Saturday, May 24, 2008

Thoughts on the Will's Freedom

I was listening to an interesting discussion on the will's freedom, in which the compatibilist noted the following:

1) The standard contemporary definition for Libertarian Free Will is the ability to do otherwise, given all preceding causal factors.

2) Thus, to take an example, if we choose to pull a trigger - we could have chosen NOT to pull the trigger.

3) If we give any reason, or set of reasons, for why we pulled the trigger - it must be that if we had NOT chosen to pull the trigger, the reasons would be the same.

4) But this is absurd.

I hope I've summarized the argument well - but perhaps not. Here's my source (link), which has some interesting further discussion on the topic.

I see some weaknesses with this argument - but exposing them actually demonstrates a slightly stronger argument.

As to (3), it's rather absurd to imagine that our desire for venison would be BOTH a reason why we chose to pull the trigger and the reason why did not choose to pull the trigger. Instead, we'd probably filter our the "favorable" and "unfavorable" reasons. Perhaps our sympathies stirred up by the movie Bambi would be the reason why we did not choose to pull the trigger - but not our love of venison.

Ultimately, though, we have to realize that in doing so - in filtering the preceding causes based on the actual choice - we are not really giving an explanation for the choice at all. Our love of venison does not explain the choice - it simply relates favorably to the outcome. The goes for our love of Bambi if we do not choose to pull the trigger: we only pick it as a "reason" after the fact.

To think about it another way, if we did not love venison, would we not have chosen to pull the trigger? If the choice is explained by the love of venison, then the answer would seem to be yes. But then, it would appear that our love of venison in some sense determined the outcome. The consistent LFW advocate must say that if the preceding causes had been different, the choice still could have gone either way.

This seems to close any loophole for the person to claim that there are reasons for human choices.

But perhaps the LFW advocate will seek refuge in the idea that there is no reason or explanation for human choices. The choice just exists. There are two responses:

1) Our intuitions strongly oppose such an idea. Every young heart in (as yet) unrequited love has believed that it is possible to influence the decisions of love's object. Every hyponist (and most of those watching) believe it is possible for the hypnotist to influence his subject's decisions. Every advertiser thinks its a good investment to advertize, because it will influence human decisions. Every crook who has tried to bribe a judge has thought he could influence human decisions. Is all that collective intuition wrong? It certainly could be. I don't mean to suggest that human intuition is always right - the fall has corrupted men's minds. But isn't it worthy of careful consideration?

2) And when we turn to a standard that we trust, Scripture, don't 'we see the same thing? Doesn't Scripture explain human choices? Doesn't Scripture specifically warn judges NOT to take bribes? If it does, can we reject that?

I suppose a third option is to insist on partial, or incomplete libertarianism. That is to say, choices are determined, but only partially. But what on earth does that mean? How is something being partially determined work? How's partial determination different from no determination?

The argument here seems to be, give 10 judges a dollar and 9 out of 10 will render you a favorable decisions - but there is that 10th guy who still renders just judgment. Isn't this more easily explained though as the gift having a different effect on different people - and not by the people's choices being only partially determined?

In other words, isn't it the case that we can more easily explain the matter as any given cause being only a partial explanation, but the sum of all the causes (including the condition of the preson's own heart) being the full explanation? After all - that's what we'd do with the case of a pharmaceutical. Ten people take, nine recover, but one does not. Does that mean that the recovery was not caused in the 9 cases? Or does that mean that somehow the body itself has free will to accept the effects of the drug? Surely not. It means that some people's bodies (or diseases) are different. The drug has an effect, but the sum of the effects is different in different people, so the drug doesn't always cure.

These arguments seem to leave no room for "Libertarian" Free Will. Nevertheless, I invite my firends who insist that men have the "ability to do otherwise" (regardless of all preceding causes) to consider the matter with a few questions:

1) Is it the LFW position that the sum (or product) of all preceding causes (including the state of man's heart) does not determine the choice, but that given that same exact set of preceding causes (both external and internal) man could have chosen otherwise? This question is important, because otherwise the argument is just so much straw-man-defeating, in which we shouldn't be investing any time.

2) Can we meaningfully speak of reasons for choices, reasons that explain the choices?

3) If we can, how can we do so consistently with the concept of libertarian free will?

