Saturday, September 17, 2022

Affirmative Constructive Speech for Hell Debate with Eddie Crume

The orthodox doctrine of Hell is not fully captured by the Apostles' Creed, which speaks of the the judgment of the living and the dead, but nevertheless makes the short list of important doctrines in Hebrews 6. 

Hebrew 6:1-3

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.

Hebrews delivers on this by mentioning the judgment at least twice:

Hebrews 9:27

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Hebrew 10:26-31

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

While the New Testament provides some of the clearest teachings on Hell, the judgment of Hell is not new to the New Testament:

Daniel 12:2

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

In the New Testament, we hear of Hell from Jesus' lips:

Matthew 25:46

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

We also hear of it from the lips of demons:

Matthew 8:29

And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?

We also hear it in parables:

Matthew 18:34

And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

Luke 16:23

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

We see the torments of Hell depicted in the Apocalypse:

Revelation 14:11

And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Revelation 20:10

And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

And we are told that the wicked will go to be punished with the devil:

Matthew 25:41

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Even though the lake of fire is referred to as the "Second Death" the lake is the place where the wicked will have their place:

Revelation 21:8

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

In explaining the parable of the unjust steward, Jesus explicitly describes as eternal the habitations of those who serve unrighteous mammon. 

Luke 16:9

And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

This is a grievous doctrine to many folks.  They think it's somehow inappropriate for God to punish sin so harshly.  Thus, some latch on to passages that metaphorically describe the lost in inanimate terms:

Isaiah 66:24

And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

Jesus alludes to this passage to describe Hell:

Mark 9:42-48

And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.  And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

As can be gleaned from this usage, the picture of fire and worms is one of suffering that people will endure, not a literal description of the situation.  Moreover, while destruction metaphors are one set of the descriptions of the afterlife, they are not the only one.

Hell is also described in terms of darkness:

Matthew 8:12

But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 22:13

Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 25:30

And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The darkness is associated with both crying and with anger.   

Jude 12-13 describes some wicked people this way:

These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.

The apostle Peter describes them similarly:

2 Peter 2:17

These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.

Finally, there are some who try to go the other way, and have everyone saved.

Hebrews explains that the time of salvation is limited:

Hebrews 4:6-7

Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Moreover, the two-fold division of humanity is not only seen from the left-hand and right-hand or righteous and wicked distinctions but also from the Apostle's teaching:

Romans 9:22-24

What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Thus, while there is a general resurrection coming, it has two categories:

John 5:29

And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.



Anathema 9 of the Emperor Justinian Against Origen at the Second Council of Constantinople (AD 553 - also known as the Fifth Ecumenical Council): If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration (ἀποκατάστασις) will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

What are the Eternal Habitations of the Wicked?

Usually, I think of Matthew as the Gospel with the clearest presentation of Hell.  On the other hand, Luke contains at least one surprisingly explicit reference in addition to (and shortly before) the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:

Luke 16:9  And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

The phrase translated "that, when ye fail" is literally "that, when you've ceased" (ἵνα ὅταν ἐκλίπητε - hina otan eklipete).  The concept here is the death of the person. Hebrews 1:12 uses the word (negated, of course) to explain that God will never die.  

Standing alone, this phrase of the verse might seem to support annihilation.  If we are gone like the sun is gone from the sky during an eclipse, that sounds a bit like annihilation.   

What comes next, however, undermines annihilation.  These wicked people, when dead, have an everlasting habitation (τὰς αἰωνίους σκηνάς - tas aionious skinas).  These "tents" (σκηνάς) are eternal (αἰωνίους).

The unjust steward, accused of wasting his master's money, made his involuntary retirement plans by favoring the master's creditors with a debt reduction at his master's expense.  He wasn't going to be able to work as a steward ever again, but at least there would be people who were in his debt, who would take him into their homes and treat him as a friend.

In this he was at least consistent: he served money and he squandered money.  By contrast, we should serve God and take appropriate care of the good things He gives us.

