Nature of God

Providence

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Tripp

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Calvinism and Romans 9
« Reply #60 on: October 19, 2007, 05:21:43 pm »

Well, if this is the case, the non-Edwardsian Calvinist is giving us a false dilemma, in that he doesn't seem to take it into his consideration that God's knowledge might be the other way around.  It is infallible, but the truth of the propositions themselves are prior to his knowledge of them.  Along with this, if the Calvinist objects that this undermines God's freedom, one can simply claim that there are a lot of truths that it is not possible for God to change, like logical or mathematical claims.  Perhaps, there are other truths that God cannot change as well, like his Middle Knowledge.

    Also, Edwards is assuming that there is no freedom in the libertarian sense by the claim that God will create the best possible world, since it seems to be the case that if we are free in the relevant sense, we have a part in shaping how the world is (this is the reasoning behind Karl Barth's rather misleading statement that we are co-creators of the world with God).  Minor point, but I wanted to say it.

I couldn’t agree with you more nor could I have stated the case better myself.  But I’ve heard not only non-Edwardsians but Edwardsians (not to mention Edwards himself) argue along these lines.  Edwards was a staunch compatiblist who believed that all volitions by free agents were caused by what he called “the strongest motive”.  I guess it would only be natural on his part to use this assumption to claim the necessity of God’s choices.  I have a professor, a neo-Thomist from the Reformed Tradition, who is a huge fan of Edwards.  His Ph.D thesis (at Westminister Seminary) was an in-depth analysis of Edwardsian compatiblism.  He uses this Theological fatalist argument all the time claiming that it proves particular providence.

I ,on the other hand, am a ardent molinist and a firm believer in divine middle knowledge.  Needless to say, he and I have gotten into some heated debates over this issue.

Well, this isn't an essential aspect of Calvinism, and many Calvinist are actually Divine Command Theorists of differing sorts.  The role that God's character plays in these versions of DCT is for God to be a personification of the Platonic notion of the Good, but, the Calvinist has no reason biblically to be an essentialist in the notion that you hold to be problematic.  Also, even if one isn't a Calvinist, we have to hold that God is able to do things that we can't.  For example, God takes life for whatever reason he feels like, but we cannot do this.  So, if your argument works, it might prove too much.

That’s certainly true that many Calvinists hold to different sorts of DCT.  Many Calvinists are voluntarists while many others are essentialists.  I would argue with the Calvinist that affirms both particular providence and essentialism that he is trying to have his cake and eat it too.  Being that he believes that God wills both good and evil, The very distinction between good and evil is rendered vacuous.  But as for those of us who are not Calvinists, we are free to claim that God has a right to take life while we don’t because He is omniscient.  God certainly my have reasons that are entirely justifiable that are either beyond our understanding or that he chooses not to reveal to us at the time for our good as to why He is taking a particular life.  Given that human beings are entirely limited in their understanding and have no way of fully knowing all of the consequences involved, for us to take a life constitutes murder.

Okay, I see where you're getting tripped up.  The Calvinist can make a distinction between the ways in which God knows my mental states and the way I know and experience them.  God knows my phenomenal states from a third person perspective, whereas I experience them in a first person perspective.  God knows them in the sense that His conceptions of them are paradigmatic (or are exemplars) of what I am going to experience.  To assert otherwise is to beg the question against the Calvinist.

Your insight here opens the way for me to clarify further what I mean.  It would indeed be the case that even with particular providence, God’s conceptions of my mental would be paradigmatic and only know by Him from a third person perspective whereas I would know them first person.  But God would also have to foreordain the first-personhood knowledge of each and every mental state that I have.  But setting that aside, I’ll explore a rough analogy of my central claim:  Suppose we are two scientists in a lab that are sitting around a brain in a vat of chemicals and causing it to have sensations of various mental states such as perceptions in a fictitious world and exercising subsequent actions in this world where the brain is experiencing a fictitious self awareness and an illusory life in an illusory world.  We could make the brain believe it was Muhammad Ali boxing in the 1970’s or C.S. Lewis in the 1940’s writing the Chronicles of Narnia.  But any and all beliefs and men
   tal states that the brain has are caused by us as we stimulate it with electrodes. Now it may depend on how one views the essential properties of a mind, but it doesn’t seem that the brain would qualify as a mind in any true sense.  In like manner, we would be nothing more that stimulated automata in relation with God as He continually endowed us with various mental states.

You're moving too fast in this argument.  Occasionalism says that God directly causes all events in the world, but, this position need only say that God directly causes certain things to happen in the world on a regular basis.  For example, God's causing the strong nuclear force to hold the atoms together is actually causing a great deal of other phenomena consequentially and indirectly.  It's like a domino effect.  God directly causes one domino to fall which causes an infinite number of dominoes to fall.  God indirectly causes the other dominoes to fall through the one direct act of causation.  So, it could reasonably be maintained that God isn't directly causing everything, but rather, a handful of phenomena that in turn cause other phenomena ad infinitum, thus avoiding occasionalism.

Well, suppose that God is presented with a row of dominos and knocks over the first one knowing in advance that this will knock over the second, knocking over the third, fourth, and so on.  But for God to know anything in advance He must foreordain it.  Therefore for it to be true that, say, the 7th domino to knock over the 8th , God would have to cause it to happen and this would be true for any domino in the chain. Likewise, if God acted as the strong nuclear force at any time t and it caused the law of gravity to act at that same moment, it could only do so because God caused this consequence.  Thus occasionalism is not avoided.

While this does seem to cast doubt on the optimal salvific balance proposition (though it might be argued that in destroying these cities and making examples of them, God could actually raise the number that repent of their sins overall), I'm not sure that you would have to hold particular election for these situations, because God destroyed these cities for their sins.  It is fallacious to assume that because God judged these cities that he particularly elected the particular individuals in them to damnation.  Election in the Jewish mindset was a communal notion, so, keep that in mind while reading passages like this.

A valuable insight that I overlooked!  I will certainly keep it in mind!  

But then I’ve hit another snag in the concept of libertarian freedom, the problem of evil, and the Free Will Defense.  The central thesis of the Free Will Defense is that if God had not created man with the ability to tharwt Him and choose evil, Then He would not have created him with a true free will.  But as theists we believe that God is free in the libertarian sense yet it is impossible for Him to choose evil given that He has a necessary character as His character is the foundation of the moral law.  Given this, the question arises as to why God didn’t give His creatures a necessary character?  If it be said that God did so in order to avoid creating a robotic-type humanity, then we must believe that God is a comic robot.  But then if God is, whose to say that there is no intrinsic value in this and why not create a robotic humanity to avoid the evil that is in the world?  These questions are admittingly a little off topic given this has no consequences for particular election, but I think more Christian libertarian philosophers need to be aware of them which is why I thought it best to mention this issue.


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demurph

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Calvinism and Romans 9
« Reply #61 on: October 22, 2007, 07:00:36 pm »
Tripp wrote:

I couldn’t agree with you more nor could I have stated the case better myself.  But I’ve heard not only non-Edwardsians but Edwardsians (not to mention Edwards himself) argue along these lines.  Edwards was a staunch compatiblist who believed that all volitions by free agents were caused by what he called “the strongest motive”.  I guess it would only be natural on his part to use this assumption to claim the necessity of God’s choices.  I have a professor, a neo-Thomist from the Reformed Tradition, who is a huge fan of Edwards.  His Ph.D thesis (at Westminister Seminary) was an in-depth analysis of Edwardsian compatiblism.  He uses this Theological fatalist argument all the time claiming that it proves particular providence.

