Friday, September 21, 2007

Robot Theology / Puppet Theology

When one engages in Reformed Apologetics in the blogosphere (or in the Internet in general) one is bound to encounter the objection: Reformed Theology/Calvinism/Predestination/etc. "makes men into robots/puppets/etc."

These unoriginal (by now) objections have been rebutted many times. Nevertheless, this post will present a very brief rebuttal.

1) Rebuttal 1 - When the objection is just a saying: Where's the problem? (not a rhetorical question)

Suppose the claim is true. Why is that a bad thing? Most people who make the objection have no idea. They just heard someone else claim that about Calvinism, and it sounded catchy. If someone cannot explain why that's a bad thing, then they haven't stated an objection, they've used a catch-phrase or chanted a mantra.

If, perchance, some objector is able to explain why that is bad thing, at least the discussion has employed some reasoned, articulated explanation, as opposed to name-calling. Then, you can decide whether the "bad thing" really is a bad thing, whether "bad thing" really inheres to Calvinism/Reformed Theology/etc., or whether you need to rethink your theology.

Otherwise, it is the same as an objection that "Calvinism treats people as though they were pottery," to which the response is "because the Apostle Paul - speaking by inspiration - does."

2) Rebuttal 2 - When the explanation is that Calvinism denies free will/human responsibility/something similar: Perhaps the objector is simply unaware of Reformed doctrine.

Calvinism asserts that man has a (compatible - not libertarian) free will and that men are responsible for their deeds. Thus, either the objector is unfamiliar with Calvinism, is insisting on a particular kind of definition of free will, or is attempting to make an implicit objection to somethinig deeper.

3) Rebuttal 3 - When the explanation is that if God is in control, then implicitly man is lacking in any real free will, repsonsibility, etc.

This objection is more nuanced. If the objector has gotten to this point, he's presented a more detailed objection than 90% of what one finds on the web. That said, the objection is still not correct.

The rebuttal can proceed several ways:

Scripturally, one can point out that:
- God says all things work together for good to them that are the called. In order for everything to work together God has to be behind the scenes, and we see that He is in - for example - the Book of Esther. So, God really must be in control. Furthermore, Scripture clearly teaches that we make choices and that we are responsible for the things we do, including the choices we make. The Bible does not contradict itself, therefore God's totality of control must not be in contradiction to man's having a real will, and man's having moral responsibility.

Philosophical, one can point out that:
There is no logical contradiction between God being in control, and man having a will, more responsibility, and the like. Thus, there is no reason from philosophy to make the objection.

4) Rebuttal 4A - When the explanation is that in order for a will to be real, it must be "libertarian" or "autonomous" - Says who?

Ultimately the objections above - if they move from surface treatments to core objections, typically lead to claims as to what the will must be in order to be a will. At this point, one could simply hand the objector a copy of Jonathan Edwards' Freedom of the Will; but perhaps there is a simpler solution. Simply ask them to justify their claim.

Who says that is the only kind of will that there can be? Scripture certainly does not state or imply any such thing. Where did they get that idea from? This author has yet to see a significant, meaningful answer to that question.

5) Rebuttal 4B - Same explanation as above - On the contrary, a real will must NOT be libertarian, and no created will can be autonomous.

There is no need to burden the objector with the rebuttal in 4A. Taking a page or two from Edwards, we can simply point out that a will that acts contingently (a "libertarian" will) cannot be a will that is determined. Yet, wills in Scripture are determined, as are choices. A will whose acts are not determined by the person whose will it is, is a monstrosity that would destroy our intuition of what is required for moral responsibility. Finally, we can see evidence in Sociology, Psychology, and the like that people's wills are determined. The advertising industry is built on the fact that people are largely predictable in their behavior. Scripture confirms that man's acts are determined - comparing man's acts to the fruit of a tree.

Furthermore, Scripture is clear that creation is dependent for everything - even its very existence - on the Creator. Accordingly, to assert that something could come to be without its ultimate source being God is contrary to Scripture. In Him we live and move and have our being, as even the pagans recognized.

So far, this author has not seen any further responses that address the combined rebuttals 4A and 4B - if some come up, this author will either provide further rebuttals, admit his mistake, or adopt some third position as-yet-unimagined.

To our Sovereign Lord be the glory,


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