Where will you be?  I would rather be a porter in God's house than dwelling in the tents of wickedness (Psalm 84:10). 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

My Objections to Dan's and Tim's Joint Defense of Mere Molinism

Dan Chapa and Tim Stratton (D&T) provided a video defense of Mere Molinism (link) in responding to material from Colton Carlson (CC).  This is just to highlight a few places where I took issue with their defense.  All time stamps are approximate.  I appreciate the generally cordial tone of their video, although I have a few bones to pick with them, as I elaborate below.

Luck Objection (9:00 to 22:00)

D&T acknowledged that CC raised the objection that on libertarian free will, the absence of sufficient causal conditions for an action implies that an agent lacks the control necessary for responsibility because there is no explanation for the actual choice over the alternative choice.  In short, the moral agent is, in essence, just lucky to take the action, and therefore deserves no obvious moral praise or blame for taking it.    

D&T oddly began their discussion by referring to a baby's first choice that allegedly involves reason.  I say, "allegedly," because on libertarian free will, reason is not a sufficient causal condition for any libertarian free choice.   I say, "oddly," because it is usually acknowledged that babies are not responsible for choices and that they lack a fully formed power of reason. 

D&T first argued that "contrastive explanations" can't have an infinite regress.  They then seemed to argue that even if God is is the first cause, and further that if God's nature determined God's action, they asserted that there is no "contrastive explanation" for why God's nature determined one action over another.  A first mistake here is that a "contrastive explanation" does not itself require a preceding contrastive explanation, unless that "contrastive explanation" comes to be, but God's nature does not come to be.  Furthermore, God's decree is eternal: it has no reference to any preceding causal state.

D&T then argued that you need a "buck-stopping, first cause principle to explain these things," and argued that you don't need a contrastive explanation, you just need a "first event" to ground responsibility.    This response isn't particularly persuasive for at least two reasons: (1) it's directly contradictory to the "first cause" argument for the existence of God; and (2) just asserting that you don't need a contrastive explanation doesn't seem to answer the luck objection in a meaningful way.  For example, if indeed moral agents just luckily do the things they do, the fact that they are allegedly luckily the "first cause" of this chain does not seem to address the luck objection.

D&T then further argued that God has libertarian free will, that many Calvinists will acknowledge this, and that consequently libertarian free will is not an incoherent concept.  The problem with this argument, of course, is the definition of "libertarian free will."  God's actions in time are already decided by God from eternity past.  There was never a time when they were not decided.  Yet they flow freely from God, in the sense that no one other than God himself places any limitation on them.  That's the kind of freedom that we hold dear.

D&T ask whether God is "just lucky" to have selected to do what God selected to do.  The answer to that is no, because the reasons for God's decree arise entirely from within God.  God's eternal decrees are not reasonless, they are grounded in God himself.

D&T present the example of Exodus 9:15 where God says he has the ability to strike the people with pestilence.  The weakness in D&T's appeal to this text is that God is not speaking about God's ability vis-à-vis God's eternal decree, but rather God's ability to impose punishments vis-à-vis man's ability to resist.  The point is not whether such an action would contradict some aspect of God's character, nature, wisdom, or the like, but rather the point is the helplessness of the people with respect to God.  In fact, Exodus 9:15-16 shows this, because at the same time God says He could do something other than what He did, and God explains that the alternative action contradicts his purpose.  This provides the contrastive explanation: a rare case where God explains why he chose one action over another.

Stratton makes a claim about what he thinks "the vast majority" of Calvinists believe.  This is one of those fake statistical claims that is problematic.  It's even more problematic when Stratton defines God's freedom that he thinks "the vast majority" of Calvinists hold to without any reference to libertarian freedom ("he could have done otherwise" or "he could have created differently" or the like).

It's dangerous to try to evaluate the underlying cause of such an obviously flawed appeal to Exodus 9:15 passage and the obviously flawed claim that because Calvinists say God is Free that this means libertarian freedom.  Both are straightforward examples of begging the question by assuming something that hasn't been established.