I ,on the other hand, am a ardent molinist and a firm believer in divine middle knowledge.  Needless to say, he and I have gotten into some heated debates over this issue.

  Oh, God help me, I can't stand the strongest motivation position on free will.  First, even if it is true that we always act in accordance with our strongest desires, it doesn't follow that we are caused to act by our strongest desires.  The libertarian can simply say that that gives us the best reason to act, and thus, it plays a telelogical role rather than a functional role.  For more explanation, see my posts on the thread "Does God have Libertarian Free Will?"  So, if this the case, we're still acting independently of God, even though He still has influence (in a loose sense) over our actions.  Secondly, the strongest motivation position strikes me as the Edwardsian or (let's face it, Humean) grasping at straws or begging the question.  Introspection seems to give us instances where we act contrary to our greatest immediate desires with no really strong desire the other way.  To move away from this definition of "greatest motivation" seems to move toward simply stating it as a tautology that whatever motivates us to act a certain way is the "greatest motivation."[/QUOTE]

Tripp wrote: That’s certainly true that many Calvinists hold to different sorts of DCT.  Many Calvinists are voluntarists while many others are essentialists.  I would argue with the Calvinist that affirms both particular providence and essentialism that he is trying to have his cake and eat it too.  Being that he believes that God wills both good and evil, The very distinction between good and evil is rendered vacuous.  But as for those of us who are not Calvinists, we are free to claim that God has a right to take life while we don’t because He is omniscient.  God certainly my have reasons that are entirely justifiable that are either beyond our understanding or that he chooses not to reveal to us at the time for our good as to why He is taking a particular life.  Given that human beings are entirely limited in their understanding and have no way of fully knowing all of the consequences involved, for us to take a life constitutes murder.

    Well, I have to disagree, because we still have to make a distinction between two wills in God, in that he wills that all people come to him, and at the same time, he wills their freedom knowing that it will result in people not coming to him.  Secondly, God's omniscience is not what gives him his right to kill, but his sovereignty.  What you're discussing is his immediate reasons for acting in particular situations, not where he gets his authority to take life.  If I somehow became omniscient, I still wouldn't have the right to kill people because my knowledge doesn't necessarily impart sovereignty over human life.

Tripp wrote:  

Your insight here opens the way for me to clarify further what I mean.  It would indeed be the case that even with particular providence, God’s conceptions of my mental would be paradigmatic and only know by Him from a third person perspective whereas I would know them first person.  But God would also have to foreordain the first-personhood knowledge of each and every mental state that I have.  But setting that aside, I’ll explore a rough analogy of my central claim:  Suppose we are two scientists in a lab that are sitting around a brain in a vat of chemicals and causing it to have sensations of various mental states such as perceptions in a fictitious world and exercising subsequent actions in this world where the brain is experiencing a fictitious self awareness and an illusory life in an illusory world.  We could make the brain believe it was Muhammad Ali boxing in the 1970’s or C.S. Lewis in the 1940’s writing the Chronicles of Narnia.  But any and all beliefs and mental states that the brain has are caused by us as we stimulate it with electrodes. Now it may depend on how one views the essential properties of a mind, but it doesn’t seem that the brain would qualify as a mind in any true sense.  In like manner, we would be nothing more that stimulated automata in relation with God as He continually endowed us with various mental states.

    The thing is, to some extent, we are like that, in that our beliefs and experiences are the result of our interaction with the world, the difference is the degree to which this happens.  I experience the computer that I have because of the causal relationship that I stand in to the rest of the world.  (I would go as far to say that almost all of our phenomenal experiences can be conceptualized as the causal results of external forces).  I form beliefs because of that, as well.  I don't infer from my sense perceptions that there is a computer, but rather, my belief is caused by my perceptions.  (As you can tell, I'm somewhat of an epistemological externalist).  It seems to be the case that you're building the concept of autonomy into the definition of a mind, which I think the Edwardsian will take to be question begging.

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Tripp wrote: Well, suppose that God is presented with a row of dominos and knocks over the first one knowing in advance that this will knock over the second, knocking over the third, fourth, and so on.  But for God to know anything in advance He must foreordain it.  Therefore for it to be true that, say, the 7th domino to knock over the 8th , God would have to cause it to happen and this would be true for any domino in the chain. Likewise, if God acted as the strong nuclear force at any time t and it caused the law of gravity to act at that same moment, it could only do so because God caused this consequence.  Thus occasionalism is not avoided.

  That's just plain wrong.  In principle, God can foreknow it because he set up the laws that govern how the dominoes fall if pushed, but it doesn't have to be the case that his knowing the dominoes fall causes each one to fall in succession, but that his knowledge is based in a logically prior state of affairs.

Tripp wrote:

The central thesis of the Free Will Defense is that if God had not created man with the ability to tharwt Him and choose evil, Then He would not have created him with a true free will.  But as theists we believe that God is free in the libertarian sense yet it is impossible for Him to choose evil given that He has a necessary character as His character is the foundation of the moral law.  Given this, the question arises as to why God didn’t give His creatures a necessary character?  If it be said that God did so in order to avoid creating a robotic-type humanity, then we must believe that God is a comic robot.  But then if God is, whose to say that there is no intrinsic value in this and why not create a robotic humanity to avoid the evil that is in the world?  These questions are admittingly a little off topic given this has no consequences for particular election, but I think more Christian libertarian philosophers need to be aware of them which is why I thought it best to mention this issue.

    God need not be thought of in terms of a "cosmic robot" simply because of the fact that there isn't a possible world in which He does anything evil.  I think that this is cashed out in the functional/teleological distinction that I made earlier.  Again, see my posts in the thread on whether or not God has freedom in the libertarian sense for a better explanation.  However, give me a little more time to process your problem.  I have a midterm in one of my classes, and I'm not really able to think about it too deeply right now.


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demurph

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Calvinism and Romans 9
« Reply #62 on: October 24, 2007, 11:55:07 pm »
Tripp wrote:

But then I’ve hit another snag in the concept of libertarian freedom, the problem of evil, and the Free Will Defense.  The central thesis of the Free Will Defense is that if God had not created man with the ability to tharwt Him and choose evil, Then He would not have created him with a true free will.  But as theists we believe that God is free in the libertarian sense yet it is impossible for Him to choose evil given that He has a necessary character as His character is the foundation of the moral law.  Given this, the question arises as to why God didn’t give His creatures a necessary character?  If it be said that God did so in order to avoid creating a robotic-type humanity, then we must believe that God is a comic robot.  But then if God is, whose to say that there is no intrinsic value in this and why not create a robotic humanity to avoid the evil that is in the world?  These questions are admittingly a little off topic given this has no consequences for particular election, but I think more Christian libertarian philosophers need to be aware of them which is why I thought it best to mention this issue.

    Here are the preliminary thoughts that I have about this issue.  They are open to revision later as new things come to my attention.  First, I don't think that there is a need to say that God is a "cosmic robot" because of the fact that he doesn't commit evil.  God's character need not be thought of as functional in it's role as explaining actions, but rather teleological.  Given the assumption that we as rational creatures act for reasons, then it seems to be the case that we can say that our character is what gives us our reasons for actions (at least in part) without actually causing us to act a certain way.  God has the power to do these things in that he has causal power to actualize any broadly logically possible state of affairs, but there is not a possible world in which he commits evil actions.  His character is such that he never has a motivation to do evil.  

