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Is everything part of God's plan?

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  • Originally posted by RBerman View Post
    I would question your atheist friend about why, if you can easily prevent something bad from happening, failing to prevent it is not morally equivalent to causing it. Passive intentionality seems no less culpable than active intentionality, if the latter is culpable in the first place.
    Atheists often make that very argument, and it is a difficult question for theodicy for any Christian. But it's not the main thread topic, which is about the question of God's control vs human free will, rather than theodicy. They are related, but different, questions.

    Also, I'm not sure whether "control" is the best word to describe people acting according to their innate preferences and values, which they did not choose for themselves.
    If they have no choice but to act according to that which they did not choose, then it's effectively the same as any other deterministic chain, like one domino in a line of dominoes. If it's all set up by the designer, and they all topple deterministically, then each thing is controlled by the designer.


    As for the rest, I agree that "having power to do X is not the same thing as doing X," but if we allow for passive determination, then God's comprehensive power over X seems equivalent to God's determining of X, whether that power is exercised actively or passively. God has purposed that everything be as it is, else it would be different.
    Unless there is LFW.

    Middle knowledge of future choices in an as-yet-unactualized-universe seems a curious thing to include in things "already" done. But I still haven't comprehended how middle knowledge ("If person, P, were in situation, S, then P would freely perform action, A (or P(S->A)).") even leaves LFW room to do anything.
    That's understandable. I argued that too for a long time. But it works if you suppose that P made the LFW choice prior to the creation of the universe (and thus also existed in some sense prior to the universe). Then it's no more a constraint on LFW than to say that P made a LFW choice yesterday. You have to keep in mind that the truths of middle knowledge are not necessary truths, but are contingent--upon LFW choices of creatures. Thus it is called "middle", to distinguish it from necessary truths.
    (But keep in mind that I'm not insisting on Molinism.)

    Originally posted by Joel
    What I meant is that Pharaoh first did evil on his own and thus already deserved the punishment he got.
    We have no way to ascertain the truth of that idea.
    So then it's possible. I.e., you can't ascertain the truth of its negation either.
    It seems that all those years of enslavement and the slaughtering of the babies is at least as evil (if not worse) than declining to let them go another few days. (or however long it was between plagues) We know that he did this prior evil and that the wages of sin is death and eternity in hell, right? So it seems difficult to suppose that he didn't deserve the punishment he got, or even worse.

    But even if I'm wrong, and there was one string of times that "Pharaoh [but not God] hardened his heart" followed by a different string of times that "God [but not Pharaoh] hardened Pharaoh's heart," even then we only have the one final punishment after the whole string.
    It seems that each of the 10 plagues was a punishment. Not just one punishment. Even God hardening pharaoh's can be seen as a punishment.

    But your story of the dog does somehow remind me of the problem that heaven provides for LFW. If LFW is necessary for actions to have moral significance, and if LFW entails the possibility of sin, then either men in heaven have LFW, and there's a possibility that they will sin; or else men in heaven don't have LFW, and their eternal praise of God is of no moral significance. Either seems problematic.
    There seem to be some possibilities here. One is that there is no LFW in heaven, but that people first LFW choose to accept the gift of being that state. As an analogy, it is conceivable that a person could voluntarily choose to sell themselves into slavery to another man (after which the person doesn't get to make any more choices). A person can be responsible for ongoing consequences of a single choice.

    Such a theory has other useful implications, such as answering the question of why didn't God just create everyone in that blessed state to begin with: i.e., that state necessarily entails the person freely choosing to become that kind of being. Then it would be logically contradictory to say that God creates a creature in that state to begin with.

    Another possibility is to say that people in heaven can possibly sin, but don't. Perhaps analogous to saying that God in His omnipotence has power to do evil, but doesn't.

    Comment


    • Originally posted by Joel View Post
      Originally posted by RBerman
      I would question your atheist friend about why, if you can easily prevent something bad from happening, failing to prevent it is not morally equivalent to causing it. Passive intentionality seems no less culpable than active intentionality, if the latter is culpable in the first place.
      Atheists often make that very argument, and it is a difficult question for theodicy for any Christian. But it's not the main thread topic, which is about the question of God's control vs human free will, rather than theodicy. They are related, but different, questions.
      So take the word "bad" out of my previous post so it's no longer about theodicy. Why is failing to prevent something [strikethrough]bad[/strikethrough] easily preventable not morally equivalent to causing it?

      Originally posted by RBerman
      Also, I'm not sure whether "control" is the best word to describe people acting according to their innate preferences and values, which they did not choose for themselves.
      If they have no choice but to act according to that which they did not choose, then it's effectively the same as any other deterministic chain, like one domino in a line of dominoes. If it's all set up by the designer, and they all topple deterministically, then each thing is controlled by the designer.
      Whoah, now. Who said they have no choice? The act of choosing is exactly what I'm talking about: Presented with various options, we choose the option we most desire.

      Originally posted by RBerman
      As for the rest, I agree that "having power to do X is not the same thing as doing X," but if we allow for passive determination, then God's comprehensive power over X seems equivalent to God's determining of X, whether that power is exercised actively or passively. God has purposed that everything be as it is, else it would be different.
      Unless there is LFW.
      Which makes a difference how? My previous post cited a Molinist explanation of Middle Knowledge in which the outcome of the choice was completely predictable based on the person choosing and the circumstance of the choice. If Molinism does work like that, then on the most important point, it agrees with Calvinism. If Molinism doesn't work like that, and multiple outcomes might ensue from replaying the same "Person P in Circumstance C" starting position, then either God doesn't know which outcome will ensue (Open Theism) or else God has chosen which potential version of history to actualize (another version of Calvinism). There doesn't seem to be any middle ground left for Molinism to stake out, Middle Knowledge or no.
      Regarding that previous post, you responded:

      Originally posted by RBerman
      Middle knowledge of future choices in an as-yet-unactualized-universe seems a curious thing to include in things "already" done. But I still haven't comprehended how middle knowledge ("If person, P, were in situation, S, then P would freely perform action, A (or P(S->A)).") even leaves LFW room to do anything.
      That's understandable. I argued that too for a long time. But it works if you suppose that P made the LFW choice prior to the creation of the universe (and thus also existed in some sense prior to the universe). Then it's no more a constraint on LFW than to say that P made a LFW choice yesterday. You have to keep in mind that the truths of middle knowledge are not necessary truths, but are contingent--upon LFW choices of creatures. Thus it is called "middle", to distinguish it from necessary truths. (But keep in mind that I'm not insisting on Molinism.)
      The view that people existed and made choices before the universe existed in which to have circumstances in which they could make those choices seems sufficiently esoteric and unprovable as to lose my interest. As I mentioned before, it also sounds much more like Mormonism than Christianity, and I can't think of anything in the Bible that encourages us to think of ourselves as spirits who existed before the universe existed, making choices in the Matrix or something.

      Originally posted by Joel
      Originally posted by RBerman
      Originally posted by Joel
      What I meant is that Pharaoh first did evil on his own and thus already deserved the punishment he got.
      We have no way to ascertain the truth of that idea.
      So then it's possible. I.e., you can't ascertain the truth of its negation either.
      It seems that all those years of enslavement and the slaughtering of the babies is at least as evil (if not worse) than declining to let them go another few days. (or however long it was between plagues) We know that he did this prior evil and that the wages of sin is death and eternity in hell, right? So it seems difficult to suppose that he didn't deserve the punishment he got, or even worse.
      Any sin deserves death. However, in your view of human volition, it appears to me that you'd have to say that Pharaoh did not sin in doing the things that "God hardened his heart" to do, and thus did not deserve any punishment for doing them. "Innocent Pharaoh" just strikes me as against the flavor of the passage. Romans 9:14-23 even uses God hardening Pharaoh's heart as an example of God's prerogative to "find fault" and then destroy someone, because the potter may do what he wants with the clay.

      There seem to be some possibilities here. One is that there is no LFW in heaven, but that people first LFW choose to accept the gift of being that state. As an analogy, it is conceivable that a person could voluntarily choose to sell themselves into slavery to another man (after which the person doesn't get to make any more choices). A person can be responsible for ongoing consequences of a single choice.

