Monday, June 06, 2011

If not "can" then "could"? Response to LFW Objection

I had written: If God knows that X will happen, it is certain to happen, and thus cannot be otherwise.

In the comment box, "Dan" (profile not available) provided a proposed response from a non-Calvinist advocate of "Libertarian" free will (I assume that this is a hypothetical objection, not Dan's own objection):
God's infallibly knowing (with absolute certainty) that X will happen does not imply that X could not fail to happen (could not be otherwise), strictly speaking.
The selection of the subjective mood "could" as opposed to the indicative mood "can" here is interesting. I suppose it is intentional.

The result, though, is a strange hybrid of moods. It is not "X would happen ... X could not fail to happen" or "X will happen ... X cannot fail to happen" but "X will happen ... X could not fail to happen."

Usually "would" or "could" are subjunctive mood forms that allow us to speak about hypothetical situations: "If someone hit me on the shins, that would hurt," as opposed to actual future situations for which we use "will": "When he hits me on the shins, that will hurt."

But what does this strange hybrid mood sentence mean: "God's infallibly knowing (with absolute certainty) that X will happen does not imply that X could not fail to happen (could not be otherwise), strictly speaking"?

How does changing the mood make a difference? It does not seem to have any obvious effect on the logic of the argument. In other words, just as the fact that it is absolutely certain that X will happen implies that X cannot be otherwise, so also the absolute certainty of X happening also implies that X could not be otherwise.

There's possibility that the "could" could be in reference to a situation other than the actual world. In which case, the point seems moot. In this actual, real world, it cannot be otherwise, whether or not it could be otherwise in some other imaginary world.

The proposed objection continues:
[T]here is nothing incoherent about holding these four claims:

A) John will choose X.

B) God knows that John will choose X.

C) Although John will choose X, he has the power to refrain from choosing X (securing a key libertarian condition for freedom).

D) If John were going to refrain from choosing X, then God would have always known that John will refrain from choosing X (instead of knowing that John will choose X, as he in fact does).
Notice the mood change again from (A) and (B) which have the indicative mood to (D), which has subjunctive mood.

(C) probably holds the key to understanding and rebutting this objection. In (C), the mood is indicative throughout. The claim is that John has (not would have) the power to refrain from doing X. But given (B), it is not possible for John to refrain from doing X. He does not have that power. Thus, (C) cannot be held together with (B).

(D) is a hypothetical situation that doesn't really affect (C). If John were going to refrain from doing X, then God would have known that John was going to refrain from doing X. That may be true, but it is not our situation.

I suspect that (D) is raised, because we attempt to prove that (C) is wrong by pointing out that if John refrained from doing X, then God's knowledge would be wrong. The response is that God's knowledge would not be wrong, it would be different.

But our point is really more limited. Our point is not whether in a world where God had foreseen that John would refrain from doing X, John could refrain from doing X (we agree that John could refrain in such a world), but whether in this world where God has foreseen that John will do X, John can refrain from doing X. We could full agree with (A), (B), and (D), it's just (C) that is problematic.

In other words (D) does not allow (B) and (C) to be brought into harmony with one another. Instead, (D) suggests that (C) can be true so long as (B) is false. But that's close to being the very definition of a contradiction. Thus, it is incoherent to hold those four propositions, since holding to (C) contradicts (B), as can be seen from (D).

-TurretinFan

62 comments:

Dan said...

Hi TF,
Thanks for the reply. (Italicized sentences are quotes of you.)

I agree when you say: "How does changing the mood make a difference? It does not seem to have any obvious effect on the logic of the argument." The choice of 'could' was not calculated, and I'm fine with the claim being re-phrased with 'can' instead. I think the fact that I (apparently) found it more natural to use ‘could’ instead of ‘can’ can be best explained by considerations pertaining to tense. Suppose I know someone will soon try and kick my shins, and that I will try and dodge the kick. I may say: "When he kicks at my shins [indicative], he could strike me." It's not as natural (so it seems to me) to say "can strike me," because we are talking about the future, not the present. Likewise with the first remark of mine you quote.

There's possibility that the "could" could be in reference to a situation other than the actual world. In which case, the point seems moot. In this actual, real world, it cannot be otherwise, whether or not it could be otherwise in some other imaginary world.

The idea is that, in the actual world, John chooses X but has the power to choose not-X; and in virtue of this power to choose not-X, there is another possible world in which he chooses not-X. It's not that in another world it can/could be otherwise; in another world it is otherwise. (More on this later.)

(C) probably holds the key to understanding and rebutting this objection. In (C), the mood is indicative throughout. The claim is that John has (not would have) the power to refrain from doing X.

Right.

I suspect that (D) is raised, because we attempt to prove that (C) is wrong by pointing out that if John refrained from doing X, then God's knowledge would be wrong. The response is that God's knowledge would not be wrong, it would be different.

Exactly.

Dan said...

But given (B), it is not possible for John to refrain from doing X. He does not have that power. Thus, (C) cannot be held together with (B).

Thanks; I think this is the crux. But how or why is it that (C) can't be held together with (B)? To say that (C) cannot be true “given (B)” is just to say that they can’t be held together. It is certainly impossible for it to be the case both that (B) is true and that the power comprehended in (C) is exercised. The difficulty is explaining how the libertarian would be wrong to insist that all that follows from (B) is that John will not (not can not) exercise any power he may or may not have to refrain from choosing X; a power such that, were he going to exercise it, God would have always foreseen something different.

I think you provide the basis for one potential explanation when you say:

Our point is not whether in a world where God had foreseen that John would refrain from doing X, John could refrain from doing X (we agree that John could refrain in such a world), but whether in this world where God has foreseen that John will do X, John can refrain from doing X.

There is a trivial sense in which it is impossible for John to refrain in "this world." "This world" is a world in which John chooses X, and so it is obviously impossible for John to refrain from choosing X in this world. God has the same "lack of power." It is impossible for God to have created, in this world, a different kind of universe than the one he in fact created, since were he to have created a different kind of universe, the world that is actual would not be this world. The relevant power, whether in God's case or John's, is not a power to do any of a number of things in this world per se, but a power over which world becomes actual instead of others.

You speak of a world in which God has foreseen that John will do X. We can speak of such a kind of world without invoking "this world." Let a "world segment" be a partial history of a universe. So, there is a segment terminating in the Fall, and another terminating in the Incarnation, this segment having the former segment as a part (extending it in a certain way). The first segment is – one might think – part of other longer possible segments as well, such as one where there never is an Incarnation. (One can picture a segment as a tree limb that bifurcates into multiple branches, each one being an extension of one and the same limb. Each extension may itself be a segment that bifurcates through time, and so on. Whenever one extension becomes actual, other possible ones, should there be any, are foreclosed from becoming actual – provided the past can’t be changed.)

Clearly,

(1) There is no possible world with a segment wherein God foresees that John will choose X wherein John refrains from choosing X.

Suppose further that

(2) If John possesses, at the time of choice, the power to refrain from choosing X, then John has the power to extend the given world segment, the segment that actually obtains and terminates in this time, in a way consisting in his refraining from choosing X.

Because of (1) and (B), John fails to have the power in (2)’s consequent, and by modus tollens, he fails to have the power in (2)’s antecedent, the relevant libertarian power.

This argument from (1) and (2), the latter analyzing a power to do otherwise in terms of a power to extend the given world segment terminating at the time of choice in a certain way, would seem to give a persuasive reason to think that (B) and (C) can’t be held together: the libertarian power to do otherwise must be a power to extend the actually given world segment in at least two ways; and exhaustive divine foreknowledge, rooted in the given segment, closes off all but one extension as possible.

(In the next post, I raise a complication for this argument.)

Dan said...

Though (2) may seem intuitive, there may be a problem. Consider (A). You claimed that (B) and (C) are incompatible, but I wonder whether you think (A) and (C) are; and if not, why not. One might reject (2) on the following basis: surely the mere existence of future-tensed truths does not preclude a power to do otherwise (that is, surely (A) does not rule out (C)). And yet (2) implies otherwise; for no one has the power to extend a segment wherein it is true that such and such will happen in a way consisting partly in such and such's not happening.

One might qualify (2), and say that the libertarian power is a power to extend a certain segment in a certain way, where certain details of the initial segment are bracketed. That is, one might say that the power is a power to extend a certain world history, where we bracket facts about abstract future-tensed truths (only considering facts about, e.g., concrete events). The difficulty is that this raises the issue of why the libertarian can’t insist on a qualified form of (2) that brackets facts about what God foresees, undermining this argument from (1) and (2) for the inconsistency of (B) and (C).

The argument from (1) and (2) could be defended from such considerations either by maintaining that (A) is just as incompatible with (C) as is (B) (such that (2) is true without qualification); or by providing a principled reason for why past facts about divine foreknowledge do, and past facts about future-tensed truth do not, threaten the libertarian power (so as to give a principled reason for why only the latter kind can legitimately be bracketed in developing a qualified form of (2)).

Of course, the argument from (1) and (2) is not the only argument one might give for the inconsistency of (B) and (C); or more generally, for the inconsistency of exhaustive divine foreknowledge and creaturely libertarian freedom (I sketched two arguments in the earlier thread). But your remarks seemed to me to suggest this one.

Turretinfan said...

Dan:

Let me propose something that may simplify a part of this discussion.

Suppose that today God writes in stone for me a list of the food you will eat for breakfast tomorrow.

Is it possible that the list will prove to be wrong? That is to say, might it turn out that you will eat a different list of foods for breakfast tomorrow?

I assume that you agree with me: no, the list will prove to be right without fail - it cannot turn out that you will eat a different list of foods for breakfast tomorrow.

Thus, the situation in which God writes "X" and you eat "not X" cannot exist.

