothing to rationally justify your own position.

“Regarding some of your why questions, why don’t you ask God why He does what he does?”

Robert thinks he can jeer from the cheap seats and get away with it. That he gets a free shot at Calvinism. He leveled some rationalistic objections to Calvinism.

Okay, Robert, that tactic cuts both ways. Time for you to man up. If you think that Christians should repudiate Calvinism unless we can offer rational explanations in answer to your rationalistic objections, then we will hold you to the same standard. You don’t get to weasel out of this by resorting to a “why don’t you ask God?” line. If you seriously think that’s a valid riposte in defense of your position, then it’s also a valid riposte on the lips of a Calvinist.

“I believe that God allows us to sin and allows evil events to occur, but that is far different from Him predetermining for evil and sin to occur and taking pleasure in it.”

Even if you think that’s far different, you have yet to rationally justify your own alternative. All your doing here is to engage in a clumsy diversionary tactic. Once again, if you think that rationalistic objections are valid against Calvinism, then they are equally valid against your own position.

In that event, you need to come up with a positive explanation for why a loving and merciful God—unlike the “gruesome” and “sadistic” God of Calvinism—would knowingly create libertarian agents who will spend eternity in hell.

Even if you think the freewill defense is sufficient to explain why the damned are justly punished for their sins, that goes absolutely no distance in explaining, on libertarian grounds, why God would create hellbound sinners in the first place. Since you decided to attack Calvinism on rationalistic grounds, you need to see this all the way through to the conclusion. It’s not something you get to shuffle off with your sideways waffle.

Incidentally, I’m by no means conceding that Calvinism has no direct answers to rationalistic objections. I’m merely responding to Robert on his own terms.

Finally, Calvinism doesn’t hold that God takes pleasure in every event—considered in isolation to the greater good.

“Your next series of questions sound just like the questions that I hear from atheists.”

Yes, it’s called giving you a dose of your own medicine. He who lives by the sword of rationalism dies by the sword of rationalism.

“And again I would make a distinction between allowing things to occur and predetermining for things to occur. I do know that Jesus said in the world we would have tribulation, so why as Christians do we expect then for God not to allow any evil events or sins to occur. I also see looking at the apostles that he prevented their deaths on multiple occasions, and yet if church tradition is correct, 11 of the 12 apostles were martyred.”

I cited two natural evils: tidal waves (resulting in humanitarian disaster) and cancer (in children). What does it mean for you to say that God merely allows a tidal wave to strike? Are you a deist? Do you think that natural forces are autonomous forces—beyond God’s control? Do you think a tidal wave has libertarian freewill? Do you think a carcinoma is sinful?

Do you think that God “takes pleasure” in a natural humanitarian disaster? But surely he could prevent a *natural* evil without infringing on libertarian freewill—even if he couldn’t prevent a moral evil without so doing. So, if he doesn’t “take pleasure” in the outcome, why doesn’t he intervene to prevent it?

Notice, too, that Robert ducked my alternative. Why didn’t God at least warn the coastal populace of the impending tsunami?

Robert rushes to the defense of Reppert. And Reppert likes to say that we should judge the God of Calvinism but what an ordinary human being would do in the same situation. Well, wouldn’t an ordinary human being warn the coastal populace of the imminent catastrophe? How does that violate anyone’s freewill?

Remember, Robert chose to level rationalistic objections against Calvinism. So he needs to answer rationalistic objections to his own position. Give us a “sensible” explanation, Robert. Give us a “sensible” explanation for childhood leukemia, Robert—consistent with your libertarian commitments.

“Where in the bible does God ever say or promise or imply that we will never have problems and that he will prevent all evils and sins from occurring?”

The question is not what *Scripture* says, but what *you* say, according to your libertarian beliefs, Robert. Calvinists can cite chapter and verse, too.

If you’re going to take refuge in Scripture, then we can take refuge in all our Reformed prooftexts. If you don’t feel the need to “make sense” of all these evils, then why should we?