      Such a theory has other useful implications, such as answering the question of why didn't God just create everyone in that blessed state to begin with: i.e., that state necessarily entails the person freely choosing to become that kind of being. Then it would be logically contradictory to say that God creates a creature in that state to begin with.

      Another possibility is to say that people in heaven can possibly sin, but don't.
      As to your first possibility, if people in heaven have used LFW to give up LFW, then LFW wouldn't seem to be that important after all, or else moral accountability is not that important after all. A heaven consisting of people who have lost the ability to be moral seems more Eastern than Christian, however.

      As to your second possibility that people in heaven "can possibly sin, but don't," the obvious question is what makes you think that both of those would be true, and if so, how and why. Is it just an amazing coincidence that everybody in heaven can sin, but nobody ever does? Surely there would be some reason that they don't sin. Like, it's not actually a possibility that they would want to, because their natures never incline in that direction, and they always act according to their nature rather than against their nature. That fits well with my view of free will, but it seems frankly unbelievable that, in an infinite amount of time, a large number of people would simply happen to never do something that all of them might possibly want to do.

      Perhaps analogous to saying that God in His omnipotence has power to do evil, but doesn't.
      I don't think God has the power to "do evil," by definition. God defines good by his nature and his actions. Evil is "not-God." But discussion of that might take us far afield.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by RBerman View Post
        So take the word "bad" out of my previous post so it's no longer about theodicy. Why is failing to prevent something [strikethrough]bad[/strikethrough] easily preventable not morally equivalent to causing it?
        I'm still not sure that it's relevant. What's relevant to the central question is that human LFW is compatible with refraining from preventing human LFW.

        Whoah, now. Who said they have no choice? The act of choosing is exactly what I'm talking about: Presented with various options, we choose the option we most desire.
        Sorry, we have a confusion of language. "To have no choice" usually means to have no other options. With your concept of human will, it seems that humans only have an illusion of being presented with more than one option--that in practice, there is only ever one option. My point is that with your concept, it's all deterministically determined, thus each part of it is controlled by God--i.e., people are controlled by God.

        Originally posted by RBerman
        Originally posted by Joel
        Originally posted by RBerman
        God has purposed that everything be as it is, else it would be different.
        Unless there is LFW.
        Which makes a difference how?
        Because with LFW God enables the creature to determine some things.

        My previous post cited a Molinist explanation of Middle Knowledge in which the outcome of the choice was completely predictable based on the person choosing and the circumstance of the choice.
        That's true only logically posterior to middle knowledge, not logically prior to it. That's why your dichotomy (that molinism is either open theism or calvinism) is a false one.

        Any sin deserves death. However, in your view of human volition, it appears to me that you'd have to say that Pharaoh did not sin in doing the things that "God hardened his heart" to do, and thus did not deserve any punishment for doing them. "Innocent Pharaoh" just strikes me as against the flavor of the passage.
        I didn't say anything about Pharaoh being innocent. He was already guilty of enslaving and murdering and refusing to release them from slavery. The later acts were repeats of earlier ones.

        Also, I had pointed out that one can be guilty of further, ongoing consequences of a single choice. If hardening Pharaoh's heart was a consequence/punishment for Pharaoh's previous sin, then he would also be guilty of the following consequences.

        As to your first possibility, if people in heaven have used LFW to give up LFW, then LFW wouldn't seem to be that important after all, or else moral accountability is not that important after all. A heaven consisting of people who have lost the ability to be moral seems more Eastern than Christian, however.
        That's not what I'm saying. Of course it is still important; the state I described necessarily required LFW for it to come into being. It is moral because the state is chosen. You are perhaps not grasping the point that a person can be morally responsible for ongoing consequences of a single choice?

        As to your second possibility that people in heaven "can possibly sin, but don't," the obvious question is what makes you think that both of those would be true, and if so, how and why. Is it just an amazing coincidence that everybody in heaven can sin, but nobody ever does? Surely there would be some reason that they don't sin. Like, it's not actually a possibility that they would want to, because their natures never incline in that direction, and they always act according to their nature rather than against their nature. That fits well with my view of free will, but it seems frankly unbelievable that, in an infinite amount of time, a large number of people would simply happen to never do something that all of them might possibly want to do.
        You are maybe confusing LFW with randomness again. Will is purposeful, and not necessarily driven by the law of averages.
        Also I'm no expert on what the ultimate state of man is going to be like.

        A third possibility is that in heaven one does not have the ability to do evil, but still has LFW to choose among multiple good options.

        I don't think God has the power to "do evil," by definition. God defines good by his nature and his actions. Evil is "not-God." But discussion of that might take us far afield.
        I suppose that gets into Euthyphro-dilemma territory.

        Comment


        • Originally posted by FarEastBird View Post
          The truth is that God is the creator of EVERYTHING.

          ALL things were made by him; and without him was NOT ANY THING made that was made. John 1:3

          16 For by him were ALL THINGS created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: ALL THINGS WERE CREATED BY HIM, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him ALL THINGS CONSISTS. Col 1:16-17

          I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD DO ALL THESE THINGS. Isa 45:7
          Those who believe in LFW don't disagree with that. They say that God created man, and created man's faculty of making LFW choices (and thus created the various possibilities that might ensue from the man's choices. And that everything including those contingent choices and their consequences are sustained in existence by God.

          "Everything" tends to need to be qualified when we get technical. For example, God did not create Himself, thus the "everything" in your phrase "creator of everything", doesn't include literally everything, because it doesn't include God. Traditional Christian theology holds that there are necessary truths, and necessary being.


          And, of course, the consequence of the doctrine that God created all things is that man has no real life; that man has no free will, and merely described as mere vessel. Paul is even clear that the evil vessel is created by God, Paul argued:
          So in answering my atheist friend you would take the side that we don't have free will, and everything is a giant puppet show put on by God.


          How can a man which is merely a vessel can commit sin?...Having knowledge of the truth that it is God who created and elected me, and made me who I am, then why would I find flaw of my imperfection?
          Woah, so you are concluding that no man has ever committed a sin. It seems that would be much less plausible to reconcile with Scripture than that man has LFW.


          Also, I always saw Ecclesiastes as saying things that are logical conclusions of nihilistic/Godless premises (absent of faith, hope, and love), which are not necessarily true. After all, if God is the cause of everything and everything is vanity, then God causes and does nothing but vanity? He acts in vain?

          Comment


          • Originally posted by Joel View Post
            Originally posted by RBerman
            Why is failing to prevent something easily preventable not morally equivalent to causing it?
            I'm still not sure that it's relevant. What's relevant to the central question is that human LFW is compatible with refraining from preventing human LFW.
            The question posed by the atheist in the opening post was, "If God gave man free will, how can everything be part of God's plan? If everything is part of God's plan, how can we have free will?" That question can only be answered based on the meaning of its constituent terms. If the definition of "God" entails omnipotence (and thus omniscience), then everything that happens is, at the very least, something that God could have prevented yet chose not to. That passive choice of God fits a reasonable definition of "God's plan," and thus everything that happens is "God's plan." So it seems quite relevant to say that when someone plans something which comes to pass, he has some level of responsibility for it.

            Originally posted by RBerman
            Whoah, now. Who said they have no choice? The act of choosing is exactly what I'm talking about: Presented with various options, we choose the option we most desire.
            Sorry, we have a confusion of language. "To have no choice" usually means to have no other options. With your concept of human will, it seems that humans only have an illusion of being presented with more than one option--that in practice, there is only ever one option. My point is that with your concept, it's all deterministically determined, thus each part of it is controlled by God--i.e., people are controlled by God.
            I guess now we have to ask what an "option" is then. Opto is the Latin word for "I choose," To "choose" is to "opt." the two verbs are synonyms. There's no mere "illusion of choice." Choosing is the cognitive process by which we navigate the various desires we feel in a situation and, having discovered which desire is strongest, we act upon it. No illusion involved; it's a very real process. When we say that we have choices or options before us, we mean that the outcome of the choosing process was not known to us in advance. They were true choices, in that we had to consider them in our choosing process.

            Because with LFW God enables the creature to determine some things.
            You have not demonstrated anything that LFW actually does that's different from determinism. In order for LFW to differ from determinism, you'd have to say that "In situation S, Person P might choose to do X or ~X." That is, there exist possible worlds with X and possible worlds with ~X. It doesn't even seem meaningful to try to assign relative weights to them, like "X has 99% likelihood, and ~X has 1% likelihood." All that matters is that both are possible, and that God chose to actualize either the world with X or the world with ~X. In that case, God has determined either X or ~X through his world-choosing.

