Before you read the article, if you choose to do so, you should know that Godismyjudge is not a George Bryson, Emir/Ergun Caner, Norm Geisler, or Dave Hunt "Arminian." Godismyjudge is something closer to a classical Arminian or a Molinist. I think Godismyjudge finds William Lane Craig to be a better figurehead of his views. With a bit of a grin, I think Godismyjudge is a Calvinist who hasn't discovered that he's a Calvinist yet.
Thus, Godismyjudge would find himself at theological odds with many of the anti-Calvinist authors that I have quoted and/or replied against here. Godismyjudge's paper is, nevertheless, of interest to me.
It is a detailed, analytical presentation that attempts to reconcile God's infallible, exhaustive knowledge of the future (which the writer terms "foreknowledge") with what appears to be libertarian free will (which the writer calls "freewill").
While I disagree with a great deal of the article, and I suppose I should, at some point, respond line by line, here are the most obvious challenges:
1) One of the weaknesses of your article is your attempt to establish "freewill" from Scripture. You appeal to what you view as five types of passages. Reviewing those five types of passages, however, it becomes clear that the passages themselves are only sufficient to support Calvinistic free will, and not sufficient to support libertarian free will.
Specifically, Calvinistic free will simply says that a choice is a determination or judgment by an animate being with respect to one object in preference to another object. No more of a free will than that is taught by Scripture, yet the reason for presenting your argument evaporates if there is no Scriptural reason to believe in anything more than Calvinistic free will.
Why do any of the passages you cited, or the combination of passages, require anything more than a simple, Calvinistic free will?
2) There are lots of kinds of necessity mentioned in your article. Nevertheless, you don't really tie (as far as I could see) one or more of these kinds of necessity into your definition of "freewill." Indeed, most of your (and your adopted) definitions relate to the "necessity" of propositions, not actions, choices, or events. As such, a thoughtful reader is left wondering whether you have even identified what it is you believe. I, for one, could not discover the relationship between "necessity" (any version from "de dicto" to "de re natural necessity/impossibility/contingence" in your list in Appendix A) and your definition of libertarian free will, which you label "freewill."
A typical definition of libertarian free will is that man is free from necessity. That sounds great, but when we explore what is meant by the word "necessity," it turns out either to be essentially meaningless, in conflict with Scripture, in conflict with reason, and/or (and more than one can apply) utterly detached from the ordinary meaning of the term "necessity" in common parlance.
What is your definition of "freewill" (your term), how does it relate (presumably negatively) to "necessity," and what is your definition of that kind of necessity to which "freewill" relates?
3) Do you acknowledge the thesis of my post, namely: "There is a future, one future, and only one future. What that future is, is already known to God and to those to whom God has revealed it." to be a true thesis and supported by Scripture?
4) If not (to item 3), then why not?
May God bless you abundantly,
Godismyjudge has replied:
If I have yet to discover my Calvinist leanings, perhaps you might be able to get me in touch with my true feelings. I do take a hard line on total depravity. It's biblical. So in that sense I might look more Calvinistic than many modern authors. I also view God's providential control a bit tighter than some. But I do hold to freewill. And I suspect that the ancient writers that I enjoy best (Arminius, Molina, Suarez) were those most troublesome to the first Calvinists.
Calvinists also believe in "free will" properly defined, brother Godismyjudge.
Let's get into your questions.
[as to Question 1] My honest answer is I don't know, because I am not quite clear on the Calvinistic definition of freewill. From what I do understand either Calvinistic freewill matches the scriptural definition and runs into consistency issues with other Calvinistic teachings such as prognostic determinism and causal determinism, or the Calvinistic definition does not meet the requirements of the passages I listed.
I'm not sure what is unclear in the definition I provided, namely: "Calvinistic free will simply says that a choice is a determination or judgment by an animate being with respect to one object in preference to another object." What is unclear?
If I could request a minor clarification on your part that would be helpful. My request for clarification is in two parts. The first relates to "preference" as you use the term in your definition. Choice and preference can be synonyms, but to use a synonym to define its counterpart is somewhat bootstrapped. But I am not sure what you mean by preference so if you could please explain that would be great.