If there is no way for such a situation to exist, it follows that there is no way for you to bring about such a situation, since you cannot bring about situations that cannot be brought about.

Accordingly, not only will there be no exercise of power that would bring about the impossible situation, but there is no power to bring about the impossible situation.

Dan said...
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Dan said...

I agree that God's writing X and my eating not-X is impossible. And the compatibilist contention (those who are compatibilists about foreknowledge and libertarian freedom) is not that this impossible situation can be brought about. The contention is that one part of it (namely, my eating not-X) can be brought about by the agent; and that, were I to do so, the other part (God's writing X) would never have obtained. The compatiblist will say that all that strictly follows from God's writing X is that I will not eat not-X, not that I lack the power to eat not-X.

I agree that your thought experiment, at least initially, powerfully motivates the incompatibilist intuition (the intuition that God's foreknowledge rules out the very power to do otherwise). But here is both a positive and negative consideration that may undermine such an intuition.

Suppose, first, that instead of God's giving you the stone tablet, a human Fred does. Fred is a time traveler, and he sees me eat X at time t, after which he goes back in time and gives you the tablet indicating that I will eat X at t. Intuitively, there is nothing about this that precludes my libertarian freedom in choosing to eat X at t (supposing, as the compatibilist will, that I have such freedom). After all, Fred only wrote what he did on the tablet because he saw me choose what I did; how, then, can his writing what he did and giving it to you earlier in time do anything to disrupt the freedom with which I chose?

Now one might think God's writing down something on the tablet he gives to you, based on his foreknowledge of what I will eat, is analogous: God sees that I will eat X (instead of actually seeing me eat X, as Fred did), he accordingly writes it down, and gives it to you. Intuitively (one might think), this does not imply that I did not eat X freely. I will freely eat X, God knows that, and so he writes it down. Granted, it impossible for it to be the case both that God writes that I eat X and that I exercise any power to eat not-X; but I still have the power to eat not-X, and were God to see that I will exercise it, he would have written something different.

Negatively, your thought experiment might be taken to “prove too much.” This consideration hinges on the question I raised earlier of whether one thinks that (A) is just as incompatible with (C) as (B) is. If you think that (B) poses a special problem for (C) that (A) does not, then this consideration should have force; otherwise, not. Reflecting on your thought experiment, why should it matter for my freedom in eating X whether God writes anything down on stone or not and gives it to you? If the inscription implies an absence of freedom on my part, should not God’s merely having the infallible belief in unwritten form just as much imply an absence of freedom? (Presumably you agree with this much, since it establishes the link between your experiment and incompatibilism.) And if the uninscribed belief implies an absence of freedom, should not the mere existence of the object of belief (namely, the future-tensed truth that Dan will eat X at t) imply an absence of freedom? If one thinks that the future-tensed truth does not pose a threat to freedom (despite the fact that it is impossible for it to be the case both that the truth obtains and that I eat not-X), then why does God's inscribing the content of that truth on stone change matters?

Turretinfan said...

"I agree that God's writing X and my eating not-X is impossible. And the compatibilist contention (those who are compatibilists about foreknowledge and libertarian freedom) is not that this impossible situation can be brought about."

Right. Their response is not to deny the logic of the thought experiment, but to deflect to a world where something else was written.

That should be recognized for what it is, and they should be cut off right there. There's no need to go off and discuss an experiment that hasn't been posed as a way of avoiding one that has been posed.

But if we do go down that path, and explore their alternative, in that world, where something else was written, the same problem exists - still, the man only has the power to do what is written, and not the power to vary from that, thereby bringing about a conflict.

Dan said...

But the time traveler thought experiment has been posed. I posed it =). Fred sees me choose X, travels back in time, writes in a document that I will choose X in the future, and gives you the document. Do you think that, in this case, "the man only has the power to do what is written, and not the power to vary from that"?

The point of this thought experiment is not to avoid the one you initially posed. It's to provide an example of a situation wherein (for me at least) it is intuitive that a case of foreknowledge does not preclude a power of contrary choice. If one shares such an intuition, then in thinking again about the scenario you raised, one might re-evaluate any conclusion they might have formed to the effect that the divine foreknowledge (and the inscription of its content on stone) precludes such a power.

In the time traveler case, it is impossible for it to be the case both that Fred sees me choose X at a time t and I fail to choose X at t. But the fact that Fred sees me choose X at t (and travels back and time and writes down that I will choose X at t) intuitively does nothing to undermine the idea that, at t, I have the power to fail to choose X (and therefore, the power to do something such that, were I to do it, the past would have been different in some way, namely, with respect to what Fred had written). Relatedly, despite the fact that it is impossible for it to be the case both that God sees that I will choose X at t and that I fail to choose X at t, the fact that God sees that I will choose X at t does not seem inconsistent with the idea that, at t, I have the power to fail to choose X (and therefore, the power to do something such that, were I to do it, the past would have been different in some way, namely, with respect to what God had believed). Hence, it seems coherent (absent further premises) that, at t, I have a power to fail to choose X even if it is "certain" before t that I will not exercise any such power at t.

Turretinfan said...

As for the time travel thought experiment, there are a number of possible responses:

1) We have no reason to believe that time travel itself is a coherent idea.

2) The paradox that would exist if LFW and time travel co-existed is a problem for those who assert LFW, not for those who reject it.

Turretinfan said...

"If one thinks that the future-tensed truth does not pose a threat to freedom, then why does God's inscribing the content of that truth on stone change matters?"

It doesn't change matters, it simply makes it easier to see the fundamental problem.

It's sufficient for the objection that God could put everything in stone, without being necessary that God do so. In other words, while we can see the problem through the stone, the stone is just there for demonstration. The stone demonstrates that absence of LFW, it does not cause the absence of LFW.

-TurretinFan

Paul said...

Sorry, haven't read everything here:

The contention is that one part of it (namely, my eating not-X) can be brought about by the agent; and that, were I to do so, the other part (God's writing X) would never have obtained.

1. This allows a compatibilist (about responsibility and determinism) foot in the door, for they can make similar appeals to hypotheticals.

2. The objection doesn't seem to help much. Suppose I am a fireman and when I run into a burning building to save a child a beam falls on my head and knocks me out. It is true that if I had saved the child, the beam would not have fallen on my head. How does this affect things once the beam has fallen?

Hunt gives the illustration of the doorbell that, once pressed, causes the bell to ring inside the house five minutes earlier. So I press it. Now, is it possible for me to refrain from pressing the doorbell given that it has already sounded? If you use this "had I not pressed it, then it wouldn't have sounded" overlooks the fact that it already sounded five minutes earlier. Before the bell sounded it's fine to say you could press the button or refrain, but after you've pressed it, it's now impossible that you could do otherwise. Now just swap things out with God's belief five minutes earlier. It makes no difference that God's belief depends on what I do and had I acted differently it would have been a different belief (granting this position ad arguendo). Since God already held this belief, then things must be consistent with this.

dianiline said...

C. John can choose X, or John can choose not-X.

D. If John chooses X, then God knows, from all time and outside of time, that John chooses X; if John chooses not-X, then God knows, from all time and outside of time, that John chooses not-X.

A. John chooses X.

B. Therefore God knows that John chooses X.

You just have them out of order. They are logically consistent.

Blessings,

Diana

Turretinfan said...

Diana,

If God's knowledge is only after the event, then of course there is no problem for LFW.

The problem for LFW arises from God's knowledge preceding the event.

If God knows it in advance, it is no longer indeterminate - no longer "free."

-Turretin

dianiline said...

John's choice occurs at some time, because John is created and exists within time.

God's knowledge of that choice is as eternal as God is.

Since God is outside of time, his knowledge is unrelated to the freedom of John's choice.

I don't know what you mean by LFW.

Blessings,

Diana

Paul said...

Diana, I discuss the reasons why that timelessness solution doesn't work here

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2010/03/timelessness-solution-to-problem-of.html

Turretinfan said...

"John's choice occurs at some time, because John is created and exists within time."

Yes, of course.

"God's knowledge of that choice is as eternal as God is."

That means that God's knowledge exists prior to John's choice, as well as at the time of John's choice and subsequent to John's choice.

If God's knowledge of John's choice existed only after John's choice, there would be no problem for "Libertarian Free Will" (that's what LFW stands for). In other words, we could affirm that John had the ability to choose otherwise, but then he chose.

"Since God is outside of time, his knowledge is unrelated to the freedom of John's choice."

There's a sense in which God is outside of time (we call that God's transcendence). There is also a sense in which God is throughout time (we call that God's immanence).

God's immanence is what makes it possible for God to write John's choice in stone before John makes the choice. If God only existed outside of time, God could not act in time.

God's immanence, therefore, is what leads to the problem - not God's transcendence.

Perhaps someone would try to claim that John's choice in time somehow affected God's knowledge outside of time. That carries its own problems.

But the problem I'm raising here relates to those who try to say that even after God writes it in stone, John can still choose otherwise.

-TurretinFan

Dan said...
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Dan said...
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Dan said...

Hi Paul (two-post reply),

Suppose I am a fireman and when I run into a burning building to save a child a beam falls on my head and knocks me out. It is true that if I had saved the child, the beam would not have fallen on my head. How does this affect things once the beam has fallen?

The compatibilist about foreknowledge and libertarian freedom should say that, at the time that I performed free action A, I had the power to refrain from A'ing. In order to maintain that God essentially has exhaustive foreknowledge, he needs to say that, were I to have refrained, God would have always believed that I would refrain. You seem to think that the compatibilist's commitment to such a counterfactual conditional is what does the work of bestowing the power to do otherwise; but that's not how I see it (though I'm admittedly not a compatibilist). The claim that I had the power to do otherwise is a distinct claim; the conditional could be true even if it’s false that I had the relevant power (such as, if certain mental events causally necessitated my performing A).