            The alternative is that in situation S, Person P will choose to do X. I see no grounds to suppose that this does not better represent the situation from God's perspective. We are uncertain between X and ~X only because we don't possess perfect knowledge of S and P.

            I didn't say anything about Pharaoh being innocent. He was already guilty of enslaving and murdering and refusing to release them from slavery. The later acts were repeats of earlier ones. Also, I had pointed out that one can be guilty of further, ongoing consequences of a single choice. If hardening Pharaoh's heart was a consequence/punishment for Pharaoh's previous sin, then he would also be guilty of the following consequences.
            But the situation discussed in Romans 9 is one in which God hardens Pharaoh's heart and then "finds fault" with it being hardened, and destroys him. No appeal is made in Romans 9 to, "Well, Pharaoh was already a bad man on the road to destruction before God intervened in his heart." The text just says that God has the right to make things a certain way and then destroy them for being that way.

            Originally posted by RBerman
            As to your first possibility, if people in heaven have used LFW to give up LFW, then LFW wouldn't seem to be that important after all, or else moral accountability is not that important after all. A heaven consisting of people who have lost the ability to be moral seems more Eastern than Christian, however.
            That's not what I'm saying. Of course it is still important; the state I described necessarily required LFW for it to come into being. It is moral because the state is chosen. You are perhaps not grasping the point that a person can be morally responsible for ongoing consequences of a single choice?
            With the Pharaoh example, you were trying to say that Pharaoh was only morally responsible for the things done by "hardening his own heart," not for the LFW-violating things God did after God hardened Pharaoh's heart. It would follow then that in heaven, according to you, we are morally praised for using LFW to give up our LFW, but that then after we've lost LFW, none of the things we subsequently do (like praise God forever) have any moral value. We're just coasting forever on the moral value of the things we did before surrendering LFW. I just have a problem with saying that the eternal praise of the saints in heaven is itself of no moral value, but is merely a consequence of previous morally valuable choices they made, back when they still had LFW.

            You are maybe confusing LFW with randomness again. Will is purposeful, and not necessarily driven by the law of averages.
            You would like to assert that LFW is not random, but it's not clear to me what purpose is guiding it, if not the nature of Person P as he contemplates Circumstance C. Any other input sounds like a random perturbation of the system. The other way out would be for God to be choosing to actualize the world containing X or the one containing ~X, but again that's the sort of Calvinistic thought you're trying to avoid.

            Also I'm no expert on what the ultimate state of man is going to be like.
            Well, none of us has been in that state, obviously. But do you really think that we are going to surrender our ability to be morally praiseworthy, so that praising God forever is neither good nor bad, but just the neutral action of a puppet?

            A third possibility is that in heaven one does not have the ability to do evil, but still has LFW to choose among multiple good options.
            The only LFW that seems germane for moral accountability is the ability to choose between morally praiseworthy and morally problematic options. Weren't you the one saying that if "Sin or not sin" has only one outcome, then choice becomes an illusion?

            I suppose that gets into Euthyphro-dilemma territory.
            Indeed.
            Last edited by RBerman; 05-03-2014, 09:59 AM.

            Comment


            • Originally posted by RBerman View Post
              The question posed by the atheist in the opening post was, "If God gave man free will, how can everything be part of God's plan? If everything is part of God's plan, how can we have free will?" That question can only be answered based on the meaning of its constituent terms. If the definition of "God" entails omnipotence (and thus omniscience), then everything that happens is, at the very least, something that God could have prevented yet chose not to. That passive choice of God fits a reasonable definition of "God's plan," and thus everything that happens is "God's plan." So it seems quite relevant to say that when someone plans something which comes to pass, he has some level of responsibility for it.
              That's fine for the purposes of the discussion. This particular objection of the atheist was about whether humans are puppets. If "planning" includes the passive sense, then that leaves room for humans to not be just puppets.

              I guess now we have to ask what an "option" is then. Opto is the Latin word for "I choose," To "choose" is to "opt." the two verbs are synonyms. There's no mere "illusion of choice." Choosing is the cognitive process by which we navigate the various desires we feel in a situation and, having discovered which desire is strongest, we act upon it. No illusion involved; it's a very real process. When we say that we have choices or options before us, we mean that the outcome of the choosing process was not known to us in advance. They were true choices, in that we had to consider them in our choosing process.
              Sorry, the word "option" is ambiguous. I meant in in the sense of something that can be chosen. One out of the multiple alternatives, one of which is selected. I meant that with your concept, it seems that a person only has an illusion of having multiple alternatives, due to lack of (fore)knowledge. None of the other alternatives were actually chooseable. Thus, as I said, "it's effectively the same as any other deterministic chain, like one domino in a line of dominoes. If it's all set up by the designer, and they all topple deterministically, then each thing is controlled by the designer."

              You have not demonstrated anything that LFW actually does that's different from determinism.
              The difference, as I've said, is that with LFW a causal chain begins in the agent, whereas with "determinism" no causal chain begins in the agent.

              In order for LFW to differ from determinism, you'd have to say that "In situation S, Person P might choose to do X or ~X." That is, there exist possible worlds with X and possible worlds with ~X. It doesn't even seem meaningful to try to assign relative weights to them, like "X has 99% likelihood, and ~X has 1% likelihood." All that matters is that both are possible, and that God chose to actualize either the world with X or the world with ~X. In that case, God has determined either X or ~X through his world-choosing.
              First of all, I agree that it's not reasonable to assign probabilities.

              Secondly, with LFW it is definitely not the case that "God chose to actualize either the world with X or the world with ~X." That's determinism, not LFW. With LFW, the creature, not God, chooses/determines X or ~X. (This is the case whether or not we are talking about molinism.)


              But the situation discussed in Romans 9 is one in which God hardens Pharaoh's heart and then "finds fault" with it being hardened, and destroys him. No appeal is made in Romans 9 to, "Well, Pharaoh was already a bad man on the road to destruction before God intervened in his heart."
              I'm not seeing that in Romans 9. I see, "So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires." But mercy is a response to an offender. Thus it seems reasonable to take "hardens" here too to be a response to an offender.

              With the Pharaoh example, you were trying to say that Pharaoh was only morally responsible for the things done by "hardening his own heart," not for the LFW-violating things God did after God hardened Pharaoh's heart.
              If those things followed from Pharoah's earlier actions, then Pharaoh could be said to be guilty of them.

              It would follow then that in heaven, according to you, we are morally praised for using LFW to give up our LFW, but that then after we've lost LFW, none of the things we subsequently do (like praise God forever) have any moral value.
              I'm not talking about merely giving up LFW without knowledge of what is to come. I'm talking about choosing one's course of life, similar to how entering into a contract can bind you to a large set of future actions through only a single choice (to sign the contract). That one choice has a moral impact on all the subsequent actions. The actions were chosen and have moral value.

              Again this is just a possibility. Our future state may be one we cannot now comprehend.

              You would like to assert that LFW is not random, but it's not clear to me what purpose is guiding it, if not the nature of Person P as he contemplates Circumstance C.
              It's different by definition, because will is purposeful and randomness is purposeless.
              The nature of P is not the same as P's purposes for doing an action. We might speak of purpose in P's nature in the sense of the final cause of P's nature, but that too is not necessarily the same as what P himself purposes. In fact, I would suggest that the good of P is for P to purpose and act in accordance with his true end, while sin has to do with P purposing/acting not in accordance with his true end.

              I think P has some power to choose among goals and choose priority orders (some of which alternatives are in accordance with his true end).

              Yes, with LFW it is P that purposes and acts. The difference between our positions is that with LFW a causal chain begins in the agent. We might think of it as God giving to the creature some of His "first-mover" or creative capability.

              Any other input sounds like a random perturbation of the system.
              It seems to me that humans have conceived of 3 kinds of efficient causation:
              1) determinism (eg., cue ball strikes the 8-ball and causes the 8-ball to move),
              2) will, and
              3) randomness.

