Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Is There Trauma in Sovereignty? A Response to James Swan

Arminians and other Libertarians are concerned with determinism, the proposition that all of our actions are made necessary by God in some way. We are concerned because determinism seems to make God the author of sin.

The compatibilist wants to show that we can still be free and responsible for our own actions and they can be determined. David Hume, a skeptic philosopher, tried to show this is the case on a naturalistic framework. Theist determinists adopt some of Hume's arguments and augment them in order to argue that it is possible that all our actions have been pre-determined, but we freely do those actions and are therefore responsible for them. There have also been other attempts at trying to show that this is possible.

The incompatibilist thinks this is counterintuitive. It seems to be a logical contradiction to say we are determined yet free. The libertarian argues that it is obvious that God is not the author of sin because human beings have libertarian free will, in which case they can choose between available options and none of those options is unable to be chosen. No former states of the universe or outside agents necessitate what we choose. We may be influenced by different things, but those influences do not determine what we do. The libertarian argues that this is the only way to be able hold individuals responsible for what they do. Only if it is possible to choose a counterfactual possibility is the agent responsible for what they actually choose. This is called the principle of alternate possibilities.

The libertarian argues that God is not the author of evil because He is not the one performing the evil acts that are committed. It is the creatures He created who freely chose to sin against God. They had the choice to obey or to sin and they chose to sin. If this sin originates from the creature, then the creator is not responsible for that sin.

Some determinists have tried to construct a dilemma in which the libertarian becomes trapped by their own logic. James Swan of Alpha and Omega Ministries constructs it as follows (full post found here):



When non-Reformed people argue against the Reformed understanding of sovereignty, I have to immediately ask them how they also avoid their own argument. If we apply their argument against their own position what happens? They similarly believe God created all that is, and knew the beginning from the end before He created. If I knew in advance that a person was going to get in their car by their own choice, and while driving down the road strike and kill someone, and I let them do it, I share responsibility. It's actually a severely culpable responsibility because I knew and they didn't. When God chooses to create knowing full well what evil will happen, and creates anyway, I don't see how a non-Reformed person can avoid the same charge they place on us (emphasis his).


At first glance this looks hard to get out of, at least it did to me, but the answer to this is surprisingly simple. Mr. Swan tries to show that the foreknowledge of what will happen in allowing this person (let's call him Steve) to take the car makes us responsible for what he does with the car. This seems to be a problem for Mr. Swan. He needs to show that there is a logical reason to impute the responsibility of the actual car accident to the person allowing Steve to take his car. The simple fact that the car owner knew that Steve would cause this accident doesn't seem to be a reason to impute responsibility of that particular incident to the car owner. All we could say is that the clairvoyant car owner is responsible for allowing Steve to exercise his free will and ultimately end in the killing of a pedestrian, maybe making the owner thoughtless or uncaring; aka negligent.

Is this necessary? Let's explore the notion. God created a universe of free creatures who He knew would sin. Does this make God responsible for the sins of His independent creatures? No! There are no philosophical or logical reasons to say that God is responsible for those sins. Mr. Swan's assertion that "If I knew in advance that a person was going to get in their car by their own choice, and while driving down the road strike and kill someone, and I let them do it, I share responsibility" falls short of holding merit. So in that the main point of the analogy is to show that Steve is responsible for the car accident, it fails.

Also, Steve's being negligent is of course not analogous to God's dealings with sin; God warned Adam and He warns us and we know He hates sin and does not desire the death of the wicked. Still, there lingers a sense in which it is not God's highest priority to prevent sin. And this is because He seeks a greater good which involves both granting man a certain amount of freedom and marvelously bringing good out of our sinful actions (see #1 below). Also, as we shall see, God is not a man, subject to the same obligations and duties that human beings are; he is the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe (see #3 below).

Now if you are familiar with apologetics, Mr. Swan's scenario here looks very much like the skeptic's argument of the problem of evil. He even points this out in his post, "Many of you probably realize the above arguments are those typically launched by atheists against theists that use free will to absolve God of evil and determinism." That's correct, and should have tipped Mr. Swan off that this example doesn't show that God becomes responsible for all sins. All it could possibly show is that God would somehow be a bad guy for creating people who He knew would sin; that that act itself would be a sin. Of course we know this is silly, since God will not act contrary to His own law and thus will never sin.

