Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Calvinism and the two motivations for evangelism

Arminians like John Wesley have sometimes charged that Calvinism undercuts the motivation to evangelize. I think this charge is half true. It seems to me that evangelism is motivated both by Christ's command to evangelize, and out desire that others be saved.

I see the point of evangelism based on obeying a commandment, predestination or no predestination. What I don't see is why our evangelizing makes any difference with respect to the outcome. If I preach the gospel, then God, before the foundation of the world, sovereignly chose that I would do so. If I fail to preach, then God, before the foundation of the world, sovereignly chose that I would not preach. So my choice affects what God sovereignly chose before the foundation of the world? That's called Molinism, and it's a version of Arminianism.


So I think the motivation based on outcome is dissipated once you accept the idea that you can't change who is and who is not elect. Thank God I'm not a Calvinist, so I can accept the outcome-based motivation as well as the command-based motivation.

Calvinists need not see this as a problem for their view.

32 comments:

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

This is inept, Victor. Try again.

Victor Reppert said...

"We do not consider God’s commands worth following because of some pragmatic result which they bring about. We consider them valuable because they are God’s commands!"-Bnonn

Calvinists need not see this as a problem for their view.-VR

But isn't there a sense in which if Calvinism is true, our actions don't affect the final outcome in the way that they might if Calvinism were not true?

Anonymous said...

"But isn't there a sense in which if Calvinism is true, our actions don't affect the final outcome in the way that they might if Calvinism were not true?"

Means? Ends?

mattghg said...

You could look at it that way. But there's another way of looking at it: Calvinism increases confidence in evangelism because there's always a chance that the person with whom you're sharing the gospel will be among the elect, so you wouldn't have to worry about making a mess of it, which might be a worry for an Arminian.

Just a thought.

Victor Reppert said...

Yes, if Calvinism is true, your preaching of the gospel can play a central causal role in the production of someone's coming to saving faith. But on the other hand, ultimately, the question of whether a person will or will not be saved is fixed before the foundation the world.

Mattghg does raise an interesting point, that if Arminianism is true, then not only a person's own choices, but also the choices of others can effect someone's eternal destiny. So if a loved one is eternally lost, one could forever kick oneself thinking that if I hadn't been such a jerk that day, my daughter wouldn't have rebelled against God and become eternally lost. Or, if I had given more to missions, the truck would have made it to that tribe in Africa, and some people would have been saved who were in fact lost.

So I think there would have to be a third motive for evangelism, namely, the privilege of instrumentality in the salvation of others, which you can still have. However, your actions can't affect whether or not that person is elect, if Calvinism is true. The fix was in on that one before the Big Bang banged.

Anonymous said...

"But on the other hand, ultimately, the question of whether a person will or will not be saved is fixed before the foundation the world."

Um, yeah. But that's true on any view that assumes God's foreknowledge.

Also, so what? How's that a relevant rejoinder to the initial question about "playing any role"? It's not.

"However, your actions can't affect whether or not that person is elect, if Calvinism is true. The fix was in on that one before the Big Bang banged."

So? That effects evalgelism, how, exactly? We evangelize because God has so ordained that the ordinary means by which his elect are saved in history is through the preaching and the proclimation of the word.

So, with that, what's left of your critique?

Victor Reppert said...

Except that on non-Calvinist views the past event of God's choosing who is saved before the foundation of the world can be affected by human actions.

Some people, for example, think that we can go back in time and change the past. You may not think this idea coherent, and I've got my doubts, but some people think that God looks at future free choices and decides what to do based on those. In other words, his choice before the foundation of the world was affected by what we decide to do.

Victor Reppert said...