Using synonyms to define terms is pretty much standard practice. Is the problem that it is unclear what it means to prefer something? To prefer something means to desire it more than something else. Thus, to choose is to express greater desire for one object than another. I hope that helps. Are you now able to answer the question?
Second, I presume you think man has the ability to choose as you have defined choice. Could you please define that ability? Also could you please state if we are able to select the alternative object (the object we will not choose), using the same definition for ability that you use for the object we will choose? If we are not able to choose the alternative object in the same sense of ability, but rather in some other sense of ability, please provide that sense.
Men do make choices. In common parlance, people can only do things that are within their ability. Accordingly, using that common parlance sense of the term, men have the ability to make choices.
Given the definitions provided above for choice, it would be absurd to speak of a person choosing what is less desired or unpreferred. The exception, of course, is when one is speaking disjointly - as, for example, when we speak of a martyr choosing death. Recall that the preference is a relative preference. It is not that the martyr prefers death to life, but that the martyr prefers death to betrayal of his Lord.
Taking the example of the martyr, if the man loved his life more than he loved Christ, he would not choose martyrdom but would recant - kiss the toe of the statue of Peter, or whatever task was assigned - and live. There is no question that the martyr has the physical ability to speak words of recantation, that the martyr has the physical ability to crawl on his knees to a basilica, etc. Thus, the martyr could say to his tormentors, "Do you not realize that I have the ability to recant and save myself?" What is implied behind those words is "if I desired to" or "if I loved my life more than I love my King."
Hopefully that answers your questions. Can you answer mine now?
Request for clarification
[See Question 2 above]
Thanks for requesting the clarification. I will likely rework the article with some additional explanation. In the section on choice and ability I provided some broad definitions (the ability to do otherwise or power over alternative possibilities). I didn't but should have endorsed them. I wanted to relate them to the topic of the paper so I provided: "the ability to do nonA at T3 entails that nothing prior to T3 renders nonA impossible." This was meant to relate the definition of freewill to
When you say that you should have endorsed them, are you saying that you do endorse them now?
I can understand "the ability to do X at T requires that nothing prior to T makes X impossible," and recognize that it is based on the premise "impossibility is inconsistent with ability" or in other words, "one can only do that which is possible." There's nothing objectionable about the point that one can only do the possible, and not the impossible.
Nevertheless, I don't see much (if any connection) between that and any defintion of necessity.
As for the type of necessity the will is free from, I would say any type of necessity. Using Freddosso's definitions I would say the will is free from causal necessity (which also entails logical, metaphysical de dicto, historical contingency).
Maybe I missed it, but I don't see Freddoso's definition of "causal necessity" in your article. Perhaps you could provide me that defintion?
[See Question 3 above]
I have trouble with your use of the word "is" as I can't tell in what sense you are claiming that the future exists today.
I'm obliged to mention Bill Clinton's name here.
Moving on, I don't recall saying that the future exists today. My statement is shown above, but does not seem to suggest that the future exists today, and I'm not sure why you would be troubled by my statement's use of "is." Perhaps you could clarify.
If you are defining the future as "a set of events that will be" or "a time to come," no I disagree. I would fear a collapse of time into one moment. Cleary [sic] future events to [sic] not exist right now. If you are defining the future as "a set of true future tense propositions," yes I agree with your statement. Statements about the future are true today but the future events don't exist today.
Clearly future events are not happening right now. That they have not occurred yet is what makes the (for now) future. Yet your "collapse of time" argument would require that we also deny the existance of a single past, which utter confusion. The events of the past are not happening right now either. Nevertheless, they are real - and we can say truly, and without any error that there is one past.
We can also say that there is one present and one future. In fact, considering history as a whole (past, present, and future), there is but one history, because there is but one God who has ordained history.
Beyond the question of the "preexistence" of the future is the question of one future vs. many futures. I will take the liberty of defining the future so this issue can be addressed. Defining the future as a set of events that will be, I would change: "There is a future, one future, and only one future. What that future is, is already known to God and to those to whom God has revealed it." To: There will be a set of events, one set of events, and only one set of events. What that set of events will be is already known to God and to those to whom God has revealed it. In this sense only one set of events will be.