4) So why not just define Free Will as Calvinists typically do, as man choosing in accordance with his desires?


Let the Nations be Glad, by John Piper, in Farsi

Terry Maveus, at Desiring God, reports the release of Let the Nations be Glad, by John Piper, in Farsi. John Piper has a lot of good things to say: he's a great preacher, if not always a careful or systematic theologian. (link to Terry's article, as well as to information on how to get the book)

Friday, May 23, 2008

KJVO vs. KJV Translators

A while back I came across the following article that is germane to the KJVO debate (link). This article relies on the testimony of the translators themsevles in discussion the issues. Doug Smith appears to have prepared this as part of a series - though I don't recall seeing the rest of the series. If he is still in the process of preparing it, I hope he'll continue, as this topic continues to be of importance.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sad News for the Chapmans

The famous singer Steven Curtis Chapman is reported to have lost a daughter. Apparently she was accidentally killed by her older brother. From what I understand, Mr. Chapman professes faith in Christ - let us pray that God will comfort him in this time of grief.

Comments on this post (both here and via backlinks) are closed.

Chaldean Catholics take a Stand Against the Bible and Historic Catholicism

Chaldean Catholics (a non-Latin "rite" of Roman Catholicism) have condemned the death sentence for the murderer of their late archbishop.

From the mouth of their Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni:

“Monsignor Rahho, would not have accepted the sentence. Christian principles say it is not allowed to sentence someone to death, and instead it invites us to forgiveness, reconciliation and justice.”

Warduni is clearly wrong. One immediately recalls both the Old Testament law for Israel, which included the death penalty, as well as the historical practice of the Roman Catholic church for many years of advocating for the use of capital punishment (both in situtations in which we would deem proper, and in situations that we would deem improper). For those that need an example, consider the account of the trial of Giordino Bruno (link to Vatican's own reproduction of the account on the Vatican website)

For those who prefer Scripture, it is written:

Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

The death sentence for murderers is Biblical justice - and failure (by the king) to execute justice is not pleasing to God:

Deuteronomy 19:13 Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee.

Christians are called to personal forgiveness, but it is still the duty of government to put away the guilt of innocent blood from the land by executing God's justice on murderers. That has not changed in the New Testament. For that reason Paul writes that:

Romans 13:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

May God have mercy on us, who deserve such justice from Him,


Thanks to Bill Cork of Oak Leaves for pointing out this article.

C. Michael Patton discussion Sproul on 6 Day Creationism

Even while astrophysicists are rejoicing at the observation of the birth of a supernova, a much more interesting cosmological discussion is being had by C. Michael Patton over at Parchment and Pen (link).

The author explains that apparently noted Reformed author R.C. Sproul has taken (in 2006) a stand in favor of the traditional, literal six day creation account. The reason is obvious: if you read the text exegetically, there is no other conclusion you can come to.

I realize that, as Sproul notices, there are other possibilities for interpretations of Genesis 1 vetted: but none of them can stand on an exegetical method. Thus, those who advocate other views really ought to try to come to grips with the fact that they have not derived their view from Scripture, and consequently that they should perhaps rethink their view.

Objection 1: The Day-Age and/or Gap Theories are not Inconsistent with the Text

I realize that the immediate objection from those who hold alternative theories of the text will be that their theories do not conflict with the text. They may argue that they can build a consistent interpretation of Genesis 1 (and the rest of Scripture) based on their theory.

We Answer:

Yet those theories are not derived from the text. Indeed, such a "not inconsistent with" standard is the standard used by "traditionists" for every novel doctrine that they wish to impose. It is not a valid way of doing textual interpretation. That one can interpret the text of Genesis 1 in some non-exegetical way, and then craft an answer (using similar mechanisms) for the rest of Scriptures does not surprise us. It simply shows a willingness to make the theory fit -- it does not demonstrate the theory actually fitting. It does not let the text speek for itself.

Objection 2

The other main objection we are wont to hear is "the Bible is not (at least primarily) a Science textbook."

We Answer:

We agree, but distinguish. While the Bible is not primarily a Science textbook, the Bible is an historical source. While it certainly is treated as though it were "Science" in the popular media, Cosmology is an historical study - and claims (such as the claims that the recently observed supernova birth is 80+ Million years old) about cosmology are historical claims.

