Friday, June 10, 2011

Pseudo-Greek Propaganda Regarding the Eucharist

I ran across this gem in the Called to Communion comment box (from Nathan B.):
The Greek in “Do this in remembrance of me” is anamnesis. It does not mean to “intellectually recall a memory”. It means to “again make present a past event or action or state which those now present enter into”, to be a bit long winded about it.
Doesn't that sound great? The Greek meaning of the term turns out to be so handy for Rome! But what do actual lexicons of Greek say:

ἀνάμνη-σις , εως, , (ἀναμιμνῄσκω)
1. calling to mind, reminiscence, Pl. Phd.72e, 92d, Phlb.34c (pl.), Arist.Mem.451a21; . τινος λαβεῖν recall it to memory, IG2.628.20; ἀναμνήσεις θυσιῶν reminders to the gods of sacrifices offered, Lys.2.39.
2. memorial sacrifice, LXX Nu.10.10, cf. Ev.Luc.22.19.
3. παλίνδρομος ., of the moon, Secund.Sent.6.
And, of course, other lexicons say much the same thing:

"means of remembering, remembrance, reminder" (Friberg)
"reminder, remembrance" (Barclay-Newman)
"reminder" (Louw-Nida)
"a remembering, recollection" (Thayer)
"calling to mind, reminiscence, remembrance" (Lust-Eynikel-Hauspie)
"reminder; remembrance, memory" (Gingrich)

If you think this is just a conspiracy of modern Greek scholars, consider that the Vulgate translates the term "commemorationem," from which we get "commemoration."

Of course, more sophisticated defenses of Rome's error attempt to have it both ways:
The Church constantly draws her life from the redeeming sacrifice; she approaches it not only through faith-filled remembrance, but also through a real contact, since this sacrifice is made present ever anew, sacramentally perpetuated, in every community which offers it at the hands of the consecrated minister.
Ecclesia de Eucharistia, John Paul II, 17 April 2003, at section 12 (bold emphasis added, italics in original).

But, of course, Scripture only teaches us remembrance, not "real contact." There's nothing about sacramental perpetuation in Scripture and the Scriptures describe the sacrifice of Christ as being a completed and finished activity, not one that is present, on-going, or continued.


Thursday, June 09, 2011

Review of "The Fathers Know Best" by Jimmy Akin

"Catholic Answers" recently published a book attributed to Jimmy Akin entitled "The Fathers Know Best." It purports to be "Your essential guide to the teachings of the Early Church." The book does not provide any meaningful contribution to the study of patristics and little to the Roman-Reformed dialog.

Content in General
Part one of the book (pp. 15-93) contains an introduction to the book itself, some discussion of "the World of the Fathers," and some brief discussion of the authors, councils, and works cited in part two, as well as an identification of heresies.

Part two of the book (pp. 97-418) is the obvious focus of the book. It provides a series of topics, with a brief introduction (sometimes as short as a single paragraph, sometimes as much as about two pages) and then a collection of quotations allegedly on the topic.

Quality of the Content
The book has no significant interaction with viewpoints opposed to Rome's. There is virtually no interaction with respect to non-Roman understandings of the Fathers and there is little interaction with theological disagreements with Rome. The most significant interactions with non-Roman positions are found in the sections on reincarnation and the Anti-Christ, but even they are not particularly in depth.

There is almost no analysis of the fathers' writings. In general, the quotations from the fathers are simply presented without any individual explanation. There is an occasional footnote, but there is no detailed explanation provided as to why particular quotations should be understood to support the Roman position.

The selections from the early writings that are selected for the purpose of promoting the idea that the fathers and Rome taught the same thing. The result is not a representative picture of the fathers' writings. Odd patterns emerge when one reviews the quotations cited: St. Sechnall of Ireland gets quoted four times, but Gregory the Great gets cited only once.

Originality of the Content
Apparently there were no original translations provided in this work. The book acknowledges that part two is mostly a rehash of a column from This Rock magazine. Moreover, the content of that magazine has already been amalgamated on-line. Based on a cursory review, it appears that the on-line version may have slightly more quotations. In some cases, however, the translation selected for the book differs. In some cases, the exact end-points of the quotation differs, even if the translation is the same. The introductions to the material are expanded, and - of course - part one of the book is apparently new material.

Scholarly Character of the Content
In part one of the book, aside from an initial burst of citations to Scripture, citations in general are rare. The content of part one may or may not be accurate, but you only have Akin's word for it, in general.