This formulation has the same dreaded "is" ("What that set of events will be is already known to God ...."). Thus, the same implication follows, namely that what will be is a fixed, certain res. It must be certain, otherwise it could not be ascertainable. Yet it has been ascertained, therefore it is certain. What will be, will be. Nothing else can be, because there cannot be a plurality of futures.
But can other sets of events occur? Yes.
No - only what has been ascertained can occur. The sense in which other futures are "possible" is only in a hypothetical sense. As above, a future in which the martyr recants etc. is "possible" only in a world in which the martyr loves his life more than Christ - a world that does not exist.
These counterfactual sets of events define other possible futures. Many sets of events can be (giving rise to many possible futures), but of those sets of events only one set of events will be (giving rise to one actual future).
There are also "possible pasts" in the sense of things that could have been, but were not. Nevertheless, the future is no less certain, fixed, and singular than the past.
This distinction leads to defining future events in a divided and compound sense. Future events in a divided sense are those events which can be and future events in a compound sense are those events that will be.
Even so, we could create a divided past (things that could have been) and a compound past (things that were). Or, perhaps more clearly, we can do so with the present, with the divided sense being things other than they are (a hypothetical state) and the compound sense being things the way they are (reality).
The past, the present, and the future are all part of the reality of history: which is known and ordained by God.
Godismyjudge has responded to my remarks:
I had written:
To prefer something means to desire it more than something else. Thus, to choose is to express greater desire for one object than another. I hope that helps. Are you now able to answer the question?Godismyjudge responded:
Yes that helps. Thanks. I am going to parrot back in my own words, my understanding of Calvinistic freewill.
That seems like a risky endeavor. Most non-Calvinists who try to present the Calvinist position in their own words fail. Let us hope you have better success.
I had written:
Calvinistic free will simply says that a choice is a determination or judgment by an animate being with respect to one object in preference to another object.
Man’s two faculties involved in choice are reason and desire. The two align in a choice. Man has the ability to reach conclusions via reason (your words: determinations or judgments) and desire one thing greater than another (your word: preference).
It really looks like you are complicating a rather simple definition that I provided. Your restatement employs philosophical terminology that tends to obfuscate rather than clarify. The term “faculties,” for example, requires definition. What is wrong – if anything – with the simple definition? Why seek to complicate it?
I am going to add a little based on my understanding of Calvinism. The results of reason and the object most desired are determined by factors external to man. There might be many steps in the process internal to man. But ultimately there is some external condition which is a sufficient cause of the result. Further, there is a chain of sufficient causes with leads back all the way to God as originator.
Again, this complicates matters further by addressing not just what a choice is, but how a choice comes to be. Furthermore, your characterization employs more philosophical terminology, which – again – requires definition. There is really no reason to drag causality into the discussion. Doing so tends to muddy the waters, which clear thinking should be opposed to.
Understood in this manor [sic] let’s get back to your original question.
I’d rather you didn’t impose those complications into the simply definition already provided. I can’t see any valid reason for complicating things.
I had written:
Why do any of the passages you cited, or the combination of passages, require anything more than a simple, Calvinistic free will?
They all do because there is nothing in man to interact with, nothing to test, nothing to discover, no other origin of sin, no will able to choose contrary to God’s will, no source of resistance, no other source of ultimate responsibility.
I think you’ve tried to criticize the straw man you set up above with respect to causality, rather than the simple definition I already provided. As such, of course, a detailed response is unnecessary. Instead, I could simply point you to the shorter definition provided above, which – presumably – does not provide the conflict you believe exists.
But as to your specific objections:
- are you aware that computer games (including one player games) are called interactive entertainment? That suggests that we believe that we can interact with a machine.
- are you aware that people test cars all the time? That suggests that we can test machines.
- are you suggesting that an omnipotent being can “discover” in the ordinary sense of the term, i.e. to learn something that was previously unknown? I will agree that my definition above is fully compatible with God being omniscient and, therefore, incapable of discovering new information.