              It may be a matter of debate whether all three exist or only two or only one of them (7 combinations, if I count correctly).
              I think we might distinguish them as follows: The difference between (1) and the others is the difference between necessary and contingent. And the difference between (2) and (3) is that (2) is purposeful and (3) is not. (2) and (3) are both usually thought of as having a "first mover" quality, while (1) implies the existence of a first mover to avoid infinite regress.

              Each, because each is efficient cause, can be thought of as a "perturbation" since in each case something is being "moved".
              Just because something is not deterministic does not mean it must then be random, unless you are begging the question by excluding (2) in the outset.

              If you are trying to ask what exactly is will or how exactly it "works", well we don't really know that about any of the 3. We have some understanding of causality, but we don't really know how any causation works or what it is. Neither natural scientists nor any philosophers have been able to answer such a question.

              Comment


              • Originally posted by Joel View Post
                That's fine for the purposes of the discussion. This particular objection of the atheist was about whether humans are puppets. If "planning" includes the passive sense, then that leaves room for humans to not be just puppets.
                I would agree, though as you know I don't ground the "puppet/not puppet" distinction in anything other than man's image-bearing capacity. Further, what if God planned the circumstances that produced the person in question, and then placed him in some specific situation, and then passively allowed the natural decision to occur? Are you still comfortable with God making that kind of plan?

                Sorry, the word "option" is ambiguous. I meant in in the sense of something that can be chosen. One out of the multiple alternatives, one of which is selected. I meant that with your concept, it seems that a person only has an illusion of having multiple alternatives, due to lack of (fore)knowledge. None of the other alternatives were actually chooseable. Thus, as I said, "it's effectively the same as any other deterministic chain, like one domino in a line of dominoes. If it's all set up by the designer, and they all topple deterministically, then each thing is controlled by the designer."
                As I said, I don't consider my view to be "an illusion of having multiple alternatives." Choosing is the experience of having competing desires leading to multiple alternative actions, adjudicating the strongest one, and acting accordingly. There's nothing illusory about it. It really happens.

                The difference, as I've said, is that with LFW a causal chain begins in the agent, whereas with "determinism" no causal chain begins in the agent.
                You do keep saying that, but unless there's one possible world in which Person P in Situation S does X, and another possible world in which he does ~X, then I do not see in what sense a causal chain is said to begin in the agent.

                I'm not seeing that in Romans 9. I see, "So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires." But mercy is a response to an offender. Thus it seems reasonable to take "hardens" here too to be a response to an offender.
                A larger chunk of the text contains the relevant phrases I mentioned earlier:
                And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

                14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

                19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:10-24)

                The whole line of thought starts with a scenario in which God has determined the fates of Jacob, Esau, and their respective lineages "though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls." Paul anticipates that some readers will object, "Is there injustice on God's part?" Paul then brings up Pharaoh as another example in which God's purpose governed the course of a life, including the punishment which ended that life. Once again, the determining factor is God's will, with no appeal to, "Well, he was a bad man already." The objection is then anticipated in slightly different wording: “Why does he [God] still find fault? For who can resist his will?” The essence of the objection is that God should not "find fault" for a situation in which His will has hardened someone into sin. This is essentially the same complaint you raised yourself, that when God hardened Pharaoh's heart, God was thereby disqualifying Pharaoh from blame/fault for those actions subsequently committed. But that's not what Paul says; quite the opposite; he rebukes the interlocutor: "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?" Paul then asserts God's right as Creator "to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use." Pharaoh then was "made from the lump," i.e. de novo, for exactly the fate that he underwent, to be hardened and yet held at fault for being hardened, and then to be destroyed.


                If those things followed from Pharoah's earlier actions, then Pharaoh could be said to be guilty of them.
                I thought you said that if they followed deterministically, then that would destroy moral accountability. Or perhaps you're denying that when God "hardened Pharaoh's heart" that Pharaoh's actions don't become deterministic; he might still have relented and let the Israelites go. But in that case, God's plan for Pharaoh would have failed; God had told Moses before the first meeting with Pharaoh that, "Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment." (Exodus 7:4) The outcome was pre-ordained.

                I'm not talking about merely giving up LFW without knowledge of what is to come. I'm talking about choosing one's course of life, similar to how entering into a contract can bind you to a large set of future actions through only a single choice (to sign the contract). That one choice has a moral impact on all the subsequent actions. The actions were chosen and have moral value. Again this is just a possibility. Our future state may be one we cannot now comprehend.
                I thought your whole premise was that we are only morally responsible for choices made with LFW. Now with respect to Pharaoh and with respect to Heaven, you are (possibly) expanding the field or moral responsibility to include choices made subsequent to losing LFW, which are judged according to the morality of the original choice to lose LFW. But then you admit that possibly your model of heavenly morality is wrong in the first place. It seems so much simpler just to say that LFW was never the factor which determined in the first place whether a person is or is not morally responsible for some action. Then you could simply say, "In heaven, we will act perfectly, according to our perfect natures, which pleases God because God loves holy perfection." No need to squeeze LFW into the reckoning one way or the other.

                It's different by definition, because will is purposeful and randomness is purposeless... I think P has some power to choose among goals and choose priority orders (some of which alternatives are in accordance with his true end). Yes, with LFW it is P that purposes and acts. The difference between our positions is that with LFW a causal chain begins in the agent. We might think of it as God giving to the creature some of His "first-mover" or creative capability.
                So you have said. But a choice made for no reason is random. A choice made partially for no reason is random to the extent that no reason was responsible for the choice. "Who I am" and "The circumstances in which I find myself" are reasons for the choice. You posit an additional factor of LFW which is allegedly purposeful yet acts without regard to reason. This seems frankly contradictory. Look at it this way: If LFW did not exist, then a person in a certain situation will choose what it is natural for him to choose in that situation. So if you add LFW to the system, the only direction in which it can do is deflect the person's choice away from what he would naturally do; that is, to cause him to act out of accord with his nature, and to choose the thing he would not otherwise want to choose. LFW would thus violate the person's nature, not fulfill it.

                It seems to me that humans have conceived of 3 kinds of efficient causation:
                1) determinism (eg., cue ball strikes the 8-ball and causes the 8-ball to move),
                2) will, and
                3) randomness.

                It may be a matter of debate whether all three exist or only two or only one of them (7 combinations, if I count correctly). I think we might distinguish them as follows: The difference between (1) and the others is the difference between necessary and contingent. And the difference between (2) and (3) is that (2) is purposeful and (3) is not. (2) and (3) are both usually thought of as having a "first mover" quality, while (1) implies the existence of a first mover to avoid infinite regress.

                Each, because each is efficient cause, can be thought of as a "perturbation" since in each case something is being "moved".
                Just because something is not deterministic does not mean it must then be random, unless you are begging the question by excluding (2) in the outset.

                If you are trying to ask what exactly is will or how exactly it "works", well we don't really know that about any of the 3. We have some understanding of causality, but we don't really know how any causation works or what it is. Neither natural scientists nor any philosophers have been able to answer such a question.
                2 ought to be called LFW for purposes of consistency in our discussion. It's not so much that I exclude 2 from the outset as that I haven't heard a non-tautological explanation of it (e.g. not something like "LFW means freely choosing or opting among alternatives") which under scrutiny doesn't collapse into either 1 or 3. Your solution appears to be to simply assert that 2 really is different from 1 and 3, but that it's a black box that can neither be understood nor observed. You believe in 2's existence, according to your previous explanation, because you have previously determined that moral accountability exists, and that LFW is essential for moral accountability. Your linkage of LFW to moral accountability is the step I find poorly grounded. And now in your most recent post, you have admitted that possibly, at least in the example of heaven and in the life of Pharaoh, there can be ongoing moral accountability in the absence of ongoing LFW, so that moral accountability can be grounded in a history of LFW rather than its present possession. If you will thus allow that the presence of LFW is not as indispensable as it sounded earlier, you might forgive me for wondering if it's even as necessary as you claim in your latest formulation.
                Last edited by RBerman; 05-05-2014, 04:51 PM.

                Comment


                • Originally posted by RBerman View Post
                  I would agree, though as you know I don't ground the "puppet/not puppet" distinction in anything other than man's image-bearing capacity.
                  I meant "puppet/not puppet" in the sense of "controlled/not controlled".

                  Further, what if God planned the circumstances that produced the person in question, and then placed him in some specific situation, and then passively allowed the natural decision to occur? Are you still comfortable with God making that kind of plan?
                  It's not a question of whether I'm comfortable with either or which is better. The question is whether men have any control or whether God completely controls them.

