Saturday, June 09, 2007

President Bush - Mixed Kudos

President Bush recently called the pope, "Sir," instead of "Your Holiness," drawing gasps from the Catholics present. Personally, I cannot imagine a legitimate reason for Bush meeting with the pope in the first place (one reason my kudos is mixed), but if he is going to do so, he is at least to be commended for not referring to the pope by a misleading title. Nevertheless, I suspect that the use of "sir," was probably not calculated by Bush, but was an accidental reflection of his Protestant view that the pope is not an especially holy person. I'm confident that most official correspondence from Bush to the pope would use the misdescriptive title that the journalists in the story (linked here) were so shocked not to hear.

But, if it was intentional, then Hat's Off to You, Mr. President!


Romanist Apologist - Sippo Lampoons Self

Unless someone has hacked his account, Sippo seems to have decided to portray himself as, well, here are the items:

1) "Another example is John Calvin's claim that all human beings are "totally depraved". In reality, we all have our faults, but "total depravity" overstates the condition of mankind." Does Sippo really not have the slightest clue about what total depravity means?

2) Does Sippo really not get that the solution to his "pizza paradox" is that the "center" defined by the intersection of the cuts in the pizza is normally slightly off the geometric center of the pizza?

3) Does Sippo really think that Robin Williams stole his lawyer joke?

So which is it, is Sippo playing the buffoon, or has someone hacked his account?

Check for yourself.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Circular Frame - Presuppositional Apologetics

Circular Frame
Presuppositional Apologetics Gone Terribly Wrong

According to another Internet poster, JonathanB, Frame wrote:
Criticism is effective only when the critic can suggest a better way. But there is no alternative to circularity [in relation to one’s ultimate commitment]… Circularity in a system is properly justified only at one point: in an argument for the ultimate criterion of the system… It is possible to argue the Pauline authorship of Second Timothy on the basis of higher and broader princples than the Pauline authoriship of Second Timothy. Allowing circularity at one point in a system, therefore, does not commit us to allowing circularity at all points.

(John Frame The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, p. 13-131) (citation by JonathanB)

Frame is wrong in saying that circularity is "properly justified" at all.

Circularity is never justified in argument. Frame's assertion that it is justified is simply a self-serving ipse dixit. There is no basis for his claiming that it is justified, and there is a categorical problem with circular reasoning: it is logically invalid.

In other words, circular reasoning is not an example of reasoning, it is an example of broken reasoning, just as potsherds are not a category of pottery.

Frame argues that "there is no alternative to circularity." This manifestly incorrect. If one is going to rely on logical fallacies, there are plenty of others that could be employed. Ad baculum is a favorite of mine, and should your argumentative vein be less pugilistic, you could try the ad misericordiam or the ever favorite in certain circles, ad nauseum.

More importantly, the correct response is not a circular argument, but a simple statement: This is my presupposition: I trust God. If someone asks: "But why do you trust God," the response is: didn't you just hear me? I said it is my presupposition. It's absurd to ask what the basis is for a presupposition.

Asking what is beyond an ultimate commitment is like asking which letter comes after zed, or what building is taller than the tallest building. It's a silly question, and the best responses are to point out that the question itself is absurd, to clarify that you have arrived at the tallest building, last letter, or presupposition, or simply to remain silent.

Frame and many of Van Til's followers make the serious logical mistake of attempting to provide an answer to the complex question: "what is the justification for your presuppositions?"

In doing so, they undermine their otherwise good, presuppositional apologetic.

An Alternative view of Frame

I should note that Frame's argument can be expressed other ways. For example, Frame states:

However, it is quite impossible to argue for Christianity, or anything else for that matter, without making a presuppositional choice. One cannot reason without criteria of truth. And criteria of truth come from a wide variety of sources, ultimately religious commitment. Those criteria will either be Christian or non-Christian. If they are non-Christian, they will be self-defeating and subject to divine judgment. To say this is to say that argument for Christianity will always be in one sense circular. Arguments for Christianity must be based on Christian criteria, which in turn presuppose the truth of Christianity. You can't prove God without presupposing him. This is one of the principles of Van Til's apologetics which most irritates our authors. [Footnotes omitted.]

This excellent comment by Frame is in response to the errors of the evidentialists. "Van Til and the Ligonier Apologetic," WTJ V47 #2 Fall 1985 pp. 287-88.

And Frame's comment is not unique to Van Til's apologetics, but also applies to the slightly more pure presuppositional apologetics of Dr. Clark. The one thing that Frame fails to do is properly complete the thought. After correctly stating, "You can't prove God without presupposing Him," Frame ought to have added: "and a proof that presupposes its conclusion is logically invalid, consequently one cannot prove God using deductive reasoning."

Frame appears to believe that this would mean he would then have to accept the evidentialist approach of seeking to prove God (courtroom-style) from the preponderance of the evidence. However, as Frame should be able to recognize, the fact that God's existence cannot be proved by deductive reasoning, does not mean that it must be proved some other way. The response, as noted above (and below in the objections answered section), is to simply say that the presupposition is off the table. Failing to accept the presupposition will lead to judgment, as Frame himself pointed out.

Accordingly, there is certainly room in Frame to accomodate the slight correction needed to avoid the problem of circularity, and thereby purify the VanTilian approach to presuppositional apologetics.

Objections Raised

One follower of Van Til has raised various objections, in a comment below. Rather than simply reply in the comment box, I thought it would add to this post to have those objections addressed within the post.

Objection 1: An unfounded claim (or an axiom) is an arbitrary assertion.

