Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dialogue with GIMJ re: Necessity - A continuation

Dialogue Regarding Freedom of the Will
with Godismyjudge

This post is a continuation of

this earlier post, which itself is an offshoot of

the Inventokos post.

Now, Godismyjudge (aka GIMJ or Dan) has written:

Dear Turretinfan,You asked for a reconciliation between LFW-P and my three points.

That is:

LFW-P “man is able to do either A or not-A prior to the deed”

And Man is:

1) Able T=1, to choose or not choose A

2) Able at T=2, to stop willing A at T=3, without an external sufficient cause

3) Unable at T=2, to be choosing and not choosing A.

#1 “Man is Able T=1, to choose or not choose A” is essentially LFW-P. I suspect that’s not where you have questions, but if you do please ask them.

#3 is essentially the excluded middle principle you used to drive a wedge between LFW and LFW-P. IE man can’t do the logically impossible.

#2 is the interesting one. I will try to make it boring by rephrasing.

2* man is able at T=2, to stop or continue willing A at T=3.

Now it’s the same as 1 and LFW-P. The only difference is inception verses continuation of a choice. IE let’s say I choose to run a mile. At the ½ mile point, I have to continue in that choice.

I worded #2 differently. I didn’t use alternates (ie stop or continue), but only one object: continuation. Hence I added the qualifier: “without an external sufficient cause”. For our present purposes, please think of a sufficient cause as that which necessitates in an LFW-N sense. So if there is a sufficient cause for A, A is LFW-N. So 2 and 2* have the same import.

That’s a high level matching of points 1-3 and LFW-P.

Thanks for your response to my question. I will get back to you on it.

God be with you,


I reply:

Dear Dan:

I respectfully disagree with at least some of your statements above.

Allow me to begin by pointing out again the definition of LFW-P:

LFW-P is defined as “man is able to do either A or not-A prior to the deed”

Your numbers 1-3 do not derive from LFW-P, but are rather new ideas.

In view of that position of mine, and for convenient reference, I will refer to them as LFW-3 (your number 1), LFW-4 (your number 2), LFW-5 (your number 3). At one point you provide yet another definition which at first appears to be neither derived from LFW-P, nor from your points as written, but which you refer to as 2*. Nevertheless, because it may be derivable from LFW-P, I will refer to this definition as LFW-P2.


LFW-3 defines freedom as: “Man is Able [at] T=1, to choose or not choose A”

This is not the same as LFW-P.

The first difference is minor, in that the genus "deed" has been replaced by the species "choice," which is one type of deed. This is a minor difference, as I would view LFW-3 as derived from LFW-P if it were a species of LFW-P.

The notable difference, however, is "is able ... prior to the deed ... to do," vs. "[at] T=1 ... is able to choose."

Surely you see the difference.

"Prior" means before the event, whereas "[at] T=1 ... is able to choose" means at the event. At and before are distinct concepts.

You wrote: "I suspect that’s not where you have questions, but if you do please ask them."

I respond: It's not so much that I have questions, as that it is important for us to be clear. To be clear, as shown above, LFW-3 is not the same as LFW-P, nor is it derived from LFW-P.


LFW-4 defines free will as: "Man is Able at T=2, to stop willing A at T=3, without an external sufficient cause."

This definition has the same "at"/"prior" difference from LFW-P as does LFW-3. LFW-4 introduces a further difference, the qualification "without an external cause."

This qualification did not derive from the definition of LFW-P. Instead, the qualificaiton LFW-4 appears to be simply your insertion, Godismyjudge. That's one reason it really ought to have its own label, as opposed to be a species of LFW-P or even LFW-3.

Another difference is "stop willing" as compared to "do" (LFW-P) or "choose" (LFW-3). Since to forebear is a deed, albeit a negative deed, this simply provides a species or example, and if it were only for this difference, we could accept LFW-4 as a species of LFW-3.


LFW-5 defines (apparently necessity) as: "Man is Unable at T=2, to be choosing and not choosing A."

LFW-5 is simply a species of Logical Necessity. I think we are in agreement (for once) on this, inasmuch as you comment: "#3 is essentially the excluded middle principle you used to drive a wedge between LFW and LFW-P. IE man can’t do the logically impossible."