I think this deals with your point #1. The incompatibilist about responsibility and determinism who is a compatibilist about foreknowledge and libertarian freedom need not feel that his incompatibilism is threatened by his compatibilism; since he may say that the truth of certain conditionals is just a necessary condition for my having had the power to do otherwise.

As far as #2, I think the compatibilist about foreknowledge and libertarian freedom should say that the difference between a case of my having had the power to do other than what I did, and the case of the fireman, is that in the latter case, the failure to obtain [I’ve here fixed a mistake for which I deleted the earlier two posts] of the conditional's consequent actually robs the agent of any power he would otherwise have had to bring about the antecedent. The beam's striking the fireman unconscious removes any ability he might have otherwise had to save the child. But God's having always had the belief that I would perform A does not remove any ability I might have had to refrain from A'ing. Of course, the incompatibilist will deny this asymmetry, but this is the thing at issue. One reason the compatibilist can give in support of the asymmetry is that only in the fireman’s case is there is a causal connection between the beam’s falling and the fireman’s lacking the relevant power.

Dan said...

Hunt gives the illustration of the doorbell that, once pressed, causes the bell to ring inside the house five minutes earlier. So I press it. Now, is it possible for me to refrain from pressing the doorbell given that it has already sounded?

Let’s distinguish the necessary connection between the bell’s sounding and your pressing the button five minutes later (“necessity of consequence”) from the idea that a kind of freedom-precluding necessity attaches directly to the event of your pushing the button (“necessity of consequent”). Isn’t it coherent for the compatibilist to say that that your question can be answered “no” in the former sense, but “yes” in the latter? It’s not possible for it to be the case both that the bell sounds and that you fail to press the button five minutes later. However, it may still be that you have the power, at the time at which you press the button, to refrain from doing so; in the sense that the event of your choosing to press it may still be a contingent one. Of course the “contingency” here is a bit involved, since it’s admitted that (1) the bell sounded five minutes earlier, and (2) it is necessary that if the bell sounds five minutes earlier then you press the button. But I think all that follows from the bell’s having sounded is that you will not exercise any such power to refrain from pressing it; not that you lack such a power. The contingency of your choosing (in distinction from the necessity of the connection between the sounding and your choosing) consists in the possession of this unexercised power. And were you going to exercise that power, the bell would not have sounded. The bell’s sounding signals that you will not exercise such a power, but further premises are needed to get the conclusion that you had no such power to exercise or refrain from exercising.

Here’s one reason to think it’s coherent that there is a necessity in the connection between sounding and pressing while still a contingency in the pressing itself (a kind of contingency consisting in your having the unexercised power to have refrained). Let’s forget the sounding of the bell and just suppose that, five minutes before you press the button, it is true that Paul will press the button in five minutes. It is necessary that if it is true that Paul will press the button in five minutes then, in five minutes, Paul presses the button. However, this necessity doesn’t intuitively transfer any freedom-precluding necessity to your choosing itself. That is, it seems that the past truth merely tracks with what you freely do, instead of somehow constraining what you can do. Further, there seems to be no principled difference in virtue of which the bell’s sounding would, and the obtaining of the future-tensed truth would not, preclude a power to do otherwise. Neither state of affairs, for example, has any causal power whereby it makes you do anything.

Dan said...

Hi TF,

Dan: If one thinks that the future-tensed truth does not pose a threat to freedom, then why does God's inscribing the content of that truth on stone change matters?

TF: It doesn't change matters, it simply makes it easier to see the fundamental problem.


So should I take it that you're affirming that the existence of future-tensed truths about what humans will do would itself be inconsistent with libertarian freedom (bracketing whether God has foreknowledge)? And therefore, that you think (A) is just as much a threat to (C) as (B) is?

Paul said...

Dan,

Compatibilists think the issue is necessity of consequence and an illicit transfer of modalities. It's about accidental necessity. The logic isn't P, ��(P → Q), :. ��Q, it's more like this

1. Now-unpreventably P

2. ��(P → Q)

3. Now-unpreventably Q

which is valid in modal logic and is enough to get to the conclusion that we lack the power to do otherwise.

Also, on the bell issue, once the bell sounds how does that imply only that I will not press it, not that I cannot fail to press it? It's already been pressed, and I don;t have the power to change the past, it's now-unpreventable.

Dan said...

Paul,
The inference from 1 and 2 to 3 depends on a transfer of unpreventability principle. Why accept such?

Do you think the following argument is sound?

1*. It is now (at t2) unpreventable that it was true at t1 that Paul will press the button at t3.

2*. Necessarily, if it was true at t1 that Paul will press the button at t3, then at t3, Paul presses the button.

3*. It is now (at t2) unpreventable that, at t3, Paul presses the button.

It seems invalid, and thus seems that the transfer principle is false. Alternatively, one could preserve the validity (and the principle) but deny 1*. One could deny 1* either by holding that there was no such future-tensed truth at t1, or that, though there was, it's obtaining at t1 was not unpreventable at t2. If one opts for the latter, then he needs to explain how past facts about divine beliefs are not the same in being exceptions to the principle of the unpreventability of the past. I'm inclined to deny that there even was such a future-tensed truth at t1 (unpreventable at t2 or not); though even so, it's not clear to me that the argument is valid. (This is basically why I’m an incompatibilist; I don’t think future-tensed truths about libertarian actions, and hence divine beliefs having such truths as their objects, could exist – they need and lack grounding.)

Also, on the bell issue, once the bell sounds how does that imply only that I will not press it, not that I cannot fail to press it? It's already been pressed, and I don;t have the power to change the past, it's now-unpreventable.

The bell’s sounding certainly implies that you will not refrain from pressing it. The claim that, at the time at which you press it, you do not even have the power to refrain from pressing it is a stronger claim. It seems to me the burden is on the incompatibilist to explain how the stronger claim is implied over and above the weaker one that both sides admit is implied. Invoking a transfer of necessity principle would be one way to do that, but I’ve just raised issues for that.

Another explanation, which you either give or at least suggest here, is that the bell’s sounding implies the absence of the very power to refrain given the further premises that, were you to have the power to refrain, you would have the power to change the past; and that you don’t have the power to change the past. Perhaps some compatibilists have gone this route. But it seems wiser to me for the compatibilist to say that you don’t have such a power. Rather, you have the power to do something such that, were you to do it, the past would have been different (not changed).

Turretinfan said...

Dan:

You asked: "So should I take it that you're affirming that the existence of future-tensed truths about what humans will do would itself be inconsistent with libertarian freedom (bracketing whether God has foreknowledge)?"

No, not necessarily. For example, the statement (whether phrased using a future tense or not) "Tomorrow I will either brush my teeth or refrain from brushing my teeth" can be true without implying an absence of freedom. Only certain kinds of statements about the future are statements that, if true, imply an absence of libertarian freedom.

"And therefore, that you think (A) is just as much a threat to (C) as (B) is? "

It's not simply a "threat." The possibility of every human action being written in stone in advance renders libertarian freedom an obvious falsehood. We can freely (though not in the libertarian sense, obviously) bring about the future, but we cannot bring about any other future.

There is no power of contrary choice, except in some restricted sense. For example, suppose that tomorrow I refrain from brushing my teeth. Looking back the day after, I may realize that I had toothpaste, a brush, water, and sufficient time, muscle power, and so forth to do the activity. Thus, in a restricted sense I could have brushed them.

-TurretinFan

Paul said...

The problem isn't validity, for the argument I gave is valid on every system of modal logic, it's your premises. Your premise 2 is false. With God's beliefs, though, it is necessary that if God believes at t1 you will dance a jig at t3, you will dance a jig at t3. It is now, at t2, unpreventable that God believed at t1 that you dance a jig at t3. Therefore, it is unpreventable that you will dance a jig at t3. As Hunt points out, the sounding of the buzzer leaves you with alternatives, for if you can refrain, you can to the extent that it does not depend on you pressing it in order to for it sound, it could malfunction, another guest arrives and presses it instead), but this is not so with God since he can't hold that belief and I fail to press the button.

With the button issue you need to recast it:

1*. It is now (at t2) unpreventable that it was true at t1 that the buzzer sounded.

2*. Necessarily, if it was true at t1 that the buzzer sounded, then at t3, the buzzer previously sounded.

3*. It is now (at t2) unpreventable that, at t3, the buzzer previously sounded.

Valid and sound.

The bell’s sounding certainly implies that you will not refrain from pressing it. The claim that, at the time at which you press it, you do not even have the power to refrain from pressing it is a stronger claim.

That's not the claim. The claim is that before the bell sounds you do have the power to refrain. Then, if you press it, it sounds five minutes earlier. Then you get there "again" and you do not have the power to make it that the bell never sounded, for it already did five minutes ago. Insofar as you do have a power to refrain, this is because the sounding does not depend on you. So it could have been a malfunction, or a disturbance in the tachyon particle field, or another guest pressed it, etc. What cannot happen is that you make it so the bell never sounded. The difference between the bell sounding and God's beliefs is that God's infallible belief that your will press the button is not compatible with these alternatives. So if God already has the belief then there's nothing you can do given this state of affairs, and in this case you cannot refrain since God already having this belief is inconsistent with you failing to press the button. The button might sound without you causing it to —if it sounds it is not necessarily true that you were the cause—not so with God's believing.

And, yes, I am assuming the accidental necessity of the past, and I answer your "counterfactual power" counter with my argument here. Once the bell sounds (already sounded) what can you do such that you could make it that the bell didn't sound? Nothing. Now, with God's belief, I get the added benefit that you can do nothing to make it that you didn't sound it.

Dan said...

The problem isn't validity, for the argument I gave is valid on every system of modal logic, it's your premises. Your premise 2 is false.