I am not sure there is a critique. I was trying to distinguish two types of motivations for evangelism, one being divine command, the other having to do with somehow making a difference with respect to the salvation of others. Now the tricky part is indeed that many Arminians think that God foreknew the elect before the foundation of the world. However, these Arminians believe that nevertheless his foreknowledge does not entail that the matter is fixed; that what we choose plays a causal role in what he chooses on the basis of his foreknowledge. On this matter that Calvinist lies down with the open theist and says that these Arminian models (eternity solution, Molinism, etc., denial of the necessity of the past a la Mavrodes, etc.) don't hang together. However, conservative Arminians think that this leaves the possibilities open. We can perform actions which will make it more or less likely that someone is saved.

Calvinists believe that the membership of the elect was fixed by a divine action that we do not and cannot control in any way. We can be motivated to evangelize based on divine command, and by being given the privilege of playing a causal role in the actualization of someone's salvation, that is, of a person's coming to receive saving grace. And if I were a Calvinist the next words to come out of my mouth would be "What more do you want?" (Do you want fries with that?)

But nevertheless this is an "outcome-based" motivation for evanglism that an Arminian has which a Calvinist lacks. This is admittedly a modest result, and I am not expecting Calvinists to do the duck and cover.

#John1453 said...

The other problem with Calvinism and witnessing/ evangelization is that, even aside from the predestination and election issue, the witnessing itself is entirely irrelevant to salvation. This result flows from the order of salvation ("ordo salutis" for jargon geeks) of Calvinists. Calvinists believe that the elect person must be first be regenerated by God before the gospel can have any effect (without regeneration the gospel will be rejected by the person).

So under Calvinisim there is no sense in which the offer of the gospel is made to all people. Until someone is regenerated by God, it's like talking to a deaf and blind person.

BTW, Steve Hays has a lame post about this issue at his Triablop. He's a chicken who's afraid to debate with people that know anything. For example, I've been banned from posting on his website before even one post by me appeared on his website, because he lost a debate with me. Then he posted a long "refutation" (in his imagination) of my post but would not allow me to respond. Oh well, there's all kinds in this world.

regards,
#John

steve said...

#John1453 said...

"BTW, Steve Hays has a lame post about this issue at his Triablop. He's a chicken who's afraid to debate with people that know anything. For example, I've been banned from posting on his website before even one post by me appeared on his website, because he lost a debate with me."

i) First of all, someone who posts comments under "Profile Not Available" is in a singularly poor position to accuse anyone else of being a chicken. Here's a word of advice for "John": those who live in glass chicken coops shouldn't throw stones.

ii) Second, I debated him ad nauseum over at Justin Taylor's blog.

iii) Third, I debated him extensively at Tblog back when he was posting under a slightly different name.

iv) Apropos (iii), for him to say he was banned before he ever posted anything at Tblog is demonstrably false. All he's done is to slightly change his name to conceal his previous identity.

v) I didn't ban him. Another admin did. But I support that decision.

vi) Since I've debated extensively with Reppert, "John" must think Reppert "doesn't know anything."

#John1453 said...

matghg wrote, "Calvinism increases confidence in evangelism because there's always a chance that the person with whom you're sharing the gospel will be among the elect,"

That cuts both ways, doesn't it? One could also say that it decreases confidence in evangelism because there's always a chance that the person you're sharing the gospel with is either not elect or has not yet been regenerated by God. Moreover, since the elect are few in comparison to the numbers that are sent to hell, it's far more likely that you're sharing the gospel will have no effect.

As to Steve Hays comments.

I don't recall ever debating Steve Hays at Tblog, though I suppose it's possible. Also I've been using #John1453 for quite a while. I don't post a profile because I think they are pointless, though obviously other people don't. "John" is my true first name, but I don't use my last name because I get enough garbage emails as it is (though I'm not suggesting that visitor's to this site would) and because a pedophile has the same name as me and because it appears to me that the use of a nom de plume is part of the blogging world. I would suggest to Steve that it is inappropriate to post a lengthy "rebuttal" to someone's post on another blog site without allowing that person to respond. But whatever, I'm not crying over my keyboard. And to be clear, when I was posting at Justin Taylors blog site, I was banned at that time without being able to post in the contemporaneous (and same subject matter) posts on Tblog (which I had attempted to post on but found that I was banned). I will not post any more on the issue of debating S. Hays.

regards,
#John

#John1453 said...