That assertion is incorrect. Some unfounded claims (and some axioms) are arbitrary assertions, some are not. Of course, we are speaking here of claims that are not founded in reasoned argument.

This is not a legitimate objection, however, because a circular argument is not a foundation (in the sense of a reasoned argument) for a proposition.

And a circular argument is patently worse than just stating that the matter is a presupposition, because it has the appearance of an attempt to decieve the audient into thinking that the matter has been proven using reason.

The assertion that God exists is not "arbitrary." It is God's own name for Himself. He is the "I AM." It is not a conclusion that we arrive at by logical reasoning, it is simply the revealed truth of God.

Consequently, the objection fails both because the Circular Reasoning position is worse than the acknowledgment of the presupposition, and because it is untrue that the only alternative to reasoned proof is mere arbit.

Objection 2: You assert that circular arguments as illogical and then abandon logic yourself.

This objection has a facade of validity, in the sense that at first glance it appears to be a valid objection. As noted above, however, the problem is not just that circular arguments are illogical, but that they are (in Frame's apologetic) being passed off on the unsuspecting public as logically valid. That passing off is deceptive and unworthy of Christian apologetics. The simple acknowledgement: "This is my presupposition: this is what God has revealed to me," is worlds better than attempting to suggest that one has "proven" one's presuppositions.

Furthermore, such an obvious deception is readily detected both by anti-Christian philosophers and evidentialist Christian philosophers, who then come (wrongly) to despise presuppositional apologetics in general as dishonest.

Objection 3: If axioms don't have to be justifed by reasoned argument, then I can escape having to justify my position on anything by calling it an axiom.

This objection does not have much force, for three reasons.

The first reason is that there is not some alternative in which axioms ARE justified by reasoned argument. As noted above, a circular argument is not a reasoned argument.

The second reason is that if a circular argument IS a reasoned justification, then it could simply be employed to support any arbitrary axiom: consequently, the same criticism would inhere. Frame tries to escape this by saying that circular arguments are only valid sometimes (not all the time), but aside from a self-serving desire to permit circularity when it is helpful, Frame does not justify his resort to fallacious reasoning.

The third reason is that there is value in people exposing their axioms: their presuppositions. For example, most Arminians have a presupposition that man's destiny is not (effectively) written in stone, but that the future (to a large degree) is up to each individual person. That's a presupposition for them, but some (indeed many) refuse to acknowledge that it is a presupposition, choosing instead to assert that is based in Scriptural exegesis. When they acknowledge that it is a presupposition, then the debate can shift to whether that presupposition is consistent with other of their presuppositions, as opposed to whether the presupposition itself is justified.

Objection 4: Your ability to be logical on matters other than your presuppositions is not due to your presuppositions.

I agree. I don't see this as a reason to object to my view.

Objection 5: Your decision to be logical is arbitrary

This objection is not true. I am logical because reason has been revealed to be of use in understanding.

Objection 6: Aristotle was circular before we were.

That's hardly an objection worth mentioning. Asserting that a truth is self-evident is dogma, not demonstration, even if one places Aristotle's signature under the assertion.

Interestingly, though, even the pagan author Longinus recognized that Paul preached in a style that was different from the Greek orators: "Let the following men be takend as the summit of all excellence of eloquence and Grecian intellect - Demothsenes, Lysias, Aeachines, Hyperides, Isaeus, Deinarchus, or Demosthenes Crithinus, Isocrates, Antiphon; to whom may be added, Paul of Tarsus, who was the first within my knowledge who did not make use of demonstration."

This, of course, relates back to the objection in my previous post (Link here) that Van-Tillian apologetics are (at their starting point) unbiblical: not derived from exegesis.

Objection 7: Such circularity can be justified "transcendentally" (by which this author supposes that the objector means: transcendently)

The circularity is not being justified transcendently; the proposition itself ("I AM") is justified transcendently. Distinguishing the fallacy attempt to justify the proposition using logic from the proposition itself is an important step. God's declaration "I AM" is a transcendent declaration. It is outside the bounds of proper debate. It is impudent and even lèse majesté to debate contrary to God's own declaration that he IS. Furthermore, we know that the proposition is evident to everyone, even if they refuse to accept it as true, for Scripture reveals this information to us.

Thus, the propositon is not arbitray and - at the same time - there is no reason to seek to justify the proposition using logical deduction.

Objection 8: If we attempt to give no explanation at all we would be arbitrary.

No. We might be perceived to be arbitrary, but we believe because we have been persuaded of the truth by the Spirit of God.

Objection 9: There are three options: circular reasoning, self-contradiction, and arbitrary assertion.

False trichotomy. As noted in my previous post, there are further categories of invalid argumentation we could employ in the place of the first two options listed (for example we could argue as the Muslims have historically done, ad baculum) and there is the option of responding that the question (what is the justification of your final justification) is as absurd as the question, "which building is taller than the tallest building?" or "what lies below the geometric center of the Earth?"

If we choose the path of posing as presenting a logical argument, we risk being deceptive: for a circular argument is no more of a logical argument than is a self-contradictory argument.

Objection 10: If we allow presuppositions to be justified without circular argument, then we forfeit the right to make any argument at all; for, in allowing arbitrariness into our system (indeed at the very foundation of our system) we have forfeited the right to claim that others not be arbitrary on other points.

This objection is not valid, both because (as noted above) although the presupposition that God exists is not founded on deduction, it is not arbitrary, and because circular argument does not weed out arbitrary presuppositions.