How is

2*. Necessarily, if it was true at t1 that Paul will press the button at t3, then at t3, Paul presses the button.

false?

I don't think your argument is valid "on every system of modal logic." Before a system can imply its validity, one needs to actually introduce the notion of accidental necessity into the system. It’s not the same notion as the run of the mill necessity operator. And having introduced it, it’s not obvious that the transfer principle should be laid down. One might think, for example, that accidental necessity is a property that something has in virtue of being past, such that it is just a confusion to think that this very property can be possessed by a proposition about what is (currently) future; even if it is entailed by something with the property.

With God's beliefs, though, it is necessary that if God believes at t1 you will dance a jig at t3, you will dance a jig at t3.

It’s the same with future contingents. It is necessary that if it is true at t1 that I will dance a jig at t3, I will dance a jig at t3.

It is now, at t2, unpreventable that God believed at t1 that you dance a jig at t3.

If so, then is it not also unpreventable, now at t2, that it was true at t1 that I dance a jig at t3? If not, then what is the difference between its now being true that it was true at t1 that I will dance a jig at t3 and its now being true that God believed at t1 that I will dance a jig at t3 in virtue of which unpreventability now attaches only to the latter? If so, then does the unpreventability of the now past fact that I will dance a jig at t3 transfer to my dancing at t3 (as logical fatalism claims); or does the transfer principle admit of exceptions? If the “principle” has exceptions, your argument from 1 and 2 to 3 is not valid (even if the conclusion true).

2* [not Dan’s 2*]. Necessarily, if it was true at t1 that the buzzer sounded, then at t3, the buzzer previously sounded.

This is false, if we allow for the alternatives you’ve invoked from Hunt (in prior posts I was assuming for simplicity that there is a necessary connection between the buzzer’s sounding and the relevant agent’s pressing the button five minutes later). Suppose the buzzer sounds at t1 due to a malfunction, and that there is no t3 at all (the universe ends beforehand).

And, yes, I am assuming the accidental necessity of the past, and I answer your "counterfactual power" counter with my argument here. Once the bell sounds (already sounded) what can you do such that you could make it that the bell didn't sound? Nothing. Now, with God's belief, I get the added benefit that you can do nothing to make it that you didn't sound it.

I don’t think this defeats the counterfactual power counter. The compatibilist can agree that, if it was the case that God believes that you will press the button, then you now lack any power to bring it about that God never believed that you will press the button. However, you may have the power to do something else (refrain from pressing the button), such that were you going to do it, God would never have believed that you will press the button. If the transfer principle is correct, this slice of conceptual space is closed off. For God’s having believed that you will press the button is accidentally necessary, and it entails that you press the button. But if no necessity transfers to the event itself of your pressing the button, then you may have power over the event without having (the same kind of) power over the belief.

I think I grasp the intuitive pull of the position that power-precluding unpreventability transfers from the accidentally necessary state of affairs to what’s entailed. I’ve raised questions about past future contingents above (and in the prior post), because I think they call the principle into question.

dianiline said...

God's knowledge of John's choice occurs *because of* John's choice. In the case of God this does not imply "after", because God is outside of time. God's knowledge rests on John's choice.

It is not a rational question to ask whether John can choose something else after he's chosen X, and God's knowledge has nothing to do with that.

It is more like asking, can John choose not to have done X yesterday?

Of course not; it is already done. It is a choice that he made in the past.

From the point of view of God, outside of time, *everything* is already done.

But John had free choice about what he did yesterday, and free choice just the same about what he will do tomorrow.

Paul wrote that P->Q, and P, therefore Q, which is inarguable, but in this case we started with Q->P. So this argument boils down to Q->Q, which is true, but not interesting, as one of my favorite professors would say.

What do libertarians have to do with free will?

Blessings,

Diana

Turretinfan said...

"God's knowledge of John's choice occurs *because of* John's choice."

There's another alternative. The other alternative is that something else determines both God's knowledge and John's choice. But let's see if the way you describe makes sense.

"In the case of God this does not imply "after", because God is outside of time."

God is not only outside of time. He is not only transcendent. He is also immanent. He is also within time. He can do things like write John's future choices in stone before John makes them.

"God's knowledge rests on John's choice."

That's your assertion, though there is another alternative: one in which God's knowledge rests on God's decree.

"It is not a rational question to ask whether John can choose something else after he's chosen X, and God's knowledge has nothing to do with that."

The question is whether John can choose something else after God has written his choice in stone. That is a rational question, since:

a) that's the "libertarian" claim (the claim is that John has the power not to choose X until choosing X is done); and

b) God could very well write John's choice in stone in advance. In fact, God could write every single choice everyone will ever make in stone. There's nothing irrational about God doing so since (a) God knows what will happen and (b) God can act in time.

"It is more like asking, can John choose not to have done X yesterday?"

Actually, there's an easy answer to that question: no, he cannot. John cannot undo the past, just as John cannot avoid the future that God has foreseen.

"Of course not; it is already done. It is a choice that he made in the past."

:)

"From the point of view of God, outside of time, *everything* is already done."

From God's viewpoint, there's nothing indeterminate or uncertain. The problem for "libertarian" free will is that God is able to communicate in time. God can tell us what John will choose tomorrow, and that's exactly what will happen. There's no chance John will choose something else, and John himself cannot bring anything else to pass tomorrow. He can bring to pass what God has foreseen, but nothing else.

"But John had free choice about what he did yesterday, and free choice just the same about what he will do tomorrow."

That's a claim that those who hold to "libertarian" free will make. The problem is that the claim doesn't stand up to the mind experiment in which God has written John's choices in stone. They are going to play out just as God has foreseen. They may be free in some sense, but not in the sense that John can do otherwise than what God has foreseen.

"Paul wrote that P->Q, and P, therefore Q, which is inarguable, but in this case we started with Q->P. So this argument boils down to Q->Q, which is true, but not interesting, as one of my favorite professors would say."

If one started with Q->P, and then asserted P, one wouldn't be able to draw a conclusion. But that doesn't apply to Paul's syllogism.

"What do libertarians have to do with free will?"

There are a variety of views of free will. The so-called "libertarian" variety (which has nothing to do with the political party) asserts that free will and predetermination are incompatible. By contrast, a Calvinistic account of free will says that they are compatible, such that a choice can both be free and predetermined.

The "written in stone" thought experiment demonstrates that either there is no free will, or free will is Calvinistic (compatibilist).

-TurretinFan

Paul said...

Diana

That's not the argument I made, you conflating my arguments with other things you've been discussing. My argument considered by itself didn't posit Q -> Q.

Dan

I have it on good authority through private correspondence with a Notre Dame post doc specializing in modal logic and the foreknowledge question that it is valid on every system of modal logic, though the proof for this is quite lengthy and technical for a combox.

Sorry, I briefly skimmed your argument and misread it. You gave the argument from logical fatalism. Now, I'm not convinced the argument from logical fatalism is fallacious, and Transfer may apply here (I believe Sean Choi has an article on this in response to Warfield and Finch, I read a pre-pub copy and am not sure if it's been accepted yet or not.

So, I'm not sure it *is* fallacious, but supposing your 1*-3* is fallacious, on what basis do you suppose that it's fallacious because of Transfer and not because of some of the problems pointed out about the argument from logical fatalism, e.g., soft/hard facts, etc..? And so in answer to your question,

If one opts for the latter, then he needs to explain how past facts about divine beliefs are not the same in being exceptions to the principle of the unpreventability of the past.

one answer could be to show that past beliefs of agents are hard facts while statements of the kind >it is true at t1 that S will ø at t3< are soft facts.

And so in response to your counterfactual power response, all I can do is reiterate the same point. If the compatibilist must deny accidental necessity, so much the worse for theological compatibilism! Transfer seems solid to me, and I've seen no reason from you to think it isn't. To say that the compatibilist can say that he has the power to do something such that if he were to do it God would have held a different belief overlooks that fact that God already held the belief. Again, suppose you press the button, the bell rings 5 minutes earlier what can you do once you get to the door "again" such that if you were to do it the bell wouldn't have sounded? Nothing. This is impossible, for the bell already sounded five minutes earlier.

Fredericka said...

Paul, yours is a very powerful argument, in that you've eliminated in one fell swoop both God's freedom to create according to His good pleasure and also His omniscience. Suppose, for the sake of argument, God saw fit to create creatures endowed with free will. According to you, He must at that point surrender His omniscience, because He cannot also be aware of their doings without obliterating the free will with which it was stipulated He has gifted them. You wind up with a lesser God than the God of classical theism, who is both free to create and also omniscient.

Paul said...

Fredericka,

Really? My argument has been that there's a contradiction between God having omniscience of the future free actions of created agents, and the freedom those agents possessing being libertarian freedom. You say this eliminates God's freedom to create according to his good pleasure. So, from what I can gather, you must think that for God to be able to create according to his good pleasure this must entail his ability to create contradictory states of affairs. So, for example, you would never say that God could not create a square circle, for to say this would be to "eliminate God's freedom to create according to his good pleasure." Now, maybe you don't want to say that, and so you'll say, "No, it's not contradictory that God could create agents with those powers while maintaining his knowledge of their future free actions. Okay, if you could show that, I'd agree with you. So unless you think God can create contradictory states of affairs, then you'll be bound to agree that your response to my argument, pious it may be, merely begs the question against it, skirting the argumentative burden you shoulder in the dialectical context of dialogue.

Now, when you go on and say, "Suppose God created creatures with free will," I should point out that this is, in fact, what I do believe. You must think, then, that the only way an agent could have free will is for that agent to have libertarian free will. But I deny this. So, we are free, but we have a freedom that is compatible with determinism, which libertarian freedom is not. So unless you have an argument that the only freedom an agent could possess is libertarian freedom. Do you have an argument for that?