- you’re wrong about the idea that man cannot choose contrary to God’s will in Calvinism, and it is surprising that you would be unaware of that fact.
- if on the road ahead, there is a single speck of dust – would we ordinarily speak of that as providing “resistance” to your car? Unless we are doing some kind of engineering analysis, we would not. The contrast between the collective power of all the created order and the power of an omnipotent God is much greater than the speck versus the car, because the car has finite power, but God has infinite power. Nevertheless, Calvinism acknowledges that, in a sense, men do resist God’s will. Furthermore, we humans can build machines that provide resistance – Nautilus ® equipment is an example.
In short, all of your criticisms either make God sub-divine (by denying his omniscience) or absurdly suggest that Calvinism’s man has less capability than a man-made machine. There’s something awry with your analysis.
Furthermore, if you had limited yourself to the definitions I had actually provided, you cannot make those claims that you are making. There is nothing inconsistent between the definitions of choice I have provided and any of the verses your paper mentions.
Godismyjudge had asked:
I presume you think man has the ability to choose as you have defined choice. Could you please define that ability?
I had answered:
Men do make choices. In common parlance, people can only do things that are within their ability. Accordingly, using that common parlance sense of the term, men have the ability to make choices. Given the definitions provided above for choice, it would be absurd to speak of a person choosing what is less desired or unpreferred. The exception, of course, is when one is speaking disjointly - as, for example, when we speak of a martyr choosing death. There is no question that the martyr has the physical ability to speak words of recantation. … What is implied behind those words is “if I desired to.” ….
I am not sure how you answered the question. Perhaps you meant as defined by common parlance or perhaps you meant physical ability. The problem with common parlance (which term itself is no longer common parlance, despite Pirates of the Caribbean’s attempts to bring it back) is that terms are used equivocally. You provided an example in which the martyr says he can do otherwise. The same martyr, when asked to recant, might answer “sir, I cannot” meaning I don’t choose to. So the same man might affirm or deny counterfactual ability under common parlance. So a bit more rigor is sometimes required. Putting common definitions foreword in a philosophical discussion often has the result of the author defining things however they want, and claiming to bring the masses along for the ride. Tighter specificity is required in technical discussions and often it’s helpful to find something external to the term (ie not a synonym) to use as a foundation to build from.
I have several bones to pick with the comments above.
- If you don’t like the term “common parlance” because it sounds pompous or piratical, then substitute “ordinary speech.”
- When a child tells his mother “I cannot” to mean simply that the child chooses not to do something, we would view that child as exaggerating the matter. When a martyr tells the grand Inquisitor, “No, I cannot bow the knee to Mary,” he means that the choice itself is morally impossible for him. He doesn’t just mean that he has already made a choice like the self-willed child – he means that his convictions are so strong that he must choose to serve God and only God.
- The problem with inserting philosophical words into the discussion is that they have a tendency to confuse people. It’s not necessary to delve into philosophy in order to understand the Calvinistic definition of man’s will – and doing so seems likely to simply amplify confusion.
- The biggest problem with philosophical definitions is that they are sometimes quite different from the ordinary sense of the terms. It is not that words are being used more precisely, but rather that the words are being used with new and distinct meanings.
- If you are going to use philosophical terms with particular, technical meanings, expect to be asked to translate those terms into ordinary speech. Also, expect to be called to account for whether you are applying a philosophical definition when an ordinary definition should be used.
As for physical ability, that is more specific, but seems to relate to the actions chosen in the context you provided. So I am not sure I understand the answer to the question.
Pick a new context, if you like.
I asked: Also could you please state if we are able to select the alternative object and I also asked: If we are not able to choose the alternative object in the same sense of ability, but rather in some other sense of ability, please provide that sense. I took your responses as no and we are able to select the alternative in a divided sense, excluding our strongest desire.
Looking at my response above, I don’t think that’s an accurate characterization of my response. I think I said it is an absurdity to speak of choosing what we prefer less.