Objection 11: Circularity with transcendental justification or no justification at all for anything.

This objection is a false dichotomy for two reasons: first, the two options are (from the standpoint of reasoned argument) the same. Circularity does not ADD to the justification of something, and transcendent justification is inherently not reasoned argument. Furthermore, there is no reason that the label "transcendent" cannot be appropriately applied to the presuppositions in the absence of a circular argument.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Response to: TJH's Gordon Clark on Science

Another blog recently provided a review of a book by Gordon Clark on science. It was not a particularly favorable review. That, of course, is not neecessarily bad. Poor writing deserves to be panned. But I think the author of the blog read into Clark's writing, rather than reading Clark's writing for what it is.

For example, I doubt Clark would agree with either:

For Clark, causality and a world are in principle understandable with or without God.

For him, science is either a praxis of pure techne that works, who knows why? or a sinister activity by which men conspire to prove that God does not exist.
I get the sense that this blog author may be aware of his disagreements with Van Til and may be reading some negation of Van Til (though not necessarily Clark's own negation of Van Til) into Clark.

The first example he gave sounds almost precisely like an inversion of something Van Til wrote, and I would be unsurprised to discover that the latter was as well (though I don't recall Van Til's relevant comment off-hand).

In fact, Clark's central thesis of the book appears (at least to me) to be that while science may provide useful information, useful information is not the same as absolute truth.

The application, of course, is that we need the propositional truth of Scripture, and it is accepting the presupposition of Scripture's divine authority and reliability that gives us truth.

The fallibility of non-presuppositional science is variously demonstrated by Clark using the example of the paradox of motion, the problem of optical illusions, and the like. This, Clark teaches, should demonstrate the fraility of science to the reasonable person for the purpose of obtaining certain truth, as opposed to merely useful knowledge.

Indeed, it is only by accepting the presuppositional truth expressed, for example, in Genesis 1:28 that a proof of God's existence becomes possible.

It is there that Clark and Van Til really seem to part ways, with Van Til appearing to suggest that the presuppositions themselves can be proved, whereas Clark rather clearly argues that they must be accepted on faith.

But I may be misunderstanding Van Til. It's not easy to pin down a precise epistemology of Van Til, although he would normally be considerd a presuppositionalist.

The following is a quick example:
I believe in God now because unless I have Him as the All-Conditioner, life is Chaos.

- Van Til, from "Why I believe in God"

There are two major problems with this apology
1) It's not from Scripture: it's not exegetical
2) The term "Chaos" only makes sense if one assumes a Theistic world-view, but the apology is phrased as though it is the reason for the world-view

Some might take my comments above to suggest that I do not believe that at least some of the world appears chaotic to at least some men. Nevertheless, it does not appear chaotic to me, but that's because I look at it through the goggles of Reformed Theology.

Without the knowledge that comes with those goggles, how would the world appear? It depends on the goggles one is wearing. To the naturalist atheist, it appears chaotic, but that appearance of chaos itself implies the existence of order in order to define chaos.

Seeing order in the world is the result of one's presuppositions, and it is important to recognize them as presuppositions, and not claim to have arrived those presuppositions through reason.

One might think that this means that, to avoid seeing the world as chaotic, one must have the presuppositions of a theist. This is not quite precies. Many atheists see only part of the world as chaotic and all men have the knowledge of God written in their hearts (i.e. it may be a hidden presupposition, even for atheists, that there is a god).

The problem with Van Til's apologetic is that the logical flow ought to be from presupposition to conclusion. That is to say:

A => B

But one cannot validly invert the logical implication such that one then concludes

NotB => notA

Indeed, I will readily agree that to the consistent atheist the world is chaotic. He has to borrow from the Reformed worldview for the world not to appear chaotic. After all, there is no god but God, Christians are the only theists. Furthermore, only Reformed Christians consistently hold to a worldview that includes God. After all "open theists," for example, would be expected to have a similar perspective to atheists, if they were consistent. It is only in the Reformed view that God gives meaning to all of life, down to the most minute detail.

Thus, I can affirm that not just theism, but the Christian God (as explained by Reformed Theology) must be presupposed for life not to appear chaotic.

Someone will say that this appears to agree with what Van Til said, except he stated it inverted. I would respond that inversion is one way to put it, but I think a better way to put it is that, as an apology, it is circular. One will not seek to avoid viewing life as chaotic without the presuppositions. In other words, the conclusion is also the premise.

But all that is an aside. Van Til's apology is not derived from Scripture - that's its biggest weakness. Van Til's apology purports NOT to use God as a presupposition, but a desire for lack of chaos. He says I believe because of the alternative, but he would not even know the alternative if he did not believe.

In short, Van Til's apologetic is phrased as though it is based on reason. However, as noted above, it contains a circularity. The escape from circularity would be to acknowledge his presuppositions, identify them as presuppositions, and not seek to "prove" the presuppositions.


P.S. At TJH's request (here), here is a link to his post (here). I'm not sure what there is to "double-check," but the reader can certainly verify that I have quoted accurately from TJH's blog, if that was ever in doubt. And, of course, TJH, your comments here would certainly be valued.

Response Regarding Philsophical Language

Response Regarding Philsophical Language

Godismyjudge, some time ago, had responded to my complaint that "libertarian free will" defines the issue only in philosophical terms, and not in terms of ordinary speech. In contrast, Calvinism describes free will in easily understood, ready words of plain English according to their accepted usage.

Godismyjudge writes:
It seems you are reluctant to use philosophical terms to define freewill.