    Now, why couldn't God have given us this kind of character where we would never have the motivation to do wrong?  Perhaps it is the case that He could not have given this kind of character to his creations.  Perhaps it is the case that one would need an infinitely good character in order to guarantee that one never sins ever.  Any movement away from God's infinity and perfection is to move toward the feasibility of choosing the wrong instead of the right.  If this is the case, then it seems that finite creations cannot have this kind of character by definition.  Perhaps that is also why there are more angels that have not sinned while every human that wasn't also God incarnate has sinned.

    But, even if this is not the case, I don't think it could be the case that God would see the value in creating a world full of rational creatures with the exact same character.  It strikes me as a boring world.  And, perhaps there is something good about a world in which humans falling short is a really feasible possibililty that would not be obtained if humans were god-like in motivations.  At least this is my thoughts for now.  Have a good one, Tripp.


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sirhemlock

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Calvinism and Romans 9
« Reply #63 on: October 30, 2007, 11:47:10 am »
Quote from: harvey1
I do not so much want to discuss the philosophical problems with Calvinist predestination, I'm more interested in its scriptural basis--almost completely construed from what I think is a terrible misinterpretatio of Romans 9. Let me quote the Calvinist theologian John Piper:

We concluded in Chapter Three that in Rom. 9:6-13 Paul teaches that God predestines individuals to their respective eternal destinies. The unconditionality of this election is judged by Paul's opponent to be unrighteous because when a righteous God makes his choices he must take into account the things that distinguish one person from another. As we have just seen, Paul does not share the opponent's narrow view of God's righteousness.(John Piper, "The Justification of God," 1993, p. 96)


Romans 9 is indeed one of the central struts of the inductive system of Calvinism, and there are strong exegetical reasons to be well-assured that Calvinists are very badly twisting that section of the Bible to fit their assumptions. On the aside, it has always interested me that Calvin's first book was not on the Bible, but an approving treatment of the Stoic doctrine of Fortuna (i.e. the Greek notion of Fate). If anyone's interested, here is my own treatment of Romans 9.

Romans 9:
In the epistle to the Romans as a whole, Paul's thoughts do not come in piecemeal bites, but rather extend in broad sweeps. This means the components must be understood in their relation to the whole, and not piecemeal, as if Paul's purpose were to provide proof-texts which have little or no relation to the central thrust of the epistle or section of the epistle within which they are found. Chapter 9 is no different, forming as it does, according to the consensus of scholarship, a part of a major division of the epistle which extends through chapter 11. The description by the term "division" should however not obscure the very strong connectedness of chapter 9 with chapter 8. After ending chapter 8 on the note of God's purpose as the ground of our certainty (see 8:28-30) Paul addresses an urgent theme concerning this purpose which runs through the next three chapters (9-11), namely the exclusion of a majority of Jews from salvation. "If the truth is that God's purpose with Israel has been frustrated, then what sort of basis for Christian hope is God's purpose? And if God's love for Israel (see for example Deut 7:7f; Jer 31:3) has ceased, what reliance can be placed on Paul's conviction that nothing can separate us from God's love in Christ?" (Cranfield, C. E. B, Romans: A Shorter Commentary, p. 215, italics added). The focus of chapters 9-11 is concerned with the central theme of showing that the claim that God is faithful, reliable, and merciful is fully compatible with the fact of Israel's unbelief (compare for example 9:1, 10:1 & 11:1 where the focus is on Israel.). The details within chapters 9-11 are properly understood only in relation to this central emphasis. For these reasons, a majority of contemporary scholars hold it to be most improbable that the any of the elements of this chapter are disjoined from Paul's central theme (eg. it is the rejection of elected Israel rather than the rejection of the reprobate to hell (Augustine, Calvin), with which Paul is dealing). "Many have failed to recognize that Paul's consideration in Rom 9:6-29 is the question of the circumstance of Israel rather than the personal salvation of individual men… (Shank, Robert, Life in the Son, p. 343; cf. Appendix C of that work for additional comments on this section).
   ................................................. .  ................................................
Rom 9:1:
Rom 9:2:

Rom 9:3: could wish can be also rendered "would pray" (if it would benefit the Jews), meaning Paul would pray that he might be accursed (Gk: anathema indicates exclusion from final salvation) if it could benefit the Jews.

Rom 9:4:
Rom 9:5:

Rom 9:6: failed: the original word denotes a permanent failure (perfect tense, indicative voice); they are not all Israel (cf. Matt 3:9).

Rom 9:7:
Rom 9:8:

Rom 9:9: the word of promise... Sarah shall have a son:  Through this act the promise is made visible; only God could have enabled the considerably aged Sarah to have a son!


Rom 9:10-11: The working out of the promise in human history by necessity took one specific course. Many nations came from Abraham as God had promised, but only one nation was to have the role Israel was to play. God's election of Jacob as the line of descent through whom the promises to Abraham would be carried out for His purpose was a sovereign decision made irrespective of human merit (that Paul's discussion of Jacob centers on the line of descent and not the individual will become plain in the following verses).


Rom 9:12: The elder shall serve the younger: The context of Gen 25:23, quoted here, makes it plain that nations and not individuals are in view: "Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger" (Gen 25:23). Fulfillment of this prophecy, also corporate, occurred when David and Solomon subjugated Edom as a vassal state (2 Sam 8:13-14; 1 Ki 9:26-28) and afterward (e.g. 1 Ki 22:47; 2 Ki 14:7). Esau the individual never served the individual Jacob (for further extensive notes on Edom in history and prophecy, cf. my commentary on Obadiah).


Rom 9:13: Even as it is written, "Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated": As with the previous verse, this second quotation (Mal 1:1-2) has the nations of Israel and Edom in view, not the individuals Jacob and Esau. The nation Israel was chosen to inherit the covenant and promises to Abraham, while Edom suffered subjugation (see comments on previous verse). The contention of a majority of commentators that the words "love" and "hate" carry the force of election and rejection of the nations respectively as heirs to the promises to Abraham finds further support in the fact that Esau was the recipient of God's blessing (Gen 27:38f) and further in that God continued to treat the "hated" nation Edom as an object of His tender care (e. g. Deut 2:4-5; 23:7).


Rom 9:14: Is there unrighteousness with God? Was the rejection of the nation Edom as heir to the promises on the sole basis of God's decision unjust? God Forbid.


Rom 9:15: I will have mercy on whom I have mercy: Paul is quoting verse 19 of Exodus 33 where God told the Israelites to go to the promised land alone, for He would not go with them (Ex 33:1-3), after which Moses complained "You say to me, 'Bring up this people.' But you have not let me know whom You will send with Me... consider that this nation is your people" (Ex 33:12f). God's response "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy..." (Ex 33:19) emphasizes that God is not bound to act on the basis of man's desires (or merits) or opinions, but alone decides what He will do, just as He did in selecting Israel and not Edom for His purpose.


Rom 9:16: not of him that willeth or him that runneth: God does not decide how to rule over his creation on the basis of man's desire or merits, but of His own wisdom, as demonstrated in the context of Exodus 33 (see comments on previous verse).


Rom 9:17: God similarly raised up Pharaoh, for no other reason other than to accomplish His purpose: that I might show My power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout the earth. "Power" is probably, in keeping with Paul's usage of the term elsewhere, God's saving power, specifically here His saving power as seen in the Exodus from Egypt which not even the great Pharaoh could stand in the way of. Even though Pharaoh, like most of Israel, rejected God (and was under judgment for having decreed the killing of
   Israel's male children) God's power and name were declared nevertheless. Similarly Israel's rejection of Christ need not contradict Gods election of the nation for His mighty purpose.


