Calvin the Calvinist: The First Argument Against Pighius (of Seven)

But all right, since our opponent wants it so, let us make our response about both issues at the same time. So the first argument is: If we cannot think of anything good or evil or plan our ways, whether good or evil, but everything is in God’s control and happens necessarily in accordance with it [ICR, 1.16.6, 8 and 1.17.2], why do we not snore or sleep for ever? Why does the farmer sweat so in ploughing, sowing, and gathering crops? Why does the merchant take upon himself long journeys and dangerous voyages? Why does a worthy head of household see that his children are well trained to practice virtue and behave honourably? Why do we call a doctor when we are sick? For nothing is gained by care, hard work, or diligence. If Pighius is waiting for me to fashion some new reply, he is mistaken. Rather, I shall borrow from my Institutes just so much as will be enough for an answer. It is as follows:

“Human hard work, thoughts, plans, and purposes are easily reconciled with divine providence by Solomon. For just as he mocks the stupidity of those who undertake anything boldly without reference to the Lord, as if they were not governed by his hand [a reference to the earlier citation of Prov. 16:1 in ICR 1.16.6], so elsewhere he speaks thus: The heart of a man ought to plan his way, and the Lord will direct his steps (Prov.16). he thereby indicates that we are not in the least prevented by the eternal decrees of God from, subject to his will, having regard for our interests and managing all that is ours. Nor is that without a clear explanation. For he who set boundaries to our life with his own limits has put the care of it in our hands. He has equipped us with ways and means of preserving it; he has made us aware of dangers, lest they should fall upon us when we are unprepared; and finally he has supplied both ways to prevent them and cures. So those madmen do not consider what is obvious, that the skills of taking counsel and being careful are inspired by God, so that with their help we may be subject to his providence in the preservation of our life. Just as, on the other hand, by carelessness and laziness we invite the evils which he has imposed upon us. For how does it happen that a prudent man, when he is consulting his own interest, frees himself even when evils are threatening him, whole the fool perishes through thoughtless indiscretion, unless it is because both folly and prudence are instruments of divine governance on either side?” [ICR, 1.17.4]

Pighius has what he was seeking, or rather what he was not seeking. For a concern for seeking the truth does not control someone who is so unable to be satisfied with such a clear and simple answer that, having heard it, he pretends that no reply has been given him, and continues to jeer as if he has heard nothing.

John Calvin, The Bondage and Liberation of the Will: A Defence of the Orthodox Doctrine of Human Choice against Pighius (pgs. 36-37)

So much for the odd misconception that Calvinism is some variant of fatalism.

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28 Responses to Calvin the Calvinist: The First Argument Against Pighius (of Seven)

  1. Paul says:

    What do you mean fatalism?

  2. John Harutunian says:

    In harmonizing divine sovereignty with human freedom, mystery will, of course be involved. My problem with Calvin is that I can’t reconcile his statement that “the care [of our lives] is in our hands” with his teaching that God has predetermined everything that comes to pass. This seems to go beyond mystery and end up being something contrary to reason. Much in the same way that the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation -in positing a body which is invisible, intangible and takes up no space- goes beyond sacramental mystery and ends up as something contrary to reason.

  3. Paul says:

    John, what do you mean “mystery” will be involved? Where do you place the mystery? And, why can’t you reconcile the care of our lives is in our hands with God’s decreeing whatsoever comes to pass? What do you assume must be the case for “our lives to be in our hands?”

  4. John Harutunian says:

    >What do you assume must be the case for “our lives to be in our hands?”

    Good question. I assume that we have the capacity to make choices which really determine outcomes -outcomes which would have been otherwise had we not made those choices. Or, to put it another way: In creating Adam, God created a being with an independent will -as opposed to a will which ultimately functioned as an extension of His own will. (Lewis is pretty explicit on this [in The Problem of Pain].) Needless to say, this in no way implies an ability to earn our salvation.
    ]

  5. RubeRad says:

    Hmm, Piggius; wasn’t he that fat Roman guy from Life of Brian?