I respond:

It's not that I'm reluctant to use philosophical terms. It's just that if the philosophical terms are to have any use, they must relate back to the real world. In order for that to occur, the terms have to have meaning.

Godismyjudge writes:
This appears to me to be a question of method. I think we have the same goal, clarity. But we are going about clarifying in different ways. I want to use precise, analytical terms, define things and then define the components. You want to use common everyday language.

I respond:

The problem is that when you begin, middle, and end with introspective philosophical jargon without tying back into the real world, you might as well have done a Sodoku puzzle, because the result will have as much to do with theology as such a puzzle does.

Perhaps you take exception to my skills a using philosophical language (as opposed to the overall method). That would be understandable.

I respond:

No, that's not necessarily it. I'm more than a little concerned that some authors, like William Lane Craig, use philosophical jargon to obscure their position. When I read other of the few LFW authors who bother to try to study the matter seriously, I see the same problems. And I'm concerned that it's not always intentional.

Philosophical terms are symbols: they represent something. But many LFW philosophers appear to get lost in the symbols, until they forget what they are supposed to represent. That's why definitions, more definitions, and return to definitions are important if we are going to employ the tools of philosophy to explain a position.

Godismyjudge writes:
I have a hard time seeing you as someone that takes exception at using philosophy to clarify. Particularly since your namesake was a philosophy professor.

I respond:

I would simply disagree that tendency of philosophy is necessarily to clarify. Oftentimes philosophy befuddles more than it clarifies.

In general, Calvinism does not have mass appeal, but it has garnered the support of many of the intellectual elite in Christianity. Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Turretin and Edwards are well known as scholars of the highest caliber in Christian community with significant philosophical training and they share similar views on predestination and freedom. To me, that's what makes Calvinism interesting.

I respond:

I'm not going to debate the mass appeal topic. I do think that the more one studies the Bible, the more Calvinistic one will become, because Calvinism is simply a restatement of the truth of Scripture. I don't necessarily put much stock in whether Calvin or the others were clever men. Even the uneducated Bunyan was a marvelously eloquent Calvinist preacher who simply studied the Bible.

Godismyjudge wrote:
Beyond my surprise at your approach, perhaps it would be helpful if I explained why I think a philosophical method is helpful. First off we are trying to define freewill. The term autexousiou itself originated from Platonic philosophers and is not found in the New Testament. The term was introduced into Christianity I believe by Justin Martyr. (to my knowledge) It was introduce in a debate against Stoic philosophers, Justin being schooled in Platonic philosophy. So the term comes to us with philosophical roots and it seems appropriate to use philosophical methods to understand it.

I respond:

I don't completely agree with your history. The freewill/predestination debate was alive and well in Josephus' day, with the Pharisees (among which Paul numbered himself) apparently taking the compatibilist view and the Saducees taking the view of complete human autonomy. Whether Justin borrowed the term from Platonists or recast the term in Christian light, who knows. In any event, if we wanted to view the term etymologically, we could go back and examing the writings of Plato and the Platonists, as well as Justin's own use of the word.

I don't think that such an investigation would be enormously helpful. What is more important is whether the term corresponds to the truth of Scriptures.

Godismyjudge writes:
Second, the specific context in which are trying to understand freewill is its compatibility with the foreknowledge of God. This is an abstract subject to say the least and it's not one that comes up in everyday conversation. So it's not surprising that a technical approach to defining terms is preferable to common usage meanings derived from other contexts.

I respond:

The issue of compatability may not come up in everyday conversation. Neither does the repair of Bible bindings. Nevertheless, if a bookbinder presented the process using only technical jargon, his comments would be useless. The bookbinder needs to explain things in terms that correspond to reality. Perhaps by "medium" the bookbinder may be referring to the fact that the Bible is paper bound in leather, perhaps he means that the Bible is stitched with catgut. Who knows? Until, of course, the bookbinder explains his terms.

Godismyjudge writes:
Third, philosophies role in general is to explain things. As Christians we start from ground truth: the Scriptures. But the bible isn't a textbook on how foreknowledge and freewill fit together. Philosophy is the method used to reconcile truths we accept by faith.

I respond:
Philosophy has the role of exploring things, more than explaining them. We do start from the truth of Scripture, and we build on that with reasoning. The Bible is not a textbook, but there are nevertheless discussions on the compatibility between human agency and divine predetermination. The questions that need to be asked have Biblical answers. Furthermore, when we decide what is man's will - we can look to the Bible for information to answer that question. Finally, when someone presents a definition of "free will," we can analyze it to see whether it has internal consistency, common sense consistency, and Scriptural consistency.

Godismyjudge writes:
Fourth, most Calvinist/Arminian debates are full of equivocation, context dropping, straw man arguments and general confusion. As a result they tend to generate more heat than light. Using common speech, agreement or event mutual understanding has not been obtained. To avoid equivocation, careful definitions must be put forward and stuck to. Even if agreement cannot be reached via philosophy, perhaps just understanding where the other guy is coming from would help.

I respond:

Definitions are certainly important to avoid equivocation, but then again, that's also what we have each other for. If I begin to equivocate, I trust you will call me on it. I will certainly try to do the same for you. But your response hits the nail on the head, to a large degree. We need definitions.

And I have asked you for a definition of the philosophical term "free will," from the LFW perspective. Yet most, if not all, of the responses I have received from you have employed philosophical jargon, which in turn must be defined, and so forth, ad infinitum with result being that ultimately no definition is provided, but only a chain of caveats.