Rom 9:18: Therefore He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth: God is free to show mercy on whomever He pleases, and to influence whomever He desires, or make them stubborn, whenever it suits His given purpose (Classical Calvinism extrapolates universal determinism from particular instances where God determines individual action; Arminianism extrapolates universal indeterminism of the will from particular instances where individual responsibility e.g. for rejecting the light are in view. Both positions are inductive; it is better to simply admit that God can determine individual actions whenever he wishes to, but also that it cannot be proven deductively/exegetically that he always does so). In the case of Pharaoh the purpose was not his eternal damnation, but that God's power and name would be made known (vs 17), the same reason for His election of Israel. "The assumption that Paul is here thinking of the ultimate destiny of the individual, of his final salvation or final ruin, is not justified by the text" (Cranfield, p. 236).


Rom 9:19-20: Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault" For who hath resisted His will? The objection is utterly fallacious, for although God appoints individuals and nations (especially Israel) to specific functions, all persons (and specifically the Jews of Israel) are nevertheless held personally responsible for their own acts of rejection and disobedience. Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? If God affirms, as He does, that we are at fault, i. e. responsible for our sins (and Israel for its rejection of Christ) which God sees fit to judge, who are we to deny God?!! The fact that God acts sovereignly in the affairs of men if and when it pleases Him to do so does not make God responsible for all of our choices (especially our evil choices!); God is certainly not the minister of sin. Where there is fault in men, the fault is with men, not God, for there is no unrighteousness with God (vs 14). To man it is granted to reap as he will, but he will sow as God wills.


Rom 9:21: Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? God retains the indisputable right to use the vessels of His creation for different purposes, some more honorable than others. The vessels in view in Romans 9 are not "the saved versus the damned," but Israel versus the church (cf. vss. 22-33). For Paul even the vessels of dishonor can be given the opportunity to repent and be made vessels of honor: "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor..." (2 Tim 2:19b-21a; Paul specifically indicates in Rom 10:1 that Israel, the vessel unto dishonor, may repent). Certainly Paul was at one time appointed to dishonorable service, as in the period of his persecutions of the church prior to his conversion. Service it was nonetheless! God triumphed in spite of Paul's persecutions, for the church spread out from Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria as a result of it (Acts 8:1-3). When Titus later destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, the church was not wiped off of the face of the earth only because it was no longer concentrated in this soon-to-be-doomed city, as was the case before the stoning of Stephen and the Holy Spirit's gift of Himself to the Gentiles. In spite of Paul's "dishonorable services" God made him into a most honorable vessel. "...there is naturally not the slightest suggestion that the potter's freedom is the freedom of caprice... it is, therefore, perverse to suppose that what Paul wanted to assert was a freedom of the Creator to deal with His creatures according to some indeterminate, capricious, absolute will" (Cranfield, p. 238).


Rom 9:22: What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath, fitted to destruction? It is possible grammatically that the vessels of wrath are "fitting themselves" to destruction (only context can determine whether katertismena is perfect passive or a middle participle since the passive and middle have the same form in the perfect), but ultimately this makes little difference if it is kept in mind that not only does Paul tell us elsewhere that believers were themselves once "children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3), but also that the some of these very vessels of wrath, the unbelieving Israelites of chapters 9-11, can still come to know Christ savingly: "And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again" (Rom 11:23; cf. Jer 18:4-10 where the wrath the Potter (God) appointed towards His vessel (Israel) can be averted by repentance). That vessels of wrath may become vessels of mercy if they embrace Christ as Lord is the essence of the Gospel message!!!


Rom 9:23: And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory: That this making known is for the benefit of unbelieving Israel can be seen from Rom 11:31: "...so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy." It is important to note that only the vessels of mercy are said to have been "afore prepared unto glory," i. e. predetermined. This need not be understood fatalistically; God prepared a glorious end for those who would not reject him. The thought of divine predetermining is not, by contrast, connected with the vessels of wrath. As in Rom 8:28, "... whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His son..." This foreknowledge is of the fact that specific individuals are in Him (Eph 1:4), which is only knowable to the Christian on the basis of the criteria of assurance that we "abide" (remain, continue, endure) in Him (e.g. "by this we know" 1 John 2:3-6; 3:14, 18,24; 4:13, 15, 5:1-2).

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4

Tripp

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Calvinism and Romans 9
« Reply #64 on: October 30, 2007, 08:08:42 pm »

Oh, God help me, I can't stand the strongest motivation position on free will.  First, even if it is true that we always act in accordance with our strongest desires, it doesn't follow that we are caused to act by our strongest desires.  The libertarian can simply say that that gives us the best reason to act, and thus, it plays a telelogical role rather than a functional role.  For more explanation, see my posts on the thread "Does God have Libertarian Free Will?"  So, if this the case, we're still acting independently of God, even though He still has influence (in a loose sense) over our actions.  Secondly, the strongest motivation position strikes me as the Edwardsian or (let's face it, Humean) grasping at straws or begging the question.  Introspection seems to give us instances where we act contrary to our greatest immediate desires with no really strong desire the other way.  To move away from this definition of "greatest motivation" seems to move toward simply stating it as a tautology that whatever motivates us to act a certain way is the "greatest motivation."

I believe you’re correct here.  I was in a discussion with my Calvinist professor not too long ago and he claims that since the libertarian will is non-caused (in the efficient sense) then it is equivalent to an anachronist view of the will were volitions are totally non caused, and therefore does not provide an adequate basis for moral responsibility.  But my own position is that mind itself is the efficient cause of the will and when we ask why the mind chooses A rather than B, the only answer can be because it is a mind, which is its own non-reducible property and therefore asking such a question would be like asking why blue exemplifies blueness.  I think the chief problem with compatablism is that it has an event that determines the will (desire-a mental event) and thus offers no more moral responsibility than epiphenomenalism, which also has events that determine the will.

Well, I have to disagree, because we still have to make a distinction between two wills in God, in that he wills that all people come to him, and at the same time, he wills their freedom knowing that it will result in people not coming to him.  Secondly, God's omniscience is not what gives him his right to kill, but his sovereignty.  What you're discussing is his immediate reasons for acting in particular situations, not where he gets his authority to take life.  If I somehow became omniscient, I still wouldn't have the right to kill people because my knowledge doesn't necessarily impart sovereignty over human life.

As to the first, I think only us non-Calvinists can make such a distinguishment.  But the Calvinist’s beliefs in particular providence and particular election are inconsistent with this affirmation, which is why no Calvinist would accept that (they would call such a thing an Arminian idea).  As to the second, God’s sovereignty flows from His universal authority and his omnipotence.  But given that might doesn’t make right, God’s own nature will forbid Him take life without sufficient reason (just as it forbids Him to violate creaturely freedom). Thus it seems most plausible that God rightfully takes life for reasons unknown to us.  We can’t make affirmative claims about what we would do if we were omniscient, since this presupposes that we know what it would be like to be omniscient, and-needless to say- no of us knows this.

The thing is, to some extent, we are like that, in that our beliefs and experiences are the result of our interaction with the world, the difference is the degree to which this happens.  I experience the computer that I have because of the causal relationship that I stand in to the rest of the world.  (I would go as far to say that almost all of our phenomenal experiences can be conceptualized as the causal results of external forces).  I form beliefs because of that, as well.  I don't infer from my sense perceptions that there is a computer, but rather, my belief is caused by my perceptions.  (As you can tell, I'm somewhat of an epistemological externalist).  It seems to be the case that you're building the concept of autonomy into the definition of a mind, which I think the Edwardsian will take to be question begging.

True, but even if our external beliefs are mainly caused by are experiences, this wouldn’t mean that we are controlled by them.  But the Edwardsian who believes on particular providence, would have to believe that the experiences were also forordained by God, since He foreknew them.  It also seems true that if an entity is no autonomy whatsoever, could indeed not be called a mind.  My Calvinist professor (himself an Edwardsian) conceded to this.