I would further Repperts post and subsequent comments by observing that there is also another reason for a reduction in internal motivations (i.e., I can make a difference) for witnessing by Calvinists and a guilt reducing aspect related to that.

Your neighbour next door that you (Calvinist) never witnessed to and then died in a car accident? Don't feel guilty, he wasn't elect anyway and even if you had said something to him about Jesus, your witnessing would not have changed his non-elect status. Consequently, you needn't ever feel guilty about not witnessing to someone. If God has elected them, then He will arrange for them to hear the gospel from someone. If God has not elected them, then all the witnessing in the world won't make a difference.

Furthermore, before the Bema seat of God a Calvinist would never be responsible, morally or otherwise, for someone being "lost" and "gone to hell" because of their failure to witness. Witnessing is irrelevant unless God has previously regenerated the unsaved person. The only thing that God could hold the non-witnessing Calvinist responsible for is "disobeying his command to witness". A Calvinist is never, could never be, responsible for someone landing in hell.

Regards,
#John

steve said...

#John1453 said...

"I would suggest to Steve that it is inappropriate to post a lengthy 'rebuttal' to someone's post on another blog site without allowing that person to respond."

I'd suggest to "John" that it's inappropriate for him to whine about his inability to leech off of someone else's blog when he's free to start his own blog and respond there. Instead of shaking someone else's apple tree for free produce, try planting one of your own.

#John1453 said...

Steve Hays wrote, "I'd suggest to "John" that it's inappropriate for him to whine about his inability to leech off of someone else's blog when he's free to start his own blog and respond there. Instead of shaking someone else's apple tree for free produce, try planting one of your own."

OK, I did. Go here:

http://stevehaysisachickenshitdebater.blogspot.com/

steve said...

Reppert first said:] “I see the point of evangelism based on obeying a commandment, predestination or no predestination. What I don't see is why our evangelizing makes any difference with respect to the outcome.”

Reppert now says: “Yes, if Calvinism is true, your preaching of the gospel can play a central causal role in the production of someone's coming to saving faith.”

Isn’t coming to saving faith an outcome? So, he’s gone from predestined evangelism making *no* difference to the outcome to its making a *central causal role* in the outcome.

“But on the other hand, ultimately, the question of whether a person will or will not be saved is fixed before the foundation the world.”

The outcome is predestined in conjunction with predestined factors which yield that outcome. Its futurition is not inevitable apart from the intervening causes.

“However, your actions can't affect whether or not that person is elect, if Calvinism is true.”

Reppert is now committing the schoolboy error of reducing Calvinism to fatalism, as if the outcome were insulated from any attendant circumstances.

Now, it’s true that, in Calvinism, we can’t change God’s mind. But our actions are a necessary condition of the outcome.

Isn’t Reppert familiar with the counterfactual theory of causation? Unless A obtains, B will not obtain.

If Paul didn’t evangelize Lydia, then Lydia would be forever lost.

"Bill" said...

"Steve Hays has a lame post about this issue at his Triablop. He's a chicken who's afraid to debate with people that know anything."

John, given that Steve has engaged in extensive debates with Victor Reppert, I guess you must think that Reppert "doesn't know anything."

:-D

Victor Reppert said...