Godismyjudge writes:
This question of method really pauses the debate. I am not sure how to move foreword. You have asked what I mean by freewill and necessity. I have provided "common speech" definitions (the ability to do otherwise and "cannot be otherwise") but you request more.

I respond:

These definitions, however, either do not stand up to intellectual scrutiny (if pushed one way) or are adoptable with ease by any Calvinist (if pushed another way). For example, those definitions are not good English, because they do not specify the "than" that an "otherwise" requires.

Of course, what I am pushing you towards by pointing out the inconsistencies and mistakes in some of the definitions, and what your recent posts seem to have acknowledged, is that LFW is actually not about freedom and necessity. It is about whether man has the final role in deciding his future, or whether God has the final role in deciding man's future.

Godismyjudge writes:
I provided details via Freddoso, but his method is philosophical. I can't go deeper without using a philosophical method. On the other hand you won't use a philosophical method to define freewill.

I respond:

I think this issue may mostly be moot in view of our discussion in the meantime.

Godismyjudge writes:
I don't know if choice is a physical reaction or if it has it's origin in an immaterial soul. I have no way of determining if your use of testing and interacting with machines is equivocating. I don't know if we agree or disagree on the definition of freewill.

I respond:

Hopefully these issues are becoming more clear as we progress.

Godismyjudge writes:
I also know not to touch the subject of then sense in which the future "is" using common speech. It's not a subject that comes up in common speech.

I respond:

Ah, but it is. After all, tomorrow will be another day.


Theoretical Sufficiency?

Theoretical Sufficiency?
"Enough for as many worlds of men as there are men in the world."

Some Reformed Christians hold to a view that is essentially that Christ's blood was theoretically sufficient for all of humanity. This view lacks Biblical support.

I came across this view recently in reading commentaries on 1 Peter 2:1. Compare Gill's thoughtful commentary, with Henry's off-handed remarks on the same verse:

not the Lord Jesus Christ, but God the Father; for the word κυριος is not here used, which always is where Christ is spoken of as the Lord, but δεσποτης; and which is expressive of the power which masters have over their servants (i), and which God has over all mankind; and wherever this word is elsewhere used, it is spoken of God the Father, whenever applied to a divine person, as in Luke 2:29 and especially this appears to be the sense, from the parallel text in Jude 1:4 where the Lord God denied by those men is manifestly distinguished from our Lord Jesus Christ, and by whom these persons are said to be bought: the meaning is not that they were redeemed by the blood of Christ, for Christ is not intended; and besides, whenever redemption by Christ is spoken of, the price is usually mentioned, or some circumstance or another which fully determines the sense; see Acts 20:28 whereas here is not the least hint of anything of this kind: add to this, that such who are redeemed by Christ are the elect of God only, the people of Christ, his sheep and friends, and church, and who are never left to deny him so as to perish eternally; for could such be lost, or deceive, or be deceived finally and totally by damnable heresies, and bring on themselves swift destruction, Christ's purchase would be in vain, and the ransom price be paid for nought; but the word "bought" regards temporal mercies and deliverance, which these men enjoyed, and is used as an aggravation of their sin in denying the Lord; both by words, delivering out such tenets as are derogatory to the glory of the divine perfections, and which deny one or other of them, and of his purposes, providence, promises, and truths; and by works, turning the doctrine of the grace of God into lasciviousness, being disobedient and reprobate to every good work; that they should act this part against the Lord who had made them, and upheld them in their beings and took care of them in his providence, and had followed them with goodness and mercy all the days of their lives; just as Moses aggravates the ingratitude of the Jews in Deuteronomy 32:6 from whence this phrase is borrowed, and to which it manifestly refers: "do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise! is not he thy Father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?" nor is this the only place the apostle refers to in this chapter, see 2 Peter 2:12 compared with Deuteronomy 32:5 and it is to be observed, that the persons he writes to were Jews, who were called the people the Lord had redeemed and purchased, Exodus 15:13 and so were the first false teachers that rose up among them; and therefore this phrase is very applicable to them:

The above is Gill's commentary on the verse. Compare Matthew Henry's short excursis on the verse:

They reject and refuse to hear and learn of the great teacher sent from God, though he is the only Saviour and Redeemer of men, who paid a price sufficient to redeem as many worlds of sinners as there are sinners in the world.
The statement that Christ "paid a price sufficient to redeem as many worlds of sinners as there are sinners in the world" makes for a catchy phrase from the pulpit, but does not find support in Scripture. Instead, in Scripture we see much more precision in the counting of payment (Cf. Matthew 5:26 and Luke 12:59) and even so when the payment is a sacrifice (Cf. Exodus 23:18, Exodus 29:34, and Leviticus 19:6).

Consider also the Lord's disgust with "vain oblations" (Isaiah 1:13).

So then, shall we imagine that even one drop of Christ's blood was spilled in vain, or that Christ suffered any more than precisely the amount necessary to save His people?

After all, if God can ordain the army of Babylon so that every arrow counts:

Jeremiah 50:9 For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country: and they shall set themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man; none shall return in vain.

Even so must the sacrifice of Christ be of even more well-targeted efficacy.

It is only with that understanding that we can truly affirm what Paul preaches, namely:

Galatians 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Christ's death had no measure of vanity, and there is no reason to suppose from Scripture that it was anything other than the perfect sacrifice.