This leads me to the problem I have with your definition of freewill. You assume one strongest desire which is in place prior to the choice.
In the case of the martyr, that is not an assumption. The desire to live is not as strong as the desire to honor God, before the rack is racked, before stake is placed in the town square – before the martyr is required to choose between his life and his Lord. To deny that it is, is truly bizarre.
Choice relates to alternatives (ie two or more objects). The way you explain choice it neither determines, controls or even identifies which desire is strongest. Choice is simply acting on the one object which is desired the strongest. There is no real alternative. You specifically say we are unable to do anything else.
Man expresses man’s desires through choice. Choice is not a self-existent thing that sits in man’s temples or forehead. Choice exists in its use. When man chooses something over something else, he is expressing a preference for that something.
To say that “there is no real alternative,” as you do, is simply wrong. The alternative is the unchosen object – the “something else” that is less preferred. In the case of the martyr, it is life with recantation.
I had written:
I can understand "the ability to do X at T requires that nothing prior to T makes X impossible," and recognize that it is based on the premise "impossibility is inconsistent with ability" or in other words, "one can only do that which is possible." There's nothing objectionable about the point that one can only do the possible, and not the impossible. Nevertheless, I don't see much (if any connection) between that and any definition of necessity.
I place counterfactuals within the realm of ability. If something is necessary, counterfactuals are impossible.
I assume that this is an answer fraught with philosophical terms. Before I respond, please define:
If you had meant just the ordinary sense of the terms, the reply would be that “counterfactual” information is explicitly outside the realm of reality. Only factual information is within the realm of reality.
I had written:
Maybe I missed it, but I don't see Freddoso’s definition of “causal necessity” in your article. Perhaps you could provide me that definition?
Freddoso uses the term necessity of nature. In his explanations he uses the phrase “causes operative at moment T.”
I’m not sure I’m any closer to understanding Freddoso is trying to say. What does “necessity of nature” mean? What does the phrase “causes operative at moment T” refer to?
I had written:
My statement is shown above, but does not seem to suggest that the future exists
today, and I’m not sure why you would be troubled by my statement's use of “is.”
Perhaps you could clarify.
“Is” means that something exists today. We seem to agree that the events of the future don’t exist today, nor the time of the future exist today. But events that will be or time that will be are the normal definitions of the future (common parlance).
It is perfectly ordinary to speak of certain (concrete, pre-known) events in the future using the verb “is.” For example:
1 Samuel 20:18 Then Jonathan said to David, To morrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty.
The translators supplied “is” there – not because they were Calvinists, but because it is normal to speak of the future in that way, without suggesting that the new moon is already occurring today.
Furthermore, the criticism you have made would also apply to the past. Those events are not occurring at the moment, but we can still recognize the reality of the past and say that “There is one past, and only one past – and there can be no other past.
Thus, your emphatic “exists today” is a mistaken claim about the usage of “is.” That is certainly once sense in which the verb can be used, but it is obviously not the exclusive sense of the term.
I provided a more technical definition, but using these common ones we have:
P1: TF says “There is a future” [Edit by TF: also “There is a past,” and “There is a present.”]
P2: is means exists today [Edit by TF: but sometimes “is” just conveys existence, see above.]
P3: future means events that will be [Edit by TF: “future” refers to events that have not occurred yet, just as “past” refers to events that have already occurred, and “present” refers to events that occurring.]
C1: therefore, there exists today events that will be (P1, P2, P3) [Edit by TF: and if this logic is correct, “there exists today events that have already occurred” and “there exists today events that are occurring”]
P4: if there exists today X, X exists today [Edit by TF: this seems to be a question of syntax. The reason for this is clearly to change “There is a future,” into “A future is.” The former makes sense in English, the latter does not. Syntactically we can reject this premise.]
C2: events that will be exists today (C1, P4) [Edit by TF: “events that
have not occurred yet” exist today would be a better way of saying it. As
noted above, this is a syntactically stilted way of phrasing the matter.
The better way to phrase it is, “as of today there are events that have
not yet occurred.” (as well as events that have already occurred, and events
that are occurring.)]