Dan and I had a debate titled, "The Bible Teaches Libertarian Free Will Debate," about 10 years ago (link to mp3), in which one of Dan's central arguments was to appeal to dictionary definitions of "choose" (see this transcript of his opening argument).  As I concluded then (link to transcript of my closing argument), Dan's argument similarly begged the question by assuming that choose (in Scripture and in the dictionaries) refers to a libertarian free choice, rather than by establishing his argument from Scripture.  

As you will notice from the transcript of Dan's opening, for example, he stated:

6 of the 20 dictionaries defined choose as - to select from a number of possibilities. That’s it.  That's libertarian free will right there.    The bible says we choose, choose means select from a number of possibilities, selecting from an number of possibilities is the essence of  libertarian free will, so the bible teaches  libertarian free will.

Notice, however, that there is nothing distinctively libertarian about "select from a number of possibilities."  What does libertarian free will actually entail as distinct from compatibilist free will?  Here's where the problem gets worse for folks like D&T: philosophical supporters of libertarian free will cannot themselves agree (see the numerous points raised here).  This isn't a problem for libertarian free will as a philosophical position, it's a problem for claims like "Calvinists believe God is free, therefore they say God has libertarian freedom," or the like.

I think it may be time for a follow-up debate to my and Dan's debate, in case Dan believes he now he stronger arguments or at least believes that his arguments presented then continue to hold up. 

D&T seem to argue that God's decree must be the result of deliberation.  On the contrary, however, Calvinists should insist that any discussion of God deliberating is language of accommodation, and that God does not and has never thought sequentially.

D&T argue, toward the end of their response, that LFW advocates have "the same foundation for control" as Calvinists.  This is just not true, and is kind of the main point of the luck objection.  So, it's not entirely clear whether the force of the luck objection was rightly understood.  

Conditional Ability to Do Otherwise (vs. Categorical Ability to do Otherwise) (22:00 to 42:00)

D&T seem to argue both that compatibilists are somehow borrowing libertarian ground by appealing to conditional abilities, and simultaneously they seem to try to make a regression argument about wants being voluntary.  My main objections here are that (1) it's self-evident that wants are not always voluntary (for example, hunger) and (2) on libertarian free will, wants are necessarily irrelevant as a causal explanation for the choice.  While libertarians may be able to affirm the statement, "I could choose [X] if I wanted to," that's only because wanting to is irrelevant to the ability to choose [X].  

D&T suggest that in certain cases "wanting to" may be a necessary condition (in both compatibility and libertarian accounts).  However, the chart provided by D&T (an excerpt is shown below) messes up this point:

Notice that under the "reversibility" row, for "Libertarian," D&T have "You can even if you don't want to."  That correctly treats wanting to as irrelevant to the choice.  However, if wanting to were a necessary condition, then "you cannot if you don't want to" is correct on both compatibilism (labelled by D&T as "Determinist") and libertarianism.

The chart's second row is simply an example of an attempted regression.  The whole point of a conditional analysis is to consider a given stage of decision making.  On libertarianism, as on compatibilism, the "wanting to" may or may not be voluntary or otherwise under the control of the person.  As mentioned above, the "wanting" may be hunger.  Assuming that wanting to is voluntary, saying "I can want to" is simply the same question about a different choice, and simply regresses the analysis a step.

Finally, the first row of the chart is potentially misleading.  Compatibilism doesn't require that any one cause be a sufficient condition.  Of course, if "wanting to" is treated as the proximate cause of the choice, then that would be different.  If that is so, though, then the chart equivocates, in that wanting to is not the proximate cause of a choice in libertarianism.

If it is acknowledged that wanting to is just one causal factor, then it may be more accurate to say, "You can and will if you want to" than to say "You can and must if you want to" in that column.  The more grammatically accepted way of saying it is this: "You can and would if you wanted to." 

D&T point out that you don't have the ability to do otherwise in the actual world, but instead in the counter-factual world.  Of course, you only do otherwise in the counter-factual world, so there does not seem to be any meaningful downside to this point.

Furthermore, the whole point of "conditional" ability is to posit and analyze counter-factual worlds.  You don't say, "If I wanted to, I could," unless you want to analyze a different world than the actual world, namely a world in which you wanted to.