There's a complex issue here. One the one hand, there is a causal relation between evangelism and saving faith. On the other hand, when we envision an alternative choice on our part reaching an alternative result, the counterfactual not only has a false, but an impossible antecedent. "If Paul had not evangelized Lydia" isn't possible, given the what God has predestined.
The old way of defending compatibilism (before Frankfurt came along), was to say that "I could have done otherwise" is true of someone whose actions determined, it's just that antecedent conditions had to have been different going all the way back to the beginning in order to me to have done otherwise. So how would you assess the counterfactual "If Paul had not evanglized Lydia, Lydia would have remained unsaved," given the fact that God could have predestined Lydia to have been saved through the ministry of other Christians, or by giving Lydia a Paul-like vision without a human evangelist, or God could have left Lydia to die in her sins. If God is calling the shots, how in the world could we possibly have access to God's mind to decide which of these three possible worlds is the closest possible world (which is how you determine the truth value of counterfactuals when you use a counterfactual theory of causation). This is difficult enough when you aren't dealing with a predestinating God.

All of which goes to show that belief in determinism, with our without a predestinating God, is a profoundly unnatural belief.

Victor Reppert said...

I would add that Calvinists these days like to borrow Bill Hasker's arguments to the effect that open theism is the only way to avoid theological fatalism. But then they want to say that Calvinism is not fatalistic. You can't help yourself to both of these strategies. If Hasker's arguments work, you're stuck with OT or fatalism. If they don't, then you can't use them.

#John1453 said...

Steve on Dec. 4 at 5:44 p.m. wrote, "Reppert is now committing the schoolboy error of reducing Calvinism to fatalism, as if the outcome were insulated from any attendant circumstances. . . . If Paul didn’t evangelize Lydia, then Lydia would be forever lost."

One also has to distinguish between essential cause and causally free. Paul is a cause in the same way that a hammer is a cause of a nail being driven into a board. Both the hammer and Paul are mere instruments and could not do otherwise than they have been foreordained to be used by their user. They would be mere instrumental causes, but not final causes.

First, it is not a schoolboy error to call Calvinism fatalism, because that is in fact what it is. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online) defines Fatalism as "Fatalism is the view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. It may be argued for in various ways: by appeal to logical laws and metaphysical necessities; by appeal to the existence and nature of God; by appeal to causal determinism. When argued for in the first way, it is commonly called "Logical fatalism" (or, in some cases, "Metaphysical fatalism"); when argued for in the second way, it is commonly called "Theological fatalism". When argued for in the third way it is not now commonly referred to as "fatalism" at all, and such arguments will not be discussed here." So Calvinism (and not the so-called hyper-Calvinism) is fatalistic and is thus a form of theological fatalism.

In regard to the Lydia example, God would also have foreordained that Paul would speak to her after God had regenerated her and thus she would have responded to the Gospel that Paul preached. However, if Paul had not preached to her, then that (i.e., no preaching by Paul) would have been what God foreordained.

BTW, I admit that calling Steve a chicken---t in the title of my blog was juvenile and inappropriate, so I've changed the blog name to "http://debatestevehays.blogspot.com/"

regards,
#John

steve said...

Victor Reppert said...

“So how would you assess the counterfactual ‘If Paul had not evanglized Lydia, Lydia would have remained unsaved,’ given the fact that God could have predestined Lydia to have been saved through the ministry of other Christians, or by giving Lydia a Paul-like vision without a human evangelist, or God could have left Lydia to die in her sins. If God is calling the shots, how in the world could we possibly have access to God's mind to decide which of these three possible worlds is the closest possible world (which is how you determine the truth value of counterfactuals when you use a counterfactual theory of causation).”

Of course, a logistical problem is that you keep swerving from one position to another. You first said: “I see the point of evangelism based on obeying a commandment, predestination or no predestination. What I don't see is why our evangelizing makes any difference with respect to the outcome.”

When challenged, you then appeared to reverse course: “Yes, if Calvinism is true, your preaching of the gospel can play a central causal role in the production of someone's coming to saving faith.”

In terms of the current permutation of your argument, you’re shifting grounds from the metaphysical question of whether our actions contribute to the outcome to the epistemic question of how we evaluate counterfactual statements. But that’s a blatant equivocation.

Moreover, the difficulty in proving which possible world is the closest possible world is hardly limited to compatibilism. How does a libertarian answer that question? Do *you* have access to the minds of all the libertarian agents whose free choices contribute to some particular outcome?