  6. Paul says:

    John,

    What do you mean by “have the capacity to make choices which really determine outcomes”? Are you denying that on Calvinism we “make” choices, and that if we had not made those choices we would still have done what God decreed we would do? If you’re going to grant a conditional reading of “could do otherwise,” then, as most works on the metaphysics of free will admit, freedom and determinism are completely compatible since what we do “runs through” or choices which are part of the “chain” which leads to the action. So, if there was a different choice that would mean a different past, which would result in a different choice. To imply that Calvinistic “determinism” says that we do what God wants us to do even if we choose or want to do something else, then this means that God makes or forces us to do action A all the while we really want to do action A*. But at a minimum, Calvinism or compatibilism would say that we are free just in case we are not forced against our will to do A over A*. And surely you have never experienced yourself choosing or desiring or wanting to do something while some kind of “force” compelled you to do something else against your will. So, if we define freedom as in the above, then it is compatiblism with God decreeing whatever you do. You do what you want to do, and if (your conditional analysis, i.e., “otherwise/had we not) you had wanted to do otherwise you “could” have since this would mean that there was another decree of God’s decreeing that you do otherwise than you did in the actual world.

    So, if you allow a hypothetical or conditional reading of “do differently”, then it seems clear that this is compatible with God determining what you do. This is accepted by even libertarians about free will. They just don’t buy the conditional analysis of “can do otherwise.”

    So, maybe you don’t want to give “can do otherwise” a conditional or hypothetical reading (i.e., we can do otherwise if we had wanted to). Maybe you mean for freedom that we have to have the actual ability to do otherwise. Perhaps you view the future as a “garden of forking paths” and all the paths are “open” to you. So, the future is literally “open” and to be free you have to have the ability to actually go down path A or B or C or …n. Up to the moment you choose A, you are actually able to choose B or C or … And, if we “rewound” time, you could have chosen(i.e., B or C or . . . are all “live” options) B given the same past, laws of nature, or decree of God.

    So, on this view you’d say that the Calvinist view of God decreeing that you do A means that you are not free or responsible because you could not do otherwise (not in the hypothetical sense, but in the sense that the future is not open, there is only one option that is “live” or “open” to you) in the relevant sense specified above.

    So do you view freedom as actual “ability to do otherwise”? This matters because, as we have seen, to give it a counterfactual reading is fully consistent with the past being determined.

  7. Zrim says:

    Paul, by fatalism I mean something that diminishes or eradicates human will altogether, that God is unmoved by human action or that God’s sovereignty eclipses human responsibility. I’m using ordinary language, not sophisticated philosophy.

    My problem with Calvin is that I can’t reconcile his statement that “the care [of our lives] is in our hands” with his teaching that God has predetermined everything that comes to pass.

    John, have you considered that it may not be a case of having to reconcile two things, or that that human will is an instrument or means of God to accomplish his purpose? I’m not clear on how this goes “beyond mystery and end[s] up being something contrary to reason.” It’s vintage co-existence-of-God’s-sovereignty-and-human-responsibility stuff. “Contrary to reason” would seem to be more like this: human beings have a will, but actually they don’t have one at all.

  8. John Harutunian says:

    Zrim, it seems to me that one really does have to say that either a)man’s will is ultimately an extension of God’s will, or that b)it exists on its own.
    B doesn’t deny foreknowledge, but only predeterminism (to put it a bit awkwardly). Lewis (The Problem of Pain, p. 115) puts it better than I can [big surprise]: “Finally, it is objected that the ultimate loss of a single soul means the defeat of omnipotence. And so it does. In creating beings with free will, omnipotence from the outset submits to the possibility of such defeat. What you call defeat I call miracle: for to make things which are not Itself, and thus to become, in a sense, capable of being resisted by its own handiwork, is the most astonishing and unimaginable of all the feats we attribute to the Deity.”
    Paul, it looks like I’m in pretty deep here! But yes, I do view freedom as actual ability to do otherwise.
    “If you’re going to grant a conditional reading of ‘could do otherwise,’ then,…, freedom and determinism are completely compatible since what we do ‘runs through’ our choices which are part of the ‘chain’ which leads to the action. So, if there was a different choice that would mean a different past, which would result in a different choice.”

    I think your last sentence raises the key point. Why does one have to posit a “chain” to begin with? That’s what I don’t understand.

  9. Paul says:

    Zrim, in neither ordinary language nor sophisticated philosophy is that the definition of fatalism. Fatalism is the view that no matter what you do, the fated end will still happen. If you are fated to die, you will die no matter the precautions you take. You can’t cheat fate. That this view is “ordinary” is shown by watching an ordinary people’s movie: Final Destination. Or of that’s too crass, read the Greek plays that were written for the comman man.

    Anyway, whether God’s decree rules out human free will and moral responsibility all depends on your view of the matter. Actually, the Calvin quote didn’t do much but *assert* that the two go together. But of course the whole debate is whether God’s sovereignty of all things means what Calvinists think it does.