That's just plain wrong.  In principle, God can foreknow it because he set up the laws that govern how the dominoes fall if pushed, but it doesn't have to be the case that his knowing the dominoes fall causes each one to fall in succession, but that his knowledge is based in a logically prior state of affairs.

As a proponent of Middle Knowledge and a libertarian, this is what I would affirm.  But the Calvinist who holds to particular providence could not escape this entailment.


5

demurph

  • Guest
Calvinism and Romans 9
« Reply #65 on: November 04, 2007, 05:23:50 pm »

   This is mainly to let you know that I'm still interested in this thread.  This is only a preliminary post to get some of the main objections I have out there.  Will post in more detail later on.  

Tripp wrote:

I believe you’re correct here.  I was in a discussion with my Calvinist professor not too long ago and he claims that since the libertarian will is non-caused (in the efficient sense) then it is equivalent to an anachronist view of the will were volitions are totally non caused, and therefore does not provide an adequate basis for moral responsibility.  But my own position is that mind itself is the efficient cause of the will and when we ask why the mind chooses A rather than B, the only answer can be because it is a mind, which is its own non-reducible property and therefore asking such a question would be like asking why blue exemplifies blueness.  I think the chief problem with compatablism is that it has an event that determines the will (desire-a mental event) and thus offers no more moral responsibility than epiphenomenalism, which also has events that determine the will.

    I think that you're substantially correct, but I think that the will shouldn't be treated as a mechanism that has to be causally acted on.  The libertarian will say that there is no need to count our acting a certain way as an example of event causation, but rather as agent causation.  Your professor should read up on agent causation (William Hasker or Timothy O'Connor would be good individuals to start off with).  He might actually develop a decent argument against the libertarian point of view.

Tripp wrote:

As to the first, I think only us non-Calvinists can make such a distinguishment.  But the Calvinist’s beliefs in particular providence and particular election are inconsistent with this affirmation, which is why no Calvinist would accept that (they would call such a thing an Arminian idea).  As to the second, God’s sovereignty flows from His universal authority and his omnipotence.  But given that might doesn’t make right, God’s own nature will forbid Him take life without sufficient reason (just as it forbids Him to violate creaturely freedom). Thus it seems most plausible that God rightfully takes life for reasons unknown to us.  We can’t make affirmative claims about what we would do if we were omniscient, since this presupposes that we know what it would be like to be omniscient, and-needless to say- no of us knows this.

    Well, actually, it's usually been the opposite in that Arminians have been unwilling to admit two wills, but Calvinists have.  It's the distinction between teleology and actual state of affairs.  God in making A and B as humans wills that they have the teleological goal human beings in virtue of humanity, but God only actualizes the fulfillment of that goal in A, but not in B.  This could be construed as two wills in God in a way that the Calvinist could approve of.

    Also, we want to say that God has some kind of sovereignty over right and wrong, such that he is not being forced to conform to a standard that he has no control over.  So, it might be the case that his sovereignty allows him to do things that we are not able to do.  But, you've shown me that I'll need to think about this more.

Tripp wrote:

True, but even if our external beliefs are mainly caused by are experiences, this wouldn’t mean that we are controlled by them.  But the Edwardsian who believes on particular providence, would have to believe that the experiences were also forordained by God, since He foreknew them.  It also seems true that if an entity is no autonomy whatsoever, could indeed not be called a mind.  My Calvinist professor (himself an Edwardsian) conceded to this.

    Again, I'll have to think about this.  But, I have to say, if your professor has accepted this, it seems that he's falsified Edwardsian Calvinism.  That's utterly absurd and you could argue that scripture presupposes the opposite.

Tripp wrote:

As a proponent of Middle Knowledge and a libertarian, this is what I would affirm.  But the Calvinist who holds to particular providence could not escape this entailment.

    That's only if the particular providence claim can only hold for those that think that God's knowledge is the cause of things.  There seems to be room for particular providence without making the latter dubious claim.  That's all that I've been saying.  


6

Tripp

  • Guest
Calvinism and Romans 9
« Reply #66 on: November 07, 2007, 04:01:53 pm »

demurph,

I apologize for taking so long to reply.  Like yourself, I too get busy and bogged down in other things and I have to put my disscusion forums on hold.  But here's my latest.  As promised,  I'll also respond in our marijuana debate.

I think that you're substantially correct, but I think that the will shouldn't be treated as a mechanism that has to be causally acted on.  The libertarian will say that there is no need to count our acting a certain way as an example of event causation, but rather as agent causation.  Your professor should read up on agent causation (William Hasker or Timothy O'Connor would be good individuals to start off with).  He might actually develop a decent argument against the libertarian point of view.

I think I agree that my prof. doesn’t really have a convincing argument.  Many libertarians do claim that the will is not caused (i.e. Peter Van Inwagen) but there are many who would claim no such thing (i.e. Thomas Reid).  I haven’t studied the agent causation theories of other libertarians and whether or not my view is similar to others, but my claim is that by the very definition of “mind” or “agent” the answer as to what causes the will is simply the mind and when we ask questions about how the mind chooses and what it is that causes the choice or “why does the mind choose A rather than B” the answer is simply that the mind is an entity that is non-reducible to anything other than itself so we can only say that it just does since it is a mind.  Asking these questions about the mind is really akin to asking what quarks are made up of.  Naturally, quarks aren’t made up of anything but simply are what makes up everything in the physical universe.

Well, actually, it's usually been the opposite in that Arminians have been unwilling to admit two wills, but Calvinists have.  It's the distinction between teleology and actual state of affairs.  God in making A and B as humans wills that they have the teleological goal human beings in virtue of humanity, but God only actualizes the fulfillment of that goal in A, but not in B.  This could be construed as two wills in God in a way that the Calvinist could approve of.

Also, we want to say that God has some kind of sovereignty over right and wrong, such that he is not being forced to conform to a standard that he has no control over.  So, it might be the case that his sovereignty allows him to do things that we are not able to do.  But, you've shown me that I'll need to think about this more.

That actually reminds me of something.  John Calvin himself actually did believe in two wills, one of which he called the “secret will” of God.  In the secret will, God wills all of the evil occurrences that happen in the universe and what God’s will is in causing evil is mysterious and something that cannot be known by us in principle.  But it’s important to remember that, whether the particular providentalist wants to admit it or not whatever God does not will and ordain, He cannot foreknow.  But when I was speaking of an Arminian notion of two wills, I had in mind what is popularly called God’s “perfect” and “permissive” will.  In the broad sense, these two would indeed constitute one will; but they’re the thesis that God has an ideal that humans have thwarted through free decision to sin and thus God works through the circumstances to accomplish a greater purpose.  I prime example is the fact that God wants all to be saved but He knows that not all will choose Him, therefore He works to save as many as possible to achieve an optimal salvific balance.

As well we need to keep in mid that God does indeed have sovereignty over right and wrong, but this is because His immutable nature is the measuring stick for objective right and wrong...hence divine essentialism.

Again, I'll have to think about this.  But, I have to say, if your professor has accepted this, it seems that he's falsified Edwardsian Calvinism.  That's utterly absurd and you could argue that scripture presupposes the opposite.

Autonomy, I believe, is in fact essential to the mind.  But keep in mind that I would reject that human beings are totally autonomous. I don’t believe we have contra-causal freedom in everything (i. e. falling in love or getting angry in certain situations) nor do we have the ability to choose our intrinsic nature.  On the contrary, if we were wholly autonomous, this would make Pelagianism true.