“I would add that Calvinists these days like to borrow Bill Hasker's arguments to the effect that open theism is the only way to avoid theological fatalism. But then they want to say that Calvinism is not fatalistic. You can't help yourself to both of these strategies. If Hasker's arguments work, you're stuck with OT or fatalism. If they don't, then you can't use them.”

Are you using “fatalism” as a pejorative synonym for determinism and/or compatibilism? But as you know very well, “fatalism” is generally taken to mean that even if you do otherwise, you end up fulfilling your fate. If you’re fated to die tomorrow, you will die if you stay in bed, and you will die if you get up out of bed.

Is that how you are using the term? If so, that’s a malicious caricature of Calvinism. But if you’re using it as a pejorative synonym for compatilism, then Calvinists are happy to be stuck with that (compatibilist) consequence.

Of course, Hasker thinks that anything short of open theism is too fatalistic for his blood.

Robert said...

Hello John,

Steve Hays wrote:

“Reppert is now committing the schoolboy error of reducing Calvinism to fatalism, as if the outcome were insulated from any attendant circumstances.”

John you effectively countered this with:

“First, it is not a schoolboy error to call Calvinism fatalism, because that is in fact what it is. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online) defines Fatalism as "Fatalism is the view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do.”

I checked out a few more sources and Hays is wrong on this while John you are correct.

For example, John Martin Fischer defines fatalism as: “Fatalism is the doctrine that it is a logical or conceptual truth that no person is ever free to do otherwise.” Necessitarians like Hays believe God predetermined every event and so we must do what we do and it is impossible that we do otherwise, we have no free will in the libertarian sense. Hays’ view leads to “no person is ever free to do otherwise.” William Lane Craig discussing fatalism says: “The great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, for example, argued that given an omnipotent and omniscient God who foreknows our every thought, it is impossible that we should do anything other than what we in fact do: freedom to do otherwise is an illusion. Certain Calvinist theologians, notably the brilliant American theologian and revivalist Jonathan Edwards, argued similarly. In our own day Paul Helm, a Calvinist philosopher of religion, has repeatedly and vigorously defended theological fatalism.” Incidentally Helm espouses the same sort of calvinism that Hays espouses.

So it seems clear that Hugh Rice (author of the fatalism article John referenced), Fischer, and Craig are in agreement that calvinism **is** Fatalism.

Perhaps I should start calling Hays and his ilk “Fatalists” rather than Necessitarians. :-)

So John you were correct and Hays is wrong about fatalism.

Robert

PS - John, just a warning of whom you are dealing with: “Bill” Smith the sock puppet is Paul Manata a guy who used to post at Triablogue and now posts anonymously or with various sock puppets so he can attack other believers while remaining anonymous. And you already know about how Hays constantly engages in personal attacks and put downs. They are not good representatives of calvinism as there are some calvinists that you can actually have a reasonable and civil discussion with (but not them).

#John1453 said...

Thanks for the heads up, Robert. I've been learning a fair bit lately about Hays and Manata; they appear to be well known in certain blogging circles.

regards,
#John

steve said...

"This is one of the most common confusions in free will debates. Fatalism is the view that whatever is going to happen, is going to happen, no matter what we do. Determinism alone does not imply such a consequence. What we decide and what we do would make a difference in how things turn out -- often an enormous difference -- even if determinism should be true," Robert Kane, A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will (Oxford 2005), 19

Robert said...

“Now fatalism should not be confused with determinism, the view that all our choices and actions are determined by prior causes.” (William Lane Craig)

I do not dispute the idea that all of our choices and actions are determined by prior causes (in the case of freely performed actions, we cause our own actions, we make our own choices, agent causation is in operation with these kinds of choices and actions). But fatalism is something different.