He is the fulfilment of this sacrifice:

Leviticus 19:5-8
5And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will. 6It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow: and if ought remain until the third day, it shall be burnt in the fire. 7And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it is abominable; it shall not be accepted. 8Therefore every one that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, because he hath profaned the hallowed thing of the LORD: and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

And likewise, he is the Manna from heaven, which was precisely sufficient for the needs of the people (see Exodus 16).

And we need not rely only on external texts, the text itself does not hint at mere hypothetical sufficiency: the word for bought used here is αγορασαντα. It's an aorist active participle. It does not say that a sufficient price was paid to purchase them, it say they were bought. Whether Gill's explanation above is correct, or whether Peter is relating their claim, there is nothing hypothetical about the word that is used here.

And I think that if Matthew Henry had studied the verse in more depth he would no doubt have come to the same conclusion.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Quick Look at the Complex Definition of LFW

A Quick Look at the Complex Definition of LFW

This post may be deleted shortly. It is intended to serve as the second part of my previous "quick look" post at Godismyjudge's definition of libertarian free will (link here to that previous post).

Godismyjudge had proposed a simple and complex definition of libertarian free will. He seems to believe that the two definitions are "the same." I cannot fully agree with him. The complex definition does not follow from the simple definition. It is more detailed, and those details do not flow deductively from the simple definition.

In the previous quick look post, we saw that the simple definition is not harmonious with synergist thought, but more importantly that as it stands a Calvinist could uncompromisingly agree that man is a free agent under the simple definition.

The complext definition attempts to more precisely define the boundaries of what is being discussed. Let us see whether it brings harmony to the definition.

Complex Definition of LFW (by Godismyjudge):
An agent has libertarian freewill if and only if what the agent will do is not, causally, logically, or accidentally necessary, but rather the alternative is within the agent's power and the agent is able to do otherwise that [sic] what he will do.

This definition introduces a number of problems that need to be resolved. Some of them Godismyjudge attempted to address, and we will see his comments on those points, as we proceed. The most obvious problem is the apparent typo of the fifth from last word. As I'm fairly confident that Godismyjudge meant "than," I'll simply correct the typo in the analysis that follows.

We'll break the definition into phrases for easier analysis:

1. An agent has libertarian freewill

2. if and only if

3. what the agent will do is not,

a) causally,
b) logically, or
c) accidentally necessary,

4) but rather

5) the alternative is within the agent's power

6) and

7) the agent is able to do otherwise than what he will do.

Phrase (1) is the same as line (1) from the simple definition, and the same analysis applies: "This line is understandable. It is an assertion about a present state of the agent."

Phrase (2) is also the same as line (2) from the simple definition, and the same analysis enures: "This line is also understandable. A definition is about to follow."

For the moment we will skip over phrases (3) to (6).

Phrase (7) is the same as lines (3) to (4) of the simple, definition, and the same analysis attaches: "[Line 3] is mostly understandable. It is a statement about a present ability to do something, where the something is defined negatively, and we are waiting for that something. ... [Line 4] by itself is understandable. What is being described is a future action of the agent. The lack of harmony appears when we combine 3 and 4 in view of 1. That is to say, when we speak of a present quality that depends on a comparison between the present and the future. ... I call these a lack of harmony, not because the definition itself is incoherent, but because these results do not harmonize with a non-compatibilist mentality."

Of the skipped phrases, we will now turn to phrase (5).

Phrase (5) states, "the alternative is (present tense) within the agent's power." This statement makes one thing clear. Whatever the alternative may be, it is something presently within the agent's power. The bigger question is what "power" means. Does it mean physical ability? That's the usual sense that "power" has. Does it mean mental ability? That's the usual figurative sense that "power" has. Either way, compatablists agree that man has the mental and physical ability to do things he is not currently doing: things that are alternatives to the reality of history. Another sense would be legal permission, and again, in most cases men also have legal permission to do other things than those that they actual do. As noted above, this means that what has been defined is not something that Calvinists and LFW advocates disagree about.

The "and" in phrase (6) is not completely clear. Perhaps Godismyjudge will clarify whether it is intended conjunctively or appositively. In other words is phrase (5) supposed to be in addition to phrase (7) or is it supposed to be another way of expressing phrase (7)? Under either sense, there may be new conflict between (5) and (7), because they appear to overlap, but are not identical. Perhaps Godismyjudge just means that we should view phrase (6) as expressing a logical "union" between (5) and (7). Godismyjudge, please clarify if this is not intended.

The "but rather" in phrase (4) has a similar ambiguity. It appears that it is intended as a logical "union" between the negatively worded phrase (3) and the union of (5) and (7). Godismyjudge, please clarify if this is not intended.

With those understandings, the only chance that Godismyjudge would appear to have, in rescuing the definition from being completely acceptable to compatablism, is the third phrase of the complex definition. Before we get there, though, we should note that Godismyjudge has provided a proposed definition of "power."

Godismyjudge wrote:

It is with[in] the agent['s] power to perform or refrain from performing an action

No other agent or event determines that the action in question is performed or not performed. If another agent or event determines that the action in question is performed or not performed, then the event is not within the agent's power.

This definition raises more questions than answers. The positive definition defines the word using the word, and thus appears at best to be an attempt to define by example. In this case, the example appears to be with respect to a meta-act. A meta-act is an act before the act of interest. In this case, the act of interest is the second item, which is preceded by the act of choosing to perform or refrain from the act. This sense is philosophically amusing, because it attempts to resolve the definitional problem by leapfrogging. The act is free if it is the result of choice. But then the choice itself may not be free, because it may not be the result of choice. Or, if it is, then the choice that preceded that one may not be free. And, of course, with any human being there is going to be a first choice by the human that cannot find a previous choice to leap-frog. And once that one is not free, the lack of freedom ripples back along the chain of choices. If anyone cannot see this, please feel free to ask how this follows, and I will be happy to provide a more detailed explanation.