    And, yes, it is something to “reconcile.” Many “ordinary” and “common” folk think of free will as entailing the ability or power to do otherwise. That there is a multitude of options before them in any given choice, and that they can actually select any of the live options. Moreoever, a common and ordinary view of moral responsibility is that if you ought to do X, then this implies that you can do X. That’s why we would hold you morally responsible for not helping the child who fell into the water fountain just two feet before you, but we wouldn’t hold the quadriplegic responsible for not pulling the child out of the water fountain just two feet away from him. On Calvinism, we have God’s decree which (per Calvin), says this: Necessarily, if God decrees that you will A, then you will A. So, if God decrees that you will A, then given God’s decree that you will A- necessarily you will A. You *cannot* do otherwise. That is brought out by this argument:

    [1] If God’s decree entails that you will A, then you will A.

    [2] You do not have power over what God decrees (that was from the foundation of the world, before you existed)

    [3] You do not have power over the entailment in [1]; i.e., the entailment that: if God decrees you will A, then you will do A.

    [4] Therefore, you do not have the power to do not-A.

    This is called the consequence argument, and it’s the master argument against freedom/moral responsibility to do otherwise.

    So, if that is your view of freedom, then there is something to reconcile.

    If that is not your view of freedom, then you don’t need to reconcile. The downside here is that you need to explain how we can be free and responsible without having the power to do otherwise than God decrees. Most reformed have traditionally opted for Classical Compatibilism. But that has fallen on hard times, so another view needs to be looked at.

  10. Paul says:

    John,

    So on your view of freedom, you’re not a Calvinist, right? Calvinism is the view that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. The reason God knows all things is because he ordained them, not because he peers into the future and “sees” what will happen. What happens happens because God predestined it to happen. On Calvinism, the future is “settled.”

    Okay, here two short considerations:

    1) Apart from Calvinism, free will as you conceive of it is incompatible with God’s omniscience. So if you reject Calvinism because of your view of freedom (which as we’ve seen, you’d have to), then you must also reject God’s omniscience — a historic doctrine of historic creedal Christianity. Here’s a brief argument for why:

    Let three moments of time be ordered such that t1 < t2 < t3

    1. Suppose that God infallibly believes at time t1 that John Harutunian will eat Fettuccini Alfredo at t3. (premise)

    2. The proposition God believes at t1 that John Harutunian will eat Fettuccini Alfredo at t3is accidentally necessary at t2. (from the principle of the necessity of the past)

    3. If a proposition p is accidentally necessary at t and p strictly implies q, then q is accidentally necessary at t. (transfer of necessity principle)

    4. God believes at t1 that John Harutunian will eat Fettuccini Alfredo at t3 entails John Harutunian will eat Fettuccini Alfredo at t3. (from the definition of infallibility)

    5. So the proposition John Harutunian will eat Fettuccini Alfredo at t3 is accidentally necessary at t2. (from 2-4)

    6. If the proposition John Harutunian will eat Fettuccini Alfredo at t3 is accidentally necessary at t2, it is true at t2 that John Harutunian cannot do otherwise than to eat Fettuccini Alfredo at t3. (premise)

    7. If when John Harutunian does act he cannot do otherwise, he does not do it freely. (principle of alternative possibilities)

    8. Therefore, John Harutunian does not act at t3 freely. (from 5-7)

    A brief note on terminolgy: accidental necessity is the necessity of the past. Simply put, a contingent thing can become necessary once it happens. For example, tjere is nothing anyone can now do to change the fact that the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11. This principle is expressed in the common man's saying that "there's no use crying over spilt milk."

    2) Okay, here's a reason to think freedom and moral responsibility is compatible with being unable to do otherwise:

    Suppose Jones wants to assassinate the president. Unbeknownst to him, Black, a anti-government militant, and neurosurgeon, has implanted a device in Jones's brain which monitors Jones's brain activities. If he is about to choose to assassinate the president, the device simply continues to monitoring and does not intervene in the process in any way. If, however, Jones is about to chose to vote, say, refrain from pulling the trigger, the device triggers an intervention that involves electronic stimulation of the brain sufficient to produce a brain signal to the finger (and a subsequent pulling of the trigger).

    Now, suppose that Jones goes about his business and hides up in a tree, waiting to shoot the president. As things progress, Jones stays resolved. He goes through with the assassination plot. Was Jones free and morally responsible for his actions? Remember if Jones had opted to back out, Black would have pressed the button allowing him to take over and control Jones, forcing him to kill the president. So, Jones could not have done otherwise. But he clearly seems responsible for what he did.