As per classical theism, my position was held by a great many theologians throughout church history. Indeed, it is because of the tenants of classical Christian theism that I make this argument. God's omniscience should be protected over against the imposition of libertarian freedom, declaring that if God is to have a loving relationship with his creatures and not be the author of evil, then then he must create creatures with libertarian freedom. Ironic, that is! We've now come full circle with the shoe being on the other foot—unless, of course, you claim that God can also determine whatsoever comes to pass without affecting freedom, moral responsibility, reactive attitudes, and without being the "author of sin."

dianiline said...

Turritinfan: "There's another alternative. The other alternative is that something else determines both God's knowledge and John's choice."

If something else determines John's "choice", then it is not a choice.

We were speaking of a situation in which John makes a choice.

...

Turritinfan: "God can tell us what John will choose tomorrow, and that's exactly what will happen."

Yes, I believe that He told someone something to the effect of, "tomorrow before the cock crows, you will betray me three times".

And so Peter did.

But he did not do it because Christ foreknew it. He did it because he was weak, and selfish (as am I). And he was ashamed, after, because he knew he could and should have stood up for his Master.
...

I, previously: ""But John had free choice about what he did yesterday, and free choice just the same about what he will do tomorrow.""

Turritinfan: "That's a claim that those who hold to "libertarian" free will make. The problem is that the claim doesn't stand up to the mind experiment in which God has written John's choices in stone."

We are not speaking of situations in which God has "written John's choices in stone", for of course these are not situations in which John has a choice. (I'm not sure there ever are any such situations...possibly excepting the hardheartedness of Pharoah.)

We are speaking of the situation in which God has foreknowledge of John's choice, and the fact that this does not imply that John's choice is not free.

Turritinfan: "They are going to play out just as God has foreseen. They may be free in some sense, but not in the sense that John can do otherwise than what God has foreseen."

God foresees it because John freely does it.

Paul, I am sorry if I misunderstood you. What I understood you to mean is that P (God knows that John will choose X) implies Q (John will choose X), which seems to me is the basis for the argument that John cannot choose otherwise.

Since P is true only if Q, this is equivalent to Q->Q.

Blessings,

Diana

dianiline said...

Dear Paul,

I looked at the site where you discuss reasons why you think that the timelessness argument doesn't work (though it does!). :-)

God does, of course, foreknow things in a literal sense. To claim otherwise is to deny the divinity of Christ; I forget which heresy that was.

When Christ spoke to Peter about the cock's crow, He was explaining His absolute foreknowledge. But that is a function of His divinity; He foreknows because He is outside time. Even though He is also inside time, and bound by it.

This is a mystery. It should not be a hard mystery, for someone conversant with the huger mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Let me just say that your friend Mr. Dente can change his mind forty times about whether to have the pasta or the steak, and God will still always have known how that will turn out!

Blessings,

Diana

Paul said...

Diana, thanks, I can appreciate that you don't agree; however, you'll surely understand that without showing me that my argument is invalid, or unsound, and exactly where it goes wrong, and precisely how it goes wrong, I'm afraid I'll be unable to change my stance on the matter. :-)

Turretinfan said...

Diana:

I had written: "There's another alternative. The other alternative is that something else determines both God's knowledge and John's choice."

You wrote: "If something else determines John's "choice", then it is not a choice."

I don't accept that definition of choice. But, if I did, the force of the "written in stone" argument is enough for us to conclude that there is no "choice" (as you define it). Why? Because the fact that it can be written in stone shows that it is determined in advanced.

"We were speaking of a situation in which John makes a choice."

Your and my definition of "choice" are obviously different.

I had written: "God can tell us what John will choose tomorrow, and that's exactly what will happen."

You replied: "Yes, I believe that He told someone something to the effect of, "tomorrow before the cock crows, you will betray me three times". And so Peter did. But he did not do it because Christ foreknew it. He did it because he was weak, and selfish (as am I). And he was ashamed, after, because he knew he could and should have stood up for his Master."

I wouldn't say that he did it because Christ foresaw it. Nevertheless, it was truly impossible that Peter would not deny Christ thrice. It was determined beforehand, and might as well have been set in stone. There wasn't the slightest chance or possibility of Peter not denying Christ thrice.

Peter was ashamed because he sinned.

"We are not speaking of situations in which God has "written John's choices in stone", for of course these are not situations in which John has a choice. (I'm not sure there ever are any such situations...possibly excepting the hardheartedness of Pharoah.)"

When Jesus said "you will deny me thrice" he could just as easily have written it in stone. It's not the medium of stone, as opposed to spoken word, that makes the difference. In fact, it's not even the fact that God communicated it at all that made a difference. Even if Jesus had not told Peter what was going to happen, Peter still would have done what Jesus foresaw.

And it wasn't merely the fact that Jesus foresaw it that made it sure to happen. How could it?

Nevertheless, what Jesus foresaw was absolutely sure to happen just as Jesus foresaw. And God foresees all things in exhaustive detail.

God could communicate those things by writing them in stone, but they are just as fixed and determined whether he actually does communicate them in stone or not.

The stone just helps us see that they are fixed and determined in advance.

"We are speaking of the situation in which God has foreknowledge of John's choice, and the fact that this does not imply that John's choice is not free."

But unless God can be wrong, it does imply that John's choice is not free.

"God foresees it because John freely does it."

Leaving aside the fact that this makes God's knowledge dependent on man, and leaving aside the fact that it results in backwards causality (which contradicts human experience), unless God's foresight is unclear or malleable, the statement itself (using your definitions of the terms) is self-contradictory.

"Paul, I am sorry if I misunderstood you. What I understood you to mean is that P (God knows that John will choose X) implies Q (John will choose X), which seems to me is the basis for the argument that John cannot choose otherwise.

Since P is true only if Q, this is equivalent to Q->Q."

There's a fundamental flaw in that analysis. P->Q provides information about P, whereas Q->Q does not. Thus, the two are not equivalent unless P is Q.

-TurretinFan

Fredericka said...

Paul wrote, "Now, maybe you don't want to say that, and so you'll say, 'No, it's not contradictory that God could create agents with those powers while maintaining his knowledge of their future free actions.'"

Hi Paul. So you think it is logically impossible for God to create any order of beings:-- say, angels,-- gifted with freedom, and also to be aware of what they do? No possible creature, fallen or unfallen, can ever be free, not Adam before the fall, nor the redeemed in glory?

The Bible says that some men are not free: "Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." (John 8:34). The Bible also however says that other men are free: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:36). Both men, the unregenerate man who is not free, and the regenerate man who has been made free, are equally subject to God's foreknowledge; God knows all their thoughts, words, and deeds, past, present and future. By virtue of that fact alone, you deny freedom to both groups, thus negating the gospel promise: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32). In your scheme as I understand it, not only is the unregenerate man not free to choose good over evil as the Bible also testifies, he is in addition unable to choose between two equally bad options such as watching internet porno or going to the bar-room. Likewise the regenerate man is not free to choose between two equally wholesome menu entries such as going on a picnic or visiting the model train convention. By your scheme, I am not free tomorrow to choose to wear my blue outfit over my green outfit, neither outfit being immodest or inappropriate, the choice thus being morally neutral, and all of this solely because God foreknows these choices. Is that a fair statement of your thesis?

... continued

Fredericka said...

... continued:

Since controversy sometimes crops up over the status of moral choices made by unregenerate men, let us concentrate on choices made by regenerate men. Even better, let us concentrate on morally neutral choices made by regenerate men. You say these choices are not free, I say they are. Is that an accurate statement of your views? I realize it is important to you to say 'free' twice, once in Latin and once in English, but once is better.

Strictly speaking God's knowledge is not "Knowledge of their future free actions." Tenses do not belong to God; God inhabits eternity: "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." (Isaiah 57:15). So these free actions are not future to God, they are present before Him. God can share this knowledge with the creature tacked onto the time-line: "Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:7-8). The prophet is thus a man of the future, who has heard the lion roar, though he has not yet roared.

The specter has been raised of a Divine Uncertainty Principle whereby God, by plunging into time and revealing to men free decisions not yet made, is 'fixing' these decisions so that as of the time of revelation they can no longer be changed and are thus no longer free. But the only thing that has changed by littering the ground with stone tablets reading, 'On such and such a date the regenerate man who lives at 18 Elm Street will choose waffles over pancakes for breakfast,' is the knowledge-state of the observer. Nothing has changed for the actor, unless he is given to reading stone tablets and becomes nervous.
Evidently in the quantum world the observer does have this power to fix an outcome, but not in the macro world. All present and future observers interested in the matter already know that the regenerate man had waffles for breakfast.
Their knowledge, obtained by observation or retelling, cannot undo or mar in retrospect the waffle-eater's free decision; knowledge doesn't coerce its objects. If future observers looking back at the past say, 'He was not free to eat pancakes, because I saw him eat waffles,' they are talking nonsense. The claim is made, that past observers can do this. How? They are 'cheating' to acquire their knowledge; God, who is not subject to time, shared His knowledge with them. His awareness of the waffle-eating is logically consequent, though not subsequent in time, to the act. As far as concerns their knowledge of the waffle-eating, it is just as though they were future observers. The observers' status has changed, not the agent's. So what actually is the problem?

natamllc said...

This whole context conversation, to me, is like the analogy of hearing by wire tapping a particular fiber optic.

You have fiber optics joined from point A to point B. A being the beginning. B being the end.

Now, using that model, one can realize something about the Word of God and God, I suppose. When reading the Word of God or just listening to His Voice and one listens in on just "one" of the conversations going on through the countless many fibers in the channel or cable where conversations are able to be heard back and forth between God and man, in this instance, the "one" conversation between God and Peter, one can come to the same result as he.

You attach instruments to that fiber, isolate it and listen in. We call that wire tapping. You have to have a judge's warrant issued to do "legal" wire tapping.