                  As I said, I don't consider my view to be "an illusion of having multiple alternatives." Choosing is the experience of having competing desires leading to multiple alternative actions, adjudicating the strongest one, and acting accordingly. There's nothing illusory about it. It really happens.
                  Yes, but in your view the alternatives are not actually possible. The result is a necessary, foregone conclusion.

                  You do keep saying that, but unless there's one possible world in which Person P in Situation S does X, and another possible world in which he does ~X, then I do not see in what sense a causal chain is said to begin in the agent.
                  Agreed. The two do imply each other, as I've said before.

                  A larger chunk of the text contains the relevant phrases I mentioned earlier:
                  And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

                  14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

                  19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:10-24)

                  The whole line of thought starts with a scenario in which God has determined the fates of Jacob, Esau, and their respective lineages "though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls." Paul anticipates that some readers will object, "Is there injustice on God's part?" Paul then brings up Pharaoh as another example in which God's purpose governed the course of a life, including the punishment which ended that life. Once again, the determining factor is God's will, with no appeal to, "Well, he was a bad man already." The objection is then anticipated in slightly different wording: “Why does he [God] still find fault? For who can resist his will?” The essence of the objection is that God should not "find fault" for a situation in which His will has hardened someone into sin. This is essentially the same complaint you raised yourself, that when God hardened Pharaoh's heart, God was thereby disqualifying Pharaoh from blame/fault for those actions subsequently committed. But that's not what Paul says; quite the opposite; he rebukes the interlocutor: "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?" Paul then asserts God's right as Creator "to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use." Pharaoh then was "made from the lump," i.e. de novo, for exactly the fate that he underwent, to be hardened and yet held at fault for being hardened, and then to be destroyed.
                  I decided to start doing a bit of reading on what people have thought of Romans 9.
                  I started with John Chrysostom (only because I was aware that he has commentaries on Scripture. do you have any other suggestions from the early church?)

                  Regarding the analogy of the clay, he says that analogies should not be thought to apply in every way, but only in the point intended. Thus,

                  "do not suppose that this is said by Paul as an account of the creation, nor as implying a necessity over the will, but to illustrate the sovereignty and difference of dispensations; for if we do not take it in this way, various incongruities will follow, for if here he were speaking about the will, and those who are good and those not so, He will be Himself the Maker of these, and man will be free from all responsibility. And at this rate, Paul will also be shown to be at variance with himself, as he always bestows chief honor upon free choice. There is nothing else then which he here wishes to do, save to persuade the hearer to yield entirely to God, and at no time to call Him to account for anything whatever. For as the potter (he says) of the same lump makes what he pleases, and no one forbids it; thus also when God, of the same race of men, punishes some, and honors others, be not thou curious nor meddlesome herein, but worship only, and imitate the clay."
                  http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/210216.htm (emphasis mine)

                  "Here it is not to do away with free-will that he says this, but to show, up to what point we ought to obey God."

                  Chrysostom goes on to relate Pharaoh and the "vessels of wrath", arguing that God did originally supply Pharaoh with means of remedy, and that God's "long-suffering" was out of being willing to bring Pharaoh to repentance. But Pharaoh would not make use of these means but fitted himself for wrath. So God used Pharaoh "for the correction of others."

                  Then also, "But in saying, "which He had afore prepared unto glory," he does not mean that all is God's doing. Since if this were so, there were nothing to hinder all men from being saved. But he is setting forth again His foreknowledge, and doing away with the difference between the Jews and the Gentiles"

                  Also, "Because when he says, "it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs," he does not deprive us of free-will, but shows that all is not one's own, for that it requires grace from above."

                  Chrysostom keeps reminding us that the whole passage is discussing the apparent perplexity of some gentiles being saved and not all Jews being saved. The point of the historical examples and the clay analogy is not to say that everything is determined by God, but rather to point out that it is not entirely determined by man. He says that this answer finally becomes the most clear starting at verse 30, that the point is that it requires faith and grace, and not solely the will of man.


                  I thought you said that if they followed deterministically, then that would destroy moral accountability.[...] And now in your most recent post, you have admitted that possibly...there can be ongoing moral accountability in the absence of ongoing LFW, so that moral accountability can be grounded in a history of LFW rather than its present possession. If you will thus allow that the presence of LFW is not as indispensable as it sounded earlier, you might forgive me for wondering if it's even as necessary as you claim in your latest formulation.
                  But in this case the causal chain originated in LFW, not deterministically. That's the difference.
                  If the following consequences follow deterministically from a LFW that does not destroy moral accountability. For example, it would be absurd for a murderer to claim he is not guilty, because all he decided to do was pull a trigger, and that the bullet deterministically killed the victim, and that the bullet was deterministically accelerated by the burning gunpowder, and the gunpowder ignited deterministically by the firing pin, etc. No one would ever claim that he was not morally responsible because LFW was not present in each of those steps. Each step of the consequences does not have to be LFW. The relevant question is only where the causal chain began. (If it began in Bob, then Bob is guilty. If it began in Alice, then Alice is guilty. If it began not in a human, then we don't say that a human is guilty.) Moral accountability includes/involves consequences that follow from one's actions. I've been saying this for several posts now and you seem to not be grasping it.

                  Or perhaps you're denying that when God "hardened Pharaoh's heart" that Pharaoh's actions don't become deterministic; he might still have relented and let the Israelites go. But in that case, God's plan for Pharaoh would have failed; God had told Moses before the first meeting with Pharaoh that, "Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment." (Exodus 7:4) The outcome was pre-ordained.
                  It could possibly be that the hardenening didn't necessarily cause the result, and that repentance was still possible. In that case, God's foretelling could have been a matter of foreknowledge rather than fore-causing. That's not what I had been talking about, but that is another possibility to consider.

                  So you have said. But a choice made for no reason is random. A choice made partially for no reason is random to the extent that no reason was responsible for the choice. "Who I am" and "The circumstances in which I find myself" are reasons for the choice. You posit an additional factor of LFW which is allegedly purposeful yet acts without regard to reason. This seems frankly contradictory.
                  I think your apparent contradiction comes from equivocating on the term "reason". In your examples it seems that by "reason" you mean efficient cause. But reason/purpose when distinguishing will from randomness is meant in the sense of final cause. If a LFW choice has no prior efficient cause (has a "first mover" quality), that does not imply it lacks final cause so as to be random.

                  Otherwise you would also have to conclude that God, when acting as first mover, is also acting randomly because there is no prior efficient cause. Which of course we must rule out.

                  Then you may be equivocating with a 3rd meaning when you say "acts without regard to reason", because such a phrase would typically be taken to refer to "reason" in the sense of the faculty of rationality. Whether an action is rational or irrational may be separate matter from whether it has a prior efficient cause or has a final cause.

                  Look at it this way: If LFW did not exist, then a person in a certain situation will choose what it is natural for him to choose in that situation. So if you add LFW to the system, the only direction in which it can do is deflect the person's choice away from what he would naturally do; that is, to cause him to act out of accord with his nature, and to choose the thing he would not otherwise want to choose. LFW would thus violate the person's nature, not fulfill it.
                  I would say that a being with LFW has a different kind of nature. Like how the Greek philosophers distinguished between things without soul vs with vegetative "soul" vs animal "soul" vs human "soul". What you are describing is something like a rock, which by its nature falls with gravity and it can do nothing but follow the one and only path given to it by its nature.

                  LFW makes something more than just a deterministic rock. And more than a mere beast that is a slave to one's strongest impulse of the moment. LFW is not a violation of man's nature but part of his nature. It is man's nature to have the ability to reason, to prioritize and choose among impulses and possible ends and actions. Whereas lower things have, by nature, only one possible movement, man has multiple possible movements. More than one that is in accordance with his nature.

                  However, there is a sense in which we may say that man does indeed have the ability to make a choice not in accordance with his nature. We call this evil or vice or sin. Perhaps like how we might suppose that a sentient knife with LFW might possibly choose to be dull, contrary to its nature (at least its final cause or contrary to the perfection of its nature) as a knife. But that seems to be a different sense of the term than what you meant.