    This is just a brief argument and it can be expanded as needs be (we can make God the "controller" who monitors the "thoughts" of man, etc).

    Based on (1) and (2), I have tried to show that not only must you reject omniscience based on your conception of free will, but there seems to be a powerful counterexample to the idea that we cannot be free or morally responsible if we cannot do otherwise than we do.

  11. John Yeazel says:

    I see the argument has been transferred from Hart’s Old life to Zrim’s Outhouse. Hmm, there must be some clever and witty analogy that can be drawn up here. At least you are focusing in on a critical issue: the divine decree vrs. human responsibility. One which I have not done near enough thinking on and thank Paul for his insight into the matter and the books he has read too. Some of which I have put on my need to buy as soon as possible list.

    Paul’s last post was thought provoking and helps me see the issue more clearly now. MY question is, if the guy in the tree (Jones) decided that he didn’t want to pull the trigger at the last minute and Black did his dirty deed of causing him to, would Jones still be held responsible for his killing the President? Or, if God worked monergistically in Jones and gave Jones the ability to choose Christ and Jones decided he didn’t want to choose Christ at the last minute would that be a possibility?

  12. John Yeazel says:

    Paul,

    I also would like you to explain the differences between Luther, Calvin’s and Edwards thinking on this issue if you are able. Perhaps bring a good Arminian theologian into the debate too (Geisler or Olson perhaps).

    I know Scott Clark thinks Luther and Calvin are not that far off on the issue and that a lot of the differences have been the result of other theologians interpreting them wrongly on this issue.

  13. Paul says:

    Hi John,

    “Paul’s last post was thought provoking and helps me see the issue more clearly now. MY question is, if the guy in the tree (Jones) decided that he didn’t want to pull the trigger at the last minute and Black did his dirty deed of causing him to, would Jones still be held responsible for his killing the President?”

    No, Jones would not be responsible (well, he’d be partly responsible for going there in the first place). He would not have been because he would have been *forced* to do something *against* his will or desire. The point of the thought experiment is simply to undermine the idea that freedom or moral responsibility demands actual ability to do otherwise.

    “Or, if God worked monergistically in Jones and gave Jones the ability to choose Christ and Jones decided he didn’t want to choose Christ at the last minute would that be a possibility?”

    In Calvinism, God grants faith and changes the persons will so that they will to choose Christ. In Calvinism, God’s work in salvation is sufficient. He doesn’t just make the person able to choose, he gives them the desire or will to choose, and we choose according to wills and desires (though that’s not the whole story). It is actually Arminianism, generally, with their view of preveneint grace, that says God works monergistically to make all men *able* to choose via *prevenient* grace. This grace is not sufficient to bring about the choice. The sinner is simply rendered “able” to choose, whether he or she does so is “up to the sinner.”

    “I also would like you to explain the differences between Luther, Calvin’s and Edwards thinking on this issue if you are able. Perhaps bring a good Arminian theologian into the debate too (Geisler or Olson perhaps). “

    I may have to get back to this later since the question isn’t easy to answer. Luther and Calvin were working with the older scholastic conceptual scheme. I would say that it seems that at least Luther thought of “free” as ability to do otherwise, and so seemed to deny that there was any free will. But conceptual analysis has made it clear that there are ways to view freedom or responsibility that don’t require it to mean what Luther &c thought it meant. The Bible offers no definition, and so we’re free to look into the topic. Edwards was a child of his time too, and, while his view was more sophisticated than Calvin’s or Luther’s, it has been shown to have severe problems (his view was called classical compatibilism, of the sort taught by David Hume). Arminians can fit into several camps. While they all affirm libertarian free will, not all are agreed on their conception of libertarian free will. Some are Molinists, some are what are called narrow source incompatibilists (this means that they deny that libertarian free will requires the ability to do otherwise, but they hold on to what is called the “sourcehood” constraint, i.e., for an act to be free the action has to be the “ultimate source” of his or her action), and then there are wide source incompatibilists, who hold that both the principle of alternate possibilities as well as ultimate sourcehood are required for libertarian freedom.

    In terms of the importance of this, Luther wrote:

    “If, then, we are taught and believe that we ought to be ignorant of the necessary foreknowledge of God and the necessity of events, Christian faith is utterly destroyed, and the promises of God and the whole gospel fall to the ground completely; for the Christian’s chief and only comfort in every adversity lies in knowing that God does not lie, but brings all things to pass immutably, and that His will cannot be resisted, altered or impeded. “

    And so hashing this out is pretty important. Knowledge has grown since the Reformation, and we have a great many more tools at our disposal than did Luther or Calvin. Thankfully, many non-Christian thinkers have helped tremendously in this area, and we can go to them and learn and glean knowledge and wisdom, using some of what they’ve found to help explicate the Reformed (or biblical, says me) view of the decree, sovereignty, providence, and human responsibility.