In part two of the book, Scripture is sometimes cited and the Catechism of the Catholic Church is also sometimes cited. Occasionally a papal work, such as an encyclical, or similar source of Catholic dogma is cited and at least once or twice an encyclopedia, such as the New Catholic Encyclopedia is cited. Aside from those citations, citations to scholarly works are relatively rare.

Almost all of the citations (leaving aside Scripture and magisterial sources) are to J.N.D. Kelly. Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines, is cited on pp. 160, 175, 183 (2x), 256, p. 292-3 (3x), and 299, sometimes at considerable length. As with the quotations from the fathers, the quotations are selected based on what Akin believes is helpful, with the inconvenient comments from Kelly omitted.

Second to Kelley is Luther, whose Large Catechism is cited on p. 267 and whose Smalcaid Articles are cited on p. 412 (alongside the Westminster Standards in that instance). The few other cited authors are one-offs. Shirley MacLaine is cited on p. 399 and Geddes MacGregor is cited on that page as well. Ramsay MacMullen is cited on p. 359, and Timothy "Kallistos" Ware is cited at p. 138.

In all or almost all of these cases, the citation is provided with a quotation rather than simply being a citation to support an assertion allegedly grounded in the author cited. In fairness to Akin, I should point out that he provides citations to every one of his "More than 900 quotations" (I did not verify this claim) from ancient writings.

Merit of the Quotations
Whether the quotations support the point for which they are used is something of a mixed bag. Previously, we discussed an example of a misused quotation in this book. Perhaps in other posts, we will discuss other issues with other quotations.

It should also be pointed out that a lot of the quotations are not from fathers at all. Some of the quotations are from folks like "Pseudo-Ignatius," "Pseudo-Melito," and "Pseudo-John" as well as to anonymous works.

It's not surprising that I don't recommend this book. Although a significant amount of effort was doubtless put into improving the introductions and providing part one of the book, the effort didn't yield something particularly worthwhile. Instead, by and large the book is simply a collection of quotations that Akin seems to think are helpful to Rome's view of history.

Akin's approach is neither scholarly nor apologetic. He does not interact in a significant way with the Reformed objections to Rome's historical claims, and his collection of quotations is not accompanied by any serious in-depth examination of what the quotations say.

If one is looking for some new and interesting contribution to the field of patristics or Roman-Reformed dialog, one will be very disappointed by Akin's work. On the other hand, if what you want is a propagandizing quote book, you cannot shell out the money for the much better done Jurgens' set, and you don't wish to use the web site indicated above, then perhaps this book is for you.

Here's one quotation from Gregory the Great that you won't get in "The Fathers Know Best":

Gregory the Great commenting on Job 15:10:
But that those things which they [i.e., heretics] maintain they recommend to the weak minds of their fellow-creatures as on the ground of antiquity, they testify that they have ancient fathers, and the very Doctors of the Church themselves they declare are the masters of their school; and whilst they look down upon present preachers, they pride themselves with unfounded presumption on the tutorage of the ancient fathers, so that they avouch that the things they themselves assert the old fathers held as well, in order that what they are not able to build up in truth and right, they may strengthen as by the authority of those. See Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, vol. II, Parts III and IV, Book XII, Chapter 28, §33 (Oxford: Parker, 1845), p. 66.

Latin text: Sed ut ea quae asserunt commendare stultis mentibus hominum quasi de antiquitate possint, antiquos patres se habere testantur, atque ipsos doctores Ecclesiae suae professionis magistros dicunt. Cumque praesentes praedicatores despiciunt de antiquorum Patrum magisterio falsa praesumptione gloriantur, ut ea quae ipsi dicunt, etiam antiquos patres tenuisse fateantur, quatenus hoc quod rectitudine astruere non valent quasi ex illorum auctoritate confirment. Moralium Libri, Sive Expositio In Librum B. Job, Liber XII, Caput XXVIII, §33, PL 75:1002A-B.

P.S. Quote books have their place. However, quote books should provide something better than what is out there.

Was Judas Baptized?

John 3:22
After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

John 3:26
And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

John 4:1-2
When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)

1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

What I understand from this is that in first century Judea and perhaps beyond, baptism was understood to indicate that the person was a disciple of the baptizer. The disciples baptized "in the name of" another - namely at first Christ and later the Triune name, when it was revealed:

Matthew 28:19-20
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

What the above would also seem to imply is that Jesus baptized the twelve (who then baptized others). But that would seem to imply that Jesus baptized Judas, who never had saving faith. Moreover, it seems readily apparent that Jesus knew Judas did not have saving faith.