As the multiple authors I already quoted suggest, it has to do with the claim that you cannot do otherwise than what you do. If you** must** do something, if it is impossible for you to do otherwise, then again according to John Martin Fischer “Fatalism is the doctrine that it is a logical or conceptual truth that no person is ever free to do otherwise.” According to Fischer then, calvinism ***is*** fatalism.

The disagreement is not concerning how outcomes are arrived at (if I don’t drive to the stadium or take a helicopter or put on a rocket pack, etc. etc., then I will get to the game regardless). The disagreement does not concern whether or not different actions will lead to the identical outcome (or different outcomes).

No, the issue is in regards to the person doing the action, or making the choice, are they free to do otherwise or not?

If not, if instead it is impossible for them to do otherwise than they do, then by Fischer and the others understanding of fatalism, that **is** fatalism. Recall again Craig’s words about Paul Helm who he takes to be espousing fatalism ("In our own day Paul Helm, a Calvinist philosopher of religion, has repeatedly and vigorously defended theological fatalism.”). Hays espouses the same thing as Helm, so according to Craig, Hays espouses fatalism as well.

Calvinism thus according to all of the philosophers that I cited **is** fatalism.

Robert

#John1453 said...

It appears that there are two different definitions for fatalism.

By one definition, fatalism is a synonym for determinism.

By another definition, fatalism is different. Under this second definition fatalism refers to the inability to change outcomes regardless of the behaviour of the actors prior to that outcome. For example, in the Greek legend about Oedipus he attempts to avoid the fate predicted by the Oracle by fleeing the kingdom. However, despite all his efforts to change the predicted fate, it occurs anyway (he kills his father and marries his mother).

As long as commenters are clear about which definition they are using, discussion should not be a problem.

regards,
#John

Robert said...

Hello John,

I provided definitions of fatalism by first rank philosophers (i.e. John Martin Fischer and William Lane Craig) that were in agreement with the definition that you provided from the article on Fatalism. These men represent the standard definition of fatalism in philosophy. The problem is calvinists such as Hays do not like to be called “fatalists” and want to distance themselves from fatalism. There are not two different definitions; rather, calvinists want to redefine the term so that it better fits what they want to believe. And they do not want to be referred to as fatalists. They do the same things with biblical terms as well (e.g. just look at what they do with the “all” passages in the bible that clearly present Jesus dying for all people not just a preselected few). Non-Christian cults do the same thing when terms do not present what they want (they redefine the terms to fit their false theological systems). I see nothing wrong with the descriptions provided by Fischer and Craig. And yet a calvinist will try to define things differently.

Fischer’s definition is very succinct and simple and again perfectly describes the kind of calvinism espoused by people like Steve Hays. I say go by the standard usage of the term as exemplified in the fatalism article you first cited as well as by Fischer and Craig.

“By one definition, fatalism is a synonym for determinism.”

Recall that I provided a direct quote from Craig where he differentiates between fatalism and determinism.

“Under this second definition fatalism refers to the inability to change outcomes regardless of the behaviour of the actors prior to that outcome.”

This definition is not the one being used by Fischer, Craig, etc. This second definition is actually a caricature of fatalism. It is irrational to claim that you could do different actions and end up with the identical outcome or result. Calvinists will point this out and then conclude that of course calvinism is not that. And Calvinism is **not** THAT, because that is not what philosophers mean by fatalism. That is a caricature of the fatalism position in philosophy.

Again, look at Fischer’s definition: ““Fatalism is the doctrine that it is a logical or conceptual truth that no person is ever free to do otherwise.” Fischer is not suggesting that fatalism is the belief that one can do opposite actions and end up with the same result anyway (I can’t raise my hand and not raise my hand in the same class and have the professor recognize me and answer my question). Rather, Fischer is saying that fatalism means that you **must** do what you do, that it is impossible for you to do otherwise. So by the caricature of fatalism, calvinism is not fatalism. But if you go by Fischer’s understanding of fatalism, then calvinism **is** fatalism.