    Of course, my saying that is ostensible evidence that the charges that I think regeneration raises the IQ, or that unbelievers know nothing, or that a Reformed person was right about whatever they spoke about just because they were Reformed, are patently false. It is unfortunate that many in the Reformed world have never bothered to look into this issue, see where the contemporary state of knowledge is, but rather throw up their hands right at the beginning and declare mystery just because they don’t understand it.

  14. John Harutunian says:

    Paul-

    Your first paragraph perfectly articulates my view of human freedom (as opposed to the Calvinist view).
    Re: your first consideration -I would never deny God’s omniscience. He knows the future perfectly. The question is: Is there a way that He can do so, apart from having predetermined whatever comes to pass? If one has a “high” view of creation -that is, if one believes that He really gave Adam a will that exists independently of His own will- the answer would surely be yes.
    Re: your three moments of time -I think that we part company at point 2. If God knows that I will eat Fettuccine Alfredo at a certain time, then yes, one might say that my eating it is therefore _inevitable_. That seems a long way from saying that God has predetermined that I eat Fettuccine Alfredo; hence it is _necessary_ that I do so.
    Re: your second point, I’d have to say that if a person has a device implanted in his brain which causes him to do certain things, he isn’t fully functioning as a human being.
    (Now you see why they call me a dinosaur.)

  15. Paul says:

    John H.,

    Which first paragraph?

    Re your response to the first consideration: I’m glad you don’t deny God’s omniscience. However, the worry I brought out is that if he does know it, then you cannot do otherwise. I made no argument that God predetermined eating the pasta, just that he infallibly believed that you would. I’m not making an argument for determinism with the foreknowledge argument, I’m just undermining ability to do otherwise. If you claim that ability is necessary for freedom, then you can’t keep it along with omniscience.

    Now, the necessity involved is *accidental* necessity. I didn’t argue that it is necessary that you eat pasta, for that is contingent. Even on Calvinism it is contingent, since God could decree a pastaless world, whereas he couldn’t decree a world where 1+1 did not = 2.

    So, yes, the foreknowledge argument doesn’t argue for nomic necessity.

    But here’s what one libertarian free will proponent says about that:

    ********

    “Examining now the previous examples from this point of view, it is not at all clear to me that they describe situations in which Jones can be said to be acting on his own. Since in them God is assumed to be infallible, the fact D(B) occurs at T is entailed (in the broadly logical sense) by the prior act of God’s believing at T’ that D(B) occurs at T (T’ is metaphysically necessitated or metaphysically determined by the belief of God. Now, if a libertarian rejects as an instance of an agent’s acting on his own a scenario in which an agent’s decision is nomically necessitated by a temporally prior fact (or a conjunction of such facts), why wouldn’t he reject the one in which the decision is metaphysically necessitated by a prior event? What, in my opinion, is crucial to the libertarian’s conception of free decision is that such a decision is not necessitated or determined in any way by any antecedent fact. . . . Now, one may object that metaphysical necessitation is not nomic necessitation. But why should this difference be relevant? If a decision is rendered unfree by the fact that its occurrence at T is entailed by the conjunction of some temporally prior facts together with the laws of nature, then why would it not be rendered unfree if its occurring at T is entailed by God’s prior belief that it will occur at T? If the critic still thinks that there is a difference between the two cases, it is incumbent upon him to explain why.” (Widerker, Responsibility and Frankfurt Examples, Oxford Handbook of Freewill, 328, emphasis original).

    *********

    Re. your response to my second point: (a) the device doesn’t cause him to do certain things, it only does so *if* he doesn’t do what the controller wants him to do, otherwise it just “sits” there; and (b) just switch matters around. Suppose that it is God. God wants Jones to do X. If Jones freely does X on his own, God will not intervene and “force” him to do X. If Jones decides to do not-X, God will intervene and force, via omnipotence, Jones to do X. Suppose Jones freely does X on his own. God didn’t need to intervene via omnipotence, but Jones could not have done otherwise. Jones is responsible for his doing X. Therefore, responsibility cannot depend on ability to do otherwise.