                  It's not so much that I exclude 2 from the outset as that I haven't heard a non-tautological explanation of it (e.g. not something like "LFW means freely choosing or opting among alternatives") which under scrutiny doesn't collapse into either 1 or 3. Your solution appears to be to simply assert that 2 really is different from 1 and 3, but that it's a black box that can neither be understood nor observed.
                  I have given clear criteria to distinguish all three. I'm not sure where your confusion lies. As I said, "I think we might distinguish them as follows: The difference between (1) and the others is the difference between necessary and contingent. And the difference between (2) and (3) is that (2) is purposeful and (3) is not." I have likewise pointed out a difference between (1) and (2) is that with (2) a causal chain begins in the agent (kind of "first mover") whereas (1) implies a prior efficient cause.

                  Beyond a certain amount of scrutiny all three of them are "black boxes" to us. No one can explain exactly what is deterministic causation, or what is causation in general. In physics, for example, if you really start scrutinizing, what we have is just the idea that one thing always (or necessarily) follows another, and we have no ultimate explanation for how that happens.

                  Incidentally, it seems that your position implies that there is no such thing as contingent being--that everything is necessary being (contrary to traditional Christian theology).

                  You believe in 2's existence, according to your previous explanation, because you have previously determined that moral accountability exists, and that LFW is essential for moral accountability.
                  No you have it backwards. I've said that LFW is a fundamental belief of men. Belief in it is logically prior to belief in its connection to moral accountability. I do not deduce my belief in LFW from moral accountability.

                  Comment


                  • These posts are getting long as we respond to each paragraph of the other person with multiple paragraphs, each of which gets its own multi-paragraph response. Let me try to condense things a bit:

                    1) Whether the alternative choices are "actually possible" comes down to what you think "actually" means. I would understand X to be possible if it's true that, "You could do X, if you wanted to." Not wanting to do something seems a poor definition of it not being "actually possible" for the purposes of our discussion about human volition.

                    2) Regarding Romans 9, the early church spent most of its mental energies hammering out the hypostatic union and the Trinity, as evidenced by the declarations of the ecumenical councils. It may be interesting to know what some thinker in the early church thought about some topic, but I would not privilege Chrysostom over more modern thinkers; it may even be that the Church has actually benefitted from the opportunity to refine the discussion of these discussions over the centuries, just as happened with the Trinitarian discussions. Still, if you'd like to see an alternative point of view from a contemporary of Chrysostom, I can direct you to Augustine's comments on Romans 9 in the Treatise Against Two Letters of the Pelagians. Augustine says that since all men are sinful and deserve destruction, nothing God can do to them would be unfair. And when God intervenes to change a man's heart (and thus his destiny), it is indeed not an act of justice/fairness, but of love. Thus asking for God to be fair is exactly what we should not do:
                    Furthermore, who would be so impiously foolish as to say that God cannot turn the evil wills of men—as he willeth, when he willeth, and where he willeth—toward the good? But, when he acteth, he acteth through mercy; when he doth not act, it is through justice. For, "he hath mercy on whom he willeth; and whom he willeth, he hardeneth."

                    Now when the apostle said this, he was commending grace, of which he had just spoken in connection with the twin children in Rebecca's womb: "Before they had yet been born, or had done anything good or bad, in order that the electing purpose of God might continue—not through works but through the divine calling—it was said of them, 'The elder shall serve the younger.' "

                    Accordingly, he refers to another prophetic witness, where it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau have I hated." Then, realizing how what he said could disturb those whose understanding could not penetrate to this depth of grace, he adds: "What therefore shall we say to this? Is there unrighteousness in God? God forbid!" Yet it does seem unfair that, without any merit derived from good works or bad, God should love the one and hate the other. Now, if the apostle had wished us to understand that there were future good deeds of the one, and evil deeds of the other—which God, of course, foreknew—he would never have said "not of good works" but rather "of future works." Thus he would have solved the difficulty; or, rather, he would have left no difficulty to be solved. As it is, however, when he went on to exclaim, "God forbid!"—that is, "God forbid that there should be unfairness in God"—he proceeds immediately to add (to prove that no unfairness in God is involved here), "For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will show pity to whom I will show pity.'"

                    Now, who but a fool would think God unfair either when he imposes penal judgment on the deserving or when he shows mercy to the undeserving? Finally, the apostle concludes and says, "Therefore, it is not a question of him who wills nor of him who runs but of God's showing mercy."

                    And regarding the question of whether determinism is incompatible with free will, Augustine commented:
                    Now how does all this apply to our subject? Let us see what he makes out of it. “Whatever,” says he, “is fettered by natural necessity is deprived of determination of will and deliberation.” Well, now, here lies a question; for it is the height of absurdity for us to say that it does not belong to our will that we wish to be happy, on the ground that it is absolutely impossible for us to be unwilling to be happy, by reason of some indescribable but amiable coercion of our nature; nor dare we maintain that God has not the will but the necessity of righteousness, because He cannot will to sin.

                    Mind you, Augustine's or Chrysostom's views are only as good as the explanations they give to support them.

                    3) I agree that the murderer is morally responsible not only for pulling the trigger of the gun, but for the consequences that followed, as the bullet was shot from the gun and killed someone. However, those are not separate moral acts independently assessed; there's only one moral act in view since the murderer has ceased to act after pulling the trigger. The analogy to our discussion about heaven then would be that our eternal praise of God is not itself a moral act; it's merely the sequella of the previous moral act of accepting Christ, thus setting one on a path which results in losing LFW. I simply do not accept that every moment of praising God is not itself a distinct moral act. Do you?

                    4) Regarding your continued assertion that LFW is neither deterministic nor random, I really don't know what else to say except that it sounds like a black box whose existence and operations can only be called a matter of faith. It's a paper tiger, since human history would unfold in exactly the same way whether LFW existed or not. Greek philosophers may have decided that LFW is what makes a human different from a rock, but we are Christians and should discuss these matters from a Christian perspective. I can understand the desire that philosophers have to ground moral responsibility somewhere other than God's pleasure, but Christians do not have that need.

                    5) LFW is not a fundamental belief of men, inasmuch as many men deny LFW exists, and yet believe in moral accountability. Otherwise we would not be having this discussion in two long threads, nor would many others around the world and across time.

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by RBerman View Post
                      1) Whether the alternative choices are "actually possible" comes down to what you think "actually" means. I would understand X to be possible if it's true that, "You could do X, if you wanted to." Not wanting to do something seems a poor definition of it not being "actually possible" for the purposes of our discussion about human volition.
                      But you do want to do it. According to what you've been saying, a person has conflicting desires. He wants to do multiple, mutually exclusive things, and chooses one of them.

                      But if by "want" you refer only to the strongest impulse in the moment (or the like), then it seems you are saying it is "possible" in the sense that it could/would happen if things were other than they are--but that it is not possible given the way things actually are. Thus it is not possible given the actual world. Thus I said that in your view no other alternatives are actually possible.

                      Augustine says that since all men are sinful and deserve destruction, nothing God can do to them would be unfair. And when God intervenes to change a man's heart (and thus his destiny), it is indeed not an act of justice/fairness, but of love.
                      Is it love toward the man to change his heart to incline him more to sin and punishment? It seems you are saying the response is that, no, it's justice/fairness, because the man already was sinful and deserved destruction. Which is what I was saying about Pharaoh.

                      And regarding the question of whether determinism is incompatible with free will, Augustine commented:
                      Now how does all this apply to our subject? Let us see what he makes out of it. “Whatever,” says he, “is fettered by natural necessity is deprived of determination of will and deliberation.” Well, now, here lies a question; for it is the height of absurdity for us to say that it does not belong to our will that we wish to be happy, on the ground that it is absolutely impossible for us to be unwilling to be happy, by reason of some indescribable but amiable coercion of our nature; nor dare we maintain that God has not the will but the necessity of righteousness, because He cannot will to sin.
                      This seems unsound. If we say it is necessary that it "belong to our will that we wish to be happy", it is meant in the sense that our desires are by definition that which we think will make us happy. But in that sense, it is indeed not something we choose. (Rather, we choose among desires.) It is a property of will, not an alternative object of free will.