P5: the passage of time requires that that which will be does not exist today (edit by TF: this is the heart of the argument – see below)
C2: time is incompatible with TF’s statement (C2, P5)
Is the second coming of Christ a real event?
Is it an event that is occurring now?
Is it an event that has occurred already?
Is it an event that will occur?
The answer, of course, is that it is an event that will occur. That is what makes it part of the future. The content of what is past and what is future is what changes with the passage of time.
The future is the set of all events that have not yet occurred, but will occur.
The past is the set of all events that have already occurred.
The present is the set of all events that are occurring.
All three parts of history are equally real. Only the past is known to us. We are discovering the present, but by the time we process it (because we are finite) it is already the past.
It is as proper to say “There is a future, and only one,” as to say “There is a past, and only one,” even though – technically – the past events have already gone and the future events have not yet come.
In other words, all this quibbling over the use of the word “is,” is simply a smokescreen, a distraction from the real issue: the reality and singularity of the future. It proves too little (by simply proving what we all agree – that future events are, by definition, not occurring right now) and too much (by attempting to discredit the use of the term “is” in conjunction with the future, it also must discredit the use of the term “is” with respect to the past). In short, it is an invalid criticism of the statement.
Godismyjudge had written:
There will be a set of events, one set of events, and only one set of events. What that set of events will be is already known to God and to those to whom God has revealed it. In this sense only one set of events will be.
I had responded:
This formulation has the same dreaded “is” (“What that set of events will be is already known to God ....”). Thus, the same implication follows, namely that what will be is a fixed, certain res. It must be certain, otherwise it could not be ascertainable. Yet it has been ascertained, therefore it is certain. What will be, will be. Nothing else can be, because there cannot be a plurality of futures.
God’s knowledge and not the events exist today. As for the implications a full analysis and resolution is provided in my article.
There are plenty of problems with your article that I will address in due course. Nevertheless, the point remains. The future is simply “the set of events that will be.” Yet one can (and even you do) use that quantity (“the set of events that will be”) together with a present tense form of the verb “to be.” Thus, your criticism applies just as much to your own position.
Furthermore, fundamentally, the idea that there is a definite, concrete set of events that will be – only one such set – is the primary feature of Calvinism that is objectionable to the average reader. There is no chance that things will be otherwise than foreseen – God’s righteousness depends on it.
Isaiah 41:26 Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words.
I had written:
only what has been ascertained can occur. The sense in which other futures are “possible” is only in a hypothetical sense. As above, a future in which the martyr recants etc. is “possible” only in a world in which the martyr loves his life more than Christ - a world that does not exist.
This is either based on collapsing time or the assumption discussed in the article: namely the basis of truth of future tense statements must exist at the time the statements are true.
As noted above, the “collapsing time” argument itself collapses when we consider the past. We can speak of “what could have been,” but those hypothetical pasts are possible only in a hypothetical sense. “If things had been different …” is the way that this counter-reality is described. The “basis of truth of future tense statements” argument is a philosophical mess that demands some untangling. However, I guess that will have to wait until I line-by-line your article.
Under your view, something prior to the martyr’s actions renders the martyr’s act necessary. There is an implied preceding basis of truth. In my view, the martyr’s future actions are the basis of truth of future tense statements about the martyr’s actions.
I’ll politely decline to adopt your characterization of my position. I assume you are using “necessary” in an as-yet-undefined philosophical sense. As such, of course, I would decline to adopt something undefined and potentially meaningless.
I had written:
we could create a divided past (things that could have been) and a compound past (things that were). Or, perhaps more clearly, we can do so with the present, with the divided sense being things other than they are (a hypothetical state) and the compound sense being things the way they are (reality).
Agreed. But as per the article, the past & present have additional considerations, namely causal closeness.
Again, it seems you want to jump away from existence to causation. “Causal closeness” is obviously a philosophical term.
The bottom line, however, is that I’m no closer to figuring out why anything more than the simple Calvinistic definition of “free will” is required from the texts you provided. I’m also not any closer to figuring out what your definition of “free will” is, or to identifying what you mean by “necessity.”