Thursday, September 17, 2009

Refuting Determinism

By definition, if you can find one case of indeterminism then the entire system of strict determinism is false because of the nature of the view. In Jeremiah 32:35 God says, "And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin."

Here we have a direct example of God Himself saying He did not cause or order in any way an event to happen.

P1) If strict determinism is true, all events without exception are determined by God.
P2) The Bible presents an example of God not determining an event.
C) Therefore, the Bible refutes strict determinism.

19 comments:

Onesimus said...

Another example from Jeremiah (chapter 18) relates to that favourite Calvinist illustration of the potter and the clay.

--
Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
--

Interesting how God HAD determined an outcome for the nations in question - but that determined outcome was CHANGED because of the response of those nations.

How much clearer could this matter be? The wicked and disobedient ARE able to repent and receive God's favour because of that repentance.

Also those who have God's favour can lose it if they turn to disobedience.

I find it very ironic that the Calvinist will appeal to the example fo the potter and the clay as mentioned in Romans 9, but they clearly avoid the more extensive use of the same illustration in Jeremiah 18.

drwayman said...

Well played.

Robert said...

Hello Onesimus,

“Interesting how God HAD determined an outcome for the nations in question - but that determined outcome was CHANGED because of the response of those nations.”

Good observation. The Determinist leaves out the genuine interactions that God has with people who freely choose to sin or freely choose to repent and obey. God does not harden people in a vacuum, nor are his interactions separate from what people actually do.

“How much clearer could this matter be? The wicked and disobedient ARE able to repent and receive God's favor because of that repentance.”

Yes, even our ability to repent from sin is enabled by God. And God sincerely desires that people turn away from their sin.

“Also those who have God's favor can lose it if they turn to disobedience.”

Yes, just look at the example of Israel throughout the Old Testament, especially in the prophetic books.

“I find it very ironic that the Calvinist will appeal to the example of the potter and the clay as mentioned in Romans 9, but they clearly avoid the more extensive use of the same illustration in Jeremiah 18.”

I don’t think it is ironic at all (though think I understand what you mean), in fact, it is totally predictable. These people are into proof texting to establish their false beliefs (in this methodology they are no different than non-Christian cults who start with the teachings of their leaders or groups and then go cherry picking in the bible to find “support” for their false beliefs). If instead of proof texting they were properly interpreting the biblical texts then they would read the Romans 9 potter analogy in light of what was said in Jer. 18, rather than separating Romans 9 as a proof text for their determinism.

Robert

Steven said...

Wait a second--an instance of God saying that he didn't command anyone to do a certain thing is an example of indeterminism?

I don't understand.

bossmanham said...

Steven, read the verse. Not only did He not command it, it didn't even enter His mind that they should do it. I can imagine you have 10 ways to Sunday to obfuscate a clear reading of the verse, but come on!

Steven said...

Hey Brennon,

Perhaps you ought to consider reading the verse again. God is clearly saying he didn't command those persons to do those things, neither did it pass through his mind that he should command those persons to do those things.

And that God doesn't command something to happen does not mean he doesn't determine it should happen; clearly that is true. God didn't command men to sin, yet he determined the crucifixion of Jesus.

Steven said...

Furthermore, God can not want something in particular to happen and still determine it to happen in order to accomplish some greater good.

bossmanham said...

neither did it pass through his mind that he should command those persons to do those things.

"...nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin."

God didn't command men to sin, yet he determined the crucifixion of Jesus.

But He also didn't determine the sin those men did. God can determine an event without determining people's wills. Could He not place people in a position where they will freely crucify Christ without determining their wills?

Steven said...

That is not what your original quote said. Your original quote was, "it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing."

How am I supposed to know which translation is better? I'm not a scholar. I'm just going by what you originally quoted.

"But He also didn't determine the sin those men did. God can determine an event without determining people's wills. Could He not place people in a position where they will freely crucify Christ without determining their wills?"

Evidently not; God didn't want those people to commit those sins. In fact, it never came into his mind that they should ever do such things! I guess he's not in any control over the free wills of men!

bossmanham said...

Yeah...you didn't say anything differently than I did. The crucifixion was a different kind of event. God was punishing His own Son for our sins on the cross, so it was an act of God. But in that case, I think it was more about Christ being in the right place at the right moment in History (the fullness of time, in part). The tensions between the Jews and Romans were at the right level, you had a cowardly Roman prefect, and legalistic Jewish leaders. All because of their own wills.

But if you think God is so inept that He has to control people's wills to get them to do what He wants, that's fine :)

Steven said...

I don't know what you're arguing about anymore. I proved that the text did not refute determinism.

bossmanham said...

No you didn't. God said He didn't determine it. So the Bible refutes determinism.

"I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination"

Yeah. God said that.

Steven said...

Now you're changing the quote again. Your original quote was this:

I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing.

I said there is nothing inconsistent with determinism with this.

I didn't bother to check all the possible translations of the text to see if there are any better, but you can't blame me for that.

Now let's consider your latest restatement:

I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination.

That's not inconsistent with determinism either. God's determining something is not commanding it.

Furthermore, it may very well have been the case that God did not have in mind them doing that, at least not simpliciter. But it still could have been that God determined some other event to happen and that event could only have happened if the pagans did what they did.