One follow-up needs to be provided, though. I am not here to force any position on non-Calvinists. You can pick your definitions, and I wll analyze them. My analysis will be as pointed and thorough as I can provide, but we're keeping busy enough with actual definitions.


LFW-P2 is defined as "man is able at T=2, to stop or continue willing A at T=3."

LFW-P2 can be viewed as a species of LFW-P.

Reasons why LFW-P2 can be viewed as a species of LFW-P:
- The specific designations T=2 and T=3 (understood as T = 3 is later than T = 2) are examples of the general principle of "prior."
- The two qualifers of the act of "willing," namely "stop or continue" are mutually exclusive qualifiers, such that they form examples of the general principle "do A or not-A."

The criticism provided in the Inventokos post applies with equal force to LFW-P2, and LFW-P2 does not provide freedom at the example T=3, but only at the example, T=2. Thus, man's acts under LFW-P2 are not free any more than man acts are free under LFW-P, which (we have shown) is zero freedom.

You remark: "Now it’s the same as 1 and LFW-P."

I reply: It is a species of LFW-P, but it is not the same as LFW-3 (your "1"). The same "prior" difference noted above applies to LFW-P2 as it did to LFW-P.

You continue: "The only difference is inception verses continuation of a choice."

I reply: You have verbally conflated the act of choosing with the object of the choice. The inception versus continuation are not differences in the choice, but in the object. Allow me to demonstrate.

Using your example: "IE let’s say I choose to run a mile. At the ½ mile point, I have to continue in that choice."

I reply: Notice that the object of the choice is "run a mile." At the ½ mile point (and arguably at every conscious moment along the way), you have a choice about whether to complete the running of the mile or quit. Nevertheless, those choices are different choices - not the same choice, strictly speaking.

The language in your example provides an interesting hook for our discussion. You wrote: "At the ½ mile point, I have to continue in that choice."

Now, we both know you meant that "have to continue" as assuming the unstated "if I am to go on to complete the mile." In other words, neither of us would say that you are under an absolute necessity to complete the mile, in ordinary speech.

Nevertheless, if we adopted LFW-P or LFW-P2, we might imagine such a scenario, where you were free to choose to continue only at the starting line, not at the ½ mile point. That, of course, is an absurd world, which is why we should recognize the absurdity of LFW-P and LFW-P2 and return to the simple, Calvinistic sense of freedom of will, as de jure and de facto freedom, as described in the Inventokos post.

You stated: "I worded #2 differently. I didn’t use alternates (ie stop or continue), but only one object: continuation."

I reply: I don't have a problem with your implying one of the two alternatives. I know what you mean when you say a choice to continue: you mean a choice between continuing and not continuing (and likewise you convey the same thing negatively when you say "stop").

You wrote: "Hence I added the qualifier: “without an external sufficient cause”."

I reply: Non Sequitur. No qualifer is necessary if your goal is simply to convey the same information, since - as noted above - we can deduce the other alternative from the stated alternative.

You continued: "For our present purposes, please think of a sufficient cause as that which necessitates in an LFW-N sense."

I reply: I point you back to my earlier comments about the confusion that the use of the verb "necessitate" creates.

Nevertheless, as I understand you, you are saying that sufficient cause (SC) is anything that produces LFW-N in an act. Recall, however, that we already established that LFW-N is just logical necessity. Furthermore, recall that we established that the basis for logical necessity is the nature of God. This would seem to render "external" superfluous for everyone except God. As a corollary, however, it also produces the result that "without [the nature of God]" is a null set, because the nature of God applies everywhere and over all of time.

Nevertheless, there's no reason to start addressing the sufficiency of causes, so let's not force that particular definition on SC just yet.

You continued: "So if there is a sufficient cause for A, A is LFW-N."

I reply: Possibly you meant to insert "external" again? Or perhaps you recognized its superfluity and omitted it? In any event, everything that happens is LFW-N, because LFW-N just logical necessity, and everything is subject to logical necessity.

You wrote: "So 2 and 2* have the same import."