That's only if the particular providence claim can only hold for those that think that God's
    knowledge is the cause of things.  There seems to be room for particular providence without making the latter dubious claim.  That's all that I've been saying.

The problem, however, would be that this is what particular providence affirms.  After all, its creed is “God foreknows because He foreordains” and theologians of the Reformed Tradition usually use the theological fatalist argument that I showed as a proof.  But even if the Calvinist affirms particular providence but doesn’t want to explicitly claim that God’s knowledge is the cause of all things, it would bring us to the issue of what qualifies as a cause.  Now needless to say, this is still a very hotly debated issue in metaphysics, but it seems that most people would affirm that the minimal criteria for a cause would be a simple counterfactual definition like the following:

1.  C is a cause of E if and only if it is such the case that if C had not occurred, E would not have occurred.

Now if this definition is correct (and I believe it is) then the theological fatalist argument entails that God is necessarily the cause of any and all events that He foreknows.  If the Calvinist wants to consistently claim otherwise, then he would have to show that 1 is false.  


7

demurph

  • Guest
Calvinism and Romans 9
« Reply #67 on: November 08, 2007, 12:28:40 pm »
Tripp wrote:

demurph,

I apologize for taking so long to reply.  Like yourself, I too get busy and bogged down in other things and I have to put my disscusion forums on hold.  But here's my latest.  As promised,  I'll also respond in our marijuana debate.

    No need to apologize.  These things happen, and honestly, I'd be a little hypocritical to get upset with you for doing what I tend to do on a regular basis.  Truth be told, I don't really think that the marijuana debate is all that fruitful.  I don't know.  Anyway, on to the really fun stuff...

Tripp wrote:

I think I agree that my prof. doesn’t really have a convincing argument.  Many libertarians do claim that the will is not caused (i.e. Peter Van Inwagen) but there are many who would claim no such thing (i.e. Thomas Reid).  I haven’t studied the agent causation theories of other libertarians and whether or not my view is similar to others, but my claim is that by the very definition of “mind” or “agent” the answer as to what causes the will is simply the mind and when we ask questions about how the mind chooses and what it is that causes the choice or “why does the mind choose A rather than B” the answer is simply that the mind is an entity that is non-reducible to anything other than itself so we can only say that it just does since it is a mind.  Asking these questions about the mind is really akin to asking what quarks are made up of.  Naturally, quarks aren’t made up of anything but simply are what makes up everything in the physical universe.


    I think that I misunderstood you beforehand.  You seem to have the beginnings of an agent causal theory of action.  However, I think that your attempt to give a sufficient reason for why one course of action is chosen rather than another is in danger of collapsing into determinism.  To say that A is chosen by some subject S simply because S is a mind could be interpreted as a deterministic, law-like manner, which is something that a libertarian would be best off avoiding.

Tripp wrote:

That actually reminds me of something.  John Calvin himself actually did believe in two wills, one of which he called the “secret will” of God.  In the secret will, God wills all of the evil occurrences that happen in the universe and what God’s will is in causing evil is mysterious and something that cannot be known by us in principle.  But it’s important to remember that, whether the particular providentalist wants to admit it or not whatever God does not will and ordain, He cannot foreknow.  But when I was speaking of an Arminian notion of two wills, I had in mind what is popularly called God’s “perfect” and “permissive” will.  In the broad sense, these two would indeed constitute one will; but they’re the thesis that God has an ideal that humans have thwarted through free decision to sin and thus God works through the circumstances to accomplish a greater purpose.  I prime example is the fact that God wants all to be saved but He knows that not all will choose Him, therefore He works to save as many as possible to achieve an optimal salvific balance.

As well we need to keep in mid that God does indeed have sovereignty over right and wrong, but this is because His immutable nature is the measuring stick for objective right and wrong...hence divine essentialism.

    As for the argument about God's two wills, I think that it comes down to a matter of semantics.  Depending on what one thinks these two wills are in one's thinking is going to determine what one thinks about saying that God has two wills.

   As for the appeal to Essentialism, I don't remember why it was that you said that Calvinists couldn't make an appeal to the Divine character in order to ground the rationality of his actions.

Tripp wrote:

Autonomy, I believe, is in fact essential to the mind.  But keep in mind that I would reject that human beings are totally autonomous. I don’t believe we have contra-causal freedom in everything (i. e. falling in love or getting angry in certain situations) nor do we have the ability to choose our intrinsic nature.  On the contrary, if we were wholly autonomous, this would make Pelagianism true.

    Actually, if we were wholly autonomous, we wouldn't just be Pelagians...we'd be gods.

Tripp wrote:

The problem, however, would be that this is what particular providence affirms.  After all, its creed is “God foreknows because He foreordains” and theologians of the Reformed Tradition usually use the theological fatalist argument that I showed as a proof.  But even if the Calvinist affirms particular providence but doesn’t want to explicitly claim that God’s knowledge is the cause of all things, it would bring us to the issue of what qualifies as a cause.  Now needless to say, this is still a very hotly debated issue
    in metaphysics, but it seems that most people would affirm that the minimal criteria for a cause would be a simple counterfactual definition like the following:

1.  C is a cause of E if and only if it is such the case that if C had not occurred, E would not have occurred.

Now if this definition is correct (and I believe it is) then the theological fatalist argument entails that God is necessarily the cause of any and all events that He foreknows.  If the Calvinist wants to consistently claim otherwise, then he would have to show that 1 is false.  

    The problem with the definition you give us in (1) is that while it may be necessary condition for something to be a cause (and even that might be questionable), it doesn't seem sufficient condition to make something a cause.  For example, let's take three events, A, B, and D.  Let's take for granted that B and D are temporally simultaneous necessary causal consequences of A.  It is the case that if B had not occurred, then D would not have occurred, but B is not the cause of D.  Also, I think that it might be the case that the two events, B and D might not be simultaneous temporally, and still have a common cause in A.  So, it still needs a lot of work in order show that there is a necessary causal connection between God's foreknowledge and the events that he foreknows.


8

demurph

  • Guest
Calvinism and Romans 9
« Reply #68 on: November 08, 2007, 12:29:47 pm »
Tripp wrote:

demurph,

I apologize for taking so long to reply.  Like yourself, I too get busy and bogged down in other things and I have to put my disscusion forums on hold.  But here's my latest.  As promised,  I'll also respond in our marijuana debate.

    No need to apologize.  These things happen, and honestly, I'd be a little hypocritical to get upset with you for doing what I tend to do on a regular basis.  Truth be told, I don't really think that the marijuana debate is all that fruitful.  I don't know.  Anyway, on to the really fun stuff...

Tripp wrote:

I think I agree that my prof. doesn’t really have a convincing argument.  Many libertarians do claim that the will is not caused (i.e. Peter Van Inwagen) but there are many who would claim no such thing (i.e. Thomas Reid).  I haven’t studied the agent causation theories of other libertarians and whether or not my view is similar to others, but my claim is that by the very definition of “mind” or “agent” the answer as to what causes the will is simply the mind and when we ask questions about how the mind chooses and what it is that causes the choice or “why does the mind choose A rather than B” the answer is simply that the mind is an entity that is non-reducible to anything other than itself so we can only say that it just does since it is a mind.  Asking these questions about the mind is really akin to asking what quarks are made up of.  Naturally, quarks aren’t made up of anything but simply are what makes up everything in the physical universe.