“Actually the objections I raise have been raised by both Christians and nonbelievers, this suggests not that these objections are false but that they are universal and also show that most of us have the same moral intuitions. So whether we are believers or unbelievers we recognize that if God is as the calvinists claim him to be then he is not loving, not good, not kind, not merciful…”

Of course, Robert is being duplicitous, since unbelievers like Hitchens, Dawkins, and Ingersoll—whom I had referenced—hardly limit their fire to the God of Calvinism. So if he thinks they’re tapping into universal moral intuition, so then much the worse of his own theistic alternative. As usual, Robert is so warped by his constitutional loathing of Calvinists and Calvinism that he’s constitutionally incapable of applying his argument to all parties concerned.

“And he also misleads us in his revelation because he tells us things such as that he loves the world and sent Jesus for the world and that he desires for all to be saved. When in reality those things are not true.”

Of course, a universalist would say the same thing about Robert’s exclusivist soteriology, since Robert drives a wedge between universal atonement and universal salvation. Robert reinterprets universalistic verses (e.g. John 3:16, 1 Jn. 2:2, etc. etc.) that contradict his dogmatic belief in limited salvation, thereby restricting the salvific love of God as well as the salvific will of God. Thus, Robert’s “gruesome” and “sadistic” God misleads us in his revelation.

Victor Reppert said...

Consider how biblical authority functions in this argument:

1) It is highly evident that Scripture teaches that people are responsible for their actions.

2) If actions are predestined and determined by some other being than themselves, then they are not responsible for their actions.

3) The biblical warrant for predestination is weaker than the biblical warrant for moral responsibility.

4) Scripture does not contradict itself.

5) Therefore, even if Scripture appears to teach predestination, it really doesn't.

As a thoroughgoing incompatibilist, how can I possibly be a Calvinist, given the fact that on my own view Calvinism would entail that I am not responsible for my actions, and hence it would be egregiously unjust of God to punish sinners who are not responsible for their actions. Given incompatibilism, it looks as if there is no way that Scripture could possibly teach Calvinism.

Paul Manata said...

Victor,

You're glossing over a lot:

1) It is highly evident that Scripture teaches that people are responsible for their actions.

2) It is just as evident that Scripture teaches that God works all things after the council of his own will (eph. 1, all means all, right? ;-), right down to the details, right down to the hair on Reppert's head.

3) Scripture does not contradict itself.

5) Therefore, Scripture teaches that men are responsible for what God decrees that they will do.


I've also given defeaters for your 2.

You refuse to get into the exegetical debate for statements like your 3.

I'd also note that your argument is an argument for why YOU feel rationally warranted in rejecting Calvinism.

But this isn't how you started out. You were trying to give an argument against why ANYONE shouldn't believe Calvinism,

As I've told you before, if you assume premises, then of course your argument goes through.

If a presuppose God, then atheism fails.

If I presuppose that "the brain can do it" then Reppert's AFR fails.

Melnynk's arguments convince physicalists, but not dualists like Reppert.

Naturalists are convinced by:

1) Since naturalism is all there is.

2) Supernaturalism is false.

3) So, at best, Jesus' resurrection must have a naturalistic explanation of it.

And, they just can't "see" rejecting 1. It seems evident to them.

So, Victor, if this whole thing boils down to you saying that if we assume indeterminism then Calvinism is false, okay, I grant it. But that's a completely uninteresting point in a *debate* and is insufficient to persuade your interlocutor; which is what I was assuming you wanted to do rather than preach to the Arminian choir.

I do find it funny that your argument now seeks to give a rational justification for how you can reject Calvinism when it began as an argument for why you should reject Calvinism! Perhaos you're saying more than you're aware of, or letting on about?

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Well, Victor, it’s disappointing to see you go soft on us at the last moment. Manata and I were planning a backyard BBQ for the holiday weekend for a few of our friends—Angel, Buffy, Hellboy, the partners at Wolfram & Hart, as well as the elders at the PCA church he currently attends. You were invited, too. But now it sounds as if you’d feel a bit out of place.