Incidentally, even libertarian categorical freedom falls prey to this problem of objecting to reference to hypotheticals.  Under libertarian freedom, in the real world the agent only can bring about one of the multiple competitive outcomes.  In the case of simple binary decision, the agent cannot both choose [X] and not choose [X], he can only choose [X] or not choose [X].  The other path is not in the real world, it's in a hypothetical world where the agent chooses the opposite.

D&T have some back and forth banter regarding Jesus' and Peter's interactions in Mark 14:34-38.  They claim that if Peter was a determinist, he would have answered that he couldn't do otherwise.  The banter, however, overlooked Jesus' own statement: "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak," which provides the causal explanation for the sleep of Peter and the others.  Of course, in fact, Jesus and Peter weren't discussing the relationship of Peter's actions to God's decrees and so the conversation was literally exactly what one would expect from two divine determinists.  On the other hand, if we were to interpret this as a discussion about the relationship of Peter's actions to God's decrees, the causal explanation ("the flesh is weak") is one that fits better with a compatibilist understanding.  That said, I wish that falling asleep were an example of a voluntary act of the will, but I think we know that for most people it is not.

The same thing relates to other comments during this portion, such as calling the condition an "impossible condition."  It's not "impossible," it's just not "actual," but of course that's the nature of hypothetical.   

Epistemic Possibilities vs. Freethinking Argument (42:00 to 54:00)

Dan seemed to argue that epistemic possibility is not an adequate explanation of deliberation, because we don't have the same kinds of epistemic uncertainties about the past as we do about the future.  This strikes me as odd, because we don't normally deliberate about the past.

This portion of the discussion also suffers from the same problem as the previous portion, in terms of characterizing "the theistic determinist" view in terms that would likely not be acceptable to Calvinists and others that are being lumped into this group, at least not without qualification.  For example, "and it could not have been otherwise," may be true vis-à-vis the decree, but would not necessarily be true under a hypothetical analysis.  

D&T seemed to argue that people don't have "epistemic access" to an outcome if there is a causal explanation for their choice of the alternative outcome.  This doesn't make much sense, because there doesn't seem to be any reason that epistemic access to an object would require any freedom at all with respect to causing that object.  It makes even less sense, because Tim distinguishes between awareness and epistemic access, but it's unclear how (if at all) these differ.   

Also, again, they say that Peter should have said, "No," to the question, "Could you have stayed awake one hour," but in context the question does have an implied negative answer, as we can conclude from Jesus' own explanation that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Jesus was pointing out Peter's failure, which demonstrated Peter's inability.

Can Calvinists be Molinists (54:00 to 1:11:00)

D&T argue that Calvinists can be Molinists and that some Calvinists are Molinists.  This, naturally, depends on how one defines Calvinism.  With folks like Norman Geisler claiming to be a "moderate Calvinist," I suppose one can find a very wide variety within self-labelled Calvinism.  There is no one official pope of Calvinism to say who is in and who is out.  One fairly big-tent way of describing Calvinism is in terms of the five points of Calvinism, which have been memorized using the acrostic TULIP for a while now.  Amyraldians would consider themselves Calvinists without adopting the L point.  As to both Calvinists and Amyraldians, the practical sticking point is combination of the "U" and "I" points.  Both Calvinists and Amyraldians (as per the four or five points) confess that God's election is not conditional on the sinner and that God's calling of sinners to repentance and faith in Christ is effectual.  

On Molinism, God is unable to decree what a person would do in any particular circumstance because humans have libertarian free will.  Thus, fitting Molinism with Calvinism would require either assuming that either God luckily elected people that God was able to place in situations where they libertarian-freely repent and believe, or that any person God could create would libertarian-freely believe and repent under the right set of circumstances.  The former of these options seems to be essentially blasphemous.  The latter of these options then would seem to be the only way to hold these points together.

The bigger problem for Molinism is that its affirmation of Libertarian Free Will runs smack into divine sovereignty, which is also a core Calvinistic doctrine. It's not one of the five points of Calvinism, but it is a point of doctrine that some Calvinists (for example, James White here) have suggested could be called the first of six points of Calvinism.  