Given that understanding of these texts, these texts seem to torpedo one of the arguments used against infant baptism, namely that baptism ought not to be administered to anyone who lacks faith.

One thing I've pointed out from time to time to my friends is that I don't see any specific, explicit Biblical limitation on Baptism. The Scriptures nowhere warn against baptizing folks who do not believe, for example. There may be reasons not to baptize everyone who claims that they want to be a disciple immediately (see Paul's point that he wasn't called to baptize).

Nevertheless, other times men have been baptized having known about Jesus for less than a day:

Acts 8:34-39
And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

You should notice that in the above passage, Philip says that if the eunuch believes with all his heart, he can be baptized.

Acts 10:45-47
And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

In the above passage, evidence of the work of the Spirit in the life of the people was sufficient grounds for their baptism.

Acts 16:27-34
And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

Here again is someone who appears to have been baptized within a day. The actual order expressed here is baptism, then belief, though one supposes that he believed first. But, in any event, no discussion of any limitations on baptism is provided here.

I don't mean for this post to be an expression of a lot of conclusions about the subject, but rather some thoughts on the issues surrounding baptism. The Bible does not expressly say that Judas was baptized, or that Jesus baptized the twelve himself.


Ecclesiology: the Rule of Elders

How do Scriptures describe the role of elders? There are many aspects. One on which I'll focus in this post relates to their role as overseers and rulers. This seems to be a challenging part of the Scriptures for those living in Western democracies, in which rule of society tends to be (at least in theory) populist.

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

1 Peter 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

Hebrews 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.

1 Timothy 3:4-5 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

Romans 12:8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

Titus 2:15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

Cf. 1 Timothy 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

There is an important caveat:

Mark 10:42-45
But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

That caveat is important. It should prevent the rulers of the church from overstepping their bounds and becoming like Rome's hierarchy. Nevertheless, even the caveat notes that there will be leaders in the church. Christ's leadership of the church provides a moral example for those leaders. That example is not fulfilled through a pastor ceremonially washing the feet of his sub-rulers (as Rome's bishop does), but through rendering practical assistance, comfort, and encouragement. In understanding that his role as shepherd involves authority over the sheep, but has as its purpose the benefit of the sheep.


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

St. Bernard of Clairvaux - Index

This is an index of the works of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the most significant medieval theologians (A.D. 1090 – 1153). Of course, this is just an index of the works I know of, and is - in that sense - a work in progress. If you become aware of other works that I could add to the index, please let me know.


Life and times of Saint Bernard abbot of Clairvaux

Works in English
Life and works of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux
Volume 1
  • Preface to English Edition (pp. vii-xvi)
  • General Preface (p. 1)
  • Bernardine Chronology (p. 76)
  • List with Dates of S. Bernard's Letters (p. 91)
  • Letters 1 - 145 (p. 107)
Volume 2
  • Note on the Seal of S. Bernard (p. 457)
  • Description of the Position and Site of the Abbey of Clairvaux (p. 460)
  • Letters 146 - 189 (p. 468)
  • Note to the Following Treatise (i.e. the treatise against the Errors of Abelard) (p. 549)
  • Letters 190 - 380 (p. 565)
Some letters of Saint Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux (First copy)(Second copy)
Letters (numbered 1-66, though I don't know if they conform to the same numbering scheme above)

The treatise of St. Bernard, abbat of Clairvaux, concerning grace and free will, addressed to William, abbat of St. Thiery (First copy)(Second copy)

St. Bernard of Clairvaux's Life of St. Malachy of Armagh (Copy 1)(Copy 2)
  • Life of St. Malachy (p. 1)
  • Letters of St. Bernard (letters 341, 356, 357, and 374)(p. 131)
  • Sermons of St. Bernard on the Passing of St. Malachy (p. 141)
  • Additional Notes (p. 161)
Saint Bernard On consideration