I hope that Spike and myself were just left off that list by accident. As a Calvinist and therefore a devil-worshiper, I'm likely to engage in some very hateful behavior if you've deliberately slighted me and my favorite reformed vampire.

Regards,
Bnonn

Victor Reppert said...

I'm just not persuaded by arguments for compatibilism. The Frankfurt counterexamples, if they work, show that you can be responsible if someone would have controlled your actions if you had chosen otherwise, not that you can be responsible if someone is actually controlling your actions.

Come on Paul. You've got to be kidding if you think the biblical evidence for predestination is as strong as the biblical evidence for moral responsibility. IF you have to choose between them, then you have to go with moral responsibility and say that the apparent teaching of Scripture is only apparent, (if it is indeed the apparent teaching of Scripture).

Why do you assume that the apparent teaching of Scripture is the real teaching of Scripture. Isn't it possible that our best exegesis is false?

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Victor, are you deriving your understanding of what constitutes moral responsibility from Scripture; or are you reading it into Scripture?

1. Scripture explicitly shows God causing Pharaoh to sin (eg Exodus 9:12).

2. Scripture explicitly shows God judging and condemning Pharaoh and the entire nation of Israel for that sin by sending ten amazingly destructive plagues (Exodus 9-14).

3. Since God's judgment, condemnation, and judgment is perfect and just (ie, he only condemns and punishes those who are morally culpable), it therefore follows that those whom God has caused to sin are morally culpable.

Do you have some other interpretation of Exodus 9-14, or do you deny its inspiration?

Regards,
Bnonn

Paul Manata said...

Victor Reppert said...
I'm just not persuaded by arguments for compatibilism. The Frankfurt counterexamples, if they work, show that you can be responsible if someone would have controlled your actions if you had chosen otherwise, not that you can be responsible if someone is actually controlling your actions.

Come on Paul. You've got to be kidding if you think the biblical evidence for predestination is as strong as the biblical evidence for moral responsibility. IF you have to choose between them, then you have to go with moral responsibility and say that the apparent teaching of Scripture is only apparent, (if it is indeed the apparent teaching of Scripture).

Why do you assume that the apparent teaching of Scripture is the real teaching of Scripture. Isn't it possible that our best exegesis is false?

8:51 PM

***********

Victor, you're clearly not up-to-date on your analysis of Frankfurt cases. Read libertarian Robert Kane's introduction to Free Will, for starters.

I am not kidding and your comments that I might be are not *arguments*. I could just as easily say, "C'mon, Victor, you have to be kidding of you *don't* think the arguments for God's sovereign control over all things isn't as good than moral responsibility."

Is that a good argument?

C'mon Victor, would you accept the stuff you;re trying to pull on me from one of your students? Is this how you teach critical thinking?

Victor, I think men can obtain knowledge of the text through exegesis.

Is it *possible* that it is false? Sure. I can dream up possible defeaters.

It's possible that your wife is a robot too.

It is possible that there is no past.

It is possible that our memory is mistaken.

It is possible that I'm dreaming.

It is possible that my sesnes are deceiving me.

C'mon Victor, you have to be kidding me.

Victor Reppert said...

God gave Pharoah the determination to follow through on his profound desire not to let the people go. Had he let them go, it would have been out of fear rather than out of a recognition that God was God. To harden a heart, in this context, means to provide it with determiniation to go ahead and do what it really wanted to do in the first place.

Victor Reppert said...

When I say you have a prima facie problem with the Calvinist picture, what I mean is that you can see the prima facie difficulty. Jesus could do that, probably, better than anyone. He might, if Calvinism is true, see the solution better than anyone else (surely better than me who can't see it at all), but he would see what the problem is.

Victor Reppert said...