  16. Paul says:

    John and John,

    If you have more questions I will be unable to answer them here. I have been told by Steve Zrimec that it is harmful to your souls to give you answers to the questions. It is to idolize rationality. Basically, the answer to your question is this: “There is no problem. The Reformed view is right, all others are wrong. Sit down, shut up, and memorize the catechism. Questions are not allowed. Thinking is not allowed, unless you think like Steve Zrimec. To ask about the consistency of the Reformed view and common conceptions of freedom is to take your eyes off of Jesus and of heaven. It doesn’t even matter that Calvin has given neither an argument nor an exegesis of Scripture. Calvin said it, that settles it; unless, of course, Calvin is talking politics or social issues.”

    So unfortunately I cannot respond any more.

  17. todd says:

    Did I miss something?

  18. John Harutunian says:

    First and foremost, I hope that your Sept. 1 posting was tongue-in-cheek. (I’d guess that Zrim is hoping likewise.)
    The paragraph which I was referring to in my Aug. 31 posting as perfectly summarizing my view was the first one on your Aug. 30 posting (“So on your view of freedom,…”).

    “I made no argument that God predetermined eating the pasta, just that he infallibly believed that you would. I’m not making an argument for determinism with the foreknowledge argument, I’m just undermining ability to do otherwise.”

    As I see it, all that’s implied in “[God] infallibly believed” is that God’s omniscience is perfect, and not subject to error. Since my will exists independently of His, I did have (by virtue of the way God created me) the ability to choose not to eat the pasta. Which isn’t saying that God could not have caused each forkful of pasta to disappear just before it reached my mouth -since He is sovereign. But Calvinism, as I
    understand it, goes way beyond this.

    “Re. your response to my second point: (a) the device doesn’t cause him to do certain things, it only does so *if* he doesn’t do what the controller wants him to do, otherwise it just “sits” there;..”

    I think both of use are arguing in a circle here. I’d have to say that if a person’s brain is being interfered with in order to cause him to do something he wouldn’t otherwise do, his humanity is being compromised. But of course I believe this only because of my view of Creation (involving as it does the existence of an independent and free will in Adam). Your view of the nature of Adam’s created will allows for such interference.

    Whichever of us is right, it’s pretty clear to me that there’s a lot I can learn from you. So, as I say, I hope your posting was tongue-in-cheek.

  19. Zrim says:

    Todd, it appears that Paul is trying to process some exchanges we’ve had here and elsewhere (OldLife). He seems to have sorely misinterpreted some points.

    Let me be quite clear: Paul is more than welcome to carry on here, so long as he keeps it insult-free, which he has been doing from what I can tell.

  20. Paul says:

    “Let me be quite clear: Paul is more than welcome to carry on here, so long as he keeps it insult-free, which he has been doing from what I can tell.”

    I can’t compute. I was told that trying to make subtle or sophisticated points was indicative of some flaw in my character, something akin to cheating on my wife. I was told that using logic and asking that arguments be given for assertions was what spawn “will worship” and the “prosperity gospel.” You said that if I ask that some argue for an unsupported or assumed premise, I am acting like an “unbeliever.” You said that trying to reconcile or make intellegible Reformed views on the decree and human responsibility is somehow impious and translates to me saying that there is no mystery at all in this world, and that I am like a Greek who Paul condemned along with Jews who ask for signs. You said that my MO is to say that anyone who disagrees with me is “stupid.”

    Then, your friend Jed Paschall said that only a handful of highbrow eggheads care about this topic and, essentially, I am taking people’s eyes off of heaven by discussing it. I was told that the gospel and Reformed views on justification or Calvinist/Arminian debates are not my intellectual interests, but that “worldviewism” is the heart of my “intellectual pursuits” (of course if one stops by my goodreads site, one can see that in the category ‘worldview’, I have a total of TWO books in that category). And, other than that, if I fight back after repeatedly having my position mischaracterized or slanderously told that I aspire to reconcile Trent and sola fide, I am told that I only offer “insults” and there’s no way to tell between the “wheat and chaff” of my comments.”

    So, it is quite clear to me that you have no patience or room for the way I go about arguing for a position. As is clear my my summaries and quotes, your dislike of my attempts at thinking through positions, like the one here, go far beyond any “insulting comments.” Since John H. and I disagree, you believe that I think him “stupid.” So it’s clear what you think of me and how I view those who disagree with me.