Saint Bernard : The twelve degrees of humility and pride

Saint Bernard on the love of God

Sermons of St. Bernard on Advent and Christmas
I. Advent
  1. Sermon on its Six Circumstances (p. 1)
  2. Sermon on the Words to Achaz, "Ask Thee a Sign," etc. (p. 14)
II. On the "Missus Est"
  1. Praises of the Virgin-Mother (p. 23)
  2. The Mission of the Angels (p. 33)
  3. Colloquy of the Blessed Virgin and the Angel (p. 48)
  4. The Annunciation, and the Blessed Virgin's Consent (p. 60)
III. On the Vigil of Our Lord's Nativity
  1. On the Joy His Birth should Inspire (p. 73)
  2. On the Miraculous Nature of the Nativity (p. 81)
  3. On the Dispositions Required in Those who Celebrate the Feast (p. 89)
IV. On Our Lord's Nativity
  1. The Fountains of the Saviour (p. 101)
  2. The Three Comminglings (p. 108)
  3. On the Place, Time, and other Circumstances (p. 115)
  4. On the Shepherds Finding Our Lord (p. 122)
  5. On the Words, "Blessed be the God and Father," etc. (p. 126)
V. On the Circumcision (p. 135)
VI. On the Holy Name and Other Scriptural Titles of Our Lord (p. 141)
VII. On the Epiphany
  1. On "The Goodness and Kindness of Our Saviour hath Appeared" (p. 151)
  2. On "Go Forth, Ye Daughters of Jerusalem" (p. 157)
  3. On the Gifts of the Wise Men (p. 161)
Works in French

Oeuvres de Saint Bernard
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4

Les plus beaux écrits de Saint Bernard

Works in Latin

Opera Omnia (see PL 182–185)
Volumes 1-2
... Volumes 3-4 not in Archive to my knowledge ...
Volume 5

Opera Genuina
Volume 1 (via Google)(second copy)
Volume 2 (via Google)
Volume 3 (via Google)


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Some Interesting Papacy-Related Quotations

John Bugay has lifted two interesting quotations from a recent book entitled, "The Petrine Ministry in the Early Patristic Tradition" (Eerdmans, Nov. 2010).

The first quotation includes "the monepiscopacy replaced presbyterial governance in Rome only in the mid-or late second century" from a Lutheran scholar.

The second quotation includes "The East never shared the Petrine theology as elaborated in the West. It never accepted that the protos in the universal church could claim to be the unique successor or vicar of Peter," from a Roman communion Archbishop.

Hopefully that whets your appetite for more! The context for the quotations can be found via the preview of the book, for those interested.


Monday, June 06, 2011

Ahab vs. Jeroboam | 1st Command vs. 2nd Commandment

Not all sins are equally heinous in God's eyes. The sin of Jeroboam was to set up a rival worship of God according to his own imagination, with his own priests, and images, namely golden calves. He set up one of those in Dan and the other in Bethel.

1 Kings 12:28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

God condemned this evil.

1 Kings 14:9 But hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back:

You will notice in our English translation that it says "gods" in both of the verses above. The Hebrew word is "elohim," which can either mean "gods" or "God." In this context, there are two images, so the plural translation seems to make sense. Nevertheless, the reference to "which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" seems to be a reference to a very specific divinity, namely Jehovah.

This was a horrible sin in God's eyes and God wiped out Jeroboam's family for it.

But the following kings of Israel not only copied and continued Jeroboam's bad practices, they did something worse. Read what is said of Ahab:

1 Kings 16:25-33
But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him. For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger with their vanities. Now the rest of the acts of Omri which he did, and his might that he shewed, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? So Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria: and Ahab his son reigned in his stead.

And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.
Notice that it is Ahab (via his wife Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal) that brings Baal-worship to Israel.

It wasn't the first time Baal-worship had come to Israel. Jerubbaal (aka Gideon) had wiped out Baal-worship in Israel during his time as judge. But then, later, Samuel had found it necessary to purge the land of Baal-worship again, because as soon as Gideon was dead, the people went right back to Baal-worship (Judges 8:33). And you may recall that Baal-worship goes back to the time of the exodus, where Moab seduced many of the Israelites into Baal-worship apparently through the use of prostitutes (see Numbers 25).

Although God was very angry with Jeroboam for his sin, God was even more angry with Ahab for his sin. Why is that? Part of the explanation may lay in the fact that Ahab had seen the destruction of Jeroboam and Baasha (and their families) for the sins of Jeroboam related to the golden calves. Ahab could look back at the warning of Ahijah the Shilonite and Jehu the son of Hanani (among others) given respectively to those kings.

Another part of it, though, is that Jeroboam and Baasha only engaged in second commandment idolatry: worshiping God by illicit and unauthorized means, especially by means of an unauthorized priesthood and golden calves.

In contrast, Ahab worshiped a false god - first commandment idolatry. Elijah made it plain on Mt. Carmel that Baal was a false deity and that the LORD was the True and Living God - the God who answers with fire.

These things are negative examples for us.