Natural sciences, by definition, exclude the supernatural. Thus, it is more proper to turn this objection on its head and respond that Science is not primarily an historical method. This is especially true when it comes to miracles. From the Bible, we know that miracles do occur. The account of the world's and man's creation in Genesis is portrayed in supernatural terms. God spoke - and it was so. Thus, we should not expect purely naturalistic investigations to jive with the account of Creation, just as we should not expect purely naturalistic investigations to jive with the account of the Resurrection of Christ, or the Virgin Birth.

Praise be to God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth!


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Two Interesting Posts on Relics

Erik, the Irish Calvinist, and Dr. James White, of Alpha & Omega Ministries, both have interesting posts today on the topic of relics. Erik's post (link) focuses on the continued trade in relics, while Dr. White's post (link) provides some additional comments addressing the fact that this is superstitious nonsense.

While the articles focus on Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy has its fair share of relics as well. I'm told that the remains of the supposed saint "John of Shanghai and San Fransisco" are the only viewable Orthodox relics in the U.S. (in San Fransisco). Wikipedia provided the following photograph which purports to be a photograph of his partly decomposed corpse. (No venerating, please.)

Praise be to the God of the Living!


Reformed Blog in Farsi

To some extent, I have to trust my Farsi-reading viewers to confirm that the blog I'm linking to below is in fact Farsi and is in fact Reformed. Nevertheless, based on the information I have, if you are interested in the Bible and more familiar with Farsi or a related language, this blog may be for you (link). Evidentally the raison d'etre of the blog is to provide an improved translation of the Bible into Farsi.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

When was Purgatory Invented?

PhatCatholic recently addressed a question related to the question above, by posing the following question (link to source):

When was Purgatory first talked about?

PC answered:

The earliest reference to Purgatory that scholars have found so far comes from The Acts of Paul and Thecla, which was written around 160 AD. In that work, we read the following:

"And after the exhibition, Tryphaena again received her [Thecla]. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream: 'Mother, you shall have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the righteous'"

Notice how Thecla will be praying for Falconilla, even though Falconilla has already died. Prayers for the dead implies the doctrine of Purgatory b/c Purgatory is the only place or state where a soul could reside in which prayers would be necessary or beneficial. Souls in heaven have no need of our prayers and there's no point in praying for the damned, who can never be freed from Hell.

Note also that the doctrine of Purgatory wasn't invented in 160 AD, it's just that the earliest reference to Purgatory that we have comes from that period.

I answer:

She does pray for a dead girl. The problem is this - there is no indication that the place that the girl is in is anywhere other than hell. PhatCatholic discards the idea that it could be hell that is referenced, because that wouldn't be orthodox.

I agree that it wouldn't be orthodox - but Purgatory isn't orthodox either (and likewise prayers for the dead in general are not orthodox). The fact that it has come to be accepted by the papists doesn't make Purgatory any more orthodox than the idea of successful intercession on behalf of souls in hell.

And the idea of an error with respect to intercession for souls in hell is not so farfetched. After all, it is alleged that Pope Gregory I interceded on behalf of Trajan, who was in hell, and that Trajan was released by Gregory's intercessions.

Furthermore, Suarez, De Pecatis, Disp. vii. 3, claims that the possibility of such deliverance is an open question, and Estius, in Setent. iv (Disp. xlvi. 241), claims that many people have been so delivered. Even Thomas Aquinas himself seems to credit the legend of Trajan's release from hell, excusing this oddity by stating: "Trajan had not been finally doomed to hell, but only provisionally, and that his deliverance was granted to him as an exceptional privilege." (I should note that Aquinas appears to recognize the truth that "there is no redemption in hell" - for he places that phrase in the mouth of an objector on the question of whether the priesthood of Christ endures forever.)

There's an important road-block left out of PhatCatholic's analysis: there is no indication that the girl was previously a Christian or that she was baptized. In short, there is no reason to suppose from the story that she was in any place but Hell. Such, it appears from several reports I have read, was the opinion of John of Damascus, though I have not been able to find a precise citation.