                      3) I agree that the murderer is morally responsible not only for pulling the trigger of the gun, but for the consequences that followed, as the bullet was shot from the gun and killed someone. However, those are not separate moral acts independently assessed; there's only one moral act in view since the murderer has ceased to act after pulling the trigger. The analogy to our discussion about heaven then would be that our eternal praise of God is not itself a moral act; it's merely the sequella of the previous moral act of accepting Christ, thus setting one on a path which results in losing LFW. I simply do not accept that every moment of praising God is not itself a distinct moral act. Do you?
                      It would essentially all be one act, making everything that follows morally praiseworthy/blameworthy, thus all the following acts would be moral acts, just not distinct acts. I have heard people suggest the same is the case for angels, that each angel only had one LFW choice to make, resulting in some fallen angels. It seems possible; I don't know if it is the case.

                      4) Regarding your continued assertion that LFW is neither deterministic nor random, I really don't know what else to say except that it sounds like a black box whose existence and operations can only be called a matter of faith.
                      After more thought, I'll strengthen my previous statement and say that of the three, LFW is the least like a black box, because we are it and do it. Our belief in non-will determinism arises only indirectly from observation, induction, and analogy from our intimate understanding of causation by will. Thus our understanding of it is fuzzier, more indirect.

                      As for your not being able to understand the distinction, do you not understand any distinction between necessary and contingent? Do you not understand the distinction between moved mover and unmoved mover? Do you not understand the distinction between purposeful and purposeless? If you do, then you do understand the distinction between the three.

                      It's a paper tiger, since human history would unfold in exactly the same way whether LFW existed or not.
                      I think your statement here begs the question. You seem to be assuming that all existence is necessary being.

                      Greek philosophers may have decided that LFW is what makes a human different from a rock, but we are Christians and should discuss these matters from a Christian perspective. I can understand the desire that philosophers have to ground moral responsibility somewhere other than God's pleasure, but Christians do not have that need.
                      My argument (in the other thread) is not this kind of argument from absence, but a positive argument that we have reason to think otherwise. E.g., that if anyone else were to do to a person what you propose that God does to them, everyone agrees that it makes the person not morally accountable for the motion. In either case the effect on the person and the state of the person seems to be the same.

                      5) LFW is not a fundamental belief of men, inasmuch as many men deny LFW exists
                      I have explained this already. It is a fundamental belief, and no one would ever have considered questioning it, if it were not for some other, conflicting belief (e.g., fate). Just like our sense of morality is fundamental, yet atheists come to question it because of a conflicting belief that they come to believe more strongly. A person can possibly reason themselves out of a fundamental belief. Debate over it arises only because people come up with conflicting ideas.

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by Joel View Post
                        But you do want to do it. According to what you've been saying, a person has conflicting desires. He wants to do multiple, mutually exclusive things, and chooses one of them. But if by "want" you refer only to the strongest impulse in the moment (or the like), then it seems you are saying it is "possible" in the sense that it could/would happen if things were other than they are--but that it is not possible given the way things actually are. Thus it is not possible given the actual world. Thus I said that in your view no other alternatives are actually possible.
                        By "want" I do not mean only the strongest impulse in the moment; I mean any impulse of the moment, of any strength. I want a donut, and simultaneously I want to be skinny, and simultaneously I want to save $1.50.

                        Is it love toward the man to change his heart to incline him more to sin and punishment? It seems you are saying the response is that, no, it's justice/fairness, because the man already was sinful and deserved destruction. Which is what I was saying about Pharaoh.
                        That is true. It is just of God to incline his heart more toward sin. There is also a separate question of whether those things done after being hardened are also sin in themselves. You appeared to be saying they were not. I do not see that Augustine addresses that issue at all.

                        This seems unsound. If we say it is necessary that it "belong to our will that we wish to be happy", it is meant in the sense that our desires are by definition that which we think will make us happy. But in that sense, it is indeed not something we choose. (Rather, we choose among desires.) It is a property of will, not an alternative object of free will.
                        Those sound like two parallel concepts which can coexist. As you say, there's a sense in which that which we wish is, by definition, that which we would be happy/satisfied/pleased to do. But it seems like a different sense in which I might ask you, in the abstract, whether you wish to feel happy or sad, and our nature is that we prefer to be happy.

                        It would essentially all be one act, making everything that follows morally praiseworthy/blameworthy, thus all the following acts would be moral acts, just not distinct acts. I have heard people suggest the same is the case for angels, that each angel only had one LFW choice to make, resulting in some fallen angels. It seems possible; I don't know if it is the case.
                        If they are not distinct acts, then I don't know why to consider them acts at all. What is an act, if not a distinct motion of the heart or body?

                        After more thought, I'll strengthen my previous statement and say that of the three, LFW is the least like a black box, because we are it and do it. Our belief in non-will determinism arises only indirectly from observation, induction, and analogy from our intimate understanding of causation by will. Thus our understanding of it is fuzzier, more indirect.
                        Surely this begs the question once again. How do you know that we are and do LFW? I do not know such a thing. I only observe myself make a particular choice in a particular circumstance.

                        As for your not being able to understand the distinction, do you not understand any distinction between necessary and contingent? Do you not understand the distinction between moved mover and unmoved mover? Do you not understand the distinction between purposeful and purposeless? If you do, then you do understand the distinction between the three.
                        I do understand the distinctions between those terms. When it comes to humanity, however, it is not obvious to me that saying a human could be an "unmoved mover" is different than saying that he is acting randomly, purposelessly. What purpose could there be which does not arrive from the man he is, and the circumstances in which he finds himself?

                        I think your statement here begs the question. You seem to be assuming that all existence is necessary being.
                        Not that all existence is necessary, but that all existence unfolds according to God's eternal plan and, to God's omniscient mind, was completely predictable.

                        My argument (in the other thread) is not this kind of argument from absence, but a positive argument that we have reason to think otherwise. E.g., that if anyone else were to do to a person what you propose that God does to them, everyone agrees that it makes the person not morally accountable for the motion. In either case the effect on the person and the state of the person seems to be the same.
                        There are plenty of things that are OK for God to do that are not OK for us to do. To ignore the creature/Creator distinction seems distinctly unchristian.

                        [LFW] is a fundamental belief, and no one would ever have considered questioning it, if it were not for some other, conflicting belief (e.g., fate). Just like our sense of morality is fundamental, yet atheists come to question it because of a conflicting belief that they come to believe more strongly. A person can possibly reason themselves out of a fundamental belief. Debate over it arises only because people come up with conflicting ideas.
                        Fate and agency seem equally commonplace as human notions. Everyone has the experience of choosing, and everyone has the experiences inflicted upon them externally, beyond their control. The philosophical construct known as LFW is one particular attempt to navigate these experiences by constructing a model of thought which aspires to mirror reality. The model should not be confused with the experiences.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by RBerman View Post
                          By "want" I do not mean only the strongest impulse in the moment; I mean any impulse of the moment, of any strength. I want a donut, and simultaneously I want to be skinny, and simultaneously I want to save $1.50.
                          So then in that sense, if you were to do any of those, you would be doing what you want. Thus that objection of yours fails.

                          Those sound like two parallel concepts which can coexist. As you say, there's a sense in which that which we wish is, by definition, that which we would be happy/satisfied/pleased to do. But it seems like a different sense in which I might ask you, in the abstract, whether you wish to feel happy or sad, and our nature is that we prefer to be happy.
                          Because of the former, it seems that the latter amounts to saying that you want what you want. And that Augustine's objection amounts to saying we can't choose that which is a logical contradiction. To which I say, indeed that is not an object of free will, though it is a necessary property of will.

                          If they are not distinct acts, then I don't know why to consider them acts at all. What is an act, if not a distinct motion of the heart or body?
                          As I said, in this case, they wouldn't be acts (plural), they would be one act.

                          Originally posted by Joel
                          After more thought, I'll strengthen my previous statement and say that of the three, LFW is the least like a black box, because we are it and do it. Our belief in non-will determinism arises only indirectly from observation, induction, and analogy from our intimate understanding of causation by will. Thus our understanding of it is fuzzier, more indirect.
                          Surely this begs the question once again. How do you know that we are and do LFW? I do not know such a thing. I only observe myself make a particular choice in a particular circumstance.
                          Similarly, I've seen atheists say "how do you know there is morality? I do not know such a thing. I only observe things happening, never what ought to happen."
                          But we naturally have a sense of these things not from observation of men but from the inside because we are men. Anyone can reason themselves out of any of them.
                          But the point here is that all of causation is ultimately a black box to us. And that our own causing things by our will is most well known to us, and the least indirectly.