    This is your place, so I’ll honor your wishes. Call me weird, but I simply don’t like feeling that at any minute you’ll come in and tell me that I idolize logic (when that makes me an idolator), have a love affair with sophistication (when I’m married), am condemned by the apostle Paul, and think anyone who disagrees with me is “stupid.” Or, I don’t want to look over my shoulder while your friends come here and berate me for making argumentsand accuse me of taking people’s eyes off of Jesus and of being infatuated with topics I am not infatuated with (it is odd that when I make comments in a post that is about the subject of my comments, I am called “infatuated” with the subject). You may say this is taking it wrong, but that’s my sindere judgment of your comments and actions toward me.

    Besides, you obviously disagree with how I go about discussing this topic, so I’ll bow out and let you answer your commenters.

  21. John Harutunian says:

    Paul-

    Whatever the disagreements between you and Zrim, I personally would look forward to the pleasure of interacting with you further, if at all possible. You definitely know your stuff. If you’d prefer not to dialogue here, maybe you could just send me a brief email responding to my Sept. 1 posting? My address is jharutun@rcn.com
    Thanks, and I hope to hear from you.

  22. Paul says:

    John, I’ll email you.

  23. John Yeazel says:

    I have read this 4 or 5 times and cannot make much sense of it. It might be helpful to define some terms first so that those who are new to the debate can follow the flow of the argument. Some terms that need to be defined: 1) compatibilism- I am assuming this is the belief that the divine decree and human responsibility are compatible with each other; 2) freedom- I am assuming this means freedom of the will as opposed to the bondage of the will; how freedom is being defined is very confusing to me; 3) determinism- what exactly is being determined; is it just our salvation or everything that happens and every choice we make; 4) counterfactuaL- huh?

  24. John Yeazel says:

    freedom to do otherwise- Do you mean freedom to do otherwise then the divine decree? Is not that a non-sense statement. How can anyone less powerful than God do anything but the divine decree?

  25. John Yeazel says:

    You need to define your terms better here too: 1) I would conjecture to say that most people do not know how you are using the word accidentally here; I am assuming you are using the philosophical term here meaning extension. Is that right?; point number 3 needs to be explained better- your assuming your readers may know more than they might know about “proofs”

  26. John Yeazel says:

    “Luther thought of “free” as ability to do otherwise, and so seemed to deny that there was any free will. But conceptual analysis has made it clear that there are ways to view freedom or responsibility that don’t require it to mean what Luther & Calvin (?) thought it meant. The Bible offers no definition and so we are free to look into the topic.”

    Luther and Calvin both denied free will, that is correct right? From my understanding Adam and Eve did have free wills, ie., their wills were not in bondage to sin in their unfallen state, therefore they were freely doing God’s will until the fall. After the fall all of man’s actions were motivated by sinful impulses. So, mans will was in complete bondage to his sinful choices after the fall. Seth was granted God’s grace and a remnant of a godly line remained in the earth until the coming of Christ. This line always had sin mixed with the ability to do God’s will. This is where it gets confusing where sin and the ability to do God’s will reside in the same soul.

    I think Luther and Calvin would have a different take on whether the Bible defines free will. I would venture to say that they saw definitions in the Scriptures through various passages. So, what you are saying is that we are free to conjecture about this issue and we are not going beyond what God has chosen to reveal to us when we do this? How do you get from the Bible does not define this to we are free to look into it?

    Define libertarian free will. Try to go into a bit more depth in regards to Molinists, Narrow Source Incombatibilists and Wide Source Incombatibilists. I am starting to get a handle on this and I do agree with Luther that it is very critical for us to grasp this issue if we are able. It is not easy to grasp. You might want to get into why Classical combatibilism has fallen into hard times too.

    What is your view of how our wills changed after the fall? If you start using terms your readers may not be familiar with try to define them as clearly as possible. Sometimes philosophical terminology can be very confusing because they are used in ways that most are not familiar with.

  27. Paul says:

    John Y. I also emailed you per your private request, but since you asked so many questions here and they’ll just “sit” here, I’ll post my email to you so others can read it. We can then continue on via email so as to not bog this blog down with arguments

    John,

    I have read this 4 or 5 times and cannot make much sense of it. It might be helpful to define some terms first so that those who are new to the debate can follow the flow of the argument.

    I figure people can ask questions or google stuff, otherwise my already long posts would be much longer.

    Some terms that need to be defined: 1) compatibilism- I am assuming this is the belief that the divine decree and human responsibility are compatible with each other

    In freewill/moral responsibility discussions ‘compatibilism’ means that freedom/moral responsibility can coexist with determinism. If the decree is analogous to some form of determinism, then compatibilism means that freedom/responsibility is compatible with the decree, where ‘incompatible’ means something like logically contradictory.