Or it could have been that he didn't have it in mind that they should (or ought) to do it.

Try John Calvin on the subject:

There is no doubt, however, but that some exceeded the moderation commonly observed, who wished to excel others in the fervor of their zeal; for they actually burned their sons and their daughters, which was a deed the most savage. But they yet thought that it was a service acceptable to God...This doctrine, however, ought to be especially noticed, that is, that there is no need of a long refutation when we undertake to expose fictitious modes of worship, which men devise for themselves according to their own notions, because, after all that they can say, God in one word gives this answer, that whatever he has not commanded in his Law, is vain and mischievous. He then says, that he had not commanded this, and that it had never entered into his mind...God in the last clause transfers to himself what applies only to men; for it cannot be said with strict propriety of God, that this or that had not come to his mind. But here he rebukes the presumption of men, who dare to introduce this or that, and think that an acceptable worship of God which they themselves have presumptuously devised; for they seek thus to exalt their own wisdom above that of God himself... (full version here)

He says that the Jews were attempting to worship God in a way that he had not commanded or taught, and it had not ever entered into his mind that he should desire worship from them of this sort.

Nothing is inconsistent with determinism here.

bossmanham said...

Now you're changing the quote again

Steven, stop with the red herrings. The translation from the post was from the NLT, which is not the most accurate one out there. I used it because of the clarity of language, but perhaps it would have been better to stick with a more literal translation. So I quoted here from the NKJV.

That's not inconsistent with determinism either. God's determining something is not commanding it.

If it didn't come into His mind that it should be done, then it seems to me He didn't determine it.

urthermore, it may very well have been the case that God did not have in mind them doing that, at least not simpliciter.

Simply amazing what one can do to obfuscate a clear passage.

Nothing is inconsistent with determinism here.

Then you have a weird definition of determinism. If it had been determined by God, then it would have not only been in God's mind that they should do it, but it would have originated there.

But the verse says it wasn't in God's mind that they should do such a thing. It originated in the free wills of the people.

Onesimus said...

The thing that seems most clear here is that some people have no interest in the truth at all. They will perform all kinds of intellectual gymnastics to avoid what is clear, simple and to the point.

To them defending a chosen theological stance is more important to them than gaining an understanding of God as revealed in scripture.

Steven said...

You didn't interact with the more plausible interpretation which was that it didn't come into God's mind that he ought to be worshiped in that way, which is how Calvin interpreted it.

Also, what does it matter to me if your original translation was no good? I was responding to what you posted.

Secondly, if your supposed interpretation of the text is any good, then God doesn't have any foreknowledge of the future choices of free creatures. It didn't come through God's mind that they would do that, after all--it caught him by surprise!

bossmanham said...

You didn't interact with the more plausible interpretation which was that it didn't come into God's mind that he ought to be worshiped in that way, which is how Calvin interpreted it.

Based on the construction of the sentence, I don't see that as more plausible in the least, most notably since they aren't attempting to worship God, but Baal.

if your supposed interpretation of the text is any good, then God doesn't have any foreknowledge of the future choices of free creatures

No it doesn't at all. It says, "nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination." It doesn't say He didn't know it would happen. He's saying it never entered His mind that they should do it, not that they would do it. It's obvious He knew that they would do it. The origination of the idea that they should do it was in them.

Obvious, your alternate reading isn't the only other way to interpret it. It's like when a parent knows their child is going to do something but they still exclaim, "I can't believe you did that!"

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

If I may be so bold, this conversation is fascinating, even though it may no longer be active.

What I see are Calvinists and Arminianists arguing that each is guilty of applying a convenient interpretation of a particular passage. I also see some clear unwillingness on each side to actually look at the text -- there's plenty of argument over this or that translation, but none of you has to this point actually looked at the direct text.

What does the text actually say? Try BlueLetterBible.org, and look at the actual meanings of the Hebrew words used. If one of you would argue that the passage implies a refutation of determinism, that one is guilty of altering the text -- though I detest Calvinism/determinism, Steven is right: this passage does not refute determinism. It states only that god would not have thought to command them to behave in the way they chose to behave.

That being said, it does appear to refute omniscience; if something did not occur to god, god cannot be omniscient.

This does nothing, then, for the argument concerning determinism, but it seems clear that god is not omniscient.

As for Onesimus, who argued that the use of "repented" in Jeremiah 18 (and various other OT passages) implies that god is indeed mutable, this seems more likely to deny determinism, but again it denies omniscience -- an omniscient being could never be surprised, nor provided new information, so its decisions would all be foreordained, meaning it could not change its mind. The many uses of Strong's H5162 to describe god as changing his mind clearly show that god has in mind a specific outcome and/or course of action, and strikes that outcome/action out in favor of a new outcome/action, which is incompatible with omniscience/determinism.

I suppose it's also relevant to note that omniscience implies determinism, when omniscience is coupled with a creative act. Since the Christian god is so described, everything would necessarily be determined if omniscience were truly realized, and a singular creative action committed.

If you refute determinism, you refute omniscience.

--
Stan

Onesimus said...

David Servant has written some excellent articles on God’s foreknowledge and omniscience.

I have links on my blog.

http://onefiles.blogspot.com/2009/04/gods-foreknowledge-and-mans-free-will.html