There are numerous responses to the problem of evil, but first I want to point out an obvious logical problem that anyone who would question the libertarian runs into, and that is the Grandfather paradox. Since the libertarian believes that God foreknows actual future acts, then if God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person, otherwise His foreknowledge of what the person will do would be wrong (since the person would not in fact do what God knew he would do; indeed, God's foreknowledge of the person's existence would be wrong as well!), and God cannot be wrong.. If you want to introduce middle knowledge (or whatever you may call God's hypothetical knowledge) then I would just point out, as a friend has done, that "God can only have middle knowledge...of people who will certainly exist at some point. He cannot know what someone who never exists would do; there is no person there to ever know anything about."

Responses

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is enough to show that Mr. Swan (and by extension anyone who would cite the problem of evil) is incorrect in his assessment and that libertarianism (Arminianism in particular) is the Biblical view of God's foreknowledge and human freedom. I do not necessarily hold to all of these arguments I am going to cite, but will present them to show that Mr. Swan's line of reasoning is not necessary and that a libertarian has several options to choose from in refuting this argument.

1. Even if you reject the problems the grandfather paradox brings up, God still may have morally sufficient reasons to allow free will and have known the sin and have still created humanity. Let's apply this to the Mr. Smith car accident analogy. Say that I do know that Mr. Swan will have an accident and kill someone if I allow him to freely take my car. But perhaps I also foreknow that beyond the car accident there is an unspeakable good that will come about as a result of the car accident. Imagine that I knew the person he killed was going to try to kill the president. Would it still be wrong that I allowed him to take the car? It doesn't seem so. It seems that the reasoning behind my decision is morally sufficient to justify allowing Smith to take the car, resulting in the accident.

This is what libertarians could argue about God's decision to create free people He knew would sin. We could argue that God, in eternity past, decided to create creatures with libertarian free wills knowing they would sin in order to manifest a far greater good, namely the glorification of God! He knew He would save those who freely choose Him showing us His grace, mercy, righteousness, and love by redeeming us from those sins. I would argue He created the world in which the optimum amount of free creatures would freely choose Him.

2. One of God's main purposes in creating humanity was to cultivate a personal relationship with them. If He has determined all that we do, then the relationship is one sided, and therefore a sham much like a puppet show. It appears that for there to be genuine relations between people, it requires both parties to be able to choose not to be in the relationship. That could be the rationale behind God allowing freedom, and therefore the possibility of rebellion.

3. God is sovereign, and there is a demonstrable difference between our relationships with other created beings and God's relationship to us as Creator. Since He has sovereign rights over His creation, He has the right to create free agents, allow them to sin, and hold them responsible for those sins. So while it may be wrong for us to allow a helpless person to be murdered, it is not wrong for a maximally good and righteous God to allow His sinful creation to be killed, especially since He is their judge before and after they die (and since He has morally sufficient reasons to allow this sin as shown in #1).

I think this sufficiently shows that Mr. Swan is mistaken in his assessment. It shows that his analogy doesn't actually show what he wanted it to show, and the problem that seemed to arise in the form of the problem of evil isn't actually a problem at all for libertarian Arminians. But the determinist is still stuck with the problem in spades. If God has made necessary all events that happen, then sin is included and God actively causes sin. He becomes the active agent behind sins. The problem is still there and I don't think it can be resolved without holding to libertarianism.

Hopefully this "dilemma" will be put to rest among determinists.

36 comments:

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Nice counter to Swan's logically and contextually bankrupt sophistry.

"Also, as we shall see, God is not a man, subject to the same obligations and duties that human beings are; he is the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe."

You hit the nail on the head with that. We can be guilty of criminal negligence due to being bound by our society's laws. Applying the situation another way, if I'm in a war zone (foreign or domestic), and I somehow know that an enemy combatant is going to get into a vehicle and run over his commander, am I obliged by law to try and intervene? Not at all. They're not part of the community under the protection of our nation's laws, and hence I'm in no way obliged to stop the event. Likewise, God is under no such law, and therefore cannot be charged with negligence in allowing those who rebel against Him to suffer the consequences.

Steven said...

Only if it is possible to choose a counterfactual possibility is the agent responsible for what they actually choose. This is called the principle of alternate possibilities.

What's a counterfactual possibility?

bossmanham said...

Something other than happened. Only if it is actually possible to choose something other than you actually chose can you be held responsible for said choice.

If you take issue with the term, you can google it. There are a lot of articles with the term in the title.

Steven said...

Something other than happened. Only if it is actually possible to choose something other than you actually chose can you be held responsible for said choice.