Thus, upon weighing this supposed early testimony for the existence of Purgatory, we find it to be nothing but optimistic anachronism. There is no mention of Purgatory in the text, and no reason (except wishful thinking) to make us believe that Purgatory is referenced. That a fictional tale of Paul's life might include some theological errors is to be expected. After all, the same tale has the heroine, Thecla, baptizing herself in a ditch of water. In the end, it would be a mistake to view this tale from the fictional "Acts of Paul and Thecla" (apparently a work of the late second century) as teaching the modern Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory. It would be the sort of mistake one might make if one was disparately grasping for straws of the innovated doctrine of Purgatory in the ECF's. Nevertheless, it is a mistake: an anachronistic eisegesis of the document. Purgatory is not to be found in the text, and can only be added in through eisegesis. In short, the claim for the earliest evidence of Purgatory must wait its actual innovation later in history.


P.S. If one is going to imagine Purgatory into the text of the "Acts of Paul and Thecla," why not add in the Limbus Infantum (Limbo)? If we let eisegesis be the methodology, there is no barrier. We can insert whatever theory we want, willy-nilly. By requiring the reader to let the text speak for itself, these problems can be avoided.

Men are Evil

In the clip above, Paul Washer preaches a short but powerful message from Scripture on the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell.

It's really a simple set of syllogisms:

1. All men are sinners;

2. You are a man;

3. Therefore, you are a sinner.

4. All sinners deserve death;

5. You are a sinner;

6. Therefore, you deserve death.

7. There is one way to be saved, namely by faith in Christ alone for salvation;

8. If you have not believed on Christ alone for salvation, you are still under condemnation;

9. Therefore, believe: repent of your sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation. For there is no other way to be saved. Your works will not save you: they will only render you more guilty. Your will cannot save you: it is the slave of your desires. Only God can save you: therefore, trust in Him! Turn to Him in repentance, and beg Him for mercy, aware of the heinousness of your sins, and the justice of hell that you deserve.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Khalid Yasin's Blunders

Dr. White recently posted a YouTube video providing a clip in which Khalid Yasin provides a rather spectacular string of blunders. Dr. White's video, which includes Dr. White's own commentary on the blunders is embedded below.

I simply wanted to take the opportunity to try to root out what appears to be the possible conflation taking place in each of Khalid Yasin's mistakes. First, the video, then - after that - I'll provide the short analysis:

KY: "The council of Nicea in 354"

The most famous council of Nicea in the 300's was the council of Nicea of 325. I couldn't immediately locate any record of a council at Nicea in 354.

KY: "The Romans at the council of Nicea"

Nicea (now known as Iznik) is a city in Turkey, not Italy. The council of Nicea (of 325) was called by Emporor Constantine, a Byzantine Emporer. If there was a council at Nicea at 354, it would have been a local or regional council, and consequently wouldn't have included any Romans. The famous council of Nicea of 325 undoubtedly included Roman Christians, but also would have include a large majority of non-Romans.

KY: "that there were five books that they didn't want to include in the New Testament"

There doesn't appear to be any record of the famous (or any other) council of Nicea deciding on a negative canon of Scripture. It's possible that Dan Brown, or a similarly unreliable source, has tried to infer such a decree from the inclusion of certain books in the NT canon by Origen before the famous council of Nicea, and the non-inclusion of such books by Athanasius after the council of Nicea.

KY: "The Gospel of Barnabas"

There was an epistle attributed to Barnabus that was extent in the fourth century, but as Dr. White points out in the video: not the Gospel of Barnabus, which was a much, much later writing.

KY: "Who was the Blind Companion of Jesus"

Barnabas was the companion of Paul on Paul's first missionary journey.

Bartimeaus was a blind man from outside Jericho, who Jesus healed and who subsequently followed Jesus.

Bartholomew was an apostle and companion of Jesus.

Somehow, KY seems to have rolled all three up into one.

KY: "Saint Barnabas"

The primary name associated with the title "Saint" Barnabas is Paul's missionary companion. He does not appear to have been the author of the Epsitle of Barnabas (although some people attributed it to him), and he clearly was not the author of the "Gospel" that bears his name.

The Gospel of Barnabus is a rather obvious medieval forgery. For more information, one may look here: (link). As Dr. White said, those who try to promote Islamic apologetics should be more mindful of the truth, which is something KY was quite clearly not promoting with his reliance on a medieval forgery and garbled history.