    I think that I misunderstood you beforehand.  You seem to have the beginnings of an agent causal theory of action.  However, I think that your attempt to give a sufficient reason for why one course of action is chosen rather than another is in danger of collapsing into determinism.  To say that A is chosen by some subject S simply because S is a mind could be interpreted as a deterministic, law-like manner, which is something that a libertarian would be best off avoiding.

Tripp wrote:

That actually reminds me of something.  John Calvin himself actually did believe in two wills, one of which he called the “secret will” of God.  In the secret will, God wills all of the evil occurrences that happen in the universe and what God’s will is in causing evil is mysterious and something that cannot be known by us in principle.  But it’s important to remember that, whether the particular providentalist wants to admit it or not whatever God does not will and ordain, He cannot foreknow.  But when I was speaking of an Arminian notion of two wills, I had in mind what is popularly called God’s “perfect” and “permissive” will.  In the broad sense, these two would indeed constitute one will; but they’re the thesis that God has an ideal that humans have thwarted through free decision to sin and thus God works through the circumstances to accomplish a greater purpose.  I prime example is the fact that God wants all to be saved but He knows that not all will choose Him, therefore He works to save as many as possible to achieve an optimal salvific balance.

As well we need to keep in mid that God does indeed have sovereignty over right and wrong, but this is because His immutable nature is the measuring stick for objective right and wrong...hence divine essentialism.

    As for the argument about God's two wills, I think that it comes down to a matter of semantics.  Depending on what one thinks these two wills are in one's thinking is going to determine what one thinks about saying that God has two wills.

   As for the appeal to Essentialism, I don't remember why it was that you said that Calvinists couldn't make an appeal to the Divine character in order to ground the rationality of his actions.

Tripp wrote:

Autonomy, I believe, is in fact essential to the mind.  But keep in mind that I would reject that human beings are totally autonomous. I don’t believe we have contra-causal freedom in everything (i. e. falling in love or getting angry in certain situations) nor do we have the ability to choose our intrinsic nature.  On the contrary, if we were wholly autonomous, this would make Pelagianism true.

    Actually, if we were wholly autonomous, we wouldn't just be Pelagians...we'd be gods.

Tripp wrote:

The problem, however, would be that this is what particular providence affirms.  After all, its creed is “God foreknows because He foreordains” and theologians of the Reformed Tradition usually use the theological fatalist argument that I showed as a proof.  But even if the Calvinist affirms particular providence but doesn’t want to explicitly claim that God’s knowledge is the cause of all things, it would bring us to the issue of what qualifies as a cause.  Now needless to say, this is still a very hotly debated issue
    in metaphysics, but it seems that most people would affirm that the minimal criteria for a cause would be a simple counterfactual definition like the following:

1.  C is a cause of E if and only if it is such the case that if C had not occurred, E would not have occurred.

Now if this definition is correct (and I believe it is) then the theological fatalist argument entails that God is necessarily the cause of any and all events that He foreknows.  If the Calvinist wants to consistently claim otherwise, then he would have to show that 1 is false.  

    The problem with the definition you give us in (1) is that while it may be necessary condition for something to be a cause (and even that might be questionable), it doesn't seem sufficient condition to make something a cause.  For example, let's take three events, A, B, and D.  Let's take for granted that B and D are temporally simultaneous necessary causal consequences of A.  It is the case that if B had not occurred, then D would not have occurred, but B is not the cause of D.  Also, I think that it might be the case that the two events, B and D might not be simultaneous temporally, and still have a common cause in A.  So, it still needs a lot of work in order show that there is a necessary causal connection between God's foreknowledge and the events that he foreknows.


9

TrippFields

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Calvinism and Romans 9
« Reply #69 on: December 16, 2007, 01:47:58 am »

No need to apologize.  These things happen, and honestly, I'd be a little hypocritical to get upset with you for doing what I tend to do on a regular basis.  Truth be told, I don't really think that the marijuana debate is all that fruitful.  I don't know.  Anyway, on to the really fun stuff...

I think that our debate on the marijuana issue is very important actually.  This is an issue that has practical importance and often divides families and friends.  As a dedicated layman philosopher, I’m very interested in merging the theoretical with the practical.  I believe that what we rationalize in our minds is what will determine our behavior and outlook on life (in the libertarian sense, of course!)  I’ve had many friends that were dear to me in which this became a large issue, so I feel a very strong motivation to find answers to it. I only hope that my feelings won’t get in the way of my rational judgment, of course.  But I think it serves as a reminder to me that the honest truth is one of the greatest gifts we can give to those we love.  Real truth and real hope is what I pursue relentlessly for this very reason.

I think that I misunderstood you beforehand.  You seem to have the beginnings of an agent causal theory of action.  However, I think that your attempt to give a sufficient reason for why one course of action is chosen rather than another is in danger of collapsing into determinism.  To say that A is chosen by some subject S simply because S is a mind could be interpreted as a deterministic, law-like manner, which is something that a libertarian would be best off avoiding.

An agent causation libertarianism is what this would be, actually.  If a particular subject S chooses A rather than B, B might well be a choice to refrain to act whereas A would be the choice to act.  My definition of mind is as follows:

1.  X is a mind if and only if X produces or has the capacity to produce directed effects that are controlled by itself.

Here by mind I mean the “I” or the “self’ that makes the agent the agent.

Recently, I sent this proposal to Peter Van Inwagen at Notre Dame for his assessment.  This was his response:

Well, I'm not sure I understand your proposal as well as I'd like. In
order to understand it better, I'm going to ask you to consider a
hypothetical case, and answer a question about it.

Suppose that Sally has to choose between A and B, that she chooses A,
that she was able to choose B, and that the ability to choose
otherwise than one does is incompatible with determinism.

Suppose further that (for some reason) God has made a thousand
perfect duplicates of Sally as she was at the moment before she chose
A (and that He has placed each of them in an identical environment).
A few seconds have passed, and each of the duplicates (like Sally)
has chosen between A and B.

Before I can evaluate your hypothesis, I have to know how you would
answer a certain question based on this case. First, I'll have to set
the stage for the question. Here's the stage-setting.

One or the other of these two propositions must be true:

(1) All the duplicates chose A--just as Sally did.

(2) Unlike Sally, at least some of the duplicates chose B.

The question is: Which of those two propositions, (1) and (2), do you
think is true?

You can give any of the following answers:

Proposition (1) is true.

Proposition (2) is true.

There's no determinate answer; if God really did such a
thing, either one might be true.

I don't know.

When I know what your answer is, I'll be better able to evaluate your proposal.

--Peter van Inwagen

My reply was as follows:

Either answer seems to catch one on the horns of a dilemma if one is to avoid both determinism or anachronism. If (1) is true then it could be asked what the sufficient reason is for all of the duplicates of Sally for choosing A.  One could suppose that it is within Sally’s disposition to choose A and that therefore each of the duplicates chose A given that they are all exact copies of Sally.  The compatiblist would say that Sally’s disposition therefore is the necessary efficient cause of her choice of A.  But as libertarians we would claim that Sally’s disposition was not the efficient cause but part of a teleological cause and thus Sally’s choice of A was contingent.  After all, there may have been something in the environment that encouraged Sally to make the choice that she made and provided her with a sufficient reason for her choice (perhaps A was eating ice cream and B is refraining) but the sufficient reason itself would not be a necessary efficient cause but a teleological or final cause.

But then this would mean that (2) would be true if all of the Sally duplicates were placed in an environment that offered no sufficient reason for her to choose between A and B and therefore the choice was entirely random and without sufficient reason. And even if it were the case that A contained a larger sufficient reason (like eating    ass=yshortcuts>ice cream) as libertarians we believe that Sally still possess freedom to choose B instead and therefore Sally’s choice is still just as random as a coin flip.  In order to avoid what is called the ‘randomness” objection to libertarianism one might say that if no sufficient reason to choose between one alternative than the other existed within the environment then it was the case that Sally chose to dispose herself to randomness in this case.  But then one is landed back in the environment again.