That fiber has a beginning and an ending.

In the case of one Peter, as mentioned above, Jesus took His instruments and isolated that one fiber optic, Peter, and for our learning and admonition allows us to listen in on the conversation between Him and Peter so we can benefit from it.

Everyone of us "fibers", you might imagine, have the exact same Prophet, Priest and King, Jesus, talking to us about those three things, our beginning, our end and everything in between.

How God can have this sort of conversation going on with each of us during our A B experience is just wonderful and marvelous and impossible to comprehend.

We simply can find the Rest only by the Gift of Faith given to us after "hearing" it exists. It is available to each appointed to Eternal Life.

I am enjoying the Rest. I don't particularly like the struggles and striving I experience coming into this Rest:

Heb 4:9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,
Heb 4:10 for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Heb 4:11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Heb 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Heb 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Heb 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Dan said...

Paul,

I have it on good authority…that it is valid on every system of modal logic,

Are you sure that (s)he didn’t say or mean the following argument form is valid on every system?

1. Necessarily P
2. Necessarily (if P then Q)
3. Necessarily Q

I’m no logician, but find it incredible that every system implies the validity of your initial argument

4. Now-unpreventably P
5 (2). Necessarily (if P then Q)
6. Now-unpreventably Q;

since in order for a system to do so, the notion of accidental necessity (AN) or now-unpreventability needs to be plugged into the system; and one can look at a logic book and find modal-logic systems lacking an operator for AN. One might think that it’s obvious that 4–6 should be taken to be valid if 1–3 is, but now one is appealing to the intuitive truth of the transfer principle (TP); instead of systems of modal logic per se.

Perhaps it’s a defect in one if he doesn’t see the truth of TP; but in the dialectical context of (in)compatibilism about FK and LFW, TP is fair game. It seems some Molinists, for example, must deny it; since one may think, for example, that you may have the power to refrain from some action you in fact perform, despite the fact that your performing it is entailed by an AN item of middle knowledge.

Here’s the logical fatalism argument re-written:

1*. It is now (at t2) unpreventable that it was true at t1 that Paul will A at t3.
2*. Necessarily, if it was true at t1 that Paul will A at t3, then, at t3, Paul A’s.
3*. Therefore, it is now (at t2) unpreventable that, at t3, Paul A’s.

So, I'm not sure it *is* fallacious, but supposing your 1*-3* is fallacious, on what basis do you suppose that it's fallacious because of [TP] and not because of some of the problems pointed out about the argument from logical fatalism, e.g., soft/hard facts, etc..?

If the argument is invalid, the culprit must be TP, because TP is just an explication of how 3* follows from 1* and 2*:

(TP) Necessarily, if P is unpreventable [1*], and P entails Q [2*], then Q is unpreventable [3*].

TP can be preserved while rejecting 3* by denying 1*. The pressure, then, is for the incompatibilist to explain why AN doesn’t apply to the putatively past fact about what will be, but does apply to a past fact about a divine belief about what will be. I haven’t found plausible the hard/soft fact attempt. In order for it to be intuitive that AN doesn’t afflict a now “soft” past fact, softness needs to be characterized in terms of the fact’s not really being entirely located in the now past. One might interpret claims of the form “it was true that it will be true that…” such that they express facts that are soft in this way. But 1* says that there is really a fact indexed in its entirety to a past time. It seems more plausible to me that the argument is just invalid than that premises like 1* just aren’t true.

If the compatibilist must deny accidental necessity, so much the worse for theological compatibilism!

Some deny the AN of God’s beliefs (Ockhamism), but this hasn’t been my defense of compatibilism against your argument (from 4–6). I agree that God’s belief is solidly rooted in the past and has acquired AN. My target is TP. Perhaps you’re inclined to say “so much the worse” about this defense of compatibilism as well =); but I think considering the fatalist argument gives one line of support for rejecting TP.

To say that the compatibilist can say that he has the power to do something such that if he were to do it God would have held a different belief overlooks that fact that God already held the belief.

If your reasoning here is cogent then it seems to me that the following would also be: “To say that one can have the power to do something such that, were he to do it, a different future-tensed truth would have obtained, overlooks the fact that this future-tensed truth has already obtained.”

Paul said...

Dan,

I'm clear on what s/he said, here's a quote: "The basic incompatibilist argument, rather, has this form: Now-unpreventably(P), Nec(If P then Q), therefore, Now-unpreventably(Q), which is logically valid in every system of modal logic."

" The pressure, then, is for the incompatibilist to explain why AN doesn’t apply to the putatively past fact about what will be, but does apply to a past fact about a divine belief about what will be."

I find Widerker's stuff to be spot on.

In any case, I gave my reasons for why counterfactual power over the past doesn't work and it appears I haven't convinced you. If you'll forgive me, I will now pop 10 Vicodin and finish it off with a 5th of Jack Daniels in order to deal with the rejection! :'-(

dianiline said...

Hi, Paul,
I believe I've shown you that. God's foreknowledge comes from His being outside of time. As when you read a book for the second time, you already know what is going to happen.

That doesn't mean you make it happen, or that it could not have been different.

So God, having read the whole book, knows what we will do.

Even though He has given us complete freedom to act, within the limits of our abilities and circumstances.

Your argument goes wrong in supposing that God's foreknowledge impedes the freedom of one's future choices, when actually God's foreknowledge results from those future choices.

Blessings,

Diana

Paul said...

Diana,

"Since P is true only if Q, this is equivalent to Q->Q."

If these are logically equivalent, you can derive one from the other and vice versa (e.g., ¬(P & Q) = EQUIV = ¬P v ¬Q. Can you provide those derivations with P -> Q and Q -> Q?

"Your argument goes wrong in supposing that God's foreknowledge impedes the freedom of one's future choices, when actually God's foreknowledge results from those future choices.

That wasn't a supposition of my argument, it was the conclusion. So I'm afraid you've not shown where and how the argument goes wrong. Indeed, if you did in fact read it, you'd note several responses I gave which bypassed the timelessness account and placed the beliefs in time (e.g., prophecy). So I'm afraid that not only have you not shown where and how the argument goes wrong, even the defeaters you bring up commit the fallacy of ignoratio elenchi.

Paul said...

Fredericka,

Hi Paul. So you think it is logically impossible for God" to create any order of beings:-- say, angels,-- gifted with freedom, and also to be aware of what they do? No possible creature, fallen or unfallen, can ever be free, not Adam before the fall, nor the redeemed in glory?

Not, that's precisely the opposite of what I said.

As far as the timelessness objection, I've provided a link in this thread where I've addressed that.

So I'm afraid you've not advanced the discussion, and also seem to have badly misread my response to you.

Paul said...

Dan, as providence would have it :-), the SEP just published an article on future contingents yesterday

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/future-contingents/

Fredericka said...

Paul wrote, "So I'm afraid you've not advanced the discussion"

You have advanced the claim that God's foreknowledge constrains the event to happen just as He foreknew it. This is wrong, contrary to the Bible, and incidentally is an idea that was explicitly and specifically rejected by John Calvin. Yet when challenged you make no effort to defend the claim. What a joke.

Turretinfan said...

"God's foreknowledge comes from His being outside of time. As when you read a book for the second time, you already know what is going to happen."

I'll give you this: the future is like a book that's already been written and God's already read it.

But characters in a book don't have the ability to do otherwise than what is written. It's not like the second time you read the Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch might win and Aslan might lose. No, every reading will inevitably be the same.

"That doesn't mean you make it happen, or that it could not have been different."

The author of the book and the author of history make it happen. The author of history is God.

"So God, having read the whole book, knows what we will do."

You can't read a book until it is written. Once it is written, there is nothing you can do to control whether the White Witch or Aslan wins in the end.

The future is as good as written already. As such, it is inevitably going to happen as written.

"Even though He has given us complete freedom to act, within the limits of our abilities and circumstances."

There's no particular reason to affirm this.

"Your argument goes wrong in supposing that God's foreknowledge impedes the freedom of one's future choices, when actually God's foreknowledge results from those future choices."

That's not what Paul's (or my) argument supposes. God's advance knowledge of our future choices implies that our future choices are not "free" in the sense that you insist (over and over again) that they are. It implies that, but it itself is not the cause.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

"You have advanced the claim that God's foreknowledge constrains the event to happen just as He foreknew it."

No, neither Paul nor I have argued that. Both Paul and I have argued that God's foreknowledge demonstrates that the event must inevitably occur. This, in turns, shows that the supposed "ability to do otherwise" is fictional.

"This is wrong, contrary to the Bible, and incidentally is an idea that was explicitly and specifically rejected by John Calvin."

The Bible does not affirm libertarian free will. Moreover, the Bible's statements about the future and God's knowledge imply that man's will is free in a lesser sense, not in a "libertarian" sense.

I have no idea what passage of Calvin you have in mind.

"Yet when challenged you make no effort to defend the claim. What a joke. "

Paul tried to point out that you weren't challenging his claim, but instead challenging a claim he didn't make.

Recall that he responded to you: "Not, that's precisely the opposite of what I said."

Surely he's not required to defend positions other than his own.

-TurretinFan

dianiline said...

I: ""If something else determines John's "choice", then it is not a choice.""

Turretinfan: "I don't accept that definition of choice."

I'm sorry, I assumed we were working in English, where choice does actually mean that.

Although Henry Ford is purported to have said, of his Model T's buyers, "they can have any color they want, as long as it's black". But that was a joke.

...

Turretinfan: "...it was truly impossible that Peter would not deny Christ thrice. It was determined beforehand, and might as well have been set in stone. There wasn't the slightest chance or possibility of Peter not denying Christ thrice.

Peter was ashamed because he sinned."

