Sunday, June 01, 2008

With Man it is Impossible - A Further Response to GodIsMyJudge

This is a response to a post (link) from Godismyjudge (Dan) responding to my earlier post here (link).

Dan's response doesn't seem to consist of much.

1) Dan seems to think that God self-determining is significant. In fact he says, "Please just let me enjoy the moment." As demonstrated previously, though, self-determining does not equate to LFW, so this is not as significant as Dan seems to think.

2) Dan commits a dichotomy fallacy by asserting, "This is nothing short of an affirmation of agent causation and denial of event causation on Tfan’s part." In fact, it is simply an affirmation of the fact that God is the first cause.

3) Dan continues by compounding this dichotomy fallacy with a straw man by asserting: "Normally, determinists wouldn’t say call something inactive a cause." (a) God was not inactive in Creation; (b) God was not necessarily inactive before Creation - we simply have no information about any activity of his before Creation; (c) the activity/inactivity distinction (whether employed by "determinists" or not) seems intrinsically false, if activity means movement - since we recognize that a keystone is a cause of stability in an arch without motion; and (d) we call the state of man's heart, and more generally man's nature causes of man's choices - why that being the case for God would be significant is elusive.

4) Dan then oddly comments, "But if TF is willing to call agents causes, then the answer to TF’s 2nd question is the agent." My second question was, "Can we meaningfully speak of reasons for choices, reasons that explain the choices?" How "the agent" is an answer to that question is hard to follow. Dan seems to be engage in a combined form of composition and equivocation. Namely, that if man's sinful nature is an explanation, than "man" in general is the explanation. While man certainly is part of the explanation for man's actions, but it is not the entirety of the explanation.

5) Dan's jump from Divine causality to "agent" causality is also an example of a generalization fallacy. Dan's own title partial reference, (i.e. to the phrase "with God all things are possible") is part of a larger whole, "With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Ironically, it's quite a Calvinist verse, because it is explaining the possibility of man obtaining salvation - thereby laying the foundation for salvation by grace alone. But that is an aside. Man and God are not automatically convertable. Just because something is possible for God does not make it categorically possible.

6) Dan then poses, in the most interesting part of his post the following puzzle. Dan insists that "There doesn’t seem like much of a point in getting into the rest of Tfan’s post without resolving this." Here goes:
Now then, let’s get to the controversial part. It rained this afternoon. Was it absolutely impossible for God to create a world which didn’t include rain this afternoon? Seems to me that unless Tfan says yes, God has LFW. Again, unless God was unable to have the slightest detail in the universe be any different that it was, is or will be, God had LFW.
I answer:

Let's leave aside the obvious out of the inconsistency of this statement with Dan's futile "in the beginning" argument in his previous post and turn to the substance.

Dan asks: "Was it absolutely impossible for God to create a world which didn’t include rain this afternoon?"

1) What Dan means by "absolutely impossible" needs to be clarified. For example, it is absolutely impossible for God to change his mind. Scripture explains that to us. On the other hand, it is very easy for God to withhold rain. Thus, we need Dan to explain to us what he means by absolutely impossible. Furthermore, let us consider God in the logical order before free knowledge.

2) Ultimately, I think I can guess why Dan is asking the question. We know that God is going to do what is best. Dan seems to want to know whether God's actual decree of Providence is the absolutely best plan for history, or whether one of at least two equally good best plans could have been made. I don't think Scripture speaks clearly to that question. The bottom line is that God himself determined what the plan would be. It's really not important to the compatibilist how God did so - either by picking the best possible plan or by picking one plan among several alternative equally best possible plans. Or intuition suggests the former, since precise equality is so hard to find. I can throw up my shoulders here and say, I think the former, but I don't particularly care - it doesn't change anything else. If Dan could somehow prove the latter, it might be significant, but I don't see how he could hope to do so (which is perhaps why he asked the question rather than responding).

3) Saying that God had LFW with respect to some detail of the universe, per Dan's proposed fork, seems equivalent to saying that God acted arbitrarily in selecting this universe as opposed to that one. Yet God does not act arbitrarily, but wisely. Perhaps that is the solution to Dan's dilemma - if indeed it means that God would have had to have chosen arbitrarily, then we can reject that theory on the grounds that God is not an arbitrary God.

In any event, I await Dan's clarification of his puzzle as well as any answer's Dan may have to the remainder of the refutations already presented.



Anonymous said...

I kinda sorta somewhat agree too, waiting for a response from Dan I kinda sorta somewhat mean!

Not on your part TF, what you presented is quite clear. I am just kinda sorta somewhat feeling I agree to agree too, ah, kinda sorta!

Whaz up Dan?

Godismyjudge said...

Dear TF and Natamllc,

I attempted a carification here.

God be with you both,

Mitch said...

I agree that self-determining is not the issue. Saying that someone self-determines their action is in line with saying that an agent chooses according to his nature and desire. Man being evil and totally depraved self determines only sinful actions and can do nothing else in the state that he is in.

The problem with LFW is that it does not stop there; it says that all things being equal you could have done otherwise and that just goes against Scripture and common intuition. A good Scripture verse to show what I mean is Matthew 11:23

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Notice what is said, if something were different the outcome would have been different. Why would our Lord say that if the people in Sodom had LFW? Then there would be no need for the *mighty works* to achieve a different outcome, all things being the same and the people in Sodom had the same opportunity they could have done otherwise, no need for *mighty works*.

I am learning a great deal from all of you and God bless.

Turretinfan said...

Dan, I have responded in a new post (here).