“As long as commenter’s are clear about which definition they are using, discussion should not be a problem.”

Right, calvinists should drop their caricature of fatalism, the one they attempt to use to distance themselves from fatalism. And instead go by the definition of Fischer and admit that by that definition (which again was clear in the fatalism article that you cited John, as well as agreed upon by Craig):

CALVINISM IS FATALISM.

Robert

#John1453 said...

Thanks for your further comment on fatalism, Robert. I do agree with you. More important that the choice of words is the concept at issue, which is something that we both agree on, and agree with Fischer, Craig, Stanford, etc.

The ancient Greek notion of fatalism, which appears in their legends and which is what Hays seems to refer to, is not germane to and in modern philosophical discussion. The ancient Greeks held to their particular view of fatalism because of the cultural importance and significance of oracles, and the connection of oracles to the Gods. The belief was so dominant and assumed as truth that all Greek philosophers had to incorporate the truth of oracular sayings into any discussion of will, freedom and the future (unless they were atheists).

It is ironic that the fatalism of the Calvinists is even more severe than that of the Greeks. If an oracle declared that Oedipus would kill his father, the oracle only determined that one fact and did not determine Oedipus' intervening actions (i.e., his actions between the time of the oracle and the eventual death of his father).

However, the Calvinist fatalism is so complete and deterministic that it does not allow any freedom whatsoever at any point in time. Under the Calvinist description of God, God would not only have foreordained the death of Oedipus' father by Oedipus' hand, but also determined and foreordained by decree every action of Oedipus.

So, upon reflection we see that the Calvinist cannot even avoid the second sense of fatalism because the Calvinist asserts not only that the outcome (i.e. specific future fact, such as a killing) is fated, but also that every step along the way is fated. The Greek sense of fate is actual more free because only the outcome is fated, not every step along the way.

regards,
#John

Robert said...

Hello John, (part 1)

“Thanks for your further comment on fatalism, Robert. I do agree with you. More important that the choice of words is the concept at issue, which is something that we both agree on, and agree with Fischer, Craig, Stanford, etc.”

Good to see that we agree, and you are correct what is most important is not the particular word but the concept being employed. And the **concept** of fatalism used by Fischer, et al, matches the calvinism that claims all events are predetermined.

“The ancient Greek notion of fatalism, which appears in their legends and which is what Hays seems to refer to, is not germane to and in modern philosophical discussion.”

Remember, Hays wants to distance his beloved calvinism from fatalism. So his tack is to distance himself from the Greek notion of fatalism. But that is not what philosophers like Fischer and the others are talking about when discussing fatalism.

“However, the Calvinist fatalism is so complete and deterministic that it does not allow any freedom whatsoever at any point in time.”

It is one thing to argue that we sometimes lose our freedom with respect to a specific choice, or that some factor overrides our particular choices. But the calvinism that claims all events are predetermined completely eliminates our EVER HAVING A CHOICE. And that is both an extreme position and a false position. It involves a universal negative: we never ever have a choice. This universal negative is refuted by tons of readily available evidence: both from our own daily experience as well as biblical examples (unless you argue that our experience is **always illusory** and **reinterpret** all of the bible passages that refer to persons having choices). A person properly interpreting the available evidence would conclude that we in fact sometimes do have choices.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello John (part 2),

“Under the Calvinist description of God, God would not only have foreordained the death of Oedipus' father by Oedipus' hand, but also determined and foreordained by decree every action of Oedipus.”

Exactly, not only is every specific outcome predecided so is every action that occurs. The calvinist who holds to exhaustive predetermination of all events, will claim that it is all predetermined with no exceptions and yet when the non-Calvinist points out that if this is true, this leads to us being more like robots or puppets than genuine human persons, the necessitarians will then claim that is not an accurate portrayal of their view.