If it were impossible for Peter not to have denied Christ, indeed there weren't "the slightest chance or possibility of Peter not denying Christ thrice"...then he didn't sin.

And he needn't have been ashamed.

Indeed, one would think he'd be furious.

Sin requires volition. Sin is disobedience. Would you consider your child to have broken curfew if she were in a car accident on the way home and at curfew time happened to be unconscious at the local hospital?

...

Turretinfan: "...Even if Jesus had not told Peter what was going to happen, Peter still would have done what Jesus foresaw."

True, because Jesus foresaw only what Peter would have done.

Turretinfan: "And it wasn't merely the fact that Jesus foresaw it that made it sure to happen. How could it?"

You seem to be positing some other force outside of God that directs all of our actions. You have alluded to this before. Would you care to elaborate on this outside determining force?

Turretinfan: "Nevertheless, what Jesus foresauw was absolutely sure to happen just as Jesus foresaw. And God foresees all things in exhaustive detail."

Both true. I would add that God foresees things as they are actually going to happen.

Turretinfan: "God could communicate those things by writing them in stone, but they are just as fixed and determined whether he actually does communicate them in stone or not."

They are determined when the individual makes the choice--when Peter caves to his inner wimp, or John chooses X or not-X.

Turretinfan: "The stone just helps us see that they are fixed and determined in advance."

I may have misunderstood you, here. I have understood you to mean something like "God decrees" when you say "God writes in stone".

If you only mean that God takes notes on his own foreknowledge, then the whole concept is irrelevant, though it does seem to confuse some of us into thinking our free choices are somehow determined in advance. :-)

I: ""We are speaking of the situation in which God has foreknowledge of John's choice, and the fact that this does not imply that John's choice is not free.""

Turretinfan: "But unless God can be wrong, it does imply that John's choice is not free."

Whether God can be wrong or not is His own business. He'd have to be playing, I think. But, remembering that God's foreknowledge arises from John's choice, there is no implication here that God is ever wrong. Why do you think that God would foreknow something incorrectly?

However the whole system of creation and redemption would come crashing down, if our choices were not free.

I: ""God foresees it because John freely does it.""

Turretinfan: "...this makes God's knowledge dependent on man..."

God's knowledge of a man's choices, is, of course, dependent upon the man. This is not some deficiency in the power or knowledge of God; it is this way because He made it so.

Blessings,

Diana

dianiline said...

Following Q->P and P->Q, I wrote: "Since P is true only if Q, this is equivalent to Q->Q."

Paul wrote: "If these are logically equivalent, you can derive one from the other and vice versa (e.g., ¬(P & Q) = EQUIV = ¬P v ¬Q. Can you provide those derivations with P -> Q and Q -> Q?"

Remember that we started with Q->P, where Q is 'John chooses X' or 'John chooses not-X'.

From this follows P, 'God knows that John chooses X', or 'God knows that John chooses not-X.

Adding P->Q to this yields Q->P *and* P->Q, which devolves to Q->Q.

Turretinfan wrote: "There's a fundamental flaw in that analysis. P->Q provides information about P, whereas Q->Q does not. Thus, the two are not equivalent unless P is Q."

P->Q does not provide any information about P, only about what Q is when P is.

Blessings,

Diana

Turretinfan said...

"I'm sorry, I assumed we were working in English, where choice does actually mean that."

Actually, no. That's not true. I'm tempted to reply in kind, but I'll leave it at that.

"If it were impossible for Peter not to have denied Christ, indeed there weren't "the slightest chance or possibility of Peter not denying Christ thrice"...then he didn't sin."

Well, it was sin, and it was inevitable. So, like your definition of "choice," your definition of "sin" is also wrong.

"Indeed, one would think he'd be furious."

Only if he were very confused.

"Sin requires volition. Sin is disobedience. Would you consider your child to have broken curfew if she were in a car accident on the way home and at curfew time happened to be unconscious at the local hospital?"

If I were alleging that Peter did it involuntarily, then you'd have a point here. I don't allege that. I just recognize that volition and inevitability are perfectly compatible. You don't recognize that, which is why you are confused.

"True, because Jesus foresaw only what Peter would have done."

Jesus didn't foresee what Peter "would have done" but what Peter was going to do. He saw a fixed and definite future, not an uncertain and free future.

"You seem to be positing some other force outside of God that directs all of our actions. You have alluded to this before. Would you care to elaborate on this outside determining force?"

No, your inference is incorrect. I hold to the position expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith (if you aren't familiar with it, I'd be happy to elaborate).

"Both true. I would add that God foresees things as they are actually going to happen."

I don't disagree with that statement.

"They are determined when the individual makes the choice--when Peter caves to his inner wimp, or John chooses X or not-X."

They must be determined before then, since they can be infallibly written in stone before then.

"I may have misunderstood you, here. I have understood you to mean something like "God decrees" when you say "God writes in stone"."

Well, both can be true. God can know because he decrees, and he can literally write it in stone because he knows.

[to be continued]

Turretinfan said...

"If you only mean that God takes notes on his own foreknowledge, then the whole concept is irrelevant, though it does seem to confuse some of us into thinking our free choices are somehow determined in advance. :-)"

What's strange to me is that you can realize that your future is so fixed and definite that it could be written in stone in advance, and yet you still want to assert that it is not determined.

"Whether God can be wrong or not is His own business."

It's relevant to this conversation. If God can be wrong, then the problem for your view of free will disappears. Then it is just God's best guess based on one possible future.

"He'd have to be playing, I think."

What??

"But, remembering that God's foreknowledge arises from John's choice, there is no implication here that God is ever wrong."

You assert that God's knowledge arises from John actually making the choice. That assertion is wrong.

But whether or not your assertion is correct, the same problem exists.

God's knowledge exists prior to John's act. If John's act cannot render God's previously existing knowledge wrong (or change the past or something like that) then John's act can only be what God's previously existing knowledge says. It cannot be otherwise, given God's previously existing knowledge. Peter couldn't have made Jesus a false prophet, for example, by refraining from denying Christ three times.

"Why do you think that God would foreknow something incorrectly?"

If God could know something incorrectly in advance, then there would be no implication from God's knowledge that the future event is fixed, certain, or determined.

"However the whole system of creation and redemption would come crashing down, if our choices were not free."

No. A full answer here would go far beyond the scope of this discussion.

"God's knowledge of a man's choices, is, of course, dependent upon the man."

No, actually, it is not.

"This is not some deficiency in the power or knowledge of God; it is this way because He made it so."

God being dependent on man for his knowledge has a number of problems. I think, for the sake of keeping the issues limited here, I better leave that issue aside as well.

-TurretinFan

dianiline said...

Hi Turretinfan,

Well, what do *you* choose as a definition of choice?

Also, perhaps you would define for me the concept of sin, in light of your definition of choice.

Regarding Paul, how exactly do you say that he sinned?

You wrote: "What's strange to me is that you can realize that your future is so fixed and definite that it could be written in stone in advance, and yet you still want to assert that it is not determined."

What you call "realiz(ing) that (my) future is so fixed and definite that it could be written in stone in advance" might be better expressed differently.

I am not willing to assert that God could not have carved stones, in the past, detailing my future. I think that would be to deny His omniscience, and His omnipotence.

I don't believe this statement can in any way be used to excuse me from my responsibility for my own actions (choices), including by suggesting that my future actions are determined by anything other than my own volition interacting with my surroundings.

I wrote:
"Whether God can be wrong or not is His own business."

and you replied:
"It's relevant to this conversation. If God can be wrong, then the problem for your view of free will disappears. Then it is just God's best guess based on one possible future."

However relevant, it is not information that He has shared with us. But I don't see where it changes anything, because I don't see the problem that you do.

And you wrote:
"You assert that God's knowledge arises from John actually making the choice. That assertion is wrong."

Well, here I could answer in kind, too, but how would that advance the discussion? Obviously you think I'm wrong, and I think you are.

I begin to wonder if all you mean by this "determinist" stuff is that God is outside of time and already knows what we are going to do, which I think is obvious.

Perhaps you are saying that we do have entirely free will, but since God already knows the whole, there is a sense in which one could say that we can't change our minds about what we will do in the future any more than we can change what we've done in the past. Because from God's point of view, it's already done.

This is certainly true; if it is your whole argument, then I concede it entirely. But this is no more than to say that I can't (now) choose to have eggs for breakfast yesterday given that I had oatmeal.

Yesterday morning I could have chosen differently.

I wrote:
"However the whole system of creation and redemption would come crashing down, if our choices were not free."

and you replied:
"No. A full answer here would go far beyond the scope of this discussion."

It shouldn't. No freedom, no fault. In general.

You wrote:
"God being dependent on man for his knowledge has a number of problems."

None that God can't handle!

Blessings,

Diana

natamllc said...

Diane

I hope I am not offensive here in commenting and asking you for some understanding of Scripture?

First, I would say I marvel at your resiliency!

Second, what would you say the Apostle Paul wants us to comprehend when we read this from the Book of Romans:

Rom 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Rom 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,
Rom 3:30 since God is one--who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
Rom 3:31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

dianiline said...

Hi natamllc,

Thank you for your kind remarks!

In the letter you cite, Paul is telling the church in Rome that Christians of Jewish origin and Christians of Gentile origin are equally Christians, because God is the God of the Jews and the Gentiles as well, and that this does not undermine but rather upholds the law.

Does this seem to impact the discussion of free will?

Blessings,

Diana

natamllc said...

Diane,

you asked: "Does this seem to impact the discussion of free will?

Hmmmm, well, does it?


If we are saved by Faith and not by our keeping the requirements of the Law, why does the Apostle ask that question in the last verse?

Why uphold the Law if we are not saved by it?

Turretinfan said...

"Well, what do *you* choose as a definition of choice?"