The apparent teaching of Scripture could be false, and not just in some brain-in-th-vat scenario. It could be false and we could have good reason to think that it is false. I can affirm this without denying inerrancy. There is a good deal we don't understand about Scripture. Why think we understand it perfectly well when it seems abundantly clear that we don't.

Paul Manata said...

But Victor, I don't have any good reason to think my reading is false. I'm confident in my reading. I believe we can *know* what the text teaches. Here's another possible way my reading could be shown to be in error: do the work. Show it to me. But to just sit there and *assert* some vague, ambiguous, nefarious "possibility" isn't an *argument*. You're just playing the skeptic's card. It is uninteresting.

If you have good reason to think my reading is false, let me know, I haven't seen any yet.

Secondly, Victor, your claim is that one must see that there is a prima facie *moral* problem. I don't think Jesus would see that. To think that is to impute your assumptions on to the debate. In fact, I think that the *only* reason that the moral problem even arises is due to loads of *other* false (ex hypothesis, fore sake of argument) beliefs (i.e., on sovereignty, on freedom, on moral responisbility, etc.). I don't think Jesus would hold those beliefs, and so, no, he wouldn't see the problem. Not even a prima facie problem. I don't.

But, if you mean, "Well, can't you see the problem GIVEN ALL THESE OTHER BELIEFS???", yell, yes. And I've stated since day one that if you assume non-Calvinistic and non-compatibilistic theories, then our view looks problematic. Just like your view, from where I'm standing, looks problematic to me. I find your view inconsistent with many moral intuitions I hold, philosophical and exegetical positions as well.

So, my Jesus argument still goes through.

Anyway, the main point here is to justify the claims that Hays et al. have made against you. Given some of your claims, you can see how they were justified in saying what they did. So it was a bit unfair for you to ask him to "take it back."

Paul Manata said...

Victor Reppert said...

I can affirm this without denying inerrancy. There is a good deal we don't understand about Scripture. Why think we understand it perfectly well when it seems abundantly clear that we don't.

2:03 PM

***********

But the funny thing here is that this out grants my theodicy I used on you.

I maintain that your agreement with Wesley either forces you to be inconsistent in your arguments against me, or forces you to allow one of my main arguments to go through.

When I resorted to Skeptical theist arguments, resorted to mystery and the secret council of God, you responded:

REPPERT: "It seems we should prefer positions that offer something in the direction of an explanation over positions that offer nothing."

And,

REPPERT: "If you have one scientific theory that says "I have no idea why there are gaps in the fossil record" and someone else says "I have a way of telling you how they got there" the second theory has an advantage."

And,

REPPERT: "As I see it, there is an epistemic cost involved in appealing to mystery and unknown or unknowable reasons, and so you want to bring that pitcher in as late in the game as possible."

And,

REPPERT: "It's my contention, however, that the more you appeal to mystery, the worse it is for you epistemically. The more of an explanation you can have for suffering, the better your theology is, all things being equal."

That's enough.

So, it is my contention, that Victor's endorsement of Wesley offers evidence against his previous responses to my arguments to the effect that he must (a) admit my arguments are sufficient to answer his ethical objections to Calvinism, or (b) self-except himself from his own critiques.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

God gave Pharoah the determination to follow through on his profound desire not to let the people go. Had he let them go, it would have been out of fear rather than out of a recognition that God was God. To harden a heart, in this context, means to provide it with determiniation to go ahead and do what it really wanted to do in the first place.

I agree; but how does this refute my argument? Let me put it another way—

1. To have a hard heart against God is sin.
2. Pharaoh had a hard heart against God.
3. Therefore, Pharaoh sinned.

2a. Pharaoh hardened his heart against God.
3a. Therefore, Pharoah sinned.

2b. God hardened Pharaoh's heart against God.
3b. Therefore, Pharaoh sinned.

However you want to look at this, the fact remains that (i) God causally determined Pharaoh's refusal to let Israel go; and (ii) he then also judged and punished Pharaoh for this refusal. (And not only Pharaoh, but all of Egypt.) Additionally, by your own implicit admission, Pharaoh would have let Israel go had God not hardened his heart. Thus, God actively prevented Pharaoh from obeying his explicit command; yet he still punished him for this disobedience.