    2) freedom- I am assuming this means freedom of the will as opposed to the bondage of the will

    That’s part of the debate, it would be question begging of me to *define* it. I can define it in a way compatible with determinism and so “win” by definition. Generally, it means some sort of ability or power we have such that we can control what we do, and do what we do without being forced or coerced to do it.

    3) determinism- what exactly is being determined; is it just our salvation or everything that happens and every choice we make;

    Everything. God ordains or decrees *whatsoever* comes to pass. Moreover, God knows what he knows about creation by consulting his decree or plan, not by “peering” into the future and “seeing” what happens.

    4) counterfactuaL- huh?

    Contrary to fact. Other than what actually happens.

    You need to define your terms better here too: 1) I would conjecture to say that most people do not know how you are using the word accidentally here; I am assuming you are using the philosophical term here meaning extension. Is that right?;

    I did explain the term. Accidentally necessary is the necessity that attaches to the past. What happens isn’t necessary—like the attack on the Twin Towers—but once it happens, we can’t make it so that it didn’t happen. It’s now in the past, and we do not have the power to change the past. Expressed in more common place language: there’s no crying over spilt milk.

    point number 3 needs to be explained better- your assuming your readers may know more than they might know about “proofs”

    I cannot explain every single point in every single post. I assumed that people knew what *entails* meant. I mean logical entailment, an entailment that exists between two propositions, whereas the former necessarily preserves the truth value of the latter. Thus, If God believes B that you will A, then this *entails* that you will do A since God cannot be wrong. So, “B entails A” means that it is necessary that A be true whenever B is. By the definition of infallibility, A will be true when B is.

    Luther and Calvin both denied free will, that is correct right?

    They both denied *libertarian* free will. Libertarian free will means, for most, that you are the ultimate source of your actions and that for any action you do, it was not determined, and you could have done otherwise.

    From my understanding Adam and Eve did have free wills, ie., their wills were not in bondage to sin in their unfallen state, therefore they were freely doing God’s will until the fall.

    The never had libertarian free will. God decreed and ordained the fall.

    I think Luther and Calvin would have a different take on whether the Bible defines free will. I would venture to say that they saw definitions in the Scriptures through various passages.

    If they thought the Bible offered a *definition* of free will, then they would be wrong. The Bible is not a dictionary and it does not generally offer definitions, especially on metaphysical/philosophical topics. Indeed, the Bible itself never mentions “free will” in terms of a metaphysical power. It does mention moral responsibility (at least conceptually). Indeed, I am fine showing the compatibility between the decree and moral responsibility. If ‘free will’ ends up being analyzed as requiring the ability to do otherwise and the truth of indeterminism, then so much the worse for “free will.” However, I don’t think this will happen, and I view free will and moral responsibility as two sides of the same coin, such that if you are morally responsible for an action you did it freely, and if you did an action freely you are morally responsible for it.

    So, what you are saying is that we are free to conjecture about this issue and we are not going beyond what God has chosen to reveal to us when we do this? How do you get from the Bible does not define this to we are free to look into it?

    Because the Bible *presupposes* that we are free and morally responsible, yet it doesn’t not have any books, other than II Opinions 3:16, that offer a detailed metaphysics of action theory. (The Bible also presupposes dozens of other philosophical issues, which is one fact that justifies the existence and need for Christian philosophy.)

    Try to go into a bit more depth in regards to Molinists, Narrow Source Incombatibilists and Wide Source Incombatibilists.

    Beyond the scope of this discussion. Briefly: Molinists believe that there are counterfactuals of human freedom, i.e., truths about what we would libertarian freely do in any situation we find ourselves in. God then surveys all these possible worlds and creates the world where we libertarian freely did just what he wanted us to do to bring his plan about. Molinists try to preserve a strong view of sovereignty and providence and human freedom. The main objection to this view is that there is nothing that grounds the truth of these counterfactuals (the people don’t exist, God didn’t decree what they did, etc). The other objection is the foreknowledge argument. Source incompatiblism means that you being “the ultimate source” of your action is incompatible with determinism. Narrow source incompatibilists deny that libertarian freedom requires the ability to do otherwise. Wide source incompatibilists hold to both source incompatibilism and require the ability to do otherwise at least at the point where we “form our wills.” Of course this probably brings up numerous other topics and things I should have defined, but I just don’t have the time and so this will have to do.

  28. John Harutunian says:

    “How can anyone less powerful than God do anything but the divine decree?”

    If the divine decree includes everything that ever happens, no one can. But if the decree includes some things (like the Incarnation) but not others (like some people’s rejection of God’s offer of salvation), then it’s a different picture.

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