Okay, what does "actual possibility" consist in?

bossmanham said...

I think it's pretty self explanatory.

Steven said...

Well, no, it isn't, because all kinds of things are actually possible. My being the first person ever to swim the Atlantic ocean is actually possible.

What do you mean by actually possible? Do you mean, consistent with the laws of nature in conjunction with the past states of the universe? Because if that is it, then only one thing is actually possible for you at any point in time.

bossmanham said...

my being the first person ever to swim the Atlantic ocean is actually possible.

Yeah. I think you just answered your own question, Steven. If past states of the universe or God or your own desires in any way constrain your will in such a way that you cannot choose otherwise than what you have, then that is not libertarianism. Since, as you pointed out, you could choose to swim the atlantic, you have LFW. Whether you succeed is another story. But as I have told you before, LFW is the ability to choose things that are actually able to be chosen. I can't choose to fly right now, because it's not within my power to do so. But, with LFW, I can choose to do things that I have the power to do.

Steven said...

Okay, how does the fact that at 1000 A.D. God believed you would X tomorrow at t not leave you with only one actual possibility?

bossmanham said...

Anything I said would just be rehashing old ground. I am simply not convinced that God's having all knowledge available to Him affects our freedom. If what we did were based on God's knowledge, that might be one thing. But on God's simple foreknowledge, I see no reason to give it such causative power. On the other hand, it seems entirely plausible that our free actions could be foreknown by God.

In other words, God knows all and yet we are still free. He knows what all our free choices will be.

Steven said...

You can restate your position all you want, but I don't remember ever hearing an argument one way or the other.

"At 1000 A.D. God believes S will do X at 2010 A.D." is a past state of the universe which precludes S's doing anything but X--by your own account, nothing but X is an actual possibility for him.

bossmanham said...

Again, Steven, anything I said would be covering old ground. There is nothing in the proposition "God has all knowledge present in Himself and freedom exists" that is logically contradictory. As Plantinga has said, "The Christian has an initially strong reason to reject the claim that all of our actions are causally determined-a reason much stronger than the meager and anemic arguments the determinist can muster on the other side. Of course if there were powerful arguments on the other side, then there might be a problem here. But there aren't; so there isn't."

I agree. You have given no good reason why foreknowledge would make anything necessary. If foreknowledge based on mathematical predictions doesn't make the events they predict necessary, then it seems clear that God's foreknowledge would be the same.

If I were you I'd read Plantinga's and Craig's and Moreland's and other libertarian's arguments.

Steven said...

So far as I can tell, Plantinga never gave anything like an argument for libertarianism. His treatment of compatibilism is really dismissive, if I remember correctly, and in that quote he is talking about causal determinism, not theological determinism or fatalism of some sort.

And Moreland and Craig don't work in the philosophy of action, so they're hardly the sources to go to if you want a sophisticated treatment of the relevant issues. I've seen a video with Moreland in it on foreknowledge and free will, but the formulation of the argument was not the best and his response was bad, too, so he's not the source for that. Besides that, Craig doesn't even hold to a kind of libertarianism that requires AP, he thinks freedom means absence of causal restraints which is consistent with no AP--though you seem to hold to PAP, and so do most libertarians, so you'd be at disagreement with Craig here, too, because he agrees with me that foreknowledge precludes ability to do otherwise (I remember hearing this from him or reading it on his website; a second source would be here).

If you don't see how foreknowledge makes anything necessary, or at least appears to make anything necessary, then I don't know what to tell you except you don't understand the problem of freedom and foreknowledge. I can't say much more than that.

I don't know what it means to say that God has all knowledge "present in himself"--what does that mean? That he is aware of all truths at every moment of time, that he believes all true propositions at every moment of time, or whatever? Well then I can show you how that is inconsistent with free will by simply directing you to any sufficiently sophisticated formulation of the argument, like the one by Paul on my own blog.

Robert said...

Steven,

Steven you keep bringing up this foreknowledge supposedly eliminates free will argument, over and over again (both on your own blog as well as here).

Here you state it simply as:

“Okay, how does the fact that at 1000 A.D. God believed you would X tomorrow at t not leave you with only one actual possibility?”

In another post you reiterate your argument as:

"At 1000 A.D. God believes S will do X at 2010 A.D." is a past state of the universe which precludes S's doing anything but X--by your own account, nothing but X is an actual possibility for him.”

Can we agree that by foreknowledge we mean that God knows what you will in fact do at some future time and in regards to some specific event?

If so, then that would mean that God knows what we will in fact end up doing, correct?

So say at 1000 A.D. that God believes I will post this email today at 2010 A.D., then I will in fact post this email today at 2010 A.D., correct?
And if I had chosen instead NOT TO POST this email today, then it would be “that God believes I will not post this email today at 2010 A.D., correct?

So either way, whether I posted today or chose not to post today, God would have believed correctly what I did in fact do/or did not do today at 2010 A.D., correct?

So no matter what we in fact end up doing or not doing, God would know this beforehand, correct?

Now Steven you state that this would mean that it would “leave you with only one actual possibility.” And you seem to think that is some sort of a problem for someone who holds to free will as ordinarily understood (i.e. or technically called libertarian free will). How so? Whether you hold to free will in the libertarian conception or you hold to free will as a compatibilist, either way, when it comes to actual outcomes, there is only going to be ONE. In fact there can only be ONE. If there were more than one, it would mean that we would be actualizing contradictions. You agree that with my action of writing this post or not writing it and posting it here today, one or the other would have been the actual outcome, correct? I couldn’t both post and not post at the same time today now could I? So if you mean by “leave you with only one actual possibility” that I would do one or the other but not both simultaneously, then I agree with you.

So Steven how is any of this a problem for those of us who hold to free will as ordinarily understood?

All that you have argued is that GOD KNOWS WHAT WE ARE IN FACT GOING TO DO!

And how does acknowledging THAT refute or eliminate free will?

Now I could go and explain the error that you keep making, especially as you keep bringing up this same argument that foreknowledge eliminates free will over and over. Would that lead you to reject compatibilism and accept libertarian free will? Or will you like an atheist skeptic, once his question is answered just move on to the next question? And the next? And the next? If you are going to play this skeptical game, I have neither time nor interest in THAT.

So tell me, what will it benefit me to share the answer to your repeated argument that foreknowledge precludes or eliminates free will? If you are game I can provide an answer, but will you then give up your compatibilism or just act like an atheist skeptic and bring up your next objection to libertarian free will?

Robert

Steven said...

All that you have argued is that GOD KNOWS WHAT WE ARE IN FACT GOING TO DO!

And how does acknowledging THAT refute or eliminate free will?


If you don't pay any attention to the argument in its best formulation, I can see why you'd not see how it eliminates free will. The argument has to do with necessity and powerlessness. You are powerless to change the fact that God believed you would X tomorrow at t 5000 years ago. You are therefore powerless to change the fact that you will X tomorrow at t. You can't do anything about it. You can't do otherwise. Some fact about the past necessitates your choice So you don't have free will.

Libertarian freedom of the will, as most libertarians hold to it, involves an ability to do otherwise, every fact about the past and the laws of nature remaining the same. But that is not available to you if determinism is true, or if God has infallible beliefs about the future. So you don't have free will.

So tell me, what will it benefit me to share the answer to your repeated argument that foreknowledge precludes or eliminates free will? If you are game I can provide an answer, but will you then give up your compatibilism or just act like an atheist skeptic and bring up your next objection to libertarian free will?

(i) I wasn't talking with you to begin with, so it's up to you if you wanna "share the answer to my repeated argument" or not; don't ask me.

(ii) There are other arguments besides the foreknowledge argument against libertarian freedom of the will.

bossmanham said...

Besides that, Craig doesn't even hold to a kind of libertarianism that requires AP, he thinks freedom means absence of causal restraints which is consistent with no AP--though you seem to hold to PAP, and so do most libertarians, so you'd be at disagreement with Craig here, too, because he agrees with me that foreknowledge precludes ability to do otherwise

Well you're only partially correct, in that Craig doesn't think PAP is necessary for freedom. However, he does say (and I've quoted this before to you) "[soft facts] are counterfactually dependent upon future contingents, such that were the future contingent event not to occur, the event expressed by the soft fact would not have occurred" (http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/purtill.html).

As long as that is even possible, your argument fails. Since what we choose today is why God knew beforehand it would happen, then it is the case that God's foreknowledge of said event had no causal impact on what we choose. We genuinely do have it within our power to choose otherwise and actually could choose otherwise. God simply knows what we will choose. A counterfactual actually is possible. God's knowing the actual fact doesn't eliminate the PAP. And as I've stated, if we truly cannot do otherwise then the assumptions that the law makes (that we actually can do otherwise) is false and makes any law useless.

I don't know what it means to say that God has all knowledge "present in himself"--what does that mean? That he is aware of all truths at every moment of time, that he believes all true propositions at every moment of time, or whatever?

Yeah. Classical orthodox forekowledge. God has all propositional truth present in Him. I think the camera example I gave you shows that this is compatible with freedom.

bossmanham said...

The argument has to do with necessity and powerlessness

You're correct. But what you fail to apprehend is that your situation only means an event is certain, not that it is necessary. You also have not shown that it strips the power to do otherwise from the free agent. Just because God knows what the free agent will do with his power, which includes the ability to do otherwise, it does no follow that that power is somehow nullified. Can you show why it would be?

You are powerless to change the fact that God believed you would X tomorrow at t 5000 years ago.

Not if God's knowledge is contingent on what you will choose. If this is the case, then it is your power that causes God's knowledge.

Since that premise is shown to not be necessary, then the rest of your argument, which hinges on that premise, fails. You have to show that God in fact does causally determine what we do by His foreknowledge for your first premise to hold water. But that's what we're debating about.

But that is not available to you if determinism is true

Well that's somewhat obvious.

or if God has infallible beliefs about the future

I and every other libertarian would say this has never been shown. That's why there are so many libertarians today.

There are other arguments besides the foreknowledge argument against libertarian freedom of the will.

I honestly think this is the strongest objection. However, as I don't see that it remains sound, then I will choose to disregard it. :D

Steven said...

I know that Craig thinks facts about God's beliefs about future human actions are soft facts. Maybe they are. But that doesn't help you because they are still facts, and they still entail your future action, and they still preclude AP of the sort required for libertarian freedom of the will.

bossmanham said...

I don't see a refutation of anything I said there.

Steven said...

Can you show why it would be?

I've tried for a bit of time now; the situation looks hopeless.

Not if God's knowledge is contingent on what you will choose. If this is the case, then it is your power that causes God's knowledge.

If there is a fact of the matter NOW about what God believes I will do tomorrow, it is true that God's belief is contingent on what I will choose, but by tomorrow, I won't be able to do otherwise, because it is already set, fixed, decided what God believes, and therefore what I will do. And tomorrow, when choice-time comes around, I can't do otherwise, because that would be logically inconsistent with some fact about the past (God's believing I would X). So even if the necessity is not causal in some way, there are still facts about the past that entail what I'll do, and that is inconsistent with libertarianism.

Since that premise is shown to not be necessary, then the rest of your argument, which hinges on that premise, fails. You have to show that God in fact does causally determine what we do by His foreknowledge for your first premise to hold water. But that's what we're debating about.

The argument has nothing to do with causal determination. I don't have to show anything like that. All I have to show is that some fact about the past that you are powerless over at the moment entails your action, and so you are powerless over what action you will do.

I and every other libertarian would say this has never been shown. That's why there are so many libertarians today.

There are numerous Open Theists who would disagree with you, like Dean Zimmerman, Peter van Inwagen, William Hasker, etc. And in fact the minority of philosophers are libertarians; the majority are compatibilists.

bossmanham said...

And tomorrow, when choice-time comes around, I can't do otherwise, because that would be logically inconsistent with some fact about the past (God's believing I would X)

Just because God is certain about what you will do, doesn't mean it is necessary.

So even if the necessity is not causal in some way, there are still facts about the past that entail what I'll do, and that is inconsistent with libertarianism.

You're assuming that it is the case that the past entails what you will do in the future, and this is begging the question. With foreknowledge, it is the case that a future decision must take place for that knowledge to exist, which means that the foreknowledge is contingent upon the future action. If that is the case, and for human responsibility to exist it would have to be as van Inwagen has shown, the the past truth does not entail the future truth. Quite the opposite. It may be certain that the future truth will happen if the foreknowledge is infallible, but certainty =/= necessity and it certainly doesn't strip the power of choice from a free agent.

All I have to show is that some fact about the past that you are powerless over at the moment entails your action, and so you are powerless over what action you will do.

Feel free to do so, because your current arguments are not convincing.

There are numerous Open Theists who would disagree with you

I'm not sure I care.

And in fact the minority of philosophers are libertarians; the majority are compatibilists.

That may be because the majority are naturalists. I've never heard a convincing reconciliation of freedom and determinism.

But that doesn't bother me at all, for as Van Inwagen says, "It’s probably still true that most philosophers are compatibilists. But it’s also true that the majority of philosophers who have a specialist’s knowledge of the ins and outs of the free-will problem are incompatibilists."

Robert said...

Steven, (part 1)

“If you don't pay any attention to the argument in its best formulation, I can see why you'd not see how it eliminates free will.”

How do you know that I haven’t paid attention to the argument in its best formulation????

How do you know that I haven’t read William Hasker’s book “God, Time, and Knowledge” or John Martin Fischer’s book “God, Foreknowledge, and Freedom”??

Which do present the best formulations of this argument.

Robert

Robert said...

Steven, (part 2)

“The argument has to do with necessity and powerlessness. You are powerless to change the fact that God believed you would X tomorrow at t 5000 years ago.”

You continue to make the same error over and over, completely unaware of the error that you are making. I do not need to change God’s belief of what I will do tomorrow cause whatever I end up doing is what he foreknows that I will in fact do. And if I do otherwise then he will foreknow that as well.

“You are therefore powerless to change the fact that you will X tomorrow at t.”

And I do not need to “change the fact that I will do X tomorrow”. I will freely choose to do X tomorrow and whatever that choice ends up being is precisely what God foreknew that I would do.

“You can't do anything about it. You can't do otherwise.”

You are confusing the actual outcome and the choice that we have prior to the actual outcome. The choice if I am acting freely is up to me and under my control. Once the actual outcome occurs, then it is out of my hands. But prior to the actual outcome, if I have a choice then I decide which alternative possibility will in fact become the actual outcome that God foreknows.

“Some fact about the past necessitates your choice So you don't have free will.”
No, God’s knowledge of what I will in fact do, does not necessitate my action because the relation between God’s knowledge and my future action is NOT CAUSAL, but is a LOGICAL RELATION. God’s knowledge does not cause our actions in the present. God’s knowledge did not cause our actions in the past. And God’s knowledge does not cause our actions in the future. It is not a causal relation but a logical relation. The logical relation is that God’s belief corresponds with the proposition that is true regarding that future event. God’s true beliefs always correspond with reality, which is why he is never wrong about what he knows. BUT GOD’S KNOWLEDGE IS NOT CAUSAL OF OUR ACTIONS.

Robert

Robert said...

Steven, (part 3)

“Libertarian freedom of the will, as most libertarians hold to it, involves an ability to do otherwise,”

WHEN??

When can we do otherwise?

After the actual outcome has occurred?

Or before the actual outcome occurs?

“every fact about the past and the laws of nature remaining the same. But that is not available to you if determinism is true,”

Exhaustive determinism would eliminate free will as ordinarily understood. But that is not the argument that you are making: you are arguing that libertarian free will and divine exhaustive foreknowledge are incompatible (that if God has exhaustive foreknowledge then free will is eliminated). So if you are going to argue against libertarian free will being compatible with foreknowledge, then it is cheating to then argue from exhaustive determinism against libertarian free will.

“or if God has infallible beliefs about the future. So you don't have free will.”

This is your argument, that God has infallible beliefs (including his foreknowledge) and if that is so, then we cannot have free will as ordinarily understood.

Robert

Robert said...

Steven, (part 4)

Your next comment is very smug and arrogant:

“(i) I wasn't talking with you to begin with, so it's up to you if you wanna "share the answer to my repeated argument" or not; don't ask me.”

This is an open discussion forum is it not? Or did you really expect that only you and Brennon would be allowed to discuss these issues?

And to be blunt I watched your discussion of this in other places and have not commented because I don’t share things with people who just want to argue (cf. again like the atheist skeptic whom once you answer one question just brings up another, answer that and they bring up another, now you could continue to keep going around and around on this argument merry-go-round and you become just as big a fool as the atheist skeptic; but I don’t have time or interest in that).

“(ii) There are other arguments besides the foreknowledge argument against libertarian freedom of the will.”

And I am quite familiar with many of them. But YOU keep bringing up the foreknowledge eliminates free will argument over and over. And that one can definitely be answered. And in fact I did answer it here in this post, did you catch it?

Robert

Steven said...

To Robert:

(i) I'm not sure how it's arrogant for me to tell you not to ask me whether or not you should respond to the argument, and it's up to you whether you should do so or not.

(ii) Ability to do otherwise is clearly before a choice is made. You have to be able to choose one way or the other.

(iii) I didn't argue anything from exhaustive determinism. I simply said that, like determinism, some fact of the past entails your future action, if God has infallible beliefs about the future.

(iv) I am not sure where exactly your argument is. That God's knowledge is not causative? I'll grant you that, but it still inconsistent with ability to do otherwise, all things being the same, and therefore with AP. So I don't understand how that point amounts to much.

(v) If you don't have the time or interest to go around with someone "just looking to argue", then why'd you bother responding to me? and concealing your response to the argument with a lot of summary of what I said?

Steven said...

You are confusing the actual outcome and the choice that we have prior to the actual outcome. The choice if I am acting freely is up to me and under my control. Once the actual outcome occurs, then it is out of my hands. But prior to the actual outcome, if I have a choice then I decide which alternative possibility will in fact become the actual outcome that God foreknows.

Surely there was a fact of the matter 1000 years ago about what God believed you would do tomorrow. But if there is, then there's no changing it now, because it is in the past; it's "fixed". And so it seems so also is the fact about what you'll choose "fixed".

How is it exactly that you will decide tomorrow, when you make a choice, what God foreknew 1000 years ago? That kind of talk makes it seem as if there is as of yet no fact of the matter.

Jc_Freak: said...

Stephen,

The basic problem that you have is that you are confining God within time. God's foreknowledge is based upon His omnitemporality. The reason why in 1000 AD He knew I would post this is because, simultaneously, He was in 2010. It's not like He made a prediction in 1000 AD and then had to wait 1010 years to be right. Right now, God is watching me be born, writing this post, and dying. He is there in all three of those moments.

Any theology that demands that foreknowledge implies causation fails to understand that 'foreknowledge' is a term based off of our perspective, not God's.

bossmanham said...

JC,

I'm not even sure that view of time (which is the tenseless view) is necessary to hold to the view we hold to. If God's foreknowledge of the future is contingent on those future events in any way, then the assertion that that foreknowledge makes those events necessary fails.

Jc_Freak: said...

Brennon,

I don't know if the omnitemporal view is necessary for our position, and I know many Arminians hold to a more atemporal view, but I would say that God existing outside of time is. But that's not really my point. My point is that Steven's argument is completely moot if one holds to omnitemporality.

Robert said...

Hello JC, (part 1)


Thanks for chiming in with what C. S. Lewis called the “eternal now” perspective (i.e., God is outside of time and so sees everything at once):


“The basic problem that you have is that you are confining God within time. God's foreknowledge is based upon His omnitemporality. The reason why in 1000 AD He knew I would post this is because, simultaneously, He was in 2010. It's not like He made a prediction in 1000 AD and then had to wait 1010 years to be right. Right now, God is watching me be born, writing this post, and dying. He is there in all three of those moments.”

I have always felt strong sympathy for this perspective because when I imagine what it would be like to know everything about history it would be like seeing everything at once. And as I am a so-called “visual learner” the appeal to God seeing it all at once fits with my way of conceiving things just fine. :-)

Robert

Robert said...

Hello JC, (part 2)


“Any theology that demands that foreknowledge implies causation fails to understand that 'foreknowledge' is a term based off of our perspective, not God's.”

JC you are taking the tack that God seeing it all by being omnitemporal makes Steven’s argument moot. I want to go further with the tack that a common category mistake is to confuse causal and logical relations.

In my earlier post to Steven I made the point that God’s foreknowledge has a logical relation with the foreknown event rather than a causal relationship with the foreknown event (and Steven conceded this was true: “That God's knowledge is not causative? I'll grant you that“). I cannot tell you how many times I have heard or read Calvinists speaking as if God’s beliefs are causal, as if his foreknowing an event **causes that event**. But a logical relation is not causal.

For example I have the true belief that 2 + 2 = 4. So my belief that 2 + 2 = 4 corresponds with the mathematical reality that 2 + 2 = 4. But the mathematical reality of 2 + 2 = 4 DOES NOT CAUSE my belief that 2 + 2 = 4: nor does my belief that 2 + 2 = 4 cause the mathematical reality that 2 + 2 = 4. In this case since a logical relation obtains, neither the belief nor the belief that the reality corresponds to cause each other (they do not stand in a causal relation). And yet how many times have you heard Calvinists get real emotional and say things like: “but if God’s foreknowledge depends on what you will actually do in the future, then God is no longer sovereign but he is ***dependent*** on the actions of sinful human persons!” Well that sounds quite dramatic but it is totally off base as that “argument” **assumes** there is a causal relation between our future action and God’s foreknowledge of that action (it would be like the Calvinist arguing that the mathematical reality of 2 + 2 = 4 causes my belief that 2 + 2 = 4! Calvinists/determinists regularly engage in this category mistake.