That's a big reason not to attempt to evade the issue by appealing to a previous choice.

But suppose that this leap-frogging problem could be avoided, for the sake of the argument. If so, it just means that if the act is the result of a choice, it is free. If so, then of course compatibilists would simply refer to this power as the power of choice.

The second half of the definition raises further issues. It states: "No other agent or event determines that the action in question is performed or not performed. If another agent or event determines that the action in question is performed or not performed, then the event is not within the agent's power." This part of the definition could create problems for the compatibilist, and thus provides the best basis we see so far for a real definition of LFW that distinguishes the LFW position from the compatibilist position.

This definition appears to suggest that the "power" in question is predetermination, and that only one agent can predetermine any event. There are two main problems with this definition.

1) The first problem is a Biblical problem, but this objection should wait, as we are still working on the definitions. Once Godismyjudge has locked onto a definition that is clearly not acceptable, then we should debate whether the LFW position or the compatiblist position is correct.

2) The second problem is that this sense of "power" meaning that the agent is the sole predeterminer of the event is far from the ordinary sense of the term. It does not have the support of common sense, or common parlance. As long as this is acknowledged, it's not a big problem. But for clarity I would suggest that we call it by a name that acknowledges that it has a special meaning, such as PWR or something like.

In view of those problems, it is not clear whether Godismyjudge is willing to accept such a definition of power. If so, at least that part of the definition could provide a basis for a concise definition of LFW that we could reasonably debate. If not, we will need to continue on to the third phrase.

Phrase (3) has three parts.

3. what the agent will do is not,

a) causally,
b) logically, or
c) accidentally necessary,

A quick kill of this phrase would be to apply Godismyjudge's previous criticism that the future does not exist to the introductory portion of the phrase. That is to say that according to Godismyjudge's definitions, the future does not exist. Accordingly, it cannot have any other attributes, such as necessity or freedom. In that sense (in the sense that the future does not exist, because it is not occurring), it is always the case that what the future is not, and consequently does not have any attributes. Thus, for this phrase to have meaning, the earlier the-future-does-not-exist position must be abandoned. Godismyjudge, please clarify if this is not intended.

Continuing under the presumption that the phrase has meaning, there is still conflict when a future event is said to have attributes in the present. Again, we will try to find a way to understand the phrase to avoid this contradiction. As best understood, the phrase is attempting to convey the idea that the future event will not occur as a result of the various types of necessity. Godismyjudge, please clarify if this is not intended.

A final difficulty is trying to figure out what the various kinds of necessity mean. Here Godismyjudge has provided some explanation, if not precisely definitions:


Choices are a result of agent causation
Agent Causation: Some events are caused, not by events, but rather personnel [sic] agents.

Choices are not the result of a sufficient cause
Sufficient cause: Given the circumstances a sufficient cause always produces its effect, unless impeded by agent causation. Sufficient causes determine events. An event (E) is causally determined if some other event (E2) beyond the agent's control has already occurred, where the state of affairs that E has occurred and E2 does not occur is causally impossible. If an event is causally determined, it's casually necessary.

The obvious error here is the typo, which I'm confident was intended to read "personal."

The second error is that positive presentation is some vague as to be acceptable to everyone. Even hard determinists (non-compatabilist deniers of free will) agree that personal agents can be causes.

There are a significant number of problems with the negative presentation. The biggest of these problems surrounds the use of the term "sufficient cause."

Godismyjudge attempts to define sufficient cause, but the definition is not fully intelligible.

Let's examine it carefully: "Given the circumstances a sufficient cause always produces its effect, unless impeded by agent causation. Sufficient causes determine events. An event (E) is causally determined if some other event (E2) beyond the agent's control has already occurred, where the state of affairs that E has occurred and E2 does not occur is causally impossible. If an event is causally determined, it's casually necessary."

At first glance, this appears to be a heavily bootstrapped (self-referential) definition. Nevertheless, let's treat the first two sentences as examples.

Example 1: "Given the circumstances a sufficient cause always produces its effect, unless impeded by agent causation."

There are number of problems with this definition by example. First, it is unclear what causes are connected with what effects. Second it is unclear what is to be included within circumstances. Finally it is unclear in what a cause can be "impeded." Once these ambiguities were removed, it appears that what is being stated is that a sufficient cause is a cause that has an expected (but fallible) effect, with the fallibility due either to circumstances or the actions of agents (which are evidentally not part of the circumstances).

Example 2: "Sufficient causes determine events." This seems to suggest that sufficient causes are a subset of effecient causes, with (one would think) agent causes being the other subset of efficient causes.

Example 3: "An event (E) is causally determined if some other event (E2) beyond the agent's control has already occurred, where the state of affairs that E has occurred and E2 does not occur is causally impossible."

Perhaps this item ought not to be viewed as an example of sufficient causality, but of causal determination. In any event, it has several problems.

First, the exception that E2 (which has already occurred) is beyond the agent's control is strange. The past is always beyond any agent's control.

Furthermore, whether or not event E2 was beyond the agent's control does not have any bearing on the relationship between E and E2. At least, there is no reason to suppose that it does.

Finally, the term "causally impossible" in the phrase "where the state of affairs that E has occurred and E2 does not occur is causally impossible," is unclear. Nevertheless, we know that God is capable of causing any state of affairs, except the logically impossible. Therefore, "causally impossible" may simply reduce to "logically impossible."