                          I do understand the distinctions between those terms. When it comes to humanity, however, it is not obvious to me that saying a human could be an "unmoved mover" is different than saying that he is acting randomly, purposelessly. What purpose could there be which does not arrive from the man he is, and the circumstances in which he finds himself?
                          Do you understand that there is a distinction between efficient cause and final cause?
                          Do you think that being an unmoved mover means that God acts purposelessly? So it is possible to be an unmoved mover and act with purpose, yes?

                          Not that all existence is necessary, but that all existence unfolds according to God's eternal plan and, to God's omniscient mind, was completely predictable.
                          How is it not necessary then? From what you say, all existence, being as it is, necessarily follows from God's necessary being. That which necessarily follows from what is necessary is itself necessary.

                          Originally posted by Joel
                          My argument (in the other thread) is not this kind of argument from absence, but a positive argument that we have reason to think otherwise. E.g., that if anyone else were to do to a person what you propose that God does to them, everyone agrees that it makes the person not morally accountable for the motion. In either case the effect on the person and the state of the person seems to be the same.
                          There are plenty of things that are OK for God to do that are not OK for us to do. To ignore the creature/Creator distinction seems distinctly unchristian.
                          There may be that distinction, but that is beside the point. The question is not whether it is OK for God or anyone else to do it to P. The question regards the effect/result it has on P.

                          Fate and agency seem equally commonplace as human notions.
                          It's possible that a person's basic beliefs can be inconsistent with one another, and thus cause a person to reevaluate them.

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by Joel View Post
                            Originally posted by RBerman
                            By "want" I do not mean only the strongest impulse in the moment; I mean any impulse of the moment, of any strength. I want a donut, and simultaneously I want to be skinny, and simultaneously I want to save $1.50.
                            So then in that sense, if you were to do any of those, you would be doing what you want. Thus that objection of yours fails.
                            In this life at least, we never get to do all the things we want, because they conflict with each other. That's why we have to choose-- that is, we discover which is the strongest desire of the moment, and we act accordingly.

                            Because of the former, it seems that the latter amounts to saying that you want what you want. And that Augustine's objection amounts to saying we can't choose that which is a logical contradiction. To which I say, indeed that is not an object of free will, though it is a necessary property of will.
                            While it is true that we want what we want, I don't think saying "I want to be happy," with reference to the frame of mind, is the same thing. Even sad people are acting according to their wants.

                            As I said, in this case, they wouldn't be acts (plural), they would be one act.
                            They aren't even that; the choice to give up your free will was part and parcel of your decision to be a Christian, with all that implies. That decision happened before you died. How can all the praise of God committed by you for eternity in heaven be the same act as initially accepting Christ into your heart? And if you are right, then you have proved my point that you don't think our eternal praise is of any independent moral value.

                            Originally posted by RBerman
                            How do you know that we are and do LFW? I do not know such a thing. I only observe myself make a particular choice in a particular circumstance.
                            Similarly, I've seen atheists say "how do you know there is morality? I do not know such a thing. I only observe things happening, never what ought to happen." But we naturally have a sense of these things not from observation of men but from the inside because we are men. Anyone can reason themselves out of any of them. But the point here is that all of causation is ultimately a black box to us. And that our own causing things by our will is most well known to us, and the least indirectly.
                            The "sense inside you" that you describe may simply be a bias inculcated into you by a culture that tells you how important individual autonomy is. I'm sure you know, between Eve and the Serpent, which of them was promoting individual autonomy. But since causation is so mysterious to you, surely you ought to refrain from making grand statements about the necessity of LFW for moral accountability. Be satisfied with what God has told us on the matter: We know we are accountable because He has told us that, as His creation, we must obey him.

                            Do you understand that there is a distinction between efficient cause and final cause? Do you think that being an unmoved mover means that God acts purposelessly? So it is possible to be an unmoved mover and act with purpose, yes? ... How is it not necessary then? From what you say, all existence, being as it is, necessarily follows from God's necessary being. That which necessarily follows from what is necessary is itself necessary.
                            I do not presume to know the mind of God beyond what He reveals in Scripture. I don't even know how well our philosophical terms like "unmoved mover" do justice to an infinite, eternal, omnipotent being. I'm sure ants have chemical messages by which they try to communicate to each other what humans are like, but how helpful do you think those messages are, from our perspective? Ants are more like us than we are like God, cognitively.


                            Originally posted by RBerman
                            Originally posted by Joel
                            My argument (in the other thread) is not this kind of argument from absence, but a positive argument that we have reason to think otherwise. E.g., that if anyone else were to do to a person what you propose that God does to them, everyone agrees that it makes the person not morally accountable for the motion. In either case the effect on the person and the state of the person seems to be the same.
                            There are plenty of things that are OK for God to do that are not OK for us to do. To ignore the creature/Creator distinction seems distinctly unchristian.
                            There may be that distinction, but that is beside the point. The question is not whether it is OK for God or anyone else to do it to P. The question regards the effect/result it has on P.
                            The question is whether it changes the issue of moral accountability whether it's God or a creature doing it, hence your illustrations involving Braniac standing in for God. But God is not Braniac. He has the Potter's freedom to do what He wants with His vessels. If He wants to make them a certain way and then judge them for being that way, He has that prerogative, and we are not qualified to gainsay him. The same is not true of Braniac, or you, or me, so the distinction between Creator and creature is very much the point for the concern you raise.

                            It's possible that a person's basic beliefs can be inconsistent with one another, and thus cause a person to reevaluate them.
                            Presumably each of us has that hope for the other in these current threads.
                            Last edited by RBerman; 05-10-2014, 09:02 PM.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by RBerman View Post
                              The "sense inside you" that you describe may simply be a bias inculcated into you by a culture that tells you how important individual autonomy is. I'm sure you know, between Eve and the Serpent, which of them was promoting individual autonomy. But since causation is so mysterious to you, surely you ought to refrain from making grand statements about the necessity of LFW for moral accountability. Be satisfied with what God has told us on the matter: We know we are accountable because He has told us that, as His creation, we must obey him.


                              I do not presume to know the mind of God beyond what He reveals in Scripture. I don't even know how well our philosophical terms like "unmoved mover" do justice to an infinite, eternal, omnipotent being. I'm sure ants have chemical messages by which they try to communicate to each other what humans are like, but how helpful do you think those messages are, from our perspective? Ants are more like us than we are like God, cognitively.
                              Hm, it seems your views undermine the traditional cosmological and moral arguments for God's existence.
                              And perhaps our very understanding of causality? It seems you are making causality far more of a black box than is anything that I've been talking about.

                              The question is whether it changes the issue of moral accountability whether it's God or a creature doing it, hence your illustrations involving Braniac standing in for God. But God is not Braniac. He has the Potter's freedom to do what He wants with His vessels. If He wants to make them a certain way and then judge them for being that way, He has that prerogative, and we are not qualified to gainsay him. The same is not true of Braniac, or you, or me, so the distinction between Creator and creature is very much the point for the concern you raise.
                              But whether it was God or Braniac doing it to P, in either case it would be God hold P accountable (or not). If God has the freedom you claim, then surely He can find P just as accountable if Braniac does it to P.

                              Comment


                              • Originally posted by Joel View Post
                                Hm, it seems your views undermine the traditional cosmological and moral arguments for God's existence.
                                How so?
                                And perhaps our very understanding of causality? It seems you are making causality far more of a black box than is anything that I've been talking about.
                                I suspect our views of mechanical causality are similar. My view of volitional causality is similar to my view of mechanical causality, in that the inputs explain the output. Your view of volitional causality introduces another level of black box mystery in the form of an LFW which cannot be observed or explained, but which only functions as a "fudge factor" whose perceived need is to prop up a particular explanation of moral accountability which the Bible does not endorse.

                                But whether it was God or Braniac doing it to P, in either case it would be God hold P accountable (or not). If God has the freedom you claim, then surely He can find P just as accountable if Braniac does it to P.
                                We are not in a position to hold God accountable for anything; see Job. We know that God holds men accountable for their actions, and that should suffice as a Christian defense of the existence of accountability. No tenuous black-box LFW constructions necessary.

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