Heh. There are many good descriptions of choice. For example, choice can be described as forming a judgment or making a selection.

"Also, perhaps you would define for me the concept of sin, in light of your definition of choice."

Sin is an lack of conformity unto the law of God or any transgression of that law.

"Regarding Paul, how exactly do you say that he sinned?"

I'm not sure what this is in reference to. Paul sins whenever Paul acts or thinks in a manner that God has forbidden or whenever Paul fails to act or to think in a manner that God has commanded.

"What you call "realiz(ing) that (my) future is so fixed and definite that it could be written in stone in advance" might be better expressed differently."

I'm open to suggestions for improvement.

"I am not willing to assert that God could not have carved stones, in the past, detailing my future. I think that would be to deny His omniscience, and His omnipotence."

Agreed.

"I don't believe this statement can in any way be used to excuse me from my responsibility for my own actions (choices), including by suggesting that my future actions are determined by anything other than my own volition interacting with my surroundings."

a) I want to be clear: I'm not excusing anyone from responsibility for their actions.

b) Lots of things influence one's volition, including one's nature, personal history, etc. What is interesting is that on a macro-level, people look like their choices can be determined, even simply by other humans. That's why the advertising industry is as big as it is.

c) Leaving aside involuntary sins (a category I think exists), a voluntary sin exists when a person's will assents to an unlawful act/thought. A sin exists when a person judges to be good (for that person) something that God says is sin. That view of sin is derived from Scripture.

"However relevant, it is not information that He has shared with us. But I don't see where it changes anything, because I don't see the problem that you do."

I think God has shared with us that God is never wrong in his knowledge.


I wrote: "You assert that God's knowledge arises from John actually making the choice. That assertion is wrong."

You replied: "Well, here I could answer in kind, too, but how would that advance the discussion? Obviously you think I'm wrong, and I think you are."

Understood. That's how I felt about your original unsupported assertion. There's a reason to think that God's knowledge is not based on the future: that reason is that God says that there is a reason for what happens, implying that God has a plan. That plan provides an explanation of God's knowledge in a way that doesn't result in a paradox.

[to be continued]

Turretinfan said...

"I begin to wonder if all you mean by this "determinist" stuff is that God is outside of time and already knows what we are going to do, which I think is obvious."

God is both Creator and Provider. Everything that exists exists because God decided that it should. Likewise, everything that happens happens because God deems it best that it should be so. God has determined not only what the molecular structure of water will be, but God decides when it will rain. I think most Christians don't really have a problem with God governing the rain, but some seem to get upset that he might also govern what humans do.

"Perhaps you are saying that we do have entirely free will, but since God already knows the whole, there is a sense in which one could say that we can't change our minds about what we will do in the future any more than we can change what we've done in the past. Because from God's point of view, it's already done."

I'm saying that our will is not as free as some people think. That is to say, it is not free from God's providence. It is not entirely free from outside influences. We do make choices and decisions, but God oversees them.

"This is certainly true; if it is your whole argument, then I concede it entirely. But this is no more than to say that I can't (now) choose to have eggs for breakfast yesterday given that I had oatmeal."

Yes. The future does not seem to be as fixed and concrete as the past, but we have shown that it must be.

"Yesterday morning I could have chosen differently."

Yesterday morning you could have chosen exactly as you chose. Whether you could have chosen differently ... well, that's where you are back in the realm of just making assertions.

"It shouldn't. No freedom, no fault. In general."

That's not something taught in Scripture. You don't have to be free from God's providence in order to be responsible.

I had written: "God being dependent on man for his knowledge has a number of problems."

You replied: "None that God can't handle!"

The problems I was speaking about are problems of this kind: your idea conflicts with what we know about the nature of God.

-TurretinFan

dianiline said...

Hi natamllc,

You wrote: "If we are saved by Faith and not by our keeping the requirements of the Law, why does the Apostle ask that question in the last verse?

Why uphold the Law if we are not saved by it?"

I understand that we are saved by grace through faith. Also that anyone who comes to faith prior to his deathbed will do good works.

The Jews used to be, and still presumably are, saved through the Law. However I don't believe any Jews are currently keeping the requirements of the Law. No priests, for one thing.

If you were to try to keep the Law, you too would probably run up against the lack of (Jewish) priests. I am not sure that the Law is a viable means of salvation for those of us who are not actually Jews, however. Also I am not sure that one who knows Christ may take the Law option.

This was not a problem in Paul's day.

I don't think these verses impact the current discussion.

Blessings,

Diana

natamllc said...

diana,

you write:

"... Also that anyone who comes to faith prior to his deathbed will do good works.

The Jews used to be, and still presumably are, saved through the Law."


When you write about one who comes to faith prior to his deathbed will do good works, what do you mean?

Do you mean to say that you have some part to play in your salvation?

Or do you mean to say what James in his Epistle addresses about good works:

Jas 2:17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Jas 2:18 But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.


When you write, citing from the citation above, you write in such a way that suggests Jews by keeping the requirements of the Law are saved. Is that what you meant?

I will say, anyone who keeps the requirements of the Law will be saved by keeping those requirements.

Outside of Jesus Christ, God has already established, no one has ever kept the requirements of the Law so as to be saved.

There are only two ways to Eternal Life. The one way is by the keeping the requirements of the Law without sin. And, coming into the Kingdom by Grace through His Faith.

dianiline said...

Hi Turretinfan,
You wrote: “There are many good descriptions of choice. For example, choice can be described as forming a judgment or making a selection.”
I was asking for the one you think pertinent to this discussion, which is compatible with not being able to do otherwise.
You wrote: “Sin is an lack of conformity unto the law of God or any transgression of that law.”
What exactly constitutes the “law of God”, in your view?
Also I understand you to mean that these things constitute sin whether intentional or accidental.
I wrote: “Regarding Paul, how exactly do you say that he sinned?"
and you replied: “I'm not sure what this is in reference to. Paul sins whenever Paul acts or thinks in a manner that God has forbidden or whenever Paul fails to act or to think in a manner that God has commanded.”
I’m sorry, I meant Peter. We were speaking of Peter denying Christ, and you said Peter was ashamed because he sinned even though you believe he could not have done anything else. I was asking in what manner you believe he sinned.
You wrote, after asserting that one’s future is fixed and inalterable: “a) I want to be clear: I'm not excusing anyone from responsibility for their actions.”
It is not clear to me how you can speak of one having “actions” in a future that is fixed and inalterable. The puppet does not have actions, only the puppeteer does.
You wrote: “…c) Leaving aside involuntary sins (a category I think exists), a voluntary sin exists when a person's will assents to an unlawful act/thought. A sin exists when a person judges to be good (for that person) something that God says is sin. That view of sin is derived from Scripture.”
We are speaking of actions, and not original sin which is perhaps involuntary. But do you mean that, although I have only one way to behave (I am trying to avoid the word ‘choice’ here, as we can’t agree on a definition), I am sinning in that behavior *if I judge it to be good* and God judges it to be bad.
It would seem to follow that *if I know that the behavior is bad*, and God judges it to be bad, then I am not sinning.
This strikes me as a complete inversion of conventional morality in that normally people think you are sinning when you know that what you are doing is wrong, and perhaps not so much if you think you’re actually doing good.
In all of this, whether or not I knew the behavior was bad, (I understand you to assert that) I could not have behaved differently.
I believe you that your view of sin is derived from Scripture, but I hope it’s not validly derived.
You wrote: “There's a reason to think that God's knowledge is not based on the future: that reason is that God says that there is a reason for what happens, implying that God has a plan. That plan provides an explanation of God's knowledge in a way that doesn't result in a paradox.”
Since God is eternal and not bound by time, His plans are also outside of time. Saying that God’s knowledge of my future actions is a result of His plan is no more than saying that His knowledge is because of my future action. No paradox in either case. It might look like a paradox to us, if we forget that God is not bound, as we are, by time.

Blessings,

Diana

dianiline said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dianiline said...

Hi Turretinfan,
You wrote: “I'm saying that our will is not as free as some people think. That is to say, it is not free from God's providence. It is not entirely free from outside influences. We do make choices and decisions, but God oversees them.”
Of course one’s free will is subject to outside influences; indeed much of human activity is dedicated to influencing the choices of others.
When we influence others to sin, we are in part responsible for their sin and we sin ourselves. However when others influence us to sin, we are not to feel that this excuses us. We are to resist such influence and choose not to sin.
God oversees our decisions in a limited sense. Many of us ask Him for advice. He arranges our circumstances for our good; I’m sure that in many circumstances He forces us to one activity or another for some purpose in the grand plan.
If you listen He will suggest things for you to do, sometimes.
To what extent do you believe that God influences our decisions and choices?
You wrote: “The future does not seem to be as fixed and concrete as the past, but we have shown that it must be…Yesterday morning you could have chosen exactly as you chose. Whether you could have chosen differently ... well, that's where you are back in the realm of just making assertions.”
You have asserted that the future must be as fixed and concrete as the past, but you have not shown it. I have asserted that I chose what I did for breakfast yesterday, and you assert that what I chose was my only possible choice.
I suppose it follows that I can only choose one way this morning. However it looks to me as if there are several possibilities—admittedly, only one that matches my current dietary restrictions. But I can choose to violate that restriction and eat something else.
How am I to know which is the only possible choice? If you say that I must use reason and preferences to decide what I’d like, then you are only saying that there is more than one possible choice. It is your view that ends in paradox, not mine.
You wrote: "You don't have to be free from God's providence in order to be responsible.”
We are not free from God’s providence. We can *follow* God’s providence, or not. He generally does not compel us.
You wrote: “The problems I was speaking about are problems of this kind: your idea conflicts with what we know about the nature of God.”
And I repeat that God can handle this problem. This is not the only misinformation about Him in circulation!
Blessings,

Diana