You can make a greater good defense to vindicate God's actions. I think you've implied one in what you've said: it was a greater good for Pharaoh to let Israel go out of a genuine recognition of God's greatness than out of fear. Maybe this is true. But this raises some questions:

I. Is it a greater good to disobey God than to obey him out of fear? This greater good defense seems to imply as much. But my moral intuitions tell me that it's always better to obey God, even if our motivations are less than noble.

II. Assuming that a greater good defense works here, how does this not strengthen my argument, since Calvinists frequently affirm that God ordains sin so as to bring about a greater good?

III. How does a greater good defense mitigate the fact that God held Pharaoh morally responsible for actions which he was unable to avoid? Since, in your view, moral responsibility is predicated upon libertarian freedom (ie, we are only responsible for actions which we could have avoided), and since Pharaoh could not have avoided refusing to let Israel go since his heart was hardened by God, then in your view God could not have held Pharaoh responsible for this refusal. Yet God did hold Pharaoh responsible, despite Pharaoh's inability to choose other than what God determined through the action of hardening his heart. The question of why God did this is patently irrelevant to the fact that he did so, and yet still held Pharaoh accountable.

If you say that God was just because Pharaoh himself still chose according to his greatest desire, then you have conceded the compatibilist position and have no argument against Calvinism as regards moral responsibility. If you say that Pharaoh was not inexorably predetermined to refuse, despite God's action in hardening his heart, you say that both God's prophecy about and his influence over Pharaoh were fallible, and that God is unable to bring about the very results he promises to obtain. If you say that God was unjust, you are worshiping an Omnipotent Fiend. And if you don't want to say any of the above, you must concede that Scripture is in error.

4. Pharaoh's refusal was inexorably predetermined by God.
5. God justly punished Pharaoh for his refusal.
6. Therefore, we can be held morally responsible for inexorably predetermined actions.

You can either deny (4) or you can deny (5). Any one of these denials is heterodox. So either your understanding of moral responsibility is false, or God is fallible or unjust, or Scripture is in error.

Will you choose Calvinism, open theism, Omnipotent Fiendism, or rampant liberalism?

Regards,
Bnonn

steve said...

For a detailed exegetical analysis, cf.

http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/02-Exodus/Text/Articles/Beale-Hardening-TJ.pdf

steve said...

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

I hope that Spike and myself were just left off that list by accident. As a Calvinist and therefore a devil-worshiper, I'm likely to engage in some very hateful behavior if you've deliberately slighted me and my favorite reformed vampire.__

Regards,

Bnonn

************

I apologize if we offended you. Manata and I were just trying to spare you the expense of round trip tickets from New Zealand to Sunnydale and back.

Hopefully this doesn’t portend that you’re now going to summon the Ubervamp from Hellmouth to wreak vengeance on Manata and me for our innocent and well-meaning faux pas.

Devil-worshipers really need to lighten-up a bit. It’s not as if the life of your average accurséd, devil-worshiper is just one damned thing after another.

Well, on second thought, may be it is…

Rob Grano said...

Victor wrote, "As I see it, there is an epistemic cost involved in appealing to mystery and unknown or unknowable reasons, and so you want to bring that pitcher in as late in the game as possible."

For what it's worth, both the Calvinists and the Orthodox posit a mystery at the heart of this question, albeit they state it differently. The former say "God has predetermined all things, including man's will, yet man is morally responsible for his actions. This is due to a mystery, i.e., God's inscrutable secret will."

The Orthodox church, following the Greek fathers primarily, says "God is sovereign and His plan will not be thwarted, yet the creaturely freedom is a true freedom, and not just an apparent one. How these two things work together is a mystery."

Ilíon said...

"... albeit they state it differently."

Yeah, I'd say that diametrically opposed statements counts as "stating it differently."