I respond: NS, QED.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Quick Correction to Doug Wilson's Doctrine

A Quick Correction to Doug Wilson's Doctrine

Doug Wilson, an eminent preacher and influential writer in Reformed circles, recently published a blog post regarding his Reformed status. Here is a link.

I'll analyze Pastor Wilson's post in chunks.

DW wrote:
Green Baggins has come to the chapter of RINE where I seek to establish my Calvinistic bona fides. Some have interpreted the FV as though it were some form of Arminianism or semi-Pelagianism. So early in the book, I set aside a chapter to demonstrate that I wish that the Synod of Dort had promulgated a couple extra points so I could believe them too.

I reply:
One problem with the Federal Vision (FV) is that it has no tangible systematic theology for anyone to critique. Instead it is held in various flavors by various advocates, and reflected primarily in passing references and oblique commentary. The presbyteries that have considered the issue have generally opposed it (example here), but the individual preachers responding to the opposition have typically claimed that they were misunderstood. Thus, the moving target of FV continues to persist. While it certainly appears to be at variance with Orthodoxy, its distance from the narrow path of doctrinal orthodoxy is less so than Arminianism or semi-Pelagianism, at least as far as this author can tell.

DW wrote:
The review of this chapter is fair, with Green Baggins mostly wanting to have a few questions clarified. So here I go.

I reply:
Note that DW is responding to someone else's critique of DW's book. That critique, in relevant part, can be found linked here or more specifically here.

DW wrote:
The first is whether I am a compatibilist when it comes to questions of free will. The answer is yes, if we are talking about creaturely choices, like whether to go left or right, or whether to pick this flavor or that one at the ice cream store. But when it comes to moral choices, I believe that unregenerate men are not free unless and until God creates that freedom in them by granting them a new heart.

I reply:
This response indicates that DW does not understand the theological terms involved in the discussion.

First, "compatibilist on questions of free will." It is clear from DW's response that DW does not understand what the term means. To be clear, a compatibilist is someone who asserts that Sovereign Divine Providence (also known as "predetermination" and/or "predestination") and Human Freedom are compatible.

The Reformed position in contrast to the Arminian and Hyper-Calvinist positions is that God both sovereignly decrees all that will happen, and that man is free in the choices man makes. In other words, the Reformed position asserts the compatibility of the Decree of Providence and the freedom of man.

This is in contrast to the Arminian position (which denies compatibility and chooses to accept human freedom) and the Hyper-Calvinist position (which denies compatibility and chooses to accept the Decree of Providence).

Second, the distinction between "creaturely" and "moral" choices is a poor explanation of the issue. Possibly because DW does not understand the issues, DW creates to classes of choices, one which he refers to as "creaturely" and the other "moral."

This distinction is not a Biblical distinction, a conventional distinction, a relevant distinction, or a coherent distinction. That this distinction is not Biblical can be seen from the lack of Biblical support for the distinction. The Bible does not distinguish anywhere between "creaturely" and "moral choices."

The distinction is also not a conventional distinction. The lack of conventionality can be seen, for example, by a quick Internet search on the terms. For the truly lazy Internet scholar, here is a pre-defined search, which provided only four hits at the time this article was written, one of those four being DW's own article. Presumably this article will boost the number of hits by 25%. Here is the link.

Relevance is also not a strong suit of this distinction. In Reformed Theology, the "creaturely choices" as defined by DW are every bit as predetermined as the "moral choices" that DW mentions. Even supposing that DW means by "creaturely" those choices that are morally indifferent (and assuming for the sake of brevity that such a set of choices exist), the Free Will debate is not significantly concerned with those choices.

Finally, the distinction is not coherent. Moral choices are not distinct from creaturely choices. Creatures, man included, make many choices, at least some of which are moral choices. Furthermore, God makes choices that appear to be morally indifferent (for example, his choice to create precisely the number of people that will ever live and not one soul more) and yet God cannot be said to be "creaturely" in his choices.

Thus, the sets are ill-formed and poorly named.

Worse, DW denies compatibilism where it really matters, i.e. on moral choices. In doing so, DW abandons the Reformed view of Scripture on the issue of human freedom. The Reformed view is that fallen man freely out of a corrupt heart brings forth corrupt fruit, just as a sanctified man freely out of a good heart brings forth good fruit.