Colton provided another option, which is some form of Molinism that applies to lots of things, but not to salvation as such. In other words, another way to try to reconcile Molinism and Calvinism is just to say that repentance and faith are involuntary (at least involuntary in a libertarian-free sense of voluntary).  D&T at first seem to agree with Colton that this option is not a reasonable way to reconcile Molinism with Calvinism, but then seem to say that think it might be a viable way to harmonize them.  

One problem with argument is that Calvinism not only teaches that God effectual calls, but also that men respond with their will: "but because he who works in man both to will and to do, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe, and the act of believing also." (Canons of Dordt, 3rd and 4th head, article 14)  the Westminster Confession is even more explicit: "yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace." (WCF, Ch. 10, Section 1)

Are Arminians Semi-Pelagians (1:11:00 to 1:25:00)

D&T assert that it's a disparaging term and tantamount to accusing Arminians of being heretics.  D&T argue that Colton's definition of Semi-Pelagianism is wrong.  D&T refer to Canon 7 of the Council of Orange.  D&T don't make application of their definition to Leighton Flowers, and I will leave that observation there.

D&T seem to argue that the Council of Orange doesn't fully embrace Augustine's views.  I may have to leave this question for another time.  For now, suffice to say that D&T's argument, as they explained it, defines Semi-Pelagianism so narrowly that even Roman Catholicism is not semi-Pelagian.

Folk Intuitions / Do People Think their Beliefs are Causally Determined (1:25:00 to 1:42:00)

D&T argue that no one thinks that their thought processes are determined.  I think the modifier "all" was used: "all their thoughts and beliefs," at some point.  It seems like that would be a necessary qualification.  Many people struggle with obsessive or intrusive thoughts, especially worries and anxieties that they seem to believe are outside of our beyond their control.  They feel as though their thoughts happen to them.  In some ways of considering thought, for example, people are encouraged to think of thoughts as distinct from awareness, such that thoughts may be involuntary, but awareness or attention is voluntary (at least with some training). 

The argument here is that "folk intuitions" are "libertarian" rather than "compatibilistic."  This section of the talk suffers from the same defects as some of the previous sections, in terms of assuming specific meanings and inaccurately characterizing the opposing viewpoint.  

D&T interact a bit with a study that evidently Colton had cited.  While I disagree with their analysis I found it interesting that Dan said that if God himself revealed that determinism is true, Dan would agree with compatibilism, whereas Tim indicated that he would deny responsibility.

D&T oddly seem to overlook that the first example, which they criticize, demonstrates a widespread refusal to accept the idea of advance knowledge of the future.  If that is indeed a folk intuition, it seems to undercut the reliability of folk intuitions.

The one interesting point that Dan raises in this section (around 1:39:00) is that if Scripture intends something other than folk intuitions, it should say so clearly.  While I agree with this, Scripture does clearly teach that God knows all things including the future.  That advance knowledge of the future undermines folk intuitions, and pushes us to look more deeply into Scripture.  

Likewise, the explicit Scriptural statements that God "predestines," need to be weighed in this same "folk intuition" scale.  As D&T seem to recognize, folk intuition regards predestination as incompatible with free will.  As with folk intuitions about the knowability of the future, folk intuitions about divine foreordination are wrong.  Moreover, since Scripture teaches both human freedom and divine foreordination, the result of a proper exegesis of Scripture is compatibilism, even if compatibilism is contrary to folk intuition.

Frankfurt cases (1:42:00 to end)

D&T argue that there is a "flicker of libertarian freedom" in each of the Frankfurt examples in which people would be willing to assign responsibility to the protagonist.  

D&T's analysis of what they labelled as "Stump's example" was not entirely clear to me.  They seemed to be conflating the Frankfurt example with a positive example of "exhaustive divine determinism."

Furthermore, the "flicker" or "flame" of libertarian freedom seems to be something that D&T grasp at.  D&T, however, do not seem to address the elephant in the room in terms of the fact that their flicker/flame is not at the time of choosing but merely at some previous time.