1 Corinthians 10:5-11
But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
  1. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
  2. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
  3. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
  4. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
As to (1), see Exodus 32:6, regarding the golden calf. This is an example of the "second commandment idolatry" I mentioned above, though with the original golden calf, not with Jeroboam's golden calves.

As to (2), see Numbers 25:1 (and 9), regarding fornication in connection with Baal-worship, which we also discussed above under the topic of "first commandment idolatry." It was a combination of spiritual and physical fornication. The women were not their wives, and Baal was not their spiritual husband (though "Baal" can have that meaning).

As to (3), see Numbers 21:5, regarding Israel complaining against God's provision for them. It is interesting to note that this is one of many testimonies to the divinity of Christ. It is plain from the text of Numbers 21 that the people complained against God, and here Paul is warning us not to tempt Christ as they did. That means, unmistakably, that Christ is God.

As to (4), see Numbers 14 or 16, with the destruction either being the general destruction of the people of Israel in the wilderness or the special quick destruction of Korah.

Likewise, when it comes to Jeroboam and Ahab, learn from these evil examples. Do not worship like Jeroboam did, according to the worship that "he had devised of his own heart" (1 Kings 12:33) but instead imitate David the Psalmist who worshiped God as God commanded (cf. 1 Kings 14:8).

- TurretinFan

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).


Free Will, Advance Knowledge, and God

At Triablogue, Paul has posted an item on free will and God's advance knowledge including an answer to the popular non-Calvinist argument: "Just because God knows in advance that X will happen doesn't mean God causes or controls that X to happen." (my paraphrase)

As Paul points out, that argument misses the point. While I like aspects of what Paul wrote, let me put my own spin on this, namely - how can you respond to your friend who uses this argument with you?

First, you can provide some disclaimers. These disclaimers can help remove any straw men that may exist between the two of you. Those disclaimer can be, for example:

1) God's knowledge of future event X is not itself the cause of the future event X. If God's knowledge of the future caused the future to be, then God's knowledge of the future would necessarily entail the future existing as known. We don't allege this. We don't claim God's knowledge causes the future to be.

2) Simply person A knowing the future doesn't entail person A causing the future to be. We know this, because sometimes God tells men what the future will be. At that point, the men know the future, but - of course - this doesn't mean that the men cause the future event of which they have advance knowledge.

Once these disclaimers have been provided, you can go on to explain the force of the argument.

1) God's infallible knowledge of future event X implies that future event X will happen with absolute certainty. God can't be wrong. Thus, God's infallible knowledge of future event X means that future event X is guaranteed to happen.

2) If an event is absolutely certain to happen, it cannot be otherwise. This may seem trivial, but it is an important point. If God knows that X will happen, it is certain to happen, and thus cannot be otherwise.

3) An event's absolute certainty implies an inability of actors to do otherwise. If an event cannot be otherwise, a person cannot bring about the event being otherwise; for if a person could bring about the event being otherwise, then the event could be otherwise. But the event cannot be otherwise, because the event is absolutely certain to be as foreseen.

4) An event's absolute certainty implies an absence of "Libertarian" Free Will with respect to the event. If we take as an example a particular choice of a free agent, such as man, and if we say this particular choice is known in advance to God and consequently is absolutely certain to happen, then - as we have shown above - the person making this choice will not be able to choose otherwise. But this absence of ability to choose otherwise contradicts the "Libertarian" account of free will. In other words, such a choice is not "free" according to the "Libertarian" model.

Some Immediate Conclusion

1) Because God's knowledge of the future is absolutely complete, we know that there is no such thing as Libertarian Free Will. There may be free will of some kind, but not of the Libertarian kind, because people are not able to do otherwise than has been foreseen.

2) But, per our earlier disclaimer, God's knowledge is not itself the cause of the absence of Libertarian Free Will. In other words, what ensures that people cannot do otherwise is not simply God's knowledge of what will happen. After all, we can have advance knowledge, but no one would reasonably say that our advance knowledge is the cause.

Larger Conclusions

1) Whatever kind of free will we have, it cannot be "Libertarian" free will. There's no reason that the term "free will" has to be thrown out, just because we can demonstrate that we lack an ability to do otherwise. There's still a very real sense in which some human acts are "free will" acts, and others are either involuntary or coerced. This would be a definition of "free will" that is compatible with extensive Divine sovereignty, not one that is opposed to it.

2) There is a larger explanation for both God's knowledge and our actions. Since God's knowledge itself does not explain why we choose X and not Y, we should look to a larger explanation. The larger explanation is one that explains both God's knowledge and our actions. The correct explanation to this is God's Providence, his most holy and wise and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions.