Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Quick Dismissal of an Attempted Rebuttal

In response to BenFromCanada's attempt at a rebuttal to my Quickie on the POE:

First, he tries to dismiss the fact that transferring the necessity of God knowing what will happen to saying it must therefore necessarily happen is fallacious. It's simply the modal fallacy, and is accepted by philosophers as such.

He says that I assume we make choices before the choice is given to us. He continues on this strange path by saying that Jesus told Peter he'd deny him three times, and therefore it has to happen by necessity. But this is just reasserting his initial assertion that foreknowledge entails the necessity of what is foreknown, which is begging the question. That is the fallacious argument. What is foreknown by Jesus in this case is what Peter will freely choose. Jesus sees what will happen. If Peter would choose something else in the future, Jesus would see that instead. What Jesus' prophesy is is what people who've actually studied the issue of free will call soft facts in the past. These are facts contingent on future events; facts that would have been different should different choices happened in the future. To say someone other than Peter made the choice is silly. Who made the choice for Peter? Just because Jesus knew what Peter would do, He all of a sudden made the choice for him? That makes no sense.

Say you're looking at the future in a crystal ball, and you see certain people in the future making choices that you have no control over, and they are done completely freely. Did those people have to make those choices just because you knew about them in the past? How on earth could that be? What you know is what choice they WILL make, but the choice could have been otherwise (perhaps Ben needs to dust up his philosophical vocabulary. Certainty about what will happen is not necessity that they must happen).

He tries to say I misrepresented his post by saying that he said the Bible says we have no free will. But he did say that. And I quote: "there's the fact the bible itself says that free will isn't possible." He shows his (and other skeptic's) utter fail of a hermeneutic by linking to individual verses out of their contexts and saying they are contradictory. Then he reaffirms that he said the Bible says we don't have free will.....

Anyhoo, he shows his ignorance of Biblical translation by citing Isaiah 45 in saying that God creates evil, which of course is translated "calamity" in all modern translations. I never said Adam made us sinful. Adam sinned, which developed in him a sin nature, which is passed to us. No one said the capability to sin was included in original sin (free will gives us that capability). It is the inability to not sin that original sin gave us.

I never said there is no good without evil. God is good, and there was no evil when He existed alone. I said there may not be as much good in this world without some evil.

He claims it's a cop-out to say we lack God's knowledge in criticizing the problem of evil. But the POE assumes that a good God would have no reason to permit any evil whatsoever. But surely an God who sees the end from the beginning and knows the goods that suffering and evil will bring about is justified in allowing them. All Ben has is his immediate sphere to consider, doesn't know anything about the future, and probably only remembers about 20% of his past. So is Ben qualified to make such a huge assertion? He says that God should have given us the ability to see the reason for suffering. Sometime He does, but why should God do that? Who says we should know why we suffer? Ben? If God revealed the reasons for all suffering, then it seems highly probable to me that the good results that would have come from it actually wouldn't. How so? Part of the growth that a person goes through in suffering through something is not knowing how it will turn out. The other aspect is in trusting God through trials with unclear outcomes.

But here's the funny thing, God has told us the ultimate result of the suffering
of those who love Him is eternal bliss and reward.

The free will defense I gave IS the cliff-notes version of Plantinga's argument. The logical POE states that God and evil cannot coexist logically. The free will defense says that if God doesn't control our actions, then they certainly can, because it is logically impossible to make people freely act. Plantinga simply expands on that with numerous examples and uses logical notation to do so.

So in no way do Ben's assertions here hold any water. He's still using fallacious reasoning to assert that foreknowledge is not consistent with free will. He still says the Bible says we don't have free will (don't know why anyone would even remotely trust his Biblical interpretation). He says it's a cop-out to say we lack God's knowledge, but that observation directly defeats one of the assumptions of the probabilistic problem of evil. Just because he thinks God should have told us all the reasons doesn't mean God has to. The fact that God may have justified reasons to allow evil that we know nothing about is enough to defeat the assertion that God has no such reasons.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How is Adam Real if Evolution is True?

Because I don't want the comment section to get wildly off topic, I will answer a question posed to me regarding Adam that was posted on my last post.
This may be a ridiculous question, but it's something that I've been wondering about nevertheless, and I can't seem to find anything written on the matter. Anyway, do you have any idea how Adam imputed sin to this universe? If evolution were true, then how could an "Adam" actually have existed?
By "evolution" I assume you mean the biological side of the Grand Story, as JP Moreland calls it, which is how certain naturalists put forward as the way life emerged and developed on this planet. This includes a simple organism emerging from some prehistoric puddle and eventually evolving, by the mechanisms of random mutations and natural selection, into all of the various species we see today. You have to assume this Grand Story is true for your question to even make sense, since even 6 day young earth creationists accept that some life evolves, and biological organisms change from generation to generation.

Of course, the Grand Story is far from proven, and I'm not sure that, short of a time machine, it could ever be proven. To take what we have in terms of observations of biological organisms and extrapolate it into this Grand Story requires massive amounts of unbacked assumptions. Add to that the fact that the evidence strongly suggests that the mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection seem to be woefully inept at creating small changes in populations, let alone the vast diversity of life and biological function we see today, I don't think there's any reason to even dabble with thinking the Grand Story is true.

However, if it were, and humans were a part of this grand story, you could say much of the beginning of Genesis is metaphor, and Adam simply represents humanity or something, though this would seem to contradict the gospel writers and Paul, who seemed to consider Adam a real and historical person. It would require further explanation to solve those apparent contradictions.

Or, you could say that Adam evolved from lesser primates, and at that point God imported a rational soul into him, or he evolved his soul, or something of that sort, and that's when humanity began. But that seems extremely ad hoc (though not any more so than the Grand Story, ha) and then what do we do about Eve?

Of course I think these scenarios are highly contrived and don't think they're feasible for one that takes the Bible seriously. Frankly, as God's written revelation, the Bible has an epistemic authority that our often pitiful attempts at historical science do not have. When people get it wrong interpreting God's natural revelation, we have to dismiss what they say in favor of what God reveals, no matter how many defend the bad science or how emphatically they defend it. However, since there has been no good evidence that makes the Grand Story even begins to seem feasible, it's not a problem.

I tend to lean toward Progressive Creationism, though I am very open on the issue.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Quickie on the Problem of Evil

My brother in Christ and Internet bud Rhology has asked me to give my perspective to someone who has brought up the problem of evil. He's given his response, here is mine.

Note: I tried to post it as a comment over there, but Blogger seems to still be having issues with it's commenting system. It's only been what, like three years?

Bible says free will isn't possible due to prophesy:

It would be nice to see a citation here, because the Bible never comes out and says "free will isn't possible" obviously. You say there are a lot of prophecies that present a problem for the free will position. How does foreknowing what will happen mean that it must happen by necessity, or that God predetermined it? It doesn't. God can know what will happen simply in light of knowing only and all true propositions (omniscience) and propositions regarding the future would be included in that. So, God can know what we will freely choose, but don't have to choose, in the future. In other words, when you say, "If the future can be predicted, everything is predetermined," you are stating a non-sequitur.

Your conundrum is, in fact, an example of a modal fallacy. Just because someone knows something WILL happen doesn't mean it MUST or CAN'T NOT (pardon the double negative) happen. It seems quite odd to think it does. I mean we know things will happen all the time. It doesn't therefore mean that they must happen by necessity, or that we predetermined they will happen.

If you want to delve even further into what God knows, there's this concept called middle knowledge in which God knows counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. So He knows what anyone WOULD freely do if placed in any situation. For instance, He knows what I would, in fact, freely choose to do if given the choice to steal a horse in 1895. He also knew logically prior to creating this world that I would respond to your post if placed in the position of seeing it. Given that, it's not hard to see how God can providentially order the world to achieve His ends and not interfere with people's freedom.

Also I agree that free will and determinism are incompatible, but I don't think free will faces any huge philosophical objections at all.

Is free will a good thing:

Well if God granted it to us then, since all He created was good, yes. There are several other possibilities regarding why God allows evil free acts. It may be that there couldn't be a world with this much good without this kind of evil in it (Christ would never have been crucified for instance, which is an immeasurable good). It may be that He has morally sufficient reasons to allow it.The fact is, we don't have that middle knowledge I was talking about, and so therefore don't have sufficient knowledge to judge whether the evil we see is gratuitous. It's awful presumptuous of us to question whether there can't be a sufficiently good reason to allow what God allows.

A sinless heaven is a violation of free will:

How is that? Who says God "alters" our programming? Our programming was "altered" when Adam imputed to us all a sin nature. Perhaps that is removed. Perhaps being in the very presence of THE GOOD we will no longer have any desire, reason, or influences to do evil any longer. None of that entails that free will no longer exists. You've simply asserted that to be the case.

Also, no Christian says God removing free will would make Him evil. It's His prerogative to do that if He wants. But there's no indication He would want a bunch of mindless puppets to control.

So, to answer your three questions:

1. God has middle knowledge and providentially ordered creation in such a way that we freely choose what we want.

2. Free will is from God, and all gifts from God are good. There's no indication that free will is not present in the eschatos. It's not bad, and God allows it because we'd be mindless otherwise (or at least very one dimensional ;-)).

3. They've been solved for centuries, but especially since Alvin Plantinga tore it apart in the 70's.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Confess Your Sins One to Another

Sins I've committed:

  • I've put other things before God and my relationship with Him
  • I've idolozed things like material items and ideologies
  • I've taken God's name in vain by cursing
  • In sinning in other areas, I have defiled the Lord's Sabbath by not consecrating my days to Him
  • I have dishonored my father and my mother by disobeying them, by insulting them, by yelling at them, by taking advantage of them, by......
  • I have hated people, which Jesus equates with murder
  • I have never committed adultery or fornication, however, I have lusted after women, and that is equated with adultery by Jesus
  • I have stolen things
  • I have lied
  • I have coveted other people's posessions
That means I have broken all 10 of God's moral commands given to Moses and Israel. Add to that the multiple other moral violations that I have committed, and you'll see that I'm a rotten sinner.

Sins I bear guilt before God:

As you can see, Christ has taken all of those sins and paid for them with His sacrifice on the cross. The spotless lamb paid for all of my dirty disgusting crimes.

God Can Be Pretty Harsh: Mark Driscoll

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What is Marriage?

In their paper, What is Marriage?, Princeton University philosophers Robert George, Ryan Anderson, and Sherif Girgis present what is probably the most complete and comprehensive defense of traditional marriage to date. It is available for download here.