Additionally, it is logically impossible that there would be a state of events in which God would know X will happen at time 2, and then E2 would be something other than X. Also recall that God has exhaustive knowledge of the future. Thus, under this definition, all of history is "causally determined," which would appear to be out of harmony with LFW thought.

Next we will examine the second set of explanations:


considering everything prior to the event, the event is logically possible

nothing prior to the event is logically incompatible with the event
If something prior to the event is logically incompatible with the alternative event, the event is logically necessary.

There's nothing particularly wrong with this definition. However, because God's knowledge of the future is exhaustive, and because that knowledge is as good as existing prior to the event (see my stone diary post linked here), nothing besides what actually will happen is logically possible, because it is logically incompatible with God's prior knowledge. Thus, again, we see that this definition is not really harmonious with LFW thought.

Let us then turn to the third area of "accidental necessity."

Accidental necessity

Given A will occur at T3, prior to T3, nonA is possible at T3

Given A will occur at T3, nothing prior to T3 renders nonA impossible
If something prior to T3 renders nonA impossible, A is accidentally necessary

This definition has explanation has a couple of quirks.

The first is the logical fallacy of stating (in the Positive statement) that it is a given that A will occur at T3, and yet that nonA is possible at T3. This fallacy is a violation of the law of the excluded middle.

The second is the statement that A will happen at T3, but that nonA is not rendered impossible by anything prior to T3. This is simply a denial that A is caused to be. If A is caused to be, then nonA is rendered impossible by the cause.

The idea of things being uncaused is both contrary to the Bible, and to common sense. Nevertheless, such a lemma may provide additional basis for a concise statement of LFW that distinguishes the LFW position of Godismyjudge from a Calvinistic view.

Finally, Godismyjudge offered up an explanation apparently designed to help link the various senses discussed above.

Temporal transition
Before the event, the agent is able to cause or not cause the event.
At the time of the event (T2) the agent is:
1) able to cease from causing the event at a subsequent time (T>T2)
2) in a divided sense (excuding the event), able to cause the alternative event (T=T2)
3) in a compound sense, unable to cause the alternative event (T=T2)
Why is the relevant sense of freedom temporally before the event? Because causation works forward in time. If an agent at T2 cause an effect which is produced at T3, in effect the event at T3 is necessary in the tautological sense that it is what it is. But it's not necessary in the relevant sense: it had to be what it is.

This explanation also raises several issues.

The first line states: "Before the event, the agent is able to cause or not cause the event." Nevertheless, if the event occurs and the agent causes it, and not everything the agent does causes the event, then the agent clearly was able both to cause and not to cause the event, and the agent did both. However, the event is the agent doing somthing. And the agent causing the event appears to be a meta-deed. See above regarding the leap-frogging problem associated with meta-choice. Finally, if we eliminate the meta-deed aspect, the result is absurd, see above regarding the simple definition.

The second line states: "At the time of the event (T2) the agent is:1) able to cease from causing the event at a subsequent time (T>T2)2) in a divided sense (excuding the event), able to cause the alternative event (T=T2)3) in a compound sense, unable to cause the alternative event (T=T2)." Item (1) is yet a further meta-deed problem, and really has no place in the discussion. (2) creates a problem of self-contradiction, because it impossible to define "the alternative" in a divided sense that excludes the event. Without knowing the event, we cannot know what the alternative is. (2), however, provides an interesting alternative to the "successive" definitions of LFW, because it address man at the time of the act. Finally, (3) does not distinguish LFW from compatabilism.

Godismyjudge's explanation continues: "Why is the relevant sense of freedom temporally before the event? Because causation works forward in time. " This means that (2) in the paragraph above is not viewed by Godismyjudge as the relevant freedom. That's certainly puzzling, because I've seen that presented as the relevant freedom (I think by Godismyjudge) on previous occasions.

Nevertheless, as noted above, the "before the event" freedom has been discussed in most of the discussion above. Godismyjudge, please clarify that (2) in the paragraph two paragraphs above is NOT the relevant kind of freedom, in your point of view.

Godismyjudge's explanation concludes: "If an agent at T2 cause an effect which is produced at T3, in effect the event at T3 is necessary in the tautological sense that it is what it is. But it's not necessary in the relevant sense: it had to be what it is. " This explanation is perhaps the clearest and best of Godismyjudge's explanations of the previous-freedom view. The main objections to this definition of freedom are Biblical objections and objections from common sense.

I will await Godismyjudge's response.

Hopefully that response will identify which thesis Godismyjudge is willing to advocate:

I. The Power-based discrimantor:

"No other agent or event determines that the action in question is performed or not performed. If another agent or event determines that the action in question is performed or not performed, then the event is not within the agent's power."

II. The Accident-based discrimantor:

"Given A will occur at T3, nothing prior to T3 renders nonA impossible. If something prior to T3 renders nonA impossible, A is accidentally necessary."

III. The Simultaneous discrinator:
"2) in a divided sense (excuding the event), able to cause the alternative event (T=T2)"


IV. The Had-to-be discriminator:
"If an agent at T2 cause an effect which is produced at T3, in effect the event at T3 is necessary in the tautological sense that it is what it is. But it's not necessary in the relevant sense: it had to be what it is."

I suspect that any of I, II, or IV would be acceptable to Godismyjudge as being representative of different aspects of LFW. My suggestion for how we should proceed forward is to pick one of those items as the position, and then we can debate that particular definition.