Once you see this distinction between a causal versus a logical relation, a lot of these common Calvinist arguments look really weak and even comical.

And then there is this notion that God knowing you will do X in the future NECESSITATES that you will do X in the future. But that continues to make the same mistake: the knowledge of a true proposition does not necessitate some action in the world and this again makes the error of confusing a logical relation with a causal one (I have the true belief that Obama is currently the President of the United States, but my true belief that he is the current President, does not cause him to be President; rather, my belief is a true belief and stands in a logical relation with the reality that Obama is currently President of the United States). God knows you will do X in the future because his belief corresponds with what you will in fact do in the future. But God’s true belief does not cause or necessitate your future action.


Foreknowledge causing or necessitating that the future event be necessary, would be engaging in the mistake of again confusing the logical relation that obtains between God’s true beliefs concerning the future and a causal relation that obtains when one reality causes or necessitates another reality, or when one reality brings about causally another reality. But God’s true beliefs do not CAUSE ANYTHING TO OCCUR. It reminds me of the passage in James 4:17 that says to one who knows what to do (he has a true belief) and does not do it (does no causal action based upon his true belief) it is sin. This is true because you may know the right thing to do or not do, and yet if the situation calls for your acting on the true belief that you have and yet you do not, it does not mean much. Or as one friend likes to put it: Knowing something is true is not enough, you have to act on that belief, and get your rear in gear! :-)

Robert

Jc_Freak: said...

Robert,

Thank you for you kind words about C. S. Lewis, though I didn't get the idea from him. Indeed, I haven't read his thoughts on the matter.

And then there is this notion that God knowing you will do X in the future NECESSITATES that you will do X in the future.

The argument as I usually see it, as Steven presents it here, where the certainty of future events imply necessity is just silly. I just watched a Few Good Men, and I could quote almost every single line before they happened. That's foreknowledge. How did I know? Because I had already seen it. It's a silly argument.

bossmanham said...

Thanks for all your input everyone :D

Gerald Owens said...

I have been sooo wanting to discuss the supporting background of JC_Freak's assertion that God is Omni-temporal, and the fact that steven's "stepped into it" makes this all the better!

JC_Freak is correct. Omnitemporality is a physically necessary capability of God given that he is already omnipresent. BOTH space and time are "constructs", necessary byproducts of the interaction of electric and magnetic fields with matter. Special relativity shows how space and time are malleable and changeable, and the supposed "Twin Paradox" is a paradox only when one fails to take into account the malleability and variability of distance measurements between moving frames of reference. General relativity only re-emphasizes the malleability of space and time with respect to gravitation: space bendings in the presence of matter IS gravity, and time flows more slowly in space so bent.

Steve's statement "At 1000 A.D. God believes S will do X at 2010 A.D." is implicitly begging the question by assuming that God HAS to BELIEVE that S will do X "in the future" because God is as equally 'stuck in the one-way stream of time' that S is. Given that assumption, S could rightly say, "You can't stand being contradicted, so you HAD to make me do X to preserve your precious ego, and you ACCUSE ME of freely choosing X to continue preserving your precious ego!"

However, being Omnitemporal, God's response is, "What are you talking about? I distincly remember, at the point in time YOU CALL 1000AD you doing X at the point in time YOU CALL 2010."

Omnitemporality is an inherently harder concept to grasp for humans than Omnipresence: we can picture God sorta "time-sharing" between two different point locations because our imaginations and memory can "parallelize" points in space. That is, we can visualize multiple points in space co-existing at the same time, and thus can imagine God being at all those points "at the same time" (Omnipresence) in a way we cannot. What we have problems with are visualzing points in time as equally "parallel" because we lack dimensions and abilities that God possesses, making imagining that God is at all those time points "at the same time" (Omnitemporality) very difficult for us.

I can throw out some really red meat regarding "sovereignty" if y'all are up to it!

A.M. Mallett said...

Mr. Swan wrote:
When non-Reformed people argue against the Reformed understanding of sovereignty, I have to immediately ask them how they also avoid their own argument.

Of course, he attempts to deflect the question rather than address it.

bossmanham said...

Good point, A.M! For all the huff and puff we get from Calvinists on the apparent problems all Christians share in the form of the POE, I have never heard how their view doesn't make God a puppeteer or the author of evil. I only hear appeal to mystery or am told not to answer back to God or, as Mr. Swan does, they deflect the question.