But it seems here that all of these objections assume a cause beyond Sally’s mind.  The way in which I use the term mind here is in the sense of the “self” or the “I” that qualifies Sally intrinsically as a free agent.  We might define “mind” as this:

1.  An entity is a mind if and only if it causes directed effects that are controlled by itself.

These directed effects are what we call volitions and neither chance nor any environmental factors would qualify given that if their effects are directed at all then source of there direction or teleology must lie beyond themselves.  This is likewise true with mental events like desires.  Desires are not controlled and if they are (for example, being voluntarily restrained by the agent possessing them) then they are controlled by something beyond themselves (like a will, which is the effect of mind).  None of these causes contain any property of personhood, and thus are incapable of controlling themselves. Only minds possess this.  Thus to attach the will to any of these antecedent causes is determinism and determinism actually would reduce the mind to something that it is not given that it attaches the cause of the volitions to something that is not autonomous and, if true, would entail that you and I do not really posses minds after all but are nothing but machines. Therefore each of the duplicates of Sally might cause either (1) or (2) to be true, but what determines this in the efficient sense is the individual mind of each of the Sally duplicates.  No matter which is true, the external factors of the choice are a cause in the teleological or final sense only.  The efficient cause is Sally herself given that being a free agent, Sally necessarily has a mind.

Admittingly, this hypothesis is probably not entirely original, but another agent causation thesis.  But it may not be the case that the free will need be a mystery.

Now I’m not sure if my thesis provides a way in which a sufficient reason can be provided for volition without avoiding determinism, and thus truly avoiding the randomness objection (a point I didn’t think about until after I sent this response!) But it would at least highlight my own view of the will thus far.

As for the argument about God's two wills, I think that it comes down to a matter of semantics.  Depending on what one thinks these two wills are in one's thinking is going to determine what one thinks about saying that God has two wills.

   As for the appeal to Essentialism, I don't remember why it was that you said that Calvinists couldn't make an appeal to the Divine character in order to ground the rationality of his actions.

The two wills that John Calvin held to that I had in mind were God’s “secret” and “revealed” will.  These concepts were derived from his belief in God in se (God as He is in Himself) and God quoad nos (God as He reveals himself to us).  Calvin essentially believed that God wills evil for reasons that can only remain mysterious to us, but that God commands the good from us in His revelation to us (Paul Helm gives an excellent treatment of this in his book John Calvin’s Ideas).  In divine essentialism, God’s immutable nature is the determination of what is ultimately good and His will flows from this.  Therefore anything contrary to His nature is evil.  But if God wills everything that occurs in the universe, then we must conclude that evil does not exist and therefore no good and evil distinction can be made, thereby rendering the very terms meaningless.

Actually, if we were wholly autonomous, we wouldn't just be Pelagians...we'd be gods.

Quite true, I would say.

The problem with the definition you give us in (1) is that while it may be necessary condition for something to be a cause (and even that might be questionable), it doesn't seem sufficient condition to make something a cause.  For example, let's take three events, A, B, an
   d D.  Let's take for granted that B and D are temporally simultaneous necessary causal consequences of A.  It is the case that if B had not occurred, then D would not have occurred, but B is not the cause of D.  Also, I think that it might be the case that the two events, B and D might not be simultaneous temporally, and still have a common cause in A.  So, it still needs a lot of work in order show that there is a necessary causal connection between God's foreknowledge and the events that he foreknows.

I think your correct that my definition 1 my be a little too quick.  I gave a better metaphysical definition of causation a while back when I wrote a responsive essay critiquing Quentin Smith’s 1996 paper Causation and the Logical Impossibility of a Divine Cause.  It is as follows:

C.  An event is a causal event = def.  The event consists of at least two events, c and e, and it is the case that c occurs logically prior to e, as a logically sufficient condition of e, and it is such the case that if c had not occurred, then e would not have occurred.

This definition requires four criteria:

The event consists of at least two events.  This point seems pretty obvious.  We at least would expect any causal relationship to have logically distinguishable cause and effect. Naturally an event cannot be both the cause and the effect, since then it would be a self-caused cause, which is impossible.  This distinguishment is necessary so that events we don’t normally consider causes don’t then become causes (e. g. saying “hello” loudly causes the act of saying “hello”.).  Also a cause with no effect would not be an actual cause, and an effect with no cause is not an effect.

The event which is the cause must be logically prior to the event which is the effect.  The logical priority of the cause avoids the incoherency of an event causing itself (self causation) and an effect causing the cause (backward causation).  A self-causation would be impossible since the effect would not yet exist to perform any causal act and backward causation would suffer the same problem or else the effect would then be the cause and vice versa.  There seems to be no reason why temporal priority must be included along with logical priority here.  Granted that in our everyday experience, temporal priority is always included in empirical cases of cause/effect relationship. But this can easily be explained by the fact that we exist in a spatio-temporal universe and as finite beings, we are spatio-temporally bound.  Thus it would seem that logical priority alone will suffice and is not in any way logically contradictory.

The cause is a logically sufficient condition of the effect.  This criterion would be necessarily since we would expect the cause to possess the capacity to bring about the effect.  For example, since I am only human and not a bulldozer, I would not have the capacity to walk up to a 50-foot pine tree and push it to the ground, since the strength since the strength to required to accomplish such a feat is beyond human capability.  Another example would be that it would be impossible for water to ignite gasoline because there is nothing in the chemical makeup of water that would catalyze gasoline into combustion.  Thus the criterion of logically sufficiency of the cause is required.

The counterfactual necessity of the cause to the effect.  This criterion would also be necessary because if the effect occurred independently of the cause then logically it is not an effect of the said cause.  It is also true that if it is possible that the effect occur independent of the cause that we have no way of inferring that the effect is a result of the cause, but if such did occur, then the cause would in fact not be a cause.  Therefore a counterfactual relationship is required between cause and effect.

I have considered modifying the third criteria to be actually sufficient condition.  But either way, it is sufficient to describe any type of divine causation.  Now the question is to whether or not God is the cause of all events if it is true that His foreknowledge necessarily exemplifies all events in the future.  It would seem here that if the theological fatalist argument above is granted, then God’s knowledge meets all four of the criteria.  


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Peter

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« Reply #70 on: June 06, 2008, 08:19:58 pm »

Its fine to talk about theologies, but if it interferes with you're faith, then you shouldn't do so, If you know you believe then why does someone need to question it with a theology, but anyways.


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TrippFields

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« Reply #71 on: July 23, 2008, 05:10:07 pm »

Well talking about these things helps us better understand how God operates in the universe.


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Peter

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« Reply #72 on: July 23, 2008, 09:36:19 pm »

Yeah thats what i've figured, its philosophy(although not actual philosophy) of God, but the scriptures are our sole authority.  Yes I like theology, but i've got other issues.


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TrippFields

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« Reply #73 on: July 25, 2008, 01:44:37 pm »

That it is. More specifically, philosophical theology.  Being that Scripture teaches what is in fact true this means that it is possible in principle to describe it coherently and thus what is taught in Scripture conforms to the laws of logic.  Thus philosophy is used to clarify the truths that Scripture reveals to us. As it is said: philosophy is the handmade of theology.


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Peter

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« Reply #74 on: July 25, 2008, 02:50:40 pm »

Wisdom is what defines both, but Philosophy is a way of life while theology is the study of the Divine.