It looks as the DW has, perhaps, read Cliff's Notes on Luther's "Bondage of the Will," and is attempting to repeat what he learned.

It certainly is true that man's will, his entire heart, is in bondage to sin and corruption prior to God giving grace. Nevertheless, man has a free will, even in a fallen state, prior to regeneration. Man's will is given over to corruption and sin, and so man freely chooses what is bad, wicked, and evil.

Thus, DW seems to be confusing freedom of will in the sense of natural ability with freedom of will in the sense of compatibilism. That is to say, DW seems to have failed to recognize the important difference between Pelagianism and Arminianism, namely that Arminianism asserts that grace is necessary for a fallen man to do what is right, whereas Pelagianism asserts that man can do what is right without divine assistance.

DW continued:
Secondly, when I said that God ordained us making free choices, one of the commenters at Lane's blog was correct in assuming that I was referring to the teaching of the Westminster Confession at that point -- that God's ordination is the foundation and establishment of our creaturely freedom, not the annihilation of it. But I want to keep categories distinct. Lane appealed to the "coercive" nature of Saul's conversion. And okay, I would agree that the new birth is "coercive" in the same way my first birth was. Nobody consulted me in 1951 about whether I wanted to be born in 1953. But we don't normally describe that kind of thing as coercive, but it is clearly monergistic. And I affirm that as well.

I respond:

I, for one, am not fully persuaded that DW knows what he is talking about on these issues. In as far as the printed words above stand, however, they do generally comport with the Reformed view. God ordained men's free choices, each and every one of them.

And last, Lane points to a place where I say that I am not denying the Reformed faith -- the objectivity of the covenant is the Reformed faith. He is right to catch me here; this was an unfortunate overstatement. I have said in other places that there are those in the Reformed stream who do not emphasize the objectivity of the covenant, and yet should be recognized as Reformed (Reformed Baptists). I should have said that here. I do believe that this understanding is the best understanding of the Reformed faith (which is why I hold it), and that this part of the stream in which I am floating goes all the way back. But I did not mean to say that there were not disagreements over these issues all the way back.

I respond:
I'm not going to kick DW when he is down, more than to point out that surely, with more careful thought before writing, DW would say that he believes what he believes not because it is the Reformed faith, but because it is Scriptural.


Why I am not KJV Only

Why I am not KJV Only

I prefer the KJV, and I consider it to be the best widely available English translation of the Bible.

Nevertheless, I am not a so-called "KJV Only" advocate.

The reasons I am not a so-called "KJV Only" advocate are as follows:

  • The original languages were inspired, translations are better or worse to the the degree that the conform to the original languages. The reason for preferring the KJV as an English language translation is its fidelity to the original languages.

  • Although God has blessed the KJV translation with widespread usage in the Church, this is more of a testimony to its accuracy than an indication of special inspiration of the KJV translators.

  • The KJV translators themselves did not claim to be specially inspired, but instead employed scholarly techniques in their translation of Scripture.

  • The KJV translators had to make fallible decisions in certain instances (such as whether - or how - to include 1 John 5:7), and - while in most instances I would agree that their decision was correct - there is no reason to suppose that they decided correctly in every instance.

  • Although the KJV may provide a useful version from which to translate into minor languages, in the long term it would be preferable for Christians of every language to retranslate from the original languages in their own language.

  • Virtually all of the arguments in favor of KJV Only are susceptible to being applied to the Vulgate, which should be sufficient to show their non-unique status.

  • The KJV is largely an improvement of earlier English versions, and there is no reason to suppose that the ultimate pinnacle and epitome of translation perfection has been achieved in the English language, even if the KJV is the best we have so far.

Other reasons have been proposed, which I reject, such as complaints about readability (particularly in the 1611 edition of the KJV), the assertion that various translations are erroneous (such as the term "Easter" or the inclusion of 1 John 5:7), and quibbles over the underlying Greek text (primarily by those in the W-H textual tradition). Those reasons are not persuasive to me for a variety of reasons, and I do not consider them to be particularly powerful arguments against the KJV Only position.

I plan to address in another post the arguments made by KJV Only advocates in favor of their position.