Ask people about the worst kind of manager to work for, and they will tell you, it is one who micromanages everything, who sits over your shoulder and is so involved that they do not allow you to even do the work yourself. We know this is wrong in the context of a work environment, and so when the calvinist comes to us with their micromanaging concept of God we naturally reject it. We were designed by God to be capable of performing our own actions, thinking our own thoughts, being individual persons. Exhaustive predeterminism attacks this and makes us less than what God designed us to be.

“So, upon reflection we see that the Calvinist cannot even avoid the second sense of fatalism because the Calvinist asserts not only that the outcome (i.e. specific future fact, such as a killing) is fated, but also that every step along the way is fated. The Greek sense of fate is actually more free because only the outcome is fated, not every step along the way.”

If by “fated” we mean what Fischer means by the term fatalism, then under exhaustive predeterminism, all of our actions are “fated” and it is impossible for us to do otherwise than we end up doing. What is sad is that those who espouse this necessitarian view are not usually forthright about it. They will not come out and explicitly say that YOU NEVER EVER HAVE A CHOICE. And if you watch them carefully, listening to their words and observing what they actually do, **none of them** lives as if they never ever have a choice. They in fact live like everybody else, speaking of the choices they have, deliberating between alternatives that they believe to be available and accessible. The fact is, none of them lives out in daily life what they espouse in their philosophizing/theologizing. The more consistent they are with their professed beliefs the more they depart from reality (and vice versa).

Robert

#John1453 said...

The Calvinist theory also seems inconsistent with the moral sense of unsaved man as described in Romans. In Romans Paul indicates that unsaved people can determine that God exists and that they retain an accurate moral sensitivity. Given that truth, then part of the sense of morality is that we are morally responsible because our actions are causally free and ultimately determined by our own selves.

regards,
#John

Robert said...

Hello John,

“The Calvinist theory also seems inconsistent with the moral sense of unsaved man as described in Romans.”

Inconsistent with both the unsaved man in Romans as well as the unsaved man in the streets.

Example – I evangelize a lot with inmates and once they are converted have extensive follow up. I discuss their conversion experiences with them and they will often speak of at first being hostile to Christianity but then experiencing a growing awareness that it is true and that they need to repent of their sin and follow Jesus. But this process takes time (sometimes days, months and even years) and while they are becoming more open to Christianity they are still rejecting it and doing so repeatedly. This very common experience refutes the Calvinistic notion of irresistible grace.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit before they are saved that is giving them understanding of scripture and leading them to faith and enabling them to eventually trust the Lord (i.e. what Arminians call “prevenient grace” as it is grace that comes before conversion that enables the person to have a response of saving faith). And yet while they clearly are experiencing this work of the Spirit they are also rejecting God. This does not fit the Calvinistic notions that the grace of God cannot be resisted at all, or that the unsaved have no capacity to understand spiritual things whatsoever.

“In Romans Paul indicates that unsaved people can determine that God exists and that they retain an accurate moral sensitivity.”

Right, in Romans 1 the unsaved are “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness”. This means not that they do not know any truth or do not understand the truth. Rather, they understand the truth just fine, but are then choosing to reject what they know to be true. But this again goes against the calvinistic notion that the unsaved have no understanding of spiritual things and cannot understand spiritual things whatsoever because they are spiritually dead (which the calvinist mistakenly takes as meaning they are like a physically dead corpse completely unresponsive).

“Given that truth, then part of the sense of morality is that we are morally responsible because our actions are causally free and ultimately determined by our own selves.”

Right, we are properly held responsible for the actions that we can control, that are under our control. We are not properly held responsible for the actions of others that are out of our control. I say “properly” because to hold someone responsible for things out of their control or actions which they cannot in any way control is not right. A person may make the decision to hold people responsible for these things, but it is not right. And God does not do that, he makes it clear throughout the scripture that He holds each person responsible for their own actions.

Robert

#John1453 said...

Very helpful prison illustration, Robert; thanks.

May God continue to bless you in that ministry.

regards,
#John